I'll try to summarize and keep it short based on our experience building our first Lemons car (truck):
Like Mr. Yuck said, cheaper to buy an already prepped car rather than build...BUT building was soo much more enjoyable!! With that being said, if you're going to build (and even if you're not going to build) read the rulebook front to back...and then read it again! Know that thing like the back of your hand and it'll make everything so much easier. If you have a question during your build or prep, email someone (John the safety/tech guru got to know us REALLY well during our build bc we didn't want to get anything wrong). Safety is #1 so make sure you do your DD and know what you're doing!
As far as cost goes...IT'S ALWAYS GOING TO COST MORE THAN YOU THINK!! Like Yuck said, the purchase price of the car counts, but you can recoup some/most/all of that cost by selling crap off it. Example: don't need the passenger or back seats=sell them. Stereo=craigslist/FB marketplace and so on, those sold items count back towards your budget. After that, the only costs that count towards your "$500" are go fast/performance parts eg. engine, drivetrain, suspension etc. Safety does not count towards your $500...so the roll cage, fire suppression, brakes (and brake cooling for that matter) and anything else relater to safety doesn't count. Depending on what you want out of your build, it's actually pretty difficult to not exceed the $500...I would say most teams spend more, but as long as you don't show up with a fully prepped SCCA track weapon that'll get you a million penalty laps you'll be alright. Typically judges never count the costs related to themes/decorations so you're good there.
Make sure you keep and catalog receipts for everything related to the build. We put together a binder that we bring with us thru tech to show our costs, and we update it as we make changes and whatnot.
If you have any other questions don't hesitate to ask or shoot me a PM
So it finally looks like all the stars aligned and me and my weirdo friends can make 24 hours of Lemons happen (fingers crossed about acceptance). Buuuut - we have some basic questions for what to expect:
First off, how exactly do you manage the $500 budget? Some cars I see, I can totally understand how they cost so little, but then there are others that I can't fathom costing less than $1500-$3000. I read that you can sell off parts to recuperate some budget, but still...it seems confusing.
Is the decoration and sill-ifying of the car counted in the budget?
I'm sure I have more questions, but I guess those are the two things we're kind of confused by.
LS-10 Racing '98 Chevy S-10
2021 NOLA: 21/65 (6/25 B-class) snapped upper control arm
2020 MSR: 73/103 (27/36 B-class) blown transmission