Dec 26, 2011

Soul searching

still editing,  but published as a work in progress for now:

"To find one's perfect sports car, one must first perfectly define one's self"  The Dalai Lama..
or was it Joe Isuzu?

Heading to Pennsylvania I enjoyed 1st class,  a rare treat. Trying to get used to free drinks took some work, but I was up to the task.  So I commenced getting drunk. 35 thousand feet above my real word, allowed me time to reflect upon life. As my drinks kept coming, the small issues began to fade; money, real state, work, the dog, family. The elevation offered refreshing freedom I hadn't enjoyed in while.  Freedom: to focus on the real important issues. Like when to have my turbo twist wheels straightened. Or even heavier issues, like whether to paint them black. It's nice to find the time for what really matters. 

After quiet reflecton upon my wheel issues I went deeper.  I fire up airplane mode on the iPhone 4S (it's not AWD, but I did read Steve Jobs had a 928 once). I began to jot down some serious existential shit. 

I'm a dreamer. That's stupid to even mention. You aren't a car guy if you aren't a dreamer. Two words for you: Barn finds. Enough said, moving on.

Barn find found at  I guess someone hid it away so nobody would see those stripes.

I'm a romantic. I dream of owning and driving cars that are impossible. Car's like a well bought (ie. cheap) Ferrari Dino GT4 or a Lamborghini Jalpa.   Repairs are financially impossible for such cars.  Certainly not cheap, and even if they were, parts are hard to find for such value exotics.   I still dream away because practical issues are irrelevent to true romantic. Perhaps I could just skip the repairs and maintenance and get a 328 GTS to decorate the living room? There's got to be a way. The vodka is helping.

An old Maserati Merak, could be found for say, $25K if condition was irrelevant..
  I figure, drive till it breaks and then have AAA tow it to the living room for display.
   Now, I'm just $25K short. 

I'm on a limited budget.  Operating in relative car guy poverty isn't easy. "Poor" might be an over statement;  it's complicated. I've got things that take priority over cars, like food and shelter.   For the record, I do resent them, but the wife doesn't like sleeping in the car as much as I do.. That said, no amount of discretionary cash would make me a sports car waster.  Waste, as in using a special machine on tasks beneath it. It's just bullshit how Porsche commercials show show a lady driving a GT2RS to get firewood, or a Boxster Speedster to pick up new plants at the garden store.  I'd never misuse a real Porsche for such tasks no matter how much disposable cash I had. Clearly that's a job for an Icon, Ford Raptor or Land Rover, if you can get it started.

I'd mention the Cayennes but there's really nothing funny to say about them.
Although my father would suggest a Unimog, I'm going to vote for a Mercedes G-Wagon.
No reason you can't be classy when  picking up 2x4s at Home Depot (short ones anyway).

I'm conservative, I guess. I don't "overdrive" my sports car by commuting, or fetching pizza.  It's not because I don't love driving it, or any sports car (duh?).  I've got just one sports car, and like that prized, last slice of pizza, I want to savor it. Using a a sports car for mundane tasks is disrespectful.. My Carrera  has lasted, till my purchase, in pristine condition because it was spared mundane use. Next thing  you know you'll be that pretentious guy using a car cover at the office parking garage. You aren't appreciating it, and now you're coworkers think you're an ass. Till my garage has two to three sports cars in it, I'll continue to save mine for more significant trips.  Trips to Starbucks are, of course, exempt.

I could think of better ways to spend $50 than on a Z but you get my point.
Photo unwittingly donated from.

I'm into stock machines. I know, you think that makes me conservative, but you're wrong. I love the idea of modifying cars and making them better or faster, I just don't like what it costs related to what you get.  Modifications rarely pay any dividends. My last custom car cost me over $100K and sold for less than $40K.  I know about spending.  As a guy who now affords "one car at a time" I prefer to be mindful of resale value from day one.  Mods are just too risky.  A stock car has a documented list of parts to do any job.  If you are an athlete, rock star or Lotto winner, why the hell are you reading this blog?  Go hang out with away Leno or something.

This 1971 LT1 "Survivor" Corvette is about as original as they get right down to the tires
The catch is OEM parts can get pricier than aftermarket after a car gets too cool or old.
I'm a perfectionist. I'm not sure if having a perfect car would cure my perfectionism or not. It could just be that I love improving things.  I buy u$ed and invariably find some shortcomings in my cars, fix them, or worse, become depressed if I can't. My fantasies often trend toward overseeing a full restoration of an older simpler machine like a '65 fastback Mustang, a early Corvette or a 60's era Porsche.  The cost of such a restoration makes me wonder if a that new car idea might satisfy instead.  Some day I'll buy a new car, with no flaws and I can see if that helps.  Both are way too much money in my opinion anyway and you do get cup holders and a warranty with the latter.  More vodka?  Yes please.

Lets just say today, if I  bought a new, perfect car.  I'd consider a ZR1.
You think they have zero down, no payments for 90 days and 2% financing?
So clearly, my new found enlightment has been helpful. Nope,  I've really still have no idea.    The vodka must be wearing off.

Dec 21, 2011

Carbon is a slipery slope

I'm not a big fan of carbon fiber as interior trim. It is only used for looks, not weight savings in these settings and nobody knows when to stop.  Once they buy a shift knob, it seems reasonable to get the e-brake handle in carbon too.  Next comes the door handles, then the mirrors, kick panels, doorlocks etc.  It gets downright rediculous.   So I'm just going to say no to carbon goodies.  Except for that dash pictured above.  Now that's sexy.  

The car the dash is attached to is for sale at Sloan Cars for just under $100K and has about 12K miles on the odometer.  It's a 1996 Porsche 993 Turbo and that carbon dash was a factory option in '96.   Check it out:
I know, these older turbos are not fast like today's supercars are fast.  I also know that you can get just about anything in carbon these days, and plenty of supercars are dripping with the stuff, but i'm going to make a judgement  here:

That is the coolest use of carbon interior around and a 1996 993tt is plenty fast enough.

Kinda like the turned stainless steel dash in the Bandit's T/A   (have I gone too far?)

Nov 12, 2011

What happens when modification A gets in the way of modification B.

Fabrication (metal fabrication) 


Mustangs are a common place to find modifications.  And with modifications come risks.  Repairs can often be opportunities in disguise.  Let’s just say don’t race this car for pinks, okay.

This Garrett turbocharger is one of a pair being fitted onto an intercooled manifold from a 3 valve 2005 Mustang GT’s supercharger kit.   I think Tim Allen said it best: “more power, aaarrrrggg”
Clearly modifying a supercharger setup to be fed by twin turbo warrants some serious modifications.   You just don’t find plumbing for this at O’Reilly’s .  Look closely and you’ll see both turbos.

The further you depart from stock the less likely anything will ever install easily and look elegant. We’ve all done our share of  innovating and scrounging to “fabricate” a solution to that kind of problem.  Eventually things will get complicated enough that you wont be able so scrounge the appropriate parts and tools at home to get the job done right.  If your favorite shop does in house fabrication, then lucky you. Things that are problems for other shops can simply opportunity to make something cool.fab9
Enter the professional speed shop, like Blood Enterprises (the source of these photos). I’m talking about the kind that does in house fabrication or at least is well connected for such work. If you choose your shop wisely, you’ll see solutions that not only get the job done, but execute your performance solution with elegance too.   Check out the size of the power cord in the background.  

Welding of course is a fabrication basic.   A good fabricator will have a host of different techniques at his or her disposal.  TIG welding and TIG brazing are good qualifiers in my opinion.  Don’t be discouraged if your shop doesn’t  TIG weld, but do be concerned if they don’t immediately know who they use to TIG weld. Wire welders, well, don’t get me started that crap.  
Custom fuel pickup.  AN fitting.  
Welding thin aluminum tubing is a bit harder than your last cherry bomb muffler installation in high school.This fabricated configuration was required when installing Cleveland heads on a Windsor block and expecting it to fit in a detomaso pantera.  (the toilet in the background is stock)
This fabricated radiator shroud is a small detail that is no small detail at all.  Some of the best fabrication gets little recognition because is looks so unobtrusive.   Sexy isn’t it .  That’s the work of a press brake.CIMG1208 
A press brake is what you use to bend large pieces of sheet metal like that radiator shroud.  It’s not the kind of thing you find at your local Ford dealership.  Heck, they are huge so it’s rare you’ll come across one at anything short of a “blue chip”  performance shop.  Most shops just don’t have the room, or volume of fabrication for such an item.  Not to worry, they can out source this work for you.  Just remember sending stuff out for fabrication means delay$.  
Someone has built an airbox here using a press brake, a mill and some welding. 
Although you can buy wheel spacers, these American Racing Torq Thrust wheels on my FIA 289 Cobra Replica have custom spacers behind them. Tool of choice, the lathe below.
Your shop’s lathe need not be too big.  After all, you aren’t turning table legs.  Usually this is used for fabricating small pulleys, or tapping/threading various items.  Heck, I really don’t know what else they use it for, but judging from all the aluminum scraps on the floor whenever I visit, if must come in handy quite often.
Ever just dream something up out of thin air?  That’s quintessential fabrication.  Which, if you are working with metal, will require a mill.
Custom fabrication done at a machine shop (where you commonly find a milling machine like this) can be costly and time consuming.  Furthermore, they really don’t respond well to diagrams written on a napkin.  So if your mechanic had his own or at least worked closely with a local machine shop then you’re golden.



While technically not fabricating.  Another use of the mill is to trim for clearance on the exhaust valve in this case. The green stuff is puddy used to imprint the location of the valve. The fine point sets the mill to find center

The idea behind these fabricated coolant rails is to look OEM. 

Dykem blue, a machinist’s pencil and eraser.
This manifold was in to have a IAC (idle air control valve) installed discretely in the valley.  This will stabilize the idle.


All photos courtesy of Blood Enterprises Auburn WA,  Check them out on Facebook.

Oct 18, 2011

Remedial modification.

Ever dream of modifications all evening, online, drunk? Me too

2 weeks after my tour to Cannon Beach with the Porsche club I'm still feeling the effects of the red mist. Any guy who's been on the track knows the red mist is the judgment impairing, blind enthusiasm that affects your judgment and velocity. Off the track it manifests itself via the internet, beer and the "buy it now" button.

So, let's blog this shopping spree out of my system.

Let's be clear, things you need like tires and brake pads,  purchased after a testosterone saturated event do not apply as the product of red mist.. Everyone needs wear items replaced, even if you do splurge a bit more than you need to (nobody needs to know). I'm talking about the real stupid stuff. The stuff you can't rationalize easily or hide when the UPS guy drops it off.  Stuff you have to explain to your wife.

Okay, maybe "exhaust system" is a bit of an understatement. The GT40 headers serve just one purpose, to optimize power. No detours around frame components, no emissions, heck barely any mufflers. About as pure as any exhaust system can get,  form follows function = stupid sexy. This image stolen from the guys at  masters at their craft.

Exhaust has been on my mind. Mufflers just modify noise; if you want a real change you're going to need a whole exhaust system. See what I mean about making it hard to hide? A proper system might actually get you (or me) a noticeable performance change. If it's noticeable on your credit card statement it's more likely to be noticeable on the road. 

Porsche Cup Exhaust above.   I'm going to hold out for a stainless system with a Cat bypass option on my Carrera.  Those things are heavy, and weight is power too.  So, if you see advertising on my blog, you'll know it's going to a good cause.
Exhaust systems, while perhaps a must for the track, are not as easy to rationalize for the street. You'll want improved or deleted catalytic converters to make any big impact with exhaust modifications. Some setups for the street/track offer variable configurations, like removable cats or a bypass maybe. Significant systems are not chump change, but usually the come with "proof". Meaning available and believable before and after dyno-graphs. So you'll have proof of the value to power ratio. The downside is noise, you never get something for nothing, it will be louder. Noise varies a lot; from simply bothering your neighbors, to making your hands-free system useless or even getting tickets. Some systems seem okay, but then the droning starts to drive you insane. Research your ass off.

A SRT8 Cherokee is a heavy rig.  These OEM Brembos will put you right through the windshield. 
Brakes are very sexy these days. It seems everyone is painting calipers red and with all the 20" wheels out there, you've got to have some caliper "bling" or the other car guys are going to make fun of you. While they don't deliver power directly, they allow you stop later so essentially go faster. Upgrading your brakes is not hard to do, and while the stakes might be high it's not hard to do yourself.

Note the aluminum hat on the rotor, to keep weight down.  While many kits are available for major sportscars, I prefer a factory upgrade.   It will keep the confusion down when ordering pads and appear more stock when selling. 

Companies like Brembo have made brake upgrades a household garage word. On the track big rotors will shed heat more efficiently; preventing brake fade. But think it through before clicking "buy it now" after that scotch. Have you ever really experienced brake fade on the street? Getting your brakes to fade on the street is tough, so it comes down more to stopping distance. More rotor might lower your stopping distance (bigger rotor= more leverage). But you can only break so hard before you skid or ABS takes over, this is a bit harder to research. It really depends on just how crappy your existing brakes really are. Remember huge rotors and calipers may have a down side too; possibly more rotating mass and greater unsprung weight. If you don't know what that means, it's reduced acceleration and decreased suspension performance. So as much as this pains me to say, don't over buy your brakes. At least not until you've experimented plenty with pad compound and tires, which is much cheaper. Paint them if you have to, red is cool.

While not exactly a chip, a stand alone computer system allows the user to program fuel, airflow, and spark mapping. Essentially making a new "chip" every time you press enter.  Only really required in systems that are such a dramatic departure from factory specs you can't or don't want to modify a factory computer chip.  Cost?   Put it this way, the laptop was the cheap part.
Chips are a big thing with modern cars. Who wouldn't want to raise his redline, improve throttle response and get more horsepower and torque at every rpm? The miracles a chip can do to a stock car are pretty much bullshit, you can't accomplish much with simply adding a degree of timing to WOT (wide-open-throttle). That's what most "stage 1" type chips do (creating the impression of throttle response is not hard). If your car is modified, you could, however, unlock some hidden potential with a chip. Off the shelf chips that are very specific about the modifications you need before installation are a bit encouraging. Custom burned chips are even more encouraging, but depend on the programmer. The more modified your ride the more potential you might have, to the point where a really hot machine won't even run right with a stock ECM. Before and after dyno results are a good place to start your research, don't trust the advertisers though. The last thing you want is an improved peak hp, and loss of power in the mid range. So know how to read a dyno graph, it isn't hard.

Enough about you, let's talk more about me.  For me, as much as I'd like 20hp and a stainless cat bypassing exhaust system, I'm a little short on that kind of cash. As far as big red brakes go; I really think they are sexy, but have no evidence that my medium sized black brakes are lacking. Chips? Well, chips are for salsa. My car is way too stock to benefit noticeably from an off the shelf computer chip. I'm afraid the untapped potential in my case is the driver.

best modifications for th emoney. modifying for maxiumu performancy, power, horsepower acceleration
mustang gt, 964 carrera 2, 993 carrera s, turbo supercharge, mustang gt ford gt40

Oct 14, 2011

Rennsport Reunion.

Porsche Rennsport Reunion IV: This is how we celebrate.

This video is placed here so I don't forget to go next time.

Oct 10, 2011

Speak no evil

That's not Bellevue WA traffic.  Its a PNWR PCA tour. A feisty one.

On an organized tour this weekend  I found satisfaction.  It was organized by someone else, so no work for me, I just showed up and had fun.  Not the kind of fun you have running to the Home Depot in your Carrera, but the real kind.  Just a spirited trip down to Oregon and back.  I gotta tell you, you just can't beat looking in front of you and seeing an awesome car, then looking behind you and seeing another awesome car.  Multiply that by say 7, as in 7 Porsches in front and behind.  Then you really get some satisfaction.  Now take those 15 cars and inject just a little testosterone.  That was my weekend. 

A example of a car in front.   I could have taken him if I had a carbon shift knob.

Being out-matched buy other cars was really wasn't that demoralizing.   There is always someone faster than you and your car.  I just accepted it and then it actually made it even better. You watch the faster cars disappear, then you try to catch them. Meanwhile the cars behind you keep you focused.  You never need to program your GPS or read any street signs, just watch the car ahead of you and stay on the gas.  Everyone was old enough to contain themselves so we stayed out of prison, but nobody was so mature that we won any merit badges either. 

A car that wouldn't be behind me for long.  Its a GT3RS.

Group rides vs track days.  Well, if you're a hard core speed junkie you're not going to find a substitute with a group ride.  But if you appreciate not burning through a set of tires or a set of brake pads a spirited group ride might be for you.  Also, you're allowed to roll  up your windows up when it rains, which is a plus.

I'm writing a short article for the club's periodical about my experience, it seems they ask first timers to do that.  That suited me just fine, I felt like less of a tourist photographing every single car with that excuse.   Writing about it was easy.  Hell, that's all I've been thinking about anyway.  I can't go into details about the event too much or I'll end up plagiarizing myself.   Also, I'm only including the pictures I don't want to be considered for the article.   But what did you expect from a crappy blog with no advertising?.

evidence of testosterone found in this 996 Twin Turbo

I'm looking forward to going again next year. That gives me 12 months to find
a carbon shift knob and wait for my picture to come down at the post office.

I'm using more restraint writing this than I did on the drive. 
 That's all I'm saying.

The end.


A couple guys named Mike made me do it.  Do what you ask?  Oh, nevermind.
Now that I said I'm not saying any more, let me just say something else.  Our Porsche group which was group 2 and well behaved, might have had a unofficial "splinter group."  This group might have self proclaimed themselves "Group B."  This group might not want to call any more attention to themselves than necessary, but they are out there, probably. This group might have driven with excessive spirit at times.  But maybe not, I really can't recall. 

Oct 6, 2011


If you dig deep I bet you can find a better drive than one to the auto parts store.
Track days not in your budget?  Join the club. Perhaps you have a heart condition or  are allergic to VHT. No excuses, some cars were made to drive.  Whatever the reason, organized or unorganized rides are a cheap and easy way to get your fix. 
This photo is from a weekend when some Shelby club  guys drove over the mountains to crash a Viper show.  It’s just a few hours from Seattle so packing was simple enough:  credit card, sunscreen and gas. (1964 FIA Cobra Replica)
You’ve got to get off your ass and make things happen or your summer passes you bye.  Like mine just did. Crap.
End of Rt1
My wife is a great facilitator when it comes to getting me off my ass and having fun.  She found this car with 20K miles in California. She made an offer on it, she booked the flights and the lodging.  I just showed up, paid and drove it back up the coast. San Francisco,  RT1, US101, and a skinny redhead.  You know you’re jealous  (1998 BMW M3)

Mt St Helens.  As you might imagine the roads are all pretty new going up the mountain.  Walkie talkies made it pretty fun too. 
This weekend, I’m hitting the road to Cannon Beach Oregon with the local PCA chapter  It’s going to rain, but hey, anything is better than wasting a sports car on latte” runs to Starbucks.  The hardest part, she just told me, is what to wear.   Not for me.
Okay, so perhaps breaking out the driving shoes might be over kill for a club ride.  I’ll just leave the driving gloves at home, but I'm wearing my shoes dammit.

Oct 1, 2011

Rainy days

Another crappy day in the Northwest.

Just because many manufacturers have switched to water based paints, does not mean your car will melt if you drive in the rain.  Get a coat of wax on and go drive for god sakes.  Here's how it's done:

We set the alarm and woke up at 6:30 am and made the 2 hour drive to Tacoma for the monthly car-guy get together at Griot’s Garage.  The forecast called for rain so parking lot nirvana ,like last month, was not expected.  The car below, however, certainly made the trip worth it.
1971 Tyrrell - Ford F1 car. I'm no expert but any 32-Valve V8 gets my heart rate up.  I heard this car go past at the historic races not too long ago in July.

I personally figured my car could handle a little rain.  My weekends off are few and far between these days so I had no intention of driving a dog haired Explorer today.  With 3 coats of Griots wax on my Carrera I figured I could make it to Tacoma and back  in the rain as long as I drove really fast.  Just not as fast as the new white Shelby GT500 I watched spin into the guard rail on the way, Sorry no photos, I just couldn’t do it. 
One good thing about attending in the rain, any half decent car  (like my 993, special to me but 13 years old) gets a good parking spot, and some admiration.  That’s because all the baby diaper rubbing trailer queens are at home under climate control.
But seriously, a good part of the limited attendance was the much anticipated lecture at MaxRPM Motorsports:  “Everything you wanted to know about your ECM but was afraid to ask.”  I’m going to venture a guess and say that lecture wouldn’t benefit this car.   But I could be wrong

A good amount of die hard MG and Subaru guys showed up, but this 911 stole my attention.  Just a nice tasteful execution of an older trackable car.   No details, since I never spoke with the owner (if I learn more, I’ll share later).
Subaru guys love the rain, with that AWD.   The rally Impreza in attendance luckily got himself a tent, since his windows didn’t roll up.  

A peek through the window of that blue Porsche.  You know you love it.  The hound's-tooth interior with roll bar finished it off, too. I’m sure John (obstructed from view here) , appreciated this owner driving it out to the event in the rain.   It just makes the car more special, knowing he wasn’t’ afraid to get it dirty.  John’s currently knee deep in a ‘68 912 to 911 conversion project hopefully he’ll make some good progress over the winter.  Go John!
After buying some $16 wash rags for my car, I paid homage to my favorite Ford, the Griot’s  Ford GT, making my wash rags worth every penny. 

A rainy day with sports cars, still beats a sunny day at work.


Special thanks to my new Nikon P7000 my smaller, cheaper, better camera.  Really digging it so far.