SELF-MADE MAN EVZ3 TURNS 3 ALL HIS DAILY DRIVERS MAKE 400HP+
THE ULTIMATE ENGINE SWAP?
DOING IT RIGHT
LEAP OF FAITH
RIGHT WHEEL DRIVE LIVING THE RWD DREAM
WALKING AWAY: THE DAYI AMOST WALKED AWAY FROM RALLY PRESSING ON: AARON EKINAKA GOES ALL IN ON OREGON TRAIL 2013 GRABBER: RYAN VINK STILL HAS HIS FIRST CAR (AND IT LOOKS GREAT) UNADULTERATED: PATRICK WYMAN EXPLAINS WHY KIT COBRAS ROCK WRENCHFEST: 3 YRS LATER, I TURN WRENCHES WITH THE AZ CRAWLERS
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ISSUE 4 | SMELL THE COFFEE
It’s been a dramatic couple weeks here at GBXM HQ. I didn’t put as much time into this project as I should have up front, resulting in my waking up to find myself running on empty at the last minute. Of course, a scheduled rally out of state the weekend I’d ordinarily build out the issue meant I either had to build the magazine early or ship it late. (You know which option I chose.) We’re trying out a new print offering on this issue in the hopes it brings the price per issue down for those people who want printed copies and maybe turns out better. Not that there was anything wrong with vendor we used previously, but I believe in giving business to fellow gearheads wherever possible, and since my good friend Greg works for a major player in the printing industry, I tapped him for some suggestions. Turns out they had a solution which be might right up our alley. We’re giving it a try with this issue. Of course, the best laid plans of mice, switching to this new tool pretty much meant all the templates I built after the last issue were just a little bit off, so I just about had to rebuild the entire thing from scratch. Ugh. Vanessa and I had a deal. I would get Saturday to work on the magazine and she would watch our six month old daughter, Penny. I would handle Penny all day Sunday so Vanessa could work on weding pictures (she’s a photog) on Sunday, Mother’s Day (observed). After nearly 9 hours building out the issue on Saturday, I stil wasn’t done, and had to steal away to the office, 30 minutes here, an hour there, on Mother’s Day to complete it.
GEARBOX MAGAZINE IS: • BRIAN DRIGGS, FOUNDER • DENNIS DEJONG, PARTNER • YOU? JOIN US. (CLICK ME)
Haste makes waste, so I’m sure there are some mistakes in this one. This has been a valuable lesson learned for me. Build the stories out as soon as you get the content to do so. I can’t let things slide to the very end. You know why issue 1.03 was 76 pages and this one is only 52? Because I didn’t even think about grabbing any archive material until about 4PM on Mother’s Day. Family has to come first. You are our family, fellow gearhead, but today is Mother’s Day - my wife’s FIRST Mother’s Day. Today, I feel I’ve let you down because I’ve had to compromise. I feel I’ve let my wife down because I’ve had to compromise. I really appreciate your understanding and promise I’m going to channel this experience into making sure 1.05 - which is coming out in something like three weeks - is even better. I’d really like to hear from you. What do you think about the magazine thus far? What would you like to see in future issues? We’ve got a forum over at team.gearboxmagazine.com. If you’re feeling saucy, sign up and let’s talk. We’re still very much flying by the seat of our pants here, but that just means your feedback can really make a difference! Thanks for your understanding. Keep going fast with class & press on regardless,
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Our goal is to help automotive enthusiasts build high performance machines & lives. If you’re a first class business which believes, like we do, that success comes from helping others achieve success for themselves, and are willing to work with us to empower our mutual customers, we’d like to tell you about how our Official Partners program can help your brand prove value, build trust, and grow. Nobody likes advertising & commercials. Let’s make a difference. Contact us today.
Gearbox Magazine. Of gearheads. By gearheads. For gearheads. united. 2 | GBXM
CONTENTS | what’s inside the effing cover | BRIAN kelley
If you can modify your vehicle, you can modify your life. Brian Kelley is an entrepreneur and gearhead who’s started and run multiple businesses. He drives an Audi RS4, a Superformance Cobra, & a Ducati Monster. We talk gearhead entrepreneurship, Gumball Rally, and how people make all the difference. Oh yeah, and we talk about cars, too.
TIM CATELLIER | EVZ3 TURNS 3
If you only read ONE story this year about EVs, make it this one. Tim Catellier shows us just how much we - as conventional gearheads - have in common with our EV bretheren. Engine swaps, voiding warranties, getting it fast, right or cheap - there’s all kinds of common ground in this one. Just be careful, you might find yourself thinking about an EV conversion yourself after this.
MICHAEL RODARTE | DOING IT RIGHT
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes; working jobs we hate to buy shit we don’t need. What’s it take to leave that soul-sucking desk job behind and do something you love for a living? Michael Rodarte tells us a little bit about how he bailed on the corporate nightmare in order to build race cars for a living. Why is there time & money to do it over, but not to do it right the first time? Want a do-over?
MIKE THOMPSON | RIGHT WHEEL DRIVE
One of Mike Thompson’s dream cars was a turbocharged DSM. A few years modding one taught him the importance of investing in quality parts & never cutting corners. When he left the DSM scene for a rear wheel drive Mazda RX-8, he resited the allure of big power, got to know the new platform, and focused on clean, subtle mods. (He gets his big power fix from his Nissan Silvia.)
WALKING AWAY | HOW I ALMOST WALKED AWAY FROM RALLY & CARS (& HOW I DIDN’T) PRESSING ON | AARON EKINAKA GOES ALL-IN ON OREGON TRAIL 2013 GRABBER | Ryan vink still has his first car - a 1973 ford maverick unadulterated | patrick wyman explains why kit cobras might be better wrenchfest | 3yrs later, i turn wrenches with the az crawlers new river canyon | a FEW PICTURES FROM MY FIRST 4WD TRIP
Stories of real people doing things with vehicles they actually own matter more than thinly veiled, marketing propaganga spun as helping sheep select their next consumer-grade appliance. We believe our shared passion for all things automotive unites us on a global scale, and that the things we have in common as gearheads empower us to get the most from our differences.
Gearbox Magazine. Of gearheads. By gearheads. For gearheads. united. GBXM | 3
“Shelby & Gumball.” That’s how Jeremy Barnes, who drove an old Holden Astra across the Australian Outback in the Shitbox Rally started my conversation with Brian Kelley. They’ve known each other something like 16 years and, when I asked Jeremy if he had any gearhead buddies I should get to know for a story in the future, Brian was the first person to come to mind. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES BRIAN KELLEY
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A little about Brian’s automotive history, he’s always been into cars. His dad had a couple 1948 MG TCs in various stages of repair and used to race Alfa Romeos at Lime Rock in the 60s. That’s how things got started for him. In high school, he would shift into 4-wheel drive and off-roading, but eventually found himself behind the wheel of a 2000 Audi S4, which he modifi ed within an inch of its life. In a somewhat “infl uenced” state, he applied for - and was accepted to enter - the 2003 Gumball Rally with that S4. The following year, he would be back in the Gumball, this time in a friend’s Ferrari 355 Spider. He had an M3 for a few years, then followed his dream and ordered up a custom Superformance Cobra MkIII, which one of his employees promptly binned just seven months after the Cobra was delivered. Undeterred, Kelly built a new Cobra, this time even more powerful, of course, and now drives that, an Audi RS4, and a Ducati Monster around northern California. Brian’s got a lot of automotive stories to tell, but he’s also a self-made man. Musician, restaurateur, and technologist, he’s something of an entrepreneur. As
you read through this conversation, you might fi nd yourself thinking, “I’d love to just buy a new M3 on a whim on my lunch break.” I certainly would! Brian and I got to talking about some of the ways our interests and experiences in the automotive realm carry over into our professional lives. Here at GBXM|united, we believe gearheads already have much of what it takes to be successful. These stories are meant to inspire you to make the most of yourself. Enjoy. Introductions, man: I know who you are and have a pretty good idea what you do for a living, but how would you introduce yourself to a group of fellow gearheads? Who are you, where are you, what do you do? Top level, I’m an entrepreneur and technologist in the San Francisco Bay Area. My professional interests are mostly around technology, and I’ve either started or been a part of a lot of different businesses. I’m also in the process of buying a restaurant, so I guess it’s safe to say that I have varying professional interests. Mostly, I like to build cool things, from software to cars and whatever else I get my hands on.
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My home base is in Palo Alto, California, but I travel a lot to Chicago, Boston, NY, Vermont, etc. Introductions, machines: You’ve already given me a glimpse of your automotive background and we’ll get to that shortly. I’d like to piece this together around the structure of self-employment, your clearly superlative taste in vehicles, and the relative insanity of Gumball. That said, laying a foundation here, how would you introduce your automotive past & present? My father was a big fan of small European sports cars and I caught that bug early on. He used to race Alfas at Lime Rock in CT back in the 60s and as soon as I could see over the steering wheel, I knew what a racing line was. After a stint with lifted trucks and off-roading in high school and college, I got into my first European sports sedan - a 2000 Audi S4. What an awesome platform - 2.7L, twin turbo, 250hp stock. With a little work, chip, exhaust, suspension, and some other gofast parts, it was pushing 380hp That car also kicked off my interest in autocross and racing in general. I also did the 2003 Gumball 3000 from San Francisco to Miami in that car, but I’m sure we’ll get more into that later. Then one day several years later, after fighting an elusive coolant leak for a few months, I got annoyed and bought an E46 M3 at lunch one day. Great car, of course, with a great community.
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I never inherited the thing that tells you, “I probably shouldn’t buy that car,” (Probably because my father didn’t have that gene either), so one day a couple years later I grabbed my girlfriend and went down the street and spontaneously ordered a Superformance Cobra. I always loved the Shelby Cobra - particularly the 427. Small, european roadster, with an insane American motor. But I wanted a car that I could drive unapologetically that didn’t cost a million dollars. Blending the old looks, somewhat-modern technology, the Superformance platform was the perfect combination of what I wanted. Partnered with a Roush 427 SRX motor, that thing was awesome. One side note that we’ll get into I’m sure, the cobra doesn’t have traction control. Should have mentioned that to one of my employees who accidentally spun us around in it, right into a tree. So passed cobra #1. Cobra 2 was built and it gave me the chance to correct some of the choices that I had made before. Slightly different paint, better interior, and swapped over to a Ford Racing 427 with webers. My daily driver these days is a 2008 Audi RS4, and it brings a smile to my face that I don’t own a car with less than 400 hp. It sounds like your professional interests are as varied as your mechanical interests. I believe it’s important we seek to truly understand WHY we love doing the things we love doing so we
can spot common ground in other areas of our lives. This is where I think we find the difference between a job, a career, and a living. Thinking about your professional pursuits, could you put your finger on a common thread through all of them? What is it about composing music, starting a tech firm, launching a restaurant, etc., that keeps you coming back for more? I really like to get in over my head. Usually that leads to me figuring something interesting out and having an adventure along the way. I’ve never started a job or a company where I already knew how to do everything that I was responsible for. So whether it’s music, technology, restaurants, cars, whatever…it’s got to be an adventure. I wanted to get rid of the amber reflectors in the front headlights of the Audi. This led to me pulling off the front end and baking the headlights in the oven. Clearly was a little over my head but it turned out alright. Given you operate in such diverse industries, how do you go about A) ensuring you start off with the best chance of success and B) keep all these projects operating at peak performance? I ask this thinking of someone who, like me, works in one industry, but would like to move into another with more emphasis on success than avoiding damage to the current foundation.
There are no guarantees. It all comes down to what you can handle. I get bored very easily, so it’s important for me to have more than one thing happening at once so I can stay productive and get a lot done. I don’t think that anyone can stay 100% focused on one job or profession -- you need a break so that you can stay creative and effective. That’s why the typical work day is 8 hours, so you can go home, be with your family, work on cars, etc. I’m lucky in that my hobbies and interests are also what I do for a living. So taking the needed time away from a problem in my tech company, I work on something for the restaurant, or any of the other things that are on my mind. I’ve heard it said an Audi RS4 at WOT sounds like an angry bear being fired out of a cannon. It’s also highly refined when it needs to be. Is it Dr. Jekyll to the Mr. Hyde that is your Cobra? What is the common thread across your vehicular selections? Every vehicle you’ve mentioned to me sound excellent, yet the Audi is your go-to DD. How do you choose one over the other? The RS4 is like driving a linebacker. It’s powerful and refined right out of the box. Throw a non-valved, non-resonated Milltek exhaust on there like I did and it sounds like King Kong ate a jet fighter (refined is overrated). But it’s useful having all wheel drive and 4 doors to make an attempt at acting like a grownup. The Cobra is definitely the Mr. Hyde to the Audi’s Dr. Jekyll. Try and peel out in an RS4. Seriously, try it. If you’re lucky you get a chirp and then you’re off. Accidentally add a little too much throttle in
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third gear while you’re in the Cobra, and you’re suddenly wondering why you’re in a ditch facing the wrong direction. Hence why this is my second cobra (never let your employee drive your cobra). Across all of the cars I’ve owned, a common theme is clearly performance, but also a really good community. I loved the Audi community when I had my first S4. I never really got too much into the BMW group other than some autocross events, but when I was looking for a new DD, Audi was at the top of the list. That and the sounnndddd. The Cobra community is really great as well, and there is no shortage of events to go to out here in Northern California. When we first started our little chat, you mentioned previously owning an S4 which you “modified like crazy.” How so? have you done such things with the RS4? Any plans to? Why or why not? (What changed or didn’t change, if you know what I mean?) I got my S4 back in 2000, and Audi had made the awful decision to not bring over the RS4. Given that Audi was able to wring out 420hp out of the same 2.7L bi-turbo engine, a lot of us S4 owners immediately started modding. By the time I sold it, I had done chip, suspension, cat-back exhaust, throttle body, bypass valves, big brake kit, short shifter, RS4 clutch and flywheel, headlights, grille, and lots and lots of different wheels. Oh, and added a turbo gauge. As for the RS4? Of course! Right out of the gate, I got a new suspension, exhaust, chip, tint, short shifter, clear cornered the headlights, new grille, and some giant 20” wheels for good measure (the wheels are excessive, but they ran out of 19s and offered
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me a sick discount on the 20s). It’s all in the name of tinkering really - the RS4 is a beast and sounded awesome out of the gate, but honestly felt too subdued next to the brattiness of my M3 (did my fair share of mods there too). It’s still a little slow I think so I’m considering a supercharger, but they’re still a bit pricey. You also mentioned being in a “somewhat influenced” state of mind and being talked into entering the Gumball Rally. Care to shed a little light on that? Sounds like there’s one heck of a story behind that? Drunk. I had a bunch of people over earlier that night and was chatting with my friend who is a fellow gearhead and we were like “remember that Gumball thing? Let’s do that!” So we signed up on a whim. Didn’t have the money and didn’t really think about it again until a few weeks later when I got a call from a british woman from Gumball. She just starts interviewing me about my car and what I like to do, etc., and before I know it, I signed us up. The real fun started the day before my car was to be shipped to San Francisco. I went out to the car to change the winter rims for summers and all 4 summer wheels and tires were stolen. So I shipped my car on its winter rims and I had to rush order new summers, which I shipped straight to the Fairmont in San Francisco. I ended up just giving away my winter rims to an Audi guy out there since I had no way to get them back home. You ran Gumball again the following year in a Ferrari. I take it you had a good time? You avoid the “hamthrax?” Will you ever run the event again? What makes an automotive event irresistible in your eyes?
I ran the Gumball in 2004 with a friend that I met on the rally the year prior where he was driving an Elise. He basically got the Ferrari 355 spider just for the rally the next year, and I think he sold it at the finish line. The thing had straight pipes on it and it was so loud I couldn’t hear anything for weeks afterwards. Between that and the headlights which were basically two gnomes on the front with candles, it wasn’t exactly the most comfortable car, but man, did it look good. I don’t think that I’ll do Gumball again. It’s gone way too celebrity and lost the original spirit of friends going on a rally and having an adventure. I don’t care if Adrian Brody or Tony Hawk is in the car next to me -- I only care that I’m going balls out down the road while maniacally laughing and having a great time with my friends. Automotive stuff all comes down to the people. If you’re with some great people who share your passion, that’s all you need. That and 600 hp under the hood. It all comes down to people. Exactly right. And working with great people who share your passion makes all the difference. As a gearhead and entrepreneur, can you maybe draw a couple parallels for our readers? What skills do exceptional gearheads possess which are conducive to success in other areas of life (such as starting your own business)? I think the most obvious parallel between being a gearhead and entrepreneur is solving problems and maybe taking risks. Working on your car, finding out how things are put together and how they work. Trying to get everything running smooth and get every bit of performance out of your car -- it’s really the same running a business. You have to have the right parts be committed to getting it done. That and there’s an element of risk in there as well. It let’s you know you’re alive. What’s next for you, Brian? Got an exciting business or automotive project on the horizon? Care to tell us a little bit about it? What kind of timeline are you facing? I’m in the process of buying a restaurant right now. But I was really unimpressed by the technology available out there to keep track of the restaurant when I’m not there. So we’ve just launched Metristo (metristo.com) to help bar and restaurant owners manage what’s happening in their businesses from anywhere. We’re just getting started with our first private beta customers now, but hoping to launch it to the world early this summer. Where do you go for automotive tech and community? Can our readers connect with you anywhere on the web? I’m always lurking around the Audi and Cobra forms on Audizine. com and ClubCobra.com (username s3lki3). You can also find me on Twitter @brian_c_kelley, LinkedIn, and BrianKelley.com.
“I think the most obvious parallel between being a gearhead and entrepreneur is solving problems and maybe taking risks.”
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evz3 turns 3
WARNING: Reading this story may lead to the revelation that EV owners are gearheads like us. The next 8 pages are filled with common ground and anecdotes with which any gearhead will identity. For less than what you might spend on a new car and bolt-ons, Tim Catellier converted this BMW Z3 into a fully-electric vehicle. It’s been his daily driver for over three years, now. Hacking, engine swaps, and voided warranties! Hooray! WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES TIM CATELLIER
The 2000 BMW Z3 you see here is special. Not because it’s super clean; because it’s the only one of its kind. In the world. You see, a little over three years ago, this little roadster became Tim Catellier’s daily driver. Oh yeah, and it’s completely electric.
“I’ve had more than my fair share of motor problems, but the manufacturer, Netgain, has stood behind it beyond my wildest expectations. In fact, March of 2012, they’d had enough of that motor and sent me a brand new one. It’s been trouble free.”
Our resident EV nut, Dave Hymers, first introduced us to Tim a couple years ago. Because his DIY EV conversion is cleaner than most (and is based on a true drivers car) we’ve tried to keep tabs on him over the years (Z3 EV update 2010 , EV Owners are Gearheads Too 2011), but this is the first time we’ve reached out for a direct interview since 2010. Tim recently celebrated three years with this car as his daily driver. I thought it would be interesting to see how he’s fared and what his experiences with a homemade, electric BMW might teach us about the future of EVs and gearheads in general.
“I blew the charger up once, and it blew up on its own once. The repairs were cheap, but it means downtime waiting for the repairs to happen.”
PREFACE Tim pointed us to specific details of the problems he’s faced in that time, but summed things up for us.
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“The overall build has been quite sturdy. I haven’t had any real problems with the systems or structures I designed and built, which is a good thing. The car is my primary transportation, so when it’s down, I’m stuck at home or walking.” “I don’t know if my experiences are indicative of home conversions. I’ve spoken with others who have had no issues, and some that have had nothing but problems, though to be fair, most of those used inferior components to cut costs, and did a bit of a sloppy job.”
“The truth is, I wish I had a rosy picture to paint for you, but it hasn’t been perfect. However, I have put nearly 15,000 miles on the car, it’s an absolute blast to drive, so I smile everytime I turn the key, and it’s never stranded for any reason, including running out of juice. There have been about 4 or 5 times when I needed a car that would go further than the 60 miles the car offers me, so I had to make other arrangements. But if I could have charged at my destination, it wouldn’t have been an issue at all.” “Reflecting over the whole endeavor, I’d say that if you’re a car guy to start with, converting a car is a great way to go and a good hobby. If you’re not, you should just buy one of the OEM EVs that are available like the Leave or Ford Focus EV.” Did you spot the common ground? Motor problems? Blowing things up? What about smiling every time the key is turned or having a blast driving? And certainly we can all empathize with being stranded when our daily-drivers-as-projects go down hard. Makes us wonder why we tend to think of EV owners as not being gearheads like us. Tim and I had a little chat. A QUICK INTRO Remind us why you wanted an electric vehicle, why you chose to build your own, and why you picked the Z3? I’d had an opportunity to drive an electric car in the late 90’s. At the time, I was struck with how quick it was, and when I did the math and figured out how cheap it was to drive, I was left puzzled
as to why we all don’t drive electric cars for around town commuting. Sure we need conventional cars for longer trips, but EVs can cover most of our daily driving. When I started thinking about it more, it became apparent that EVs solve a number of problems all at once: dependency on foreign oil, air pollution in cities, the rising cost of gas, and for those who are interested in such things, EVs offer a decrease in CO2 production. So, tired of paying over $4 a gallon for gas, I decided that since none of the OEMs were going to manufacture an EV that I could both afford, and buy, my only option was to build my own. Ironically, 1 month or so after I started work on the Z3, Nissan announced they were going to be building the Leaf. I decided that I wanted a newer car, with all the safety features people have come to expect: air bags, 3-point seat belts, anti-lock brakes, etc. When choosing what EV converters call “the glider” or “donor car”, you need to consider a number of factors. Small is better than large, the more aerodynamic the better, there needs to be room for batteries, you get the idea. Originally I was thinking that I’d convert a Mazda Miata. There are so many Miata conversions on the road that I figured I could learn everything I needed from the community and pull off a conversion in a few months. Well, one day I was driving near my house when a Z3 passed me. Suddenly, I completely forgot about the Miata. A friend of mine owns a Z3, and she let me take all kinds of measurements of her car so I could figure out if I could fit all the components in. Once I was certain I could, I started looking for a good candidate.
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You recently shared an update on your site detailing many of the problems you’ve had to overcome in the three years you’ve been driving your homemade, electric Z3. Rather than ask you to recap all that, could you sum up what these issues have taught you about life with an EV? When I was building the car I chose the best components I could afford at the time, thinking that I’d put the car together, drive it, and rarely have to fiddle with it again. You hear people say that EVs are maintenance free. I can tell you, and anyone who has converted a car will tell you that a conversion EV is anything BUT maintenance free. What’s happened, and what I didn’t expect was that the car has become a hobby. I suppose it was a bit naive to think that a project as complicated as an EV conversion wouldn’t need attention from time to time, but I didn’t. The truth is I don’t mind that it’s become my hobby. I enjoy tinkering with it and making things better. I suppose my experience is like anyone’s who has built a hot rod or custom car. When is the project really done? Never! The Z3 is my daily driver, so when it’s not running, I’m stranded. Perhaps expecting the car to be available 100% of the time, and not planning for down time was foolish. Well, there’s no perhaps about it, it was foolish. Ideally I suppose, if a person is going to build a conversion, it would be better if they have access to another form of transportation for when their EV needs maintenance. But let me talk for a moment about the positive aspects of living with the EV Z3. When I first started driving it, I really did experience what people refer to as “range anxiety.” I watched my battery meter, which has a gas gauge like function, constantly. I knew the car had a theoretical range of 60 miles, but if I drove more than 30, I was very nervous. This lasted about 2 months or so, but as the car routinely delivered me home without incident, time and again, I gradually stopped worrying. Soon I found myself looking at the meter only after I got home so I’d know how much energy I’d used. Anymore, I don’t worry about range, at all. I know how far the car will go so if my destination is within that range, I simply drive it and don’t give it a second thought. In the three years I’ve been driving it, there have been only six occasions where I wasn’t able to drive the car where I needed to because it was too far. And in each of those circumstances, if I could have charged the car at the destination, I could have taken it. I’ve had a number of strangers ask me about the car. The only outward clue that the car in not a conventional Z3 is that it has Alternative Fuel plates, which in Arizona depict clouds over a sky blue background. People see these most frequently on hybrid cars. One man walked up to me in a parking lot and said that he didn’t know BMW was producing a hybrid. I explained that it wasn’t a hybrid, but rather a full EV, and popped the hood for him to look. He then said, “I didn’t know BMW was making EVs.” I then explained that they weren’t, I had made it. Judging from the expression on his face, you’d think I’d told him I could fly and then did loops in the air above him. He said, “But it looks so professional.” I thanked him. I think that when most people envision an electric car, they think of an ugly, heavy box of a car that has a 20 mile range. Seeing a sleek little sports car that
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has enough range to easily cover their daily driving, kind of opens their eyes. Sitting in traffic jams is less annoying than with normal cars. If the car isn’t moving, it isn’t using energy. So while everyone around me slowly burns off their gas while they are sitting still, I’m just enjoying the music on the radio with no impact to my range at all. But of course the best thing is driving by gas stations knowing that I never have to stop and hand over any of my money. I’ve put over 14,500 miles on the car and not burned the 660 gallons of gas the car would have used. When you add up the cost of that gas, and subtract the cost of the electricity that I have used, I’ve saved over $2,100. Not a huge amount of money, but that’s nothing to sneeze at. Do you think your experience thus far is indicative of what “the average” DIY EV owner goes through? How might your situation be unique? If better or worse, why do you think it’s been that way (and are there any general ideas prospective DIY EV builders should keep in mind from the get-go)? I think my experience has turned out to be pretty normal with perhaps the exception of the repeat problems with the motor. I’ve met a number of people that have done conversions, and by-inlarge, each one has a problem here and there with some aspect of their build. Most times it’s due to poor planning or execution on their part. But, each has found that maintaining the car becomes their hobby. What seems to be unique from one conversion to the next is the nature of the problems they have. One person might have occasional problems with batteries, another with instrumentation, a third with the controller. For me it was the motor. It has been 38 months since the Z3 rolled out of the garage. About three of those months the car was off the road due to a problem. While that is not great, it’s not terrible. I’ve had it off the road for another 7 to 8 months voluntarily for various improvements like adding air conditioning, or redoing the battery layout. I do know people that have had 0 problems with their conversions. They drove them out of the garage, drive them every day, and 3 years later, have still had no problems. There is nothing appreciably different about their conversion that makes it more reliable, it’s just the luck of the draw. The one piece of advice I would give anyone interested in converting a car is to avoid the cheap route. Cheap components are often more expensive in the long run because they end up not living up to your standards, and you wind up replacing them anyway. Or worse, you don’t replace them and settle for a car that never meets your expectations or hopes. Don’t buy a cheap older, rusted car to convert. When you’re done you have an old rusty EV. Of course, if you plan to restore that car first, well that’s a different story. I know a lot of people with conventional, ICE-powered vehicles who have just as much mechanical trouble. How well do you think a traditional (read: non-EV) gearhead might fare with such a vehicle? Are there any skills which will prove more useful than they’re used to?
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Before I started this project, I had no experience with electrical stuff at all. Zero! What I did have was a pretty good set of conventional mechanic skills. I’ve done everything from brake jobs to rebuilding engines, so I was comfortable with all the mechanical aspects of the job. The electrical stuff though, that scared me. I was certain that it involved a fair amount of voodoo and black magic. It turns out that EV systems are far more simple than a conventional car. Think about how complicated a modern engine is, and how many moving parts. An electric motor has 1 moving part. The one thing that has proven most useful is simple trouble shooting skills. If you have a worn clutch, you recognize the symptoms, pull out the transmission and replace the clutch disc. Maybe resurface the pressure plate and flywheel if they need it. Done. EVs are no different as far as trouble shooting, but the symptoms and ultimately the causes are different. Once you have a basic understanding of how the electrical systems work, applying the same trouble shooting skills you’ve used on your ICE works just fine. If you’ve ever had to troubleshoot the electrical system on an old MG, you’re more than qualified. Working with EVs can be more dangerous, so you must keep that in mind. The most that an ICE engine that is sitting turned off can do to you is burn you if you’re not careful. But batteries are always “on”. You must have a healthy respect for the power that’s in these batteries, because they can kill you if you’re careless. Working on an EV is, however, a cleaner experience. There is nearly no oil or grime caked on everything. Before I started the conversion, I was surprised at just how large an online community there was of people that had converted cars. There are forums, weekly online shows, and plenty of material to read. If I came across something that I didn’t fully understand, an hour’s worth of research filled in all the gaps. But the real question at this point, is why would you bother to convert a car when the OEMs are finally starting to produce EVs you can buy? Their cars come with all the modern conveniences, and have a manufacturer’s warranties. The truth of the matter is that for most people, an OEM EV is the way to go. But there are some advantages to building your own. First, you get to choose the car you want. They didn’t make a
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1965 Karmann Ghia as an EV, or a 1989 Porsche 911, but if that’s what you want, you can buy it and build it yourself. If you have the money, buy a Ferrari and convert it! You’re not tied to what the OEMs are producing, you can have the car you’ve always wanted instead. Truthfully, who wouldn’t prefer a BMW Z3 to a Nissan Leaf? Maybe it’s just me. You can choose all the of the car’s specs rather than be stuck with what the OEM provides. Do you want more range? Buy more batteries. Less range, save your money and buy fewer batteries. You control the cost of the project. Do you want a car that will smoke just about anything off the line? Buy a 2000 amp controller. If you’re not worried about long range, and don’t want to sink your money into the components need to make your car blindingly fast, then put that money towards a nicer car. Maybe you convert an old Bentley that had a bad engine. The point is you get to customize the car to EXACTLY what you want. Last, it’s just a fun project, there is no getting around that. When you drive the car out of the garage, put it on the road for the first time and feel that immediate surge of power you get when you mash the throttle, there’s no way you won’t be grinning ear to ear. Converting an ICE car to be an EV is an exercise in problem solving. It’s one little puzzle after another. How do you support the batteries here, how do you fit this component there? It’s a chance to think, be creative, and build stuff. Most car guys I know find that kind of challenge pretty fun. Your comments on the pros and cons of OEM vs. DIY EVs, combined with the charge to really figure out what you need to get out of the project once it’s completed. It’s another version of the contractor’s triangle - fast, right, cheap: pick any two, right? Can you have your cake and eat it too, or is there truly no escape from compromise? OEM EVs offer some distinct advantages over DIY projects, though it’s largely warranty and reliability issues, there are others. The DIY market has been searching for some time for a good instrumentation solution. Take, for example, the Tesla Model S. The Model S has a 17” touch screen in the center of the dashboard. That display, combined with instruments in front of the steering wheel, offer the driver ever detail you can imagine about the battery, the range, the car or the price of eggs in Poland for that matter. The car was designed with hundreds of sensors, and all of that data is at the driver’s fingertips at any time. DIY EVs have less
than a dozen different metering systems available to them, each more ugly than the next. Often, they look like something you’d see on a control panel in a Soviet era nuclear reactor. At worst, they look like someone cobbled it together in their garage. Where the OEMs really take the cake is in making all of these systems talk together using the CAN BUS. Let’s say your motor is getting too hot, and you want to limit the controller to a certain current level so you don’t cook your motor. Or that batteries are getting too warm on a hot summer night, when the car is left charging unattended, and you want to ramp the charge current down to protect them. If all of these systems were tied together into a computer system so it could control each component independently, we’d have something approaching what OEMs have. Thankfully, there are people working on solving these issues. Now, whether they are able to turn their work into an attractive, reliable product remains to be seen. Furthermore, the rest of the component manufacturers need to update their products to speak on the CAN BUS. It won’t do any good to have a CAN BUS controller with no devices to hook to it. I’d like to think all this will happen, but only time will tell. When it comes to DIY EV’s there is one thing they absolutely have in common with OEMs. You can build the car so that it’s fast, has a long range, or cheap: pick two. If you want a car that can lay rubber down at will, and will take you 100 miles, you’re going to pay in excess of $60K for the privilege. But if you want one that will go 100 miles, but it’s 0 to 40 time can be measured with a sundial (and I say 0-40 because it won’t do 60), you might get away with less than $15K invested. People often ask when the Z3 will pay back the money I’ve invested in it, as if the project is some how justified only if it earns its keep. I find this to be a curious question. I often ask them when their car will pay them back, or their TV for that matter. I converted a car to run on electricity because I wanted an electric car, not because I expected it to pay itself off. That said, a DIY EV is one of the only projects I can think of that actually CAN pay itself off. I’d mentioned that I’ve saved over $2100 in fuel costs since the car hit the road 3 years ago. Now, that happens to be less than 10% of the cost of the car. If I keep it long enough, it will pay itself off, but I really don’t care if it does or doesn’t. I loved doing the project, and love driving it even more.
I’ve heard it said that the true payback time, when your EV really earns it’s keep, is the first time you press the pedal to the floor, and you feel the car surge beneath you and speed you away. The payback time turns into that few seconds it takes to get from 0 to 60. Truer words were never spoken. It strikes me that the DIY EV builder might be among the most extreme gearheads; as if the electric motor is the ultimate engine swap. How do you see the EV market evolving in the nottoo-distant future? How will the increase (assuming) in OEM EVs impact the DIY crowd? Will we see DIYers move more toward “tuning” or upgrading OEM products? American car culture has always been about tuning and customizing cars. I don’t see that changing with OEM EVs that much, but I do see the nature of the work changing. If you owned a ‘67 Camaro, and you wanted it to go faster, you might swap out the exhaust system and maybe the carburetor. If you really wanted to get radical, you might swap out the camshaft, or the heads. There are multiple parts in an internal combustion engine that can be updated, or tuned to enhance performance. Not so with EVs. To enhance the performance of an EV - and I’m not talking about tires, and suspension, I’m talking about making it faster - you need to change either the controller, or the motor, or both. Those are pretty much your only choices. But here’s the secret the OEMs are keeping from you. There’s plenty of headroom in the system for tuning. OEMs are very careful to set the car up so that the battery and the controller are protected. For instance, when the car tells you the battery is dead, it’s not. It’s fallen below a threshold set in the controller, and the controller then refuses to move the car. The battery likely has 10% of it’s capacity left, but you’ll never be able to touch it because if you do, and you do it repeatedly, the battery won’t last as long as the manufacturer has warranted it to last. Since they don’t want to replace it, they limit what you can do to it. [You can void EV warranties too! - bd] Another way they limit what you can do to the battery is how much power you can draw out of it at one time. Let’s say the controller puts out 120 kilowatts (that’s about 160 HP in normal speak). Now the controller may be able to put out more. Maybe it can put out 160 kilowatts, which is around 215 HP. But to do that, the
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controller has to demand more current from the batteries, and that might shorten the battery’s life, or the controller’s life. You get the idea. What I would expect to see, is guys sitting in their garages, with laptops hooked to their cars, fine tuning the parameters of the controller, with some third party software, that will allow them to turn their Ford Focus EV into something that performs like a rally car. Of course, when you do that to any car, there’s a price to pay. For ICE cars, it’s a decline in gas mileage. For EVs, it will likely be a loss of range, but over time, there will likely be an impact on the battery’s life expectancy. That type of tuning, and those sorts of compromises are already a part of the DIY EV scene. I expect they will be part of the OEM aftermarket scene before long. As far as DIY EV builders being more extreme gear heads, I suppose you could make that argument. They are certainly more adventurous. It takes a fair amount of guts to look at a perfectly functional car and say, “I’m going to tear that sucker up, and make it run on batteries.” With regard to the OEM EV market, I don’t think the short-term prospects look all that good. We’ve got virtually ever OEM saying they are coming out with an EV soon if they don’t already have one out. Most of them are producing what we refer to as compliance cars.Meaning they produced them only because California said they had to and they only intend to sell them in California. The Fiat 500e is a perfect example of this.
that. I bought the Z3 as a working ICE car and paid about $8000 for it. I then proceeded take it apart and cram approximately $27,000 worth of components into it. When it was done, I had a car that I’d invested right at $35K into, and was now worth maybe $10K. On a good day. It’s possible that someone would come along, recognize the quality of the components in the car, recognize the quality of work that went into building it, and offer me as much as $15,000. But that’s not likely. The fact of the matter is that people don’t trust cars that have been altered to this degree. I can’t say I blame them really. But I knew this would be the case from the moment I started the project. Take a look on the EV Trader, or on eBay for that matter. You’re bound to find DIY conversions listed. If you read what’s in the cars, and add up what the components cost, you’ll find almost invariably, the car is selling for about 1/4 to 1/3 the price it took build it. What that meant to me was that I’d best be prepared to keep the car for a good long time, or to take a serious financial loss if I decided to sell it. I will say, that if someone walked up and offered me $35,000 for the car, I’d take it in a heartbeat. I might even take $30,000! But I would probably use that money to fund my next DIY EV. I love this story. A couple tired double standards crumbled in the last couple pages and I spotted serious common ground. How about you?
But beyond the lack of availability outside of California for most of the cars, the real problem is they simply don’t make for a good value proposition. The Nissan Leaf is a great example. Nissan essentially took a Versa, and made it into an EV, and charged $37,000 for it. Now, I ask you, who is going to pay that much for a Nissan Versa (an $18,000 car) that can only go 80 or so miles before it needs to be refueled for 6 or more hours? The 2013 Leaf is a bit cheaper, and is coming in around $30,000, so it’s getting better. Once cars are a bit cheaper, and people recognize the value they offer, they will sell; not the 25 to 50% some people are speculating, but perhaps as much as 10% of cars sold will be EVs.
An EV conversion is a lot like an engine swap. Some of the coolest projects we’ve seen are radical engine swaps. The twin-turbocharged, LS1-powered Volvette; the 10.2L, M14P radial-powered Goggomobil; any Cummins/Powerstroke turbodiesel conversion - we love these things. How is a DIY EV conversion different aside from range?
The first year the Toyota Prius hybrid first hit the market they sold 9,000 cars. As people got use to the idea, and understood the value they were getting for that extra money, they started to pay it. As more were sold, the price of the Prius came down. The same will happen with EVs, but it will take time. Meanwhile, we have all these dealers with EVs on their lots collecting dust.
Why do so many people, when faced with an EV seem to become ROI (return on investment) sticklers? Everybody knows modified vehicles are a crap shoot and you ALWAYS lose your ass on the mods you installed. When will that turbo upgrade or stand alone EMS pay for itself? Odds are, IT WON’T.
What does the future hold for you and your Z3? How long will you hang onto it? What might drive you to let it go? How likely is that to happen? This is an excellent question, but perhaps not for the reasons one might think. The quick answer is that I think the Z3 will be in my possession until the day it’s no longer road worthy. One might assume that it’s because I’ve grown attached to it and couldn’t bear to let it go. While that’s true to some degree, it goes deeper than
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The technology is out there to hack into OEM EVs for more power and range. This is a great way to void the warranty and shorten the life of the powertrain. How is this different from cranking up the boost and drag racing a conventional car?
You might also balk at Tim’s putting US$35,000 into this project. I know I did the first time I read those numbers, but do you know anyone who bought a new car or truck for US$35k or more and then started buying mods for it? Isn’t that pretty much the same thing? What about the people who drop five figures or more on turbo systems for their Lamborghinis and Vipers? It’s the same thing. Here’s to the potential in all our gearhead differences. Keep going fast with class and press on regardless!
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DOING IT RIGHT
Ever wanted to quit your menial desk job and do something automotive that matters for a living? What’s holding you back? Michael Rodarte did just that - left a cushy, but soul-sucking office job to pursue a living in motorsport fabrication. We got together and talked about what it took to make the change and how he spends his days now at Prescision Chassis Works. Why is there time & money to do it over, but not to do it right the first time? WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES MICHAEL RODARTE
Ohio to make the purchase and drove it home.
I’ve known Michael Rodarte for years. When I first met him, he had an immaculate 1992 Eagle Talon TSi. It was always spotlessly clean; right down to the nuts and bolts. It didn’t make crazy insane power, but it certainly held its own. It was one of those cars that stood out as being high class.
Always one to ask why there’s time and money to do it over, when there wasn’t time and money to do it right the first time, Michael has always been meticulous about doing things right the first time. As tempting as it can be to upgrade a turbocharger on a DSM or supercharge an LS2, Michael always seems to find a way to show a little restraint, performing all the necessary repairs and maintenance on his vehicles before he starts modifying them.
Not long after I bought my first Galant VR4, Michael picked on up. Badged 1101 of 2000 (only 3,008 were ever sold in North America), it was a super solid specimen, with a lot of documented, recent maintenance done by the previous owner. Michael took it from there and really made it shine. Like his DSM before, it stood out as being high class. Of course, as so many DSMers tend to do after years of small displacement fury, Michael found himself lusting after LSX displacement and rear wheel drive. He sold the GVR4, searched high and low for his next project, an immaculate, one-owner, 2005 Pontiac GTO (Holden Monaro). If memory serves, he actually flew out to
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So, now you know he had a super clean DSM and sold it. He had a very, very nice GVR4 and sold it. Then he had an absolutely cherry GTO and sold it. You might think he upgraded again; to an M3, 911, or something. But, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, “You’d be wrong.” He bought a shitbox Dodge Neon, which he quickly flipped to buy a tired Toyota Tercel. Y U NO KEEP THE GOOD CARS? This is at the center of why I wanted to introduce you to Michael. In
his words, “I’m Michael Rodarte. I live in Scottsdale, AZ, and work at Precision Chassis Works, as well as run my own small business. I’m a husband, father of one - with another on the way - and I have life that is pretty hectic, but seems to work.” In what we can all agree is the smart, yet painful decision everyone considers, but few actually make, Michael got out from under all his automotive playthings and got into a cheap, economical commuter car he could just leave alone. The sacrifices didn’t end there. The Rodarte family came together in force to make hard cuts which allowed them to pay off all their debts and build up a little buffer to ease the transition, as Michael’s career move would mean a big financial hit in the early days. Often, we have a pretty good idea what we want out of life, but “a bird in the hand beats two in the bush,” so we often balk at the thought of giving up what we’ve achieved thus far in order to start over down a new path, even when we know that path would mean a more meaningful, rewarding life before we knew it. Michael’s one of the rare birds who actually took that leap of faith in himself. You and I could do it too, but we need to hear more stories like his. CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES A couple years back, you left what I imagine was a pretty kush job, driving a desk for an investment firm. Today, you build race cars. Why did you make such a major change? How easy was it?
I worked in the financial industry for over a decade because it was a “good job” and not because it was something I loved doing. When my job started to come home with me in the form of frustration, I knew it was time to move on. Being a big car guy, I always wanted to do something with cars, but didn’t want to just be a mechanic. I had met Kent Porter through Galantvr4.org and knew he just opened his own chassis/fabrication shop. I decided to ask if he needed any free help because I wanted to see if fab work was for me. Within a week of doing some simple tasks and getting to learn a bunch of little things, I was hooked for good. Working in a shop like this is EXACTLY what I wanted to do! Instead of just being the phone all day with nothing to really show a good days work, I could walk in with an idea and leave 8 hours later looking at what I created. Unfortunately, life tends to have some zigs and zags, so I had to stop volunteering for about a year and half, but it was worth the wait. I finally decided I was done working a job I hated and decided it was time to move on. As luck would have it, Kent told me he was getting busy at the shop and was wondering if I was interested in a job. The next Monday I was at the shop as an official employee of PCW! Even after a year of working here, I love everyday and can’t believe I get paid to do this. I’ve learned so much, I have no real way of quantifying it. From little things like using the bandsaw, to big things like putting a cage in a car, I can tell I am growing and get-
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ting better every day. I know it will take time to be on the level of the VERY talented Kent Porter, but I can see where I want to be and, more importantly, I know how I am going to get there. That is something I could never say about my old career. Serious change like this comes with serious obstacles. Can you tell us about one of the larger obstacles and how you overcame it? What other sacrifices did you have to make to realize this dream? There are some downsides to making this move. The biggest and most obvious is pay and benefits. While I didn’t like my job, the pay, 401K, limited partnership, etc., were really nice. My wife had to become the main breadwinner for a bit and we had to move over to her insurance, making her check even less each month. As I’ve grown at work, so has my pay, but I’m still a little behind my old job. For a while it was rough, but we are getting to a more comfortable spot.
How does the above compare to what you used to do? There is no comparison with the exception of problem-solving. The biggest difference is the ease of working here. Getting things done is easy. We run into problems all the time, it’s a quick decision to fix it, then it’s time to get fixin’. At my old job, something like that would literally take weeks to get accomplished and it was just terribly frustrating. Plus, I never had anything to show for a day’s work. When we take the shop car out racing for a weekend, I can see cars racing around that I’ve worked on. Are there any bad days at PCW? What makes them so? At the same time, what makes for a super good day? I wouldn’t say bad days, but there are days that turn out less than stellar. It’s usually when a piece takes a long time to make and doesn’t work out or you keep messing up the same piece over and over.
Time is another big factor. The shop isn’t a typical 8-5 M-F job. Most days are at least 10 hours and we work Saturdays as well. If there is a race, then we’re gone for the whole weekend, usually away from family if the track isn’t local. I have learned a LOT when it comes to time management, so even though I am not home until 8-9PM most nights, I still coach my son’s T-ball and soccer teams, and find time to spend with the wife.
I was trying to fit the bars tying the A-pillar bar and front shock towers together on an E46 GTR replica we are building. It was a pretty complex piece and I tried 4-5 times before finishing the day without anything usable. It was really defeating, so I called it a day and decided to finish them the next day. With a fresh mind and all the knowledge from messing up the other bars, I was able to make a usable piece on the first shot for each side the next day.
The job itself is a challenge as well. I’ve built and am working on a lot of cars, but cutting, chopping, and changing cars the way we do is very different. There is also a lot to learn in the way of metal, tubing, processes, etc.. The worst part, I will say, is working for a long time on a part only to have it not work. It can be really frustrating to invest hours and hours into something and having nothing to show for it. As I learn more and more, such days are becoming less frequent.
My really good days have actually been happening in the last few weeks. That E30 cage has some complex parts to tie in the rear subframes as well as tie in the shock towers to the cage. I can tell that all the little stuff I worked on before all have a little bit of good info I can use on the part I’m currently making. With only a small issue I had to resolve, this cage is working out really well for me. Most importantly, I am doing higher quality work and I’m doing it faster.
Walk us through a “typical” day at “the office” for you at PCW. How do you spend your time?
Aside from the major career change, what’s proven the most challenging aspect of the new gig? What’s been the most difficult thing you’ve had to overcome (and how did/have you overcome it)?
Most days start with a quick rundown of the day to see what we are working on, then we get to our projects. In the last few days, I have been working on a cage for a BMW E30. For me, it all starts with a quick idea of my goal for the day, like getting rear C-pillars and a spreader bar between the shock towers. From there, it takes a lot of notching and measuring to get each tube to fit as tight as possible, and every once in awhile you go too far and make a piece too short. It takes quite awhile to fit tubing for a cage, especially with me being new to it, so a day doesn’t seem to go far. Once I’ve got everything fitted to my liking, I request the great talents of our fearless leader Kent Porter and he either tacks the pieces together or fully welds them. It’s really nice to sit back once something is welded and see what you’ve accomplished. Not only is it a nice piece of safety equipment, it’s almost like piece of art. During all this, we BS with each other, argue over what to listen to on the radio, and generally have a great time. The whole feeling in the shop is very laid back and relaxed unless the mig welder starts acting up. That will get Jim really fired up, and even Kent will get frustrated with it.
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Time is very much an issue in every aspect of my life. Trying to balance my time at the shop, running my business (Michael also runs a pool cleaning/maintenance company on the side), and spending family time together is always hard. There was even a rush when we built the Subaru-powered Radical SR3. The owner decided to take part in a national race much sooner than we expected. We really didn’t leave the shop for three days straight at the very end to make sure it got done on time. My confidence in my abilities would be my biggest set back. When you work with two people who are really talented, it can be a pain because they make things look fairly easy. Kent will bend up an A-pillar tube like it’s no big deal in a few minutes. When I do it, it takes almost an hour. Now that I’m getting faster and better I feel more confident. Your biggest achievement/accomplishment/success story? The Radical project was pretty cool and unique. Getting it done to the quality standards we are known for in such a short amount
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of time was quite amazing. It almost works too well because we have found the limits of the axles in the car. As usual, we are working on a custom solution that will fix the issue and we’ll finally get to see the car really get up to speed. The E30 cage is also a big accomplishment of mine. In fact, the day I got the request for this interview, I had a really good day with the front shock tower tie-in. I was able to fit the tubes quickly and my few “educated guesses” worked out really well right off the bat. I can tell that on this project I have moved on from just a guy fumbling with tubes to someone with a little bit of skill. What’s your next challenge and how are you preparing for it? Ultimately, I want to learn to TIG weld and MIG weld better. That’s always gonna be a challenge because the only way to progress is to weld a LOT. Once my business starts to take off some more, I won’t need to try and get every paid hour I can. I’ll be able to spend maybe a Saturday morning welding instead of working. I know that will be a frustrating journey, but it’s kind of my ultimate goal, so failing is not an option. What’s one piece of advice you’d give someone wanting to do what you’ve done? Don’t be scared and do it. Even if something doesn’t work out, at least you tried. Now that I’ve a tried to do some things and failed, I can see that I feel worse for not even trying than I do for failing. I stayed in an industry for almost a decade after I realized I wasn’t that excited about it all because I was worried my business wouldn’t work or that I might not be a good fabricator. Now that I’ve made the leap, I look back and wish I had done it a long time ago. Where can people find you and connect online?
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I like all kinds of of cars so I am on a lot of forums, but mostly I just lurk. The main site I am on is GalanVR4.org and it’s where I have met many very good friends, including you Mr. Driggs [Aw schucks. -BD] and of course Kent Porter. My screen name is boostedinaz on that and any other forum I am on. You can also email me through my business ClassicPoolServiceAZ.com. To check out the shop and all our projects check us out at PrecisionChassisWorks.com. THE MONEY WILL FOLLOW You’ve probably heard the saying, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Cliche though it might sound, Michael shows us how it’s supposed to work. Tap your friends and family, get your life in order, make the jump, and wake up every day full of excitement for the richly rewarding work ahead. It might not pay much to start, but the more you love what you do, the better you get at it, and the quicker you advance to expert level, where the big bucks start showing up. As for why there’s time and money to do it over, but not to do it right the first time, it’s not always so simple, is it? We can change jobs like we change project vehicles, but to get the best deal, sometimes you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves and spend an entire summer in the heat stripping the car to the shell just so you can properly clean and reassemble it. The results speak for themselves. Today, Michael works harder than he ever has, putting in more hours than ever before - for less money - yet I bet he’d tell you he’s never felt so alive. The work is challenging, meaningful, and intrinsically rewarding. He’s even bought back his Galant VR4 and has another kid on the way. Things are looking up. You’re a gearhead. If you can dream it, you can do it. What’s stopping you from doing it?
“I was worried my business wouldn’t work or that I might not be a good fabricator. Now that I’ve made the leap, I look back and wish I had done it a long time ago.” GBXM | 23
At the end of my interview with Digo Pino last month, he suggested I get in touch with his buddy Mike Thompson. After seeing pictures of Mikeâ€™s RX-8 on FOTOmotive, I knew I had to get the interview. This the first ever RX-8 in Gearbox Magazine. We talk about why he left the DSMs behind in pursuit of his RWD dream and how his experiences as a DSMer have influenced his RWD builds. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES CHRIS YUSHTA, FOTOMOTIVE, MIKE THOMPSON
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Mike Thomposon lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where he’s in charge of inventory receiving tasks at an auto glass and auto body supply distributor. Surprisingly, I discovered he used to be a DSMer and, like me, his DSM experiences have served him well over the years. Introductions: I know you drive an RX-8, but introduce it properly. Why did you buy it? Was there an interesting story around the purchase? How do you use it? What’s your overall build philosophy?
my last DSM (the one before my RX-8), every added part was quality. I learned not to cut corners anywhere - even if that meant slowing down the rate of modifications. I knew if I was going to be picky about my car in choosing the Mazda, I should also be picky in the parts I add to it in the future. Now when you look through the minor mods I’ve done, you’ll see I had top quality in mind. I’ve researched each modification before purchasing in order to avoid the headaches I’ve had in the past.
The RX-8 has been a car I’ve wanted since it came out. Before I had my drivers license there were three cars I had realistic dreams of owning one day - a turbo DSM, an S15, and an RX-8. Now I’m 22 years old, have owned a handful of DSMs already, and currently own an RX-8 and an S14 with an SR20 swap. Dream come true in my eyes! There is actually a good story behind the purchase of the 8, I’ll try and condense it the best I can. Before the Mazda, I was driving a turbo, front wheel drive Eclipse. I got bored with the front wheel drive so I figured I’d take the leap to a RWD platform and started searching for an RX-8. I was picky about what I wanted, but with the help of a few friends I finally stumbled upon an unmolested RX-8 in Texas that worked into my price range. Before ever seeing the car in person, I took a risk. I placed my deposit and bought a plane ticket to go pick it up. I lucked out and the car was perfect. Made the 10 hour trip from Dallas, Texas, to Sioux Falls and started to turn it into the car you see today! My roots in the car scene grew from going to car shows with my father. I developed a passion for turning ordinary cars into unique examples of my own style and taste. I’ve always aimed to make my cars unique in the most subtle way. I really try to live by the motto “Less is more.” And with this car I kept aesthetic modifications minimal to showcase the fantastic design of the Mazda engineers had in mind for the RX-8 and not to take away from that. The car sees its use mostly on the streets. I’ve done several suspension upgrades to make sure I can have fun with the car when I want to. Rather than pour a bunch of money into engine performance, I’ve taken my time in getting to know how the car performs/responds first and developing my seat time. It will never be a high-horsepower Goliath, but that was and “probably” will never be my intention with it. I enjoy driving this car just the way it is and that is why I love it! OOOH. “Less is more.” I love it. Coming from DSMs, you know how easy it is to get caught up in the allure of big power. How has your time with DSMs impacted your goals for the RX-8? My experience with DSMs actually had a lot to do with the path I’ve taken with the RX-8! I started off buying cheap eBay parts, just trying to do as much as could with what little I had. This led to a long list of cheap parts. Anyone who’s been into modifying cars will tell you right away that if you’re going to do somethingdo it right the first time. [Did you read our article about Michael Rodarte in this issue? - bd] Whether it was my stubbornness or ignorance as a teen, it became a lesson I learned the hard way. By the time I had reached
Can we also talk about the Silvia? How does the RX-8 compare to your S14? Do you take the same build philosophy? The RX-8 in comparison to my S14 is a whole different monster. I’ve known from the get-go that I wasn’t going to get crazy with speed on the Mazda. I wanted to get familiar with RWD and the RX-8, to me, was a perfect introduction to that. After getting used to RWD and the fun things that come with, I caught the bug to do more; to go faster and make big power again. I had to make a decision at that point and that was either to dump a bunch of money making my Mazda faster, or search for another project. That’s how I stumbled upon my S14. I figured I could take that as opportunity to learn a thing or two about Nissans and the famous SR20DET. Now I spend most of my freetime wrenching on the S14 to try and get it to the same point I’ve reached with my Mazda. I’m hoping after I finish the tuning on my S14 we can hit near the 400hp mark. That’s my goal, anyways. I definitely try to maintain the same philosophy with both cars. Not to say my S14 isn’t extreme in some areas, but it’s a work-in-progress. It’s become quite the chore trying to balance my time working with the two cars, as I’m still throwing parts at my RX-8 here and there. Tell us about a serious obstacle you’ve had to overcome and how you overcame it. The absolute most extreme obstacle I think I’ve ever had with my choice of cars has been in the form of criticism by others. The demographic of car enthusiasts in my region was really limited to mostly people who believed only in either big motors or big trucks, so coming from an import background of small motors, it’s always been an obstacle, as well as a goal of mine, to get people to appreciate a tastefully done vehicle regardless of the brand.
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I respect every vehicle the same, as I understand first hand the pride car enthusiasts take in their own vehicles. The challenge has always been to convince others to do the same by using my car as the example for that. I know I’ve overcome that obstacle to some extent from the compliments I receive from a variety of people; whether it’s the senior citizen at the pump next to me while I’m gassing up, or the fellow with a Chevelle at the local car show, I’m still humbled and accomplished to say “Thank You” each and every time someone takes the time to verbally acknowledge they appreciate the car. And one of your biggest achievements? As far as the car scene goes, my biggest achievement would be answering these questions for you! Earning the respect and praise from the car community is the most self-rewarding achievement in my eyes. To be offered the opportunity to answer these questions for you has been the cherry on top! Well schucks, Mike. We’re glad you’re here too! You’ve got the right attitude. And as I read your answers, I’m reminded how fortunate I am to live where I do (Phoenix). Being this close to SoCal car culture, to Barrett-Jackson and the other classic car auction houses, and where the weather is so cooperative year-round, there’s quite a variety of vehicles to be seen on a daily basis - from expedition vehicles driven around the world, to big, mall-crawler 4x4s, to high end exotics - we’re fortunate to be so used to the variety. It isn’t always so. I moved here from Wichita in 2001. Small Kansas town (we have about 10 cities in the Phoenix metro as big or bigger than Wichita). I was driving a 97 Talon. I remember being the oddball out in the lowered “import.” I think people who spend a little time as the underdog tend to have a better grasp on what it means to be on top, ya know?
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Absolutely. I’m seeing more and more that that tone is changing, though. Which is good. That’s awesome you had a Talon, that was actually my first introduction to DSMs. Next question, what does it mean to be a gearhead? Why do you think it’s important? Being a gearhead is to be a special breed of person. It’s all about busted knuckles, grease-stained jeans, and a vocabulary only appropriate in the garage. We’re hardworking people willing to get dirty to make our rides that much better. I think it’s important mostly because there’s a certain feeling of accomplishment you get when you know it’s something you’ve built with your own hands; kinda like being a proud father! What’s next for your vehicles? Got any big projects lined up? I’ve got a new set of wheels for the Mazda that I’m excited to try on and I’ve got a few more ideas I’m debating trying with the 8, so we’ll see what the future holds. I’d like to make it a little bit quicker; just gotta decide which route I want to take. As for my Nissan, I’m planning on getting the motor and its gremlins sorted out and the rest will come. Coilovers are waiting to go on, the wheels from the 8 will be mounted as soon as I swap them. Then I’ll decide what’s next. It’s a neverending list of ideas for my cars... part of being a gearhead I suppose! Where can people find you online and connect? You can follow me and all my car projects in depth by going to Instagram and following mikeismobbin
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Sometimes, doing what you love leads to hating what you love. If you’ve ever found yourself completely fed up with unfinished projects, if you’ve ever been so utterly disgusted with everything you just want to walk away from all of it, this story’s for you. When we find ourselves in such predicaments, we need to take a step back, figure out how we got there and how we get back on-track. This is a story about the day I almost walked away from rally. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES BRIAN DRIGGS
A LITTLE BACKSTORY Soon after attending my first performance stage rally - Prescott 2005 - I found myself head-over-heels in love with the sport. I had drug a dead Galant VR4 (GVR4) home from the far corner of New Mexico and began reading and post-whoring my way into the hearts and minds of the North American rally community. By 2007, I was elected Press Liaison for the California Rally Series (CRS) and was getting out to all the events in the championship save Gorman, which almost always conflicts with the DSM/EVO Shootout dates. For the better part of two years, Vanessa and I spent three- and four-day weekends in the backwoods of California and Nevada almost monthly. The “CRS family” was really starting to feel like family, and we were helping out any way we could. We were part of the now infamous Rallynotes “Red Army” service crew. We worked roadblocks in Arizona and attended the annual CRS awards banquet in California. My would-be rally GVR4 spent a day parked on top of a Nevada mountain with a radio repeater
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and 20-foot antenna while I rode out to a turnaround stage deep in a rocky valley in an old, RHD Mini Cooper to work my first time control. Then the “Kia Incident” occurred. Some inattentive asswipe in a Kia, in his haste to get a couple “Hot & Ready” Little Caesar’s pizzas home ran a red left turn arrow and caught 3,500lbs (1,600kgs) of Galant VR4 in his B-pillar. Strangely, there were three last names between the four people in that Kia who all lived at the same address. Two went to the hospital. One was treated at the scene. The other tried to lie his way out of it. The Kia was utterly destroyed, the Galant was totaled. It would be over three months before I finally got the state insurance commissioner’s office involved and got the kid’s hole-inthe-wall, ultra-high-risk insurance carrier to cough up the funds to fix the Galant. Of course, we used those funds to buy appliances when we moved into our first house. That was 2008. In the five years since, minimal progress has been made on the Galant. I managed to get the car back together, take it all apart
again (to put it back together *right*), and invested in the foundations of a proper roll cage for rally. Otherwise, it’s proven a bittersweet reminder of what I can do when I put my mind to it, as well as how disappointing it is when I don’t. A LITTLE MONEY Our very, very good friends Kris and Christine got me into rally. I’ve crewed for them I don’t know how many times now. They attended our wedding in Vegas. When we visit family in SoCal, we visit them too. So when they announced volunteer registration for High Desert Trails (HDT) rally, I was something like the third person to sign up. As race day approached, Vanessa and I looked at our budget and decided we really didn’t have $500 for a 4-day, 1,000+ mile adventure, but we learned HDT was still short on volunteers for the event. Kris and Christine needed our help, so we made it happen. We took the 25mpg Nissan Juke instead of my 15mpg Pajero and we decided to skip spectating at the rallycross on Sunday in order to avoid another night in the hotel. RALLY TIME CONTROLS: THIS IS WHERE IT FALLS APART We were assigned to a time control - a turnaround time control, to be precise - just like the one I was part of back at Seed 9 five or six years ago. This was my second time being on a time control, Vanessa’s first. We were glad we weren’t in charge, because we really weren’t sure what we were doing. It’s more than just clicking
a stopwatch (though not THAT much more). Things got out of hand before we knew it. For those unfamiliar with how stage rallies are timed, here’s a quick overview. All the timing equipment at a rally is (more often than not) synchronized. Each car is given a set amount of time to transit between timing controls. Pull up to the ATC (arrival time control) early and you get penalized because you were likely speeding on public roads. Show up late and you get penalized because you took too long and probably held up the event. Once inside the timing control,drivers pull up to the starting line one at a time and hand over their time card so the courseworkers can fill in the time they will depart on one or two minute intervals. That’s what’s going on in all those rally videos you’ve seen where the car sits and waits for the time clock to count down before they race away. At the end of the stage, there’s often a “flying finish,” where the cars go past the timing lights at speed before slowing to stop at the actual control. People at the flying finish call out the car numbers and times over the radio as they pass. The team at the actual control then records these times, calculates each car’s elapsed stage time on their time card, and directs them on their way. Volunteer to work a time control and you’ll very likely get a chance to see both ends! Our job started out simple enough, though we were a bit surprised to discover we had more people on our team than necessary, giv-
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en the event was “short staffed.” In total, there were seven of us. Four went up the hill to run the flying finish. Three of us stayed around the bend at the bottom of the hill, maybe a quarter mile (0.5km) away, to handle the time cards. Things went smoothly at first. We got to practice our process on both the 00 and 0 cars. 00 signals the stage is hot, 0 is the rally equivalent to a pace car. As each car passed the flying finish at the top of the hill, we’d get their number and time over the FRS radios, write them down, then fill in their time cards and send them on their way. That’s where things got mixed up. IT’S ALL GONE WRONG We treated the actual starting line like an ATC, and the previous stage’s flying finish as the actual starting line. Of course, in our haste to get the event back on schedule (it was running a few minutes late), we - all of us, our team, our communications guy (HAM operator), and even Kris, the event organizer - made a series of tiny mistakes that totally cocked things up. Kris pulled up in the 00 car. He asked our team captain if we were all set. We can only assume she figured we were, since Kris had been there at the turnaround for nearly an hour at that point and didn’t have any complaints. Jenn, our team captain maybe wasn’t entirely clear in confirming our readiness, perhaps expecting Kris to notice if anything wasn’t as it should be. I’m also going to assume the guys at the top of the hill hadn’t set up their signage yet when Kris went past a few minutes later or he would have said something over the radio. Kris now down the road, 0 car pulled up, waited a couple minutes, then followed 00 at speed. Behind us, 36 people put their fire suits, gloves, and helmets on, strapped into full race cars, and started their engines. Then they sat there in the 100°F (38°C) heat looking to us for the signal to pull forward. An important distinction to make about turnaround stages. As we just covered, on a typical stage, teams leave the timing control and transit to the next timing control and starting line. On a turnaround stage, though, they might never actually leave the control. This means they don’t have to stop at another ATC before taking off at speed. This means we screwed up by simply flipping our signs over. WE were now the actual starting line and the guys up the hill should not have been there. Of course, we didn’t realize this at the time, and our assigned ham radio guy took off and drove up the hill to the other location before this point. We would have been completely cut off from the rest of the event had Dan, the other ham at our location, who was relaying scores over the net, not stepped in to help us out. We were trying to enter ideal start times on time cards without spaces for them, ultimately putting the wrong time in the wrong box and having to cross out and initial several cards. Ugh. It was incredibly stressful. Why was it stressful, you ask? Sure, we had about 40 people who spent a lot of money to be there sweating their asses off in hot cars in the middle of the desert while we got our act together, sure, but we took so long getting the cars moving, 00 and 0 were already done. I was worried civilian traffic might have snuck onto
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the course. Trust me. You do NOT want that to happen. John Burke and Tom Morningstar pulled up to our position. Tom rolled down the window and handed us their time card. After a good five minutes back and forth on the radio trying to figure things out, we thought we had it. We told them to go on the next minute, thinking they would drive up the hill to the “actual” start. Yeah, no. Full anti-lag, bang-bang, all-wheel-drive launch, complete with that crazy half-second all-wheel-drive “wheelspin.” He was into second and around the bend before we could say, “Oh shit.” About a minute later, there was shouting on the FRS radios. “DO NOT SEND ANY MORE CARS THROUGH UNTIL WE TELL YOU!” That’s when it hit us just how screwed up things were. The pace notes started from our location, but we told each of them to reset their odometers and watch the notes as they drove up the hill to the “actual” start. You know how the co-driver/navigator reads off the turns during the race? What do you think could happen if you started the entire field of cars half a page off on the notes? Personally, I pictured half the field off on the first !! (double caution - likely to cause severe vehicle damage if you screw up) about a mile into the stage. Nevermind letting our organizer friends down, or making the event less enjoyable for the teams who worked so hard to get there. Forget about our fellow control workers almost being run down by a Subaru WRX flat over crest, or even causing half the field to DNF in a ditch. Where I was sitting, someone could have been seriously hurt - or worse. It makes me sick to think about it. FRESH STARTS & SECOND CHANCES With everyone through our control, we packed up and made our way back down the stage behind the rally cars to an intersection where we would be setting up our next time control. This time, it was a regular time control. Flying finish would radio down the times, we would handle time cards, and direct the cars to transit 100 yards (90 meters) through the intersection to the next ATC. Of course, we couldn’t find the stakes in the side of the road which marked where we were supposed to set up our signs, so Vanessa and I sat in the Juke (with the AC on, of course) eating our complimentary Subway sammiches as we watched our team captain drive about a mile up the road looking for them. We were hot, tired, disappointed, frustrated, and extremely stressed out. And now we were trying to figure out if we were going to have to walk a mile uphill in the desert to do it all over again because there was no place up there to park. You’ve got to be shitting me. WTF is going on, here? That’s when Christine showed up, got all the volunteers and spectators together, and laid it on the line. She wanted one ham here, another there. Our team would be setup on this side of the intersection, the other team on that side, and all the spectators needed to stay behind the ropes. Damn. Christine can call the shots. We ran the time control, this time much smoother, but the damage was already done. Completely frazzled, Vanessa and I were at odds. I was trying to do my best to make sure everyone else there was okay and having a good time. She saw it as me putting
ABOVE: Coming back to control setup after a much-needed pee. BELOW: Jenn & Vanessa compare notes after 00 & 0 turn around.
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00 & 0 prepare to clear the stage for the line of competitors behind them at the Aerodrome turn around time control. everyone else above me, I glanced off at something shiny or moving while she was trying to tell me how important I am to her, and that was it. She was done. We put on smiling faces for everyone else, but we were both miserable. WAIVERING GOODBYE: AN EXISTENTIAL MELTDOWN I was trapped in the high desert of California. 500 miles from home. 50 miles from the nearest town. I was just about broke, 9 hours away from my precious baby girl (she spent the weekend with grandma and grandpa), completely redundant, and the most important person in my life - my biggest fan - wanted nothing to do with me. My passion had proved a massive financial black hole. My automotive dream had become a curse. In that moment, I hated rally. I hated cars. Kris and Dan drove past in 00. I looked around to make sure everyone in the spectator area had a yellow wristband (last minute assignment). The DSM 0 car flew past doing about 80mph (130kph). I lifted the barricade, a rope with some orange flags on it, crossed the hot rally stage, and walked back to the Juke parked behind a long line of lifted trucks. I turned on the AC and closed my eyes. This was an existential meltdown. I wanted to walk away for good. I thought about trying to trade the partially caged Galant shell in the garage back home for a running DSM (Talon, Eclipse, Laser) or CSM (Colt, Summit, Mirage). I knew I couldn’t sell it for much, but maybe I could get enough to buy an old 1969-1976 Colt/Galant; something - anything - if I could just hop in and go for a drive (that
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wasn’t a lumbering truck) whenever I wanted. V joined me. We yelled at each other. Everyone else was standing back at the edge of the road enjoying the spectacle of nearly 20 race cars flying past at 100mph (160kph) or more. I told her how I was done. This day showed me how I just keep making bad decision after bad decision. “How come I can find $500 on a whim to drive 500 miles into the desert to be completely unnecessary and put this kind of stress on my relationship with my best friend, but I can’t find $500 over five years to get my stupid Galant back on the road?” I asked. Vanessa, knowing me better than anyone else, was perfectly blunt. (This is where it all comes together, by the way.) “The reason you are where you are right now is because you have all these great ideas but you never see any of them through. You want to walk away? Fine. Walk away. I will support you, but don’t get all bent right here, right now, and then not doing anything about it when we get home. Figure out what the fuck you want to do and DO IT.” WHY THIS HAPPENED Experience and perspective lend themselves to seeing more potential. As gearheads, we all get big ideas, sometimes on a daily basis. Each one is fresh and new and exciting and we want to act on it. And why shouldn’t we? We’ve tasted success. We’ve seen what we can really do. We know our limits and the importance of pushing those limits. These diverse challenges are how we grow.
Another shot of the competitve field we would soon be delaying at our botched time control. Oof-da. The downside to this is we tend to scoop up more than we can handle, admittedly do many things poorly (instead of one thing really, really good), face defeat, get disgusted, pull the plug, walk away. There is a balance. Success without failure is pretentious and shallow. Failure without success is crushing and miserable. Each of us is different, but each of us has a tipping point, where success or failure means the difference between delicate balance and everything sliding over to one side. That afternoon in the desert, my perceived failures reached that tipping point. When I took stock of my dream that afternoon alongside that dusty dirt road in Kern County, California, I peeled back the superficial envy over those I knew who were doing what I had wanted to do so badly for more than a decade and saw the most brutal of failures staring back at me - this was all my fault. My car doesn’t run because I’ve not put forth the effort to make it run. My bank account is feeling the heat right now because I play fast and loose with my cash. My contribution to this event is almost nil because I haven’t been paying attention all these years. My wife is having a shitty time because I’m playing the victim and throwing myself under the bus again. IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME At times like this, I find I don’t really know what to do. Ever heard the term “analysis paralysis?” Yeah. I get that all the time. Kinda tricky to solve the problem of too many ideas and not enough action when you solve problems by coming up with multiple ideas. That, my friends, is called a “vicious cycle!” I asked Vanessa if she
would help me work up pros and cons lists for all my automotive ideas during the drive home the next morning so I could make a decision. Being the exceptional individual she is, she agreed. We went to the awards ceremony at the local bar, got a couple Newcastles before they sold out, (they always sell out), scored not one, but TWO bottles of KO Ketchup, and stiffed the waitress a tip because, well, you don’t get to come back to a table full of empties an hour later, say “Y’all need anything else,” drop off the check, and get a little something for your trouble. “If it is to be, it is up to me.” We’ve all heard that line, but it’s so true. Nobody is going to finish my race car for me. Nobody is going to tell me step-by-step what I need to do to get where I want to be. I’ve got to take action and make it happen. That’s the lesson learned, here. We took that little notepad they have on the table in every hotel in America with us when we left our room Sunday morning. You know the one, it’s like 5 pieces of paper with the hotel logo on it by the phone. With fuel in the Juke’s tank, Burger King in our bellies, and *almost* enough caffeine to be considered human, we rolled south out of Ridgecrest. Once we were through Johannesburg and Red Mountain, cumulative population 600 or so, and US395 straightened out before us toward Victorville, we broke out the Econolodge notepad and a pen and got to work.
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ABOVE: After much confusion, we finally got things right. Rally cars line up in transit to the next ATC. First, I asked Vanessa to dedicate a full 2x3” (5x10cm) sheet to each of the following: 195 (my Galant), DSM, CSM, Colt Then we went back through each and came up with pros and cons to each. In the end, sunk cost fallacy won out. (That’s a joke, by the way.) Ramshackle though it might be, my Galant is a known quantity. I know what it needs. The other three could make use of most of the performance and spare parts I’ve got lying around, which is nice, and a turbo CSM or 4G63-swapped old school Colt/ Galant aren’t the sort of things you see every day, which is appealing to my inner non-conformist, but in the end, the simplest, most cost-effective route is to stick with the Galant and just DO SOMETHING WITH IT. And that’s just what I’m gonna do. Doesn’t take money to clean up my garage and put my tools away so I can find things. Doesn’t cost a dime to tear down the old engine, clean it up, and organize the parts for future re-assembly as budget allows. And who knows, if I can find $500 when I’m really broke to make a $500, 4-day, 1,000+ mile adventure across the desert to get in a fight with my best friend and be generally miserable, maybe I’ll be able to find a hundred bucks here or there this summer to actually get my Galant back on the road. TL:DR? (Ironic, considering I go by “DR1665”) We can’t be all things to all people. That goes for all the different gearheads we’d like to be, personally. You know you want an old hot rod, a muscle car, a track weapon, something unstoppable when the trail disappears, and a big truck to pull them with. I
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know you do because I want all that too. Hell, I’d also love a couple bikes! A cafe racer, a dirt bike, and a big old KTM or BMW adventure bike. It’s just part of who we are. One thing at a time. First things first. To thine own self be true. We all joke around about how no project is ever finished, but maybe we should give some thought to what “DONE” looks like and DO IT before we let ourselves get distracted with new ideas. Thanks for letting me vent. If you’ve been through something similar, please get in touch through the contact form on the website. Let’s tell that story and help each other out.
Catching up with Aaron Ekinaka, founder of DirtyImpreza.com. Why he’s left the Production GT (PGT) class for Open Light (OL), why he went all-in on Oregon Trails Rally in 2013, and more. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES MOTORSPORT MEMORIES
Like so many of us, Aaron caught the rally bug and soon found himself stripping his platform of choice to begin the long road to that first competitive time control. He’d launched Dirty Impreza, a community of likeminded enthusiasts who believe dirt is for racing, while tarmac is for getting there, so his choice was pretty clear. Two years later, Aaron pulled his Impreza 2.5RS up to the starting line at his first rally - Prescott 2010. We did a before & after series of articles with him. What’s been the biggest change since last we spoke? I think the biggest change, when it comes to rallying and what I’ve been up to, has to be the decision to campaign our Subaru Impreza in the increasingly popular (and competitive) Open Light class. There’s just so many opportunities in this class to get creative with car prep and setup, I’m somewhat kicking myself for not having done this in the first place. When we were originally building the car there were quite a few things I could have done differently that would put us in a better position now. But we had to start somewhere, and Production GT was a great way to get into rallying initially on the cheap so that was the main motivating factor in the beginning. Why did that change take place? I essentially see PGT as a dying class. The real competition among budget-minded Subaru enthusiasts is in Open Light. Once you’re running boost, the budget skyrockets, so it’s cost prohibitive for guys like me. With Open Light, it’s really exciting to see what
people can come up with in a naturally aspirated Impreza. Since power is theoretically limited, other things become even more important, like suspension and drivetrain components. I’m really enjoying the freedom to explore modifications that were restricted in PGT, like aftermarket Limited Slip Differentials for example. How has it impacted your plans? It’s definitely opened the door for spending a lot more money on the car. So now, instead of breaking relatively inexpensive OEM parts, I can look forwarding to destroying fancy aftermarket bits. Really though, plans haven’t been affected too much by this. We’re still trying to do a few races here and there as budget permits. Regardless of which class you’re in, you’ve still got to have the funds available to get to the rally, pay entry fees, hotel rooms, that kind of stuff. What I see as really rewarding though is being able to compete against more drivers at events with the growing popularity of Open Light. What events are you looking to run next? For 2013, I’ve decided that instead of trying to spend the bare minimum amount of money to run an event, I’m going to go for the best bang for my buck. I’m planning to make the trip up to the Portland area to run the Oregon Trail Rally. The roads are legendary, and it’s in an awesome location. The amount of exposure one can get running the regional events in parallel with national contenders is worth the extra investment. Also, I’m pretty sure this
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is the closest Rally America national event to southern California (and it’s over 1,000 miles away)! I’m really looking forward to racing against a large field of cars, doing a proper Super Special, and interacting with rally fans at a big Parc Expose. Things are tough all over, we all know the financial pinch, so how are you reducing costs (and/or increasing revenues) at home to scrape up the capital to make it happen? This is really the hardest part about racing; just coming up with the money to get out there and do it. My last race almost didn’t happen, but fortunately America’s Tire, my biggest supporter, came through with the financial help needed to get there and compete. This really isn’t typical and I always plan for financing an entire event on my own, less some help from my co-driver. The only way I’ve found to truly reduce cost is to stay in the cheapest class that you can afford. Believe me, i’d love to be running a turbo Subaru setup right now, but when things break in Open class, they are much more expensive to fix. A lot of people think sponsorships are the best way to pay for motorsport. What advice would you have to someone looking
to pursue sponsorship money? It’s few and far between to find sponsors that are going to payout cash so you can race. I think that’s the first thing that people need to understand when trying to get sponsorship support. Focus on building good relationships with people and companies. It may only start out with discounts on goods and/or services, but it’s a start. Things can always grow from there. Also, think about how a potential sponsor views your proposal (put yourself in their shoes). This will give you some perspective on what kind of value and service you would be giving them. People have to understand sponsors are probably struggling too, and they need to get as much return from their investment in you as they can. AND HOW DID THEY DO? Unfortunately, due to scheduling issues, we couldn’t get this interview completed and into the last issue. It also worked out that, because we were at a different rally scheduled for the same weekend, this issue came out a week after. We’re pleased to report that the Dirty Impreza Rally Team (DIRT) placed 3rd in Open Light at Oregon Trail.
“I think that’s the first thing that people need to understand when trying to get sponsorship support. Focus on building good relationships with people and companies.” 36 | GBXM
I don’t think I’d ever seen a Maverick until I met Ryan Vink. Now I can’t say I’ve ever seen a nicer one than his 1973 Grabber. Though he’s owned dozens of cars, he ‘s hung onto this, his first car. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES RYAN VINK
Years ago, on my journey to work-life-parallel, I found myself washing crap cars in a suit and tie behind a dingy little office in downtown Mesa, Arizona, for Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Rather than get into details of just how much that job sucked, I’ll just tell you I sent an unsolicited resume and cover letter to a small dot-com called Sport Compact Only (which had attempted to recruit me a few years prior). After a couple emails back and forth, I was in the office for my first interview with Ryan Vink. Sadly, within a year, we would all find ourselves sailing a sinking ship. The original owners loaded up on debt, putting the new ownership at a serious disadvantage. Despite investments in technology and a couple fairly strategic mergers, it got to the point where keeping the lights on meant delayed payments to suppliers, which meant delayed shipments to customers, of which I could no longer be a part. I abandoned ship. Vink, however, went down with the ship. He stayed on and did everything in his power to get product out the door to paying customers. When word came down the landlord was going to change the locks on the building, he hauled whatever inventory he could get out the door and continued to ship from his own garage until it was all gone. WHO IS RYAN VINK? In his words, “I’m a gearhead and a Ford loyalist.” He’s worked in the automotive industry since he was 18. Now, you might read
“Ford loyalist” and think “Mustang, but you’d be wrong. Vink’s automotive plaything is a 1973 Maverick. WHY A MAVERICK? “When I was 15, I was trying to decide what car I wanted to drive. My dad had a 1968 Ford F-150 at the time, that I had helped work on, and some other Fords that came and went. Since it is what I started with, I wanted to get a Ford of some sort. Old Mustangs were pricey and I was looking for something different. I didn’t want to have a car that was like 10 others when I went to a car show. One day, a passing Maverick caught my eye. Before then, I didn’t even know what a Maverick was,” he said. “I told my dad I wanted to find a Maverick to fix up. It was only a couple weeks later that somebody he knew bought a Maverick just for the engine and getting rid of the rest of the car. They offered it to him for $50 and for another $50 they would deliver it. So sight unseen we agreed to buy the car.” Vink walked home from school one day and there it was sitting in the driveway - a 1973 2 door Ford Maverick, factory 302, C4 automatic car. The engine bay was empty, the transmission hanging down, the vinyl roof scraped off and it was a Mustard Yellow. “It was quite ugly, but I saw it as a project and got started right away,” Vink told me. “My friends and I spent the summer learning to do body work.
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We went through a lot of sandpaper, body filler and primer just to get it straight enough and all one color. I bought a couple other Mavericks dirt cheap for parts to put this one together. One of the parts cars had a running motor and was in better shape than what I started with but I didn’t want to start over. So we took the 302 and C4 out of the running car, cleaned it up, and put in in the other. By the time I was 16, the car was running, all one color of gray primer, new interior, had A/C, and some Rocket Turbine wheels.” “I drove it for a few months and then the fun stuff started. I found an old 4 barrel carb in my dad’s stash of stuff. I bought a new manifold and swapped that on. Next came some headers and glasspacks dumped at the axle. This is how I drove it the rest of the way through high school.” “After school, I bought a 1970 F100 and fixed that up so the Maverick didn’t need to be driven everyday. I built a 347 stroker, added a NOS nitrous kit, had the C4 built up, and ordered a Currie 9 Inch rear to bolt into it. Then it went to the body shop for three long months.” “After driving it like that a while, I added a set of Trick Flow aluminum heads. I did some weekend drag racing at the test and tune nights and just had fun with it. A few years later, I swapped out the C4 for a 4-speed AOD trans. The 347 must have had a bad oiling issue with the crank. It spun some rod bearings, so I ditched it and dropped in a 5.0 roller short block with the the other parts off the 347.” “For many years, I didn’t race it, and the AOD just wasn’t fun to drive around town. It was time to do a 5 speed swap. I got a T5 from a Mustang and put together a hydraulic clutch kit with some help from the guys I’d met through the online Maverick community at mmb.maverick.to. Now it is a real blast to drive. I don’t think I’d change anything else on it now. But I said that before.” HAVEN’T WE ALL?
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Vink’s had a lot of other cars come and go in the last 20 years (seriously - he’s had something like 30), but he’s still got that Maverick - his first car. How many of us can make such a claim? (Drop us a line, get in a future issue.) “It gets a lot of attention wherever I go,” Vink says. “I hear many stories at the car shows from guys saying their mom or dad had a Maverick when they were a kid, or they learned to drive in one. My 3 year old son insists we take it to the car show even if I want to drive something else. I don’t see myself ever selling it. I may let my son drive it someday but he won’t be getting it until I can’t drive it anymore.” I’d never heard of the Maverick until I met you back at SCO. Since then, everytime I see one, I think about how I know someone with one. What’s the story behind the Maverick, in general? Was there a reason why Ford made them? Where were they supposed to fit in the model lineup? How long were they made? Anything most people don’t know about the Maverick but should? The Maverick was made from 1969.5 to 1977. It was originally built to be an inexpensive car to buy and maintain, marketed at US$1,995 at introduction. (That’s less than US$13,000 in today’s money.) It was marketed as an “Import Fighter” in the compact line to compete with the Volkswagen Beetle before the Pinto was introduced. In 1970, Mavericks actually outsold Mustangs. A lot of people don’t know the Maverick is very popular in Brazil. It is to them what the early Mustangs are to the US; they fetch high dollar and are very desirable. It says “Grabber” on the side of your Maverick. What’s the significance of that? The Grabber package was released in mid-1970. It added a rear spoiler, sport mirrors, black front grill and, in 71-72, a dual snorkel hood. But not all Grabbers came with the 302 that was added in 1971 as an option to all trim levels. We hear stories from guys
saying “I had one with a Boss 302 when I was younger.” That engine was never offered in a Maverick and is either embellishment or naïveté. How does your Maverick perform? Bottle-fed 5.0 is nothing to sneeze at. In its prime, my car ran a 12.75 [quarter-mile] at 116mph. I was still learning how to tune and never got all it had out of it. While not a staggering number, it was pretty quick for a street car driven to the track with full interior and a bunch of added weight from the sound system in the trunk. I haven’t raced it in a long time and have turned it into a more street-friendly setup now; with a 5.0 roller short block and Trick Flow heads it pust 298hp to the wheels through the T5 5 -peed transmission.
herd. That’s how Maverick came to refer to someone who thinks independently and doesn’t always stay with the herd mentality. My friend Ryan Vink, then, would seem doubly so. He’s a Ford man, but his first choice of vehicle isn’t likely to be the first (or second, or even third) model most of us might think. And it’s his first car, the car he wanted before he had any other. 20 years and several modifications later, the thrill is still there. That’s what it means to be a gearhead.
What’s next for the Maverick? Sadly, I have nothing more planned for the car besides driving it. In time I will be needing to get the seats recovered and maybe upgrade to an aluminum radiator but that’s it. Where can people who want to know more about Mavericks do so? (And maybe cross paths with you?) The biggest group of Maverick owners can be found on the forums at mmb.maverick.to We have members from across the contry and internationally, from Brazil, Mexico, England, and Australia. Anything you would want to know about the cars has been discussed. If you have a Maverick or Comet and have a question about it you will find your answer on there. A MAVERICK Some 200 years ago, shortly after the American Revolution, a Texas cattleman by the name of Maverick decided he didn’t need to brand his calves. Because they weren’t branded, their ownership came into question when they were found separated from
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UNADULTERATED You know why so many peoiple can’t afford real Cobras? Because les than 1,000 were ever bult back in the 1960s. Those that weren’t stuffed in actual racing are generally tucked away in climate controlled vaults to impress posh cronies, exemplifying everything you love to hate about the boughtnot-built crowd. The kit cars, as owners will likely tell you, are generally the only Cobras actually being used as Mr. Shelby originally intended. Pure, unadulterated driving pleasure. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES PATRICK WYMAN YEAR OF THE FLAKE? My “Year of the Snake” project is proving harder than I thought. As I mentioned back when I announced the theme for 2013, I don’t know these circles as well as I do my Mitsubishi family. It’s been hard to run these stories down. I’ve had a couple Mustang Cobra and Viper guys agree to interviews, but then they never respond to the interview questions. This is starting to look more like “Year of the Flake,” which is disappointing. Fortunately, I’ve had a couple gearheads step up in big ways. Last month, Jake Scholz introduced us to his twin-turbocharged, Mustang Cobra-powered Crown Vic in issue #2. Righteous. And this month, Patrick Wyman, a teacher from outside Albany, in upstate New York, gives us a look at what it’s like to build your own Cobra. Coming into this story, I had this idea that Cobra replicas were somehow inferior to the real thing; as if they’re cheap knock-offs of the original. Let me come right out and say it - in talking Cobras and replicas with Patrick, it’s become clear to me such think-
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ing is ignorant, pure and simple. You know why so many people can’t afford real Cobras? Because less than 1,000 were ever built back in the 1960s. Those that weren’t stuffed in actual racing are generally tucked away in climate controlled vaults to impress posh cronies exemplifying everything you love to hate about the bought-not-built crowd. THE JOURNEY BEGINS “The journey began during the Summer of 2003 with the purchase of a rusted out ‘87 Mustang GT,” Wyman began. “My original plan was to build my Cobra using as many donor parts as possible. That idea changed as my build evolved. I purchased my (Mk4 Roadster) kit from Factory Five Racing in January 2005. My build was not quick, but it was done at a pace I could afford! If I did not have the money, the car sat until I did.” In his “Graduation Thread” on ffcars.com, Patrick had the following to say, “To all the slow builders out there, keep at it! Don’t let the dream die; it’s so worth it in the end! My build is the poster
child to ‘Life will get in the Way.’ It was the first thing I thought about when I woke up, but the last thing I got to work on. Along the way, I coached my son’s football, basketball and lacrosse games, attended my daughter’s dance, gymnastics and basketball, and rebuilt an 1850 farm house. I also changed my profession back to teaching, which seriously changed the build budget and caused the car to sit for 18 months!” THE JOURNEY CONTINUES Patrick enjoys meeting up with other Cobra owners in the area. “I’m the ‘un-official emperior for life’ of the Upstate Cobras,” he says. “A group of builder/owners in and around the Albany/Capital District area of New York. I stage get togethers, build parties and ‘runs,’ that allow us to get out and enjoy our cars.” Sometimes they cruise to wineries, other times they go check out real Cobras, but mostly, they just like to get out and put miles on their cars something I highly doubt many real Cobra owners do. REAL VS. REPLICA On one of these meet-up/cruises, Pat found himself checking out a couple real Cobras in the collection of one Jim Taylor. He got a chance to actually drive a real Cobra, which he said wasn’t entirely different from his Factory Five replica, aside from about US$350,000 in value. I asked him if there was a stigma associated with driving a “fake” Cobra. After all these years, what makes the original “better?” “The real vs replica debate is long and drawn out and downright
ridiculous,” he said. “There were less than 1,000 original Cobras built between 1962-1967, with less than 400 being 427ci coil spring cars (what mine is a replica of). So the ‘chance’ of seeing a true 60’s Shelby Cobra on the road is very, very slim, (and why the night an original Cobra parked next to mine was so special).” “I have no problem telling people what my car is ‘a replica of a 1965 Shelby Cobra, home-built from a kit from Factory Five Racing.’ Sometimes I get a good response, others a bad. Most don’t understand how rare a real Shelby is because it has become so iconic and part of American pop culture. (Ironman sat on one, so there must 100,000!)” “Now you also have to look at the hierarchy within the replica world and which one is ‘better.’ There are/were hundreds of kit makers out there over the last 35+ years, with varying degrees of quality and originality. As my FFR sits, I have about US$32K spent on it. Some guys have less; others more; and still others will have $100K plus in their builds, such as Shelby Continuation Cars & Kirkhams. Yes, replicas can be built to be better than the originals - frames are stronger, suspension & brakes improved, and engines perform in ways 1960s engineers could only dream about.” “What I see that is truly neat about my car is how it puts smiles on the faces of people. You can not go unnoticed in it. Some days its more like heading out on your own personal parade than going for a drive.”
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THE HARDEST PART Patrick told me the hardest part of the build was balancing this very self indulgent project with family life. “My kids were very young and, being a dad, I didn’t want to miss spending time with them. Now the car is done and I have found great ways to spend time with my ‘whole’ family.” Which he’s clear to point out includes the close-knit community of fellow FFR owners. Not long after starting this project, Patrick changed careers and got back into teaching. Unfortunately, we don’t empower and value our teachers as much as we should here in the United States. Patrick took what I suspect was a nasty pay cut in order to pursue a more meaningful living. Budgetary constraints aside, though, I asked him to tell me about the hardest part of the project. Was it selecting options, initial or final assembly? What was one of the most frustrating challenges he faced along the way and how did he overcome it? “My build had its ups and downs. I did not follow the standard FFR build, but ironically enough, FFR included many of my modifications to their next, improved kit. Great minds think alike? You quickly realize how interdependent each subsystem is on an automobile. Make a simple change to one and it snowballs. Now you have to make many other adjustments. The first decision you must make when building a FFR is what wheels you are going to use. Not the engine. The wheels. They determine what brakes you can use, which determine what spindles and what rear end you will use.”
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One of his many small victories which he shared with me was trimming the door panel. You see, Patrick noticed there wasn’t much room for his left hand between the steering wheel and driver’s door. He also kept bumping his arm on the upper part of the door, so he put a question to the group if anyone had notched the driver’s door for more arm and shoulder room. Next thing you know, he’s sharing pictures of Sawzall action. Not only did he get a wealth of support from other owners, the final result turned out pretty good in its own right! WHAT’S NEXT Patrick really enjoys driving his Cobra. As he puts it, “It was built to drive - not show (even though the paint work came out so nice). I tried to keep the build simple - no power steering, brakes, AC or heat - and hopefully the car will continue to be dependable. It is truly a leap of faith to drive a home-built car hours away from home.” Anyone who’s ever struck out on that first road trip with a new engine under the hood should be able to understand that sentiment, if not as completely as someone who did so in a 100% homemade car. Patrick’s wife, Renee, also enjoys the car, and they will meet up with other Cobra owners and go on ‘runs’ together so long as the weather’s nice. Some are simple meet ups with just two or three other owners to drive to an interesting place to eat. Others are larger to-dos, like the Lake George Summer Run, where Patrick tells me upwards of 50 other Cobra owners show up for a weekend of hanging out, talking shop, and cruising.
He also warns of the addiction that often comes with building your own sports car. He’s currently involved in the creation of a replica Bugatti Type 35 kit which would use Ford Model A running gear as a platform for really clever speedster. WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE? Patrick hangs out on a number of forums. If you’d like to learn more about building your own Cobra one day, here’s a few resources he mentioned, specifically. FFCARS - http://www.ffcars.com/ - Great site if you are interested in building a Factory Five Roadster like Patrick’s. Huge amount of knowledge and help about assembling the Factory Five kit.
“Upstate Cobras.” People are more than welcomed to join. NAIL ON THE HEAD I’ve come to think of Cobras - real and replica - like hammers. They’re built to hit things - hard. The world will never forget the fateful day Shelby showed up at Le Mans swinging sledgehammers, but that doesn’t mean only those original sledgehammers count. They are to be honored, respected, and remembered. Today, we have a wide selection of hammers to choose from. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all, and the fact that replicas now far outnumber the originals only speaks to the real, ultimate power of the original Ford/Shelby AC Cobra.
FACTORY FIVE FORUM - http://thefactoryfiveforum.com/content.php - Newer “Factory Sponsored” site for Factory Fives. Not as much depth of knowledge but growing. CLUB COBRA - http://www.clubcobra.com/modules/Jig/index. php - Great site to research “outside” the Factory Five world. COBRA REGISTRY - http://talk.cobraregistry.com/ - Much smaller but fun site, very international. FINGER LAKES SNAKES - http://www.fingerlakesnakes.org/ - My “Local” site, owners from Upstate New York. UPSTATE COBRAS: FACEBOOK - https://www.facebook.com/#!/ groups/398129913564479/ - I also started a Facebook group,
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In the early days of hot rodding, long before the internet was a top secret military project, gearheads would get together to compare notes and turn wrenches. That tradition goes on today. What would we do without our fellow gearheads? We’d have a whole lot less fun, I bet. This is a quick story about how a local group of enthusiasts helped me get my latest project off the disabled list. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES BRIAN DRIGGS
NEW MEXICO MONTY The AZ Crawlers are a close-knit group of predominantly Mitsubishi owners who regularly get together to work on and play with their trucks. Back in early 2011, AZ Crawler Lloyd lost the engine in his gen 2 Montero. What started as a 3-day weekend project to quickly swap out the engine and get Lloyd back on the road turned into a long term project. Two years later, Lloyd’s Montero is almost back on the road! Oh, and did I mention Lloyd doesn’t even live in Arizona? I might get this wrong, but I believe Lloyd actually lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and was 4-wheeling in Arizona with the Crawlers when he lost the engine. Good guys they are, the Crawlers towed his truck back down to Phoenix and planned on coordinating a whirlwind engine swap to get Lloyd back up and running ASAP. What happened next impresses the shit outta me. 22 March 2011. Adam, aka: Toasty, posts a thread on 4x4wire looking to get the gang together for that engine swap. Before that
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thread was two pages long, scope creep had set in. Now it was an engine swap and body lift. Then rock sliders, protection running under the doors/rockers, were ordered. You might say it’s all gone downhill from there. As I type this intro today, that build thread is up to 100 pages, almost 69,000 views, and just shy of 1,000 replies. Lloyd’s truck is almost done, and is one of the most done-up Monteros I’ve ever seen. The day I limped my puny little Rocinante the Fun Cooker 70 miles across town to see everyone for the first time since I showed up at an AZ Crawler BBQ nearly three years prior, they were installing lockers in both the front and rear differentials. WHAT’S A WRENCHFEST? Pulling up to Kevin’s house that morning, I had never seen so many Mitsubishi 4WDs in one place before - not even at the original Mitsubishi Owner Day in California back in 2005. There was death metal playing on the radio, gallons upon gallons of Mountain Dew, and sweet, sweet trucks all up and down the block. The
OPPOSITE: 4 AZ Crawlers removing the front diff on Lloyd’s Gen II. ABOVE: 6 beefy Mitsubishi 4WDs line the suburban street. BELOW LEFT: Patrick’s SWB Gen I shows signs of “tough love.” BELOW RIGHT: Adam’s 4D55T-swapped SWB Gen I is retro perfection.
As I type this intro today, that build thread is up to 100 pages, almost 69,000 views, and just shy of 1,000 replies. Lloyd’s truck is almost done, and is one of the most done-up Monteros I’ve ever seen. GBXM | 45
Jay (aka: Handidad) & Patrick laugh at how the last bolt always fights the whole way out. Not like it’s heavy or anything. wrenchfest had already begun, and there were six guys already on site turning wrenches on Lloyd’s truck. They were already taking the front end apart to get access to the front diff. The hood was also up as the new engine had idle surge and efforts were underway to replace the IAC (Idle Air Controller, a common weak link in Mitsubishis). I mostly stood observed or grabbed tools as I still didn’t have any real experience with the platform and didn’t want to get in the way. MY TURN Later in the afternoon, Kevin and Adam hopped in Rocinante with me and we made a quick run to Autozone and Checker in search of a bearing puller to finish disassembly of one of the Lloyd’s diffs. I was worried about how my truck was getting less than 10mpg and was even LESS powerful than before I lost the oil pump before Christmas. They wanted to pop the hood when we got back to the house and have a look around. Back in the driveway, Rocinante’s hood came up and there were a couple comments on the cleanliness of the engine bay. (Which is always nice.) With everyone gathered around, I started the engine and we began troubleshooting. Turned out I had a couple vacuum lines mixed up off the carburetor; to the point where I had the truck stuck in cold start, fast idle, enrichment mode all the time. No wonder it ran like ass. Thanks to some methodical vacuum line tracing and close consultation with some diagrams, Patrick (who had taken the lead
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on troubleshooting my truck while everyone else got back to work on Lloyd’s), we got my little Rocinante running better than ever. I easily had double the power on the way home and used half as much fuel. MOTORCADE OF GENEROSITY I had obligations back home and couldn’t stay longer (much as I wanted to), but before I left, Kevin, who hosted, showed me multiple piles of 2.6L Montero/Pajero bits he had accumulated in his garage over time. Since both his trucks are V6s now, he had no need for them and told me to load up on whatever I wanted. Wow. Though it’s proven difficult for me to get all the way over to the east side to lend a hand since, I’m thoroughly impressed with these guys. They embody everything that makes being a gearhead so rewarding. They took time away from their 2+ year long, epic rebuild project to help me with some rookie mistakes, then sent me on my way with a load of freebies. That’s incredible. I hope you don’t mind 4WD content, because I expect to feature these guys quite a bit throughout the year. Once Lloyd’s truck is done, I’m going to track him down for an interview. They’re also planning a massive “Carnage” trip into the Sierra Nevada mountains this summer, and though I can’t go with (this time), I’m already after them for pictures and details when they return. The machines might bring us together, but it is the people behind those machines that keep us coming back.
ABOVE: Rocinante’s milkshake brings all the boys to the yard and they’re like, “You hooked it up wrong. BELOW LEFT: Kevin carefully removes a circlip in the hub while Jay attacks the diff. BELOW RIGHT: “Yeah. We’re gonna need moar kitty litter.”
“Though it’s proven difficult for me to get all the way over to the east side to lend a hand since, I’m thoroughly impressed with these guys. They embody everything that makes being a gearhead so rewarding. They took time away from their 2+ year long, epic rebuild project to help me with some rookie mistakes, then sent me on my way with a load of freebies. That’s incredible.” GBXM | 47
In September of 1996, I walked into a Jeep-Eagle dealership to order a new Jeep Wrangler. I drove away in an Eagle Talon. Though that Talon would end up making me the gearhead I am today, I’ve never been able to shake the call of the wild. I finally got my 4WD in the spring of 2012. Only took me a year to get it off-road and really see what it can do. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES BRIAN & VANESSA DRIGGS, JOHN & JILL PATTERSON
I wanted this story to be more than it is, but I’ve committed to getting this issue out today (that’s right - I wrote this story the day I published the issue), so it’s got to be short. And I guess that’s okay, as I know I’ll be getting back out to play very soon. After a year of waiting for a deadbeat, lying teenager’s insurance claim to be denied (he was at-fault and he will see me again in court very soon) and one ridiculously involved oil pump replacement, Vanessa and I finally met up with our friends John and Jill just off I-17 on Table Mesa Road north of Phoenix for a day of 4WD fun. We decided to run Table Mesa (which, ironically, means “Table Table” in Spanish) because it was close to town and easy enough for a complete rookie like me without being too easy. As we drove through the gate to begin the trail, I was concerned the trail would either be little more than a simple dirt road or that I’d break down along the way.
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Fortunately, the trail proved a great mix of easy, 2WD cruising and technical challenges requiring me to shift the little Fun Cooker into 4-low to crawl up them. We crossed rivers, climbed small mountains, and just had a great time. Until about 5 minutes after we reached pavement again on the other side, at which point we heard what sounded like an out-of-balance washing machine. I had lost a tire. It was to be expected, though, as I’d recently seen pictures of the previous owner 4-wheeling in this truck back in 2007... with the same tires. The next morning, I had fresh BF Goodrich All Terrain KOs mounted and, boy what a difference. Like I said, I wanted this story to be more than this, but I’m writing this on Mother’s Day, my wife’s FIRST Mother’s Day, and she’s being far too kind in letting me spend hours on the computer working on the magazine. I appreciate your understanding and hope you enjoy the pictures.
As I type this intro today, that build thread is up to 100 pages, almost 69,000 views, and just shy of 1,000 replies. Lloydâ€™s truck is almost done, and is one of the most done-up Monteros Iâ€™ve ever seen. GBXM | 49
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Pretend thereâ€™s another 30 pages here, will ya? I just ran out of time this month. 1.05 is only 3 weeks away. Can A guy building an entire magazine on his own get a mulligan?
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GEARHEADS UNITED GO FOR IT!
copyright 2013, gbxm|united, all rights reserved 52 | GBXM
Published on May 12, 2013
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER! 52 pages of 100% original automotive content. We hope you like it. A lot. Support a working class gearhead. Please s...