MELTY PISTONS ERIC WAGES COULD’VE BEEN A CONTENDER
DESERT DINGO 2 SEX PANTHER IBIZA OF THE PANTS JIM GRAHAM TALKS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
COBRA-POWERED POLICE INTERCEPTOR
DARREN JONES IS FLYING BY THE SEAT
POP GOES THE BMW: THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER ZAGREB DSM: THE ONLY DSMER IN ALL OF CROATIA SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES: OLYMPICS FOR GEARHEADS DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: TWICE THE PAGES AS LAST TIME!
STARTER ISSUE 2 | I FIXED THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
When you build an entire magazine in one sitting, you’re bound to make mistakes. You just can’t objectively proofread something you’ve been staring at for 10, 12, 14 hours straight. If you don’t have someone to look over your work for you before it’s published, you should at least sleep on it and give it a final once-over the next day. Then again, you can spend your whole life trying to avoid mistakes which is, in itself, a pretty big mistake. Someone once said you can read every book ever written about swimming, but until you jump in the water, you’ll never really know how to swim. Mistakes are part of the learning curve. Which is more important - publishing a flawless issue, or publishing the issue on-time? Last month, I went with the latter. I’m doing the same thing this month. 10 hours ago, this issue was just a pressing deadline hanging over my head. The best laid plans of mice, I made zero progress on it during the week prior. I’m excited to point out the table of contents is error-free this time out. (I think.) Since Issue #1 went live, over 3,400 people have checked it out. In that same amount of time, over 4,200 people have checked out the website. You know how many people have subscribed to the actual magazine? 10. Not 100. Not 1,000. 10. T-E-N. 10. I am forever grateful to you lot and I will not forget you. You have shown me you care about your gearhead brothers and sisters as much as I do. This magazine is not for the mindless, consumer masses - it is for you. I can’t thank you enough. Some people might balk at just ten subscribers, but that was my plan. I’m not spending countless hours every month doing all this for a bunch of who-gives-a-shit impressions. I’ll take 100 subscribers over 100,000 hits any day. I do this because gearheads matter and I want to see more gearheads to know they matter. We help each other modify our machines. We can help each other modify our lives. If you believe gearheads matter like I do, SPEAK UP. Leave a comment on one of the posts on the website. Join the TEAM forum and strike up a conversation. If you’re into cars, you’ve got friends, no - FAMILY - all over the world. You just haven’t met them yet. The world is our Autobahn. Gearheads United. Keep going fast with class and press on regardless.
GEARBOX MAGAZINE IS • BRIAN DRIGGS, FOUNDER • DENNIS DEJONG, PARTNER • YOU? JOIN US? (CLICK ME)
CONTENTS | what’s inside THE EFFING COVER | ERIC WAGES When he’s not running one of Google’s data centers or popping Subaru rally engines, Eric is one of our biggest fans. We caught up & talked rally with him. Friday night rally chat, anyone?
DESERT DINGO 2 | PROCESS IMPROVEMENT Graham Chapman said, “Add lightness.” Jim Graham said, “Add structure.” How much time are you losing because your pit stops are absolute chaos? You don’t want to miss this one.
SEX PANTHER | COBRA-POWERED CROWN VIC Our first “snake” for 2013. Jake Scholz tells us about his twinturbocharged, Cobra-powered Police Interceptor. Every gearhead should have one of these things. Seriously. It’s that good.
IBIZA | DARREN JONES’ NEW RALLY CAR With the old Skoda sold, Darren starts sorting his new rally/race car - a Seat Ibiza. The learning curve is paved with broken axles. And will he enter it in Rally GB?
POP GOES THE BEEMER | THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER? ZAGREB DSMER | IS IVAN BERKO CROATIA’S ONLY DSMER? SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES | KINDA LIKE THE OLYMPICS PLUS | OTHER COOL SHIT I DIDN’T HAVE ROOM FOR HERE
ABOUT GBXM | the mission
Stories of real people doing things with vehicles they actually own matter more than thinly veiled marketing-driven propaganda spun as helping sheep select their next consumer-grade appliances. 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.
MELTY PISTONS ERIC WAGES COULD’VE BEEN A CONTENDER
It’s been 2+ years since I first interviewed Eric Wages. Despite both of us being incredibly busy with our day jobs at data centers , we finally managed to string a little Q&A together. What’s he been up to since 2010, and who will play him in the big rally movie?
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES VARIOUS
BY BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES BY VARIOUS
Your world would fall apart were it not for data centers. Email, text messages, music, movies – the story you’re reading right now – just about everything relies on data centers these days; giant, non-descript buildings full of servers and exabytes of data. For the last six plus months, I’ve been working in a data center. I had no idea providing ping, power, & pipe was so involved. Everything has to work at least 99.999% of the time. Which is why this interview’s been a long time coming. Eric Wages is one of our earliest rally interviews, has proven himself one of our biggest supporters over the years, and is responsible for Google’s data center in Moncks Corner, South Carolina; A data center they’ve just announced is expanding to the tune of US$600M. He’s an incredibly busy gearhead, but still found time for a little Q&A with me. WHAT’S NEW 2011 It’s been over two years since last we talked cars in earnest. I asked Eric what’s new and how his third engine held up. “Wow,” he told me, “So much has happened. In 2011, Marcel Ciascai and ended up 2nd in the Atlantic Rally Cup (ARC). There was a lot of development and shaking down for the car – from ECUs to brakes, the car had a lot of work done on it. And like any good systems engineer will say, only change one thing at a time. Well, this being racing and not a lot of opportunities to perfect one system at a time, we went for it – and subsequently had some teething problems. Black River Stages (in 2011) yielded our first DNF which was a letdown, but the car felt great until I ran out of talent on stage and damaged the suspension. We ended up finishing second in the ARC. Not too bad for my first full year of competition.” WHAT’S NEW 2012 “2012 was a fresh start with a new codriver. Sarah Montplaisir and I had worked together as driver/ codriver for course opening for older runnings of Rally Tennessee, so we wanted to give competing a shot. Results were good at our first event: a 3rd place in Sandblast where we had to get a tow to the final time control after splitting a radiator hose on the last stage, but finishing. (This required a new engine to be built.) I DNF’ed Hyperfest where I was driving a borrowed car as mine wasn’t ready at that point. We won Rally West Virginia on the new motor, tune, and a fancy new
suspension. And finally, melted down the new motor with one event on it at Black River. A very expensive year, for sure. Again, we finished second in the ARC.” Sandblast – note: missing mirror (photo: Ryan Holbrook) THE FIRST BIG WIN Eric’s first overall win came at Rally WV. I asked what it was like. “It was my first overall. It’s tough to put it into words, but I was just glad that I was able to share and celebrate the occasion it with my wife, Margaret, our Dirty Rallysport family, and all of our rally friends. Bill Caswell even flew out from San Diego, as he wanted to personally award the trophies he made just for the event. It was very special to me to receive a trophy from Bill, as many years ago, I played an arguably notso-small part in getting him hooked into rally. In short, it was a wonderful evening with friends that I don’t get to see frequently.” CASWELL? “Years ago, in 2009 before I was ever competing, I was helping Anders Green with Rally Tennessee. One of my duties that year was to organize and teach the Novice Competitor Orientation (NCO). This orientation is important, as it not only reiterates critical safety reminders, but also imparts the philosophy of NASA Rally Sport as an organization and its focus on grassroots competition. These orientations are commonly given the night before the rally as to give new competitors plenty of opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues.” Caswell was on the entry list that year, but absent at the NCO. Unbeknownst to Eric, Caswell – in true Caswell fashion – was just pulling out of his driveway in Chicago 500 miles away as the NCO was wrapping up. Around midnight, Eric received a phone call from Anders asking if I would be able to do a special, oneon-one NCO for Caswell before the rally started in 8 hours. Bill’s estimated time of arrival was 5am. Said Eric, “At NASA, we are extremely accommodating!”
Bill Caswell tags Car & Driver HQ, image: Bill Caswell
Melty piston! image: Gino Malinoski
“At 5:30am, Bill Caswell and Sam Smith (then Editor on Jalopnik, now Executive Editor at Road & Track) pulled into town and got a customized, fast track orientation before setting off to get the car teched at Parc Expose. I quickly discovered why Bill and Sam entered Tennessee: he had a track car, not a rally car. Being asphalt, the track car would theoretically be pretty decent. I hurried through the orientation, giving as much advice and guidance as I could and left them with the parting words ‘This is your first event and you can’t win. There are too many other things going on. Go slow, finish, and you’ll have a great time. Try to push and go fast, and you’ll have a bad time.’”
cloud behind the car and it started to permeate into the passenger cabin. I started looking for a safe place to pull over, but didn’t find much success for about 0.5 miles. Immediately after pulling over, Sarah ran down the road to set triangles while I addressed the smoking engine.”
‘This is your first event and you can’t win. There are too many other things going on. Go slow, finish, and you’ll have a great time. “Bill and Sam crashed out with a damaged radiator, but the rest is history,” Eric told me. “Bill is hooked for life and continues to push hard for grassroots competition, low cost cars, and maximum fun. And supposedly the movie about his $500 rally car continues to move forward. I can’t wait to see it – rumors are, the character of Eric Wages was written in to the screenplay!” BACK TO ALMOST WINNING THE ARC Back to Eric’s rally adventures, what happened? “Going into Black River Stages, we were in the lead for the points. Sarah Montplaisir and I had just won Rally West Virginia outright, our first podium, and the math to finish the season was simple: we just had to finish the race and we would have secured the championship. Unfortunately, about 1.5 miles into the first stage, the engine caught fire. There was a huge smoke
“I could clearly see flames alight on both sides of the engine through the hood vents, so I tried to pull the external fire extinguisher pull handle. It was seized in the sleeve that entered the cabin. The handheld extinguisher was just enough to keep the flames at bay until Sarah returned from triangle duty at which point we unhooked the water bottled and dumped it on the engine, and a CamelBak or two.” “The post-race tear down yielded a piston that completely melted and ruined the block. This melted piston allowed the pressurized boost into the crankcase, which resulted in the camshaft seals pushing out, allowing hot engine oil to spray out both sides of the motor on top of a hot exhaust manifold. Thankfully, damage was concentrated to just the pistons, engine block, and the wiring harness; the car was saved and will be rebuilt to race again in 2013.” The did-not-finish (DNF) at Black River was especially difficult for Eric. It’s the second time he’s DNF’ed that event and it’s a very, very long tow back home to Charleston, SC. He’s hoping to break the curse in 2013. ON THE FUTURE OF RALLY IN NORTH AMERICA At the end of 2011, Rally America was sold to a private investor. At the end of 2012, Rally America announced a partnership with USAC (United States
insuring some events and creating its own race series, in essence, as direct competition to Rally America. • USAC is having a new rule book authored, by the individual who rules for the Rally America rule book, based on FIA rules and other sanctioning bodies procedures in an attempt to keep RA-prepared vehicles aligned and able to be entered in USAC events.
image: NASA Rally Sport Auto Club), which sanctions a number of race series other than rally. There seems to be an inordinate amount of effort put into marketing the sport to the mainstream media on this side of the house. I put it to Eric - USAC and future of rally – Does it help the sport in the US or hurt it? “Most people think that the sport is incredibly healthy and popular due to proliferation of online media associated with people like Ken Bock, Travis Pastrana, and others. The reality is much more dim. The number of people involved rally in the US is an incredibly small population at around 650 active competitors in the entire US in 2012. Generally speaking, the trend data we have suggests most of those 650 competitors won’t be active much past 4 years. A sad thought.” “Those who say ‘No! That can’t be! Things are much better than that!’ have to also consider this data point: There are approximately 13,000 members of the United States Curling Association – a hobby/sport, like rally, that is extremely niche. Rally has a long long way to go to be considered healthy when curling has a 20x participation rate.” It’s unclear to Eric what the outcome of Rally America/ USAC merger will mean for rally. Here’s what he told me we do know: • Rally America will continue to sanction their own events and run their own championship, with USAC providing insurance, some level of media promotion, potential sponsorship and cross-over participation. • USAC will also be independently sanctioning and
• Pikes Peak, the notable hillclimb run by USAC with rally participation, had some issues in 2012 with on-the-fly rule changes excluding a number of rally competitors the wrong way, causing a big uproar, and ultimately forcing the organizers to re-instate the excluded competitors. • There is more liquidity in the “sanctioning market” for events and we’re starting to see events switch between RA, USAC, and NASA based on many variables: Perceived & actual value, sanctioning fees, and geographic dispersion of competitors & location to other events run by the same or different sanctioning body. “Just on the surface, I would say that the exact future of Rally America and USAC is certainly muddy with a rocky undertone, as there appears to be a lot of potential conflict on the horizon between roles and responsibilities. As of today, the ‘tally’ as-it-were, would indicate that USAC is a huge winner in 2012, coming out of nowhere to take over a large number of events, NASA gaining two or three events in 2012, and Rally America losing many events, mostly to USAC and a few to NASA. What does this mean for the long term? Who knows. But being partners and direct competitors is extremely challenging, especially when the market is extremely small.” “Regardless, the tide needs turned to keep people in the sport longer by focusing efforts on keeping events as cost-effective as possible. I see many of the same mistakes being made today by Rally America that the SCCA made before selling off rally: chasing manufacturers, focusing to-the-very-end on marketing the sport and its top competitors to try to get sponsorship dollars, and doing little to encourage growth and cost control at the entry point. The philosophical Dirty
Rallysport crew celebrates overall win at Rally West Virgina, image: Margaret Wages differences between RA and NASA are fairly clear: RA is a for-profit media company, and NASA wants to just have a place for people to go race in the woods and have a good time. USAC’s role as an independent sanction body is yet to be determined.” “No matter how you look at it, grassroots growth is desperately needed to keep rally growing, especially with the 4-year participation span of the average competitor. If cheap(er) events can allow people to stay involved longer, it’s worth it in the end.” GRASSROOTS. We talk about “grassroots” rally a lot. “Grassroots is easy to throw around casually,” Eric said, “For me, I look at grassroots rally from the standpoint of building and supporting an inexpensive, sustainable rally culture where much of the chaff is eliminated providing organizers the freedom to focus on developing the events as they want to. For NASA events on the East coast, this means keeping entry fees low through a mix of great insurance and rules that cap
costs at the top, simple and lightweight registration and paperwork processes, high quality racing, great camaraderie, and excellent parties.” “What’s not in that list? Targeted focuses on spectators and media glitz and glamour. What focus we do have on media and spectators is supporting all competitors, not just the top people – The NASA Racer of the Day is a good demonstration of that desire, as well as our broadcast SMS text updates that cover all competitors, classes, and scores. The racing is what’s important, not the appearance of racing.” “Additionally, grassroots has a component of continually improving and changing to conditions as necessary. And a lot of changing needs to happen to keep the sport alive as it is in a very fragile state. The perception of the point-of-entry in to rally is horribly misaligned between expectations, desires, and reality. In other words, if you find yourself in a conversation with someone about rally who’s interested in competing, they often believe that they have to have a turbocharged all-wheel-drive vehicle to simply start out. When you correct people that it’s not required, not prudent for a new competitor, and certainly not
the cheapest way to get into rally, the individual loses interest. They either want to keep the dream of someday tearing through the woods in their AWD Subaru, Mitsubishi, or even custom built AWD M-Sport Ford or they won’t drive at all. There’s no middle ground; They aren’t interested in racing any 2WD cars even if it teaches better car control and is dramatically cheaper at the novice level.” “Developing a low-level, competitor-focused ‘championship’ providing some level of incentive for 2WD and cheaper machinery is a good thing, even if funded by a cash buy-in by the competitors themselves. I believe something like a Group F or Group H entity could change people’s opinions on cheaper cars. I imagine a world where a competitor would buy-in at the event for say $50, to be used to fund payouts to the same pool of competitors that paid in.” HOW IT WORKS: FRIDAY NIGHT RALLY CHAT (FNRC) A couple months ago, I was sitting on the couch giving my newborn daughter a bottle when I noticed a new alert in the task bar on my phone. It said I’d missed an invite to a Google Plus Hangout. Clicking on the alert, I thought I’d be linked to a thread with more details. Instead, I was instantly connected to a video chat with multiple people talking rally. I couldn’t stay and chat, so I asked Eric to tell me more about these things. “I wish I could claim Friday Night Rally Chat (FNRC) as my own, but alas, it was another one of Anders‘ great ideas. As I mentioned earlier, the number of participants in rally are incredibly small and geographically dispersed, but being it’s the 21st century, we don’t need to be separated from a communications standpoint. For me, much of the enjoyment of going to rallies is meeting and hanging out with my extended rally family. FNRC was an attempt to enhance that enjoyment and spread it throughout the year and not just at rallies.” “The rules are incredibly simple. Since most of the time people hang out at rallies are at the after party, we treat the FNRC just like any other party. That commonly means a drink (of some form) must be present and people just need to chat. The FNRC is not NASA specific; we have regular participation from Rally America competitors and organizers, international representation from people involved with Barbados
and European rallies, and of course, NASA folks.” “The technology is incredibly simple. When the time comes, we use webcams with Google Hangouts (remember, Eric works for Google, but we’re not here to advertise G+) which is a multi-way videoconferencing system. An added benefit of Hangouts is that, if the originator chooses, they can save the Hangout as a YouTube video which gets streamed live from their YouTube account so you can have hundreds (or thousands) of people watching the discussion.” “The first time we ever streamed the video live to YouTube, we had over 100 views. Not bad for people shooting the breeze about rally for 3-4 hours the Friday before Christmas! These chats have been incredibly popular and people have been joining from around the world. Our furthest participants joins in regularly from England at around 3am local time!” “The longer we do these chats, the sillier they get. But a lot of rallyists are crazy in some way. Who in their right mind would strap themselves into a car and risk so much by driving at 80-90 mph on dirt roads through trees… sideways!” “As silly as these chats may be, we typically do have a lot of really good discussion going on. Discussions run the gamut, but a common cross section are things like organizational issues, political discussions like how to secure roads in National Forests, how to build and prepare cars, and how to go racing on the cheap!” “On the grassroots front, I think any venue that creates a positive environment for all questions and discussions around rally is a great thing. People are welcome to join in and talk about whatever they want. It’s not an exclusive club for just a few people.”
Lee Hilliard farting Skittles & pissing Scotch during Friday Night Rally Chat, image: Eric Wages
LOOKING AHEAD What’s in the future for Eric Wages? “As always, win! Ha! Realistically, like last year, I want to win the Atlantic Rally Cup (ARC). And should that happen, I would qualify for an invite to the new NASA National Championship event in Prescott, Arizona, in October. If everything lines up, maybe Dirty Rallysport would head out to Arizona with the goal of being the first NASA National Champion!” I’m keeping my fingers crossed for that one. It would be awesome to finally meet Eric in person at my “hometown” event. Additionally, remember Eric’s commitment in 2012 that he would organize a rally in 2013 if I won the ARC? Unfortunately, he fell short again in 2012, but he’s still holding regular meetings with prominent landowners in the Charleston, South Carolina, area to try to get enough usable land together to organize a rally sprint. It’s a challenge, Eric thinks he’ll have all of the pieces lined up for an event in 2014 if things continue on path. Lastly, Eric considers competitor development a big personal focus this year. He’s been working with a number of new and novice competitors to help them through the daunting process of getting prepared and getting out on stage that first time. As a part of this effort, he continues to work with Anders on NASA’s effort to develop the Rally University, a program designed to answer many common questions that spectators, volunteers, and competitors have about rally. And how’s this for a closing point: Eric says, “If anyone is looking for a rally mentor, I will be glad to help out. I can be contacted at eric [at] dirtyrallysport. com!”
SPA RETRO 08 FROM THE ARCHIVES
IMAGES DENNIS DEJONG
Back in 2008, my partner Dennis DeJong attended the Spa Retromobile Meeting in Belgium. He snapped some pictures. Since I just heard from him today for the first time in a long time (he’s been pretty busy) I thought they’d be great filler for all the left over whitespace in this issue. Enjoy!
THE GRASS IS MAYBE GREENER
POP GOES THE BEEMER
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES GOOGLE
On the way to work one morning, I found myself cruising alongside one of my all-time favorite cars – an E38 BMW 740iL. I’ve long been a BMW fan, but never an owner. I’ve come close a couple times, just never pulled the trigger. When I come across the simple elegance of the big Beemer in the wild, I tend to pay attention. And I tend to think about what it would take to get one in my driveway. And so it was that morning. As I coasted to a stop at a red light next to the immaculately clean, obsidian 740iL, looking almost identical to the one pictured here, the inner dialog began… “Get the phone out and snap a picture for GU+,” I thought. “Nah. The light will change and he’ll be gone before you can get the phone unlocked and take the picture,” came the response (also me). “Remember, we saw one just like that FSBO the other day. Only $6500. We could make that happen.” (sigh) The light changed. We resumed our morning commute. As my lane was moving quicker, I took one final look back in the rearview – at dreams, at destiny, at just how green the grass was on the other side. That’s when he popped a radiator hose. Liters of distilled water and coolant exploded through every vent and panel gap on the driver’s front corner in an angry cloud of steam. Poor guy. Of course, this being rush hour – and he being in the “$80,000″ BMW – he had to press on some distance
before the oblivious strokes around him, likely enraptured by local on-air “talent,” continued passing the injured giant on the right, until he could finally pull off onto a side street across from a dingy carnicería. I thought about the all-aluminum M62 V8 under the hood, fully up to operating temperature when suddenly deprived of all cooling, just as the driver calls upon it to shovel two-plus tons of full-sized saloon up to speed and around the bend. For a moment, I thought about stopping to offer a assistance. (I’m a gearhead, after all.) But what could I do, in my wife’s Juke (since my own truck is still on the disabled list) with no tools? Offer to let him use my phone? Surely he had his own cell phone. No. I would just be getting in the way and I was already cutting it close on my own ETA at the office. “Good luck, dude,” I thought, and continued on my way with the pack of mouth-breathers. At the next red light, I reached over into the passenger seat, grabbed my “Moleskine,” and hastily scribbled the words, “740iL grass greener.” I wasn’t sure if I would do a post on it or not, but later that day, I would read an old copy of Overland Journal in which Editorin-Chief Chris Collard was asked “What’s the best overland vehicle?” His response: “Put simply, the best rig is what you choose to drive, the one that makes you feel good from behind the wheel—so long as it gets you there and home again.”
DESERT DINGO 2 JIM GRAHAM TALKS PROCESS IMPROVEMENT
The clever title would have been “Dingo Unchained,” but this story is all about how Jim Graham and team have taken steps to build upon the progress they’ve made in recent years. They’re actually locking things up - processes, mostly. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES DESERT DINGO One of my favorite stories of all time on Gearbox Magazine is that of Jim Graham. In 2006, he watched the epic gearhead movie Dust to Glory and said to himself, “I gotta do that.” Then he went out and did it. It’s a story so good, Jalopnik asked me if they could run it too. Their syndicated story got more comments that week than the original got pageviews in a month. It was a lesson in things you don’t do again. Some things you should do again, though; Like keep in touch with inspiring gearheads like Jim Graham and the Desert Dingo team. Jim was onboard for the follow up and told me a little bit about what they’re looking at in 2013. “I’ve just
floated this idea to a couple of guys on the team,” he began, “but what we’re looking at is this full race season and hopefully a TV show. Then 2014 we’d just take the car out on ‘signature’ races – the USA 500, Vegas to Reno, Mint 400, and the NORRA 1000.” Jim’s even got his eye on possibly doing the Mongol Rally in 2014. If anybody’s going to pull off such a schedule, Desert Dingo will. By the way, Jim also mentioned he loves our Excite Rally Raid sponsorship story. “We do a lot of that on a slightly lower level,” he said, “but the goals of increasing value to sponsors is pretty much the same.” He suggested maybe our second interview might cover
things grassroots teams can do to interest sponsors. Desert Dingo has a 19 page sponsor presentation Jim usually shares after a compelling pitch email. On top of running a complete race season, he’s even actually debated doing some sort of seminar “So you want to get some sponsors.” What a guy! 2011 CLASS CHAMPIONS Looking back, what’s the biggest accomplishment since we last spoke in May 2011? “We were Class Champions in 2011 racing the full Valley Off Road Racing Association (VORRA) series. That was cool. We won a 24 hour endurance race. We were bonkers by the end of that one.” “Overall, we’ve done well in desert races and held our own in short course racing, which the car really isn’t designed to excel in. We took second in season points for 2012, or, as I prefer to call it, ‘First Loser.’” (Sorry Eric. – bd) TOO MANY MISTAKES When asked about the biggest obstacle Desert Dingo overcame in recent years, Jim reported, “We made too many mistakes. It was like the wheels came off the race program at our first short course race in 2012. We broke a spindle and a wheel went flying off the course. We shredded alternator belts every moto. The car was smoking like a hibachi because we were burning through valve cover gaskets. We lost a 10-hour desert race by 90 seconds when the top three cars crossed the finish line within a minute and a half of each other.” He enlisted the help of a process engineer – Khaled Mabrouk with Reducor. “Khaled spent a ton of time just watching everything we did; How we worked on the car, what tools we used, how we packed for a race, how we set up our pit, what each person did during a pit stop – everything. The recommendations he came back with changed how we race. None of it would surprise a pro team, but for us it was a revelation. We are remarkably more efficient in prepping the car, packing, managing logistics for a team that’s usually about 10-12 people. We’ve shaved minutes off our pit stops. It’s made a huge difference.”
A laminated picture ensures everyone knows how to set up the tool table, image: Desert Dingo PROCESS IMPROVEMENTS With another year of seat time under their belts, Desert Dingo is more seasoned and realistic. Jim told me, “When we first started, we figured we’d take off road racing by storm. Four years later, I know there’s a lot you learn only by getting out there and racing. Breaking the car. Fixing it. And racing more. I can look at a new Class 11 and say ‘Oh yeah, we tried that back in 2009.’ There’s always something to learn from other teams. And what I do now is think ‘Ok, if I’m so good, how would I beat myself?’ If that makes sense.” Above is a photograph of a bunch of tools on a green plastic table. This was one of Khaled’s recommendations. He watched how Desert Dingo worked on the car at the house and in the pits and noticed one of the team’s inefficiencies was each member having his or her own toolbox. “We each knew our toolboxes inside and out, but if we went looking for a wrench or something from someone else’s toolbox, we spent a lot of time rummaging,” Jim recollected. Khaled recommended they create a common toolbox just for their most often used tools. Then he said “Arrange the tools on a table next to where you’re working on the car so they’re within easy reach.” The rule, he said, was “If you take a tool from the table, you return it to the exact same place immediately when you’re done with it.” Jim says that took some “reinforcement,” but after a short while, everyone got the hang of it and the team wasted far less time looking for wrenches and such. Then Khaled told them to take a picture of the tools on the table, laminate the photo, and stick it in the common toolbox.
“The significance of that,” Jim told me, “is we could enlist someone who is hanging out with us and wanting to help. I could say ‘Here’s the tool box and table. Here’s the photo. Make the tools in this tool box look like that photo.’ They didn’t need any mechanical experience, but it was a tremendous help to us because it allowed us to focus on other things.” Not a bad idea, is it? “Same goes for driver/codriver swaps. Each team member has a role and we have roles for folks who are hanging out with us. The driver and co-driver who’ve been in the car help the new driver and codriver get buckled in. While they’re doing that, they’re briefing the new driver and co-driver on what to expect on the course. We have two experienced people doing fueling. We have an experienced person holding a fire extinguisher. We have someone (no experience required) moving from wheel to wheel checking and tightening lug nuts. They are also inspecting the wheels for major dents. If they find one, they alert an experienced person and that person takes it from there. Another person opens the engine compartment looking for leaks or funny sounds. If they find something, they report it to an experienced person.” PROCESS & LOGISTIC DOCUMENTATION Jim shared a recent Desert Dingo logistics plan with me. They do one for each race so everyone knows what’s going on at any given time during race weekend. I’m fairly used to such things after several years working as rally service crew, but I suspect it’s a lot more comprehensive for the Baja 1000. Out of respect for the team, I’m not sharing it here, suffice to say, if you’ve got people coming together to
support your race team, think about getting them an easy-to-understand document in advance with contact details, maps and directions, a basic schedule of what to expect when/where, and the like. If you have a competitive strategy for the event in mind, that might come in handy too.
Is this a rollover or a clever way to change a tire? You be the judge, image: Desert Dingo Desert Dingo also has a detailed, 15-page process document. At a top level, Jim tells me it’s broken down like this: • • • • •
BETWEEN RACES/PRE-DEPARTURE RACE PREP IMMEDIATE PRE-DEPARTURE ON-SITE / PRE-RACE PIT STOP POST RACE
Each level has the same sub-sections: • • • • • • • • • • •
front end brakes suspension engine/transmission electrical fuel system wheels/rims bodywork comm/GPS tools/parts/in-car equipment misc.
On top of that, they have packing lists, which are equally thorough. Jim keeps all this stuff in an indestructible 3-inch thick aluminum binder that he keeps on him at all times during the event. Proper planning prevents piss poor performance. NEXT MILESTONES “Next milestones are March 16-17, when we do our first short course race of the season. We’re going to be working on getting the hole shot (we’re not very good at that) and while the car isn’t set up to really be competitive at short course racing, we hope to hold our own on season points until we hit our first desert
Jim Graham, the man with the dream, at the center of a Desert Dingo team photo, image: Desert Dingo race of the season – the Yerington 300 – May 25-27. It’s snowed at Yerington during the race the last two years. I can’t wait.” You can connect with Jim and the entire team at DesertDingo.com. Don’t let them be too modest. They make Class 11 look awesome even without radio controlled, flying DSLR rigs filming their antics from above.
COBRA-POWERED POLICE INTERCEPTOR
What makes a vehicle sexy? We can associate automotive sexiness with the outward appearance; sensuous curves leading us on; from pert, composite high beams, along a slender belt line, to a taut and toned rear end. It’s easy to be superficial, to allow ourselves to get caught up in the carnality of exterior sheetmetal. There’s more to it than that, though. WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES THAT GUY DOWN THERE Intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac. What you see before you is the thinking gearhead’s definition of sexy. On the surface, it only hints at the sexiness beneath its pedestrian panels. Today, Jake Sholz tells us a little bit about his Cobra-powered Crown Vic. It might look like a middle aged housewife in sweatpants and running shoes, but this lady knows what she wants, and her 500+ horsepower will leave you a hot mess in nothing flat.
INTRODUCTIONS & BACKSTORY Jacob Sholz lives in New Jersey and works as a mechanical engineer at a small consulting firm specializing in thermal process engineering and air pollution control. He bought the car with a 2003 Mercury Marauder motor (aluminum 4.6L V8) already swapped in and most of the turbo system installed. At just 12psi, it put 517hp to the rear wheels.
The previous owner was a law enforcement officer who built it up with the help of a local shop. When you spend your days (and/or nights) behind the wheel, you get pretty good at knowing what you like. This LEO PO was no exception. He told Jake he liked the ride of the Crown Vic, but missed the power of the old Caprices. This car was his attempt at bringing the two together; peanut butter and chocolate, you might say. Like most of us, too many projects combined with too little time led to burnout, and the car went up for sale. “That being said it was not the best job. Soon after I got it, I started working on fixing a few electrical issues, some poor wiring, and mismatched piping/connections/vacuum lines, and a few assorted leaks and questionable parts. After several months, the engine went boom. It suffered a catastrophic failure when a rod broke (and put a hole in both sides of the block). I then spent the next year acquiring parts and installing an ’03 Cobra motor topped with the Marauder intake piped to twin, rear-mounted turbos.” DILIGENCE. PRESSING ON REGARDLESS.
wrinkles. Being less than versed on Panthers and modular Fords, I asked to tell me why it took a whole year to get the car back together; are parts to find or fund (or both?) “After the motor went, (which I attribute to a combination of too much power on stock, powdered metal rods and, potentially, a failing turbo that may have allowed some oil into the air intake piping), I had to source a place to store and work on the car. Working in a gravel driveway in the winter wasn’t an option, so I managed to find a room in an old cold storage warehouse where I could keep the car and work on it for a reasonable price. Then I went about getting parts.” He went on, “I found an ’03 Cobra short block with low miles, and took a road trip to Ohio to retrieve that. Had my heads milled and the valves/guides checked by a local shop, ordered gaskets and miscellaneous parts, then swapped the motors. That all took 6-8 months working full-time and working on my car over the weekends.” It didn’t help that a couple months prior, Jake landed a new job and an hour plus away from his newly acquired work space. And since he could only “play cars” on weekends, he’d work for a month or two until he needed a part, order it, and wait for it to arrive before he’d move on, until he discovered something else was needed. A DOUBLE DOSE OF PIMPING
Talk about a heart-breaker. Here’s Jake, buying a nearly complete project Panther off a cop, only to have it grenade on him shortly after ironing out the
While the motor was out, Jake did a few upgrades beyond the Cobra short block (with ARP hardware and new bearings). “I replaced the head bolts with ARP studs, installed MLS head gaskets, a 180°F thermostat, all new seals, some new timing components,
fixed some fuel lines, had my injectors cleaned and flow-matched, and installed custom-built 9.5″ 3000rpm stall converter. I also replaced/rebuilt both turbos.”
the Chevy LS platform is the cheapest way to make reliable power, but then again it’s a Chevy… not a Ford.)” I like this guy.
Even living an hour away, this didn’t seem like the sort of thing that would take a full year. Jake hadn’t really presented any of the usual, damning mechanical gremlins which typify extended downtime. Yet. “I got everything assembled, topped off all the fluids, started the car, and had low oil pressure at idle when warm. Low enough after a short break in (<10mi/16km and 30 minutes total run time) I decided to pull the motor, as I wanted to protect my new investment (and couldn’t afford to break it).”
“I bought the car a few months after I graduated college and got a job. I had been saving a little money to find something fun to drive and work on, on occasion. Several of my friends had fun cars, which didn’t help. My first car was a Lincoln Mark VIII – by choice. I really like comfortable cars with space, and fun/quick cars. In high school, I couldn’t get past the fact I could get a 2 door with more horsepower than a Mustang, a better ride, and more amenities for half the cost. Granted, it wasn’t as ‘fast,’, but it moved well enough to keep me happy, and I still enjoy driving the car.”
“Once the motor was out (again), I replaced the oil pump with a Melling high flow, billet, geared unit, along with a self-modified pickup tube. I also checked the main and rod bearings to make sure they were okay, and measured the bearing clearances. Turned out the shop that I purchased the short block from had replaced the bearings, but made the clearances slightly over spec. I re-assembled everything, put the motor back in, and switched to a slightly heavier synthetic oil. All this helped, and since I knew where the oil pressure was going, I wasn’t as worried to see 5psi at warm idle (which is higher than it had been before), considering the pressure built fine with rpm.” “Sounds pretty expensive,” I said. “As to expense, as I have learned, Ford modular V8s are expensive. Most every aspect is expensive, especially making power. That is when compared to a carburetted motor or a Chevy LS motor. (I am now pretty well convinced that
WHY BUY A MODIFIED CROWN VIC, THOUGH?
“I was familiar with the Ford mod motors from owning a Mark VIII, and sleepers have always been something that appealed to me. I found the Crown Vic at a good price, and it fit the bill as comfortable, with a nice ride, and plenty of space for my 6’1″ 210lb self. That and it was rather quick. Plus a Crown Vic is something no one would ever expect to be as fast as it is (can you
say sleeper?). Oh yeah, and hearing a blow off valve on a Crown Vic and seeing all the confused onlookers brings a sinister grin to my face every time.” UPS & DOWNS zakes Mark VIII comments reminded me of the house I pass a couple times a week on my way home from work which always has three or four Mark VIIIs parked in the driveway. They’re all white. One is always covered. I keep meaning to stop and knock on his door. Anyway, we know why Jake bought the Panther, why he went for Cobra power, and how he’s overcome some serious obstacles. The difference between success and failure is often tenacity. I asked what matters most to him about his experience thus far with the old Panther. “The biggest thing for me with this car was swapping the motor. I’ll admit I’m pretty mechanically inclined, but the most difficult thing I had done to a car up to that point was swapping out front end parts (control arms, struts, shocks, tie rod ends, etc.), and basic stuff like plugs and oil changes. Swapping the motor, assembling the parts of my new motor, and getting it all back in and working was (and still is) a big accomplishment for me. I even had a few friends tell me I was getting in over my head (including my father), but once they saw that I was determined, they ended up jumping in to give me a hand on several occasions.” “Getting the car back up and running would not have happened anywhere near as fast – or as well – without a good bit of help and encouragement from several friends (and of course a good supply of beer
to help them stick around). Swapping the motor was a BIG project for me, and took me months, but I did a lot of homework and reading and discussing, and in the end I got it done. I get a decent sense of accomplishment from that.” As well you should, mate. As well you should. LOOKING AHEAD As is my style, I asked Jake what’s next for he and his mean machine. “Since getting the motor back in and everything up and running, I’ve only put 200 or so miles on the car. I keep fixing little things here and there trying to get it ready for a dyno tune. That’s the next big goal; to get the quirks ironed out and get the car tuned by spring. The old motor was 10.1:1 compression. The new motor is 8.55:1, plus I have a slightly better cooling system, lower thermostat, and that awesome 3k stall converter and slightly different turbos, so the car really needs a good tune before I feel comfortable getting into it all the way. So next milestone goals are: tune car by spring, and get to the track over spring/summer to see what it can do.” Once the Vic is tuned, Jake just plans to drive and enjoy it. So long as the weather is nice and the roads aren’t a mess, he’s hoping this Panther spends more time prowling the streets than not. As he puts it, “I see no sense in having this car – especially since I put so much time and effort into it – and not enjoying it as much as I can.”
THE ONLY AWD DSM
ZAGREB DSM THE ONLY AWD DSM IN CROATIA
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES IVAN BERKO FROM THE ARCHIVES: 2011 | Back when we were still Mitsubishi Gearbox Magazine, Rob Douglas, founder of Mitsu-Media.com tracked down and interviewed Ivan Berko, the only confirmed owner of a first generation, all wheel drive DSM in Croatia. Ivan went by FlashBack and worked for a state company in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia. At that time, he had both the 91 Eclipse GSX pictured here and a 98 Lancer 1.3L. When asked about the Mitsubishi Community in Croatia, he said, “It is not so good, marketing for Mitsubishi in Croatia. On our official forum we are giving all information about Mitsubishi. Our forum, Mitsubishi.hr (Mitsubishi Team Croatia) is a great place for connecting people who are driving Mitsubishi’s. Also, we have meetings twice a year, it is an all day meeting with most members of our forum. We have a photo session of our cars, and we hang out all day together. We eat, drink, play some football, and share stories about our cars. Ivan’s goal is to be unique. “Clean look; I have never been to a drag race or some track. I am interested in driving on a track, and hope that I will do it someday.” He was originally attracted you to the Mitsubishi by his best friend is working at the local Mitsubishi service facility. “Since we were in high school, we were dreaming about some quality and reliable cars we would have one day. We made our dreams come true. The thing that I like the most about Mitsubishi is that
they are so reliable. If it is needed you can go around the world with Mitsubishi and you don’t need to be afraid.” Sometime around 2005, Ivan found himself ready to buy a car. “In one occasion my friend gave me the opportunity to try a GS-T, the first generation of Eclipse. Then I said I need to have this car. About 6 months later my friend calls me and says that there is only one GSX in Croatia and asked if I wanted to buy it. The owner was an older guy who was giving the car all the care that she needs. Then I said this car has to be mine. Since that time, I am still driving the Eclipse and I will never sell it.” Ivan had refreshingly modest performance goals for the car. As he put it, “Nothing special but to rise up the power a little bit more. I am close to that goal.” His favorite modification at that time was a set of D2 coilovers. He said they made the car like new.
Rob asked Ivan to tell us about something really exciting you’ve done with other Mitsubishi owners. “Every meeting is very fun and unforgettable. In winter we are waiting for snow to fall. We are like a bunch of kids, looking for good places to drift in the snow; parking places, or we go out of the city and try to find locations!” When asked what he felt is the best part about being a Mitsubishi owner and the most challenging,” Ivan had a simple answer, “Everything. Mitsubishi is a pure perfection.” He told he met with some of his Mitsubishi friends almost every day, while he only sees others at meets. “The great thing about our forum and meetings,” he said, “is that we can meet each other and make great new friendships.” Absolutely, Ivan. Absolutely. The things we have in common are what empower us to get the most from our differences. Keep going fast with class and press on regardless.
GEARHEAD OLYMPIC EVENTS THE SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES VARIOUS The 2012 Summer Olympic Games took place in London, England, in July. Medals will be awarded for all manner of summer sports, including equestrian (horse), cycling/mountain biking, even canoe and sailing. For all the power, speed, and agility tests involving vehicles, there will be no automotive games. We think that should change, even if it means we design our own Summer Gearhead Games. Here’s some ideas on what that might look like.
SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: WEIGHTLIFTING SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES EQUIVALENT: DRAG RACING & 30-130 At the Olympics, there will be two types of weightlifting – snatch and clean-and-jerk. The snatch involves lifting the bar from the floor to above the head in a single motion, while the clean-and-jerk means first lifting the bar to the shoulders before hulking it up overhead. Drag racers will get three chances to “lift” the weight of their machines a distance of a quarter-mile in a single motion. 30-130 competitors will cleanly get their machines to 30mph and then accelerate to 130mph as quickly as possible. Fastest times win.
SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: WRESTLING SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES EQUIVALENT: ROCK CRAWLING/4WD OBSTACLE COURSE One of the world’s oldest sports, wrestling is a combat sport; a battle of wits, strength, and skill. Each opponent is an obstacle between you and the gold medal. Since motor vehicles predate paved roads, one of the oldest automotive sports has to be off-roading. We’ll setup a serious obstacle course which will challenge the rock-crawling crowd. Like wrestling, this will be a battle of wits, strength, and skill. Three runs, fastest time wins. SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: GYMNASTICS S UM M E R GE A R H E A D G A M E S E Q UIVA L EN T: “GYMKHANA” One of the more difficult sports to master is gymnastics. These athletes twist, turn, flip, spin, and seemingly defy gravity. Gearheads do something similar. If not gymkhana (due to copyright issues), what do you call it? A huge, extremely technical course is laid out. Drivers each get one chance to run through as quickly as possible. Contact with a cone or barrier mean instant disqualification. Fastest time wins.
SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: FENCING SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES EQUIVALENT: SCCA SOLO 2 In Fencing, two competitors in special uniforms duel the old fashioned way – with swords (technically, foils). A classic battle of wits and style, Fencing is one of the few events to have been held at every modern Summer Olympic Games. Our Summer Gearhead Games will pit two similarly-classed competitors against one another, racing a mirrored autocross course. Cone contact is instant disqualification and lowest time wins.
SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: ATHLETICS – TRIPLE JUMP SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES EQUIVALENT: TRIPLE JUMP The object of the Triple Jump is to jump further than anyone else. After a short sprint, competitors leap from a mark on the track (first jump), bounce midway to the sandpit (second jump), and go for the gold on a third, measurd, jump into a sandpit. We’ll set up a dirt course with a series of two smaller tabletop-style jumps leading up to a single, larger jump. Longest distance (without destroying the vehicle) wins. Classes for rally cars and baja racers alike. SUMMER OLYMPIC SPORT: TRIATHLON SUMMER GEARHEAD GAMES EQUIVALENT: TRIATHLON Triathlon is a competition wherein individuals swim 1500M, ride bicycles 40KM, and run 10KM. Lowest total time wins. We’ve come up with Gearhead Triathlon. First, competitors rotate/install race tires, change their oil and air filters, and remove a standardized assortment of items from their trunks/boots. Next, they run 40 laps around a road course. Finally, they make 10 runs down a quarter-mile drag strip. Lowest total time brings home the gold. WE’RE THINKING THE GEARHEADS OF THE WORLD DESERVE AN EVENT LIKE THIS. You can check out the full list of 2012 Summer Olympic Games on the London 2012 site. There might be sports for bikes, boats, jetskis, and more. It’s fun to look at one thing in terms of something else; in this case – the Summer Olympic Games in terms of Gearhead Sports. Hope you’ve enjoyed this flight of fancy. Maybe, with your help, we can actually organize this event one day…
[AT RIGHT, SPA RETRO 2008 CONTINUED]
IBIZA OF THE PANTS DARREN JONES IS FLYING BY THE SEAT
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES DARREN JONES
The other day, as I was working on an article, I came across my second interview with Darren Jones; the one where he shared his experience as a regular guy in an older car racing with the stars at Wales Rally GB. You can imagine my surprise, when I noticed over half the epic pictures of WRC-level shenanigans he provided had been replaced with images from my interview with Ryan Gates! This was a valuable lesson learned for me about the importance of renaming every image you upload so you don’t one day overwrite the images in stories you did three years ago because they have the same filename. Definitely something I’ll not soon forget. (I wonder how many other stories there are with mismatched images. Don’t have time to go through all 450+ of them!) Back to Mr. Jones, then! TWO WEEKS. Actually, it’s been two years since I last interviewed Darren. In that time, I’ve watched from the digital sidelines as his little £40 Skoda Felicia has had its FIA homologation extended and then finally expired, meaning it’s no longer eligible to compete in the big rally show – Wales Rally GB. Darren made one last go at it before his papers went bad, ran into some snags, and, next thing I know, he’s talking about Porsches and has a new, more powerful rally car in his driveway. I started off by asking him about the biggest obstacle he’s had to overcome since last we spoke. “Not having the opportunity to have a final crack at Rally GB. I had some mechanical issues with the Skoda in 2011 which meant that I didn’t have the car finished in time for the entry closing date and the new
navigator I had lined up didn’t want to commit without knowing 100% that the car would be OK – typically 3 days after the closing date the part I needed (an oil pump housing) was fitted and the car was fine. So I had a full year to get it tip top for Rally GB 2012, but I couldn’t find a navigator who was willing to do it, so that’s that for WRC-level Internationals for me, alas, as the Skoda’s homologation expired.” I think we’d all agree it’s better to have a running, driveable race car all year than risk lightening the wallet by a couple grand only to not be able to start due to mechanical/logistical problems (looks like 2012 entry fees started just under £2,000 for amateurs willing to run slow cars with organizer’s choice of sponsorship livery applied). Still, that’s gotta sting. We shifted to the other end of the spectrum – achievement. Darren told me the achievements have been a bit sparse. “Probably the biggest one was having my sister (who lives in Charleston, SC, and was over visiting for Christmas) navigate for me on a rally, and driving wildly enough on slippy tarmac to make her so sick we couldn’t finish the event! I’m really having teething troubles with the new car (a Seat Ibiza), and in its two subsequent outings it’s broken driveshafts on both
occasions – the last of which was a mile into my girlfriend’s first event as a navigator. I’m currently having stronger ones made for it, as well as making other improvements. Other than that, I guess still being committed to rallying is an achievement as I’ve not done a lot of it in the last couple of years, and when I have done it’s been mostly hard work and trouble!” HOMOLOGATION: HOW IT WORKS I know the Galant VR4 sitting in my garage was once homologated, and I’ve even got copies of most of the original homologation papers (which show all the original, factory go-fast bits), but I’ve never really looked into how homologation works. I asked Darren why expired homologation means he can’t enter Rally GB in the Felicia again. “Homologation is the FIA‘s inspection of a car being to a given specification, usually a ‘standard’ (Group N) specification and a ‘tuned’ (Group A) spec. The car’s parts need to be to the spec listed, within the Group N or Group A rules, which themselves permit a range of modifications.” “The Skoda ran in Group A – initially this was solely to allow the use of an LSD (as one wasn’t allowed for the Skoda in Group N as the cars never had one as standard or an option), but in later years I built a new engine
to give more power within the regs; this was costly, as you are only allowed to use certain parts, such as the expensive inlet manifold I had to buy. (Rare as hen’s teeth, and took months to even find one!)” “Usually a car expires from WRC-level International events 7 years after it is no longer manufactured (although the Felicia was extended twice to 11 years as there aren’t many cars being homologated as manufacturers aren’t so interested in motorsport), and from all Internationals a further 4 years after that. The Ibiza isn’t eligible due to its age but also its specification – it’s nothing like standard.” Asked about my 1991 Galant VR4′s homologation, Darren said, “I think the Galants will be long gone, alas, so there’s no way we can enter events like this. However, Rally GB has a “National” event, which follows the same stages, but only runs them once rather than the two runs the WRC boys do. This means you can enter in a non-homologated car, and I have (vague) plans to do that in the Ibiza in 2013.” WHY A SEAT IBIZA? “To be honest, because it was cheap! I had a couple grand I’d saved up in my PayPal account from selling stuff I had lying about in the garage and also some old music recording gear when it appeared on eBay.
It looked perfect. It wasn’t too far away from me, so I went to have a look. It had been really badly described on eBay; it had finished a rally with broken bumpers and a few other faults and been left for 2 years covered in mud – it looked a right shed.” “Underneath all the mess was a really solidly built car – nicely done welded-in cage, lots of bespoke fabrication done to a high standard – pretty much the same size as the Felicia, but with about twice the power. I couldn’t resist, and got it at the right price with a shedload (literally!) of spares. The guy said ‘bring a van and you’ll fill it,’ and he wasn’t wrong – the entire back was filled from floor to roof, and the front seats even got used on the way back.” “The big draw for me is that it’s not really a hothouse flower, mechanically. It has a mildly-tuned 2.0 16v ABF engine, which will mean good power without big bills, and a gearbox that uses well-chosen standard ratios, so again it’ll be strong and reliable – once I can get these pesky shafts sorted out. The only crazily expensive bit on it is the front brakes, which hopefully I won’t have to replace too often as the entire kit including the calipers would cost more than I paid for the entire car!”
TRAINING WHEELS “Driving it for the first time on gravel was quite a learning experience (Sunseeker 2012). It has so much more power than the Felicia that it’s much more akin to riding a motocross bike – you float over the terrain rather than being in constant contact with it. Once I’d got a bit more into it, I liked it, but it was a steep change in terms of driving ability needed; the Felicia had developed in small steps (maybe 10bhp here or there), and this was completely different. I’ve not really had much mileage on gravel in it (or indeed at all), so next time out will be another school day for me, but it has the potential to be a really quick machine if I can get my act together.” The non-homologated national events sound like fun, though. I mean, you’re at the same venue, on the same stages as the celebs, so you can still say you were there. Besides, it’s all about having fun, right? I would hope those nationals are less expensive than their bigger-billed, international counterparts. Here’s what Darren had to say about that. “Yes, the national event is about the same cost per mile as it was for the full event, so the entry is about half the price. It’s half the mileage, but still a big challenge, and it’s the biggest thing I can do right now with
the time and budget that I have, so it’ll still be great, I’m sure. If it has some of the ‘classic’ stages (for me) then it’ll be worth the entry for those alone, and as you say, it’s all about having fun. I’ve never had delusions of grandeur – or even adequacy – I’ve just been there for the experience that I love so much, and to have fun while doing it.”
National and I know I want to have fun while I’m doing it; it’s impossible to know if you’ll get on with someone without spending time with them, so it may be that I don’t do it if he can’t.”
FLYING BY THE SEAT OF HIS PANTS Getting back to the new car, it sounded like Darren snagged quite a bargain, as the Mk2 Ibiza shares more than a few odds and ends with the VW Golf, which has proven itself a capable platform across multiple forms of motorsport. I asked Darren if he considers that a plus. “Yes, that’s a big plus – the engine and box are a straightforward, known quantity here, as the Mk3 Golf had a big tuning scene (and still does to a lesser extent). Lots of the work needed to get good power from the engine is a well known factor, so I can be fairly confident of what’s needed and the cost. With the Skoda it was a far greyer area, and quite difficult to get the right bits; everyone has a story about an engine that makes loads of power, but when you want details, there’s nothing. With the ABF engine, it’s dead easy, and the bits are nice and cheap.” LOOKING FORWARD: 2013 “The plan is to get the car all back together for June,” Darren said. “Myself and Tammie are going to re-enter the event we did about 1.5 miles of, and use that as a shakedown event. She’s not interested in doing it as such, it’s an experience so she’ll know what I’m rabbiting on about.” He went on, “Being an airfieldbased tarmac event, it’ll be a low-budget affair for me, and a chance to get everything working in competition conditions.” “After that, it depends on money and event timings – usually Rallye Sunseeker is at the end of February, but this year it’s moved to October, and that means a bit of a traffic jam with the Tempest being the first weekend in November, and Rally GB being mid-November. One or even two of those three may not happen, so I’ll need to see where I am financially and make a decision nearer the time. Paul (my friend and navigator) now has two young kids, and a crazy work schedule, so he’s not sure he can commit do doing Rally GB
“Learning-wise, I’m going to have to do it all on-event. I just don’t have the budget to go testing, and there aren’t any venues near to me. I can think of nothing I’d rather do than spend a day driving the car on gravel and getting back in the swing of things, but it’s just not an option, so it’s the event learning curve.” “In terms of improving the car, the biggest thing is reliability, which is mostly the driveshafts, but there
were a couple of other things – the power steering failed twice on Rallye Sunseeker 2012 – amazingly, two different failures – so I’m looking to fix those issues permanently, and also the cooling was miles off. The car has a radiator from a 90bhp Golf at the moment, and it’s making around twice that. Bespoke radiators are expensive (I was quoted around £500 for one the same size that would cool it well enough), but there are standard options available for far less
the work.) I asked Darren what his next milestone will be so I can set a reminder and get back in touch to see how he’s progressed. He told me, “The next real milestone will be getting the Ibiza back together and road legal. In the UK, a car needs an annual inspection (the MOT, named after the 1940s Ministry of Transport!), so the car needs to be all in one running, driveable lump to be able to pass that – not only for my road testing, but also it’s a requirement to pass documentation at a rally.” “My work schedule is a bit hectic and combined with my fairly full personal life, so I’ve got to revise it. I’m also teaching a lot, which means working around school holidays, so it’ll hopefully be the end of the Easter holiday here in the UK, around mid April. If it’s not done by then, I’m in trouble and it’ll probably be the summer holidays (schools take six weeks off in the UK, end of July to beginning of September), but that would really be falling behind… So April it is! Long term, I’m really looking forward to stories of this Ibiza flying down the stages at Rally GB. Darren’s got a lot of work ahead of him before that will happen, but I like to think it will definitely happen one of these days.
money if you’re willing to perform some modifications. As you can imagine, that’s the route I’m taking, as the saved money will mean another event can be entered instead!” “Other than that, I’ve always been a bit of an electronics fiend, so I have a plan to get a pro-looking LCD setup in the car, integrating navigation and also car monitoring, but that will need a fair bit of development, which means time, which is something I don’t have a great deal of these days!” THE NEXT MILE Good and caught up (and learned a thing or two about how homologation works), it was time to set myself a reminder to check in with Darren again in the future. (So you, dear reader, can see how the only difference between success and failure is showing up and doing
ROCINANTE LIVES TECHMOLOGICAL DIFFERENCES
WORDS BRIAN DRIGGS | IMAGES DARREN JONES
I used to just run the straight Q&A. Lately I’ve been trying to make the stories you read on GBXM more story-like. This takes additional effort. I have all the questions and answers on the screen in front of me, but adding the insights and commentary takes a little time. I have to read through everything, determine an angle, think about the arc of the story, then weave the questions and answers into a narrative. If I get it right, you read the story and it feels like I was sitting down face-to-face with someone discussing their vehicular adventures. There ARE over 20 stories currently in the works, half a dozen of which are 99% ready to go, save that last bit – identifying the arc and weaving everything together. That last bit is where the magic happens. That’s the hard part. Which is why, from time to time, I share details on my personal automotive projects. It’s easier to tell the story you know by heart. This is a sort of hybrid of two stories, as I wasn’t quite done with Rocinante when I published Issue #1. Today, he’s back to daily driver duty. I’ve got a balance shaft out of phase, but otherwise, he runs like a top and I’m looking forward to seeing how sure-footed my little fun cooker is when the trail starts getting rough. On to piecing things together...
WORKING ON THE GALANT AGAIN It felt good to be working on the Galant again, even if only in a literal sense. Experience tells me you can fit two cars in a two car garage, right up until you start to take one apart, at which point you can fill a three bedroom house. 195/2000 – the sum of its parts, anyway – pretty much takes up my entire garage. Rocinante sat behind it in the driveway. I use the rear deck as a sort of workbench since it’s closer to the truck. But when I found myself needing a clean, flat space to re-assemble the head. My workbench is pretty cluttered, so I decided to throw the hood and a nice cardboard box on 195 and work under a clamp light. Ended up being a pretty decent setup! I had cold beer at arm’s length and lowdown, dirty blues playing on the stereo. Not too shabby! This whole project started when Rocinante decided he didn’t like oil filters anymore. Pressure relief valve in the oil pump must have seized, as he was popping filter gaskets left and right, making my driveway look like a superfund site. Unfortunately, replacing the oil pump pretty much requires removing the head. This was my first G54B rebuild, and it proved challenging.
Ironically, I wanted an older truck because I thought it would be simpler, mechanically. To some extent, I was right, but the Mikuni carb has shown me I might be mistaken. In the end, I managed to mis-connect several vacuum hoses simply because I couldn’t identify the devices to which they were connected. Rocinante ran like utter shit because I had the dashpot (which steps up idle when cold) connected to constant vacuum (instead of switched via solenoid). I thought I was hardcore for discovering the depression chamber, which controls the secondary on the 2BBL, wasn’t connected to vacuum, but missed the other end being cracked and leaking, I had the throttle cable too tight since part of it broke, and that was all before I started messing with half a dozen adjustment screws. Derp.
GETTING A HEAD IN LIFE Taking a step back, as I was cleaning the head, I discovered little metal balls wedged in a corner. Left overs from media blasting, maybe? Says a lot about the aftermarket company selling these things. Then I cleaned out the threads for the rocker assembly. Turns out they were full of oil and metal chips from the last time someone ran a tap down them. Oil pump aside, this engine was just a ticking time bomb. It’s too bad I threw the old oil pump out without inspecting it. I bet I’d find something like this in it. PROGRESS FEELS GOOD After a lot of hard work, beer, and swear words, I finally got my little fun cooker back to daily driver duty at the end of February. I’m already planning a couple trips!
Until next time, never, ever, ever, ever give up. Keep going fast with class, and press on regardless. You’re a gearhead. You can do anything you put your mind to doing. (Let me know how GBXM can help!)
GEARHEADS UNITED THE WORLD IS OUR AUTOBAHN
COPYRIGHT 2013, GBXM|UNITED, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The second ever issue of Gearbox Magazine in true magazine format. Less buggy than the first issue, but still not perfect. (Darren Jones has...
Published on Mar 8, 2013
The second ever issue of Gearbox Magazine in true magazine format. Less buggy than the first issue, but still not perfect. (Darren Jones has...