Friday, September 17, 2010

Dope. #11

Photo courtesy of James Ford Photography

Video Series: Gymkhana

2010 WRC performance aside, Ken Block is still a notoriously skilled stunt driver. So let's watch him do what he does best.




Videos courtesy of 0-60 Mag & DC Shoes Films. I think this is a good way to end the week.

Brushes with Fame

Friday seems like a good day to get things officially started. This tale begins in 2002 in Blacksburg, VA where I went to college.

I lived in a typical, sprawling college apartment complex at the time. I've always been fairly obsessed with cars and have an eagle eye for spotting noteworthy iron. I began noticing a steady stream of nicely dialed in BMWs going in and out of the complex from one of the buildings behind me. One afternoon, while sitting in my room doing some homework, my curiosity was pushed to the limit. I could hear something mean downshifting as it came around the corner of my building, so I got up and went out back to check things out.

It was a worked over E36 M3 convertible making all the right noises. I caught the owner as he was getting out of the car and struck up a conversation. It turned out he was a few years older than I was and had recently started up a BMW shop in the area. He knew what he was talking about and clearly knew how to turn a wrench.

Over the next few months we'd bump into each other and BS from time to time about cars, until one day he came up to me and asked if I'd be interested in helping out when he and his partner took their SCCA ITB class e36 325is down to ViR for an event that weekend. Spring semester classes had just ended and I had nothing to do, so it was a no-brainer. I'd started going to ViR a couple years earlier when they re-opened, so I was familiar with and loved the track/setting. I was extra stoked to get a behind the scenes experience.

They did not disappoint when it came time to leave. They showed up outside my apartment in their dually tow-rig with 40 foot trailer in tow. I climbed in and we were off. After making the 3ish hour drive down there, we arrived at the track in the late evening. We BSed for a bit and went over some things for the next day while enjoying a few beers. I eventually settled down to what would be my bed for the weekend. A sleeping bag on the floor of the trailer next to several large jugs of race fuel.

The wake up call came around 6am, and we immediately jumped into action. I was put in charge of checking tire pressures and a few other small jobs. After getting the odds and ends taken care of we hopped in the truck and drove a few laps of the track so the guys could get a feel for things.

The weekend went by quickly. In between practice sessions and qualifying I would take tire temps after they got off-track. I helped move the car around and grabbed tools. Mostly I soaked it all in and enjoyed every second. During the races I was stationed at several different "hot" areas of the track to act as a spotter. I had headphones on and was hooked into the intercom system so I could communicate directly with the guys while they raced. It was a great experience, something that's captured my imagination since I was a little kid. To make things even better, they ended up winning the race on Sunday. And the entire series by the end of the season.

The shop they started kind of blew up, too. It's called Bimmerworld. My neighbor all those years ago was a guy named James Clay.

I still regret turning down an invitation to go to Daytona with them over Thanksgiving weekend the following year.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dope. #10


I don't do much chattering here on ROTL, but I thought I'd let you know that I'll be headed to Peru for ten days starting tomorrow.

I'll be back with some "plans" for the blueberry, including bodywork and a new motor, and quite possibly some forced induction and paint! This, of course, precludes that the new owner will move it on down the line. Cat's outta the bag! There will be some horse trading going on, but the blueberry will stay in the collective eye, as some large and in charge plans are coming for it.

As for the next car, well, I've got a few days in Peru to think about a name for it...
although names seem to be a redneck thing. Perhaps I'll airbrush my nickname on the drivers side rear...

The Red Coupe - Details, Details, Details Pt. 4

What I underestimated most concerning the apron swap was getting the replacement apron prepped and ready to install on the car. I took my one good foglight from the original apron, grabbed my spare used fog and cleaned them both up; I sanded off the over spray on the rubber seal and took some stoner cleaner to the lenses. Then I went to install them and everything was bent just enough to make things interesting. I busted out my pliers and started bending metal into shape; it suddenly became clear why my fogs fit so poorly on my original apron. While I was at it I started bending other sections that I saw were slightly deformed from the opposite sides. Then I noticed most of the clips for the front spoiler had broken tabs or were missing entirely...sum umma bitch (RIP Bernie Mac). Fortunately I was prepared for this, cause' through my obsessive small-parts ordering sprees this past spring while I still had money, I bought ten replacement clips through Easy fix right? Wrong. Getting the old clips out was a game of trial and error to find the best technique...but I eventually settled on two depending on clip placement; 1) Hammering a large screw put on the pin that needed to be pushed back out after breaking surrounding pieces off with needle-nose pliers 2) Turning the hammer backwards and using the prying side to bang the pins and everything else attached out the hole.

Banging on a freshly painted body panel isn't for the squeamish. Thankfully everywhere that got dinged or nicked was on the backside or would be covered up by some 'vehicle trim' once everything was back together. I should have done these repairs before paint, but live and learn. Now that everything on the apron was good to go, I could line it up for installation.

Sliding the apron into place was a tricky proposition until I used my noggin and grabbed the car jack and some wood. I made sure to semi-tighten a couple screws on opposite sides until I had the majority of the attachment points lined up good. I ended up having to do a little more metal massaging and maneuvering to get things just right, especially where the fenders curl into the apron metal beneath the headlights. 

I put all the screws back where they came from after securing the lighting harness and plugging in the foglights. Then I tightened them all randomly until everything lined up just right, including the bumper guides. I then did a temporary 'couple of bolts' installation of my inner fender liner and duct panel on the passenger-side so I could get back to the bumper guides later.

I still need my new driver-side liner (ordered) so I just mocked up the driver-side brake duct panel in the same manner. A sigh of relief came when the wheels were back on and I could get off my temporary jack stands. It's now ready to go into the shop for service.

It'll be getting a new guibo and center driveshaft bushing installed along with my lower mileage GutenParts acquired 3.25LSD that's been sitting in my garage since February. All of these changes should help with the racket I currently hear backing up, among others, during slow speed driving. I'm also looking forward to seeing the difference between this and my peppy 4.10LSD for daily driving usage as well as mpg. I hope I don't miss the short gearing too much; chirpin' second is fun.

What to watch this weekend (Sept 16th - 20th)

  •  Battle of the Supercars - KTM Crossbow vs. Aerial Atom. Thursday @ 10pm - 10:30pm (SPEED/SPEEDHD)
  • D1 Grand Prix - Fuji International Raceway in Fuji, Japan. (Replay) Saturday @ 12am - 1am (SPEED/SPEEDHD)
  • GT3 Series Racing - Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. (Replay) Sunday @ 1am - 2am (SPEED/SPEEDHD)
  • Australian V8 Supercars - Philip Island Raceway in Victoria, Australia. Sunday @ 3pm - 5pm (SPEED/SPEEDHD)
  • Baja 500. Monday @ 7pm - 8pm (Discovery's High Def Theater)
  • Isle of Man TT - Royal London 360 Superstock TT Race. Monday @ 9pm - 10pm (Discovery's High Def Theater)
This is an off week for F1 and WRC, but no worries, they'll be back soon enough. In the meantime, check out some V8 touring car action from Australia to get your fix.
Photo courtesy of

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Red Coupe - Details, Details, Details Pt. 3

Next on the list of things to repair was the front apron. While surprisingly photogenic while completely together, the front end has been bothering me for a long time. The fact that this car was backed into while parked made me ponder the structure of the front framework to which the radiator is attached; mainly because until now I didn't know what was 'normal' for e30s. Particular to the design of (this) BMW is a welded rad support and I didn't want to have to get anything pulled back into shape (already got quotes for this work). I resigned myself to taking everything apart and then seeing what was what (it's free.99 this way).

I got online in advance to get some ideas of what was ahead for front apron/valance removal and it didn't seem to be too much an issue, tool-wise, just something that would take some time. Thankfully I didn't try forcing it into my last weekend thrash, because it took me two afternoons to get everything together; so lets begin with the front bumper which needed to come off. As I stated before, I wanted to get the front bumper resprayed to compliment everything else new I acquired for the front end...lenses, trim, apron, etc. So on Friday, I got up early to get it removed so I could drop it off with Jason.

Removing the bumper was relatively painless, but if you plan on doing so I suggest you watch your fingers around the bumper guides. The only tool I needed required a quick trip up the block to AutoZone; a T-55 Torx bit and a 3/8"-1/2" adaptor for my ratchet (they didn't have 1/2" drive T-55s). I was going to remove the backing from the bumper also, but I decided against wasting borrowed time and being in need of more one-use clips and what-not to put it back together later. The most important thing about having the front bumper off was trying to determine what made the bumper not quite line up perfectly on the pass side.

Thoroughly looking everything over showed that there were no bends to the front bumper shocks or rad support, but I apparently misunderstood what the PO told me at the sale; I thought he said the hood was an aftermarket unit, but what he actually meant was the passenger fender was. I could immediately see the stamping wasn't the same on either side, and due to how the bolt holes line up for the attachment of the front apron and bumper guide, it's easy to see how the bumper would not only have a height difference on either side, but improper alignment. Good thing to know going forward.

After dropping off the bumper and returning home, I made quick work of unscrewing everything holding the front apron on. I made sure to disconnect the foglight cables and all the beat-up fender liner/brake duct trim as well. I really need to get a few car jack stands for the house, but I got creative in the interim. While everything was apart I made sure to take pics of the position of everything in case I needed reference later on. The old apron was now removed so I started removing reusable parts and prepping my pretty painted replacement apron which was waiting in the wings.

The next problem was that I over looked a few things on the replacement apron when I bought it; it was in bad need of some of those little green grommets that attach the oil-cooler cover piece as well as the brake ducts. I also needed some screws and clips needed to attach my new inner fender duct panels. My left-right misunderstanding reared it's head again as the fender liner I got was for the pass-side, not the driver-side (even#-passenger/odd#-driver). Of course both were trashed so I did need to replace both, but gd the nickle and dimin'. I feel another parts order comin' on.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Red Coupe - Baseline numbers

Now I'm no big power guy or nothin', but I do appreciate a well tuned automobile delivering everything it should via my right foot. Being that my car just hit 220k not too long ago, has an all original, never opened M20b25, I wanted to see where things stood currently. The only modifications are a Stromung cat-back exhaust and a hot air intake replacing the stock airbox. I went about 15 miles from the homestead to NGP Racing in Aberdeen, MD. I hung out and b.s.'d a bit with the guys at NGP, while a F-350 with upgrades made the shop vibrate, and then I got my pulls done. I used my old Sony Digital-8 videocam (circa 01') so ignore the quality ha.

The verdict? AN EXPLOSIVE 145WHP/134WHP (that explosion graphic made me laugh). From the factory, e30 2.5L/12-valve/M20s were good for 168hp @ 5800 & 164tq @ 4300; the numbers I pulled today roughly equate to ~171hp @ 5800 and ~158tq @ 4300 (using a rule of thumb 15% drivetrain loss). The A/F looked solid as well, but I can see where I feel the power waiver between 4300-5500 rpm (smooth lines are better than wavy lines). Anyone who knows NGP Racings' Dyno knows it's pretty damn stingy, it was humid out (enter more excuses here), yadda. I'm more than pleased, but I plan on getting those lines higher and a bit smoother with a chip tune, bigger injectors, head rebuild & cam. Hopefully I can move in that direction as a winter project, at the very least getting the head completed. Good times.

Oh and if you haven't noticed, under the media section on the side panel, Reverse OTL now has a Youtube channel (yowzas). I could definitely use a newer HD camera among other things, but in the meantime I'll be using my time capsule-esque Digital-8 videocam. I used to video a crap load back in the day, so I'll make short vids of old footage when I get time and hopefully make some new ones once I get the opportunity. A HD cam means I'll need a better computer for editing (i.e. more $$$) so hopefully I can work out some better quality rip techniques for my legacy footage. I still want a new yet cheap flash memory video camera, so if you have any model suggestions please comment below or on fb. I'm still looking for a site that has actual footage in the product review. TIA.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dope. #9

Car Pron - Pagani Zonda

For those of you who have lived under a rock for the past decade, there's was an Argentinian man by the name of Horacio Pagani who had a dream of Italian sports cars. that dream brought him to Italy to sweep floors at Lamborghini HQ in the 70s until he could acquire an apprenticeship learn what he needed to take on producing his own car a little over ten years ago. The fruit of his labor after years of sketches, blueprint revisions and business strategy? The Zonda.

Jamie Corstorphine of Autocar had the great opportunity to test drive the two latest iterations of the Pagani Zonda, the Cinque and now the R. I really need a new day job.

The Zonda is at the end of it's unusually long production (11yrs) currently. The new model around the corner is the C9; according to reports, it's due out next year. Can't wait to see it.

Upcoming Show - H2o International 2010

What sucks most about the show season (and life if you want to get technical about it) is that time flies. You wait and wait for Spring, it arrives, then before ya know it Thanksgiving is knocking at your door. It's almost about that time of year for one of the last fun automotive gatherings before it gets cold; H2o International (H2oi) 2010 in Ocean City (OC), Maryland. H2oi has been a staple of the VW-enthusiast diet since 1998; evolving and growing to become one of the shows, world-wide, that isn't missed. The whole city is dominated by VWs and Audi's for about 96 hours straight; it's definitely something every euro-enthusiast should see at least once in their lifetimes. I've had plenty of great memories from H2oi weekend over the past ten years and hope this one will be a better time than the last. The show field arrangement this year will be the biggest question mark, as with the coming of slot machines to the Ocean Downs race complex, the existing facilities have been torn down for the new building to replace it.

For all of you H2oi virgins reading this post, let me give you the breakdown of this years event:
  • Saturday September 25th - Big Ass BBQ / Pre-show gathering (12pm-5pm)
  • Sunday September 26th - H2oi Show (9am-5pm)
  • $25 Pre-registration for show/club cars; must be done online by Sept 18th @ 5pm
  • Aircooled, Watercooled, Audi & VW classes
There are plenty of mark/model specific get-togethers all over OC so if you're on a forum look for one to check out. I'll be at the CBS Ice Cream Social Saturday evening, which will be awesome as usual. Drive around town and see what's going on in a parking lot near you; just be wary of the cops foo.

The turnout will probably keep breaking previous years' records, but hopefully the relaxed atmosphere remains. Here are some pics from H2oi weekends of years past:

H2oi 2010 should be a great time, hope to see some of you all there in twelve days. Shame on you for not booking your hotel already.