Operation 1993 Subaru Legacy: Phase I

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , on February 12, 2010 by consortiumoffools

So I finally bought an AWD turbo car, a 1993 Subaru Legacy Turbo.  It came with an automatic transmission and a 2.2 liter oil-leaking turbo motor.  First order of business is converting the car to 5-speed manual.  Some automotive experts (mainly drag racing enthusiasts) claim that turbo motors are better supported by an automatic transmission.  The idea is that the engine remains at high RPMs during the quick shifts and thus the turbo continues to spin quickly.  If the turbo spins quickly, more power is actively made.  This idea sounds great if the car’s intended use is straight line racing, but my build is purposefully for small track road racing and auto cross.  I’m opting for the manual transmission because of the predictability and control a 5-speed offers.  The manual transmission allows the vehicle operator to select the appropriate gearing for approaching road situations, such as a turn or another vehicle.

I bought a junkyard 5-speed for $100.  Within the first 30 days (the warranty period) I cracked open the case to inspect the contents.  I inspected the gears for unusual chipping or lashing.  I also verified that each syncro lined up properly and that the tines were not chipped or otherwise destroyed.

After I was finished inspecting, I put gasket material (RTV) on each side of the case and slapped them together.  I popped a few bolts in the case to ensure it stayed together while I connected end case. The end case contains the center differential and output shaft.  After a few failed attempts I realized that all of the pieces of the transmission have to be put back together before tightening down the bolts to spec.  Many clearances inside transmissions are very small, so everything has to be orderly reassembled and tightened down.  When I finished lining everything up and connecting the case, I still had to bolt up the gear selector itself through the rectangular service door:

There’s one black bolt that didn’t seem to seat, but certainly was the right bolt.  And as soon as I tightened down the end of the transmission on in a star pattern, the output shaft’s bearings seated perfectly.  The output shaft is in the foreground on the left, the bolt on the gear selector is on the right and the center differential is in the background:

Above view of the same thing:
The end of the transmission back on:

Now the transmission is complete and ready to go.  I have also already purchased the other necessary parts for the conversion including the clutch master and slave cylinders, pedal assembly, clutch, flywheel, manual transmission mounts, throw-out bearing, fork, and starter.

Next installment:  porting and polishing 2.5l SOHC heads!


Project Neglected for Bikes, Snowboarding

Posted in Auto Articles, cycling, General News, snowboarding with tags , , on November 15, 2009 by consortiumoffools


Winter is arriving and my priorities are changing. This summer has been all about road cycling and mountain biking. I’m still going to continue to get out there on my bikes as much as possible, but it’s snowboarding season. To start the season off right, I bought a snowboard. It’s the last piece of the puzzle in my winter equipment line up. I hadn’t purchased a new snowboard since 2002, and that was my first. This board is much lighter and smaller, so I foresee more tricks in my riding career. With much of my summer money gone to bicycle maintenance and the allotment of my winter funds to lift tickets, there isn’t much left for the cars. I use the plural because it’s not just the project car Subaru that’s a money suck, my daily driver needs care too.

In order to ride mountain bikes or snowboard, I have to load up the gear, fill the car with gas and drive to the mountains. At first this seemed like an acceptable sacrifice for me. In fact, it’s still viable based on how much fun I have once I get there. But little did I realize how much of my project car money would be spent on the Focus. The most recent example is the set of snow tires I’m getting for the upcoming season. My summer tires have little grip in the wet, plus I’m planning several trips to Denver. I don’t want to spend the money on new tires, but it’s a must if I want to go snowboarding. Tires aren’t the only expense. I’ve also been changing the synthetic oil every 5,000 miles or so. The car has 113,000 miles on it, so larger items are prone to give out. So far I’ve replaced the timing belt, water pump, clutch, plugs, wires, shocks, brakes– all of the major wear items. The most obvious expense is the gas each trip requires. A less obvious expense is the wear over time, like the interior damage that snowboards and bikes incur when shoved into the hatch.

This past summer I solved the problem of where to put gear without damaging my interior while providing more passenger room: I bought a roof rack! I also bought the mounts for 4 snowboards and 2 bikes. Now I can just throw the muddy bikes and the wet snowboards right on the top of the car. It was $550 for the rack and all the mounts. Unfortunately, that’s $550 taken away from rebuilding my 2009 IHI VF48 Subaru STi turbocharger.

The intake manifolds with no soul and no purpose lay on the concrete bed that is the garage floor. A whole turbo farm, made up of TD04s with blown seals, sits dormant in its cardboard cage. Several injectors, all of them too small and all of them of questionable working order, sit on shelves. I open the garage all the time and see these sad forgotten car parts. Then I take a bike out and shut the door, forgetting all about the neglected Subaru museum.

Six-thirty Soccer

Posted in General News with tags , , , , on August 26, 2009 by consortiumoffools


Are US citizens taking soccer more seriously these days?  David Beckham gets paid millions for playing for the LA Galaxy, the US mens national team almost won the Gold Cup in July, and locally we gathered publicly for the US versus Mexico World Cup qualifying match.  Our teams are not exactly winning, but they are doing better than they ever have in the past.  Soccer is a great sport to watch and even more fun to play.  Game play is fast paced and each shot on goal is gut wrenching.  One tiny mistake or one lucky tap of the ball will change the course of the whole game.  Games are often won by only a point or two difference in each team’s score.   We play on Johnson Field at 6:30, Tuesday and Thursday.

And now, a video:

It’s Vic Henley discussing soccer in Europe.  Hilarious!


Simple Pleasures

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , , on July 13, 2009 by consortiumoffools

There are varying levels of joy to be had in an automobile. The typical iteration of joy described in most car magazines and high school computer labs nationwide involves huge horsepower numbers and quick 0-60 times. The idea is that the faster the car, and inevitably more expensive, the better it is. Driving such a beast (740 whp cammed C7 Z06, for example) is extremely fun and fulfills all of the hype associated with such cars. This particular brand of car fun stems from intimidation. You feel the raw power as you tap the accelerator and hear the engine howl. You respect a car that forces its driver to assertively and smoothly engage the clutch, or face the immediate consequence of stalling.

The supercar appeal with speed at the forefront of features is certainly viable, but the opposite kind of car can be extremely entertaining in the right situation. Fast expensive cars are known for their power, but also their impeccable handling, quality interiors, and stylish exteriors. I recently drove a brand new Infiniti G37S with a loud exhaust system. It sounded pretty cool, had plenty of power and looked great in black. It didn’t really stir my bones too much. Its feel was stale. It could be that the G37 is just like the G35, and I’ve grown more than sick of that car.

After the Infiniti, I drove a new Hyundai Accent. These little cars are predictable and cheap. They handle poorly, sport plastic interiors with tiny seats. All these so called drawbacks and I had a hilarious time! With 85 horsepower and a light tinny shell of a chassis, the Hyundai feels like a fat go-kart. I punched it around a corner, experienced understeer, then yanked the hand brake which successfully whipped the rear around into a fluid slide. With a tweak of the wheel in the opposite direction, and releasing the handbrake, the rear returned to its rightful place. The lame suspension of the basic Korean machine made for a body roll experience not unlike a minivan. ‘Topsy turvy’ almost describes it.

hyundai-accent-20-250x250 I had a much better time experiencing inertia dynamics in an economy car than straight line acceleration in a finer vehicle. Small cars are perfect for tiny race venues such as autocross and larger race cars are fit for wide, several mile long tracks. Each is entertaining in its own right. But then again, I can have fun in any car!

Want a New SUV? Go Chevy, Not Toyota

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , , , , , on June 25, 2009 by consortiumoffools


According to common contemporary American vehicle ideology, the masses believe that Japanese cars are inherently economic and reliable.  This national notion has harmed General Motors’ sales.  Historically, I haven’t been a GM supporter.  On the contrary, I’ve always disliked Chevrolet.  But after driving the latest model of the Chevrolet  Suburban and Toyota Sequoia, I’ll take the Chevy.

Based on comfort, styling, power, and feel, the recent redesign of the Chevrolet Suburban trumps its closest competitors. Chevy and Toyota are often compared because they are the top two leaders in vehicle sales in the US. In the past several years, Chevrolet has been making an average product. Not terrible, but by no means exceptional. When Toyota closed in on Chevrolet’s market, they were forced to wisen up, and start creating quality vehicles. And they have.

The newest Suburban features comfortable leather seats, finger friendly audio and AC control knobs, a quick uptake and sleek looks. Toyota’s rebuttal to the Suburban is the Sequoia. It is based on Toyota’s largest truck, the Tundra, and shares the same unimpressive façade. It also shares the 5.7 liter iForce V8, which actually is pretty impressive. It gets up and goes, have no doubt, but unfortunately it’s a stab of uncontrollable power which isn’t a bad thing, if you’re in a drag car. I’ll bet the truck delivers power more predictably during towing, however. In contrast, the Suburban accelerates quickly and predictably. The exhaust note is particularly pleasing, especially when selecting the least fuel efficient driving setting, “V8 mode.” The SUV’s computer will stifle cylinder operation for the sake of gas mileage in the other much less fun modes.


The interior of the Toyota feels cheap and reminds me of a fisher price toy. The AC controls feel loose when turned. The gear selector has the most awkward shape and placement. I wonder if I’ll break it as I pull it through the shift maze the Japanese are obsessed with. The cockpit of the Chevy is a whole different story. Knobs that feel expensive inlaid on a smooth surface are the hallmarks of the center control panel. Straightforward styling and practicality dominate. The steering wheel, optionally wrapped in leather, is easy to grip and amply aims the Suburban to the operator’s desired destination.

When it comes down to it, the Chevrolet just drives better. It’s built on a solid frame and handles responsively in traffic. This is the 9th, and possibly the last, generation of the Suburban and it is the best yet.

2009 Chevrolet Suburban

Happy Easter Hyundai!

Posted in Auto Articles with tags , , , , on April 12, 2009 by consortiumoffools

Not only is the latest generation of Accent egg-shaped, the cars come in Easter colors!


The Accent is Hyundai’s smallest car.  It’s sole purpose is cheap transportation.  It’s tiny, cute, and now comes with Hyundai’s brand new Assurance Plus financing plan.   The plan allows buyers to retain their vehicle for three months after they loose their job.  The pessimists (or realists, depending on how you see it) over at Korea’s finest foresee even more layoffs within the year.  If this happens to you, and you just bought one of their cars, Hyundai will pay your car payments for 3 months.  If you’re still unemployed you can just take the thing back to the dealership without negative effects on your credit.  All car dealerships take back their cars if owners cannot make car payments, but it usually kicks the owner’s credit in the ass.

A more interesting set of Hyundais is the Genesis.  There are two: the Genesis sedan and the Genesis coupe.  Each is a totally separate vehicle with few common bonds.  They are both RWD and are a noticeable step above the average Hyundai.  The designers actually tried to create a few high-end products instead of an econocrapbox-max (sorry Accent).

The two-door is what really excites me.  It can be ordered with one of two engine configurations, one a 3.8-liter V-6 with 306 horsepower, and the other is a 2.0-liter turbo four, with 210 horsepower.  And remember, rear-wheel drive!  Its wheels are set close to the corners, similar to the other comparable sport coupes.  This design allows for better handling and steering response (think Mini Cooper, but less so).


The car is a bit heavy as it sits (3300 lbs) but in the fall we’ll see a track version that costs $3,000 less, weighs less (no sunroof, no blue tooth, powerless seats), and features a torsen LSD and Brembo brakes.  All from the factory, all under warranty.  Hyundai, who do you think you are?  Honda?

The second car with the Genesis name plate is a sedan.  It’s larger and emulates a Lexus.  It’s yet another good example of why Japan should take Korean metal more seriously.


The sedan is the largest project Hyundai has taken on yet, and they’re aiming for the top.  A 375 horsepower 4.7 liter V8  powers this four thousand pound beast.  The styling and quality of the workmanship are alongside its Japanese counterparts.  The interior possesses several more amenities than a typical Hyundai, such as a center console media selector knob and a navigation system.    Roomier, comfier, and quieter than any other Hyundai, this large luxury sedan may not be quite as nice as a BMW or Lexus, but for $37,250, it’s a great deal!

Parallel Lives: Bikes and Cars

Posted in Auto Articles, cycling with tags , , , on February 18, 2009 by consortiumoffools

Cyclists and drivers do not need to be enemies. It is true that both piss each other off on a regular basis. Bicyclists disobey red lights, ride side-by-side in the street and think the road was designed solely for them. Car drivers disobey red lights, drive way too fast and think the road was designed solely for them. These differences are really similarities.

Each operator considers himself the most important person on the road. I know I do. When I’m driving, pedestrians and cyclists annoy me. When I bike, cars become individual icons of death at every intersection.

Bicycles and automobiles can live amongst each other, if only each demographic understood that both sports are similar.

Bikes and cars share many parallels. Both can be raced, taken off-road, modified, spent too much money on, and enjoyed. Beading a tire is the same principal in both. Both can be used for commuting to work. Both are fun forms of transportation. In each sport, racing technology trickles down to consumers.  The front fork on a mountain bike resembles the shocks found on cars. Both carry the same duties of absorbing impact from the surface of the earth.

My favorite parallel is the specialization of bikes and cars. Each can be built for specific purposes. But the trouble starts when a machine takes on too many responsibilities.

In both worlds, a mixture of specialized features equals a ride that attempts to be everything to everyone, and successfully useless at any individual task. Take for instance a hybrid bicycle like the Giant Expedition. It’s too heavy to go as fast as a road bike. It has no suspension, so it cannot be taken into the mountains and keep the rider comfortable. It has racks and lights, so it’s almost a commuter bike, but again, too heavy and sloppy.

The car counterpart of the hybrid bicycle is the small SUV. A small SUV, like the Ford Escape, was designed for multiple purposes. It has four doors, a rear cargo area, more ground clearance than a car, and an optional all-wheel drive system. It looks like it could go on some mountain trails, until you take a peek at the suspension components. The rear independent suspension, allows each rear wheel to move in separate vertical directions from the other one. This sounds like it would be good for off-roading, but it is not. It is weaker and provides less ground clearance. The four doors are great for a family, but not as practical for a single person. Sure he can truck around his buddies, but so can a van. The Escape is also not as fast and agile as a smaller car.

Both of these sound like a great buy: “One machine for all of my needs? Awesome.” But the reality is that while they each perform basic tasks well enough, as soon as you encounter a specific situation, the machine becomes worthless. In these examples, the off-roading aspect is their the greatest shortcoming. A Specialized Stumpjumper and a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon are the step above. Each was designed specifically for off-road applications. Huge shocks, fully suspended and burly; these two will get the job done. But ride them on the street and you immediately see the need for a road-only bike or car.

The best of both worlds is a garage full of equipment designed for specific purposes. A mountain bike for the mountains, a track bike for the velodromes, and a road bike for the roads. You’d also need a Jeep for the mountains, a turbo AWD Legacy for the track, and a Ford Focus for the streets. Damn, this is getting expensive. Now we see the shortcoming of specialization.