February 28, 2009

Day At Dent Sport Garage

I needed to get my corner balancing done, as well as have a few clunks checked out with my end-links. Who better to call than DSG? Right off the bat, their service was excellent. They jumped in my car, took it for a spin, and figured out what the clunking was. I guess I missed the memo on using lock washers with end-links.
As for the corner balancing, night and day difference. Before, it definitely handled like a charm, very stiff and agile. Now, it feels like she just wants to move any way you tell it to. When you take a sweeping turn, a car usually settles into it and then turns, right? With this, it feels as though the car is 100% settled at all times. It reminds me very much of my friend's M3 with his Coilover setup with sways. I am really impressed with their service, quick timing, and just all around everything else. They had to also fix up a mess I made on one of the under body braces in which I snapped a bolt in by mistake, and even that was done well.I'm really impressed with DSG's work, and the car feels excellent. I highly recommend anyone who has gotten to the point that their car is starting to confuse service techs at the dealership, to check out DSG. I'll be stopping by there another point soon for a quick fix to my oil pan, so look forward to another post from there work.

February 22, 2009

The Long Overhaul

After a month of sitting in Astral’s garage, getting various projects completed on it all at once (Don’t make that mistake like I did), the RX8 is finally back on the road. I just want to give a big up to James (Greenblurr), Josh (Altspace), and Shane (Epik) for their awesome help and hard work through the truck ton of projects we did all at once. Lastly, a BIG UP to Oleg (Astral) for all of the hard work, storage time, and troubles.
Now on to the juicy stuff that I’m sure you all are dying to read. I call this a overhaul due to the many new parts and fixes that we did to the car, including power, suspension and even some enhancements on prior modifications. The days are listed with the products installed (This is the span over the month of February)

Day 1
-Started removal of header
-Removed of Catalytic Converter
-Baked headlights open to replace projector lens with a 2.8’ TSX replica lens
-Adjusted titanium exhaust tip for a better appearance
-Completed a Racing Beat Revi Ram Duct Seal Fix using the stock VFAD

Day 2
-Worked on finishing Header install
-Pieced together front of car along with headlights

Day 3
-Started Removal of Stock shocks with Tein S-Techs
-Finished Installation of Header from Fluid Motorsports (GT-Spec Design)
-Finished Installation of Agency Power Mid-Pipe
-Adjusted Cobb Stage 1 Map with a CEL Kill
-Installed Black Halo Racing Ignition Solution with Yukon Coils

Day 4
-Installed Stance GR+ Coilover Suspension (10k spring front 7k spring rear)
-Removed Trunk Carpeting Completely

Day 5
-Rear suspension was too high and clunking, front suspension was too low; Adjusted both

Day 6
-New Alignment (Front: -2.2 Camber, 0 Toe, Max + Caster Rear: -2.4 Camber, 0.1 Toe, Max + Caster)

Day 7
-Removed midpipe and swapped for Catalytic Converter
-Installed Evo-R.net Fully Adjustable Endlinks (Front and Rear)
-Installed Progress Technology Anti-Roll bars
-Received Velocity Red Painted OEM Tow Hooks

The car really is a different sort of beast now. Since I’ve done so much at once, I’m going to break it into sections, much like how I reviewed the Roadster. From there I’ll go into more specifics.

After placing all of the power modifications onto the car, I am very surprised by the outcome overall. For the upside, a major increase in power, smooth power band, interesting torque band (at about 4k it suddenly kicks up more and stays smooth), and over all a much more solid engine. The downside is that due to my poor research in the choice of midpipe and header, the car is beyond loud. It’s almost scary to drive the car because the exhaust is so loud. Upon further research, I later found out that Agency Power is one of the louder dual resonated mid pipes, so I had swapped over to stock cat. Why modify a car if it doesn’t allow you to drive it happily?
Agency Power Dual Resonated Midpipe: Looking at the welds of the midpipe, the pipe itself was not that bad. James would have liked to see some more full penetration on some of the welds, but it was good enough to not be concerned with.

GT-Spec Development Header: With the header on the other hand, the welds along the runners were poorly done and have an unknown life span. I say that because the welds were not even penetrated. It looks great on the outside, not so good on the inside. The fitment was also one of the biggest hassles around, as that it took up most of the project time. After swapping back to the stock cat, you could hear a slight difference in tone of the exhaust from before header installation. It was slightly deeper at both idle and low end, and at high end it gave it a slight “tin” sound. It wasn’t bad, and better then I expected. I would like to see a better, “race focused” header on my car though, so look forward to me replacing this in the near future.

BHR Ignition: Like when I added the Cobb, another increase of “smoothness” in terms of revving. BHR has been known to make quality products, and this is one of them. The coils are quality GM Yukon coils, with a heat sink on each one. People have apparently reported increases in both smoothness and power, but in my case I would say I feel more of the smoothness.

Racing Beat VFAD Seal: Completely sealed. Directly from the front of the car into the airbox with no unwanted openings. Can’t record much of a difference but I’m sure it’s there.

Over all, I’m happy with a lot of my choices, but I wish I went with a different header and mid pipe design. I’m happy to review it on my blog for the viewers, and share my experiences, but those two exhaust parts are not for me. The Agency Power mid pipe now lives on Greenblurr’s car and he’s quite happy with it, especially since the sound is much nicer when paired with the Racing Beat dual exhaust, and the header will find a happy home soon to someone who will enjoy it for what it’s worth.

If I had known that the results were going to be this great, I would have done nothing but suspension first. I have nothing but praise with how amazing the car responds, how great it feels, and overall quality of the products here. Taking sweeping turns, or quick jolts to dodge a pothole, the car is much more agile and settles great when taking a turn.

Stance GR+ 15 Way Adjustable Coilovers: The main ingredient of the suspension upgrade. Not only do these behave well on the streets, these handle turns extremely well. Changing the dampening to test for the difference responses will be fun when the roads are warmer, but for now, running at the +6 all around as recommended by Stance is very pleasing. Few people have recommended running softer in the rear, but I have yet to see why. I tried running +8 front and +7, and then +6 rear and I didn’t like it. It felt almost sloppy and unresponsive compared to the front. I then tried +6 in the front and +4 in the rear and I still did not enjoy it. At some point I’ll try +8 all around and see what I think of that, but the weather isn’t that great again.

Progress Technology Anti-Roll Bars paired with Evo-R.Net Adjustable Endlinks: The Whiteline Flatout Swaybars that I had installed not long ago felt pretty good and offered a nice, stiff feeling when taking a sweeper. Once we slapped these on at the end of the night and I drove home, the difference was night and day. Paired with the coilovers, you could completely feel a firm plant on the turn with almost no roll, while quick adjustments going left and right made it seem almost effortless. Much more responsive at the steering wheel with almost a "itchy" feeling to it that it wants to turn more and more. On the highway though, you do feel the slight consistent pull left and right from time to time. Not unbearable if you have both hands on the wheel.

Although the baking of the headlights was a tricky project, the outcome of the new lens was worth the effort. The new TSX Clear Lens fit like a charm and really give a much better output of the stock lights. Stock RX8 Project Lens are rippled, dimming down the output , cutoff line, and even width of the light. This lens pushes that all to the limits, allowing you to really maximize your headlights output.

All of this has been a very fun and educational experience. I’m pleased with most of the products I had purchased, and I also learned to not cram so many projects into one day. Next time, I’ll have a better head on my shoulder about this sort of thing. I also recommend a lot of researching before buying parts (especially in a rush) for your car. Here are some of the pictures hosted by Altspace and Astral. Thanks guys.
Altspace Gallery
Astral's Gallery

February 6, 2009

Weekend With A Roadster

So as my car sits on stands in Astral's garage, I've been using his lightly modified Roadster in the meantime. I wanted to take it out for a nice evening drive on Saturday night, and then Sunday morning came with 45+ degree of sunny weather. A few sweeping turns, couple of short highway dashes, I decided to write up a small review of my friend's current pride and joy. I decided to pair it off into sections as I had various things to say about the different parts of the car.

For a 2.0 litre with only 186 HP, this car can move. Very quick and agile, and certainly stays true to the sporty "Mazda Roadster" (Miata in USA) heritage. The extra torque and light body really helps it move when accelerating around a turn or even just a quick start from the green. I really don't have any complaints about the engine at all, as I feel it's pretty good for the car.

The exhaust that Astral has on the car definitely gives the car a more aggressive sound, but it has a sort of "moo" to the noise when getting in the higher RPMs. I would love to hear a exhaust note that is much more aggressive like a 1986 Sprinter Trueno or something, but this is at least much better then stock.
SuspensionThis was very surprising to me, of all the categories listed. The Roadster does not have the softer Bilstein suspension, and that is a good thing from what I've heard. For quick and agile response, this car has little problems with that. But too much input, and you may lose control. I'd like to say that this is a untamed wild horse. It could be my skill level as a driver, or the cold roads with these tires, but I wasn't that pleased with the unpredictability of the car.
Overall in terms of bumps and turning feel, the suspension was great. He has a nice Mazdaspeed 4 point strut bar that makes the front slightly stiffer and front end "jolty", but I still can't get over the unpredictable factor. This could be a good thing in that it teaches you to be more consistent in your turning and ability overall, or it could just be me.
The height of the car was a surprising factor. Small roadster with wheel gap that you could easily stick your fist into? I'm not sure who's idea that was, but that is the only side appearance killer to me.

TCS TCS TCS... This part I found to be very unamusing to me, just as Keiichi Tsuchiya had felt during his review of the Roadster back on Best Motoring. The TCS seems to kick in at the moment it feels the slightest bit of any sort of understeer what-so-ever. I have no idea what prompts for this behavior, but believe me does it get in the way.

There were various times I was going straight and a slow pace and the TCS light would flash, or taking a turn casually and the light would flash. I'm not sure if that means the car is even more unpredictable and TCS is really fighting it, but the TCS doesn't allow me the full feedback I'd like when driving the vehicle.

The brakes in general felt great. They stopped pretty quick, even when cold, and allowed for good downshifting during heel-and-toe.

The tires on the other hand, this plays along with the handling. I'm not sure if these were the culprits overall, but I really was not pleased with this grip in general, even on that sunny Sunday. 45+ degrees and still not giving respectable grip with that solid planting feeling doesn't make this a winner.

As for the clutch, the clutch needed to be bled so it was pretty sloppy. Changing engagement points on me, getting softer throughout the day, then stiff at first start up. If this was bleed well, it would feel pretty good I'm assuming, but we did bleed it twice previously and still no go.

Lastly for the gas, the pedal was very touchy. Heel-and-Toe downshifting was hard to do smoothly as the moment I tapped the pedal, I was revving past 5,000. After the whole night I had gotten used to it, but come the next morning it was hard to adjust again.

What a sharp looking car. Granted, my opinion is biased, but I like that this car is for those who want a RX8, but without the hassle of rotary maintenance. They both look similar, with a similar aggressive stance, and great packages offered.

Even the interior was comfortable and allowed you to be "wrapped in" when driving so that everything is within reach. I would have liked to see more room in the cup holder, and the gas tank release was hidden in some compartment, but other then that, the interior was comfortable.

Operating the convertible was fairly simple, but it was putting it back up that sometimes would hurt my shoulder. If you don't do it at a specific angle, you won't be able to pull the cover up easily, so you have to reach completely behind you and lift up. Other then that, was nice to have a convertible for a change.

I give this car a 6 out of 10. I did enjoy it very much, and had a blast taking it into the city and around my area. My biggest complaints were the unpredictable moments with the tires and handling overall, where it would give you consistent feedback and response, and then suddenly let go. My biggest compliment was that it's light, agile, quick and attractive.

If it were my car, I would do the suspension first before anything. The height seems to be a bit too high for my tastes, and everyone complains of the stock "sport package" that is offered with the Bilstein suspension. I also would change the wheels to something wider, along with a wider, and better summer tire.

But for a stock car, you definitely get your money's worth. In terms of potential for tuning? It's there for sure.

February 1, 2009

JDM OPTION International - Midnight 200MPH Blast!

Do YOU know who Smokey Nagata is? That was the phrase of the week after seeing this classic DVD. A slight change from the usual Best Motoring International videos, but still a coverage of what is going on in Japan. This video is mostly focused towards a “Legendary Street Racer” named Smokey Nagata who is the owner of a tuning firm in Japan known as “TOP SECRET”.
TOP SECRET is known for their all “bling bling gold” color cars with insane numbers of horsepower.

The video shows sections of him doing very high speed racing, ranging from the Japanese Wangan Expressway, to the highways New Zealand and more. Smokey is known for his “Big Burnout” before doing a “200 MPH Burst”, as they call it. Corny video, with some great mysterious music to help keep the “Legendary Street Racer” theme going. But never-the-less, a good watch that I have seen a couple times already, especially because of the Wangan portion in the beginning.