Prime the pump organ, dress the monkeys, find Grandma's teeth-it's almost time for the greatest spectacle of the year. No, not that Circus Super Lap Battle thing. We're headed for the freak show out back. Forget about lions and flaming hoops. We're talkin' bearded ladies and third nipples. Get ready for the one, the only...
Sport Compact Car Ultimate Street Car Challenge.
Once again, we've gathered a collection of cars and owners not content with being great. They demand the title: 'ultimate' and are willing to run through our cockamamie concoction of trials to prove it. The USCC isn't some watered-down, feel-good cocktail. It has flavor like a bitter winter brew, the kind that leaves a foul taste the morning after. But every year, when it comes around, you're ready for another sip. We start with the standard ingredients we're known for. Radar guns, dynos and accelerometers. Oh yeah, when it comes to performance data, we serve it raw. But as long-time readers know, it doesn't stop there.
While a certain degree of athletic proficiency is required, this pageant will also judge its contestants on looks, intelligence and character. That's right-our infamous panel of gurus will be giving thorough examinations from top to bottom. Our car show judges will be ruthless in their evaluations of fit and finish. If they miss anything, you know it'll get nagged about in the Girlfriend Test. Next, engineers will crawl under the hood and chassis, making sure all modifications are done right and locked down tight. We're even going to give 'em the ol' sniffer-in-the-tailpipe test.
USCC is a competition like no other. This is not a sanctioned boxing match where the best-trained fighter always wins. This is a street fight, where creative use of a two-by-four may not only win the round, but earn style points too. Innovative engineering and solid mechanical execution are the keys to emerging victorious. Past champions have come from all types of automotive disciplines and this year is no different. As much as we'd love to see a sport compact win this thing, it would be meaningless without beating old rivals along the way.
This year, the domestics are represented by what is without doubt the most wicked monster they've brought out yet. The last-generation Corvette Z06 has a reputation for stomping on 360 Modenas, Vipers and other baller-mobiles that make up our list of past champions. This particular Z06 has been tuned beyond anything we've seen so far. In any other competition, the 'Vette would be a sure bet, but not here.
The USCC is known for oddball creations no OEM would dream of engineering. This year, we have a trio of quirky almost-sport compacts that will likely bounce from the top to the bottom of the charts in the various events. First is a 300ZX, using the classic 'if you can't beat 'em, clone 'em' approach. Under the hood lies a healthy LS1 V8-much like last year's RX-7 that did so well. Next is the quintessential sport compact track car: a third-generation Integra. These days, motor swaps are about as common in these puppies as they are in their not-so-distant-cousin Civics. But, this is unlike any Integra you've seen before.
Our ace in the hole is the Ariel Atom. Arguably, this isn't a sport compact. It's hardly a car. But it has a boosted 2.0-liter and falls into the super flyweight category. This little European creation probably stands the best chance at beating the big Chevy-even if it is powered by a little Chevy itself.
Speaking of Euros, they're in the mix too. We've dug up a group of geezers with a vintage BMW sporting a vintage motor swap. Yeah, good luck with that. If there's one thing old-timers are known for, it's bringing the biggest bag of tricks with them. Will they have what it takes? Do they even know what a Skyline GT-R is? They're about to find out. It's time to raise the curtain. Without further delay, we present the entrants of the 2007 USCC.
Subaru Power at its finest
by Jackie Liu
photography by Henry Z. DeKuyper
Ron Pippin, from Oakdale, California, is a pure-bred car geek. His all-star vehicle line-up includes a 2004 Porsche 911 GT3, a 1940 Ford pick-up, a 1955 Chevy street rod and so many others, he doesn't even bother to disclose them. But when you can't really autocross a classic pick-up and your Mustang won't cut it at the local time attack shootout, what do you do?
Turn your brand-new Subaru Impreza WRX STI into the do-everything supercar: aim for 460 wheel-hp, sports car-slaying handling and response, with enough room to haul kids, pets and groceries around on a daily basis. Meet the ultimate Subaru street car. The Subaru STI, whose capability is known far and wide, has earned its well-deserved accolades from a lifelong history of successful rally competition. Along with its main competitor, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the STI swam over from Japan and quickly became a hit with tuners and the coveted 35-and-under crowd who admitted to worshipping at the altar of the Gran Turismo video game franchise. With such a rabid following and more parts available than you could ever believe, the STI can be turned into just about anything.
Immediately after he bought the car, Pippin handed it over to Navid Kahangi at PDX Tuning in Portland, Oregon, a renowned Evo/STi tuner in the Pacific Northwest. The two agreed that, with Pippin's busy work schedule and limited weekend time, every second behind the wheel should be an absolute blast.
This STI had to be well rounded for every track event they intended to take part in, including SCCA Solo 2 Street Modified autocross competition and the Subiefest Time Attack event, and still be unfailingly reliable for regular street driving.With a clear plan for building the car up, and a great deal of passion, patience and support from the crew at PDX, Pippin now has an Ultimate Street Car Challenge contender and an interest to share with his 16-year-old son.
The EJ25 engine's displacement hasn't changed, but adding power made it necessary to beef up components. So PDX used Pauter rods, Mahle forged pistons and rings, ARP head bolts and ACL race bearings to button up the bottom end. Cosworth cylinder heads are used, featuring a CNC port-and-polish job, 1mm oversized valves, Cosworth double valve springs, and Cosworth titanium retainers. PDX also created a custom dry sump lubrication system to prevent oil starvation under hard cornering, and threw in a custom engine oil cooler, increasing reliability in race conditions.
A much-larger-than-stock Garrett GT3076R turbocharger feeds a front-mount Perrin air-to-air intercooler through custom PDX piping. A Perrin exhaust manifold, three-inch exhaust with high-flow cat, up-pipe and PDX downpipe improve breathing while the STI's stock intake manifold was reverse-mounted to shorten the intercooler plumbing and improve response.
An Autronic SM4 standalone ECU links injection and ignition vitals. The car now has massive 805cc/min fuel injectors, a Walbro high-flow fuel pump and Perrin fuel rails. For a little extra edge, PDX also installed a launch control feature with the Autronic ECU. The car retains its stock six-speed manual transmission, though the stock clutch and flywheel have been replaced with an Exedy twin-disc set-up.
Underneath are Ohlins coilovers, camber plates and Hotchkis anti-roll bars both front and rear. Stopping power is provided by a STaSIS Alcon big brake kit with 14.6-inch front rotors and four-piston calipers, and the grip from 315/35/17 Kumho V700 tires. We know, 315s on a Subaru-crazy.
Wearing those massive meats are custom 17x11, black three-piece CCW wheels. The exterior is finished off with an APR Performance aerodynamic widebody kit that includes front and rear bumpers, carbon fiber front wind splitter, 40 mm front and rear over-fenders, side skirts, and a huge carbon fiber rear wing. The cabin is outfitted with Recaro bucket seats, Willans safety harnesses and a TC Design roll bar. All the important stuff can be read on the Defi aftermarket gauges and heads-up display.
It took 18 months and a significant amount of effort to go from showroom stock to USCC-ready. Subarus haven't had much luck in the USCC to date, but this STI has far more than just simple bolt-ons. A built engine making some real power, a sorted suspension, and actual testing time in the autocross ranks could add up to a Subie all-rounder taking the overall win.
A race odyssey
by Evan Griffey
photography by Scott Dukes
The BMW 2002 was produced from 1968 to 1976 and its popularity as a road racer and cult icon rivals that of the Datsun 510. Both cars were successful club racers in their day and still enjoy a zealous following. Fortunately, the trend of engine swapping to enhance performance and reliability knows no boundaries.
Ed Haroutonian of Pasadena, California, has used a combination of traditional lines and modern drivetrain components to forge a classic sleeper with his 1969 BMW 2002. As with many projects, this screamer had an inauspicious beginning. "I originally purchased the car from a friend who wanted to build it as a project with his daughter," says Haroutonian. "But she got pregnant, so he sold the car to me for $2000."
The first area tackled was the paint and body. Haroutonian installed a factory Turbo-model front airdam, along with front and rear Turbo flares before repainting the car bright red. At this point, the stock M05 four-cylinder engine was running like a Swiss timepiece, so Haroutonian, owner of Groma Fabrication, focused on the suspension and brakes.
Bilstein coilover shocks with 450lb/in springs all around provide control, while Ireland Engineering anti-roll bars (22mm front, 19mm rear) combat roll. Stopping power was enhanced with a set of Volvo front disc brakes with four-piston calipers scavenged from a 240. Out back, things were kept in the family with a two-piston BMW 320i set-up.The all-important contact patch is provided by 225/50-series Toyo RA-1 rubber. True to the 2002's roots, Haroutonian selected Axis Oldskool wheels to round out the mods. The 15x8 Oldskools add a custom aura without affecting the Beemer's sleeper status.
The stock 1990cc M05 engine was not a real thrill-maker-something had to be done to liven up BMW's 'ultimate driving machine.' Originally, Haroutonian planned on fitting an E30 318 fuel injection system, but there were complications in the build. "With the help of my friend Jeremy, from Ireland Engineering, I ditched the four-cylinder, fuel injection idea and opted for a six-cylinder M20 conversion," says Haroutonian.
At the time, it was a good call, because a specially prepared M20 engine was sitting at the shop. With the motor and transmission dangling over the engine bay, Haroutonian started to build motor mounts, transmission mounts, radiator mounts and lots of other miscellaneous stuff to get the motor sitting just right.
The special attributes of Haroutonian's M20 are its internals. It's been fitted with an S52 (E36 BMW M3 motor) forged crankshaft, 9.8:1 compression forged JE pistons and S52 rods, which stroke the 2.3-liter to 3.2 liters of M-inspired fury. The car hasn't been on the dyno yet, but Haroutonian estimates output in the 300hp range.
Other engine tricks include a 292-degree cam, port-matched head, a one-off Groma Fabrication intake set-up and custom Groma headers leading to a three-inch custom exhaust system.
Once completed, the in-line six couldn't put down any of its serious torque, because driveline parts were scattering. "The car had to deal with much more power than it was designed for and we started to blow up differentials-never mind the burnouts and doughnuts in the parking lot," says Haroutonian. The rear subframe was soon measured and cut up, and a differential from a six-cylinder E30 was mounted, with matching shortened driveshaft and axles. This was not an easy job.
How balanced is the car? Does it have the horses to compete? We asked Haroutonian which mods he thinks will best improve his chances in the USCC. After some deliberation, he responded: "I think this year is going to be old school versus new school. The 2002 is one of the pioneers of the sport compact industry. More importantly, the M20 3.2-liter stroker motor really transforms this car, the M20 five-speed transmission is much stronger than the tranny that came in the car, and the big diff is also much stronger than the stock 2002, so I am confident it will hold up to the abuse we will undoubtedly endure at the USCC."
It should be noted that this old-schooler is still serving as a daily driver as it hopes to regain some of that competition form from the 2002's glory days. We can't wait to see it really stretch its legs.
Going for a lap of luxury
by Jay Chen
photography by Eric Kieu
We've always wondered how top tuned Euros would do at the Ultimate Street Car Challenge. And those tuners have been wondering the same thing. While we haven't had too many of these heavy, high-dollar hitters enter, there's no denying the performance potential of BMWs, Audis and Porsches. Now that decade-old M3s, S4s and even Carreras are becoming affordable, the USCC field is changing.
With typical German meticulousness, the people at Torque Factory in Venice, California, have been studying our contest carefully, reading all the rules, and measuring their performance against previous contenders and USCC winners. Such plotting and scheming has brought about specific procedures to evaluate how its 2001 Audi S4 (owned by Brent Mattraw) might do in our track, drag strip, dyno and emissions tests. The guys at Torque Factory think this twin-turbo S4 could be the dark horse that blows our rice burners out of the water.
According to Jeff Moss (big kse at Torque Factory), the equation for winning is simple: take the luxury and build quality of a top German performance sedan, then bolster the suspension, brakes and driveline. Leave in all the street amenities and power it with two massive turbos, stuffed into what little space there is between the block and frame rails.
As the Germans are known for over-engineering, Torque Factory, felt no need for additional seam welding, oil and diff coolers, or reconstructing suspension bits. This car was designed from the beginning to dominate the autobahn under sustained triple-digit speeds without breaking a sweat. We hope the same principles still apply now that the turbos are claimed to be pushing almost 500 wheel-hp.
Mattraw and Torque Factory also took some similarly simplistic steps to make sure their bottom end doesn't wind up on the dyno floor. Keeping the same bore and stroke dimensions as stock, the rods were replaced with Pauter E4340 vacuum melt forged chromoly rods with stock factory bearings. The original pistons and rings were stuffed back into the holes since, they claim, much of the factory cross-pattern honing marks were still on the cylinder walls. Stock head gaskets were replaced with 034 Tuning equivalents.
External engine modifications include a set of Audi RS6 turbos with RS4 compressor housings, in order to mate up to the S4 intake plumbing. With this much air, we're not sure if the two side-mount intercoolers will be sufficient to keep heat soak at bay at low speeds. The fuel system was bumped up a notch with 660cc/min injectors and an AWE/GIAC modified fuel system kit. Hopefully, it'll manage to feed those thirsty injectors under high-g cornering. GIAC tuning also provided several switchable ready-to-go fuel maps for the stock Motronic ECU to make big power on the dyno, traction-optimized boost for the track, and super-lean operation for our fuel economy drive.
To eliminate any push inherent in the nose-heavy Audi, the center differential was reworked to provide up to 80 percent of the power to the rear axle, held through a Sachs Racing clutch. This is then split by a tightly packed clutch-type rear diff. Taking the handling experience of Stasis Engineering, which runs three A4 World Challenge cars, the S4 was upgraded with Stasis-tuned Ohlin coilovers on all four corners, a Stasis rear anti-roll bar and adjustable front upper control arms. The car sits on 275-width Toyo R888 stickies all around, but with this much weight, it remains to be seen if this much rubber is adequate.
While the S4 will undoubtedly be the most civil of our USCC crop and lull the Girlfriend into a defenseless state of comfort, we still wonder if the near-stock old man styling, big power and a select number of race car bolt-ons will be enough to turn this Teutonic turbo sedan into a USCC winner.
Revenge of the uber-geek
by Jay Chen
photography by Brian Booth
Love it or hate it, the C5 Corvette Z06 comes with a respectable list of features. It's lighter than many popular imports (such as the Evo, STi and 350Z), and benefits from a lower center of gravity, wider track, longer wheelbase, and better static weight distribution. You can fit a ridiculous amount of rubber with no body modifications. And the race-ready, forged aluminum, double A-arm suspension is symmetrical, with identical front and rear components, allowing for fully adjustable alignment settings from the factory as well as corner weights.
Out of the box, early C5 Z06s made 385bhp, but the 2004 model year stepped that up to 405. The American icon is also ridiculously responsive and minor bolt-ons will churn out a daily driven, track-ready Evo, STi and GT-R killer-as long as you can live with the horrific GM interior.
When it comes to crazy, daily driven 'Vettes, tuned for domination on both street and track, few are as good as this 2004 Z06. It's an example of a project car thought out and built to a level we should all strive for. The car was purchased used two years ago, with only 3000 miles on the clock, by Steve Ruiz, head geek at StopTech. He had only one purpose in mind: to build the ultimate daily driven project car using readily available bolt-on parts. Oh, and it had to beat a Ferrari Enzo in pure performance.
Even with such lofty goals, the modification list remained short and simple. The 5.7-liter, all-aluminum, LS6 small-block V8 remains untouched internally. To push power output into the 500 to 550 ballpark (at the wheels), Ruiz added a high-efficiency Magnuson air-to-liquid intercooled supercharger system. The blower pushes a peak boost of 7psi into the stock 10.5:1 compression engine and then out through LG Pro long-tube exhaust headers with high-flow cats and a crossover pipe.
The suspension consists of off-the-shelf pieces: Hotchkis anti-roll bars, stiffer composite transverse leaf springs with upgraded adjustable endlinks and custom re-valved Bilstein shocks. Simple enough. To make the car withstand this abusive amount of power and torque, Ruiz added a twin-plate Exedy clutch and flywheel, along with some robust ARP flywheel bolts. Being head geek at Stoptech also allowed Ruiz to install a set of carbon composite race brakes, originally developed for Speed World Challenge GT Corvettes.
One weakness discovered with the Magnuson supercharger system was its tendency to throw drive belts before eating them, which occurred several times during initial testing. Like any good engineer, instead of just sucking it up and buying another drive belt, Ruiz redesigned the belt tensioning system to incorporate a second OE tensioner. The car has been on the same belt since. A custom oil catch tank was fabricated to drain excess oil from the valve covers under hard cornering, instead of allowing it to be drawn into the intake through the breather.
Other details are invisible to the unknowing. To make sure the power was useable, Ruiz also customized a Racelogic aftermarket traction control system to rein in wheel spin without interrupting proper ABS function. The C5's OE wheel bearing assemblies (a known weak point) were replaced with GM Motorsport wheel bearings, as well as ARP wheel studs. In order to fit the massive 345/25/18 rear tires, the rear fender and liners were reworked with composites for a seamless OE fit and finish, instead of the usual fender rolling and gutted wells.
The interior received the same level of attention, with custom seat brackets for safe and proper mounting of Sparco race buckets. Ruiz even went as far as to design a removable speaker enclosure in the rear cargo area specifically for the Theil-Small (acoustic) parameters of his Boston Acoustics subwoofer, then had it made out of carbon fiber.
However, what makes this Vette impressive enough to run alongside our other USCC contenders isn't the parts list. The attention to detail and time spent testing, dialing in and integrating all the parts is what makes it stand out. This car is the culmination of Ruiz's 30 years of racing knowledge and experience. This is how an ber-geek tunes a car.
527 wheel-hp R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec
by Joey Leh
photography by Darin John
When putting together this year's competition, we had to ask ourselves: could we even have an Ultimate Street Car Challenge without a Nissan Skyline GT-R? The all-conquering Japanese super-coupe has appeared numerous times in the history of the USCC, finally scoring an overall win in 2005.
The Skyline is an obvious fan favorite, its reputation no doubt fueled as much by Gran Turismo as by its racing success, and it's one of the most powerfully tunable cars on the aftermarket; 1000hp builds, time attack records and GT Championships are just a few doors that can be opened with a GT-R. Skyline owners are also a fiercely competitive bunch, willing to sacrifice hearth and home in the spiral of modifications necessary to take on the world's best. Ferrari, Chevrolet, Lamborghini, Porsche-no brand is safe from the crosshairs of a GT-R owner. Exactly what we want to hear.
Jacko Luong's 1999 R34 Skyline GT-R V-Spec has been built as the ultimate dual-purpose car, a yellow rocket he merely switches wheels and tires on before heading out to the track. The engine is the stout RB26DETT twin-turbocharged in-line six, kept stock internally. The head has been ported and polished, fitted with Tomei 270-degree Poncam camshafts and A'PEXi cam gears, and then reinstalled on top of a Tomei 1.2mm metal head gasket. Luong has retained a twin-turbo set-up, swapping the stock T28 units for dual HKS GT2530 turbochargers. Blowing out of Tomei pipes, the exhaust feeds into an HKS downpipe before an ultra-lightweight ARC titanium exhaust system.
The N1 engine blocks, monster single turbos, and generous fuel systems of past GT-R entrants are missing here, but Luong has a long list of careful modifications that add up to one attentive build. Besides tires, this Skyline also sports two different ECU tunes and two sets of spark plugs, depending on whether pump or race gas is used. Oil pan baffles, lifters, valve guides, rod bolts, crank damper and clutch have all been changed out or installed to eliminate the chance of any failure. Red Line fluids are used throughout.
A JUN oil pump, N1 water pump, Koyo aluminum radiator, and Setrab oil cooler kit are also on board to ensure this car makes it through every one of our demanding USCC tests. Using a pair of 300ZX MAFs and an A'PEXi Power FC standalone ECU, Luong's personal tuner coaxed out 527 wheel-hp and 371lb-ft of torque (with 100-octane gas) on the Mainline Dynolog four-wheel-drive dyno at Mavrik Motorsports in Buena Park, California.
This is plenty of power for a street car, enabling lightning-fast launches and good turbo spool, and Luong has managed to resist the drag power addiction that has plagued many other GT-R owners. This is sure to pay off during the road course test, but may not be enough to emerge victorious from the dyno and quarter-mile competitions.
The only thing working against the GT-R is its size and weight. An iron engine block and all-wheel drive system add up. Luong has chosen a set of Mine's/Ohlins adjustable Esta Pro coilovers to combat the GT-R's 3600 pounds on the road course. Set up to run with Nitto's sticky R-compound NT01 race tire, this Skyline has been aligned and corner-balanced with a 56/44 front-to-rear weight distribution and a near-perfect cross-weight. Because this is primarily a performance street car, the interior is stock (except for Takata safety harnesses) and is devoid of any subwoofers and TV screens. The in-dash display screen is stock R34 GT-R and is a common point of envy for other car owners. Luong is sure to score some points in the car show competition with his ultra-rare carbon fiber Garage Saurus body parts, shipped straight from Japan, and with his hard-to-find bright yellow factory paint job.
The key to winning the USCC is to build an all-round car; the intent of the contest is to enter an actual registered street car, not a cat-less racecar freak with two plates zip-tied to its bumpers. This R34 GT-R packs some serious power, a suspension with definite attention paid to it, some choice body mods, and a real daily driver reputation. Luong has even enlisted the aid of past USCC Skyline competitors, prodding the owner of last year's R32 for advice on how to conquer each competition. Luong knows how each contest works, his build is potent, and this GT-R has been tested and proven on a regular basis. Is it time for another R34 to be crowned the Ultimate Street Car?
Now with four spinning wheels
by Jonathan Lopez
photography by Eric Kieu
Once upon a time, Nissan released a car so powerful, so agile and so dominant that an entirely new class of racing was created just to give it some competition. That car was the iconic R32 Skyline GT-R, a beast with a technologically advanced four-wheel drive system known as the ATTESA-ETS and a 2.6-liter DOHC twin-turbo in-line six putting down '280hp'. Once unleashed, the R32 (appropriately dubbed 'Godzilla') won so many races that it destroyed the Group A touring class in Japan, due to the fact that no one wanted to compete against this new monster.
As the Skyline aged, Nissan tweaked its flagship with added weight and luxury, yet always stayed true to the philosophy of maintaining a sporting edge through technological superiority. Then in 2002, a new Skyline debuted in Japan, one that didn't have a GT-R emblem anywhere in sight. That car is known here as the Infiniti G35.The entirely new drivetrain came in the form of a naturally aspirated motor and rear-drive transmission, neutering the car into just another 3 Series competitor with 'sporty' looks and performance. Much of the techno voodoo that made the previous cars so potent was missing.
But Ed Reeser doesn't think much of Bimmers. He likes the Skylines of old: the ones that came with two turbos powering all four wheels. You may remember this G35 from the June 2006 issue of SCC, back when this Infiniti was tearing up the road racing circuit with a mere 400 wheel-hp. Since then, Reeser has stepped up his GT-R conversion with even more power and, more importantly, a new way to put it to the ground.
While Nissan has dropped the ball in providing all-wheel drive for the enthusiast, the company did provide one system for a family sedan. The G35X (a larger, heavier four-door model) came with an all-wheel drive option, which happened to be a successor to the famous ATTESA-ETS. However, it was obviously geared towards soccer moms looking for safety-wanton blasphemy to any speed freak expecting four-wheel grip from the once-mighty Godzilla. Unfazed, Reeser decided to do the job Nissan should have done at the factory-an all-wheel drive transplant into a coupe, plus a double heaping of turbo power.
Building the new era of Skyline-dom wasn't going to be easy, so Reeser contacted VRT of San Diego, California, the same shop that helped twin-turbo the coupe before. Essentially, converting the car to all-wheel drive required the entire front end of the G35 to be swapped with the guts of a G35X. "The electronics were definitely the hardest part," says Michael Alvarez of VRT. "Luckily, AEM helped us out." The AEM standalone ECU takes control by handling all the parameters in this Frankenstein G35X two-door. VRT says it works, but the USCC has a way of turning even the most reliable of systems into smoldering chunks of metal.
Speaking of pressure, the forced induction system is a custom Jim Wolf Technology kit utilizing two Garret GT30 turbos. Throwing two hairdryers on a VQ engine is nothing new. JWT has been doing it for some time, so claims of 600 wheel-hp are not surprising. However, making that kind of power driveable on a daily basis-without being too peaky-is the real trick. But certainly, the VQ's 3.5 liters of displacement will go a long way towards nailing a nice fat torque curve, thus helping this entrant fight to the top of the road course and one half of the dyno test.
VRT prides itself on building Nissan-derived, track-killing, exotic-eating street cars, so it's no surprise that the suspension is as dialed in as the rest of the car. JIC coilovers and Eibach anti-roll bars keep the 3800-pound heavy-hitter pinned down, especially with adjustability taken full advantage of. Billy Johnson, whose own ride is a trick NSX that competes and wins in local time attack competitions, personally drove and tweaked the suspension in order to deal with the ribbons of asphalt that were sure to come.With the USCC bar set higher and higher each year, professional racers are now being enlisted to shoe at the road course. Heaving this Infiniti will be Tanner Foust, renowned rally driver and drift artist of Formula D fame. While the man can undoubtedly slide a car with grace and speed, all his race experience should ensure that the G35-GTR will grip hard with each of its four Nitto NT01 rounds.
Predictions point to a distinct advantage in the driveability contest and uncertain optimism in each of the performance tests, but 600 wheel-hp is definitely quite a bit for any street car. Whether the car can really put that down is one issue, but even if it can, will it be enough in this crowd? Reliability could also be factor. Any time parts that weren't made for each other are tricked into a strange harmony, the potential for disaster is just around the corner. But should everything sing together, from the dual compressors down to all four contact patches, this beast could wreak some considerable devastation.
A new angle on a familiar breed
by James Tate
photography by Steve Demmitt
Ryan Hawkins is no stranger to Sport Compact Car. Fact is, if it weren't for him, the Toyota Supra Turbo would never have received as much coverage as it has over the years. That's not to say we don't like Toyota's supercar-we certainly do. But Hawkins calls us roughly once a week to tell us about a Supra that needs to be featured, or an owner's event that needs to be covered.
He's the guy on his hands and knees in Las Vegas and in Texas, taking pictures and writing stories on the Supra community's two biggest meets. Hawkins has even gone so far as to coordinate mini-meets himself, rallying up 200 Supras to watch the three The Fast and the Furious movies. But in all the Supra-related events Hawkins has covered, he's never once featured his own car. When USCC 2007 came around, it was our turn to call him.
With the aforementioned event coverage and a general obsession for all things Supra, Hawkins has easily developed the recipe for a proper ass-kicker. He's used his connections to figure out what works and what doesn't. And he has the accumulated knowledge from people painstakingly piecing these cars together over 14 years. Hawkins must have more than a feature car by now-he ought to have a USCC contender.
We could spend an entire issue listing the hundreds of modifications on Hawkins' Supra. But more than any other single characteristic, the MkIV Supra is known for its ability to create massive horsepower.
By any normal measurement, Hawkins' 600hp, 3.4-liter example is no exception, but Supra owners know that he clearly exercised restraint in order to achieve a broad powerband. Powerhouse Racing's Stage I + kit deploys a single turbo to work with an HKS tubular exhaust manifold. An external wastegate and two HKS SSQV blow-off valves regulate and relieve boost pressure, while a Type-R intercooler from the same company keeps the incoming charge dense.
The new turbocharger fires air into a fully-built 3.4-liter stroker engine, stuffed with CP forged aluminum pistons, 4340 billet steel balanced connecting rods and a Brian Crower 4340 billet steel crankshaft. Up top, dual HKS 264-duration camshafts bump the valves on Powerhouse Racing street valve springs, while a five-angle valve job with pocket port allows air to flow unrestricted.
The resulting hot gas is expunged through a Powerhouse Racing four-inch downpipe and mid-pipe, then into a 3.75-inch HKS Super Drager exhaust. So as not to bomb our emissions test, Hawkins has even gone to the trouble of installing a four-inch Random Technology catalytic converter. Though there's an electronic exhaust cut-out for when the time comes to set some real performance benchmarks.
Hawkins was initially in the hunt to buy a pristine six-speed Supra Turbo. But when this extra-clean automatic (previously owned by RS Akimoto) popped onto the market, he knew he had to bite. Before you start hating, note that it's one stout automatic, fitted with a Precision Industries 2800rpm stall torque converter. And, after all, an automatic transmission is easier to use in real-life situations, like going to showings of The Fast and the Furious.
Past Supras have taught us that it takes more than horsepower to win at the USCC. So the car was sent to M-Workz in Gardena, California, where Steve Mitchell dialed in the HKS Hipermax coilover suspension. Working in conjunction with the springs and shocks, TRD anti-roll bars (27 percent stiffer than stock) should help keep the wheels stuck to the hot pavement at The Streets of Willow. Finally, TM Engineering bushings, a Cusco carbon fiber strut tower bar and a set of adjustable upper control arms from Colorado Performance round the package out.
While most of the Toyota aftermarket world is concerned with fitting Supra brakes onto their cars, Supra owners are concerned with taking them off and fitting bigger ones. Such as this four-piston set-up from StopTech, with 13-inch front rotors and Darnall Fabrication 2.5-inch brake ducts. In the rear, Brembo 12.6-inch rotors are squeezed by stock two-piston calipers. A strategic mix of BHP XPS Club Race pads up front and Hawk HP+ out back conspire to keep braking distances down and eliminate fade on the track.
Before heading out to the USCC, Hawkins stopped at The Wheel Supply in Walnut, California, to have massive 285/30/18 front and 315/30/18 rear Yokohama A048 rubber mounted onto 18x10 and 18x11 Work Meister S1 three-piece wheels.
We still haven't scratched the surface of Hawkins' long list of parts, but the question remains: will this combination be the right one to emerge victorious from the USCC's 15 grueling tests?
Nissan 300ZX, meet the LS1 small block
by Evan Griffey
photography by Steve Demmitt
With a storied reputation, chiseled one apex at a time in IMSA GTO and GTS competition, the 1990 to 1996 Nissan 300ZX flexed its twin-turbo power in the formative years of the import movement. The LS1 edition of the small-block Chevy brought a high-tech edge to that mainstay of American muscle, the Chevrolet Corvette, which has received its fair share of accolades on the street and in a variety of road racing series. Although these two automotive icons should be at odds with each other, BlackTrax Performance has coaxed them into joining forces. The rest could be USCC history.
This LS1-powered Z-car is the brainchild of Aki Maseba who, along with co-owners Natalie Bressem and Jei Chang, operates BlackTrax Performance in Milpitas, California.
Maseba's first experience with a Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo was a nightmare and he thought he would never lay his hands on one again. "After driving my friend's 350Z and my girlfriend's G35, I really wanted a fun sports car again. I searched and searched for a car I could drive every day and have some fun with at the track, but not empty my piggy bank in the process. No matter how much I looked, the 300ZX kept coming up. So I said to myself: 'Why not? [It] can't be as bad as the first one.'" Maseba made a deal on a 1990 model that had been collecting dust for two years and, after a quick revival, he was off and boosting.
The Nissan eventually dynoed at 440 wheel-hp. Maseba initially found driving the car an absolute blast. All that bothered him was the boost lag and the weight. As these nagging concerns grew larger and larger in his mind, Maseba was driving the car less and less."For weeks, I just let it sit and rot in my driveway while I decided what to do. Then it hit me-a V8 swap. The LS1 soon jumped to the top of the list. They're plentiful, nicely built, all-aluminum and drastically lighter than the stock VG30DETT. They come with a six-speed and aftermarket parts are plentiful. I didn't want the same old Z everyone else had, I wanted to stand out. I knew I was onto something."
A wrecked WS6 Pontiac Trans Am came up on the Internet, located in the middle of nowhere. Maseba immediately grabbed a trailer and went to pick it up. Of course, playing the part of the excited dreamer, Maseba bought the swap before he measured the engine and engine bay. Portions of the firewall were cut to make space, but nothing major was undertaken. The LS1 drivetrain was dropped in with some customized 300ZX/Energy Suspension mounts and wired with a custom harness from Painless.
The engine has been enhanced with some mild mods, namely Comp Cam bumpsticks (222-degree intake, 221-degree exhaust) and a serious 150-shot of nitrous from the blue bottle folks at NOS. Since the LS1 runs a larger 85mm throttle body, no nitrous kits fit the V8, forcing Maseba to concoct his own custom fogger set-up. BlackTrax's Jei Chang handled the tuning chores, via an EFI Live engine management system.
The headers were an area of contention. "I didn't want stock headers or shorties. I wanted some full length headers that wouldn't make me homeless," says Maseba. He cut, tweaked and welded a set of Edelbrock Race Headers to snake though the Z's undercarriage. He then fabricated a single outlet exhaust, purely for weight savings. The exhaust is full V-band, three-inch stainless steel feeding into twin three-inch high-flow cats, then to a resonator and finally to a three-inch Magnaflow muffler. Dual BlackTrax ECS cut-outs were added before the cats for track use and the dyno test.
Making power is one thing-getting it to the pavement is another. To this end, the BlackTrax crew installed a set of Nex GT Series coilovers. This set-up features a twin tube, low-pressure design, a 30mm piston, four-position dampening adjustment and separate ride height and spring pre-load adjustments. Additional suspension mods consist of Wicked Tuning tie rods, upper strut tower bar, upper control arms and radius rods, Kazama subframe spacers and a Stillen HICAS eliminator kit. Knowing the key to getting around a corner is braking, BlackTrax enlisted some choice upgrades to the stock equipment, including Hawk pads and sticky Kumho rubber from The Tire Rack.
Beyond suspension, chassis stiffening can really impact a car's controllability at the edge of adhesion, which is where USCC combatants will spend a lot of time. A six-point, mild steel roll bar was constructed out of 1.6-inch DOM tubing to keep the weak T-top structure from twisting under heavy g-loads.
BlackTrax says the V8's brutish grunt on the low end and nitrous-engulfed top end-combined with a stiff chassis, sorted suspension, overall attention to detail and weight savings-give this 90s superstar a good shot at USCC glory.
No excess fat allowed
by Jackie Liu
photography by Henry Z. DeKuyper
Many enthusiast cars can learn a lesson or two from the bare-bones Ariel Atom 2. Designed purely for all-out performance, it's a road-legal race car-nothing more than a tubular space frame and an engine. Not even the basic Lotus Elise has anything on this.
A dependable 2.0-liter, Ecotec four-cylinder LSJ engine powers this particular Atom, owned by Michael Kim of Bothell, Washington. Normally found in the Cobalt SS Supercharged and the Saturn Ion Red Line, the engine is rated at 205bhp and 200lb-ft of torque. Its Eaton M62 Roots-type supercharger helps provide brisk acceleration and endows this lightweight with an amazing power-to-weight ratio of 7.1 pounds per hp. The 2007 Porsche 911 GT3, which is fast, has a roof, more heft and more power, hurls its track-bred ass through a circuit with a less advantageous 7.4 power-to-weight ratio. Puts things into perspective, doesn't it?
The blown engine utilizes a stock GM five-speed manual transmission to transmit that power. Estimated zero-to-60mph times for this engine and car combination are about 2.8 to three seconds flat-plenty thrilling in a open-cockpit car that threatens to shower the driver with road debris.
Performance cars have never been faster, safer or more capable, but, to their detriment, an overkill of convenience has been built into today's roadrunners. Cup holders, navigation systems, high wattage audio systems, air conditioning, sunroofs, center console storage bins, LED mood lights, 12 airbags and heated seats all add extra mass, and it's this chubbiness that meddles with the enthusiast driver equation.
When car companies conduct focus group studies to determine the direction of a future product, even a performance vehicle, they query existing owners of current and competing models. Naturally, this exercise will yield a design direction to produce a vehicle that is better handling, more powerful, quieter inside, and offering convenience found mainly on galactic star destroyers.
Although the thirst for convenience stops just short of adding a personal masseuse to the options list, new cars swell in curb weight to cater to the growing legions of enthusiast pansies who enjoy a macchiato on the way to the track. Hell, the current Honda Civic is almost as big as the Accord from a decade ago. The consumer who wants it all fails to recognize that the most rewarding drives can often be had in vehicles that give less.
Kim's Ariel Atom 2 weighs a slender 1450 pounds. To put that into perspective, a Lancer Evolution IX has more than twice the bulk. The Datsun 510 (another minimalist car from the pre-cup holder and roll-your-windows-down-for-air-conditioning era) weighs about 2000 pounds, yet offers barely enough collision protection to survive the average parking lot boo-boo. To be successful, lightness must be designed in.
The Atom's menu of mechanical specifications reads like a wish list, brimming with bona fide race car technology, design and construction (not the kind of pirated marketing BS that suggests 'real race car engineering' by association). The vehicle's construction features a strong and highly visible skeleton frame comprised of steel tubing-hand-welded by torch-wielding sorcerers with race car building experience. This frame provides excellent suspension performance and also a high degree of collision protection for the two occupants. True to its track-day mission, the Atom relies on an unequal length double wishbone suspension for both front the rear. Adjustable outboard rod ends and pushrod-actuated adjustable Koni coilovers allow owners to dial in the ideal circuit set-up. Other track-oriented features include a fast 1.5 turn-to-turn steering ratio, a quick-release steering wheel, cockpit-adjustable front and rear brake bias, adjustable alloy pedals, and a ram air intake system.
It also has a staggered wheel and tire set-up with lightweight Team Dynamics Pro Race 15-inch wheels up front and 17-inchers at the rear. The wheels are shod with Yokohama AVS ES100 tires on the street and with stickier Yokohama Advan A048 R-compound rubber for the track.
Clear Lexan side panels were added to help protect the driver from rain, rocks, road chips, and flying dirt. Lightweight composite bodywork and fender panels help produce race car aerodynamics at speed, while sufficiently spare to lend the vehicle its nude aggression. Kim wisely added a roll bar option from Brammo Motorsports, the Ariel Atom 2's North American manufacturer and distributor.
Custom built for far less than half the price of a Porsche 911 GT3, this Atom took around nine months to complete, and its owner manages to take it out for spin once a month or so. This seems fair, since it probably takes at least that much time for the smile to wear off whenever he gets behind the wheel.
Truely making use of the Honda parts bin
by Dan Frio
photography by Henry Z. DeKuyper
We've seen some innovative swaps and conversions in the USCC-a twin-engine Hyundai Tiburon comes immediately to mind-so a mid-engine Integra, rare though it may be in the Honda world, fits right into the USCC ranks. Still, David Dunn's H22-powered 1994 Integra/1997 Prelude blend kicks ass and earns our attention and respect.
"My idea for a mid-engine conversion started in the early 90s while autocrossing my '84 Civic Si," says Dunn. "I was raised on rear-wheel-drive cars and it was always frustrating trying to put power down with front-wheel drive. After having an NSX, I was addicted to the mid-engine feel."
When Dunn finally set about this project in earnest, he approached it from an intellectual angle, not just as a guy in a garage who always wanted his own taste of the mid-engine CRX aesthetic. He started reading Race Car Vehicle Dynamics by William F. Milliken and Douglas L. Milliken, asked his friends on Team-Integra.net for advice, and spent hours on the internet searching for similar projects.
"I found an NSX-powered CRX and an H22 del Sol, so I was relieved to find that I wasn't the only lunatic with this idea," says Dunn. He established a budget, started measuring every Honda and Acura he could get his hands on, and finally decided on a '94 DC2 Integra chassis and a Prelude H22 powerplant. The 'Teg he chose because of its long hatch-allowing the engine to be lifted in and out from above-as well as its generous overhang, providing room for the exhaust system.
After giving a K-series engine much thought, it was the low cost, availability and torque output of the H22 that sealed the deal for Dunn. He found a totaled '97 Prelude on eBay and picked it up as a donor car. Most of the vehicle was useless, but the engine and interior were intact, which Dunn describes as having been excellent for a 90,000-mile machine.
With parts in hand, many stacked floor to ceiling in his dining room, Dunn broke ground on his project, first locating his suspension mounting points, then completing the chassis structure. Next in was the engine and subsystems, then all the fabrication necessary to make a Prelude interior fit into an older Integra.Dunn elected to keep his mods as close to factory as possible. That's why we don't see any notable block or valvetrain changes, or any major powertrain enhancements. With the exception of a two-inch custom exhaust (attached to a factory cat) and a Toyota MR2 fuel tank, Dunn's power mods match pretty closely what Honda intended. This was a fairly conscious decision.
"Another goal was to use as many OEM parts as possible to minimize custom fabrication," Dunn explains. "That said, I still had to design and make a number of custom parts."
On the transmission side, a fabricated shift linkage uses stock cables with a reverse motion mechanism to select gears. Dunn has added a few other tricks to the trans, namely a limited-slip differential from an Accord Euro-R and an Exedy clutch and flywheel combo.
Rather than open up the H22, Dunn looked to his suspension to unlock speed. The Teglude perches on Koni shocks and Eibach springs. Factory Integra and Prelude anti-roll bars keep things tight in the turns, and custom fabricated caster, camber, toe, and bump steer adjusters, along with stock Prelude knuckles and custom outer tie-rod ends, allow Dunn to dial in his steering performance precisely.
With a wide range of adjustable suspension geometry and an Explicit Speed Performance traction bar, Dunn has all he needs to maximize his chances on the road course. Further adding to his road-course edge, Dunn is an accredited NASA driving instructor, with loads of track day and club racing experience.
With a stock H22A4 rated at only 195hp, it may seem that Dunn is outgunned by the Supras and Skylines making perennial appearances in the USCC. But even if he is undermatched in many events, we're sure he's checked every angle and clocked every advantage. Plus, with engineering panel, ride quality, base price, and other real-world concerns factored into the USCC, you never know where Dunn may finish.
This is a guy who admits that splicing the wiring harnesses between cars was "one of the more enjoyable jobs" of the build; a guy who studied up on DMV statutes and met with DMV inspectors to ensure he could title and sell the car if he wished; a guy who grafted a Prelude interior-HVAC, center console, wiper and turn signal stalks, and all-into an Integra body, even down to adapting Prelude window and mirror control to the Integra door panels. If any competitor can find a hidden advantage in the USCC format, we're confident it's Dunn.