Few creatures in nature have proven as pesky as the common flea. Blessed with extraordinary jumping ability and an itchy bite, the flea has tested the extremes of both human and animal patience alike. Indeed, the tenacious flea has mastered the art of annoyance and survival better than many creatures blessed with more ability and guile.
Doubtless, the "flea" you see on these pages proves to be just as tenacious and pesky to the competition on the drag strip as its namesake in nature. Kurt Garmendia Moreno and his team of close friends enjoy taking their "La Pulga" (Spanish for flea) to the track, and showing-up the better funded and equipped efforts of their competitors. Kurt, an automotive technician by trade, embraces the notion of bringing something different out to the track. As such, La Pulga is based upon a standard '95 Hyundai Accent. Selection of this Korean import as the basis for a racecar would present numerous challenges. Many parts common in the aftermarket for other makes of motor, such as timing gears, intakes, and limited slip differentials would simply have to be fabricated. The fact that this Korean hybrid has run a best of 9.99 at a 145.32 mph with much of the driveline and chassis in factory stock-condition sheds light on the fact that ingenuity and a combination of otherwise ordinary parts can have incredible results.
The secret behind this Hyundai's awesome track performance lay under the custom fiberglass hood, where one finds genuine Hyundai power. This recipe begins with a stock-dimension SOHC 1.5L Hyundai motor donated by a '93 Scoupe. The bottom end is reinforced for a life under pressure with a balanced reciprocating assembly featuring JE pistons, Crower rods, and a stock Hyundai forged crank, all residing in a blueprinted cast-iron Hyundai block. This combination has proven race-reliable even while swimming in the stock oiling system, pump, and factory wet sump pan.
This flea gets its nasty bite in the form of a rather unique induction set-up. A massaged Turbonetics GT50 turbo generates up to 60 psi through an equal-length fabricated aluminum intake manifold, while Kinsler injectors do their best to keep pace with the furious mass of on-rushing air. Rather than utilize an intercooler, Kurt designed an alcohol/water injection system that, in concert with a richened fuel curve, helps prevent detonation. Meanwhile, a 100-shot NOS Fogger system squirts far upstream on the intake tract, additionally cooling the mixture and upping the power ante, as well. Ignition and fuel events are tuned using an Electromotive HPV-1 for the spark and a Haltech E-9A for fuel. This fuel cocktail flows into a ported and polished SOHC head that complements factory valve springs, retainers, and cam with enlarged Ferrea stainless steel valves.
This well-sorted combination of boost, tempered with alcohol and nitrous, is what is responsible for the giving La Pulga its telling name. As Kurt, also the driver, would describe it, to see the car leap from the start line reminded him of the same instantaneous jumping of a flea. Although I doubt that few fleas could cover 60 feet in 1.58 seconds. Credit this to using nitrous out of the timing lights and a chassis that just hooks up sweetly. Mind you, the 60 psi, which doesn't begin to come on until about 80 feet down the track, is pressurized into a combustion chamber sealed with the factory tri-metal head gasket.
Much time and sweat has gone into the fine-tuning of this flea's components in an effort that started more than a year ago, when this vehicle began its trek from the 14s into faster territory. Today, the engine combination has proven itself on the dyno for 494 hp at 6,500 rpm.
Surprisingly, the rest of the car retains most of its factory parts. The transmission is stock five-speed Hyundai, churning the racing slicks through stock half-shafts. In an effort to aid traction, the stock differential spider gears are welded, and the car retains the factory 3.82:1 final drive ratio. By using various diameters of racing slicks, Kurt is able to "tune" final drive ratio to different track conditions. A custom-made Advanced Clutch Technology bronze puck-style clutch harnesses the motor's might to the tranny. This combination has proven itself consistent and reliable even through factory half shafts, albeit requiring Kurt to make thoughtful shifts in an effort to minimize drivetrain shock and potential breakage.
More unbelievable than the near-stock transmission is the simplicity of the rest of the chassis. Kurt's creation makes use of the entire factory suspension from springs and shocks to original equipment rubber bushings to get his power to the ground. The most complex traction aid is a couple of traction bars used to aid weight transfer upon take-off.
The gutted race interior is a study of function over form. A racing seat resides in front of clearly marked Auto Meter gauges that monitor vital engine functions. The exterior paint is compliments of Tito's Total Air Brush, and the box flares were hand-formed by Gilbert Fiberglass of Puerto Rico. The entire combination weighs in at 1,944 pounds with fuel and driver.
Kurt's project took about 2 years from inception to its current form. Along the way, 19 different short blocks gave up the ghost in search of the right combination, and 10 different transmissions suffered at the hands of hastily applied power. Perseverance, trial and error, and the willingness to experiment have produced a racecar competitive with better funded efforts. Future plans include a DOHC head, a larger turbo, and ventures deeper into the 9s. The result of Kurt and his friends' ability to "think out of the box" should serve as a testament to those who are willing and determined to do the same. Timeslips don't lie, and the sum of all this effort and desire yielded a flea that truly has "Seoul."