We regret making a mistake in the feature article, "Zoom Zoom Zoom" (Sept. 2004). We credited Racing Beat as the custom oil pan manufacturer; however, the true fabricator is Danstoy Performance Products of Norwalk, Cailf. As such, Racing Beat should not have been listed in the Hotbox. Danstoy Performance Products can be reached at (562) 863-7709.
SE-R Under $30G
Attention bargain hunters: Nissan says the base price on its 2005 Altima SE-R will be $29,200. What? You say that ain't cheap, especially compared to the Sentra SE-R? Think of all you get, man! Like, there's a 260-hp version of the 3.5-liter V6. Dude, you can't deny the performance-tuned front struts and rear shocks, stiffer front and rear springs, and thicker front and rear stabilizer bars. And, like, those 225/45WR-18 tires and 18-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels? How could you not be stoked? If I were you, I'd be excited about the SE-R's new front and rear fascias, compact fog lights, new rear spoiler and side-sill spoilers, and large dual exhaust finishers pronto, amigo. Because if you don't, you're gonna look so l-a-m-e when the SE-R goes on sale in September and you're the only one not down with it. Loser. Do me a favor and go hang with the Pi Kaps.
Traffic Sucks The Life Out Of Us
Traffic, thou foul time vampire! That's what Shakespeare would say. Yep, we're pretty convinced of that, especially given the results of a new study from Texas A&M University. The University's Texas Transportation Institute reports in this year's Urban Mobility Report that drivers in the 85 biggest U.S. cities lose 3.5 billion hours of their lives to traffic each year, a figure that's risen from 700 million hours just two decades ago. While the problem is epidemic in cities like Los Angeles, where commuters lost 93 hours a year on average to traffic, it's increasingly a problem in small towns like Anchorage, Alaska; Brownsville, Texas; and Honolulu, too. Dallas, Texas, reported the biggest gain in traffic time, from 13 hours lost a year in 1982 to 57 hours in 2002. Worst of all, the report cites data that claims 67 percent of urban roads suffer traffic jams during rush hour, up from 30 percent in 2002.
Dial M For...Mom? Mordred? Moldavia?
We're not exactly sure what Infiniti means by naming its new luxury sedan the "M." But while we come up with even more words to fit the mysterious initial, savor the details that distinguish this new M from the current M, which has captured all the media attention of a Punky Brewster press conference. The next M will go on sale next spring as a 2006 model, with a choice of a V6 or V8 engine. The interior of the new vehicle seats five, Nissan says, with luxurious aluminum or wood trim, leather, and an optional DVD navigation system.
Test Ride: R-Tune S15 Silvia
The 240SX/Silvia platform is one of the most popular drifting platforms the world over. It's so popular that even Nismo threw its own hat into the ring. Built as a showcase/test bed for drift-spec parts, the R-Tune S15 Silvia prototype is powered by a tuned SR20DET featuring reinforced engine internals, more-aggressive camshafts, a prototype turbo system and an upgraded fueling system. It pushes more than 350hp. The new power band is very noticeable too. The car is significantly quicker than any stock SR20DET-equipped car and power-on oversteer is easily reached and controllable for smooth drifts.
The Nismo "coppermix" clutch never misses the action, and the Nismo GT Pro TT limited-slip differential doesn't clunk or exhibit any problems distributing power. The entire car is dialed in. Any discerning drifter wants a set of the remote-reservoir-equipped Nismo dampers. Combined with Nismo bushings and suspension links, the damper set provides incredible body control and performance, yet still absorbes some hard high-speed bumps.
The exterior work on the R-Tune S15 is equally impressive. The Nismo full aerodynamic body kit features a very large front opening-perfect for intercoolers and air guides. The kit follows around to the rear of the car, flowing smoothly with the lines of the S15, rather than trying to change the shape. Don't even ask about the inside. Without interior or luxuries, this is a competition car in the same vein as a D1 pro car. Start harassing your local Nissan parts department to see if they can score you these Nismo parts, or check it out at www.nismo.co.jp.
Rotaryheads Invade Mazda R&D For Sevenstock 7
It was a Saturday; the workweek was over, and the rotary people came out to play. Swarming Mazda R&D in Irvine, Calif., nearly 6,000 Mazda enthusiasts showed up for the seventh incarnation of the Sevenstock show, some arriving nearly four hours before the gates opened. Featuring RX-3s, RX-7s, RX-8s, and a veritable stable of historic Mazda racecars, Sevenstock 7 was one of the best in a long line of Sevenstock gatherings. There were many nearly mint cars belonging to both attendees and vendors. It shows just how anal Mazda people really are. More than just a car show, Sevenstock is a gathering of all things rotary.
On hand was the #7 1979 IMSA GTU, a first-gen RX-7 (in fact, the first racing RX-7 ever designed) that won the Daytona 24-hour race. Also making a presence was the #1 1991 IMSA GTO champion RX-7, the 1984 Le Mans Lola T616s (with drivers Jim Busby, Rick Knoop, John Morton, Yoshimi Katayama, and crew chief Jim Mederer), the Racing Beat Bonneville FD, the #00 1973 RX-2, and-after a brief hiatus from Sevenstock-the Le Mans-conquering 787B. The 787B was the overall winner in 1991 at the historic 24-hour race and the only Japanese car to ever win Le Mans. This four-rotor beast was shipped straight from Japan for all to see. Refreshed and utterly striking in person, the 787B stands as a reminder of just how beautiful closed cockpit Prototype-class cars can be.
Mere hours into the show, the 787B was fired up and its ear-demolishing roar rang out in a five-block radius. You haven't lived until you've stood close to a car like this, felt the sonic shockwave and viewed the smoke and fire burst forth as the engine exceeds 10000 rpm. Surprisingly, the cops didn't give exhaust noise tickets to the 787B team; they seemed to enjoy the ruckus too.
The most impressive aspect of Sevenstock wasn't the massive throng of fans or the historic racecars either; it is the organization. Without entrance fees or aid from Mazda, but with a host of unpaid volunteers, the event was motivated by rotary love. The silent charity auction alone raised more than $10,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund International Charity. But with attendance and scheduling needs far outpacing the Mazda R&D facility, will there be a Sevenstock 8?
Toyota Prius GT
Hybrid vehicles don't do much for Toyota's performance reputation. Still, the acknowledged world leader in making you feel bad for driving a massive SUV is putting some Levitra into the Prius at the Paris show. The Prius GT has been tweaked a little from stock hybrid form to give it 147 hp from its tag team of a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine and electric motors. A 60-mph run could happen in 8.5 seconds-think, when was the last time your Barbie Jeep ran that fast? Toyota tuned the suspension to handle all that extra power. As for the racy paint job, doesn't it just make you want to go to Marlboro Country?
Option Video Invades The World
Have you ever spent nights pausing your DVDs and running your fingers through your Japanese-English dictionary just to understand what's going on onscreen? What's that, you only have your "how-to-land-chicks-in-Japan" phrase dictionary? Maybe it's just us. Gone are the days of dropping big dollars on eBay to land Option DVDs you can't even understand. Option announced the launch of JDM Option video magazine, an English language video news series that keeps you in touch with D1 drifting, test drives, and events from all around the world. Option and sister-company D1 Productions have decided to release one English subtitled and narrated DVD a month, a tradition that has carried on for years in Japan.
The DVDs themselves are produced with a professional, attentive view toward entertainment. Averaging about an hour each, the JDM Option volumes feature excellent video quality with multiple vantage points and superb editing. You never get that handheld-camcorder feel with one point of view that makes you wonder what else is out there. Multiple cameras provide multiple views, so you won't miss out on anything. Information is always laid out and easily displayed for each segment, and the close ties with the D1 drift series means some behind-the-scenes action you can't see anywhere else.
Any aspiring drifter or D1 combatant has to add these DVDs to their collection. Keep your eyes open a segment hosted by Nomuken on D1's greatest crashes in the second volume. Other material includes the May 2004 D1 Miami Drivers Search in the fourth volume, the touge street battles in the fifth, and the incredible amount of footage from Round One Irwindale 2004 in the first. Every in-car camera, every run, every battle, every judge's comment. There's so much on the disc, you'll be living it all over again. Check it out at www.d1gp.com or www.jdmoption.com.
MINI's Six-Wheeler XXL: Olympic-Sized Fun
If you jetted over to Athens for the recent Summer Olympics, you weren't totally alone (we saw you in the stands for the women's gymnastics, fast asleep!). MINI was there, and though we normally don't get into British hardware, this one apparently came equipped with its own pair of hotties and an extra set of wheels.
Who could ask for more? Well, the converters at Ultra Limousines in L.A., for one. The company wasn't content with the stock MINI, so for the XXL project it stretched a stock Cooper out nearly 20 feet and decked it out with seats for six-not including the two-person hot tub slung out back. The pre-tuned MINI Cooper S with 200 hp also got a retractable flat-screen TV, a DVD player, CD and radio, air conditioning, a sunroof and a telephone that links the passengers in the rear with the driver.
The rear-mounted hot tub required the addition of another pair of wheels. It also comes with a detachable roof, so it can operate in convertible mode or in covered mode for transporting the contents without sloshing water all over the 405.
The MINI XXL made the rounds at the Summer Games, and now it's on tour around Europe and Asia. If you really want one of your own, Ultra Limousines might be able to help with the mechanicals. The therapy? You're on your own.
Drive Time: Kia Spectra5
What comes from South Korea, is more fun than a barrel full of kimchi and is about as cheap as you can get and still have fun? Wrong to everyone who said, "Margaret Cho!" We're talking about the Kia Spectra5, a chunky, spunky five-door that shares little more with the all-American girl than a significantly improved rear end.
Kia is appending the Spectra lineup with the new five-door because it's proven to be smart business for other car companies. Look at Mazda: the Protege5 basically carried its performance creds for a few years while the Miata stuck with the hairdresser set and the RX-8 was still a year or two away from crowning out of the product-development womb. (That explains all the sticky stuff on the floor of the last one we tested.) Suzuki brought out the Aerio SX and brought a few more tuner-minded guys and gals into the store. And the five-door to beat all, the Scion xB, continues to attract hordes of shoppers because of-not in spite of-its functionally homely shape.
Other than the growth hanging off its back, the Spectra5 isn't radically different from the new Spectra four-door, which is a good thing. The newest version of Kia's compact sedan is stouter, safer (with six standard airbags and occupant sensors), and better looking, with a sharp crease down its flanks that somehow gives a BMW impression to the $12,620 Spectra sedan.
The 5 not only takes its name from the Mazda Protege5, it takes just about everything else, including inspiration, right down to its name. As the Protege5 was the sportiest cheap Mazda, the Spectra5 is Kia's sportiest offering yet. Versus the base four-door, the five-door hatch gets a sport-tuned independent suspension, 16-inch wheels and tires, and a strut-tower brace to reinforce the front end. Since it's based on the current Hyundai Elantra, it's inherited good driving dynamics.The Spectra5 does stick with the sedan's capable but not yet thrilling (that part's up to you) powertrain. With variable valve timing and double overhead cams, the 2.0-liter four-cylinder turns out 138 hp and 135 lb-ft of torque-a decent amount for a five-door when it's just you behind the wheel. For carrying five adults or scorching your favorite lightly patrolled section of highway, you'll want to have early designs on the engine.
The five-speed gearbox isn't enchanting, but it's geared decently to keep the Spectra5's motor revving high where you need to, to extract the power. The four-five shift in particular could use some work, but the clutch effort is light and direct and so are the brakes, for that matter. Even though all the driver inputs feel more mature than in the last Spectra, it doesn't mean they're Toyota-geriatric.
As a five-door, the Spectra5 has more backyard than the four-door, but like Sir Mix-A-Lot, in this case we like big butts-well, bigger. The Spectra5 is no Roseanne, although it does offer up 98.1 cubic feet of interior space. We like the integration of the fifth door into the shape-it comes off better than the Matrix wagonlet, while not looking as station-wagony as the Protege5. To boot, Kia ladles on some trim inside to distinguish this sportier version from the rental-car units, including a rear spoiler, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, snazzy seat fabric and sort-of metallic trim on the dash and console.
So where buying Korean used to impart a penalty on your reputation if not your wallet, it's no longer a badge of cheapness. And particularly with the Spectra5, it's the first clue you might actually be cool under that Garanimals jumpsuit.
JGTC Scorches Twin Ring Motegi
Nearly 51,000 rabid fans braved the rain and two-lane country roads to get to Honda's home circuit, Twin Ring Motegi, for Round Five of the 2004 JGTC race series. As the race unfolded, every single fan was glad they made the trip out. The race queens were looking hot in their skimpy vinyl attire despite the weather, the vendor area was massive, the selection of merchandise was outrageous (there was quite a few who purchased the Girls Paradise race queen photo book), and the rain soaked surface made for an absolutely wild race.
In the GT500 class, the #35 Yellow Hat Supra grabbed pole position and held the lead at the start, just ahead of the #1 Nismo Xanavi Z and the #6 Esso Ultraflo Supra. The #32 Epson NSX made an early charge back in the field, shooting from eighth up to fourth by only the third lap. On lap nine, Shigekazu Wakisaka and the Yellow Hat Supra spun off the track in the rain and gave the lead to Satoshi Motoyama in the Nismo Xanavi Z. In the midst of the action, Andre Lotterer took the #32 Epson NSX around to second place, slipping by Akira Iida and the Esso Ultraflo Supra. Within a lap, the Epson NSX had taken the lead away from the Z, and stayed ahead until the checkered flag dropped. Honda fans all pissed in their pants a little bit that day; the NSX's first season victory was at Honda's home track.
In the GT300 class, for the first time ever, a two-time consecutive race winner was crowned. Unknown to many Americans, the Garaiya is a space-pod-looking mid-engine rear-drive sports car produce by Autobacs. Yes, Autobacs as in the car parts store. Designed and sold for the Japanese market, the #43 ARTA Garaiya is raced on Sunday and sold just about every other damn day of the week. Having spun on the opening lap of the race, it seemed to be the end for the #43 Garaiya. The #52 Project Mu Celica lead the #16 M-Tec NSX and both ran away from the pack. But not all was well on the wet surface. The #52 Celica began to fade and the #16 NSX eventually passed in the rainy conditions for the lead. But Morio Nitta and the #43 ARTA Garaiya began to swallow up places as the race carried on, eventually securing the lead on Lap 20. Co-driver Shinichi Takagi jumped into the car at the mandatory pit stop change, and the Garaiya never looked back. Check it out at www.jgtc.net or www.jgtcusa.net.