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Getting A Bad Rap - Driver's Seat

Robert Choo
May 2, 2007
Writer: Aaron Bonktech

I swear if I hear another misrepresenting news story about our scene I'll blow a gasket. Nothing bothers me more than hearing news outlets spread misinformation to our unsuspecting American public. Nothing is inherently wrong with performance-modified vehicles. A few rotten apples do risk others' lives by racing on the street but that doesn't represent the majority of us high-performance drivers.

Case in point, in a newscast on March 18 there was a feature titled "Deadly Street Races" that was about a terrible fatal crash involving two cars speeding on the freeway. Police officers responded to the incident by setting up a checkpoint to, as they explained in their own words, "pull over any modified vehicles." At first glance you might not see anything wrong with this news profile nor the police response, but in fact it was quite inaccurate.

News footage showed the wreckage of the crashed stock Celica and the unharmed stock BMW Z4 (whose driver had stopped to assist after the crash). The footage also showed a liquor bottle that had fallen out of the Celica, even though no one mentioned it. The medical status of the four individuals in the Celica was also mentioned. This was without a doubt a terrible tragedy but for the police officers to blame modified vehicles (hence their checkpoint and crack down on modified cars) was completely off base. This was a case of drinking and driving. First, let me say this loud and clear, drinking and driving is the worst thing you can do - you're risking innocent lives. It's utterly and completely unacceptable. Thankfully, I know tons of people in this industry who don't drink and drive. I don't know if this is due to their proper morals or the fact that they wouldn't want to risk harming their pride and joy -their ride.

A second misattribution to our performance automotive industry was that this driving accident occured between two stock cars and presumably at least one drunk driver. The newscast also used the salacious "street racing" in the title probably to draw viewers in, even though the incident occured on the freeway, not at the street races. We don't even know if they were racing or just driving fast, and I hate to say, but 100mph speeds are fairly common on LA freeways. Not to say they weren't racing but most racing doesn't take place with a full load of passengers in one car versus a single driver two-seater vehicle.

It was sad and disappointing to me that the cops used this tragedy to blame modified vehicles - none of which were involved in the incident - for its cause. The viewers who watched this newscast walked away thinking, "Those damn street racers in their fixed up cars..." Not the truth - how sad that a drunk driver injured his passengers. How terrible that these factory stock cars were driving fast and risking lives on the freeway. Nothing related to the following footage of the police checkpoint on the streets (not the freeway where the incident occurred) and the modified non-speeding Eclipse pulled over and the Integras and WRXs being profiled and flagged.

Yes, someone was in error, but it certainly wasn't a member of our scene. It wasn't a performance-loving, safety-conscious automotive enthusiast like our Turbo readers. And another unintended downside of this media misrepresentation - it furthers my distrust of the police. The men and women my tax dollars are paying to protect me are profiling me - not protecting me from drunk drivers. Nonetheless, I'll continue to do my part to dispel the myths of our scene and keep my racing to the track. I hope others will join me. There are forces out their trying to pigeonhole us as law-breaking thugs. Don't give them ammo to support their stereotype. Enjoy your fixed up ride safely and only push it on the track.

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Engine Swaps Gone Bad - Tech SceneThe e-mails regarding engine transplants that just don't make sense have been piling up. Sorry, but I think it's time somebody deals with this. In the last couple of months I've received at least three inquiries as to the practicalities of swapping in either an RB26DET or 2JZ-GTE into a Fox body (1979-1993) Mustang, the difficulty of changing out the NSX' C30A V6 for an S2000's F22C, and just exactly how to go about putting a Honda K-series into a Hyundai. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but even after that K20A goes in, it'll always be a Hyundai Accent.

There are lots of things to think about before considering a particular engine swap, or whether or not to do an engine swap at all for that matter. First: Does the company that actually made your car offer something that fits? Six-cylinder, Fox body Mustang guys are far better off looking no further than more expensive models for the 5.0L V8. There are engine swap kits all over the place for these and the 5.0 engine is capable of serious horsepower. There's probably room under the Mustang's hood for the Supra's inline six with some firewall and subframe manipulation, but wiring and figuring out a drivetrain solution won't be any picnic, and with the 5.0 readily available, it begs the question: why? Stick with the V8. Either way, Turbo won't be featuring any Mustangs in the near future, RB26DET or not.

The second thing to consider is whether or not you're actually downgrading your car by going through with the swap. It was bad enough actually hearing about the guy who eliminated the NSX' V6 for the F22C, but what's worse is that others are still considering it. Again, why? There's really no other engine that can be put into the NSX chassis that can compare to either the C30A or C32B. Nothing. That is, nothing that will keep the feel of the NSX intact. For those who really want an F22C, go buy an S2000. They're great cars, half the price of an NSX, and just about priceless when you consider the embarrassment you'll save yourself in the long run from the NSX community. If you still do it, don't even think about sending us photos.

Do you really want to spend money on THIS car? That's the third thing to think about. No matter what you put under the hood, you'll always have a Civic, an S14 or an Accent. Swapping a 220hp K-series into the Hyundai will get you a car that might run OK and accelerate fine, but turns, handles and stops just as good and probably worse now than every other Accent. The point isn't to knock the Korean econo-box, but the car's a far cry from the RSX the K-series is meant for. There's so much more to building a well-balanced car than just what's under the hood, which makes starting out with a car worth building all that much more important.

Besides all of this, there are practical matters to take into consideration before settling on a swap. Will the engine physically fit, or are important things like firewalls and shock towers or the pavement in the way? Relocating stuff like this on a street driven car isn't always the best idea and is sometimes impossible. What about driveshafts, subframes and crossmembers? Most engine swaps will require, at the very least, for existing components to be modified, notched or tweaked in some way if not replaced altogether. And then there's the electrical system. Jumping back and forth between OBD orientations and manufacturers can create nightmares of electronics that many times result in dangerous rat's nests of wires. Hub assemblies, brake systems, control arms and other suspension pieces also have to be considered. Besides things hitting each other, different engines weigh different amounts and handling and braking will be affected, usually in a bad way.

Engine swaps are good. A lot of times they're the only way to make a good car better. They can also make a bad car worse, or a good car bad. The choice is yours.

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By Robert Choo
118 Articles

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