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Jan 1, 2008

OK, wise-ass, so you need some space to vent. Here it is. Direct lettersto the editor to sccnews@primedia.com and we'll do our best to comeup with a snide response. Or completely ignore you. But hey, at least you've got a voice.

Letter of the MonthI need your help pretty bad. Here's the deal. I'm the second owner of a 2003 Subaru WRX and I used to love it to death. The turbo spool, the launches, the looks, everything. It was my baby and I put every dime I could spare into it. That is, until about seven months ago. The weak five-speed took a dump on me. It might have been a gear, or something like that.

I had it towed to a local shop where the headaches really began. They took the tranny out and we started to talk about my options. Stupid me figured: "Hey, if the car is down, might as well get everything done in one shot." I settled on installing a front-mount intercooler, fuel pump, pink injectors, Injen cold-air intake and a Blitz boost controller in addition to the trans work. Week after week I called. Every time I visited, my car looked the same. Torn apart, dirty and with what looked like socks stuffed into various parts. The three-week estimate turned into a six-month headache with nothing to be seen for all my cash. Then suddenly, out of the blue, they tell me the car is done, come and get it.

The car barely runs, both front fenders are dented, the hood hits the intake, I got three different kinds of leaks and some of the clamps on the FMIC were loose. Plus, my Prova oil cap and STI shift knob were mysteriously switched out for stock WRX pieces. Good thing I don't like keeping stuff I buy, huh? The best shop in town then proceeds to deny stealing anything and tells me they "don't tune ECUs", so I'm SOL on the sputtering. It still cost me $2000 in labor to pull the car out of hell, and I can barely drive it. I am so pissed right now. Can I sue or do anything? This has really soured everything for me, I'm almost about to give up on my car now.Gary DenisonSeattle, WA

There are things you can do, but are they really worth your time? You could take them to court or report them to the BBB, of course, but in the end it probably won't do much of anything at all. Most crap shops' reputations catch up with them quickly enough and they won't be around to feel any hurt. Fly-by-night operations at their finest.

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We recommend always checking around with other owners and finding out about any history a shop may have. Then go in and meet with the shop manager, and be prepared to walk out if anything feels fishy or high-pressure. We at SCC recently ran into a healthy dose of headaches with a local shop's definition of custom service on our Project 350Z. Be sure to look for a future project update to see what happened during our twin-turbo build-up, and thanks to all our loyal readers on my350z.com for watching our backs. -JL

Free StuffBecause he got royally screwed, Gary wins a pair of 30GB Microsoft Zune portable digital media players. Beyond MP3, video and image playback capabilities, the Zune features:* Wireless file sharing between Zunes* Bright three-inch display* Built-in FM tuner

We're giving away a pair (yes, as in two) of Zune players, so Gary and a friendcan take advantage of the Zune's wireless sharing and zap each other with MP3s. In the event that Gary doesn't have any friends, well, a free Zune can probably help out with that too. To follow in Gary's footsteps, send us your feedback to sccnews@primedia.com, or to Sport Compact Car - Inbox, 2400 E. Katella Ave. - 11th Floor, Anaheim, CA, 92806.

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Decisions, decisionsWhat happened to Project RSX? I was expecting something better. With all your extensive research and vast knowledge, why did you go with the products you did? I'm talking about the GReddy turbo system for one and the other huge thing was your engine management choice of the AEM EMS. I was going to follow your project and apply it to my car, which is an '06 Type S, but it just seems something went wrong. From the research I've done, Hondata's K-Pro, along with a Full Race turbo kit, would have been the better route

I understand you were just out to beat the MS3 and not looking for the ridiculous amount of horsepower Full Race kits are known for. A low boost setting fixes that right there. But, for reliability, the GReddy kit doesn't look like it can take the punishment. As a contrast to the Full Race kit, which has a custom manifold that relocates the turbo to the big open space where your NACA duct (which is awesome, by the way) could either: a) cool all the lines being heated from the turbo more effectively, or b) because the turbo wouldn't be smooshed in that little space where heat can't go anywhere, you could have relocated the duct to where the turbo would normally sit and have effective cooling without the danger of melting anything important. All my opinion, of course, since I have no experience with these particular products.

The engine management you chose was kind of crazy in itself. It didn't run anything except the motor. No gauges? That really is a crazy compromise. Even though the K-Pro isn't made specifically for the 2005 to '06 K20Z1 motor and tranny, the only compromise I've seen and had experience with is the speed sensor. The only real problem is, since the speed sensor measures from third gear, after about 75mph, the cruise control acts funny sometimes because it spins about 100 times faster than the 2002 to '04 models.

However, the brake testing was completely awesome. It gave me more respect for StopTech. When I get the kit, I will call them and have them select a kit, because you made it sound like they knew what they were talking about.Kraig Passanantevia e-mail

Project RSX was originally intended to be a maximum-performance pump gas build, with the goal being a reliable 400 wheel-hp (or better) on 91 octane. Hence the sleeved block, increased displacement, low-compression forged pistons, forged rods, upgraded valvetrain and head gasket, etc. At least two other turbo set-ups were considered, one being the Full Race system with a Garrett GT2871R turbo. However, arrangements to make this happen couldn't be worked out. The GReddy system was an available alternative and its popularity made it worth investigating, even though we knew at the outset that its performance would ultimately fall short of our goals. We learned a tremendous amount about the engineering, attention to detail, and all-round quality of the GReddy turbo system, as well as the limits of its performance envelope and what must be done to make it work as well as possible. We hope those things were seen to be reported fairly and accurately.

We would be remiss if we failed to point out that, although the turbo system did not allow the Cosworth-built engine to live up to its potential, the engine surely allowed more power to be developed (and with much greater safety) on pump gas, than a stock unit. Juicy is the only word that really feels right when describing the awesome throttle response, mid-range torque and top-end power when the car was finished. It rocked, even while falling short of what we set out to accomplish.

As for management, Project RSX began in 2005. At that time, Hondata had not yet cracked the 2005 Type S ECU. That was simply not an option when we began. We worked with AEM, whose engineers figured out how to use an EMS for the 2002 to '04 cars on our 2005. Was it pretty? No. Did it get the job done and let us move forward at a time when there were really no other options? Yes. Because of the support AEM provided, it wouldn't have been right to change without seeing how far we could take the EMS.

Earl's Performance Plumbing got a bum deal as well, contributing a pile of hoses and fittings for a planned return fuel system that was never necessary at the lower power levels we achieved. We'll try to figure out how to make that right down the road and hopefully help readers learn more about how to do proper plumbing safely.

Another example of the deadline effect was our choice of tires for the final test. We wanted to try Hankook's streetable R-compound tire, but although it was still listed on the website, it had been discontinued. With a booked track date and empty magazine pages to fill, we went with Hankook's street product. At that point, we hadn't had any experience with the tire, so it made sense to see what it was all about. Unfortunately, it also meant Project RSX didn't get to whup a Ferrari F430 in the Figure Eight test the way it should have

The Hondata and Full Race products appear to be great choices and, applied correctly with the correct supporting systems, could probably hand our Project RSX its arse. You could also achieve great results with, for example, a Jackson Racing supercharger and supporting modifications, or a good all-motor build. The most important thing for a car being driven every day is reliability. The second-most important thing is balance. Just remember, no matter how good the products or the reputation of their manufacturer, you are ultimately responsible for making your chosen package work well. Nobody will do that for you without being paid Ferrari money. Hopefully, by reading SCC, you've learned, if not actual application information, at least how to think about that job in ways that will help you be successful. -Peter Gibbons

Rock handlingI completely agree with Ed's article ('Ed@Large', October 2007) on how we should learn how to handle the rock. I'm a starving college student getting into car culture and decided the best upgrade I could do is to upgrade the driver. I saved up and sent myself to the Fast Lane Driving School at The Streets of Willow in Rosamond, California.

I learned all about car control and taking the vehicle to its limits, particularly the tires' limits. Correct throttle, brake and steering inputs, combined with the right line and hitting the apex at the right point, made me feel like nothing less than The Stig. When my friends come and tell me they have a new cold-air intake and some lowering springs, I say, "I could take that 30mph turn at 60 without losing control, what now?"

Thanks, Ed, for speaking your mind, even though you probably lost a third of your advertising (wait a minute, what? -JL) by saying we don't need their products at first. That takes balls. Like the broke college student I am, I got no money, but I do have an empty parking lot at one in the morning. Any tips and things to know?Derrick MartinSan Fernando, CA

I have a rock for you: a 2003 base-model Toyota Matrix. No bling and no body kit, just a humble 130hp Corolla engine and a five-speed manual. I bought the rock for college and I'm still driving it in grad school. I love my rock and here's why.

I've done NASA's HPDE at Willow Springs Raceway. Twice. This year, I moved to Florida and will be doing HPDEs at either Sebring or Homestead. When I go to the track, people laugh and ask: "Why a Matrix?" My answer is always: "Because it's what I got." Sure, a couple of suspension bits disqualify me from claiming stock, but how many of your readers truly are? The point is, Ed, you are right. Learn to handle the rock. There's always time to buy a faster car or upgrade later, but track experience is much more gratifying.Chris FowlerMiami, FL

Letters to the EditorOur e-mail address is sccnews@primedia.com. Our fax number is (714) 978-6390.

Mailing AddressSport Compact Car2400 E Katella Ave11th FloorAnaheim, CA 92806

Letters must contain the author's full name, address and home telephone number. Letters may be edited for content and/or length.

Staff E-mailJoey Leh, Editor-in-Chiefjoey.leh@primedia.comJay Chen, Engineering Editorjay.chen@primedia.comAndy Hope, Senior Editorandy.hope@primedia.com

Jong Cadelina, Art Directorjong.cadelina@primedia.comEdward Loh, Editor-at-Largeedward.loh@primedia.com

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