Mitsubishi SupercarGreat column guys! I really like how helpful Eric can be to people with out-of-the-ordinary projects. Here's mine: The forgotton Japanese supercar of the early '90's: Mitsubishi's 3000GT VR-4. I was wondering your thoughts on what some affordable, but quality upgrades would be for it. Also what turbo upgrade you would recommend? My turbos are starting to go, and if I'm going drop 5-6 grand into repairing/replacing them, I'd rather upgrade; would upgrading now be the best way to go? What else would I need? Lastly - I hear the transmissions in these cars are crap. How much power can they hold, and is there a replacement available?-Jeff Tennyck, WI
Yes, the turbos should be upgraded at this time if your goal is more power. For a quick, simple bolt-in upgrade and good bang for the buck, go for the genuine Mitsubishi TD04-13G or 15G upgrades. The upgraded turbos will require ECU tuning to support the increased airflow; I recommend the HKS V-Pro ECU, but you will have to visit an authorized HKS Pro Dealer for the installation and tuning. Front mount intercoolers also provide huge power gains on upgraded VR4s - look into one. If you have a limited budget then at least get a pair of upgraded side mount intercoolers. The stock intercoolers suck, hands down. As for the transmission, I've had a few in the 500 whp range with no problems -- you should be fine.
Boosted CamryI have a 2000 Toyota Camry project car, and am looking to do an engine swap. I'm torn between a '94 Celica GT4 turbo motor, and a 2JZ Supra engine. The 5FSE motor that's in it right now is good and works really well, but the trans is broken. Would I be able to replace the trans, now, then bolt it up to either of the other two engines? What would be the best way to make 400whp in this thing?-Mathew Ramirez, Iraq
Forget the 2JZ swap right now: it's simply not happening. There are companies that make turbo kits for the 5FSE engine, but I have no first-hand experience with them. The easiest way to a turbo engine is to turbocharge the existing 5SFE engine using the factory 3SGTE exhaust manifold and turbocharger, since the flanges on the head are the same. You'll have to figure out the oil, water, and exhaust plumbing yourself, but a lot of the factory 3SGTE components can be modified to fit. You'll also need to upgrade the fuel system; I know the guys at Link in New Zealand have quite a bit of experience with the 3S/5S family of engines, so give them a call. And you'll need a 5sp trans; turbocharging these old automatics can be challenging. I like to avoid turbocharging non-turbo automatic transmission cars as much as possible. In fact, I don't even bother these days.
Funny QuestionHere's a funny question, Eric: Why are there no mass-produced aluminum exhausts? I always thought an aluminum exhaust would be a good idea; it would be quiet, lightweight, and way cheaper than alternatives like titanium. Someone told me that aluminum would melt, but I find this hard to believe - engine internals are aluminum, and drag racers custom-fab aluminum exhausts all the time! What am I missing here?-Jose Gutierrez, San Jose, CA
Aluminum is light, but its tensile strength reduces VERY quickly with exposure to high temperatures. So while it will not melt, common (inexpensive) alloys will quickly crack from vibrations, stress from engine torque, and impact from speed bumps or foreign objects on the road. For the driver of a track car that only runs a few times a year, this might be acceptable. For a street car, keep it simple: stick to what works.
Eric's Favorite CarEric, what is your all-time favorite import platform for a performance build and why? Just curious.-Matt Troieux, Cumberland, MD
I have a ton, but here's the short answer: The'89-'94 S13 240SX. It's lightweight, there're a million off-the-shelf parts available for it, it's got enough room in the engine bay for a ton of different swaps, and the cars are dirt cheap. The chassis and suspension are also highly responsive to tuning. How much do I like the S13 240SX? I am currently building my third VQ35-powered, all purpose ass kicker.
The Final Word On Big BrakesWhat's the deal with big brakes, Eric? Please don't give me a watered-down response like I see in all the other mags that just want to sell ads - I'm coming to you for the truth. When are big brakes needed, and when are they not? And what else should I upgrade along with them - master cylinder, brake lines, etc... Also, I've heard a lot of people claim that vents and slots do nothing; is this true? If so, then why are top-tier MFGs like Ferrari, Lotus, and Buell equipping their vehicles with them?-Scott St. Pierre, Vancouver, BC
Big brakes are necessary when your car is fast enough to exceed the capacity of your stock brakes with better pads, Teflon brake hoses, and slotted rotors. This should never happen on the street, but is common to road-racing on a closed course, where the brakes are used excessively. Stock brakes are designed for stock horsepower cars with stock tires. When power is moderately increased, and stickier street tires are used, sometimes better pads and Teflon lines are all a car's brakes need to keep up. High powered, track-driven cars on sticky tires need even more additional braking power so they can brake later and carry a higher average speed all the way around the track. Most off-the-shelf brake upgrade kits already come with Teflon lines, and some are even designed around the factory components (proportioning valves, master cylinder piston area, etc.). However, most kits still require some tweaking - adding or replacing proportioning valves, or pad compound switching between front and rear - to optimize the brake system for your particular car, suspension, driving style, tires, track, etc. Slotted rotors carry away gases and heat from the rotor and pad surface. It's not hype; it's a fact. Drilled rotors certainly look cool and are lighter in weight, but poorly designed ones can develop hairline cracks much quicker, especially when used hard on a heavy car. I hope that answers your question without pissing off any advertisers.
To balance out the surprisingly high number of well thought out questions for Eric Hsu this month, we're holding a contest for next issue: whoever asks the most random question wins. The catch is that they have to be legit. Seeking advice on Tempo engine swaps will get you nowhere, but asking how safety glass is able to break into so many tiny pieces just may. Swap all your thinking caps for dunce caps, drink yourself into a mild stupor, and send all pointless ponderings to: firstname.lastname@example.org