Monday, December 31, 2007


It's the holidays and there is not much going on on the automotive front. I drove to Ottawa and Plattsburgh, NY in the past few days. The Civic continues to perform flawlessly. I rewarded the car by installing a cool OMP shift knob that I had ordered online. Because it's yellow, I decided to also make a yellow stripe at the top of the steering wheel, rally style. Actually, I hadn's screwed it on tight enough the first time and it came off while I was driving. Hopefully it will stay on in the future.

Looking back on the 2007, I would have to say that the highlight of the year on the automotive front was the Sundown GP enduro at Mosport.

Me in the Civic
The crew in action
Chating with Carl
The crew: me, Choo, Steph, Carl and JC

Both from a fun standpoint and a results standpoint, this was my best event of the year. To read about the event in detail, click here:

Looking forward to 2008, I hope to compete in the type of event that has a high fun to dollar ration. The season will hopefully include some Snowcross (starting in only a few days!), instructing at a few schools, the Mount Burke hillclimb, at least one enduro, a race at Calabogie and maybe a trip to Le Mans (as a spectator, of course).

I received the latest issue of Grassroots Motorsports. Some of the cars people build for under 2000$ are simply incredible. The overall winner was a twin turbo Corvette with a downforce "sucking" system. Holy crap. The editors seemed to love the BMW 135. Coincidentally, Clarkson also wrote about the 135 this week in the London Times and he actually brought back his 5-star rating to use on this car. I can see why: the lightest BMW offered in North America, RWD and 306 hp. Despite the wintery conditions, I have still managed to spot a few cool cars on the road in the past few days.

Cool cars spotted:

3 Bentley Continental
at least 5 Porsche 996 and 997
80's Toyota Landcruiser with lots of lights

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Holidays are here!

Time to relax, watch some racing TV shows and maybe dust off the game controller for the PC for some GT Legends. In the last couple of days, I've watched some DTM, reruns of the show Setup and an episode of Top Gear. The episodes of setup reminded me how important track time can be... those contestants made some serious progress in only a couple of weeks.

Speaking of holidays, Alex and I noticed this house while on a drive a couple of days ago. Pretty spectacular.
Maybe a bit much...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Paper done!

I handed in my Master's paper this morning and it was very satisfying. My professor might ask me to make corrections or he might just give me a pass. Either way, it will all be over in 6 months or less (hopefully less!).

I received an invoice from Europcar today for speeding tickets in my rental car in Italy this summer. This really sucks. I was driving very conservatively, especially on the first day... both tickets are from the first day. The Italian drivers were whizzing by me left and right. I guess they know where the speed cameras are. Anyway, the invoice was for 60 euros, which seems to be an admnistration fee. I guess it's safe to assume there is a good chance that I will receive the actual tickets in the mail at some point.

Our rental Fiat
This is me in the 65 hp rental car with which I allegedly committed two moving violations the same day. The plastic cover fell off the driver's side mirror in the first five minutes of the rental.

This is what the cops were driving...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Extreme winter

We've had a buttload of snow. I shoveled off the rear balcony and in some spots, the snow was a taller than me. My Civic performed admirably in these conditions!

My Master's paper is due on the 20th. Aaahhh!

View of my rear patio door

View of the Civic
At least my car wasn't buried in the snow. Parking close to the building combined with the strong wind kept the car almost completely snow free!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Civic is now finally legal!

I went to pass the federal inspection at Canadian Tire yesterday. The car passed. The inspection was a breeze. I had bought the airbag maintenance stickers and even changed the sun visor to a bilingual one, but the guy did not even check. I parked in front of the service area of the Canadian Tire and the guy came outside with no jacket (in winter) and looked at the stickers in the door jamb. He asked me to turn the ignition to check the daytime running lamps and that was it. The whole thing took less than 4 minutes! Anyway, that's finally done and I can stop worrying about the improper importation of my car.

Speaking of the car, what a pleasure it is. Have I assembled the perfect budget road and track car? The car has cost less than 2000$ so far. I am betting it will perform quite nicely on track as is if I throw on some good tires. I guess I'll have to wait until spring to find out...

I watched the latest episode of Top Gear (season 10, episode 9) and was happy to see the presenters participate in a 24 hour race (the Britcar 24 hours). They put in a stong effort and I applaud it. They ran a bio-diesel BMW 3-series.

Top Gear enduro car
I really, really, really, really want to run in a 24-hour event. I don't really want to drive someone else's car as I'm afraid I would have to pay somebody big bucks in the event of a crash.

Ideally, I'd be the person organizing the effort. Of course, I would choose some kind of Honda product, possibly a 88-91 ITB class Civic DX? There are only two 24-hour (or longer) races in North America: the 25 hours of Thunderhill (in California) and the 24 hours of Nelson Ledges (the Longest Day) in Ohio. The Ohio race is much closer to Montreal. My dream would be to tow the race car down there and drive down in an identical street car so we could use it for spares.

I guess another realistic option would be to slot a 160 hp B16 into my Civic and run it in ITS. It would be fun and reliable. My current 1.8 liter could probably not take a beating for 24 hours and the car would be horribly classified in its current form.

Until I have more time and money, however, this project will have to stay on the back burner.

Cool cars spotted:
Porsche Cayenne Turbo
VW Corrado G60

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Mazda is gone... a sweet memory.

Well, the Mazda was picked by its new owner this morning. It's always a bit sad to see a car go. The 323 served its purpose perfectly. We owned it for a little over a year and sold it for about the price we paid for it. We probably spent a grand total of 100$ on maintenance (spark plug wires and an oil change) and basically just put gas in it. What a cheap car to run!

Now it's time to focus on the Civic and get that dang Transport Canada inspection done. I picked up the bilingual airbag stickers at the Honda dealer yesterday and, as far as I know, that was the last missing element needed to get the car ready for the inspection. I hope I'm not forgetting anything!

The 323 this fall at Calabogie

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Mazda is sold. Time to finalize the Civic project!

The Mazda is provisionally sold and will be picked up by the buyer on Tuesday. This means it's time to finalize getting the Civic usable and legal. We've already been using the Civic as our main car. I still find it a pleasure to drive. It's small and nimble, yet torquey. I was really disappointed with the fuel economy at first until I remembered that the odometer was counting in miles and not kilometers (yes, I'm an idiot sometimes).

Since the Mazda is on its way, I figured I should take care of the federal inspection for the Civic this weekend. I did some research on the net and found that there might be an issue with the instructions and the warnings for the airbags as they are in English only on my car. I called Canadian Tire, who carry out the inspection, and they confirmed that I needed bilingual airbag labels. You would think this would be a piece of cake...

I stopped by Honda de Sigi to see if I could buy the stickers and was told i could only buy two of the three, so I ordered those and will have them tomorrow morning. They told me that you could not buy the label that goes on the sun visor, so I decided to get one at the scrap yard.

Saturday morning, I headed out to Chassel, a scrap yard on the South Shore that specializes in Honda's, to buy a Canadian sun visor. I told them what I needed and they directed me to a Civic Si hatch that was being dismantled in their garage. It had the sun visor, but only a single airbag. This meant that the label only referred to one airbag, while my Civic has two. I explained this to the guy, and we went outside together to hunt for a sun visor from a 2-airbag Civic, 1992-1995. This was fun, but not easy. I find it extremely fun to walk through a yard filled with partially disassembled Civics, but it is a bit less fun in two feet of snow. I peeked into a dozen 92-95 Civics, but none had 2 airbags. I finally found an Si Coupe way in the back and pulled out my screwdriver. Unfortunately, I stripped one of the two screws holding it in, even though I had the proper torx bit. By this point, I had cut my finger on something and it was dripping blood everywhere I went, even though the injury was a tiny pin hole on my fingertip.

I was debating whether to try to borrow a drill from the garage, but decided instead to look for another one. I figured I would see if the 1996-2000 visor would fit. The fact is, there were few dual airbag 1992-1995 Civic in Canada, while in the USA, the second airbag was standard from 1994 on. I found a red coupe half buried in the snow with a dual airbag visor. The car was missing so many parts and was partially buried that I couldn't even confirm whether it was a 94-95 or a 96+. Anyway, I got the visor off and headed inside. The guy let me test fit it before buying and it fit pretty well. Also, it had a mirror on it, which Alex would like. The cost was a reasonable 15$. So hopefully, the car will have all it needs to pass the inspection. I have until the 29th to do it.

I didn't do any work on my paper this past week and it's due in 11 days. Not good. I have to try to finish it this week. ATTACK!

Cool cars spotted:
wide-body Cadillac CTS

Monday, December 3, 2007

Walking vs. driving

It snowed all day and it's still snowing. I think about a foot of snow has fallen so far. I walked to work today (as usual) and it was very pleasant. I saw a bunch of cars struggling to move, most of them not equipped with winter tires. I also saw a couple of Chrysler 300's barely moving. I bet a good percentage of people who bought these cars didn't really know what the difference between FWD and RWD. One advantage of walking over driving: the snow barely slows me down as a pedestrian.

When I got home, I decided to brush the snow off the car while it was still fluffy. Luckily I remembered where I parked: there was not one bit of blue visible. I could only make out the black Civic passenger-side mirror. I swept off enough snow to open the driver door and see out the windows. Without any shovelling, I managed to pull the car right out of its spot under its own power. So far, I'm very impressed both with my Canadian Tire winter tires and the Civic itself as a winter car.

I look forward to driving the car at Snowcross events in Ottawa starting next month. I don't know if it will be as effective as the Mazda, as it's heavier and the suspension is firmer. At least the handbrake works on both wheels!

Here's a link to the MCO's website for more info on the events:

Cool cars spotted:
1st generation BMW M6