Friday, October 6, 2017

Introducing the new track car...

The new track car is here!

The deal I had with Alex was that I could buy another track car after my crash in the yellow Civic if I did so with funds generated by the sale of parts from the crashed car. When my sales amount reached about 4000$, I started actively looking for another Honda. 

I had decided I wanted to go back to an older Civic or Integra so that I could have a lighter car with better suspension than the 2002 Civic had. Also, I knew these cars pretty well. 

It turns out it's not that easy to find an affordable Civic that met my criteria. My wish list included a body with little or no rust, some kind of engine swap, upgraded suspension, rear disc brakes, a roll bar or roll cage, a racing seat... I went to see a couple of 92-95 Civics that met most of these criteria, but one had serious (hidden) rust and the other had a terrible roll cage and many small issues.
I came across the ad for this red car, which was supposedly track ready and had its original paint with no rust. It was also advertised as having an Integra Type R engine and transmission.

We went to look at the car and it seemed to be the real deal, although my test drive was limited: it had the wrong seats which were held in by 2 of 4 bolts and no gauge cluster. It had some nice 15x8 949Racing wheels and 4-wheel disc brakes from on Integra. I made a deal with the seller whereby he would could keep his carbon fiber hood and he would provide the missing parts (gauge cluster, hood and front seats). I arranged to pick up the car after a couple of weeks.

The car mere minutes after I bought it
Things did not go fully as planned... the seller was having trouble finding seats and a hood. I ended up buying a brand new black hood at Perry Auto Parts and found some inexpensive OEM seats online. During this period, I also found out that the engine was not from a Type R, but from a Japanese GSR (SiR-G in Japan), which meant it had 180 hp instead of 197. I was pretty annoyed by this, but the seller thought it was no big deal. I managed to knock 500$ off the price and I drove the car home. I was dismayed to discover rust around the fuel cap and on the driver floor (probably due to the fact that the window would not stay 100% rolled up). The driver side window got stuck in the down position on my way home with the car... That meant I could not even park outside until I fixed the window. That was on a Friday and I wanted to try the car at St-Eustache on the following Monday.

The car when I first got it home
After dismantling the whole mechanism, I got the window back up. I checked the fluid decided the car was ready to try on the track, at least at St-Eustache. I did not want to drive on any "big tracks" until I had installed a roll bar and harness. 

The car did well enough on its first outing to the track. Given that it was riding on Falken Azenis tires of unknown age (they were very worn), I figured I would be lucky to run a lap time of 1:04. Most of the other instructors in the club with similar Civics are running in the 1:00-1:01 range, and my best with the previous car had been a 1:01.8. 

After a few tentative laps to feel out the car, I started to push a bit more. The car was very stable and had decent grip. It was 30 degrees outside, which I hoped was the reason the engine felt less than powerful. The transmission would grind on the 2-3 shift unless I really took it slow. The driver's seat, from an Acura 1.6 EL, was miserable. Still, the car felt at home on the track and, despite the conditions, I managed a best lap of 1:03.8. By the end of my second session, the brake pedal was pretty soft, although the brakes still worked well enough. The mais issue was that the OEM stle radiator had given up the ghost and cracked near the radiator cap, spewing coolant everywhere. Still, I was mainly just happy to be back in the game, and began to calculate how much faster I could go with decent tires, a proper seat, and a hard brake pedal. There was a track day coming up the following Saturday at St-Eustache, and my plan was to install a new radiator, bleed the brakes and attend.

While bleeding the brakes, I noted that the front tires were both corded, so I swapped on some worn Bridgestones I had left from the last car. As I pulled out of the driveway on my way to the track, I heard a loud ticking coming from the rear. It turned out the wheel weight from the newly installed tires was hitting a suspension component... talk about tight clearance! I swapped the rear tires to the front and drove to the track, a bit later than planned.

I was unsure of how the car would handle with different tires front and rear, so I did not push as hard as I might have with more "equal" tires. Still, I bested my lap time from Monday in every session and managed a best lap of 1:03.08 in my third session. I was satisfied. The brake pedal was firm and the temperature needle never budged. The car seems to burn a lot of oil, but I can live with that. I don't know if I subconsciously modified my driving style, but the transmission seemed to almost never grind. 

The car handles much better than the yellow car did, in that you do not have to fight it to get it to turn in and grip in corners. This was really what I missed the most from my older, lighter Civics. 

On track for the first time!
There is still a few things to be done to make the car into a great track toy, but really not that many. I am confident that with fresh tires and a proper seat, I will break into the 1:02's and eventually the 1:01's A new exhaust line that doesn't rattle and bang would also be nice. 

Had I carried on with the yellow car, it was going to be difficult to go much faster that 1:01 without spending quite a bit of dough. With this car, once I stabilize the rust situation, I think I will have a good platform to go reliably fast. Also, the car looks eerily like my old 2000 Civic SiR, when I first built it, doesn't it? I guess I'm going back to my roots!
The old SiR when I first put it together

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