Crucial Cars: Nissan Maxima

1989 Nissan Maxima photoFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

In this installment, Street Talk goes in-depth on perhaps the first affordable performance sedan of the modern era: the Nissan Maxima.

Do you know about the original four-door sports car?

We’re talking about the Nissan Maxima, of course — but a lot of people would have guessed something else. If you want to talk about cars that don’t get enough credit for being cool, the Maxima’s right up there at the top. This car should be a legend in its own time, yet all it is to most folks today is an overgrown Altima with a price tag to match.

But we’re not talking about the current Maxima, see, or even the previous one; we’re talking about that sweet spot back in the 1990s, when the Maxima gave you performance you couldn’t get anywhere else for the price.

So we’re going to take a minute and set the record straight. We also want to talk about some cool mods that Maxima owners are still rocking on the street.

4DSC

Wearing that simple acronym — 4 Door Sports Car — on a sticker affixed to its rear window, the 1989 Nissan Maxima started a revolution. Actually, some would argue it was the preceding Maxima (1984-’88) that commenced the true sportiness, what with its 3.0-liter V6 engine and available adaptive suspension, and you could even go back to the first two generations (1976-’84), which shared their powertrains with the iconic Z two-seater. But if you ask us, the official beginning of the Maxima’s dominance was when they slapped that “4DSC” sticker on the window. Nissan had brought together the strengths of the earlier models into a cohesive whole, and the result was the perfect antidote to the common Camry.

What made the 4DSC Maxima so great? Styling, for one thing. Even after almost three decades, this is one slick-looking sedan, with smooth lines that clearly distinguish it from its blocky, ’80s-tastic predecessor. But the real star was the SE model, which featured a 190-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that put it in the upper echelon of performance sedans. If you wanted a quicker midsize four-door in those days, you had to go European — and even then, the Maxima SE had a fighting chance. Consider this: with the five-speed manual transmission, the Maxima SE did zero to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds. Shoot, the Mercedes-Benz E420 with its 275-hp V8 would have had a hard time keeping up.

Naturally, this Maxima cost a fraction of what the Europeans were charging, and it also offered cool stuff like a legit sport-tuned suspension, a Bose audio system, a sunroof and attractive alloy wheels. The icing on the cake was its incredible reliability, with 200,000-mile-plus specimens becoming increasingly common as the years went on.

Check out this vintage commercial on the 1989 Nissan Maxima:

The Torsion Beam Fiasco and General Decline

To be fair, the subsequent Maxima (1995-’99) was a great car, too, even though it carried over the SE’s 190-hp V6 (now standard on all models) and didn’t really break new ground otherwise. That was still good enough to make it the enthusiast’s choice over the humdrum family sedans in its class. But some bemoaned its droopy rear-end styling, and even more shook their heads at its solid-axle torsion beam rear suspension, an explicit cost-cutting move that effectively conceded the handling crown to the previous car with its four-wheel independent setup. The “4DSC” sticker had disappeared from the rear window, and that wasn’t a coincidence.

To this Maxima’s credit, reliability remained a strong point, and many are still on the road today with insanely high miles. But it wasn’t as awesome as its predecessor, and unfortunately that was the start of a trend.

Since then, each subsequent Maxima has grown more powerful but less engaging, culminating with the current model, which comes only with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and is indeed little more than an overgrown Altima.2014 Nissan Maxima photo

But for a decade or so, the Maxima was the best affordable performance sedan that money could buy. When you look around today at high-powered midsizers like the Accord V6 and Camry V6, you gotta give a little nod to the four-door sports car, the granddaddy of them all.

Street Mods for your Maxima

If you want to put your finger on the pulse of the Maxima community, check out the forums. They break it down by generation, and if you look at the two we highlighted — 1989-’94 and 1995-’99 — they’ve got tens of thousands more threads than the rest.

No offense if you own a different Maxima, but we weren’t kidding that those are the ones to have.

Now, supposing you want to put your personal stamp on your Maxima, there’s no end to the possibilities. Slap a turbo kit on it for more power? No problem, the powertrain’s certainly robust enough for that. Crazy subwoofers in the trunk? Been there, done that, with extensive DIYs in the forums. You’ll see a lot of the ’89-’94 models slammed to within a millimeter of their lives, and some of them look damn good, too. Ground effects, sick rims — you name it, the Maxima can rock it.

The best part is, these cars are so old that you can buy one for a song, leaving you plenty in the bank to customize to your heart’s content.

Tell Us Your Maxima Story

The Maxima is a car that engenders serious loyalty. We know a number of “Maxima families,” and all of them got started with one of the early models that never let them down. Have you had that kind of Maxima experience? Tell us about it in the comments.

Crucial Cars: Scion tC

Scion tC carFrom timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, Street Talk goes in-depth on an unsung hero of the affordable tuner scene: the Scion tC.

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the tC was the prudish one in Scion’s sport-coupe family. That’s because the other Scion coupe is the flashy FR-S, a rear-wheel-drive, purpose-built performance car that gets all the press.

But tuners have been flipping the script on these two ever since the FR-S came out a few years back. Sure, the tC is front-wheel-drive, but so are all those legendary Hondas from the ’80s and ’90s that made the tuner scene what it is today. And yes, the tC is derived from the overseas Toyota Avensis sedan, whereas the FR-S is its own thing — but the tC is also about $5,500 cheaper brand-new if you compare base prices, with used tCs available at steep discounts. That leaves a lot of room for cool mods.

Then there’s the matter of what’s under the hood. The current tC’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine makes 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque, leaving it just 21 horses shy of the FR-S’s 2.0-liter four — and 21 torques ahead of the more expensive motor. The first-generation tC was no slouch, either, cranking out 161 hp and 162 lb-ft in stock form. There’s no doubt that when it comes to everyday drivability, the tC wins.

So, now you know why the tC has stayed relevant to tuners in the FR-S era. If you’re wondering about specifics, here are some examples of the tC-tuning possibilities.

Scion tC coupe

 

TRD Accessories

TRD stands for “Toyota Racing Development,” which basically means we’re talking about serious hardware. Unfortunately, the TRD supercharger offered for the first-generation tC is no longer available, chiefly because of reliability concerns and questionable bang for the buck (for a few grand of your hard-earned dinero, you only got an extra 40 horsepower at the crank). But there are plenty of other enticing upgrades sold directly through Scion dealers, including 19-inch wheels, a high-performance brake kit, lowering springs, beefed-up front and rear sway bars, a performance exhaust and a short shifter. The best part is, it’s all covered by warranty, and your factory warranty won’t be affected in the least. You even get a loaner car while the Scion technicians are throwing on the new parts.

Aftermarket Add-Ons

To take the tC to the next level, you’re gonna need the aftermarket, and rest assured, there’s plenty of support. We see a lot of modded tCs on the street with all sorts of carbon-fiber body panels and interior trim inlays — if you go on eBay, it looks like you can cover the entire car with CF trim. If you really want to slam your tC for that lowrider look, a variety of third-party suppliers offer lowering springs that are more aggressive than the TRDs. Does the tC’s standard herd of horses strike you as a bit tame? Turbo kits are available for the current-generation tC, and there are many more options (both turbochargers and superchargers) for the original tC. Furthermore, you can rely on Advance Auto Parts for upgrades like ceramic brake pads and free-breathing air filters, or even a MagnaFlow exhaust that’s more cost-effective than the TRD system.

Tell Us Your tC Story

As time goes on, the tC looks more and more like one of the best values for tuners on a budget. What are some of your favorite tC mods that crank up the cool factor without breaking the bank? Let’s hash it out in the comments.

Editor’s note: Keeping your ride running right is easy at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes. 

Exclusive 2014 SEMA Show Highlights

The 2014 SEMA Show was a big success…and Advance was there! See what our Street Talker has to say about the happenings.

It’s Friday at the 2014 SEMA Show, and that can only mean one thing: if we want more custom-built automotive craziness, we’ll have to wait till next year. Yes, SEMA 2014 (Nov. 4-7) has officially reached an end, and we were there for every bit of it, roaming the floors of the Las Vegas Convention Center and doing endless double-takes at all of the fine modified metal on display.

We’d spend thousands of words telling you about every single car at the show, but something tells us you don’t have that kind of time. Here’s the next best thing, then — a list of our top three favorite cars from SEMA 2014. This is Street Talk, of course, so they’re gonna have a stance, and their engines are gonna make a whole lot of power. That still doesn’t narrow it down very much—which, by the way, is what makes SEMA so amazing—but here are the three rides that we just can’t get out of our heads.

BMW M4 Vorsteiner GTRS4Vorsteiner GTRS4

What happens when you take a BMW M4 and slap the sickest widebody kit on it that you can imagine? That’s what Southern California tuning outfit Vorsteiner set out to discover, and the result is the Vorsteiner GTRS4, which caused one of the biggest stirs this year. The front fenders are four inches wider than stock, and the rears gain a ridiculous seven inches. Those bulbous rear haunches actually remind us a bit of a widebody Porsche 911. The GTRS4 rides on 20-inch wheels that wear 345-width tires in back (almost as wide as a Dodge Viper), and its height-adjustable suspension aims to improve the M4’s somewhat brittle ride without sacrificing any of BMW’s stock adaptive suspension features. Under the hood, the 425-horsepower M4 arguably didn’t need any improvement whatsoever, but Vorsteiner cranked the volume to 550 hp just for good measure.

Galpin Auto Sports Ford MustangGalpin Auto Sports Ford Mustang

There’s an argument to be made that the 707-hp 2015 Dodge Challenger Hellcat has stolen a bit of the all-new 2015 Ford Mustang’s thunder. After all, the Mustang currently tops out at “only” 435 hp with the GT’s 5.0-liter V8. But Ford’s biggest dealership — Van Nuys, CA-based Galpin — has an Auto Sports tuner division of some repute, and their team whipped a black 2015 Mustang GT into a 725-hp monster for SEMA duty. The power comes courtesy of a Whipple supercharger, and the Galpin crew also threw in a window in the hood so you can admire it, along with gold wheels and gold interior trim. The best part is, Galpin Auto Sports has a history of offering such modifications to customers, and it looks like this package will be available in the near future.

Kia K900Kia K900 High Performance

This creation, on the other hand, will likely never be available for purchase, but it’s a tantalizing glimpse of what the luxurious K900 could be. Thanks to novel rear-mounted Garrett twin turbochargers that are visible through a viewport in the trunk, the High Performance K900 maintains the regular car’s 5.0-liter V8 configuration under the hood, but the turbos turn up the wick from 420 hp to an astonishing 650 hp. To tighten up the K900’s languid suspension, Kia paired Eibach lowering springs with 21-inch wheels, giving the car a pretty mean stance in the process. Ksport brakes with 15-inch rotors and eight-piston calipers top off this tasty package. Now, if only Kia would offer a high-performance K900 from the factory; then we’d be getting somewhere.Kia K900 interior

What caught your eye?

You read all the SEMA news this week, right? What are your Top 3 cars from the 2014 SEMA Show? Let us know in the comments.

 

Editor’s note: Whether you attended SEMA, or are just living vicariously through our blog post, Advance Auto Parts has the parts to keep your fantasy ride running right all year round.

Crucial Cars: The Buick LeSabre

From timeless icons to everyday essentials, Crucial Cars examines the vehicles we can’t live without.

For this installment, Street Talk gets the lowdown on a most unlikely star of the lowrider scene: the Buick LeSabre. 

Buick LeSabre

Fifth-generation Buick LeSabre

Did you know that the fifth-generation Buick LeSabre, a large car produced from 1977-’85, is still in high demand? We’ll forgive you if you missed the memo. After all, the LeSabre is slow, clumsy and thirsty by modern standards, with outdated squared-off styling to boot. It’s the car Grandma bought decades ago that’s still sitting in the garage, collecting dust.

And yet, there are plenty of lowrider fans who would love to turn that LeSabre into a lean mean street machine.

In fact, LeSabres of all vintages are desirable to the tuner crowd, but the fifth-generation car has some unique qualities that make it especially well-suited to this scene. First of all, it’s new enough to have modern amenities like power accessories, and chances are you’ll be able to find one that doesn’t require much restoration.

Second, it was the last rear-wheel-drive LeSabre ever, and if you know the lowrider scene, you know there’s a strong preference for rear-drive platforms. Third, used examples are incredibly cheap — you can find a low-mileage fifth-gen LeSabre for $3,000 or less if you wait for the right one.

It also doesn’t hurt that this LeSabre was powered by old-school American V8s that sound like beasts, including 5.0-liter and 5.7-liter workhorses along with a massive 6.6-liter (403-cubic-inch) variant that was briefly available in the late ’70s.

So what happens next? Well, at a minimum, the suspension’s going to come in for a thorough overhaul. The cornerstone of almost any lowrider project is a hydraulic suspension with adjustable ride height. Combined with tiny aftermarket rims and tires (whitewalls add an extra touch of class), the hydraulic suspension allows the car to hug the ground for that classic lowrider profile, rise up to monster-truck heights, or even bounce around like in a rap video.

Beyond the suspension mods, it’s really up to the individual lowrider, because personalization is the name of the game. You’ll see Lambo doors, custom graphics, TVs inside, crazy stereos — you name it, some lowrider has probably tried it. Of course, there’s always some kind of custom exhaust system, too. You’ve got to let that old V8 breathe.

1992 Buick LeSabre

1992 Buick LeSabre

But again, one of the keys is buying in cheap so you’ll have room left in your budget for the good stuff, and that’s what’s given this big Buick new life. Next time you see Grandma puttering around in that pristine old LeSabre, tell her that if she ever wants to sell it, there’s a nation full of lowriders who’ll gladly take it off her hands.

Have you ever seen a lowrider Buick LeSabre, or caught a ride in one? Tell us what you think in the comments, we’d love to hear about it.

Editor’s note: Whether you’re an elderly lady with a LeSabre in the garage, or a performance junkie with a few tricks up your sleeve, Advance Auto Parts is here for you. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

The End of the Honda VTEC Era

2001 red Honda PreludeI gotta admit, I’m biased when it comes to DOHC VTEC Hondas, because I’ve owned two of the best. I got my first taste with a 1995 Acura Integra GS-R, and I still can’t get the sound of that little 1.8-liter motor with the 8,100-rpm redline out of my head. Then I moved on to the “luxury coupe,” a 2001 Honda Prelude, which redlined at a comparatively meek 7,400 rpm but had other stuff going for it that the Integra lacked. These were great, great cars — stylish, fun and relentlessly reliable.

And we’ll never see the likes of them again, because Honda has turned its back on that whole scene. The Prelude was quietly put out to pasture in 2001, having become too refined and expensive for its own good. The Integra kept kicking for a while as the Acura RSX (it was still called “Integra” in other markets), but 2006 marked the end of the line. For a few more years, the Honda Civic Si carried the torch with its sweet 2.0-liter motor, a high-revving marvel that reminded me very much of the Integra GS-R’s 1.8. But these days the Civic Si uses a warmed-over Accord engine. FAIL.

The Honda VTEC era is gone, and it’s not coming back.

But we can still remember the good times, right?

Ride along with me as I reflect on what made my DOHC VTEC cars so special.

1994 Acura Integra GS-R

1994 Acura Integra GS-RFirst of all, as soon as the second-generation GS-R came out in ’94, I remember lusting after those shiny five-spoke wheels. Man, Honda knew how to do alloy wheels back in the day, didn’t they? Admittedly, the rest of the car’s looking a bit dated. It’s got that bubbly 1990s look going on from some angles. But I actually dig the four round headlights, even though a lot of owners swapped them out for the JDM lenses. And from the back, the GS-R still looks pretty purposeful with its standard spoiler and wide taillights.

Inside, my GS-R had flawless leather buckets, but let’s face it: this car wasn’t about creature comforts. The road noise at speed was literally deafening, at least temporarily — I’d be a little hard of hearing when I got out after a long trip. As for the ride quality, a friend of mine once called it “skateboard-like.” Really, the best thing about the interior was the hatchback trunk; you could fold those rear seatbacks down and fit your whole life in there if you had to.

VTEC Acura IntegraBottom line, the Integra GS-R was all about what was under the hood. The dual-overhead cam (“DOHC”) 1.8-liter inline-4 was rated at 170 horsepower, falling just short of the magical 100 hp/L threshold. Torque was a paltry 127 pound-feet, and that was always the knock against the DOHC VTEC motors, but let me tell you, it didn’t matter in this car. The power ramped up steadily all the way to 8,100 rpm, with the VTEC crossover at 4,400 rpm producing a growl that gave way to a motorcycle-like scream toward to the end. Known to fans by the internal code “B18C1,” the GS-R’s engine was only offered with an incredibly precise five-speed manual transmission, and they were a perfect pairing — the short gears helped keep the revs high, and the pedals were ideally placed for heel-toe downshifts.

Nowadays, turbocharged fours are all the rage because of their supposed fuel-economy benefits, but did I mention that I got 37 mpg on the highway in my GS-R?

Throw in legendary reliability and low maintenance costs, and you’ve got an all-time great. There’ll never be another car like it.

2001 Honda Prelude

2001 Honda PreludeThe angular, understated Prelude was a different beast — a gentleman’s  sport compact. With its long nose and short deck, the 2001 ‘Lude could almost pass for rear-wheel-drive, its extended front overhang being the only real giveaway. It was a classy car, especially with the beautiful alloy wheels shown here. With the Integra, you expected a kid to be driving it, and it was normal to see an enormous spoiler tacked on the back. But the ‘Lude appealed to everyone. I’ve seen a handful of white-haired old guys driving bone-stock models, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit.

Inside, the fifth-gen Prelude served up an inviting mix of quality materials and subtle, ergonomic design. You had all the controls you needed, and no more. People used to say Honda was the Japanese BMW (hard to believe today, right?), and this dashboard is a case in point. Everything was right where it needed to be, and the simple layout aged really well — I never felt like I was driving an old car, even when it was an old car.

VTEC Honda PreludeOn the road, the Prelude was significantly quieter than the GS-R, though I wouldn’t exactly call it quiet per se. The general comfort level was a lot higher. Really good stereo, too — so much better than the Integra’s clock-radio-quality sound. But it still handled great, albeit with slightly slower reflexes. I wish I’d been able to find a suitable Type SH with its torque-transfer system, because my base car understeered a lot if I entered a corner too hot. But I always had a blast on twisty roads nonetheless.

The fifth-gen Prelude’s engine was a torque monster by DOHC VTEC standards, cranking out 156 lb-ft along with a healthy 200 hp. To be honest, I liked the GS-R’s engine better. The ‘Lude’s 2.2-liter four-cylinder, a.k.a. “H22A4,” had a Jekyll and Hyde character, coming on real strong all of a sudden at 5,200 rpm. I preferred the way the GS-R’s motor smoothed the VTEC transition out. But the H22 made a great snarl, and the five-speed shifter was lighter than the GS-R’s, gliding friction-free from gate to gate.

If you wanted genuine Honda performance without the boy-racer looks, the fifth-gen Prelude was the ultimate solution.

Epilogue

Honda VTECs used to rule the street, and for good reason. It’s sad to me that those days are never coming back. Did you ever have a DOHC VTEC car? I know we’d all love to hear your story in the comments.

Editor’s note: If you’ve got a street import in your driveway, hit up Advance Auto Parts for the best values and selection. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Make Your FR-S or BRZ As Fast As It Should Be

Scion FR-s

Scion FR-S

If you’re like me, you probably went crazy a few years ago when you heard the Toyota 86 was about to drop. Known as the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ in the States, the hachi-roku (that’s “8-6″ in Japanese, kids) promised a return to the good old days when you could get a cool rear-drive sport coupe for a reasonable price. Of course, hachiroku itself is a reference to the iconic RWD Corolla coupes from the ’80s. With bloodlines like these, Toyota and Subaru couldn’t miss.

But they did. Hard. Because the modern-day hachiroku just doesn’t have enough muscle. The 2.0-liter boxer four under the hood is rated at 200 horsepower (I’ve seen 165 hp at the wheels) and a measly 151 lb-ft of torque. It makes some sporty noises when you wind it out, but there’s no force behind it. The FR-S and BRZ are not fast cars — and the target demographic loves fast cars.

So what’s a power-hungry FR-S or BRZ owner to do? Slap a turbo on it, brah! Here are two great kits that’ll turn your 86 into a monster right quick.

Turbocharging the Scion FR-S or Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ

Subaru BRZ

If you’re one of those peeps who want mega aftermarket power, a turbo kit is obviously the way to go. The peak output you get with some of these kits is just explosive. Of course, you’re gonna use more oil, and in general you should be even more vigilant than usual about maintenance with a modified car. But a lot of folks have been running turbo setups on 86s for thousands of miles with no issues. It’s a robust foundation for your build. As a point of entry, check these two kits out.

FA20Club Stage 1 ($3,499) 

FA20Club is one of the big names you see on the hachiroku boards, and for good reason: they pack a lot of value into their kits. This one here is their entry-level setup, which they say is “capable of up to 280whp without fuel mods.” That’s a cool 115-hp gain over stock power at the wheels, and if you think about the power-to-weight ratio that gives you, we’re talking Porsche Cayman territory. Not bad for a few grand.

Dynosty Turbo Build ($17,914) 

Ready to roll up your sleeves? Let’s get serious and quintuple the price of the FA20Club kit with this well-regarded Dynosty setup. If you’re up for it, an easy 400+ whp can be yours, and that puts your hachiroku in rarefied territory indeed. See, these cars in stock form weigh in at about 2,800 pounds, maybe a little less. Now consider the new C7 Corvette, making 460 hp for 3,300 pounds. If you do the math, the 86 actually has a better power-to-weight ratio than the Vette. Maybe spending $45 grand or so on a Japanese sport coupe isn’t so silly after all.

Let’s Hit The Street

Are you sold on turbocharging as the answer? Anyone want to speak up for superchargers? Let me know in the comments you guys.

Editor’s note: Count on Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of performance parts and accessories. Get back to the garage fast—buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.

Brushing up on Hellaflush

HellaflushOur Street Talker gets down and dirty with one of today’s hottest car trends.

While I’m a fan of modified imports, drifting, and car culture in general, I have to admit, that I didn’t know much about this thing called “Hellaflush” when I got my first tweet on it a while back. But I’ve been a quick study, and one of the best places to check it out is on the buzz-worthy site Fatlace.

Ask anyone what Hellaflush means and you’re bound to get different answers. What’s it mean to you? In general, it entails the tire and wheel being flush against the fender. Flush being something that’s even with or level with something else – sharing the same plane – or having direct contact with.

While one online description of Hellaflush says the tire has to be flush with the fender, another goes further and states that that the top part of the tire also has to be up inside the wheel well so that the tire sidewall actually contacts the fender when a bump is encountered, making for a very unique and noticeable car display, not to mention driving experience.

I’ve seen the term’s origination credited to both Fatlace, where it’s now one of their brands, and also to a San Francisco neighborhood where it was used as local slang to describe something that was “very” or “crazy,” in terms of an amount. Loosely translated, Hellaflush just means your tires are very flush with your fenders. For a great visual example, check out this BMW 328i with wheels that are a mere millimeter from the fenders!

Hellaflush is also a form of stance – how a vehicle sits – and this type of car display is achieved, generally, with rims that are wider than seven inches, stretched tires, and an aggressive amount of negative camber. It’s common to see Hellaflush associated and discussed along with JJDM Car Culture and VIP styled. JDM refers to Japan Domestic Market while VIP Style refers to the practice of taking large, usually Japanese, luxury vehicles and altering their stance through modifications.

But let’s be honest, even though Hellaflush is popular right now, it’s neither practical nor inexpensive to pull off…but since when does that matter? Being that low to the ground and having tires so close to the fender doesn’t make for easy driving—especially where potholes or inclined driveways are concerned. And it also holds the potential for a lot of wear and damage to the vehicle. But, it does look killer.Hellaflush 2

Taking Hellaflush to another level is the practice of making everything on the vehicle flush, not just the tires. In these instances, it’s as low as it can go, and anything that keeps the body from being completely flush, such as door handles, key holes, etc., are shaved down until they are flush with the rest of the body. That’s commitment. (And one that I personally don’t see making anytime soon.)

Do you know any Hellaflushers? Or, are you planning on going there yourself? If so, share some pics that show just how Hellaflush you are, and let us know how you got there, and more importantly, how it’s working out!

 

 

Editor’s note: Visit Advance Auto Parts for the best in parts and tools for any ride. Buy online, pick up in store.—in 30 minutes. 

Graphics courtesy of Fatlace.

Top 5 Tuner Car Shows for 2014!

Import Tuner CarAfter what’s been a particularly long, hard winter for many parts of the country, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not a train or another car. It’s the sun!

I’ve felt an increasingly strong urge these past several weeks to see the sun’s rays bouncing off gleaming metal, to feel the heat rise into my bones from the pavement below, and to spend the weekend at a car show, salivating over the latest creations and concoctions.

Here are the top five contenders on my tuner car show list.

Hot Import Nights – The show organizers describe it as “the largest consumer car show in the world with the hottest cars, models, music, gaming, technology and live entertainment.” What’s not to love about that? HIN is entering its 17th season, so they must be doing it right. There are still 18 U.S. East and West Coast and international show locations left on their schedule through the end of the year, including Orlando, Las Vegas and Santa Clara, Calif.

Import Face-off – They bill themselves as being “the most innovative import series in the U.S. with event activities that follow current market trends.” There are more than 30 U.S. show locations through the end of the year with stereo crank-it-up contests, drag racing, live concerts, dance battles, drift exhibitions, and plenty of cash prizes and trophies. Be sure to check out the Import Face-off gallery!

Tuner Evolution – The City of Brotherly Love hosts this big automotive lifestyle event – dubbed an “East Coast Takeover” August 2, 2014, at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center. Celebrities, bikinis, vendors, skating and BMX demos, and of course, hot customized cars will all be on tap.

DUB Show Tour – DUB magazine is all about car culture so you know the remaining four dates in their 2014 show tour are going to be popping. These shows are big on show cars, wheel and accessory exhibitors, video games, celebrities signing autographs, and big-name entertainment, including Ludacris, Ice Cube, and Wacka Flacka Fame performing at their previous auto shows.

WEKFEST – What started in San Francisco is now entering its fourth season of being a national, premiere automotive lifestyle event. There are two California auto shows – May 31 in Long Beach and August 10 in San Jose – and one each in Houston this fall and another in New Jersey on August 17, as well as in Japan May 11. WEKFEST’s focus is “to provide an upscale, organized event for the automotive community, a place where all enthusiasts can visit and share their common interest.”

I feel better already just thinking about car shows – that and the fact that it’s sunny and 75 today.

Stay tuned to the Advance Auto Parts blog for on-going event coverage throughout the spring and summer show season. For past coverage, be sure to check out our 2013 Nurotag Orlando and 2013 SoWo posts right here on the Advance Auto Parts blog.

 

Editor’s note: Is there an import car show that you think is particularly hot this year? Let us know below!

Graphic courtesy of Import Tuner Magazine.

Unlock Your Engine’s Hidden Horsepower

Hot Wheels CarI’m sure you can all relate. You buy this performance car and do your custom bits, but there’s still something missing. In my case, it all came down to actual performance when I punched the gas. For a while, it just frustrated me until I decided to look further…what I found was that I was only using a portion of my engine’s power!

If you’ve been frustrated knowing that your engine has unused power and did something to unlock that power, this is the place to share your success and tips with your fellow tuners, and make yourself look like a genius while you’re at it.

Many vehicle manufacturers are ultra conservative when it comes to programming engine control units (ECU), also known as the control module or the engine control computer at the factory. They’re not going to program the control module so that the vehicle runs at its maximum power capabilities, in part because they’re concerned with things like the vehicle warranty, emissions, and fuel economy. Their conservative settings, however, leave you with a vehicle that isn’t producing as much power as it could. How frustrating is that? The solution? Well, there are quite a few.

A lot of you are probably thinking, “ECU chip tuner” or “reflash” right about now. That seems to be the common wisdom when it comes to increasing horsepower by modifying the control module. For the uninitiated, an ECU basically controls how the engine goes about its business of producing and delivering power, including air/fuel ratio, ignition timing, idle speed, valve timing, and RPMs.

Back in the day, if you wanted to do some car tuning and change the ECU’s parameters, you had to actually change computer chips, physically swapping them out with newer chips that had software featuring the performance parameters you wanted. Today, one can install new software that changes the ECU’s operating parameters simply by plugging into the OBDII port. Boom. A few keystrokes later and you just raised the rev limit, governed top speed, and tuned the air-to-fuel ratio.

What about switching out the engine control computer entirely with a new one instead of just reprogramming it? Is  a new control module an option?

A couple people, including Ethan Campbell, a Roanoke, Virginia-based tuner toying with a ‘96 Miata, have mentioned the MegaSquirt PNP ECU (MSPNP2) as one possibility for completely replacing the stock engine control computer. Campbell’s winter project is taking an engine with a VVT head from a ’99 Miata and installing it into his ’96 and adding a MegaSquirt ECU. MegaSquirt describes the product as taking “over the functions the stock ECU provides – fuel control, ignition control, and various other outputs – and lets you adjust these yourself by connecting a laptop to the MSPNP2.”

Another car-tuning option to increase engine performance is Accesstuner from Cobb. The manufacturer describes the software as allowing “the user to get into the heart of the OEM ECU and create custom calibrations for vehicles equipped with virtually any performance modification. The end result is a tune that is custom tailored to the vehicle’s unique modifications, producing maximum power gains while maintaining the drive-ability and sophistication inherent in the OEM ECU.” Anyone tried it?

What about turbocharging as the car-tuning option? I know that turbocharging a non-turbo car is a viable option for increasing horsepower, but it’s also one that’s accompanied by a whole host of other considerations, including boost level, compression ratios and avoiding knock, that have to be planned for to avoid engine damage when turbocharging.

And finally, before you inundate me with comments for not mentioning it, there’s the ever-popular option of adding a Nitrous Oxide System (NOS) – a topic I’ll explore more in depth in an upcoming post.

If you’ve modified your engine control computer or have what you think is the perfect solution for unlocking horsepower, let us know how you did it, and what you did it to.

Editor’s note: Harness your hidden horsepower at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in store.

Graphic courtesy of Toycarcollector.com.

 

 

Drive Your Performance Car Through Winter

Drift car 1No doubt, summer will always serve as high season for our high-performance rides and all the gnarly things we do with them. Close your eyes and remember just how good last summer’s heat felt as you hit the drift.

Now, snap out of it!

If that harsh blast of cold air hasn’t slapped you back to reality, maybe this will—it’s over. The summer is over. And with it went any chance you have of driving your high-performance machine anywhere – particularly if it’s rear-wheel drive – except perhaps right into a ditch now that snow and ice season has arrived. Unless of course, you’re one of those lucky souls fortunate to live in a climate where it’s always a comfortable 72 degrees, or you’ve given some thought to winter tires. Back in the day, they used to be called “snow tires” but not so much now since they’re designed to perform in a variety of winter conditions, including snow, ice, slush and low temperatures.

Notice also that we’re not talking about “all-season” tires here, which is what most vehicles on the road today are equipped with. There’s a difference, and it’s a big one. Some vehicle enthusiasts, particularly those who engage their street-legal vehicle in on-track racing and driving competitions, refer to all-season tires as “no-season tires.” They use that moniker because even though all-season tires do the job admirably for a majority of drivers, they can’t perform as well as dedicated winter tires or summer tires. Road & Track has an interesting take on that issue.

That’s because tire makers optimize their tire and tread compounds based on what type of tire they’re building. If it’s a winter tire, for example, the tire’s rubber and chemical compounds are designed for maximum performance in freezing temperatures, much the same way that race tires are designed to deliver at high temperatures. Tire industry trade groups continually work to educate drivers about the difference winter or snow tires offer.

According to a recent article in Tire Business magazine, “The idea that winter tires are only needed for snow-covered or icy roadways is outmoded and belies the superior cold-weather performance made possible by advances in winter tire technology,” said  Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada. “Today’s sophisticated winter tires feature specialized rubber compounds that retain elasticity at temperatures well below -30°C (-22°F).”

Outfitting vehicles with winter tires is routine in Europe, particularly on high-performance vehicles, and required by law in Quebec, Canada, where traffic accident injuries in winter declined five percent  following the implementation of a 2008 law requiring snow tires, according to research from the Quebec Transportation Industry and reported in that same article .

In addition to rubber compounds that are designed for winter performance, these tires also feature tread designs that maximize stopping and steering ability on snow, slush and ice. And the good news is that most every major tire company makes their own version of it.

“Rather than keeping their fun-to-drive cars in the garage during the cold season, drivers have the opportunity to enjoy them, even in the middle of the winter,” said Brandy Gadd, Goodyear brand manager.

For areas where ice-covered roads or packed-snow conditions dominate the winter driving season, drivers might want to consider using snow tire studs. The studs are metal pins that protrude from the tire surface and “bite” into ice and packed snow. Snow tire studs are noisy on dry roads, however, and performance and handling can suffer too.

Another alternative for added winter traction are tire chains. Sized to fit your vehicle’s tires, tire chains can be installed without having to lift the vehicle or even move it, making them an excellent resource to keep in the vehicle and install when bad weather strikes.

And finally, it’s important to remember that winter tires shouldn’t just be fitted to the vehicle’s drive wheels, but rather all wheel positions in order to maintain control.

Often the biggest obstacle to drivers using snow tires is the cost of having an extra set of tires. What has to be figured into that equation, however, is the cost of missing a day of work, being involved in an accident, or having to park your vehicle for the winter if you’re not using the right tires for the season.

 

Editor’s note: Slide on over to Advance Auto Parts for a wide selection of tire chains, accessories, roadside safety kits and more.

Graphic courtesy of cars.desktopnexus.com.