1998 BMW 318ti

Posted: June 16, 2017 in Rants

I paid more for my last suit than I did for this car.


The first thing I did was purchase four M12 washers and installed two per side between the lower shock bolts as shims.  The internet told me this gives me more camber for about $2 (or you could be a sucker and pay real money for the Turner kit).


The secondary air injection pump shit the bed, so I bought a new one.  In order to properly access it, I had to remove the monstrous air intake assembly which covered almost the entire front of the car.


And me being me, I figured it was an opportunity to save a ton of weight.  So I went to Lowes and purchased $18 worth of HVAC parts.


I cut up the filter and clamped it in before the MAF, and then removed the fog light cover, snaked the pipe down into the fresh air, and clamped more filter over the pipe end.


I definitely lost a ton of weight and the car makes some mean noises under full throttle, but I can’t say it makes any extra power.  However, this exercise is in line with my theme for this car – dirt cheap garage engineering.


1998 Subaru Outback Sport

Posted: June 8, 2017 in Rants

I purchased this car for my wife to learn how to drive.  No, I didn’t marry a child.  She’s from a place where people don’t need to drive.


It was a completely rust free example from a less than reputable local dealer.  Of course as soon as I drove it off it had a check engine light and multiple small issues, but I didn’t pay much for it and I was prepared to deal with them.


As I tend to do, I immediately debadged the rear and took the stickers off the sides.  I installed swaybars, adjustable shocks (with stock springs) and taller snow tires for added ground clearance.  Of course I did the obligatory DIY autozone air intake and an APEX’i N1 cat back exhaust.

For the summer, I used BFGoodrich g-Force Sport Comp tires, which are a solid summer tire for street use.


For the winter, I chose Firestone Winterforce.  These are studdable which means they have a slightly stiffer sidewall than a standard snow tire, although I never studded them (because a studded tires performs worse on all surfaces other than ice).

I went an entire winter without plowing or shoveling my driveway.

Here’s the thing with Subaru’s AWD system – its schizophrenic.  It understeers on entry, oversteers on exit, and arbitrarily switches between the two during sweepers and transitions.  Now, obviously this car isn’t an autocross (or even a rallycross) car – but the lack of predictability from the AWD system was infuriating in my daily driving.  As you know, flat out – that is how I drive.

The nail in the coffin for this car wasn’t the haphazard handling.  Rather, it was the deplorable build quality.  This thing was built like a tin can.  I simply did not feel safe putting my child in the car – and I’m notoriously cavalier about my children’s safety.

2008 Honda Civic SI

Posted: June 4, 2017 in My Cars


In anticipation of the birth of my first child, I picked up what I thought was a reasonable, reliable family vehicle.  Four doors and modern safety met a sport suspension, 8,200 rpm, and a front limited slip differential.

I quickly proceeded to do what any self respecting owner would do and removed the VTEC stickers and Civic badge from the car.


And then I started to race it.


Competing in the “G Stock” class, I cut my teeth with a fat, torqueless, understeering pig of a car.  It taught me nothing about driving but I had fun.

Once I acquired an actual race car I bought some wheels and lowered the car slightly.  I was really disappointed with the Eibach springs and this would teach me that aftermarket spring manufacturers design their springs to create even more understeer so that the car is “safe.”  From here on out I would consult an engineer and customize my spring rates when possible.


During my ownership the car never broke, but it did develop a rust spot on the rear passenger fender.  Honda refused to cover this under warranty because the rust hadn’t worn a hole through the fender.  Accordingly, this was the last Honda I ever drove.

2005 BMW M3

Posted: October 6, 2016 in My Cars

Less than 24 hours after registering at the DMV and she’s got slicks and race numbers on her.


I blacked out the grille and gills.  The boys at PAD gave it thorough cleaning.


Class legal modifications include headers (with a cat 6″ downstream), shark injectors, pulleys and an intake tube.


Oh, and some Moton Club $ports.


One last photo before surgery.


The headers went in with some work.  You have to remove about 1/4 of the engine bay to access all 18 bolts holding on the factory header.  Then, you have to remove all of the factory studs and replace them with the aftermarket studs.  Finally, you have to jack the car up and insert both headers simultaneously from a vertical angle.  I’m telling you this because it took me about 3 weeks to figure all of this out.  BUT – the eBay fitment was perfect and HOLY COW does this car rip with the headers and tune.


Installing the shocks was not difficult.  Routing the remote reservoirs was a little more work.  For the fronts, I removed the fender liners and snaked the reservoirs up into the engine bay, mounting them to the radiator shroud with zip ties, because I’m classy like that.


Mounting the rear reservoirs required full removal of the bumper.  There are plastic vents that I removed and made small cuts to allow the hoses to fit through.  I mounted the reservoirs to the trunk brackets – with zip ties of course.


The Ground Control bars were a bit of work as well, but they are so fancy and so adjustable.

Ground Control Bars

With the factory 19×8/19×9.5 wheels and 26″ diameter tires package, fitment was troublesome.  With my race setup 18×10 front and rear with 25″ diameter tires, fitment was a little better, especially once I learned how to do an alignment in my garage and dialed in -3.5 degrees of camber in the front.


After a professional corner balance, she’s ready for battle.  I dialed in -3.7 degrees of front and -2 degrees of rear camber – a little more front and a little less than I wanted.  I’m also running a tick of front toe out and more than a tick of rear toe in.


The car weighed in at 3,476 lbs.  Time for a diet.

Step 1: Replace heavy ass leather/power seats with manual/alcantara.


Step 2: Replace the 50 lbs OEM battery with a 24 lbs Miata battery.


5/21/2017 – First race, first place.


The car was loose, very loose.  So loose that I didn’t push the tires to their optimal happy slip angles – but it was still fast as all hell.  First in class and 3rd/53 for raw times.

I cannot run more tire in the rear (although I could run more wheel).  I started by dropping some compression in the front which seemed to help until it rained.  Next event I will drop some rebound in the rear and see what happens.  I can also add some more front bar, take out some front camber, or play with the pressures (which I didn’t even bother checking).  In addition, I could not be a pussy.

So, for the next event, I spent some time at test and tune the day before.  I dropped tire pressures to 29 r/33 f and I am running 2 compression front and rear with 2 rebound front and 4 rebound rear (factory suggestion is 3 compression front and rear and 4 rebound front and rear).  The results?

May 28, 2017 from Ricky Spanish on Vimeo.

First in class and 2nd/98 in raw times (I got beat by the damn Formula car).

Throughout the season I continued to drop both compression and rebound in the front and the rear.  The car is currently sitting one off full soft in compression and rebound at front and rear.

After chewing through a set of RE71rs, I flipped them on their rims, but the wear continued.  I bought new tires and went to 0 toe front and rear.  I actually like how the car drives better without any toe.

In addition, a full season of beating has taken its toll on the front bumper.


Plans for the winter included a custom single exhaust, pulleys, some maintenance, a “custom” intake like on my 318ti – and perhaps some bodywork.  Or not, since it’ll just get messed up again next year.

My welder wasn’t available this winter, so I clamped together an exhaust that included a catalytic converter for class legality.  Eventually I’ll use real bends instead of flex pipe and actually weld things, but for winter storage this will do.


My wife hates this exhaust.


I also did the pulleys.  Not worth posting pictures.
Finally, I bought some Ikea seats on eBay that required me to assemble them myself, without any provided hardware.  They were cheap and included brackets that actually fit (and worked with the stock belts and wiring), so that made me happy.  They’re also light as all hell.



1993 Audi 100 CS Quattro

Posted: October 6, 2016 in Rants

It’s gonna be a race car.


Step 1: Add lightness


Step 2: Add power with a “custom” intake.


Step 3: Mount truck tires


Step 4: Race


We added a little more lightness during our first event by ripping off two fog lights and the front grille.  We also discovered that 1st gear is more than enough with the tires.  Finally, our suspension travel not only makes for a pillowy smooth highway ride but also works rather well in an off road setting.


Rarr.  We also broke the exhaust.  One of the bolts snapped right in half.  Time for an upgrade?

2016 Volkswagen Jetta S 1.4t

Posted: March 23, 2016 in Rants

It’s an adequate car.


2003 Volkswagen Jetta VR6

Posted: February 5, 2016 in Rants

I purchased this car as my wife’s first car.  We got it from CDI in Victor.  Within 30 minutes of purchase it threw a check engine light, and they refused to return my calls.  Suffice to say I don’t think anyone should ever do business with them, ever.

jetta front

Immediately upon purchase I dumped the car to the ground on some cheap, garbage coilovers and installed a rear lip spoiler.

jetta rear.jpg

I eventually also added a Borla exhaust.  The sound of the VR with an exhaust is one of the primary reasons my wife kept this car for 6 years.

Now it’s mine.  I’ll admit its fun – compared to later Jettas the size is just right – its small and can squirt through traffic.  It has nice torque delivery but power up top as well.  It’s been fairly reliable with a few hiccups, usually when my wife was in New York City – which is why she got the new Jetta.