Sunday, May 07, 2006

Upgrade mayhem...

Well it was bound to happen. I had parts all over the basement just begging to be installed. So after a phone to call to dear ol' dad to tell him to clear his schedule, it was up to Sudbury we're the fun would begin.

Sunday April 16th - I got there on schedule around noon. After a little rest and lunch, we headed for the garage and proceeded with prepping the car for it's upgrades. We started with the rear lower control arms and relocation brackets. This was a painless install and was done in a matter of an hour. We did have to modifie the park brake bracket to clear the relocatin bracket, but nothing major. We then moved on to the subframe connectors. We first removed the exhaust pipes to make room to work. After 10 minutes of test fitting things and figuring the weld spots, the connectors got installed. The Spohn connectors were really well manufactured and fit perfectly on the without any modifications to anything. The total install time with a complete MIG weld job was about 3 hours.

Monday April 17th - We proceed with the removal of the old OEM torque arm and the existing fabricated tranny mount. Then we test fitted the new Spohn tranny crossmember....uh oh! First problem. The new crossmember was pushing the tranny further up into the tunnel, and since this tranny is not the OE for this car, part of the area where the shifter comes out of the tranny was already sitting against the tunnel. We had to get the air cutter out and remove some material from the tunnel. With the new crossmember in place, the tranny now sits in it's proper angle. We then installed the new Spohn adjustable torque arm. Again, this was a breeze to install. I proceeded to adjust the pinion angle, only to find out later (a week later), that I had it setup the wrong way. ;(

After we were done with the above, we started gutting the engine bay for the cam swap. The old camshaft was sitting on the floor in about 45 minutes. Since this was a retro-fit roller cam install, we have to use a wear plate behind the cam gear, and a thrust button. So, we installed the new cam, timing set with wear plate, and cam buttom. Then came the timing cover...uh oh! It doesn't fit with the cam button. We need a different timing cover that has the button depression.....ok..on hold. Then came time to install the new valve springs. Well, that's when I noticed that the valve seals I hate bought where too big for fit inside the dual spring setup. Now the search for seals that would fit that.

Tuesday April 18th - We spend the better part of the morning in town locating a timing cover and oil seals. We found the cover we needed at Witrak Auto Specialties, but he said he's have to order the oil seals in.....should get them by tommorow we were told. Keep in mind I was suppose to be heading home on Thursday, and now we're pushing well into Wednesday to finish up. Well, he headed home and proceed to finish the front of the engine with the new timing cover. Since we had to wait for the seals before we could do the springs, we decided to go ahead and replace the front lower control arm bushings with poly parts. The removal of the arms was easy. One of the original rubber bushing was being a beatch, but after a little convincing with the oxy torch and hammer, it finally gave up. We installed the new bushings using a hydraulic press. We also replaced the idler arm on the front steering assembly. It was still within acceptable limits for play, but since I knew it would be taking alot of stress doing autocrossing, I didn't want to take any chances. The rest of the front steering assembly was in great shape.

Wednesday April 19th - D-DAY - Since we were still waiting for the seals to arrive, we decided to go ahead and start fabricating the new exhaust configuration from the headers to about mid car. This was done using parts for the original setup, and a couple of new bends. After a few test fits of all the parts, we proceeded to tack weld the parts in place. Once that was done, we removed the assembly and did a full MIG weld around all the joint. The whole process took awhile, but it turned out pretty good.

At 1 PM, I got the oil seals today...arrrghhh. We scrounged around the garage and eventually, we found some good stem oil seals....BUT ONLY 12 OF THEM. Since I couldn't afford to wait any longer, we went ahead and installed the 12 good seals, and used 4 regular "o" ring types. This is kinda "haywire", but like I said, I had to get back home and could always replace the o-rings at a later date. So we finished the valve springs, installed the roller rockers, and called it a day.

Thursday April 20th - We started off the day installing the intake manifold, carb, and buttoned up the rest of the engine to fire it up. By noon, the key was turned and the engine fired up.....RUTT RO! It started but ran like crap...alot of rocker noise and the whole engine was shacking furiously. Long story short....3 of the lifters never "pump" up so I couldn't adjust the lifter preload properly. Since I couldn't get lifters in time, I adjusted those 3 like they were solid lifters with 0.016" lash. The engine still didn't run like it was suppose to, but I was pretty sure it would get me home. Since it was already later in the afternoon, I decided to wait till Friday morning to leave.

Friday April 21st - Well, I left around 11 AM, got home around 3 PM. I never broke down but I knew I had to spend more money to fix the engine right.

The following Monday, I called Shawn at J&J Performance and asked him to order me 3 pair of the lifters I need to replace. He said they would have to come straight from CompCam, but assured me they would be here by Friday. This was important because I had a prepaid autocross school on Saturday that I didn't want to miss. On Thursday, I stripped the engine down to a level I need to replace those 3 pairs. Sure enough, at 4 PM Friday, I got the call..."Your lifters are here". I rushed over to pick them up. I then installed and reassembled everything in about an hour. Fired up the engine and.....rutt ro. The new lifters were working right, but the engine still didn't sound right, and going for a test drive comfirmed it. And to top it off, I had a "significant" oil leak coming from the right rear of the engine. It looked like it was coming from the intake rail...My first tought was that the silicon gasket blew out before it had time to dry. But at this point, I had no choice.

Saturday April 29th - I drove to Brampton (about 45 mins) for my autox school session. It was a beauty day, and what I learned was amazing. The car handled very nice, way better than I expected for a heavy car. But, it still didn't feel right. Off the line the car was not performing well. But I kept an eye on the oil level throughout the day and kept learning. At the end of the day, I was hooked on this autox stuff. I exceeded my own expectations doing the exercises and couldn't wait to do my first real/timed event. Even if I wasn't competitive, the fun to drive a car like that, LEGALLY is simply mind blowing.

I left the event and pulled into the nearest gas station to fill up and drop my tire pressures back to normal. When I was doing the left rear tire, I got a wiff of rear end oil. Curious, I looked under the back of the car, and noticed the whole inside my left rear wheel was covered in oil...GREAT!!! Blown axle seal. I guess the stress was a little too much.

When I got home, I left the engine running and popped the hood...I was determined to figure out why it was still running like crap. I wasn't looking more than 10 seconds when I noticed on spark plug #1, the spark was jumping all around the porcelain area of it...I knew that was messed up. I removed the plug, and sure enough, it was BROKEN. All that time I was literally running on 7 cylinders.....arrrrrgghhh. I ran to the parts store, installed the new plug, and OH MY GOODNESS!!! IT'S ALIVE!!! IT'S ALIVE!! This was the first time since I had installed the new camshaft that I saw what kind of performance it had, and all I have to say is, BUCKLE UP!

Wednesday May 3rd - (we're almost done) - I went and bought the parts I needed to change both rear axle seals....A whole $22. To my surpises, everything went smooth and the job was done in about 1.5 hours.

Saturday May 6th - Now my quest was to find that oil leak. Instead of doing the logical thing, I started with the most painful thing....removing the whole intake again and redoing the intake rails. Took about an hour. But after I was finished, I decided to remove the right side valve cover....low and behold as the gasket was not seated properly at the rear...ARRRGHH... Well, at least I know my intake won't leak now.

Now with all the leaks fixed, it was time for my first autox event, which was going to happen in Sunday at the WOSCA club event in Woodstock.....but that's another story!

I have updated the PHOTO GALLERY with photos from the April Upgrade.


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