imclumzy’s Weblog

It’s Business Time

For Sale: Fully Built Monster 1993 3000GT Twin Turbo VR-4

Twin-Turbo, Fully Built Super-Car Killer

Do You Dare?  The Faint of Heart Need Not Apply

Killer looks and moves.

SOLD Apr 13, 2012:  The 3000GT is now sold to a new owner that will treat her right and enjoy her as she deserves.  This article will remain for posterity. 

I would like to thank Rick @ RT Motorsport for building this wonderfully manic car for me, it was a labour of love and he built it as if it was his own.  In some ways he will miss this car more than I.  Not only did he build this car but he also was the quarterback of the team, having the engine built by Gord @ Gord Bush Performance and tuned by Paul @ Neetronics.  Cheers to you Gord and Paul, you are masters of your domain.  Rick, well done and know that your work will be greatly enjoyed and live on. 

RT Motorsport
905-669-8444, 70 Snidercroft Rd, Unit A, Concord, Ontario L4K 2K3

Gord Bush Performance
416-259-9700,  49 Fima Crescent, Etobicoke, ON M8W3R1

Neetronics
416-848-0653,  559 Speers Rd, Oakville, Ontario, L6K 2G4

Also, a special thanks to Jack at KKT Auto Collision for his deft hands and keen skill at building me a wildly unique but OEM-looking front bumper.  I have received many positive comments and feedback from car enthusiasts about the GT’s smile, which is a testament to Jack’s amazing work.  

KKT Auto Collision Ltd.
905-472-1115, 20 Heritage Rd Markham, Unit 12, ON L3P 3P3

Finally, to the new owner of the GT, who we’ll call Wilhelm, I bid you all the best.  She is a very special car and I encourage you to drive her as often as possible, keep her safe, and above all have fun.  Salut!

Update Apr 7, 2012:  The GT is back up for sale after taking it off the market for the winter.  The snow has all melted, the road salt has been washed away and the weather is warm enough for driving this exceptional beast on Ontario roads again.

Your eyes play over the milky pearl white curves, the two pert bumps up front, and the sweeping silky rakish lines that lead to the sculpted voluptuous rear end.  It sits low and just so, comfortable with its taut muscles bulging over its tight skin, like a member of the women’s Olympic swim team in a slinky evening gown.  Climb in, fire it up and listen to that fiendish noise.  A low rumble tickles down your spine and entices you to reveal its hidden secrets.  Sliding through the gears you hold 3rd, hard on the throttle and feel the revs and your pulse rise at an alarming rate.  3000 RPMs and you’re kicked hard in the gut as you’re pinned in the seat riding a tidal wave of monumental torque all the way to 6500 RPM.  POWER!!!!

Welcome to the world of super-car performance embodied in this astonishing, fully built, twin-turbo, rocket-ship with killer looks and moves.  Do you dare?  The faint of heart need not apply.

For Sale Essentials

  • Price:  Serious Buyers Only, No Test Pilots, No Trades
  • Contact Info:  Your NAME and PHONE NUMBER REQUIRED.
  • Location:  Markham, Ontario, Canada
  • Make and Model:  1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4
  • Colour:  Pearl White OEM original paint
  • Transmission:  5-Speed Manual
  • Power:  550+ all-wheel horsepower, 530+ all-wheel lb-ft torque
  • Chassis Mileage:  ~49,000 miles
  • Built Engine Mileage:  ~3000 miles
  • Condition:  Near Mint, no rust, beautiful paint, super-clean interior
  • State of Tune:  Super high-performance, highly modified by team of professionals, well-sorted and well-balanced
  • Insurance:  Eligible for Silver Wheel Plan cheap insurance
  • Peace of Mind:  Never winter, rarely rain driven.  Never abused, never drag raced, never standing launched!  Tracked occasionally prior to build, on-track test and tuned after.

Mitsubishi 3000GT aka Mitsubishi GTO

The Mitsubishi 3000GT, or GTO in Japan, is one of the all time great sports cars to emerge from the land of the rising sun in the mid 1990s.  By today’s standards its twin-turbo 300 crank horsepower, all wheel drive system, and grand touring athletics may not seem terribly impressive … but I present this stunningly beautiful example that backs up its finely chiseled good looks with heart-stopping performance.

Mesmerizing good looks hint at what lies beneath.

This is Power – 550AWHP and 530AWTQ

This fire-breathing all-wheel-drive 1993 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 monster has been painstakingly built over the course of a year and a half by a team of highly-skilled professionals to achieve over 550 all-wheel horsepower and 530 lb-ft all-wheel torque.  A keen eye can clearly see from the dyno chart that this isn’t a peaky spiking one-trick pony.  This my friend is known as a fat torque curve, capable of unleashing ferocious levels of bone-crushing thrust at the drop of a hat.

Over 550 all-wheel horsepower and over 530 all-wheel lb-ft of torque

The Origins Story

This US-spec 1993 3000GT VR-4 was originally purchased by my friend in Grand Rapids Michigan brand new, right off the lot.  It was immediately brought back to Canada, licensed and leisurely driven in stock form for about 5 years until he moved overseas.  Not wanting to part with his baby he stored the car for 4 to 5 years in another friend’s garage, hoping one day to permanently return to Toronto.  By 2004 he realized that he would never return and that his car needed someone to provide the care, love and attention that he couldn’t.  That’s where I come in, rescuing the GT from its dark garage-kept exile … liberating it from under the dusty car cover.  Over the course of 7 years I have cared, crafted and fine-tuned it into the incredibly mad machine that you see today.

7 years crafting and fine tuning

Shortly after purchasing the GT I went about taking care of all the maintenance items that were long overdue.  Brand new belts, balljoints, bushings, fluids, and all the TLC needed to bring it back to its original glory was performed.  Being a car enthusiast I quickly went to work on basic performance upgrades like suspension, rims and tires, bolt-on engine parts and such.  It performed quite well producing over 300awhp on the stock turbos but in 2009 the “more power” itch hit and I decided to go BIG and unlock its true potential.

Emergence, An All New Level

In the skillful hands of Rick at RT Motorsport we planned and executed a tasteful, yet potent turbo upgrade project.  Our guiding principles:  big reliable power and balanced performance.  Over the next year and a half the engine came out and was masterfully machined, tweaked and assembled by Gord Bush Performance.  The motor was then meticulously built by Rick with bullet-proof forged internals by Ross and Pauter.  Two legendary Garrett GT-2860R “disco potato” ball-bearing turbos were mated to custom stainless-steel plumbing to provide reliable yet staggering performance.  All aspects of the GT’s power-plant, cooling, fueling, suspension, and brakes were balanced and built to exacting standards with the highest quality parts from AEM, HKS, Mishimoto, Tial, ACT, RPS, Vibrant, and Carbotech to name but a few.

For the next critical phase of the project, the AEM EMS (engine management system) was expertly tuned and tested by Paul at Neetronic.  Over numerous marathon sessions on the 4-wheel drive DynoJet, load dyno, the street and the track we were able to produce the incredible figures that we see here.  This shapely beast is capable of hanging with and humiliating the big boys with its dangerous level of acceleration and 4-wheel drive grip.

Neetronic dyno tuning

Don’t think the GT is all go and no show, because the final stage of the project involved cleaning up the front-end for form and function.  The front bumper was custom made by Jack at KKT Auto featuring large bumper openings for maximum airflow to the intercooler, radiator, oil cooler and front wheel wells.  Rick also fashioned custom radiator baffles and a fully functional undertray to direct the fresh air into and through the critical cooling components.  The car was then lovingly detailed inside and out with products including Mothers claybar, Sonus acrylic detailer, Klasse paint polish and sealant, and Zaino leather cleaner and treatment.

Since the finished build I have enjoyed my time with the 3000GT greatly, taking it on fun weekend runs and leisurely driving vacations.  Alas, for me the story comes to an end as I must part with this mad beast and move on to the next project.  Do you dare take up the mantle to tame this turbo-powered monster?

The Whole is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

What follows is a rather extensive and comprehensive list of all the parts and work that have gone into my beloved 3000GT.  What can’t be captured is the passion and soul that results from the summation of these seemingly mundane products.  The growl of the motor, the whoosh of the turbos, the howling of the throttle and the pop of the blow-off can’t be described in such clumsy terms.

That said I’m sure I’ve missed a number of parts and services performed on this well loved machine, so please feel free to ask.

Features

  • Manufactured in August of 1992, over 18 years old
  • Extremely low mileage ~49,000 miles on the chassis
  • Brand new fully-built engine ~3000 miles by Gord Bush Performance
  • Vehicle build and maintenance performed by RT Motorsport
  • AEM EMS engine management expertly tuned by Neetronic, producing over 550AWHP and 530AWTQ
  • Absolutely NO rust anywhere
  • Meticulously detailed, mint exterior, yearly claybar, Klasse polish and sealant
  • Oil Rust Check rust-proof performed in 2004 when I bought the car (preventative)
  • Never winter driven
  • Full interior in mint condition
  • Electronic climate control, heat and AC fully working
  • Retains OEM original all-wheel-drive and all-wheel steering systems

Under the covers, revealing the beast within

Internal Engine Modifications

  • Ross custom forged pistons 8.5:1, upgraded rings and wrist-pins
  • Pauter forged billet connecting rods
  • Clevite 77 bearings
  • Gord Bush Performance 3-angle valve job
  • Gord Bush Performance micro-polished crank
  • OEM Mitsubishi MLS headgasket
  • OEM Mitsubishi head bolts
  • OEM Mitsubishi main bolts
  • OEM Mitsubishi 1999 lifters
  • Engine fully built by the master himself at Gord Bush Performance

One of the two giant snails while the engine was out

Engine, Turbo and Fuel

  • Garrett GT2860R “disco-potato” ball-bearing turbos x 2
  • Tial external wastegates x 2
  • AEM EMS with GM MAP sensor
  • HKS SSQV blow off valve
  • Ultimate Racing custom 880cc injectors by Johnson
  • AEM EMS fully tuned by Paul at Neetronic
  • RT Motorsport custom stainless-steel intake manifold
  • RT Motorsport custom stainless-steel exhaust manifolds
  • ACE stainless-steel custom manifold flanges
  • RT Motorsport custom stainless-steel intercooler piping
  • RT Motorsport custom stainless-steel dump pipes
  • Polyurethane motor mounts
  • HKS high-performance air filters x 2
  • Powder-coated candy-red valve covers
  • Brushed aluminum valve cover plate
  • OEM Mitsubishi oil pump and gasket
  • OEM Mitsubishi water pump and gasket
  • OEM Mitsubishi timing belt
  • OEM Mitsubishi accessory belts
  • OEM Mitsubishi oil pan gasket
  • New OEM Mitsubishi AC condenser
  • Walbro 255 fuel pumps x 3 (yes THREE)
  • Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator and gauge
  • RT Motorsport custom dual feed fuel rails
  • Custom aluminum remote fuel reservoir
  • Fully braided stainless-steel fuel lines and AN fittings
  • Vibrant 4-ply reinforced silicone connectors throughout
  • V-band couplers throughout
  • T-bolt clamps throughout
  • ACT HDSS (heavy-duty street clutch) – heavy!
  • RPS Cyn-R-G Segmented billet light-weight flywheel
  • Conventional engine oil for break-in
  • OEM Mitsubishi steering rack replaced (well-weighted, tight steering!)

Sits low and just so.

Engine Cooling and Exhaust

  • Samco radiator coolant hoses
  • Radiator drain valve (easier coolant flush)
  • Summer coolant – distilled water and MoCool
  • Winter storage coolant – 50/50 water/Prestone coolant
  • Spoon high-pressure radiator cap
  • Mugen low-temperature thermostat (83*C)
  • Mishimoto massive aluminum radiator
  • Flex-a-Lite electric fans
  • Vibrant HUGE front mount intercooler
  • Earls oil cooler in driver-side fender/bumper opening
  • Tanabe Super Hyper Medallion dual stainless-steel polished exhaust
  • Stainless-steel test-pipe (cat available)
  • RT Motorsport custom stainless-steel exhaust downpipe
  • EGR block-off plates
  • Delete – windshield washer bottle and motor

JLo's got nothing on this rear end

Suspension, Brakes and Drivetrain

  • 2nd Gen front 4-piston brake calipers – freshly rebuilt and power-coated red
  • 2nd Gen rear 2-piston brake calipers – freshly rebuilt and power-coated red
  • Centric Premium rotors front and rear
  • Carbotech XP16/12 high-performance brake pads
  • Earls stainless-steel braided brake lines
  • 5Zigen bronze 18×9.5 rims (1 has slight curb rash)
  • Falken Azenis RT615 tires (low tread)
  • Ksport Control Pro fully adjustable coilover suspension and camber plates
  • Custom built adjustable rear control arms
  • Ultimate Performance front and rear strut tower bars
  • New Mitsubishi balljoints and bushings throughout
  • Motul RBF600 high-performance brake fluid
  • Maximal Performance transfer case bracket (no t-case leaks, never launched)
  • Redline MTL fluid
  • Redline MT-90 differential fluid

Gauges anyone? Duct tape is for racers

In-Car Electronics and Interior

  • Genuine Bride Zeta III Sport fixed bucket racing seat (pictured but extra)
  • Wedge Engineering driver-side sliding seat rails (extra)
  • Mint stock leather electric driver-seat included
  • Autometer SportComp II boost pressure gauge
  • Autometer SportComp II oil pressure gauge
  • Autometer SportComp II pyrometer / egt gauge
  • Cianci A-pillar full replacement 3-gauge pod
  • Autometer SportComp II oil temperature gauge (duct taped to steering column)
  • AEM Wideband O2 sensors and gauges x 2 (1 for each bank)
  • Autometer SportComp water temperature gauge
  • Single-din 3 gauge plate mounted over headunit
  • APexi Auto Turbo Timer
  • Momo Jet steering wheel 350mm with carbon fiber inserts (extra)
  • Mint stock leather steering wheel and airbag included
  • Pioneer Premier single-din CD and MP3 headunit
  • Pioneer 450W 4-channel amp in trunk
  • Infinity Reference 6.5″ and 6×9″ speakers
  • Manual operation rear Active Aero wing switch
  • Manual operational optional electric radiator fan ON switch in-cabin
  • AEM EMS serial cable hookup in passenger foot well
  • Custom brushed aluminum “Twin Turbo” pedal replacement set including dead pedal
  • Levoc chrome trigger shift knob with leather insert
  • Seattle91VR4 Roller-Bearing short-throw shifter
  • Solid brass shifter bushings in-cabin and in-engine bay
  • LoCustoms Shark Attack II antenna
  • Battery relocation to trunk enclosed in Taylor aluminum battery box
  • Metal PDA mount on driverside door panel (remove it?)
  • Custom carpeted trunk covers
  • Battery quick disconnect knob
  • Delete – electric antenna motor
  • Delete – active exhaust motor
  • Delete – rear wiper and plugged hole with rubber gasket to prevent moisture

Large and in charge

Exterior and Cosmetic

  • Custom front bumper with larger openings (increased airflow and cooling) by Jack at KKT Auto
  • Custom side-mounted, removable license plate frame
  • Delete – front active area air dam, metal bar and motor
  • New 1999 Mitsubishi 3000GT rear garnish with chrome symbol
  • RT Motorsport custom engine undertray
  • RT Motorsport custom radiator baffles
  • Replaced “Twin Turbo” sail panels (spares available)

:(

The Nothing’s Perfect List

It’s a sad fact that nothing in life is ever perfect.  As a detail-oriented person by nature, and a project manager by profession, the following items are a list of issues that I have found over the years with a critical eye.  I present them for full and fair disclosure but hope that you can appreciate the spectacular performance and value of the whole package.

  • Rear hatch latch rattles over bumps (FIXED – latch required adjustment and the rattle is now gone)
  • Wheel balance issue, I lost some wheel weights on the front right rim (FIXED – offending wheel balanced)
  • ABS relay failed and was removed, brakes work fine but the primitive ABS system no longer functions
  • Rear bumper has some carbon staining above the exhaust and needs a buffing to remove
  • Autometer SportCompII oil temperature gauge is duct taped to the steering column (undecided about mounting a pod)
  • Driverside dash vent is cracked
  • Ebrake light remains on even when the brake is not engaged (ebrake switch problem)
  • Driverside front lip paint is cracked from an unfortunate scrape on my dad’s driveway
  • Gas gauge needle reads 2-ticks over 3/4 when fully fueled
  • Dash tweeter speakers are not connected
  • Poorly touched up scratch (2cm long) on driverside rear quarter panel by previous owner
  • Nickel sized ding on hood
  • Autometer Sportcomp II pyrometer/EGT gauge illumination light not working, otherwise gauge works fine
  • In cold weather (0 to 5*C) idle oscillates from 1000 to 1200 RPM but idles steady in the summer
  • Driverside side-view mirror vibrates over bumps and at high-speed
  • Driverside side-view mirror viewing angle can’t be pushed out as far as I’d like

Full Photo Album Click Here

Posted Listings

This For Sale Ad has been posted on several locations on the Internet.  Here are links to the ads I have posted.

April 6, 2012 Posted by | Mistubishi 3000GT VR-4, Motoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Flashback Dec 2010: My Epic Mazdaspeed Miata Journey from TX to TO

In late 2010 I got it into my head that I wanted to buy and import an MX-5 Miata from the US, which led me to the best Miata forum dedicated to the 2004-2005 Mazdaspeed Miata:  Mazda-Speed.com Forum.  On perusing the Classified section, I found a very reasonably priced Titanium Grey 2005 specimen in Austin Texas owned by the forum member “hweelies”.  In December of 2010 I flew to Austin and documented My Epic Journey in the Welcome section of the forum.  I reproduce it here to recapture some of the awesomeness of that experience.

My Epic Journey from TX to TO

Part 1:  Days 1 to 5

I’ve been meaning to post a greeting for the past few days since I purchased a 2005 Ti MSM from one of the forum members here.  Being that I’m from Toronto Ontario Canada and the car was in Austin Texas, I thought it would make for a fun adventure and roadtrip to fly down and drive it back.  The journey isn’t quite over yet but it has so far served its purpose of creating a deep bond between car and driver through shared hardship and trials.  Forgive the length of this post but for me this was an epic adventure.

Day 1 and 2: Austin TX

Waking up at 2AM, a good friend drove me from TO to Buffalo Intl Airport.  After a stop-off at US Customs to declare the monies and a quick Tim Horton’s coffee break I arrived in good time for my 6:30AM flight to Charlotte and then to Austin with a slight 1H delay.  The seller and forum member hweelies kindly met me at the airport and promptly took me for some fun canyon driving along 2222 and Limecreek Rd.  This is the first MSM I’ve driven and I was instantly impressed with the MSM’s agility, lightness, good power and, in the right hands, its ability to rotate with throttle.

Lime Creek Road, Austin TX

Hweelies is a fantastic guy who went well beyond expectations in preparing the car for my arrival.  That alone was well worth traveling to TX but he also introduced me to a few of his close friends including the owner of Velocity Adventures – http://velocityadventurestexas.com/.  And he was able to get me on the track at the top-notch facility of Harris Hill Road – http://harrishillroad.com/.  The owner Bo is a super-friendly gentleman with a willing smile and a passion for motorsports.  That track is incredible and my few parade laps were over far too soon :(

Since I am driving from sunny Austin all the way north to Canada I thought it prudent to purchase a set of winter tires and rims which would prove invaluable for the rest of the journey.

Day 3: Austin TX to Jackson MS

Waking on Day 3 I was so excited to begin the 2000 mile road-trip.  I promptly dropped the top, stopped at the Rise and Shine Bakery on my way back to Limecreek Rd and took about 10 runs of that awesome awesome road.  You Austin-ers are so lucky!  I even saw a family of deer run across the road eliciting a shout of “Deer!”

The next 9 hours would have been extremely boring if it wasn’t for the fact that this was my first top-down drive.  Maybe 550 miles on the interstate at 90mph isn’t the best cruise but it was fun none-the-less for a convertible noobie.  The car ran like a champ, although displaying the 70mph shimmy that is commonly attributed to wheel balance. 

Day 4: Jackson MS to Birmingham AL to Chattanooga TN

From Jackson I took a 4H drive to Birmingham Intl to pick up mrs.clumzy and we proceeded to drive top-down towards Chattanooga.  Our open-air experience was cut short immediately by rain and cold weather but we managed to make it there in good time.  We stayed at the lovely Sheraton Read House hotel in this quaint town and ate at Sticky Fingers, which was just okay.

Birmingham Intl Airport AL

Day 5:  Slaying a Dragon

The weather on the drive to Tellico Plains grew steadily colder and more overcast as we progressed, while the terrain became more hilly.  Snow flurries were present but no accumulation.  After a brief stop in town, which is about as mountain rural as you can imagine, we made a B-line to the Cherohalo Skyway towards Robbinsville NC.  As we climbed the road twisted around the mountain like a serpent perched on a rocky ledge, providing gorgeous vistas of the Smokey Mountains.  The snow continued to fall at a furious pace but as Canadians we were unperturbed.  “We’ve driven in much worse”, we said.

10 miles into the Cherohalo Skyway and at over 4000ft elevation we approached a bend in the road and sign indicating a 9% downhill grade.  As we rounded the corner we saw 4x4s and vehicles parked along the sides of the road and a gentleman was waving his arms over his head at us as we slowly descended the hill and pulled up beside him.  In his southern twangy accent he said, “Now you’re stuck”.  He explained that most of the 4x4s were trying to get up the hill and were having a tough time of it as the road was a white sheet of ice.  A moment of panic gripped my wife and I as we pondered whether to turn around and head back or continue on into the unknown weather and road conditions.  We quickly realized that we couldn’t ascend the hill and decided to soldier onward.  With weird side-ways glances and snickering from the 4×4 driving locals we drove on in our tough little roadster.

Slightly snowy conditions, Cherohalo Skyway, TN

30 miles or so of white-knuckled driving through white-out conditions and unplowed roads brought us to the relatively peaceful town of Robbinsville at about 4PM.  The snow hadn’t hit this area and I insisted we brave the 11 miles and 318 curves (which isn’t necessarily accurate).  It was time to “slay the dragon” .. or at least taunt it from a distance and run-away before it noticed us.

The first half of our westward run was astonishing.  The road winds viciously around the mountain and through the woods, hammering you with turn after turn after turn of driving delights.  It is pure driving candy for the soul.  Then night fell.  Delight turned to fear as we emerged near Calderwood Lake and turned around in utter darkness.  As we couldn’t see anything outside the cone of our headlamps, which seemed like pin-pricks of light in a vast sea of blackness, fear turned to terror .  We were acutely aware that potential head-on collision death awaited to the left (even in utter darkness we weren’t the only fools on the Dragon) and painful cliff-falling/tree-smashing death awaited on the right.  With my nerves frayed we rolled back into Robbinsville around 7PM.  The Dragon had thoroughly kicked my ass.

Darkness, utter darkness on the Tail of the Dragon, NC

Thankfully the drive to Winston-Salem NC was much less eventful other than being quite long and boring.

Part 2:  Days 6 to 8

Day 6: Hard Dog, Winston-Salem NC to Morgantown WV

After a brief night’s sleep in Winston-Salem, I woke early, leaving my wife dozing in bed, and brought the little beast to Bethania Garage, home of Hard Dog Fabrication – http://www.bethania-garage.com/.  I had arranged in advance with the owner, Tom, to have an HD M2 Sport installed at his humble but efficient facility.  He even loaned us his personal NB my wife and I could hangout at the Hanes mall for the afternoon until the bar was ready.  He didn’t disappoint with an installation that looks like it came from the factory.  The interior plastics and carpet that needed to be trimmed were done with laser precision and care.  Very impressive Tom!

Hard Dog, Winston-Salem NC

We got back on the road at 6PM as the sun went down, not knowing that we were in for another nerve-wracking and hazardous drive through WV.  It turns out that WV is one of the most hilly states where the interstate carves its way through the Appalachian mountains.  On a warm sunny day this drive would have been spectacular, but in the pitch dark with more white-out conditions and unplowed roads it ground me down to raw-nerves trying to keep it on the road.  We guessed that most travellers took shelter from this storm as we saw few cars, only brave transport truck drivers.

The poor front lip smacked into countless chunks of brown-ish ice and the front bumper was pelted mercilessly but several road-salting trucks.  The poor Miata was taking more of a beating than it’s ever experienced in it’s sun-kissed life.  But it took care of us with over 300 miles per 12g tank, a great heater and, dare I say, a comfortable interior.

A 5H drive took over 7Hs and we arrived at the Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown around 2AM.  Exhausted and road-weary, we flopped into bed, hoping the next day would be less eventful.

After a harrowing winter drive through WV, Miata WINS

Day 7:  Morgantown WV to Grove City PA

Thankfully our hopes were realized, at least for 1 day, as we took the short drive 2.5H to Grove City.  The outlet mall beckoned us with a brief respite to our long, dangerous drives.  The MSM has great useable highway power, allowing me to leave it in 6th and go anywhere from 45mph to 90mph without drama.  With the winter tires it behaved as surefooted in the snow as a mountain goat.  The rollbar served not only as protection but to my surprise also stiffened up the rear end considerably, making the car feel as solid as a coupe.  And in all other respects, it drove sensationally.

Snow-covered in Grove City PA

Day 8: Grove City to Buffalo NY

With threats of more snow and bad weather we departed at 10AM for a relatively short drive to Buffalo.  The roads were clear and the sun peeked out in between the clouds, offering hope that our journey was nearing an end.  Then the CEL started blinking 20 miles down the road and the engine rumbled and sounded like it was struggling.  My heart sank into my feet.  “Something’s wrong”, I said to my wife.

We pulled off the interstate at Meadville and quickly found an AutoZone.  The gentleman there was kind enough to hook up a scan-tool and pull the codes.  P0304 and P2877, misfire cylinder #4 and fuel system lean condition.  Not good.  He recommended we go down the road to Auto Tune and Lube, a local garage to investigate.  So much for our arrival in Buffalo in the daylight.

After 4Hs of investigation, Laban Smith, the owner of Auto Tune, we discovered that it appears to be a stuck injector.  With the car running there’s a smell of raw fuel near cylinder 4 and the options were few.  He couldn’t fix it but he recommended a Mazda dealership at Erie, 30 miles further.  Perhaps this was an unwise decision but I decided to continue on to Buffalo and limp it back to my home in Canada with the hopes of taking it to my mechanic for a thorough investigation.  My wife needed to get back to work and I was literally feeling sick with a head cold.

Editor Note:  It turned out that one of the igniter coils died and I was able to replace it with an OEM part in my garage.  I ended up replacing both of the coils and keeping the 2nd working one as a spare in case this happened again.  Also, the prolonged driving with the dead coil clogged my cat.  Since the FM downpipe has the cat integrated, I recently purchased a new FM downpipe for a replacement.  It has yet to be installed.

After a short 2H drive we arrived in Buffalo, but not in time for me to export the car from the US and import it to Canada.  My schedule was delayed by 1 day.

Part 3: Day 9 The Finale

Day 9: Export/Import Day and Home

Today was the final day to my epic Miata adventure from TX to TO and thankfully it was largely uneventful.  After waking in a spartan but clean room at the Days Inn Niagara Falls I packed up the MSM for the last leg of the roadtrip.  Making my way to the Lewiston border crossing I parked the car at US Customs and the nice CBP officer processed the vehicle title.  When I asked if everything was okay he simply said, “Yes, except for the outstanding murder warrant out on you.”  As he checked the VIN the best response I could manage was an awkward laugh, and then I was off to Canadian customs.

A unexpected night in Buffalo NY

The Canadian side was more time-consuming but not overly painful.  Since I had the title, bill of sale and a filled out Form 1 the paperwork and tax payment was quite simple.  A customs officer then thoroughly searched the vehicle for any contraband or illegal items, asking me a variety of questions, and upon finding nothing amiss he left me go.

The final 150 or so miles were eaten up quickly as I travelled the familiar roads from Niagara Falls to my home in Toronto.  The car was still running very poorly with the misfire on cylinder 4 but cruised adequately at 70mph without too much strain.  I hoped I wasn’t causing too much damage with this condition.

Reflecting back on the past 9 days filled with joy and peril, euphoria and terror, I realized that only people with a passion for cars and driving, people like us, could truly revel and savour the journey itself.  In a masochistic way the adversity and trials are simply milestones for our memories, providing a funny story to look back on and chuckle with our friends over food and drink.  I don’t regret a minute of the travel or the process of my mini-epic, but I concede that when I pulled the battered and dirtied Miata into my driveway I let out a great sigh of relief and I said, “Welcome to your new home”.

Full Album of Pictures Here

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Mazda Miata, Motoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DIY Nürburgring Travel Planning for Canadians

The Nürburgring Nordschleife

Update Jan 27, 2012:  The 2012 Nürburgring Calendar of TF days has been published and it’s not looking good for the public.  Notice the absence of almost all weekday evening public sessions.  For tourists, the weekends are the only option and will be even busier.  Check out this Autoblog article, “Nürburgring lapping days fast becoming and thing of the past“.

To car enthusiasts the world over the name evokes intense longing, fear, excitement, and perhaps even arousal.  To us Canadians the dream of tasting these motoring delights may seem so unattainable, like the mythical fountain of youth hidden in a land far, far away.

Or is it?  Could it be possible that mere mortal gear-heads from the “North” of America can visit and conquer the “Grüne Hölle” with minimal cost and effort?  Fear not fellow Canucks, the answer is a resounding YES.  This DIY article (incidentally the first after a long hiatus from this blog) will guide you through the planning and execution of fulfilling the Nürburgring dream.

Warnings

In my opinion a good DIY article always has safety warnings to protect the less-than-capable reader from common problems and more often themselves.  Obviously for this travel-based DIY we can forgo the normal “death by wrenching” treatment, however, we should be aware that Nürburgring travel is not without its dangers.

  1. Track Safety:  Let’s make one thing abundantly clear, we’re talking about flying across the ocean, renting a car, and driving at high-speed around the most fearsome race track ever devised by humans.  People crash, are hurt, or die on a daily basis.  This is serious.
  2. Cost:  Like most endeavors in life, money solves problems.  This is no different.  I assume that you don’t wipe your rear with $1000 bills, so be warned this will get expensive quickly.  That said, we will be wise, not wasteful, with our money.
  3. Respect:  You are traveling to Germany where people are not obligated to speak English and where you are the foreigner.  Respect the country.  Treat the people, their culture, and their laws with the highest degree of courtesy and respect.
  4. Personal Safety:  I’ll refrain from a rant about traveler’s safety, but keep your wits about you and be safe.

If you choose to use any of the suggestions in this article, you do so at your own peril.  You’ve been warned.

Travel Preparation

Dottinger Hohe Straight

With a little bit of effort in planning and preparation, your trip to the Nürburgring Nordschleife can be accomplished with minimal pain and maximum gain.  Whenever I plan a trip I tend to pre-book as much as possible, which in most cases is easily accomplished with a few clicks and a credit card.

In terms of travel preparation we’ll be looking at the following items:

  1. When?
  2. Flight
  3. Accommodations
  4. Street Car Rental / Car Hire
  5. Track Car Rental / Car Hire

Step 1: When?

When indeed.  Before you select a date let’s clear up a misconception about the ‘Ring.  It is not open every day to tourists.  Therefore, you have two options for driving on the track.

  1. Touristfahrten or “Tourist Driving”, when the track opens to the public.
  2. Private Track Days, when an organization books the entire track for all or part of a day.

Also consider that the track is often closed for events and races.

Touristfahrten

Check the online Nürburgring tourist calendars for the list of open Touristfahrten days, such as Ben Lovejoy’s Nürburgring Nordschleife website.  This site has an English calendar in the “Trip Planning” section, click “Opening Times / Calendar”.  Many other calendars exist, just Google it.  For my trip we did two evening touristfahrten sessions.

The benefits of the touristfahtren sessions are that you simply purchase a lap ticket and you can get on the track.  The track is open for the times posted and there’s minimal fuss.

On the other hand, the detriments are that anyone can be there with any cars and any driver skill level with a tendency towards the unskilled.  You may encounter any number family cars, buses and motorcycles.  Also, you will enter and exit the track per lap, meaning no flying-laps.

One last consideration for touristfahrten is the choice of full-day weekends or ~2 hour evening sessions.  Full-day weekends may be tempting but be warned that it gets busy.  Not only busy but with more people comes more unskilled and stupid drivers.  I recommend trying for weekday evening sessions for smaller crowds and less traffic.

Tip:  If an private event is scheduled on a weekend, the weekday evenings leading up to the event may have less attendance.

Private Track Days

Private Track Days are available from a number of organizations and you can find them by Googling.  As my trip was during touristfahrten, I cannot recommend or comment on the quality of any organizer.  That said, for my next trip I will be sure to build the schedule around a private event to avoid some of the pitfalls of going to the tourist sessions.

Step 2:  Flight

You’ve decided on the dates you wish to drive the Nürburgring.  It’s time to book a flight, but to where?

First take a look at a Google Map of the location of the Nürburgring.  The Nordschleife entrance is very close to the tiny little village of Nurburg, Germany.  Clearly, you cannot book an international flight directly to Nürburg so I recommend that you fly into Frankfurt, Germany.

Option 1: Frankfurt

Frankfurt is a good choice as it is located about 2 hours from the ‘Ring.  The Frankfurt international airport (FRA) is a large hub, so you may be able to find lower-cost flight options.  Direct flights from Toronto (YYZ) are available, are quite economical, and the airport itself is huge.  Rental cars (more on this later) are available within the terminal.

This is where I flew into and therefore it’s my recommendation.  At the time of writing AirTransat has reasonably priced flights to Frankfurt, but do your research to get the best price.

Option 2: Paris

Another option is flying into Paris France (CDG), which is also a large international hub and economical flights are available.  However, it’s located over 5 hours from the ‘Ring and you’ll have to cross a country border to get there.  On the upside Paris is a wonderful place to visit in its own right and may be worth visiting as part of your ‘Ring adventure.  Especially if you are traveling with your significant other.

Option 3: Cologne

The final option we’ll discuss is nearby Cologne Germany (CGN), which is only about 1 hour away from the ‘Ring.  I haven’t researched this extensively but a quick search indicates that there are connecting flights that will take you there.  Be prepared to pay more.  I don’t see any particularly compelling reason for Cologne vs. Frankfurt unless time is a critically important factor for your trip.

Step 3:  Accommodations

So at this point you’ve selected your ‘Ring visit dates and booked your flight.  In this section we’ll only talk about accommodations as it pertains to the days that you plan to visit the ‘Ring.  Obviously, if you fly into Paris and wish to stay there, you’re on your own.

Option 1:  Stay Near the ‘Ring

Nurburg Village

The Nürburgring is located near a couple of  small towns: Nürburg and Adenau.  If you have a choice I recommend staying in Nürburg.  You’ll be close-by so you can enjoy your stay without having to drive a distance before and after your laps.  As well, you can leisurely tour the area and take in the beauty of the Eifel mountains.

At this point I will direct you to the Where to Stay page on Ben Lovejoy’s Nürburgring Nordschleife website as he has a good rundown of local hotels.

Additionally, check out the Where do I Stay page on the Nürburgring for Dummies website for a second opinion.

For full and fair disclosure I did not stay at a local hotel for personal reasons, but if I did I would consider Hotel Burgstube, which is located at the foot of Nürburg Castle.  I’m sure any of the local hotels would be more than adequate, just don’t expect the Ritz Carlton.  At the time of writing, expect to pay about 50€ for a single occupancy room.

Option 2:  Stay in Frankfurt

Due to personal reasons I had to stay in Frankfurt and drive the 2 hours to the ‘Ring.  Frankfurt is a large city and offers many hotels for all budgets.  If you don’t mind driving (factor in the price of gas/petrol) this can be a low-cost option if you can find decent and cheap accommodations.  Use your discretion.

Step 4:  Street Car Rental

Now you have your ‘Ring dates decided, the flight is booked and accommodations are reserved.  We’re almost finished our preparation.  You’re going to need to rent a car for the street.  Why car?  Because just like North America you’re not going anywhere outside of a large city without one.  Even if you could get to the ‘Ring without a car you’d still be stuck in the town of Nurburg and unable to visit the other attractions in and around the ‘Ring.

Let’s be 100% clear, regular car rental companies do not let you drive their rental cars on the Nürburgring.  It is clearly stated in the rental contract but may not explicitly say “Nürburgring”.  If you do drive on the ‘Ring you void the insurance and if anything happens to the car you will be fully responsible for all damages, fees and penalties.  This car is strictly to get you to and from the ‘Ring and for touring around the area.  We’ll talk about track car rental next.

There are many car rental companies right in the Frankfurt airport, and the adjoining train station, so I recommend checking your favourite car rental online resource for the best rates.  I rented from SIXT using Priceline.

Step 5: Track Car Rental

The Mighty Rent4Ring Steeds, Suzuki Swift Stage 2

You have the ‘Ring dates, flight, accommodations, and street car rental.  Phew!  The final step in our preparation is to book a track car.  This is going to be a bit expensive and you may be tempted to drive your street car rental on the ‘Ring.  This is an important point so I’ll go over it again.

Do not drive the street car rental on the ‘Ring

Not only do you breach your contract and void your insurance, look at it this way.  You are driving on the most treacherous race track in the world.  It asks … no, it demands your full attention and respect.  You’ll experience insane gut-wrenching elevation changes, terrifying blind turns, super-cars blasting by you, guard-rails seemingly millimetres from the road, and you will be lost like a 5 year-old in a house of horrors.  If you make a mistake here the ‘Ring will bite you and bite you hard.  Then steal your wallet.

Why Track Car?

The track car rental is a no-brainer.  Although it may seem expensive, considering everything a track car is quite economical.  Most, if not all, rental companies will provide you a car that is fully track-prepped for maximum enjoyment and maximum safety.  The car will have the right safety equipment, tires, brakes, roll-cage, and most importantly, they will be fully maintained to provide lap after lap of care-free track abuse.  This leaves you to focus on being safe, having fun, and on the business of driving.

Rent4Ring is my Suggestion

For those of you on a budget I recommend renting from Rent4Ring.  Their packages and prices are listed on the Cars/Prices page.  I’m not affiliated with them and receive nothing from them if you become a customer.  In my experience Dale and Ralph are true car-enthusiasts that love driving and motorsports.

The Suzuki Swift Stage 2 rental that I rented was an excellent car and extremely capable on the track.  What it lacked in power it more than made up for in nimble handling, immense grip, and a surprisingly soul-stirring sound.  Contact Dale for the details and current pricing, but I assure you that you’ll be satisfied.

At the time of writing, expect to pay about 300€ for an all-inclusive package including Suzuki Swift Stage 2 car rental, 4 lap tickets, and gas.  It truly is arrive and drive.

If you do rent from them, mention you heard about them from imclumzy’s Weblog and tell Dale and Ralph I said hi!

Other Options

There are many other car rental shops that will accommodate budgets of all sizes (mostly large sizes).  Feel like a baller?  Rent a Porsche 997 GT3 RS from RSR Nurburg.  Or Google for others.

Tip:  Pay attention to the damage deductible.  If you smash up the car, what is the maximum you will pay?  At the time of writing Rent4Ring’s maximum deductible is ~2,500€.

Travel Preparation Concludes

At this point you’re feeling pretty good and you’re anxiously awaiting your departure date.  You’ve got your airplane tickets in hand, your sweet Nurburg accommodations booked, and the street rental and track rental cars reserved.  The VISA bill has come in and after a small heart-attack you’ve taken care of it.

If the preparation stopped here you’d still be well prepared and have an extremely good time.  Want to make more out of this epic ‘Ring adventure?  Let’s move on to the next section where we’ll run through more tips and information that will help you get the most out of it.

Amp My ‘Ring

Pflanzgarten I

Pre-Arrival Nordschleife Familiarization

The Nordschleife is over 22km long and consists of  over 70 turns.  It’s an evil thing of beauty carved into the Eifel mountains that winds, twists, drops and churns you into an adrenaline-pumped euphoria.  If there was ever a track to familiarize yourself with before you get there, this is it.  To say it another way for you Ontario track-veterans … this is not Shannonville, Mosport GP or Calabogie.  This is the ‘RING!

Simulation Practice

There is some debate over the usefulness of virtually driving the ‘Ring in simulation video games.  Naysayers point to the fact that the video games can’t replicate the G-forces, elevation changes, bumpy track surface, and chiefly, the fear of driving at high-speed on the Nordschleife.  That may be true but let’s put virtual practice into context.

The purpose of simulated laps is to familiarize yourself with the track layout, recognize major landmarks, and identify potentially hazardous areas.  Notice that the purpose is not to prepare you to pull an 8 minute lap on your first visit to the ‘Ring.  Remember that driving the ‘Ring is serious business so take this practice seriously.

Tips:

  • Select a video game that has the Nordscheife.  Games include Gran Turismo 5 (PS3), Forza Motorsports 4 (Xbox), Gran Turismo (PSP), Need for Speed – Shift 2: Unleashed (PC) to name a few.
  • Choose a low-powered FWD (front wheel drive) or AWD (all wheel drive) car and stick with it.
  • Make a mental note of major landmarks so you know your relative position on the track.  Landmarks include the Nurburg castle, the pit-lane concrete wall (T-13), and the Hotel An Der Nordschleife (Wehrseifen to Ex-Muhle).
  • Memorize all the turn directions, especially the blind ones.  You should be able to say out loud the direction, right or left, of the next turn before you reach it.
  • Don’t worry about the racing line.  In time turn off the racing line assists if your game has that feature.
  • Ignore the lap time.
  • Pay attention to keeping the car on the road.
  • Try for clean laps.  Don’t touch grass, hit walls or crash.
  • When you do crash, take note of where and what you were doing.
  • Do 50 to 100 laps (or more!).  Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it immediately.
  • Turn off all assists and try to do clean laps.

From my personal experience I must have done 400-500 virtual laps before I arrived at the ‘Ring.  Of course the real thing looks and feels very different than a video game but by practicing it was far safer and more enjoyable to drive.

On-Board Videos

YouTube has a wealth of on-board videos that people have made in all sorts of cars.  You may be tempted to watch videos from racing drivers in high-powered super-cars but I suggest you watch good drivers in slow cars.  For example, there are videos of Rent4Ring’s Suzuki Swift that are well worth watching.

Pay attention to the driver’s racing line and recognize the landmarks that you’ve identified virtually.  Watch for braking points, apexes, and exit points.  Take this seriously because it will bridge the gap between the virtual world and the real thing.

Driving Tips

You’re nearing your arrival at the ‘Ring and you just realized that you’re unfamiliar with the rules.  Be aware that the Nürburgring doesn’t hold driver briefings (although your track car rental vendor may), have marshals reminding you of rules, or even a posted list of the rules.  You are expected to know exactly what you’re doing.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of important rules and tips that you would do well to commit to memory:

  • Don’t crash.  Seriously, do not crash.
  • The ‘Ring is a one-way public toll road and German laws apply:
    • Drive on the right, pass on the left.
    • Unofficially, when there are no other cars around you are permitted to use the whole road.
    • When you are approached from behind by a faster car, use your turn signal to indicate to the right and move to the right.
    • When you approach a slower car, signal left and wait for the slower car to move to the right.
    • Do not pass on the right.
    • The speed limit for the ‘Ring is either 130km (default speed limit for unposted roads) or unlimited for most sections.
    • Obey the posted speed limits at 2 points on the track: approaching the Hotel An Der Nordschleife (Wehrseifen to Ex-Muhle) and approaching the pit-in / finish area.
  • Be respectful of the track and other drivers.
  • Beware of stupid drivers.  Just because there are rules doesn’t mean everyone follows them.
  • Beware of road works on the track.  Keep your wits about you and be prepared to slow down for service vehicles or others stopped on the road.
  • There are sometimes yellow flashing lights at certain points on the track.  If you see them, take extra caution.
  • Beware, there can be extreme danger around any turn.  At any time there can be crashes, debris, fluids and even animals on the track.
  • At Hotel An Der Nordschleife there is an entrance to the ring before Ex-Muhle.  Watch out for vehicles merging onto the track.
  • Be prepared for rain, anywhere on the track.  The weather turns very quickly in the mountains.

How to Get to the ‘Ring

Pflanzgarten I

I’m sure you can use Google Maps and get directions from your city of choice so I won’t rehash that here.  However, when you’re on the ground driving it can be a bit confusing.  My recommendation is to get a GPS.

GPS Tips

  • Pay a little extra and get GPS in your street rental car.  Make sure you get an attendant to change it to English and show you how to use it.
  • On your smartphone, download a GPS application (ie. Navigon or TomTom)
  • Don’t have a GPS?  Then you’re screwed.

What Address Should I Enter into the GPS?

Here are 3 choices that are a stone’s throw away from each other in the small village of Nurburg, 2 minutes south of the track entrance.

  1. Rent4Ring – Burgstrasse 1, 53520 Nürburg, Germany
  2. Hotel Am Tiergarten – Kirchweg 4, 53520 Nürburg, Germany
  3. BMW Motorsport – Hauptstr. 26, 53520 Nürburg, Germany

Or use the ‘Ring Entrance GPS coordinates below.

Where is the ‘Ring Entrance

The Nürburgring Nordschleife track entrance is located here.  According to Google Maps the GPS coordinates are:

50.346583, 6.965865

Here is a map of the area courtesy of Wikimapia and Bing Maps.

Better yet, use these coordinates to program into your GPS instead of the addresses above.

Where to Eat

I can only make two recommendations for where to eat in Nurburg.

Restaurant Pistenklause

Pistenklause Fillet Steak on a Hot Stone

The Pistenklause Restaurant is located minutes from the Nürburgring entrance and a few steps from Rent4Ring.  It’s actually part of the Hotel Am Tiergarten and is owned by the Schmitz family (yes, Sabine Schmitz‘s family).  The signature dish is steak on a hot stone which is a piece of raw fillet or rump steak (pork is also available) on a square hot stone, served with roasted potatoes and a salad, that you cut and cook yourself.  It’s delicious!

TripAdvisor – Pistenklause.

Most of the staff speak flawless English and it is open from 4PM.  The place was quite busy when we arrived so I highly recommend making a reservation if at all possible.  At the time of writing, expect to pay about 20€ for the hot stone meal combo.

Tipping Tip:  Although tipping is not required in Germany, it is appreciated.  We treated Germany like anywhere in Canada where 10-15% tip is the norm.

Zur Burg (?)

Now this pub was an unplanned choice that turned out to be fantastic.  The barkeep didn’t speak English and the only thing I was confident about ordering was the hamburger and fries … and they were awesome!  The fries had a slight spicing to them, while the burger was large and beefy.  Plus it’s literally at the foot of Nürburg castle.

The restaurant/pub is located at:

Burgplatz 2
53520 Nürburg, Germany

GPS Coordinates: 50.345618,6.952778

Gas / Petrol Station

The closest Gas / Petrol Station is located on the B258 (Google Map).

GPS Coordinates:  50.351389, 6.981211

You can also buy some licensed Nürburgring souvenirs there like stickers and hats.

What Else is There to Do?

The Eifel mountains area is incredibly beautiful and has lots to offer tourists.  There are plenty of things to do in an around the ‘Ring and, if you’re willing to drive a bit further away, there’s even more.  Here’s a few suggestions that can serve as a starting point for your research and planning.

Nurburgring Viewing Points

Jaguar Spyshot!

There are many locations around the ‘Ring that you can view the road and watch the action.  Stand around awhile and pretend you’re a car magazine spy photographer, taking snapshots of camouflaged prototype cars.  Some view points are accessible by car, while others require you to hike.

Here is an excellent Google Map (courtesy of Ben Lovejoy) overlain with the various viewing points.  Take your pick!

Two easy spots are along the B412 where the Brunchen and Pflanzgarten viewing areas are directly off the road.  Mind the parking lots, they are poorly graveled and whoa-fully potholed.

Nürburg Castle

Nurburg Castle

Nürburg Castle is fully visible while driving the ‘Ring and is one of the most prominent landmarks in the area.  It’s free to walk up and take pictures from the outside, but admission to the inside costs around 5€.  I believe it closes at 5PM on weekdays so if you did want to tour the inside, get there early.

For a more detailed description I again defer to Ben Lovejoy’s fine website.

RingWerk

The RingWerk is a large leisure-park facility built just outside the village of Nürburg that contains a museum, an indoor go-kart track, gift shops, a fast-food booth, and little else.  Parking costs a couple of € and the only real reason to visit is to buy some Nurburgring licensed souvenirs.  Nurburgring toaster anyone?

Nürburgring 258, 53520 Nürburg, Germany

Largely this corporate monstrosity is a thumb in the eye of ‘Ring enthusiasts and is the embodiment of all that is wrong with the management of the ‘Ring.  More on this later.

Cochem and Cochem Castle

Cochem Castle

About a 30 minute drive from the ‘Ring is the stunning Cochem Castle, perched above the picturesque Moselle river and the village of Cochem.  Originally built in 1056 it was destroyed in 1688 by the French King Louis XIV.  In 1868 the ruins were purchased by a Berlin business man named Louis Ravené and the castle was rebuilt in the neo-gothic architectural style.  For about 10€ you can see the inside by taking a 40 minute guided tour.  The tour is in German but an English sheet is provided with information about each stop on the tour.  Our tour guide also spoke English and did provide some commentary for the English-speakers in the crowd.

The village of Cochem is incredibly charming and is well worth a stroll.  The narrow cobblestone pedestrian streets lead to a small main square that offers quaint gift shops, gelatorias, and little restaurants.   The walk up to the castle entrance winds up through some of the back streets, just follow the signs.

Frankfurt

Frankfurt Dom/Romer area square

As already mentioned Frankfurt is a very large, diverse and modern city that’s about 2 hours drive away from the ‘Ring.  It offers everything from Vietnamese Beef Pho Noodles to the soaring gothic Dom Cathedral.  I’ll leave you to your own devices to select your tourist-traps of choice.

Tip:  Parking in Frankfurt is a confusing mess of indecipherable German signs.  Paid street parking is available if you can figure out where you can and can’t park during the appropriate times.  Otherwise, find underground parking for a flat fee.  You pay more but you don’t run the risk of your rental car being ticketed or towed. 

Save The Ring

I have to admit that before visiting I was unaware of the animosity by the locals (and their supporters) towards the current management of the Nürburgring.  The objections are wide-ranging from a disregard to driver safety to the misuse of public funds in turning the ‘Ring into “NüroDisney”.  The ‘Ring is the lifeblood of this and the surrounding communities and it’s success or failure directly impacts the local economy.  This isn’t the right place to discuss the topic but for more information, or to show your support, visit to the Save the Ring webpage.

The Long and Winding Road

Dusk over Brunnchen

In this article we’ve demystified some of the logistics and details of this grand adventure to the greatest race track in the world.  We talked about the mundane matters of preparing for your flights, lodgings, and transport.  We’ve touched on the serious task of preparing yourself for the ‘Ring, what to do, how to get around, and where to eat.  And finally we’ve just scratched the surface of the other nearby tourist activities and destinations in this beautiful part of Germany.

My last suggestion is to savour the moment.  You will be standing where many dream but few have come.  Revere the history, the heritage, the passion of victory and the honour of defeat of lives that have come and gone from this place.  You my friend are on hallowed ground.  Savour it.

My hope is that this article has been helpful and informative for your travels and I invite you to leave a comment or send me your suggestions.

Your adventure doesn’t end after the first visit to this legendary place.  This experience stirs your emotions and stokes a fire in your soul.  The ‘Ring beckons for you, haunts your dreams and teases you with its dangerous curves.  Do you dare return to dance with the devil in Green Hell?

References

General

Ben Lovejoy’s Nurburgring Nordschliefe Website – the definitive English source the ‘Ring

Nurburgring for Dummies – another excellent English ‘Ring resource

Hotels and Restaurants

Hotel Burgstube – a Nurburg hotel located at the foot of the Nurburg castle

Hotel An Der Nordscheilfe – a hotel visible from the Nurburgring

Pistenklause – the Schmitz family restaurant

Car Rental / Car Hire

SIXT – international street car rental / car hire company

Rent4Ring.de – economical track car rentals

RSR Nurburg – some economical and some not so economical track car rentals

Miscellaneous

RingWerk – official Nurburgring leisure park facility

Cochem Castle – stunning castle and village 30 minutes from the ‘Ring

Save the Ring

Dom/Römer

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

DIY 3000GT Active Aero Rewire for Manual Operation

WARNING: This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) article is for informational purposes only.  Working on your car may be dangerous and may result in injury or death.  The author accepts no liability for any such injury or death, intentional or unintentional, resulting from this guide.  You have been warned, proceed at your own personal risk.

Summary:

This DIY is not my own creation.  A brilliant 3SI member, stupidvr4posted this thread on the 3SI Forum where he created and documented this “How To” for the good of the community.  Big props to him!  The reason for this article is simply to summarize and clarify his instructions as I found it quite confusing and made a few mistakes on along the way.  This isn’t a full DIY, but should give you enough info to get this done.

Before we begin, the motivation for this modification is to address an issue with Active Aero.  On Mitsubishi 3000GTs years 1991 to at least 1993, possibly 1994, featured an electronic front air dam and rear spoiler that actuates at speed.  Over time this system often becomes damaged, usually due to problems with the front active aero motor.  Or, as in my case, the installation of an FMIC often necessitates removing the underspooler, active aero assembly and motor.  Regardless, once the front motor is gone the system doesn’t actuate the rear wing alone.

Let’s get to it.  To perform this upgrade you’ll need to buy a few parts, be handy with wiring (and soldering if you’re so inclined) and about 3-4 hours.

What to Buy / What you Need:

2 x 5-pin automotive relays – like this one.  In Canada you can buy one of these from CarQuest (part # 56-1728) … a bit expensive though at around $15.

2 x 5-pin harness – optional …. like this one.  In Canada you can buy one of these from CarQuest (part # S-564).

Various wiring stuff like electrical tape or heat-shrink tubing, solder, soldering iron, etc.

In Canada you can buy this stuff at Sayal Electronics for a very good price.

Get to Work:

Disconnect the negative terminal from your battery.

On the driver-side of the trunk remove the trunk bins and plastic lining.  You’ll need a Philips screw driver and maybe a common-slot.  Here’s how to do it.

Beside the active exhaust motor are the active exhaust control box (black smaller one) and the active aero control unit (silver bigger one) stacked on top of each other.  The active aero control unit has 2 plugs going into it: a black plug and a white plug.

Now I’m going to assume you know what you’re doing with wiring so I came up with this diagram to wire up the relays.

Cut and tape the indicated wires on the white and black plugs.  On the wire harness side, not on the connector side, splice to the automotive relays.

White Plug:

A. Cut and tape yellow/black wire.  Splice the yellow/black wire from the wire harness to pin 85 of Relay #1.

B.  Cut and tape red/white wire.  Splice the red/white wire from the wire harness to pin 30 of Relay #1.

C.  Cut and tape red/blue wire.  Splice the red/blue wire from the wire harness to pin 30 of Relay #2.

D.  Cut and tape wire red/black wire.  Splice the red/black wire from the wiring harness to the blue/black wire from the black plug.  (See black plug E)

Black Plug:

E.  Cut the tape the blue/white wire.  Splice the blue/white wire from the wire harness to the red/black wire from the white plug harness (See white plug D)

F.  Cut and tape the black/white wire.  Splice the black/white wire to pin 87 on both Relay #1 and Relay #2.

G.  Cut and tape the red/blue wire.  Splice the red/blue wire to pin 85 on Relay #2.

Relays:

H.  Wire Relay #1 & #2, pins 86 and 87a to ground.  That’s 4 wires need to go to ground.

Switch:

Now be careful and make sure you understand this.  Remove the Active Aero switch and look at the back.  You’ll notice the wires coming off the back of the switch are wired to a white plug.  That white plug then plugs into the white connector that goes in to the wiring harness.

In between the switch and the white plug, cut and tape the black wire that goes into the middle of the switch and cut and tape the red wire.  Now wire the switch side red wire to the plug-side black wire (see the bottom of the diagram).

On the white connector, locate the black wire with silver dots in the wiring harness.  Cut and tape that.

This is stupidvr4's picture not mine.

Update: Here is a picture that shows a little more clearly which wires to work with on the switch.

Note that I have shown the black and red wires that you should cut and splice.  In this picture I have already taped (with blue electrical tape) where I did the splice.  So trace these wires and perform the splicing somewhere in the middle of the wiring.  Ensure you tape the loose ends of the black and red wire.

Once you’re done double  and triple check that your wires are all wired properly.  When you’re ready, reconnect your battery.

The Results:

Now you should be able to activate your wing by pushing the switch all the way to the left. To lower the wing, push it all the way to the right (off) position.  Personally, I love it!  Thanks again stupidvr4!

Check the thread here for any questions.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Mistubishi 3000GT VR-4, Motoring | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

DIY 3000GT/Stealth Solid Shifter Bushings Install

WARNING: This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) article is for informational purposes only.  Working on your car may be dangerous and may result in injury or death.  The author accepts no liability for any such injury or death, intentional or unintentional, resulting from this guide.  You have been warned, proceed at your own personal risk.

The problem with old cars such as the 3000GT is that all the rubber bushings end up drying out and losing their pliant characteristics.  In some cases the rubber can deteriorate so badly the rubber disintegrates.  One place that you can feel this is in the shifter assembly and linkage which feels like sloppy, wet noodle gear engagement, disengagement and side-to-side slop.  The solution (potentially) are solid shifter bushings.  These solid bushings replace the old offending rubber OEM ones.

The good news is that these are very easy to install and should take you about 1 hour max for both the shifter base bushings and engine bay bushings.

Available at 3SX.com here.  Although I purchased mine on Ebay from the seller Summit Engineering for half the price.

Shifter Base Bushings Install

First step is to remove the carpet on both sides of your centre console.  There is 1 screw (in the middle) and 1 plastic push screw (aka christmas tree) near the firewall for each side.  Then remove the shift boot by pulling it up from the centre console, it’s only held in by a plastic trim clipped to the inside.

Once done the shifter assembly will be exposed.  As in the picture above you will remove the 2 x 12mm bolts circled in red, on the right of the shifter.  As well you will remove the 2 x 12 mm bolts on the left.

Once each of the 4 bolts have been removed, remove the rubber bushing with a flat-blade screwdriver and push it out from the top.  Don’t worry about damaging the bushings as they are garbage anyways.  After all bushings are removed, put the new bushings in.  Notice that the solid bushings are used in pairs and are all the same.  At each corner 1 goes on the bottom and the other goes on top.  Thread the bolts back in but don’t tighten them all up until you’ve got all bushings in place.  Then tighten them up with your 12mm wrench and/or ratchet.

Engine Compartment Bushings

These are comparatively easy.  Locate the 2 shifter cables where they meet the transmission.

Remove the rubber bushing using your flat-blade screwdriver.  You may need to man-handle it a bit to get it out.  Don’t worry about tearing the bushing as you won’t be using it anymore.

Here’s a pic of the old bushing versus the new brass bushing.

Slide the solid brass bushing into place, clip the retainer into place, place the bushing back onto the shifter linkage post, and insert the cotter pin back into place as pictured.

And your done.  Pat yourself on the back and open a cold one.  This DIY was super easy :)

Driving Impressions and Review

I’ve been driving with these solid shifter bushings for about a month now and have noticed a *slightly* more crisp shift engagement.  Side-to-side slop has also been reduced very slightly.  I would attribute this to the fact that my original rubber bushings were not in terrible condition and were performing adequately.  So in actuality the performance enhancement of this mod was very slight but shifter feel did improve noticeably.

On the upside these bushings were very low-cost in comparison to almost any modification for the 3/S.  Ease of installation is a huge plus as well with an overall install time of about 1 hour or less if you’ve done it before.

My original intention for pursuing this upgrade was to cure some side-to-side slop that I feel when in gear.  For example, in 2nd gear I am able to move the shifter about 0.5-1cm to the right.  While in 4th gear I can move it about 0.5cm to the left or right.  After the installation of these bushings there was no difference in that behavior.   The culprit is the return spring on the shifter that centres the gear in neutral as you can see in this picture.  In my case it allows some movement even in gear making the side-to-side movement seem soft for the first part of travel.

In summary, although the solid shifter bushings do not result in a quantitative performance improvement, in terms of horsepower or lap-times, I do feel that they are a worthy upgrade.  They’re very inexpensive and easy to install, but more to the point, they improve the qualitative or tactile aspect of the driving interface.  That is, when you’re performing the action of driving you are in physical contact with the shifter each and every time you drive.  Therefore considering the improvement to the driving sensation provided by this mod and the easy of install/price, I give this my full recommendation.

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Mistubishi 3000GT VR-4 | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Mac OSX Automatic SMB Mount Script using SleepWatcher

The Problem and Context:

Recently I purchased a D-Link DNS-323 Dual-Bay Network Attached Storage device with 2 internal 2TB Seagate drives.  I’m loving it!  There’s lots of drive space, the speed is decent and reliable, and most importantly the firmware is totally hackable.  However, this article isn’t about that, rather it’s about using this in an environment with a Mac running OSX Snow Leopard 10.6.2 on a wireless network.

One of the reasons I wanted to get a giant NAS device was to off-load my music library from my Macbook Pro.  My NAS has an iTunes server built-in but it doesn’t allow me to build playlists locally on my Mac and consequently I can’t sync the music to my iPhone 3G.  That’s unacceptable so I immediately turned to my closest and most reviled companion, the internet, for a solution.

The contents of this article are not entirely original but through some digging I discovered the most elegant solution was to have my iTunes Library sitting on the NAS.  Either organized by iTunes or organized by the user … with this solution it doesn’t matter.

Credit goes to Greg Newman‘s  article about basically the same problem, for which I owe thanks for heavy inspiration for this solution, but I chose not to use Automator – How To Share Your iTunes Library with Multiple Macs and an NAS.

iTunes Library on NAS Benefits:

  • Full off-local hard drive of all music, movies, podcasts, etc. to a large NAS device
  • Full control of file information (album art, ratings, etc.)
  • Playlists, syncing with iPod, and all the same features present with a local iTunes Library

iTunes Library on NAS Disadvantages:

  • Primarily, without a connection to the network and the NAS device, iTunes will not be able to open the library and be unhappy
  • Slower iPod/iPhone sync time
  • Slower file update and adding to library times

The primary problem that I have highlighted above in the Disadvantages list, is that essentially, every time you turn on your Mac, the NAS share has to be mounted for this iTunes solution to work.  For this solution we will need to be comfortable working with the Terminal, some UNIX commands and Shell Scripting.

The Solution Part 1 – Sleepwatcher:

Like most Macbook users, I don’t “shutdown” normally.  IMO one of the greatest features of the Macbook is that I can simply close the lid and the machine goes into standby mode almost instantaneously.  Similarly when I open the lid, I login and am back on the network in seconds.  Clearly this presents a problem for network mounted shares.

I am using a Samba share (or “Windows” share) called “Music” which contains all my albums as well as the iTunes library files.  I have setup my iTunes preferences to NOT organize my library, but allow me to organize it.  Again it’s just a preference, but I personally don’t like the way that iTunes does it.

Sleepwatcher is a free package which, among other things, allows you to run a shell script whenever OSX wakes from standby.  Which is exactly what the doctor ordered: every time OSX wakes from standby mount the Samba share “Music”.  Sounds simple enough right?

Go ahead and install the 2 sleepwatcher packages.  Sleepwatcher.pkg installs the following:

/usr/local/sbin/sleepwatcher – the sleepwatcher command
/usr/local/share/man/man8/sleepwatcher.8 – manual page for sleepwatcher

Sleepwatcher StartupItem.pkg installs the following:

/Library/StartupItems/SleepWatcher – startup script for the sleepwatcher daemon
/etc/rc.sleep – system wide script executed by the sleepwatcher daemon when the Mac goes to sleep mode
/etc/rc.wakeup – system wide script executed by the sleepwatcher daemon when the Mac wakes up from sleep mode

We will eventually be working on the following file to allow it to execute a script that will mount the NAS Music Share every time the Mac wakes from standby.

/User/<username>/.wakeup – where <username> is your username.

The Solution Part 2 – Mount NAS Shell Script

The second part of this solution is coming up with a script that will mount the Music Samba share.  In terms of shell scripting, this isn’t a difficult script (literally it’s 1 command) but I wanted to have some fault tolerance built-in and logging.

I created a directory off /User/<username>/Scripts and a file called mnt-nas.sh.

cd
mkdir Scripts
cd Scripts
touch mnt-nas.sh
chmod 755 mnt-nas.sh

Next I used VI to edit the script mnt-nas.sh.  If you’re not comfortable with VI you can use the Textedit application (your mileage may vary, I always use VI).  The script should contain the following (you can remove the blue comments if you wish).

#!/bin/sh

# SECTION 1 – DEFINE VARIABLES - EDITING REQUIRED
MUSICDIR=/Volumes/music
USERID=userid
PASSWORD=password
MUSICDRIVE=dlink-nas/music
WIRELESSIP=192.168.0.2

# SECTION 2 – CHECK FOR NETWORK
# Check for connection to the network
/sbin/ifconfig en1 | grep “$WIRELESSIP” > /dev/null
if [ $? -eq 0 ]; then # We are connected to the network

# SECTION 3 – MOUNT MUSIC SHARE
/sbin/mount | grep -i $MUSICDIR > /dev/null
if [ $? -eq 1 ]; then # We are not connected to the Music Network Drive
say “Connecting to the Music Network Drive”
/usr/bin/logger -t mnt-nas.sh “Connecting to smb://$MUSICDRIVE”
if [ ! -d "$MUSICDIR" ]; then
/bin/mkdir $MUSICDIR
fi
/sbin/mount_smbfs //$USERID:$PASSWORD@$MUSICDRIVE $MUSICDIR

# SECTION 4 – ALREADY MOUNTED DO NOTHING
else # We are already connected to the Music Network Drive
/usr/bin/logger -t mnt-nas.sh “Already connected to smb://$MUSICDRIVE”
fi

# SECTION 5 – NO NETWORK DO NOTHING
else # We are not connected to the network
/usr/bin/logger -t mnt-nas.sh “Not connected to network on $WIRELESSIP”
fi

SECTION 1 – Define Variables

MUSICDIR=/Volumes/music - the local directory that the Music Samba share will be mounted
USERID=userid – the Music Samba share authorized user ID.  If no authorization is required remove.
PASSWORD=password – the Music Samba share user password.  If no authorization is required remove.
MUSICDRIVE=dlink-nas/music – the NAS hostname (enter IP address if you don’t use hostname resolution) and share name
WIRELESSIP=192.168.0.2 – the IP address of the Mac, NOT the NAS

SECTION 2 – Check For Network

Here we check if our Mac has the IP address defined in Section 1.  If YES, then we continue.  If NO we go to Section 5.  This is one of those fault tolerance checks I like to put in just in case.

SECTION 3 – Mount Music Share

First we check if the Music share is already mounted by running the mount and grep commands and checking it’s result ($?) for “1″, meaning NO we are not already mounted.  If the return ($?) is not “1″ then we go to Section 4.  Although not entirely necessary, I like to put in this check for elegance sake.

Next we “say” something.  This command simply “says”, audibly, that we are connecting to the Music Network Drive (Music Samba Share).  You can remove this if you want, but I find it nice that my computer is literally telling me it’s doing something.

Next we add a line to the system log, /var/log/system.log, indicating that we’re going to mount.  Not absolutely necessary but was very helpful in developing this script to ensure it was working properly.

Next we check if the local music directory (MUSICDIR) defined in Section 1 exists.  If not, we create it.

Finally, we run the “mount_smbfs” command that actually mounts the Music Share.  Please note that if you do not use a user ID and password, and allow Read and Write access to your Music Share (not advisable) then the command would be this.

/sbin/mount_smbfs //$MUSICDRIVE $MUSICDIR

SECTION 4 – Already Mounted Do Nothing

So we’re already mounted to the Music Share, we add a comment to system.log only.

SECTION 5 – No Network Do Nothing

And if we have no network, we add a comment to system.log only and don’t mount anything.

The Solution Part 3 – Wakeup Script

Although you could just run the mnt-nas.sh script manually whenever you wanted to connect, we want to ensure it starts when the Mac comes back from standby.  Let’s create that .wakeup script that we mentioned earlier.

cd
touch .wakeup
chmod 755 .wakeup

Edit .wakeup and we want to enter the following contents.

#!/bin/sh
# ———————————————
# Wakeup Script
# ———————————————

# Run Mount NAS Drives Script
sleep 10 # Wait 10 seconds
/Users/<username>/Scripts/mnt-nas.sh

All this is doing is waiting 10 seconds (presumably to allow the network to connect) calling our mnt-nas.sh script.  Edit with your scripts directory.

The Solution Part 4 – On Login

The final part of this solution is to ensure that the Music share is mounted when we log in.  This one is really easy.  Simply copy the .wakeup script to your /User/<username>/Scripts directory and rename it loginitems.command.

cd
cp .wakeup ./Scripts/loginitems.command

We use this naming convention because this allows this script to be added to System Preference > Accounts > <Your Account> > Login Items.  Simply click on the “+” sign and add the “loginitems.command” script we just created in our Scripts directory.

Now each time we login it will run and mount our Music Share

Conclusion

This article has been quite long to perform a seemingly simplistic function of mounting our Music Share.  What I didn’t talk about was how to configure iTunes but there are lots of articles and available information about how to do that already.

The nice thing about Sleepwatcher and the .wakeup script is that now you can develop any number of other scripts that can run on wakeup from standby.  Such as an alternative file backup mechanism that isn’t Time Machine.  Additionally, if you were paying attention, you’ll notice that Sleepwatcher also allows you to perform actions when the Mac goes to sleep/standby by looking at the .sleep script (which we haven’t talked about).  The uses are many but outside the scope of this article :)

I hope this has been helpful for you, and please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions on how this simple script can be improved.  I don’t pretend to know everything so your comments would be much appreciated.  Cheers!

December 28, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

DIY Learn to Drift in Forza Motorsports 3 (Xbox 360 Game)

First things first, this article is about learning to drift in Forza 3 for beginners with zero experience.  It was only a few months ago that I was in your shoes not knowing the first thing about drifting and was dying to learn.  After watching many Forza 2 videos of cars sliding sideways with such precision and control, I quickly became frustrated with my constant spinouts, wall crashes and lame attempts.  Although I haven’t mastered the art I share what have learned in a spirit of giving back to the community and learning together.

From my experience with Forza 3 so far (it has only been released for 1 week as of writing) I see many similarities to the previous game in terms of driving dynamics, the physics model, and the behavior of the cars at the limit.  Bottom-line is that any of the skills that you’ve learned from Forza 2 are applicable to Forza 3, but don’t worry, we’re starting at the beginner level here so no experience is necessary.

Click here to read the old article – DIY Learn to Drift in Forza Motorsports 2.  Many of the principles and tips are the same.

Expectation Setting:

  1. You will suck at first. Chances are you’re going to get discouraged early on and want to give up.  That’s normal so you’re going to have to push through it.  Don’t expect that you’ll be shredding Fujimi Kaido downhill after 20 minutes.
  2. Practice practice practice. Read the tips below, practice the exercises and give it some time.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and try new techniques.  Everyone drifts differently so what works for me may not work for you.
  3. Have fun! This is a video game and it’s supposed to be entertainment.  Keep a smile on your face, don’t take it too seriously and have a good time.

Get Your Hands on a Wheel

I have only ever used the Microsoft Offcial Xbox 360 Force Feedback wheel.  So please no questions about how to use the D-pad or analogue sticks to drift.  I’m sure it’s possible but I’ve tried using the controller several times and it’s always been a horrible failure for me.

If you’re rich another option is the Fanatec Porsche 911 Wheel for Xbox 360 – Engadget’s news article of the Fanatec variations.

Get a Tune

As always, having a good tune for an appropriate car is important when learning to drift.  I personally am not an accomplished tuner so I leverage the fine work of the folks at the official Forza Motorsports forums.

Forza Motsports Drift Tune Database

For the purposes of this article we will be using the following tune as our beginner drift car of choice:

1997 Mazda RX-7 by xRylinx – props for the free tune xRylinx!

Stick to one car for now as it will take you some time to get used to the setup and find out what you like.  If you keep switching cars it’ll do more harm than good at this point.

Basic Drift Exercise #1 – The Drift Circle

The first thing we need to get comfortable with is breaking the grip of the rear tires without our car spinning wildly out of control.  We’re going to do a very simple sounding exercise but is very hard to do reliably.

Select the drift tuned RX-7 and load up Sunset Peninsula Club Circuit.  Drive over to turn 1 and in the large area of the track stop on the right side.

Step 1 – Turn In, Mash the Throttle

Step 1 = Uncontrolled Spin or "doing donuts".

Turn your wheel fully to the left and select 1st gear.  Fully depress the brake and then fully depress the throttle or gas pedal.  Release the brake.  The car will now be bouncing off the rev-limiter and be in an uncontrolled left-hand spin that frankly makes me very dizzy.  This is typically what people call “doing donuts” and is NOT drifting but gives a sense of how the back end of the car wants to rotate on throttle.

Release the throttle and drive back to where you started on the right side of the track.

Step 2 – Turn in, “Feather” the Throttle

Step 2 = Semi-controlled spin using Throttle Control.

Turn your wheel fully to the left and select 1st gear.  Fully depress the brake and then fully depress the throttle.  Release the brake.

Now as you are at 100% throttle.  Change the amount of throttle to 25%.  You will notice that the car will spin around less quickly and may regain grip.  If you go to 0% throttle (foot off the throttle) the car will stop all together.  Now go to 100% throttle again and you’ll spin faster.  Back to 25% means less spin.  Try 75% throttle and see what happens.  You’ll spin more than at 25%.

Notice the behavior of the car as you change the amount of throttle input.  Continuously changing the % of the throttle is called “feathering”.  Practice feathering and get a feel for how the car’s angle will change.

You’re still not drifting but you’re learning a key principle of drifting: Throttle Control.

Less Throttle = Less Angle

More Throttle = More Angle

Release the throttle and drive back to where you started on the right side of the track.

Step 3 – Counter-Steer, Throttle Control

Step 3 = Drift Circle using Throttle Control and Counter-Steer.

Turn your wheel fully to the left and select 1st gear.  Fully depress the brake and then fully depress the throttle.  Release the brake start the spin and feather the throttle as you did in Step 2.

Now, turn the steering wheel to the right or “opposite the turn”.  Did you notice what happened?  The car will spin less the more you turn right and the car will spin more the less you turn right.  When you turn the wheel opposite the turn it is called counter-steer.

Now you’ve learned another key drifting principle:  Counter-Steer

More Counter-Steer = Less Angle

Less Counter-Steer = More Angle

Put the two principles of Throttle Control and Counter-Steer together to perform a perfect drifting circle.  That is, the car will drive in a left-hand circle with the rear wheels spinning, the car at a drift angle and counter-steering right.

Experiment with it:

More counter-steer + less throttle = the car will regain grip and stop drifting.

Less counter-steer + more throttle = the car will get more drift angle.

More counter-steer + more throttle = the car will drift more but with less angle.

Less counter-steer + less throttle = the car will drift less but may maintain angle.

Remember that you’re not going to be holding the wheel stationary in a counter-steer.  You’re going to be moving from less to more and more to less counter-steer.  Your hands will be moving a lot as you’re balancing the angle or less angle, the throttle and steering.

Basic Drift Exercise #2 – The Drift Figure 8

The next exercise is what I call the Drift Figure 8.  That is we’re going to do a left drift circle and then transition into a right drift circle.  It’s much harder than it sounds.

Exercise #2 - The Drift Figure 8

 

Start off by performing a left drift circle as we were doing in the previous exercise.  After 2 rotations regain grip by using less throttle and transition into a right turn.  Give lots of throttle to break grip in the rear tires and perform a right drift circle for 2 rotations.

Not as easy as it sounds huh?  Focus on your throttle control and counter-steer.  Focus on being smooth but quick with your steering and throttle control.  This is one of the skills that you just have to do to learn.  Keep practicing it and when you need a refresher try it again.

You now have the basics, you just need to connect the dots.  Keep at it!

Basic Drift Exercise #3 – Drift Through Corners

Now the moment you’ve been waiting for:  your first drift through corners.  Stay on Sunset Peninsula Club Circuit and drive to large area after turn 1.

At this point you’re going to want to skip down to the Beginner Drifting Tips, get comfortable with the tips and come back up here.

What follows in this exercise is a suggested line, gearing, angle, throttle control and counter steer.

Turns 2A and 2B:

I call Turn 2 A and B because there are 2 apexes.  2A is the first inside rumble strip and 2B is the second inside rumble strip.

Drive down the large area after Turn 1 on the left-hand side as you would on the racing line.  As you approach the turn and you’ll see the red braking line.  Brake ahead of the line but leave a fair bit of red on the braking line.  Shift into 2nd gear, turn in and tap the E-brake.  You will begin sliding sideways and you must counter-steer immediately to catch the slide.  If you don’t counter-steer you will spin out.  Also, you must get on the throttle, say about 50% (depends on many variables) to hold the slide.

Turn 2A - start outside, turn-in, tap E-brake and clip the inside.

Assuming you’re not backwards or off the track, as you exit 2A you will drift to the outside of the turn.  For turn 2B, stay in 2nd gear, give it lots of throttle, balance your drift and aim for the inner rumble strip.

Turn 2B - start from the outside and drift to the inside rumble strip.

Remember the tips, keep your drift angle modest and balance the throttle control and counter-steer.

Turn 3

From your right hand drift through turns 2A and 2B, stay in 2nd gear.  Regain grip by giving less throttle and straighten out the wheel to allow you to turn left.  Once you’ve changed direction give lots of throttle and moderate counter-steer, aiming for the outside rumble strip.

 

Turn 3 - 2nd Gear, lots of throttle

To transition your drift from right to left, try experimenting with not lifting off the throttle.  Try staying at 100% and just use steering control to transition.

At turn 3 exit you should have drifted to near the outside rumble strip.  Give it a little more drift so you can set yourself up for Turn 4A.

Turn 4A

From turn 3 exit, stay in 2nd gear, you want to transition to a right-hand drift, sweeping the outside rumble strip and aim to clip the inside rumble strip.

 

Turn 4A - less throttle, less counter-steer, more angle

I find this one the most difficult of this series to pull off.  You have to get more angle, but slow down so you’re not going to slide off the track.  You may need to brake or use the E-brake to slow down and maintain angle.  Notice in the picture I’m still keeping the angle modest and clipping the inside rumble strip.  Not too much throttle, balancing the counter-steer.

Turn 4B and Turn 5

These are 2 tiny little drifts.  Again, stay in 2nd gear, keep a modest angle and balance throttle and counter-steer so you clip the rumble strips.

 

Turn 4B - tiny drift to Turn 5 - tiny drift

Congratulations, you’ve just drifted through a series of turns and transitions.  You’re well on your way to learning the art of drifting!

Now stop on the long straight and turn around.  Try going through that series of turns from this direction in reverse order.  Same rules apply, keep it in 2nd gear and focus on that balance of throttle and steering.

 

In the reverse direction, try taking out the sign.

Beginner Drifting Tips

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far in this set of drifting tips.  Remember that these are guidelines for beginners and as we get progressively better and better we may hold on to some and throw away others.  For now, baby steps.

1.  Choose Your Setup:

  • Choose your tuned RWD drift car.
  • Braking line ON.
  • All other assists OFF.  ABS is optional.
  • Car view is a preference, but I like the uncluttered yet direct feeling of the hood view.

2.  To Start the Drift Turn-in and E-brake

There are many many ways to initiate a drift.  You can use power over, feint, weight transfer, braking and even tapping a guardrail to start a drift.  For our purposes we’re going to start our drifts with the E-brake (B button).  The E or emergency-brake is equivalent to the hand-brake on a real car.  It’s a mechanism that is connected to rear brakes, not the front, that is supposed to be used if your primary brakes fail.  Since they’re only connected to the rear brakes it’s a very easy way to lock up the rear tires and initiate a drift.

Turn into the corner as you normally do for grip racing.  Don’t turn hard or abruptly.  Just turn-in normally then press the B button to lock up your rear tires and you’ll notice the car will start to rotate or get an angle.  If you hold it down you will likely spin out.  Depending on the situation you may only tap the e-brake while other times you’ll hold it for a long time.  Usually once you release the button you’ll want to counter-steer and use throttle control to keep the slide going.

3.  Slow Entry Speed.

Drifting is not about going fast, it’s about looking cool!  It can be fast but for us beginners let’s take it easy and try to get a nice smooth drift.  This is why I like to keep the braking line on and take the race line.  As you approach the corner brake before the red line starts and wait until the red part shrinks to a reasonable amount then turn-in, hit the e-brake, start the slide, counter-steer and use throttle control.

How much is too much red?  It really depends.  Just like grip racing sometimes you’ll ignore the line, sometimes you need to brake before it.  Don’t be afraid to try out different entry speeds, but remember to start off slow and build up your entry speed.  You’ll know you’re going too fast if you slide sideways into the grass or hit a wall.  Both of which are instant drift fail.

4.  Modest Angle

Don’t be tempted to bust out an insane sideways angle around every corner at full counter-steering lock.  Since we’re just starting off aim for a modest angle for your drifts.

When you initiate your drift aim to have the wheel at half-way to full lock.  So if driving straight is the 12 o’clock position, in a left-hand drift aim to counter-steer between the 1 and 2 o’clock positions.  For a right-hand drift, aim to counter-steer between the 10 and 11 o’clock position.

Just jump on to YouTube and watch some of the good drifters from the behind-car gameplay view.  They often balance a modest drift and only in certain occassions do they pull off an insanely sideways drift.

5.  The Throttle Control Principle – A Reminder

Less Throttle = Less Angle

More Throttle = More Angle

6.  The Counter-Steer Principle – A Reminder

More Counter-Steer = Less Angle

Less Counter-Steer = More Angle


7.  Throttle Control + Counter-Steer = Walk the Drifting Tight Rope

Drifting is all about balance.  You balance the amount of angle, the amount of throttle, the amount of count-steer, the entry speed, the exit speed and so forth.  It’s all about balancing the attitude of the car and seeing what you can pull off.

With grip racing you’re playing up to the edge of the tire’s grip or adhesion.  With drifting you’re playing over the edge of grip and seeing how close you can come to spinning-out but not spinning-out.  You’ll find that sometimes you will have some very happy accidents where things you didn’t think you could do all of a sudden come together.

8.  Practice Isn’t Practice When You’re Having This Much Fun

I’m coming back to the Expectation Setting we discussed at the start of this article.  You’re not going to become a master drift champion overnight.  If you’re anything like me it will take you hours, even days, maybe weeks to have a breakthrough.

If you’re getting discouraged, take a break, do some grip racing and come back to it later.  Focus on the basics and don’t to bite off more than you can chew.  Keep using your basic drift tuned car, keep trying to do the drift circle and drift figure 8.  Stick to the training tracks like Sunset Peninsula Club Circuit and get good at it.

Once you’re comfortable, start experimenting with different tracks and different configs.  It’s really all about having fun and being sideways.

Closing Thoughts

I hope that this article has been helpful to you.  We’ve tried to keep things simple and straight-forward as it’s very hard to learn about drifting from just reading words on a page.  Even watching videos of people drifting doesn’t make it 100% clear.  But I hope that these very simple principles and tips demystify what sometimes seems like black magic.

We haven’t discussed the in-game drift-mode, online drifting or any of the “advanced” drifting techniques.  Perhaps that’s for another article at a later time.  But this should give you enough to get started.  Keep practicing and trying new things.   Anyone can learn this stuff, just keep at it.

Feel free to leave a comment below if you have any questions, clarifications or corrections to this article.

Drift On!!

imclumzy’s Forza 3 Photo Gallery

The Forza 3 photo mode is a slight improvement over Forza 2, but the quality of the photos is much nicer.  You can also manage your storefront nicely from within the game.  I still haven’t figure out how to make movies but that will be coming as I become more familiar with the tools.

 

November 4, 2009 Posted by | Rants and Raves, Technology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments

DIY 1999-2000 EK Civic OEM Foglamp Install

WARNING: This Do-It-Yourself (DIY) article is for informational purposes only.  Working on your car may be dangerous and may result in injury or death.  The author accepts no liability for any such injury or death, intentional or unintentional, resulting from this guide.  You have been warned, proceed at your own personal risk.

The 1999-2000 EK Civic front bumper has never looked “whole” to me without a set of OEM style fog lamps and a Civic Type R lip.  Some will call it “rice” but at my age I could care less about what the internetz peoples think.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this is a very clean and OEM look IMHO.

As the OEM Honda fog lamps are a little more than I’d like to pay ($200-300?? I really don’t know), I picked up a set of Ebay fog lamps that seem to be very popular these days for about $60.  These are known to break quite easily and bulbs are known to burn out fast.  Be warned.

The Ebay fog lamps that I purchased are a direct fit for the OEM Honda fog lamps, meaning they line up exactly with the factory bumper tabs (you’ll see in a minute).  The majority of the work in this DIY is around modifying the bumper, lining it up, cutting holes (yes cutting holes in your bumper) and remounting the bumper.  The wiring and such is easy but you’ll want to take your time to do it neatly.  Finally in the cabin you’ll need to install the wiring and switch.

Required Weapons:

  • OEM style 99-00 EK Civic fog lamps including all hardware and wiring
  • Rotary tool (aka Dremel) with a metal cutting grinding bit (pictured below)
  • Standard socket set
  • Philips and flathead (common slot) screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Large Cardboard pieces to rest the bumper on

Ebay Strikes again:

As mentioned the Ebay fog lamps that I purchased are a direct fit for the OEM Honda fog lamps.  When I received the package this is what was contained.

I used everything except those metal grill things.  I couldn’t figure out what those were for.  Notice the lamps, the black brackets and the little bag of bolts (they gave me exactly enough, no more no less) are all the hardware that go together.  The black and red wiring on the right, the red wiring on the left, green switch in the middle and the bag of zip ties go together making up the electrical part of the lamps.   Finally at the top are the flat black plastic covers that sit on the bumper … they’re very plasticy looking.

Paint the Plastic Covers (Optional):

A lot of people won’t bother to do this step but I think it gives it a more finished and cleaner OEM look to it.  The OEM Honda fog lamp covers are a sort of dark grey colour so I went to the local Canadian Tire and picked up a can of gunmetal spray paint.

First I hit it with primer, then paint and finally clear coat.  Turned out okay.  If I was really anal about it I would have wet sanded and polished them.  Since my front bumper is filled with stone chips and looks bad up close I didn’t bother with that.

Assemble the Foglamp Hardware

As mentioned the lamps, the black brackets and the little bag of nuts and bolts are what you need to mount the foglamps to the bumper.  Take the nuts and bolts and assemble the lamps as pictured.  The picture on the left is the passenger-side foglamp and the pictures on the right is the driver-side foglamp.  Be sure to use the included washer and lock washer for the four bolts.  Go ahead and tighten them up as the brackets have enough flexibility to fit the bumper.

Now I pictured that long machine screw facing up, that will need to be removed when you install on the bumper, but I wanted to show where it went on the assembly.  The purpose of that machine screw is to hold the plastic cover on.  More on that later.

Remove the Front Bumper:

I figured I should specify the front bumper as some of you may be very stone when reading this.  If you need further clarification the front bumper is the thing under your headlights that your license plate attaches to.  Ya that big plastic thing.

I’ve done this quite a few times so I didn’t detail the process but I’ll talk you through it.  Lie down and look under the bumper.  Undo the 2 x 8 or 10mm (I can’t remember) bolts toward the left and right middle of the bumper.  Then undo approximately 4 Philips head screw along the front edge of the bumper.

Open the hood and along the grill (in front of the rad) undo the black plastic pop-out clips.  There should be about 8 or so of them.

On each side of the bumper in the wheel well there is 1 Philips head or 8mm bolt to undo.

Finally place the cardboard down on the floor under the bumper and remove it from the car.

Cutting Up a Perfectly Good Bumper:

Here is the point of no return.  Literally, if you’re not 100% sure that you want to install the foglamps this is the time to decide.  Once we cut that bumper you’re stuck with it for the life of the car, unless you want to buy a new bumper.  You’ve been warned.

Look at the inside of the bumper and this is the area we’re going to be working on (pictured is the driver-side).  Notice that there is a faint outline template that came from the factory.  You’ll want to make sure you cut within those lines.  I’m a bit conservative as you can see so I tried to cut a hole that just fit the cover, but it’s not that necessary as the hole is covered by the cover anyways.

Take your rotary tool with the grinding bit (notice the one that I used) and carefully cut along the lines.  Be careful not to cut the tabs where you will be screwing the lamp hardware into.  Test fit the cover and modify as needed.

Installing the Lamps in the Bumper:

Pictured on the left, now I have a pretty nasty looking hole here and I’m ready to install the lamp.  In the picture on the right is where I screwed the lamp into the bumper tabs.  I screwed in the ones on the right first and then the left as the bracket needs to be man-handled a bit to line up with the bumper tabs.

On the left is a picture from the front showing the fog lamp peeking through my nasty hole (insert crude joke here).    Pictured on the right is where the cover has been put into place.

I have to admit that I screwed up the hole for the cover.  Click on the right picture above and notice that I have an ugly misaligned hole for the cover screw.  What I should have done, and did do on the left one, was drill a hole from the back that lines up with the bracket.  You need to enlarge the size of the hole to 11mm to allow the cover tab to punch through.

See the picture below for a clearer view of my screw up on this one.  Click for a bigger pic.  Also notice how the fog lamp doesn’t line up exactly with the cover hole.  Nothing I can do about that, as there’s very little adjustment but looks quite off up close.

Now the other side. Notice that I made the hole bigger this time and I lined up the cover screw properly.

Run the Engine Bay Wiring Harness:

Start from the passenger-side and thread the wiring harness down the left side of the radiator. Notice I used some painters tape to wrap up the connectors so they wouldn’t get snagged on anything on the way down.  Thread the wiring harness down and pull it through so the 2 foglamp connectors are lined up.

Thread the harness up the right side of the rad … it’s a tight fit to get your hand in there to pull it up harness.  Now you’ll need to connect the ground wire to either of the ground points in reach.  Pictured on the right I used the one below the rad (see the black foam thing) and to the left of the wiring.  Loosen the bolt with an 8mm, put the C connector under there and tighten it back up.

Ensure that the connectors are within reach of the lamps themselves on the left and right.  Ziptie everything down using the ones supplied.  They’re not great so I ended up using some that I had but it’s a small point.  Notice that the harness was too long in the middle so I folded it over and ziptied it down so it won’t come loose when driving.

Replacing the Bumper:

Now take the bumper and line it up to the connectors.  Connect the lamps.  Here’s another tip, these connectors are fully exposed to the elements.  Rain, snow, salt, etc.  So to ensure that I wouldn’t have a corrosion problem in the connectors I used some non-conductive grease that I purchased from Princess Auto (I’ll take a picture of it later).

Now reinstall the bumper which is simply the reverse of removing.  I usually line it up so it sits properly on all sides, reinstall the plastic push clips by the grill, reinstall the screws in the wheel wells and lastly the screws under the bumper.   Once it’s on it’ll look pretty awesome like this.

More Wiring Fun:

Pictured on the left is the passenger-side where I routed the wiring harness under the airbox and attached the relay to the back of the airbox.  I bundled the cabling, leaving the fuse holder accessible, and zip tied it nicely.  I left the power connector within reach of the positive terminal of the battery.  Don’t connect it yet, as we have yet to install the in-cabin harness and switch.

Pictured on the right is the driver-side.  This particular kit doesn’t plug into the existing OEM foglamp wiring (grrrrrr, that upset me about the Ebay kit).  Notice the red power wire and bullet connector.   That needs to be routed through the firewall.

A Wire Through the Firewall

To get the wire through the firewall I needed to find the grommet for the factory wiring that I will also be using. In the picture on the left (click on it to see it larger) the grommet is visible behind that black canister that the vacuum hoses are connected to.  There a lot of stuff in the way to make for easy access so we’re going to get that wiring and the black canister out of the way.

Pictured on the right is the top down view of the area of the black canister and we see the metal bracket that needs to get out of the way.  There are 2 electrical connectors on the metal bracket, so remove them.  There are  3 x 10mm bolts on that hold the bracket in place so remove those too.

Once you have the bracket out of the way you’ll see the rubber grommet and you’ll stick a flathead screwdriver in there to dislodge it from it’s tight little home.  Careful not to skewer the factory wiring or scratching up your firewall too much.

Now for that red wire I made a small incision in the rubber grommet with a utility knife.

A very special wire fish tool is required, also known as straightened out coat hanger.  Push it through the rubber grommet.  Then into the cabin and you’ll see it come through above the clutch pedal.

Tape the wire to the end of the hanger with electrical tape and pull it back through the firewall.

Now I connected up the wire’s bullet connector to the fog lamp wiring harness and taped it so it wouldn’t separate.  I also routed and ziptied the wire down to some of the existing wiring.  It’s not terribly important but it’s nice to keep it clean.

Into the Cabin

Now take the driver side knee (under the steering wheel) panel off.  There are 3 Philips screws.  2 on the lower left and right.  The last is hidden above the wing mirror adjustment.  Pull the panel down releasing the metal push clips.  Take the 2 electrical connectors off and get the knee panel out of the way.

Pull the excess red wire through into the cabin and connect the bullet connector to the red wire of the switch harness.   There’s a bunch of excess of the red wire, so I bundled it nicely with a ziptie.   The switch wiring harness has a connector that needs to plug into the fuse box.  To finish off the wiring there is a ground (black) wire with a C connector on the end of it.  Connect that to a good ground point like the one just below the fusebox.

Finally we put the switch into the knee panel area where the blank plate used to be.  I think I put it in upside down but something’s up the switch because it bears against the top and prevents me from switching it off.

Around the back, connect up the connectors to the proper switches, plugging in the fog lamp wiring.  Replace the knee panel.

The Final Product:

Stand back and admire your work.

Please leave a comment at the below if you have any questions, corrections or concerns about this article.

References:

This DIY could not have been possible without the help of the following.

Honda Civic Forums – DIY for OEM 99-00 civic fog light install sheets by addition2bass

JDMRides.ca – D.I.Y 99-00 Foglight install… by LP640

Update January 19, 2010:

FYI, the Ebay Foglamp kit that I purchased was from a seller named “watomiracing” – click here.  I am not affiliated nor do I receive any incentive with this vendor.  This link is provided for informational purposes only.  In fact I believe there are many Ebay vendors that sell this kit in either yellow or clear lights.  Use your own discretion in selecting a reputable vendor and a good kit.

October 17, 2009 Posted by | Honda Civic, Motoring | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Netgear SPH200D Dual Mode Skype Phone Headset

I’ve owned the Netgear SPH200D phone and use it primarily as a regular phone.  My Skype usage is very low but when I do Skype, this phone works well.  For my purposes the phone is great but this is not a review about it’s functionality or anything like that.

This is simply a small reference for those interested in connecting a compatible headset.  According to the Netgear Support Forums, there is only 1 confirmed 2.5mm headset that is reported as compatible:  The original Xbox game console headset.

I can also confirm personally that the Plantronics X30 Xbox 360 Headset works with the SPH200D.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Technology | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ontario’s Best Driving Roads

I’m a huge fan of the British motoring TV show Top Gear.  I’m certainly not alone as there’s a huge worldwide fan-base of this fantastic show on Final Gear.  One particular episode had a very entertaining film on finding Europe’s Greatest Driving Road.

As I live in the Greater Toronto Area, we are blessed with free universal health-care, a multi-cultural cross-section of the world, class-leading theatre and the most uninspired, grid-arranged roads ever devised by city planners and engineers.  The gentlemen from Top Gear had me pining for mountains, canyons and tracts of lonely windy roads to carve in my sports car of choice.  Alas and Whoa-is-Me, I live in Ontario the Flat and there are no roads capable of raising your heart-rate and the corners of your mouth for sheer driving pleasure.

Or is there?

In my netz-stumbling I happened across the GTA Motorcycle website and their wonderful and large picture of Ontario’s best bike roads (Click here).  This map peeked my curiosity … could we have decent driving roads in Ontario and potentially near Toronto?  Surely it couldn’t be!

This is the occasional chronicle of my search.

The Anatomy of a Good Driving Road

In my brief experience with a smattering of these roads I’ve found this statement to be true.  Here’s what I think a good driving road should consist of:

  • A twisty and turny road. Is that so much to ask for?  I’ve noticed that many of these so-called great bike roads are merely a nice country drive.  Very little thrills or chills and very few turns.  Come’on, although it’s not a track day, we do want to feel some G’s!
  • Relative isolation / Low traffic. We can’t have a residential street as a good driving road as there are too many risks to going fast.  We’re out for good fun, not to run down children, pets or rear-end a car coming out of a driveway.
  • Elevation changes. Although not a mandatory requirement, entertainment comes with blind corners over crests and unweighting of the car.
  • Good scenery doesn’t hurt.

Southwood Rd., Gravenhurst Ontario

I had intended on giving an ongoing review of all the good driving roads in Ontario that I’ve tried.  However, in my non-exhaustive search I’ve only found one road worth revisiting:  Southwood Rd., west of Gravenhurst Ontario.  The mainstays such as Forks of the Credit, Snake Rd., Ridge Rd., and all the roads I’ve tried in the GTA, Milton, Hamilton, Burlington, Oakville and Niagara are poor poor comparisons to Southwood.

Here is the Google Maps Route.

Good Driving Road Checklist – Southwood:

  • Twisty Turny: Yes and yes.  Several 3-5km stretches of tight turns connected by some straights for a total of ~36km.
  • Low Traffic: Light trafffic.
  • Elevation Changes: Yes, undulating up and down.  No sustained up or downhill sections.
  • Good Scenery: Meh, if you think forest and rocks are good scenery then yes.

Southwood Rd. is just what the doctor ordered.  It’s approximately 36km in length and has a relatively low density of country residences and very very few businesses.  It undulates over a hilly landscape, dives into covered forests, and fires out into rocky clearings with quick technical transitions and blind corners throughout.  Although it’s a pretty drive, the scenery isn’t the main draw to this road.   It’s a 60kmph road that even at the speed limit provides comfortable Gs in the twisty sections connected by straights that give a welcome rest.

It is a 2-lane divided road with very narrow lanes.  Over the yellow line is pure danger as any of the hills could bring oncoming traffic.  To the right isn’t much better with a sliver of gravel shoulder (if at all) and large rocks and trees over that.  If you crash you’re quite far from the nearest garage … so don’t crash.

There is one conservation area that’s in the top northern quarter of the road but is not suitable for a meeting area.  However, keep particular watch for pedestrians and slow moving cars in that area.  Otherwise the traffic is very little but this is a public and well-known road.  Keep the speeds down and pay special attention for joggers, dog walkers, groups of cyclists, slow moving classic cars, biker gangs, etc.  On the flip-side watch your mirrors and be aware of faster moving cars coming from behind.  When safe pull off to the side to let faster cars get by.  I’ve encountered a group of Corvettes and Vipers barreling down on me and let them pass with a wave.

Additional hazards include railway tracks: first STOP, look then go, as they have no lights.  You’ll have to slow down anyways because your lowered car will likely bottom out if you hit them at speed.  Also watch for dirt and gravel sections.  When I was there a 2m section of road (both sides) was just gravel.  It was in a blind turn and if we hit it going fast it would have been into the trees on either side.  Finally, at many points there is fine sand on the shoulders that encroach on the road.

How to Get There:

Rally Point: Bala, Ontario

I recommend making a trip to the small town of Bala Ontario which is near the northern end of Southwood Road.  Bala is a good meeting and rally point as there are several stores, a bank, eateries and small parks.  Park on the East side of Hwy 169 between the 2 ends of Bala Falls Rd.  While you’re here check out Bala Falls (a little rocky waterfall) and the rapids.  There is a public washroom near the “Kee”, dance hall, and the Pizza Nova / Bar.

This is a small town so be respectful to the locals.  Spend some money to help their local economy.

Start Point: From Bala to Southwood

Drive from Bala towards the town of Torrance, East on 169.  At Torrence is the northern tip of Southwood.  There are some commercial industrial buildings there but no parking lot.  Thus begins the adventure.  Make a right and go south on Southwood for approximately 30km.

Bail Slightly Early for Gas, Food and Rest

Near the very southern end of Southwood, you will reach the intersection of Southwood and District 19.  If you go straight on 19 it will bring you to Hwy 11 and there is a Sunoco gas station and a Harvey’s restaurant.  It’s a great place to sit down, get a drink and rest before you turn around a do another run.  Like Bala, this is also a good rally point for a group.

Alternatively at District 19 you will make a right turn to continue on Southwood and it continues a little bit longer and brings you to Hwy 11.

The Search Continues

From what I’ve seen so far, Southwood Rd. is now my defacto standard for comparison of all other Ontario driving roads and any other driving road the world-over.   Try it, you’ll love it.  Or don’t because we don’t want too much traffic :)

However, this will not be end of my search for Ontario’s Best Driving Road.  We will find others.  Stay tuned.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | Motoring | , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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