PART 20: THE FINAL TOUCHES?
Wheels, Doors, Hood, Lip and Tuck

After a hiatus from working on the old rustbucket, I decided that it was time to finish things up before the weather got too cold. Plus I needed to free up some space in the garage for new incoming parts for the FD. So RC was rolled off the trailer and these last few items were taken care of...before it was rolled back on the trailer. Now if I could only get out on the track with it!



CHEAP WHEELS
After so much work the car was at least driveable up to this point. But there was much left to be done. Lets start with some wheels. The car was being rolled around on some well aged street tires complete with dry rot. Yeah they worked but for a track car, I'd be afraid to even roll into the first corner with them for fear the cracked tires would simply disintergate under the load. Well as may have been noted earlier I happened upon a set of used track tires...well used track tires I might add. Yeah they had "some" tread left...maybe enough for a single track day but one can't say no to something for free! The kicker was they were not even in the right size at that. But they would fit on my existing OE rims and they were better than the existing crapola on the car....at the time. So I took them and had a friend mount them to the stock wheels. Being a 205/40-15 tire they do look funny but talk about some gearing. This same friend paced me on the freeway and with my speedo zinging along at 80mph while I was actually only doing about 65! Of course this also includes the 4:30 rear end. With the undersized donuts the car was, to say the least, VERY peppy and would make a hell of an autoX car. No doubt on a short track a killer exiting corners. Still there was a need for more "real" tires. I had been monitoring eBay for a set of decent track wheels and IMO the best option, and most commonly used wheel was the Kosei K1's in 15x7 size. Durable and inexpensive and only 13.5lbs with 38mm offset for an FC, seemed to be the option. $129 a wheel new from Tirerack. Even new $500 for 4 rims is a steal (compared to the $4000 set on my FD). Available in 4 or 5 lug. This was the direction I was heading until I stumbled upon a local who was parting with a set of FC convertable BBS rims shod with barely used (1 track weekend) Toyo Proxes RA1's in 225/50-15 size. And all for the low low price of only $400 tirees included. How could I pass this up. The BBS convertable wheels although only 15x6 1/2 still manage the 225 tire with no issues and weigh in at under 12lbs each which is amazing. So they aren't too pretty to look, for a race car who cares, at least they were straight. A steal...so I bought them! Now there is a real bummer about this whole wheel question as the wheels spacers I have to use my OEM FD rims for street pimp duty (see: Part 11) no longer fit because of the 3" wheel studs...well nuts!   Looks like a lowrider don't it?

  Ah...better. Ride height still yet to be set.


DOOR PANELS

Now RC came with no door panels. Undoubtedly to fit the roll cage. No sweat. ITS rules mandate either the stock door panels or an aluminum door panel unless the door had been cut to accommodate a NASCAR style door bar. Not in my car so given I did not have the original panels, nor did I feel like sourcing a set of OE panels, nor would they even fit if I could, therefore, I had to make some panels. Piece of cake. Order some of the cheapest 0.063" AL sheet from burnsstainless.com (T5052 AL 20"x48" 2 pieces $70.97 including shipping) and have at it with a rotozip and a cut off wheel. Easy right? Well I did first make a template out of a big peice of cardboard to ensure it was the right shape. Template was traced onto big sheet 'O aluminum and cut away, hoping that you haven't just buggered up a $35 peice of aluminum and wasted a week while you wait for another sheet to be shipped to you. With the panel cut I drilled some holes and used sheet metal screws to fasten the door panel in place. Sheet metal screws why not pop rivets? Well knowing me I will have to remove the panel for some reason sooner or later and didn't relish the idea of drilling out (aka spinning rivet in the hole for hours) the pop rivets simply to remove the panel..then having to re-rivet it back in place when done. All I need is a screwdriver. And behold below the finished product. Oh yeah and yes you do have to open the doors to wind up the windows. Only some minor bending of the door lock linkage was required. Makes unlocking the doors a bit stiff but it still works.


Believe it or not some of my local friends were giving me crap for not polishing the panels. I wonder why?



FRONT LIP

Not much to talk about here. When I bought the car it came with a SpeedSource (I think?) fiberglass lip spoiler. It was taking up space in the garage so I installed it. A royal PITA to install as over time the lip had become warped. Add to this the somewhat battered front bumper cover and there was much cursing and swearing going on during the install. Someday I will remove it and install it a little better and also drop the leading edge of the undertray to take advantage of the center scoop in the lip spoiler whcih rigtht now isn't doing a whole lot of anything. Overall it does make the car look a little bit more speed worthy though.


Speedsource front lip


15 POUND WEIGHT LOSS MADE EASY?
Funny as the first part I had bought for my racecar "project" was a used aluminum hood. And this was almost the LAST part I will have installed. I stored that wretched hood in my cramped garage since May of 2003! On to the install. Well you unbolt the old hood and bolt on the new hood. Ah ha! Not if you are me. See there was a fundamental issue to deal with. The hood was BLUE. And my car was RED. This just will not do. Why couldn't it have been any other color, white, red, or black even. But no. It had to be blue. I guess part of my procrastination revolved around what to do about the color. In short I decided to paint it white. Some 250 grit paper to rough up the old gnarly suns scorched paint and smooth out the deeper paint chips, 3 cans of Krylon primer, followed by a good 400 grit wetsanding, and then 5 cans of gloss white Krylon and presto chango one shiney white hood. Now painting with spray cans on such a large area is difficult and you will get only a marginal if only passable finish but keep in mind this IS only a racecar and the finish I achieved is probably 80% of what a $200-$300 paintjob woudl get me and for a small fraction of the cost. Besides if it looks like crap after a few years...nothing that another coat of Krylon won't cure. The existing steel hood used hood pins, the hood latch was long since gone so I bought another set of hood pins and installed them on the aluminum hood. Some cheap APC pins bought at Pep Boys for $14.99. The set on the old steel hood were bent and trashed. Installing the pins was easy. Bolt in the retainer pins where the OE hood bump stops were, drop hood really hard and punch holes in the aluminum hood. I'm kidding of course. Rest the hood on the tops of the pins to leave marks on the undersid eof the hood where to cut holes with your handy dandy dremel tool and mini cut-off wheel, place hood clips over holes, mark and drill holes and rivet in place. No sweat. The end result is a lighter hood without the extra weight and complexity of a hood latch. The used aluminum hood BTW was $200 delivered to my door, about the going rate I understand, Krylon paint about $20.00.


Freshly painted WHITE Aluminum hood with new APC hood pins.(right)


THE JOYS OF EBAY
You get what you pay for. In this case a not half bad strut bar bought of eBay for $18.00 including shipping. A **NEW** strut bar for $18.00? Yup. Cheap "made-in-china" stamped steel end brackets and a semiflexible solid aluminum bar to form a doesn't-quite-fit-an-FC strut bar. So what did I have to do to get it to fit? Well first off the hole in the end brackets wouldn't fit down flush over the raised center lip on the strut towers. Out came a metal file and I set to work. With the end brackets now sitting flush on top of the strut towers I went to install the aluminum center bar and it wouldn't clear the alternator and barely cleared the coolant filler neck. Ah nuts! Upon further thought this is probably a result of using the stock sized alternator belts with an undersized alternator pulley...thus the alternator sits up higher than usual. So I ended up just canting/rotating the strut bar forward to clear the front of the alternator. No biggie but all this "work" did take about 2 hours. Sho did polish up mighty purdy tho! And for $18.00 sheeesh.


$12.99 eBay strut bar. Note VERY tight clearence to the phillips head screw on the front of the alternator.


LAST BUT NOT LEAST...A DECENT ALIGNMENT
To not destroy a perfectly good set of tires on my first outing I really really felt it important to get some semblance of an alignment. Not too much trouble other than to impose on my friend Joe's expertise with some string, a spirit level, a micrometer, and a calculator. Before starting though we dropped the ride height to as low as possible given the Ground Control coil over conversion. Ride height was down to about 6 inches at the door sills (not the seam which hangs about an inch lower) ITS minimum is 5 inches so I have more to go but I will have to do a bit of judicious trimming of the front OEM shock spring seat to get another 2-3 turns on the adjuster to drop the car another 3/4" or so. Plenty of adjustment left in the rear. With the ride height set the alignment was done. In the end we managed -2.5 degrees negative camber in the front and -2.3 and -2.1 in the rear. Toe was set at around 0. Given the errors inherent in ourt methods this is good enough. The car at least drives straight now. In order to get to this point though a little cutting of the strut towers was necessary. (See pics below) The Ground Control camber plates are adjustable for caster but in order to take full advantage of the caster adjustment the strut towers have to be notched to allow clearance to adjust for camber.


Shown are the cuts in the strut tower and strut bar needed to allow for camber adjustment.

So what's left you may ask? Well here's what I would like to eventually do: install FD fuel pump, I need to replace the now nonfunctional outside review mirrors (both were broken), install a Wink inside rear view mirror, disable the steering wheel lock, install a new (used) dash (this one is hacked to beyond ITS rules, have window net brackets installed and hang net, remove 5/6th port sleeves (I wish I'd known I could have done this when I had the engine out of the car), possibly fabricate dual oil cooler setup (twin Series OE coolers, I have the parts!), install Wilwood adjustable brake proportioning valve (sitting on my workbench), some Mazda emblems (I know...so vain), new brake rotors/junkyard takeoffs (slotted jobbies now on the car aren't legal plus I need spares), an underdrive pulley would be nice, a shift light, and I need some timing gear. Other than that the car can be driven as-is until I decide to go racing...for last place! Until then, see you on the track.


Chapter I: To Begin the Hooptie to Hotrod Saga: Part 1 of the First 16 Installments
Chapter II: The Saga Continues, A Good Rear End: Part 17
Chapter II: Ritual Cannibalization: Part 18
Chapter II: A Drivers Perspective: Part 19
Chapter II: Drum Roll Please...How Much Did it Cost?: Part 21


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This page last updated November 26, 2004


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