February 25, 2014

Project Maximus Part 4

Since the 2008 BMW M3 of Project Maximus fame will be getting a 211 boost in horsepower it follows that a boost in stopping power is needed. We chose AP Racing's brand new Radi-CAL™ big brake system designed by STILLEN to clamp down the speed generated by the ESS Supercharger under the hood and the Ohlins Road and Track coil-over suspension at the four corners.

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February 24, 2014

Project Maximus Part 3

Our E92 M3 transformation is running on all cylinders, so to speak. Parts are flooding in from all corners of the world and we're well into the installation procedure. In this installment of Project Maximus we'll take a quick break from the ESS Supercharger installation and focus on the Ohlins suspension upgrades. As the old saying goes, power is nothing without control.

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February 19, 2014

Project Maximus Part 2

Project Maximus is well under way. We decided our first order of business would be the most complicated part of the project, the ESS supercharger installation. The supercharger really is the heart of the beast, and all of the other enhancements that we'll be adding to the black 2008 BMW M3 are designed to keep all that power under control.

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February 11, 2014

Project Maximus Part 1: Introduction

Winter storm Maximus brought heavy snow and travel delays throughout the Midwest and Northeast. It also brought us a 2008 BMW M3 coupe and along with it a project that can only be described as epic. The dark M3 will be transformed from a competent foot soldier into an all-conquering supercharged gladiator.

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February 21, 2013

E36 323i suspension rebuild

Do not do this at home, trained professionals at work! Joking aside, a quick lesson for potential DIYers: think long and hard before tackling suspension work. We just completed a full suspension rebuild on a well worn, 182k mile E36 323i at the shop. This included all new dampers and springs, front control arms, tie-rod ends, and most importantly a complete set of bushings at all suspension points. It’s this last part that is tricky for shade tree mechanics.

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February 05, 2013

Targa: The Road Trip

After two weeks of 20 hour days and late nights, Bill Caswell and I were sitting at the local watering hole around the corner from VRPerformance wrapping our heads around what we got ourselves into. Despite all the late work, we were not 100% done with the car.

But, before we could even get to Newfoundland for the race, there were two thousand miles of Canadian highway and one very long ferry to tackle. There was still plenty ahead of us before we started the race. So we drank beer until the bar closed.

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Targa: The Build

It's been far too long since we last spoke. Much has been going on at the shop the last few months, so the time to post simply wasn't there. To kick things off for 2013, we thought we'd take a quick step back and bring everyone up to speed on "Target Targa", our 2012 Targa Newfoundland adventure. And because everyone loves a good video, we'll have a few of those in the next several entries...

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June 08, 2011

Fabspeed Exhaust Installation on a Porsche

One of the most balanced, best handling cars on the market today is the mid-engined Porsche Cayman. But, like every car coming out of a factory, it can be improved. Thanks to worldwide noise regulations, the stock exhaust stifles the glorious flat six cylinder engine note just a bit too much. Enter Fabspeed.

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E46 M3 GT Part 4

I think I may have fallen off the GT wagon with the latest modification to my E46 M3. The last time we spoke, I installed a TC Kline Racing suspension. Next up, the exhaust.

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Brake Rotor Friction Ring Replacement

To say that brakes are an important part of a car's performance is to state the obvious. Pads and rotors need to be checked often and replaced when worn or damaged. Most cars come with single piece rotors-- the friction surface that contacts the pads and the inner "hat" that bolts to the hub are formed from a single casting. Higher end brake systems, and many after market big brake kits, use two piece rotors.

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June 07, 2011

Splitter Install (again)

Aerodynamics on a street car is important for efficiency-- how easily it can punch a hole through the atmosphere. On a race car, aero is even more important for handling. A splitter-- typically a horizontal plane extending out from below the front bumper, helps push the front end of the car down and consequently aids front end grip or traction. Balanced with a wing at the back, a splitter is an integral part in the car's handling.

Because the splitter is usually very low, it is vulnerable to trailer ramps, track burms and digging into wet grass should you have an "off". If it's attached to the front fascia and you have an off and bad things happen, you can kiss the front end of the car good-bye. The solution is to attach the splitter to something more robust, while allowing it to break away should an unfortunate incident occur.

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The Little Things

Having worked on hundreds of cars over the past 5 years or so a few things have become abundantly clear: no two jobs are ever the same, even if the parts being installed are, instructions from the component manufacturer-- if they exist at all-- are almost never complete, and finally, exhausts never ever fit without a good amount of "tweaking". A quick example of tweaking is presented after the jump...

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May 07, 2011

Thrust Sheets to the Wind

One of our good customers complained of "pinging" noises coming from his front suspension-- a TC Kline Racing double adjustable coil-over set-up we installed last fall. The pinging noise is due to the springs binding as they compress. Our first, quick, remedy was to grease up the coil perches so that the springs could freely twist during compression.

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November 23, 2010

An EVO Introduction... and Sale

We've got a new project at the shop; a 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, or EVO for short. While we're well known as a premier performance shop for European sports cars, in actuality we work on all cars that have a sporting pedigree. And the EVO certainly has that in spades...

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November 01, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 6, Pads and Lines

To wrap up the E92 M3 project-- for now-- we have a few smaller items to report on, specifically brake lines and pads.

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October 29, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 5, Suspension

Regular readers of this blog know we're all about balance at VRPerformance; and if you've been following the E92 M3 project build you might have asked why all the power upgrades alone? Well, you are premature with that jaundiced eye, since suspension upgrades were part of the plan since day one.

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E92 M3 Project Part 4, Engine Tuning

Advances in electrical engineering have allowed the venerable internal combustion engine to stay relevant in an increasingly hostile environment. A myriad of computer controls actuate precision crafted mechanical components in order to increase the efficiency and cleanliness of modern engines and the S65 is no exception. Since we’ve replaced some major engine components on our customer's E92 M3 in search of power, we needed to let the brain that controls it all "in" on our secret...

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E92 M3 Project Part 3, Underdrive Pulley

There are many ways to increase the power output of your engine to make you car go faster. Conversely, there are also ways to use less power to make you car go faster. It's all about how the power is utilized. The engine not only drives the wheels, but it also powers accessories that do nothing to motivate the car (they run the AC, power the lights, and pump fluids to the steering rack). This is often called parasitic loss. Reduce the drag and use less power to drive the accessories; you have more power left over to motivate the car. Enter the “underdrive” pulley...

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October 27, 2010

E92 M3 Project Part 2, Exhaust

Obsession. Obsession alone can be a bad thing when life and limb become irrelevant to the end goal. Obsession to craftsmanship on the other hand can be very good indeed. Quality is an ideal we obsess over at VRPerformance, and when we find a product that exemplifies this ideal we can hardly contain ourselves. Enter the Akrapovic exhaust system for the E92 M3 project...

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E92 M3 Project Part 1, Intake

Just as the E46 before it, the E9x series M cars are phenomenal straight from the factory. With a 414 hp V8 under the bulging hood and a sharply tuned suspension keeping things in check, it's hard to beat this sport sedan with even the most dedicated sports car. So what's an enthusiast to do when it comes to sharpening the scalpel the local BMW store delivered him? Turns out, quite a bit...

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Powder Room

Brakes go through a whole lot of abuse. We change pads and rotors pretty regularly but often overlook one of the most essential assemblies in the brake system, the calipers. It’s the pistons that reside in the calipers that provide the clamping force on the rotors via the pads that stop the car. And these pistons have o-rings and seals that need to be checked-- especially if you take the car to the track for some-- quite literally-- "hot" laps.

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August 29, 2009

E46 M3 GT Part 3

Those who have been following this blog over the years know that I own a 2003 BMW M3 and that I've been slowly upgrading the OEM parts as they need to be replaced. In part 1 I talk about some of the cosmetic changes I made and in part 2 I introduce a new set of wheels. Now onto the suspension…

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April 24, 2009

EVO, EVO, STi: Part 3 Subie Pipes & Coils

The third installment of our Japanese make-over mini series stars a 2008 STi. All new coils for the struts, sway bars front and rear, complete new exhaust including down pipe, and new trans and engine mounts.

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EVO, EVO, STi: Part 2 EVO X Sway Bar

Part 1 of EVO, EVO, STi went through a brake rebuild on an EVO 8. In this installment we go over a sway bar installation on an all new EVO X.

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EVO, EVO, STi: Part 1 brake rebuild

Spring is in the air and the sun is rising on our Japanese performance car customers. The last few weeks we've had a rally of AWD sports sedans come through the shop: a couple of EVOs and a new STi. In part one we describe rebuilding brakes on an EVO 8. Part two goes through a sway bar install on a new EVO X. And part three follows a complete suspension and exhaust upgrade on a new 08 Subaru STi.

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March 05, 2009

M3 Race Car Build (Part 3)

Our M3 race car is heading into its second season. The majority of the work was completed last year so this year the plan is to fine tune the car. Having had it on the track competing in several races the owner/driver has a good baseline for us. And one area we need to focus on this season is the aero package-- trying to find a little more speed in the corners. Time to wing it...

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March 02, 2009

Lightweight Battery

One of the ways to improve the performance of your car is to reduce weight-- we've talked about this many times. The stock battery is usually a whopper, often weighing in at over 60 lbs. We now carry a line of lightweight batteries that offer similar cranking power to the stock units, at less than half the weight.

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February 05, 2009

Cracking up: E46 Sub-frame issues Part 2

We already talked about issues with the E46 series BMW rear sub-frames in an earlier post, here is some follow-up information. The amount of damage on the vehicle in question was so bad that we decided to have the OEM sheet metal replaced completely instead repairing it by welding. Thankfully BMW stood behind their product and actually warrantied the repair portion of the work.

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January 02, 2009

Perfecting the E46 M3

We've written about E46 M3 projects before, but most of those projects were hard core track oriented. What we have here instead is a perfect street set-up for the M3: more power, more sound and better handling. Our time honored philosophy of balanced performance was followed to produce a car that is better in every regard than stock without any one aspect overshadowing another.

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November 18, 2008

Cracking up: E46 Sub-frame issues Part 1

There is no doubt that the BMW E46 3 Series line up of cars is great. They are right sized, relatively efficient to operate and have superb all around performance. But there are critical weaknesses in the chassis-- especially in the M3 version-- that need to be addressed. We already reported on the fatigue issues with the front strut tower in an earlier blog entry. This time we will focus on the rear subframe.

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November 17, 2008

Operation Touring Car: Part 3, the Weigh In

We finally got around to weighing the Civic Si donor car for our touring car project. It's always a good idea to get some baselines before you begin transforming a car-- be it from stock to slightly modified or from stock to race car.

And the weight of our stock Si is...

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October 06, 2008

Operation Touring Car: Part 2

A few weeks back we announced that VRPerformance is going racing in SPEED World Challenge Touring Car. It is a daunting exercise that we are nonetheless excited to start. The first step was picking the car.

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Agency Power Header Install on E46 M3

We have installed plenty of Super Sprint exhaust components on cars over the years. They make a superbly engineered product with plenty of research and development to back up their performance claims (and price). The biggest down side to Super Sprint is the sometimes sketchy build quality and comparatively high price. There are some good alternatives out there, including the Agency Power units we installed on an E46 M3 recently.

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September 18, 2008

Operation Touring Car: Part 1

Time to go racing! Welcome to the first of many entries documenting our entry into the SCCA SPEED World Challenge Championship. As our busy summer season winds down, we’ve taken on the task of building a race car with the goal of competing in the Touring Car category of the SPEED World Challenge. Call it a stretch goal. We’re under no delusions as to how expensive and challenging this endeavor will be, but we have the car, the enthusiasm, and hopefully the stamina to see it through to a worthwhile conclusion.

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August 26, 2008

STi Big Turbo Install

Squeezing more power out of a turbocharged 2.5 liter flat four cylinder engine is as easy as swapping out the original turbo for a bigger one, right? If only it was that simple.

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July 24, 2008

E46 M3 GT Part 2

A few weeks back I posted the first entry in my "M3 GT conversion" series. I mentioned that the next step in my quest to turn my 2003 E46 M3 into a true "Gran Tourismo" is installing new wheels. Well, they are here!

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July 04, 2008

E46 M3 GT part 1

After long and careful consideration I have decided to keep my personal E46 M3. Instead of purchasing a new car I will invest some money in the old M3-- give it a mid-life makeover so to speak. And as great as the car is on the track, I really think the E46 is a better GT car than all out sports car. So my tweaks will take that into consideration. I will not turn the car into a full out track monster (which is not that hard to do, really), instead I will focus on making it a better grand tourer.

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June 02, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Differential

We began this project car with a clear focus on improving the performance of the suspension and the brakes, since the engine already had a thorough going over by another shop a few years back. The one speed area of the performance equation we decided to improve right from the start was changing the gear set in the differential. The biggest bang for the buck is not in adding power to the E30 engine, but changing how the exisiting power gets to the ground. This is espcially important at the track, where this car will consume most of its gas.

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June 01, 2008

The First 1

The BMW 1 Series has only been showing up on people's driveways in the States for a few months now and already there are enthusiasts ready and willing to fine tune it. A great performance car straight out of the box, it none-the-less comes with the compromises every modern car has. We've talked about this often enough: in order to satisfy the government's regulators, insurance lobbies, and the average consumer, new cars are "sanitized for our protection."

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May 13, 2008

M3 Race Car Build (part 2)

We're glad to report that the E36 M3 race car passed its first technical inspection and the owner/driver has his first couple of races under his harness belts. The basics we completed before the first race-- installation of safety components, removal of non-essential weight, thorough maintenance and re-build-- worked as planned. Now it's time to further develop the car, and the first area we touched was the suspension.

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April 28, 2008

Handling the Power (Si part 4)

In the final installment (for now) of the Civic Si project we tackle the suspension. The suspension really is the most important aspect in the overall performance of the vehicle. All the power in the world doesn't help if you can't control it. You want the four tire's contact patches touching the ground in as balanced a fashion as possible, controlling the car's motion. A good suspension set-up works with the tires and the road to provide the best possible grip in all conditions when accelerating, cornering and braking. Its mission is to keep the wheels planted and the body stable. We specified the best TEIN kit available, the "Driving Spec Control Master Type Flex" coil over system with "Electronic Damping Force Controller" (EDFC).

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April 27, 2008

M3 Race Car Build

Lawyers want to argue in front of the Supreme Court, soap stars want to appear in a summer blockbuster and race car drivers want to win for Ferrari—every discipline has its ne plus ultra that those toiling in the trenches aspire to. For an automotive performance shop it is building race cars. Which makes sense, since a race car is the ultimate expression of the performance automobile and a real test (and testament) for its builder. You’re putting your ideas, engineering and craftsmanship up against others in an open competitive arena. What works and what doesn’t is immediately showcased for all to see. Here’s our first attempt at building a race car for the NASA GTS series.

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April 03, 2008

Stopping Power (Si part 3)

And the transformation of the Civic continues... One of the weak spots on the 2006+ Civic Si is the braking system-- perfectly adequate for street driving but toast on the track. Our balanced approach to all things automotive dictates that we look at the entire system as we make upgrades. We've already tweaked the suspension some, detailed here (and there's much more to come in this department, stay tuned) and upgraded the intake and exhaust system, detailed here. So now it's on to the brakes.

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March 19, 2008

Breathe In, Breathe out (Si part 2)

One of the earliest entries in this blog describes the installation of an Injen brand cold air intake and exhaust system on a Mazda6. We described the quality of the kits coming from Injen then, and let me just say, two years later, that their products continue to impress. Case in point, we just installed the same type of Injen components on a new Civic Si sedan and were again happy with the outstanding quality and fitment.

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March 15, 2008

Goat Shafted

The drive shaft on the modern GTO is a known weak link, and when any modifications are made to the power output, it is a good idea to upgrade it. The last time we checked in with this particular GTO, you'll remember we released some extra power from the 6 liter V8 by opening up the exhaust system. The suspension was already tweaked with some better bushings all around, so we tackled the driveline here.

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March 09, 2008

EVO Suspension, Brake Upgrade

The last time we saw this particular Mitsubishi EVO was back in September when we installed new sway bars and upgraded the suspension bushings, Truly EVO Sway Bar Install. This time around we're replacing the stock struts with Ohlins units and upgrading the braking system with a custom brake cooling duct kit, stainless steel braided lines and new rotors at all around.

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March 08, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Suspension

The second phase of our E30 M3 winter project is to tackle the suspension (see E30 M3 Rebuild: Brakes for phase one). We began by first inspecting the suspension on the ground as well as checking to see how the car behaved dynamically on the road. We decided, along with the car's owner, to go ahead and replace the dampers at all four corners, upgrade the sway bar size to help flatten the cornering characteristics as well ad eliminate some of the understeer, and replace some of the worn out suspension bushings. We tried to replace every stock part with a more performance oriented equivalent since the car will primarily be a track tool and not a boulevard cruiser. That means the around town ride quality may suffer a little, but with the payback coming on the track.

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January 28, 2008

E30 M3 Rebuild: Brakes

A BMW E30 M3 has taken up residence in our shop this winter—in out of the cold Midwest winter for a deliberate going over. The car has been tracked extensively and things have begun to wear out. We have been tasked to do a thorough technical inspection, replace, rebuild or repair what’s bad and give recommendations where the aftermarket has made improvements over the original equipment hardware. In other words, make it just I bit better than new.

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October 16, 2007

Some New Pipes for a Goat

In 1964 Pontiac engineers stuffed a 389 cid engine in a Tempest, called it the GTO option, and created arguably the first mid-sized muscle car. Almost fifty years later, GM tapped their Holden enterprise in Australia-- where muscle cars still thrive-- and created the modern GTO. Equipped with GM's venerable small block V8 engine, the current GTO is based on the Holden Monaro. A disappointment to many GTO loyalists, thanks mostly to its bland styling, the modern GTO is nonetheless a good enough performer. But good enough is the enemy of better at VRPerformance, where we feel that almost every car can be improved with the right equipment and service.

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September 10, 2007

A Truly EVO Sway Bar Install

A typical stabilizer (a.k.a. sway bar and/or anti-roll bar) swap takes a half an hour to maybe one hour if the end links are in a bad spot or the bar needs to be fed thru a tight area. The front bar on a Mitsubishi EVO is a whole other problem, requiring a great deal of disassembly just to see the bar in the first place, let alone take it out.

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August 28, 2007

Don't Take Our Word for It Again

It's great when we're able to help out customers with their performance needs. And sometimes it's as simple as a good alignment. The devil is in the details, or so they say, and doing a proper alignment is all about the details. How accurately you measure the base line, and how close to the specifications you're aiming for you get are key details.

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August 22, 2007

Don't Take Our Word for It (Si part 1)

We work closely with our customers to put together a performance package for their car that best fits their needs. The new Civic Si is a great car out of the box, but it's not perfect. And when you take it to the track, as the customer in this case study does, the weaknesses are amplified. The Si has plenty of motor, but is lacking in the braking and grip departments.

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August 02, 2007

Milltek Exhaust Install on Audi RS4

Now that the Audi RS4 has been on the market for a few years, aftermarket goodies are beginning to trickle into the market. And while nobody can say that the RS4 has a sedate exhaust note, that glorious V8 deserves a bigger megaphone through which to broadcast its melodious voice.

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June 19, 2007

Black Beauty

There is no real trick to mounting wheels and tires onto a car, but when the results are this cool we just had to share.

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June 08, 2007

E60 M5 Header Install

The installation of Supersprint headers on an E60 M5 was one of the more physically challenging projects to come through the shop in a long time.

If you’ve ever looked under the hood of a modern M5, you've probably noticed that the engine compartment is filled with V10 engine with nary a gap between it and anything else. As beautiful and organized as it is, it is not a friendly place for aftermarket go-fast parts. Looking over the detailed 10 page instruction booklet that came with the headers we were a bit worried that this project was going to be massively time consuming (and costly) for the customer.

(pictures and video after jump)

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May 30, 2007

The Best Sounding M3 in Michigan

Love it or hate, the E46 M3 BMW comes with a very distinctive mechanical sound straight from the factory. The so-called “rasp” actually comes from the engine and not the exhaust as so many people think. Nonetheless there are all sorts of exhaust “rasp eliminators” on the market today with a few actually doing a pretty good job of muffling the distinctive S54 engine note. But none of them add to the performance of the car.

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April 24, 2007

More Lowering

The previous generation Audi A6 is a sharp car. I happen to really like the clean Bauhaus style that Audis had before Walter d'Silva took over design at the house of four rings. It was all about form following function and clean aerodynamics. Cars like the Audi TT and the A6 just plain look German with their wide bottomed stance and narrow greenhouses. But, like most German cars taking the trip across the ocean, ride height is increased thanks to various regulations and road conditions, ruining the originally intended design.

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April 14, 2007

Lower Ride

We've talked before on the subject of springs and how they can dramatically improve not only the performance of your car, but the stance and presence as well. One of the best upgrades you can do on an E46 BMW (last generation BMW 3 Series) in particular is to swap the original springs for a set of after market coils.

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November 20, 2006

The Saab Chronicles Part 4

The 1990 Saab 900 sedan is purring along without so much as a minor hitch—minor to a 16 year old car that is. I have noticed that if it doesn’t start right away, it really doesn’t want to start at all. With some experience I am happy to report that I have learned how to start the car on the first try. Different than the more highly computerized engines of today, but not nearly the procedure one had to go through on carbureted, manual choke cars, it requires just the right amount of feel.

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October 28, 2006

The Saab Chronicles Part 3

Now that I have lived with the new winter ride—a 1990 Saab 900—for a few weeks, the list of things “gone wrong” in JD Powers parlance has grown quite a bit. None of the items on the list are catastrophic, but they do highlight the perils of buying a 16 year old car.

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October 24, 2006

Subaru STi Engine Project Part 1, Introduction

One of the first jobs we had after we opened our doors in 2005 was also one of the toughest, most involved jobs we’ve had to date. After flogging the hell out of his 2004 Subaru STi for most of the season, a fellow track mate and good friend discovered engine oil and coolant were intermingling, most likely caused be a leaking head gasket. The symptoms got worse towards the end of the season and he decided that the cause had to be diagnosed before the next track year (which runs from around April to November in Michigan).

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October 17, 2006

The Saab Chronicles Part 2

My life has become so integrated with the internet and email that I realized the other day I wouldn’t know what to do without it. So much of my daily communication with customers, so much of my research for articles, and general information gathering is now done in front of the pixilated images that my Dell deciphers from the cyber world that I’ve forgotten how it was like before this particular technical revolution. And I did indeed start my career before the internet was popular, before email was de rigor.

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October 12, 2006

The Saab Chronicles Part 1

“The Most Intelligent Cars Ever Built” is a tagline as familiar to me as “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” It was used in Saab automobile advertising for many years and helped distinguish the quirky little brand from Sweden as a true niche player before the marketing people ever got their hands on a French-English dictionary.

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September 20, 2006

Project Mazda6

We have a bit of catching up to do—many projects have gone through the overhead door of our workshop since we opened last year. This section of the VRBlog deals with the interesting projects we’re working on, have worked on or will work on.

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The Workshop

In a previous post I talked a little about the two owners, Eric and myself (Horst), so I figure this time I should fill you in on the shop. Yes we sell worldwide thanks to our online store, but our focus really is the workshop. It’s there were we get to mess around with cool cars, work with our customers one on one, and just plain get out from behind the desk and do some real wrenching.

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