Enduro Racing Tips – 3 Things To Look At When Choosing Your Racer in this year

The first thing you need to know are the rules of the particular enduro event you are going to enter. Here in the Central Vermont area you will find two types of enduros.

8 Cylinder enduro races are as rare as the “old boats” you would want to run in one. My old 1979 Ford Thunderbird was one of the best cars I have ever driven in a race.

The 4 and 6 Cylinder enduros are more common. Little cars can be found all over. I drove a 1997 Ford Escort Wagon last year.

The 3 things you must look at when choosing your enduro car.

1) Price. You don’t want to spend a lot. The car more than likely will be heavily damaged over the 200 laps of a typical enduro. I paid $50 for that little Escort wagon.

2) Solid Car. Not only do you not want to spend a lot on a car you know is going to get wrecked, you want to find the most solid car for your money. Driving a rusted junk in an enduro race is begging for disaster. I will use an example from one of my earlier races…

It’s 1994 and I’m driving a 1979 Buick LeSabre in the annual Enduro 200 at Thunder Road. It’s only about 100 laps into it and I get caught in a big pile-up. Some yahoo that was looking somewhere else plowed into my car and my trunk lid popped open.

Once the wreck got sorted out and the survivors got rolling again, I noticed that I was being black flagged.

“Why the heck are they black flagging me for? A popped up trunk lid should not be a problem in an enduro, right?”

I chose to ignore the black flag for a couple of laps. The flagmen got pretty frantic and were leaning out over the cars trying to get my attention.

” They really want me to pit. I better go get that trunk lid strapped down”.

When I pulled into the pits, my crew guys told me to shut the car down.

“What? Strap that lid down and let me get back out there’.

“There’s nothing to strap it to!”

My car had completely disintegrated from the rear wheel wells back. One frame rail was bent 90 degrees and sticking out straight.

The gas tank had been dragging on the track. That’s why those flagmen had been so frantic.

The moral of the story. Please choose a solid car for your enduro racer.

3) How much will you have to invest to get your racer race ready? If you’re starting from scratch, it’s going to cost you about $500 to turn a street car into an enduro racer. That’s materials. If you’re paying someone to work on your racer, plan on a lot more.

How well does the car run? Choose a car that runs well and will take very little mechanical work to get race ready.

Enduro racing can be a lot of fun if you build a strong car that can survive the chaos of this type of racing. To build a strong car, you have to start with one and that’s what this article was all about.

What You Should Know About The Acura RSX in this year

What should you consider about the Acura RSX before you buy one? Any time I buy any new car I always make sure I have done my homework on it first. So if you think the Acura RSX may be the car for you, you should probably do what I do and make sure you know as much about the car as you can find out before you hit the lots. Here is a little bit about what I found regarding the Acura RSX, but do your own research as well so that you know everything about the car the it important to you before you go out and make that purchase. Your best bet, though, is to check out the S type of the Acura RSX.

The Acura RSX is a high performance coupe in the S type. It features a 210 hp 2-liter engine, 6-speed close-ratio manual transmission, modified suspension and brakes, quick-ratio variable rack & pinion steering, upgraded tires, leather interior. Air conditioning and 7-speaker Bose sound system come standard when you buy it new.

Visual inspection of the car reveals that it is best-suited to smaller people. Up front, however, is what counts and there you will probably find the most comfort. The seats of the Acura RSX S Type are fantastic, not racer-tight but with more than suitable grip. The steering wheel is well placed, small, and wrapped with leather. The gear lever falls right to hand and has obviously been placed with care. Also, everything looks great, with typical Acura ergonomics. One drawback would be that the numbers on many of the instruments in the Acura RSX are too small and the indicators on the air controls are not very easy to read. The round air and heat vents are controlled with little clamshell-shaped doors that allow them to almost vanish when closed. Seats and mirrors are heated, while the “set-and-forget” climate control maintains a very nice temperature.

The Acura RSX is casual elegant, but with just a little faux titanium and chrome to dress things up. The sunroof is standard and c

In addition, as you look over more information on the Acura RSX, you will find that there is even more to it. It is a safe car with many standard air bag and brake features that add to the practical appeal. As you look into cars, and if you believe that such a sedan at a these prices may be for you, then you owe it to yourself to give the Acura RSX a chance. Do your research and visit an Acura dealer to take a test drive and see that everything you have read about this sports sedan is true and may just be why the Acura RSX is the right car for you to consider for your next new car purchase.

What’s the Best Type of Motor Oil for Your European Car? in this year

Todays sophisticated European engines produce higher horsepower densities per cubic inch and subject the engines oil to severe operational conditions. Throw in all the emissions control equipment on these cars and the oils used must demonstrate exceptional anti-wear performance and meet the strict formulation requirements needed to meet the most current European motor oil specifications.

Those specifications at this writing are VW 504/00/507.00, VW, 502, 505 and 505.01, BMW LL-04, Porsche C-30, ACEA C-3, ACEA A3-B3/B4, Mercedes Benz 229.31 and 229.51 etc. Since most European car makers specify oil change intervals that are considerable longer than those of U.S car makers, oils meeting these specifications need to demonstrate excellent high temperature/high shear performance (HT/HS) to maintain viscosity and provide adequate engine protection.

In addition, turbocharged direct injection (TDI) engines are common in European vehicles. Motor oils used in these applications must be very thermally stable to handle the high operating temperatures and resist deposit formation while providing adequate turbocharger cooling. Thermally stable oils help keep oil passages clean and promote fluid circulation so turbocharger bearings stay cool and lubricated

Because of the sophisticated and extremely efficient pollution control equipment used on European vehicles, almost all European car makers require oil used in these applications to be formulated with lower amounts of sulphated ash, phosphorous and sulfur. (SAPS) SAPS is a commonly used anti-wear additive in motor oils.

The problem is that oils with excessive sulphated ash, phosphorus and sulfur (SAPS) can harm modern exhaust treatment devices. Diesel particulate filters (DPF’s), for example, require low-SAPS motor oil to help prevent filter plugging. This is why using motor oil that does not meet the correct specification can cause engine problems and that annoying check engine light to come on!

Because SAPS additives provide a high degree of wear protection, its reduction has caused some motor oil formulators considerable difficulty in producing a engine oil that both provides outstanding protection and meets the car makers requirements for use with their engine advanced pollution control equipment. The most ideal motor oil for European engine is high grade synthetic oils engineered for the above specifications. Synthetic oils have very low pour points protecting the engine from oil starvation and providing immediate oil pressure when the outside temperature is low while its thermal stability withstands high-temperature/high-RPM breakdown to resist deposit formations that starve TDI systems of lubrication.

This is why some of the biggest names in European cars such as Mercedes and Porsche are factory filled with synthetic oil and many require the use of synthetic oil to maintain the cars warrantee.

Amsoil Inc. introduced the first American Petroleum institute rated motor oil in 1972. Today Amsoil is considered the world leader in high grade synthetic lubrication and offers synthetic motor oils specifically engineered for the most demanding European car applications.

How to Get F1 Drivers Autographs and Photos in this year

F1 autograph hunting TIPS for people with not much money. (Legal stuff only) If you have no money to pay the paddock club access then how on earth would you ever go close enough to the F1 drivers to get them sign your merchandise/autograph/photo. Your not even related to any F1 crew. That was my question since I first attended my first Formula 1 race.So what did I do to tackle this problem? How did I manage to get autographs and photo’s with F1 celebrities not to mention a few World Champions(Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Niki Lauda, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikonnen) from the past and current lineup. Here I share my tips ->

Tips 1 – Identify your target.

Know the drivers family members, gf’s, race engineers,technical crew,team directors, owners and entire crew if possible. It’s always good to know who is who. Reason? not many people know them, so +1 point as competition to take photos with them are less. You can even ask them were and when the actual F1 drivers will arrive at the circuit. Do not focus on only 1 famous F1 driver. You might not know that a young rookie would be famous one day. My F1 circle of friends took photos with Sebastian Vettel when he was still the 3rd driver for BMW Sauber. Imagine him now and you know what I mean. So the keyword here would be identify and do not be picky.

Tips 2 – Always bring a marker pen + merchandise

Bring stuff for autograph in your backpack at all times during Grand Prix weekend. You will never know who you bump into. A friend of mine bumped in Sebastian Vettel in a local Puma store and there was no publicity on that!

Tips 3 – Identify and hangout at the drivers/crew Hotel.

How? – you need to be good to the hotel personals before the F1. You can even go and ask the receptionist and pretend as if you are going to stay at the hotel. It may not be so ethical but the important thing is it’s legal. You will be surprised on how easy to get some drivers photo’s or even autographs. You can also check your local forums and ask around where the drivers are staying. Someone out there might know!

Tips 4 – Wait in front of the paddock access gate.

Some circuits, drivers walk to the paddock. Example(Singapore GP). This is a great opportunity to get them to take a photo or sign autographs.

Tips 5 – If the paddock lane is open, get your way in front of the garage.

On race day, normally teams who win P1 will have a team photo session. Smallers teams will celebrate P2 and P3. But you will never know, so make sure you wonder around the teams who made it to the podiums. I’ve personally took pictures of Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes 09, and RedBull team photo’s. The drivers were so near to me and I manage to take pictures with them as well! Best time is after race when the teams are packing but you must be sensitive enough, some teams who didnt do well might ignore you but don’t stop and just go to next garages/teams.

Tips 6 – Wonder at your local airport the day after the F1 race finishes.

You will be amazed on how little supporters are at airports! You will never know who you might bump into. Seriously I’m talking of experience. Some friends and me have meet Fernando Alonso at Changi Airport once.

Insurance Totaled My Car – What This Means in this year

“Your vehicle is a Total Loss.” These words, more often than not, spark immediate controversy between an insured and their insurance company. The main cause of controversy between an insurance company and an insured as it relates to total loss is that most people feel their vehicle is worth more than it really is.

A vehicle, though historically not a good investment, is very personal to us. Many of us spend a great deal of time in our vehicles each day and grow attached to our car. Many others ”trick out” their cars and inherently feel that their modifications enhance the value of the car.

I thought it might help some folks if they heard exactly how an insurance company views this and how they go about compensating you for your car should it be determined to be a totaled. There are typically two main things involved in understanding this process: What exactly is a Total Loss and how is the value of a car determined. In this article I am going to discuss and define a Total Loss from an insurance companies perspective.

So, what exactly does it mean when your insurance company deems your vehicle a total loss? In general, there are two types or measurements if you will when it comes to making this determination: Financial or Economic Total Loss and an Obvious Total Loss.

Financial or Economic Total Loss

A vehicle is often declared an Economic Total Loss when the cost of repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle, plus sales tax, less your deductible. I am sure you have heard that there is a percentage used to determine if a car is an Economic Total Loss. You have probably heard numbers from 50% to 70%, or more. This is true, however, it is important to know that not all states set an actual percentage and that for the states that do not set percentages, it is up to the insurance company to determine what that will be.

Although all insurance companies that are free to set this number themselves are all different, a common number you will hear is 70%. What exactly does that mean? I thought a quick illustration might help:

Market Value $15,000

Plus tax $ 1,050 (7% used as example)

Sub-total $16,050

Less Deductible $ 500

Total Loss Value $15,550

Cost of Repairs $11,662

Repairs are 75% of the value

In the example above, your insurance company would likely determine your vehicle to be an Economic Total Loss. One thing to remember is that if you are paid the value of your vehicle, the insurance company will retain the salvage or damaged vehicle and then sell it to a vendor. Most insurance companies have negotiated contracts with salvage buyers and will use that avenue to recoup some of the money paid out for the total loss. In the example above, your insurance provider would know that your car had a salvage value of $3,000 (example). So, when making their total loss decision, they would factor in this amount and subtract it from the total amount paid of $15,550, bringing their net cost to $12,550.

One other brief point to make that is worth noting is that your insurance carrier will also factor in estimated supplemental damages were your car to be repaired. From my experience as an adjuster and claims manager, there are often supplemental or additional damages/repairs identified once a car begins the repair process. These damages are often discovered on “tear down” or after parts of the vehicle are removed and additional damages are more visible. In many cases it is almost certain that there will be additional damages based on the visible damages, however, an adjuster will only write for what they can see and note that additional damages are likely.

Obvious Total Loss

An Obvious Total Loss or OTL is in which the damages to a vehicle are so extensive in terms of repair and/or putting the structural integrity of the vehicle at risk with a repair, that the car is determined to be an OTL. Some examples of an OTL are:

  • Fire Damage
  • Rollover
  • A theft
  • Extensive Water Damage
  • High impact front-end collision
  • T-Bone or hard hit to the side of a vehicle at the center-point

In most cases, a claims adjuster will not have the direct authority to determine a vehicle to be an OTL. The two insurance companies I worked for required a manager approval to make this call. With today’s technology, that can be done easily in the field by simply sending some detailed photos to a Claims Manager or Property Damage Manager. In this case, there isn’t a cost of repairs necessarily but the valuation process is the same.

Hopefully this helps you understand what is meant when you are told that your car is a total loss. Your insurance claims adjuster should explain all of this to you, however, having a basis understanding will certainly help should you find yourself in this situation.

The Saving of NASCAR’s Jack Roush in this year

It was Friday evening, and Larry and Donna Hicks were about to watch the six o’clock news in their lakeside home at Palos Verdes Estates outside Troy, Alabama. Hicks was a 52-year-old retired Sergeant Major with the Marines, now working as a conservation enforcement officer for the state of Alabama. He had arrived home from work half an hour earlier, and he and Donna had talked about going to a movie, but decided against it.

The TV news was just starting, when they looked out the window and saw a small plane flying down the shoreline of Palos Verdes Lake.

“I wonder if he knows about the power lines,” Larry said, just as the aircraft suddenly shuddered to a halt, flipped over, and headed straight down into lake. Hicks was already running out the back door as the plane hit the water, yelling behind to his wife, “Call 911! I’m going to see if I can help the pilot.”

Fortunately, Larry’s brother, Wayne, had left a 14-foot aluminum johnboat, with an electric trolling motor, at the lake in preparation for bass fishing that day, then had not shown up. Donna made the call to 911, and ran outside in time to see Larry commandeering the johnboat, headed toward the Air-Cam, which was about 100 yards off shore.

Years before, when Hicks had been stationed at the Marine Air Corps Station in Iwakuni, Japan, he had spent two-and-a-half months, part time, in an intense Search and Rescue program. A major got him into it because he thought Hicks would be good at it since he was muscular and into weight building. The training was specifically directed toward saving pilots who had gone down in water in fixed-wing or rotary-wing planes. Hicks learned how to get pilots out of planes that had crashed upside down. However, he remained in the telecommunications unit, and never had the opportunity to use his specialized training.

The engine of the Air-Cam was hot when it hit Palos Verdes Lake, and the airplane was smoking in the water. High octane aviation fuel from a ruptured fuel tank floated over the surface making greasy patterns. The back half of the aircraft and a broken wing were sticking up from the water. Hicks climbed out of the boat onto the wing and tethered a line to the plane to keep the boat from floating away. The heavy smell of gas assaulted his nostrils. It was only later that he thought about the danger of the plane blowing up.

The water was murky, and Hicks had trouble getting his bearings underwater. The plane had crashed in the middle of an underwater “stump field,” but luckily had missed hitting any trees. The first time down, Hicks ran out of air and was forced back to the surface without locating the pilot. The second time, he felt the back of the man’s neck under his hand. After another trip to the surface, he took a deep breath, and descended a third time.

Larry’s military training–the repeat drill of what to do until it became second nature–took over: “Locate Pilot, Extract Pilot…” Hicks felt for the pilot’s seatbelt; fortunately, it was one he recognized by feel from his training in the military. He released the belt, and the pilot floated into his arms. Hicks swam to the surface, pulling the man with him. The pilot had bones sticking through his legs, and his feet were turned the wrong way.

The man was bleeding through the nose and mouth, and was no longer breathing. He had drowned. The Troy police had arrived on the lake bank by now. Larry yelled to the officers,”He’s not breathing,” and he heard one police officer say to another, “He’s dead.”

Hicks hauled the man up against the wing that was sticking above the water and put a modified Heimlich maneuver under his ribs and pulled up to get the water out of his lungs, then started modified CPR. The inert figure coughed up water and blood, then on the fifth breath, started to breathe. “I’ve got him breathing again,” Hicks yelled to the rescue unit on the shore.

Hicks gripped the wing of the plane with his left hand, lying on his back in the water, supporting the pilot on his chest with his right arm to keep his head above water. He felt a stinging sensation from the aviation fuel, which worsened until he was in great pain. He found out later, the top layer of his skin had burned off.

The rescue unit brought out an extra boat, put the pilot on the backboard and floated him to shore. Larry tried to follow the four members of the rescue team as they walked out of the lake, but his legs gave way. He and the pilot were transported to the Troy hospital.

While Hicks was being treated for the gasoline burns on his upper body, he heard the helicopters arrive to airlift the pilot to the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham. After a decontamination shower, Hicks was released.

Word was out almost immediately that a light plane had crashed, piloted by celebrity Jack Roush, NASCAR and Winston Cup car owner since 1988. An aircraft aficionado, friends of Roush had arranged for him to fly the Air-Cam, a specialized aircraft built specifically for photography, as a birthday gift.

Roush was initially put on a respirator, with a trauma team working on him. He had inhaled water and gasoline and suffered closed-head injuries, rib fractures, a collapsed lung, compound fractures to his left leg, and broken ankles. He did not remember anything from the time of the accident until he woke up in the hospital that weekend.

Amazingly enough, six days after the accident, Roush was running his business by telephone from his hospital bed. By Sunday, he had arranged for Larry and Donna to be flown by private jet to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit him.

Six weeks later, Roush piloted a plane from his Michigan home and hobbled around on crutches at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware, overseeing his four-car Winston Cup team. Larry and Donna were by his side.

Larry Hicks has no doubt that a Higher Power was at work in Jack Roush’s incredible rescue. If the Air-Cam had hit the high tension power lines instead of the support wires as it did, the plane would have gone down in flames. If it had crashed on the ground or hit a tree in the underwater stump field where it landed, Roush would have been killed instantly. If Larry and Donna had gone to a movie that evening, as they had discussed, or simply been in another part of the house, they would not have seen the plane go down, and Jack Roush would have died. If Wayne Hicks had not left the johnboat ready to go, there would have been no rescue.

But, most amazing of all, Hicks was one of a small percentage of the populace with the specialized knowledge necessary to save a pilot in an upside-down plane from a watery grave. And, one other thing was necessary to save Jack’s life, which is that Hicks is a man of action who did not hesitate to put himself at risk to save a stranger’s life.


Larry Hicks was recognized with many honors as a result of his heroic rescue of Jack Roush, including the Marine Corps Medal of Heroism, the Carnegie Award for Heroism from the Carnegie Foundation, the Kiwanis International Robert P. Connally Medal for Heroism, and the Society of the Sons of the American Revolution Medal for Heroism. The story of the rescue appeared in People magazine, and Larry and Jack were on the cover NASCAR Illustrated.

Larry exhibits great pride that he lived up to the United States Marine Corps Code of serving his country with Honor, Courage, and Commitment, with selfless service.

My Scooter Won’t Start! The Top 5 Most Common Mistakes & Solutions in this year

We walk outside to run an errand, to go to school or work, and UGH, our scooter won’t start! How frustrating. Here are some basic things to check quickly to get back on the road.

  • First: The basic questions:
    • Did you hold in the brake? (Some scooters require the right brake to be pressed)
    • Is the kill-switch off?
    • Is the key all the way on? (Sounds dumb I know, but as a repair shop Manager, I get scooters in here all the time where the ignition is sticky and doesn’t turn on all the way. The owners are embarrassed when I make sure the ignition is turned all the way on, and the scooter starts right up. Always works for the mechanic, right?)
  • Second: Will it kick start? Try kick starting it. When kick starting, don’t give the scooter any gas (you might flood it). Try to kick start-it 5-10 times. If that doesn’t work, give it some gas and try again.
  • Third: Check the fuse next to the battery. Most fuse boxes next to the battery have an extra fuse in case the original one blew out. Check the fuse first. That only takes a minute. If it’s shot, replace it with the extra one sitting in the case.
  • Fourth: Jump Start-it – Scooters are not like cars. A scooter battery can be so dead, that there is nothing anyone can do to make it start, except charge the battery or replace it. So in the meantime, jump-it. Now a word of caution. These little scooter batteries can burn up quickly, so if you choose to jump it, only put the cables on a few seconds, quickly start it and disconnect it. If you put on cables for 5-15 minutes, you can destroy your battery. These scooter batteries can’t handle the amps put out by car batteries. If you want to buy a trickle charger, get a 2 amp charger.
  • Fifth: Pull out your can of Starting Fluid (you know, the one you bought when you bought the scooter – every scooter owner should have a can), and spray some fluid onto the UNI Air Filter you have on your carburetor. They try to start it again. If it starts, keep it running with the throttle. Keep your Starting Fluid with you in the seat until you figure out what is going on with your scooter.

These steps should get most scooters going and get you on the road. If these don’t work, it might be something more serious, but at least we’ve done the basics and saved us a repair bill for something that was silly or easy to fix by ourselves.

Happy Riding.

Should You Buy A High Flow Catalytic Converter? in this year

If you are in the market for a new catalytic converter, and are a performance enthusiast, chances are that you will be considering buying a high flow catalytic converter. If you aren’t, then you should read this article, and consider the benefits.

Let me tell you what this article is not about. I’m not going to talk about boring OEM universal catalytic converters that you put on your moms minivan. I’m going to be talking about high performance parts whose sole purpose is to increase the horsepower and torque of your vehicle. If you are just searching for a replacement cat for your 92 Chevy Cavalier, then reading this article is not worth your time. So let’s get into it, shall we?

I’m going to assume that you have a high performance vehicle, or at the very least, a stock vehicle that you plan on modifying. If you aren’t familiar with high flow catalytic converters, let me explain what they are and how they help your car gain horsepower.

First, the point of the catalytic converter is to convert toxic engine exhaust gases into cleaner more environmentally friendly substances. This is done using a catalyst inside of the device, hence the name “Catalytic” converter. Anyway, the problem with OEM or aftermarket OEM cats is that they restrict airflow. This is mainly because they are built to work as effectively as possible, and have little focus on increasing the power of your vehicle. Your 95 Honda Civic wasn’t built to be a high performance machine from the factory, but that’s not going to stop you from changing that! The High Flow Catalytic Converter was created with performance in mind and ultimately it lets more air flow unrestricted through your entire exhaust system. The best scenario would be to have no cat at all, and many people who race their cars do not have a catalytic converter, but if you are looking to have your car be street legal, then your car must have a cat in order to pass emissions tests during inspection.

So how does a high flow catalytic converter help your cars performance and should you buy one? Well first, let me ask you, do you have aftermarket headers or exhausts on your vehicle? If not, then a high flow cat is not the thing to be buying just yet. I think of a high performance cat as the third part to your aftermarket exhaust system. The most important piece of your exhaust system is the Cat-Back. This is all of the piping that comes after your catalytic converter. The second most important piece is a high flow exhaust manifold, or headers. These come before the cat. Without one or two of those pieces installed on your car, I would not purchase a high performance cat as it is the least important and will not be as effective if not combined with a high flow exhaust system.

If you do have an aftermarket exhaust system, then a high flow catalytic converter might be the logical next piece to purchase. The more freely your exhaust gases flow from your engine, the more power your car will make. If you have a high performance cat-back, and headers, then a regular cat will cause a bottleneck in the airflow, and that is something we don’t want. By installing a high performance cat, you will increase the air flow, and gain more power. How much power will you gain? Well that depends on your engine size. Larger V6 and V8 engines will see a higher increase in power than i4s. This is because they produce much more exhaust gases. But for simplicity, we’ll say adding a high flow cat can increase your horsepower by 4hp to 10hp. If that sounds like a gain you would like to benefit from, then buying a high flow cat might be the right choice for you.

VW Fox – Made Out of Pineapples in this year

I’ve reviewed so many cars over the past six months or so, that I may have been guilty of getting used to the thrills and spills of driving fast ones. If this is the case, my assignment this week brought me back down to earth – very slowly might I add – with a bump. The car in question is the Volkswagen Fox – the baby of the German manufacturer’s fleet.

The car has a 0-60mph time of…wait…for…it…17.5 seconds. Top speed is 91mph and no, there isn’t a turbo attached to the puny 1.2 liter engine. Yet to lambaste the Fox for being slow and unexciting is to completely miss the point of the car. The giveaway is in the model name of the car I tested – the Volkswagen Urban Fox. You see in this time of petrol prices soaring, roads becoming more congested and the car being the global warming villain, the Fox could well be where the smart money lies when it comes to getting around town.

I don’t like to use the word ‘cheap’ but there’s no other way to describe the Fox, with prices starting at £6,430 to be precise (in the UK I should add). To get four brand new wheels onto the road, with a Volkswagen badge adorning your car for this money is quite simply a remarkable feat. The cost saving doesn’t end there either, with the Fox falling into insurance group one – the cheapest banding around. Fuel consumption almost looks made up with combined urban and extra urban figures of 46.3mpg.

Blimey this is starting to make a lot of sense. The Fox is quite tall too, so despite the diminutive length, the driving position is not too dissimilar to that of a larger 4×4 vehicle. The advantages of making the car tall, aren’t limited to the driving position, as headroom and legroom are also boosted by the extra inches up top. There’s plenty of glass around the car, making all round visibility excellent and parking a doddle.

Outside of its favored habitat things do go a bit awry with the Fox – particularly on the motorway. Now before you shout “the little thing’s not meant for the big roads!” if we’re being objective, there’s going to be occasions when you’re going to leave the big smoke and hit one of the multi-laned snakes cutting through the country. By-passing (no pun intended) the 0-60mph time, the Fox is – and I hate using this word as much as ‘cheap’ – slow. An overtaking maneuver requires the forward planning of a chess master and snooker champion all in one. Changing from fifth gear to fourth made little difference to my forward motion and worryingly, nor did a further shift down to third.

The tall sides also act as a pair of very large hands that grasp hold of every gust of wind or buffeting from a passing lorry, making the Fox a wee bit skittish in the outside lane. However, once off the motorway, the Fox feels far more assured navigating country twists and turns, thanks to a longer wheelbase than most in its class and wider track. In fact, rather than welding the accelerator pedal to the floor, a gradual motion combined with a neat gearbox brought great rewards in the great outdoors.

Parked up against it’s rivals the Fox sits comfortably in the ‘not ugly’ bracket but struggles to make it into the ‘pretty’ range either. As with Volkswagen’s other small hatchback the Polo, the Fox is subtly styled compared to its rivals, in this case the Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107. Yet there is something more grown up and civilized about the Fox when viewing it alongside the almost immature stylings of the other city cars.

An interesting fact for your next pub chatter – Volkswagen are committed to reducing the environmental impact of producing cars and are keen to promote recycling and greener vehicles. In the case of the Fox, it’s built in Brazil where the Curana plant grows. Fibers of this plant from the pineapple family are mixed with a recyclable synthetic material which makes the material for the roof lining and rear parcel shelf. No the car isn’t edible.

The Fox has been manufactured using the latest laser welding technology which means it’s a very rigid car helping it garner 4 stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests and features ABS as standard. Optional extras include alloy wheels, air conditioning and a CD player.

The Fox has a big fight on its hands, not necessarily from its competitors, but from the car it replaces – the much loved, and cute Lupo. Either way, the evidence is clear. Next time I get behind the wheel of a 2.0 liter turbo’d monster, I’ll be wishing I was a far sensible human being and was driving a Volkswagen Fox.

Swapping a V8 Into a Toyota MR2 – Build Your Own Supercar in this year

Please note: This is the first in a series of articles on this subject.

For many years, I have dreamed of owning a mid-engine exotic supercar. Unfortunately, they remained out of my reach financially. I decided that the only way I was going to get one was to build it myself. I have always been fascinated by mid-engine sports cars due to their superior handling, braking, and traction over a front engine sports car –even those front engine cars with a rear transaxle, that have a supposedly optimum 50/50 weight distribution. I like to call them the “dumbbell cars” because their weight distribution is just like a dumbbell–heavy at the ends, and light in the middle. This is decidedly suboptimal for acceleration, handling and braking.

Compare this to a mid-engine cars, where if you were to make a dumbell resemble the mid-engine car, the weights would be slid to the center. Now, if you want to make the dumbell, or the mid-engine car rotate about its vertical axis (called “yaw” in aircraft terminology), it will do so much easier and more quickly. This is because the tire traction does not have to overcome the inertia that a front engine/rear transaxle car would have over each end of the car. The result is that the car will be able to change directions faster, and with less tire wear. The peak G-forces will be much higher in a mid-engine car as well, meaning its faster around the corners. Rear wheel traction during acceleration is superior, since more weight is on the rear wheels. Strangely, there are a lot of “side-effect” advantages to mid-engine cars that the automotive press fail to mention.

Some examples:

1) Exhaust piping is usually very short in a mid-engine car (compared to a front engine car), so the engine has to overcome less “pumping losses” or the resistance to the exhaust travelling out the tail pipe. This means more power. The exhaust system will also be lighter since there is less of it. Dumbell cars have no advantage here.

2) The rear brakes do a LOT more of the stopping vs. a front engine car. When you hit the brakes, weight transfers to the front wheels. This means that the rear wheels become unloaded. On front engine cars, the front brakes do about 80% of the stopping. This is why disk brakes in the rear took a long time to catch on. They simply are not needed in the rear. A mid engine car has a LOT more of the weight (usually around 55 to 60%) on the rear wheels. When you hit the brakes, weight transfers to the front, so under braking, you might get 50%-60% on the front. Dumbell cars get some of the help that mid-engine car gets, but not nearly as much, because the engine is still in the front and is still far heavier than the trans at the back.

3) the mid-engine car has no driveshaft (unless its an AWD car, like the R8, or the Veyron), so there is a weight savings here.

Unfortunately, most mid engine cars are very expensive. Ferrari, Lamborghini, McLaren, Zonda, Koenigsegg, Bugatti, and so on. Some of these cars are above a million dollars! Mid-engine cars do tend to be more difficult to work on as well. Changing sparks plugs on the exotics is a major operation. The McLaren F1 requires engine removal to change the plugs!

In the realm of affordable mid-engine sports cars, there are Pontiac Fieros and there are Toyota MR2s. In each case, the cars came with 4 cylinder motors. The Fieros also got V6s, but those V6’s were very underpowered, with a whopping 140hp. In 1990, Toyota redesigned the MR2 and upgraded the power as well. Base models got 130hp and the high-end Turbo was 200hp, which at the time, was quite a bit for a car that weighed 2700 lbs.

The new body was very good looking, much like the Ferrari 348 at the time. The build quality was also superior as it was, after all, a Toyota. I decided to purchase a 1993 Toyota MR2 turbo in 2005 with the intention of doing a Toyota V6 swap, which up to that point, had been done by many people. At about that same time, I found that there were some attempts to install a V8 engine into the earlier MR2 (Generation 1, 1984-1989 body style, or mark 1). There were also attempts to install a Toyota/Lexus V8 engine into a MR2 mark 2. The attempts at doing the V8 into the MR2 mark 2 were not completed, and the project owners gave up. The reasons were not clear, but it appeared to be due to the fact that the Toyota V8 was simply too long to fit in the car transversely, even after cutting the car severely in an attempt to make it fit.

As a Mechanical Engineer who happens to be a mid-engine sports car nut, I became intrigued with the possibility of putting a V8 into my MR2 mark 2. With a strong V8 engine, the MR2 would be transformed into a supercar, with supercar performance. The Fiero guys have enjoyed swapping V8s into their cars for many years. Fieros have an advantage over MR2s in that their engine compartment is wider allowing for a larger and longer engine, like a V8. Fieros and MR2s all have transversely mounted engines. Another advantage the Fiero guys have had is that the stock Getrag transaxle bolts up to a Cadillac 4.9 L OHV V8 from the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. The later Cadillac Northstar also bolts up without an expensive custom machined adaptor plate.

In late 2007, another V8 in a MR2 mark 1 (1st generation) was completed by a guy in Europe. The car was crazy fast, and would do cookies at the drop of a hat. What fun! So, I took another hard look at the prior attempts to install a V8 into the MR2 mark 2. What I realized was that they were attempting to “keep it in the family” and use a Toyota or Lexus V8. There wasn’t really any valid engineering reason to use this power plant. It did not bolt up to any of the MR2 transaxles, and it was too long. The Toyota V8 used,(engine code 1UZ-FE) is about 26 inches long from the crank pulley to the rear face of the engine, or bell housing interface. This is the critical dimension. Compare this to the stock MR2 engines like the 2.0L 3S-GTE turbo motor which has a critical dimension of 20 inches. This dimension is critical because it fits between the unibody pseudo-frame rails of the MR2 chassis.

I decided to take a different approach. I started searching the internet for a V8 engine that would fit the MR2 chassis, preferably with no cutting, or possibly with only a small amount of cutting of the MR2 unibody. My requirements were that it be a V8 with at least 300 horsepower, that it is available, that it would cost somewhere under $5,000, and that it would be short enough and narrow enough to fit the MR2. I succeeded in finding one. Audi has an interesting habit of making very short V8’s. They do this because they want to use their Quattro drive train, but at the same time, not compromise handling too much. Audi seems to prefer longitudinal engine and transmission arrangements over transverse. The Quattro drive train involves a driven front axle, which they had to locate behind the engine. If the engine is too long, it puts too much weight in front of that axle, so they compensate by making a shorter engine. This has the added benefit of allowing Audi to install this engine in smaller cars that were originally intended to have a 4 cylinder power plant. For my purposes, I found that the 1991 through early 2000 Audi V8 engines are approximately 20.6 inches long at the critical dimension, and about 29 inches wide, not including the headers, or other easily removed items.

I purchased a 1997 Audi 4.2L V8 (engine code ABZ) and a transaxle, and started working on my project. Unfortunately, after much trial and error, I finally decided that the Audi V8 was not suitable for this engine swap. The problem laid in the fact that the engine was always designed to be longitudinal. In my case, with a transverse layout, the right size axle had to run along side of the engine, and Audi did not design the engine with that in mind, so there are large portions of the block in the way of that axle. The starter, oil filter/cooler and engine mount are also in the way on that side, however, I did solve those problems. The nail in the coffin of the Audi was the adaptor plate. I determined that the adaptor plate required some of the mounting bolts to be located inside of the bell housing of the 6 speed transaxle I was using, so it was impossible to tighten them. At that point, I decided to change my approach and use a different engine.

Please stay tuned for the next in this series of articles.