Monday, November 9, 2009

Non-drift related update

Nothing really new to say regarding the drift scene here since its practically winter and there is virtually no motorsports activity here in Seattle once the brunt of Fall season hits. However, I'm getting excited right now because I'm finishing up writing a research proposal to apply to a program which will give me funding to go to Japan next year. There's another program that I'm applying to for the same thing as well.

If I'm fortunate enough, it will mean that I may be able to spend about 4 months working in Japan. During which I hope I can get a taste of the drift scene, as a spectator of course. I will probably be super poor over there. It's too early to jump to start planning anything though, I haven't been formally accepted to anything yet--need to finish this application. I'll update with any new information regarding this subject as it comes up.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Went to the last drift event of the season today and had a pretty satisfying experience. My car's cooling system seemed stable during the whole day; no leaks, the temp needle didn't budge from the middle of the gauge, and the electric fan kicked in when it needed to so that I never had to flip the manual fan switch on.

I ran a pair of brand new 205-50-15 Dunlop DZ101s on the front and ran my ~3 year old 205-50-15 Falken Azenis RT-615s in the rear (these tires have been exposed to at least 3 winters so the compound seemed really hardened up like passenger tires). Normally this setup would seem bad since the RT-615s are a superior tire (think street-legal "racing tires / slicks") and one would not want to have more grip in the rear than in the front so as not to have the car understeer like mad. However, because the Azenis were pretty old and hardened they seemed to do their job well.

After figuring out how to clutch-kick for real during my personal practice day last month, I was able to initiate drifts fairly consistently throughout the day. However, after initiating the drift I found that the rear would slide out too much because I would be using too much throttle and end the beginning of the "drift" with a spin.

Later on in the day I managed to carry the drift a small amount, however, when it came time to transition and carry the drift in the opposite direction, I would instantly spin. One of the guys there said that my problem was letting off the throttle during the transition and instead I would want to keep on the throttle and ease the car into the transition. This advice helped a lot during the slalom section of the course and I was able to sorta drift along back and forth, ignoring all the clipping points for the sake of just trying to drift at all. I wasn't able to successfully complete the first two turns in succession during the day though with more practice I think I will be able to do it eventually.

On my last run I performed an experiment, I started my run about 30 feet behind the starting line to get more speed before initiating into turn 1. This allowed me to get into 3rd gear in an attempt to clutch-kick initiate in 3rd gear. This method seemed like a great idea as I nearly completed the drift but failed to transition. All my previous runs were in 2nd gear and I found that I was running out of revs to clutch-kick and wasn't able to initiate at all toward the end of the course. 3rd gear appears to be the solution to this problem. It means I'll probably be going faster, but hopefully will also allow me to improve and get to the point where I can successfully complete an entire drift run.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Ready to go

Installed the new all-aluminum radiator today and it seems to be working pretty well--there's really no way for it to not work well other than not to leak or break. My cooling system seems to be fairly stable so hopefully it holds up for a while.

Got some new tires also, ready to try to get some drift practice in on Sunday which is the final event of the season.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Radiator leak

Spotted a small pinhole type leak in my radiator. This is the radiator that came with the motor so it probably has a billion miles on it and didn't look that amazing to begin with.

Ordered a new all aluminum radiator from Euro Dyne for a pretty good price. Oh well, better safe then sorry even if it's another expense. Means more work I have to do when it gets here too :(.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


As I leave for work on my bicycle I ride past my car and notice something is a little off as I glance at it. My focus is directed toward my right rear wheel which is flush against the ground because the tire is FLAT. I inspected the tread of the rear tires and notice that there really is not much there on the insides, it's pretty much bald.

I change out my rear tires with my old 15" SSR/Azenis RT-615s and can't really see what caused the right rear tire to get flat, there are some marks on the bald part of the tread that look like sharp cuts but I can't really tell. On the other tire there are pretty big chunks missing from the tread with cords showing. It's pretty surprising that I didn't have any issue getting home yesterday on the wet roads.

Dunlop is currently running a special where if you buy 4 tires you'll get a $75 Amazon gift card. I might have to bite on that so I can have some spare rears for future practices / events. Another giant dent to my CC debt. I need a bailout!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Drift event + practice

Went to a drift event yesterday with the new motor and suspension bits and the car is great, it's just that I'm terrible. The whole time I felt like I wasn't in control of the car at all and that's definitely not in a good way. I actually went off the course one time and thankfully wasn't kicked out. The weather was really bad also, pouring rain pretty much the whole time which made it impossibly hard and when my group had to work it was cold and windy and I got soaked even though I had an umbrella.

So it nearly felt like an event / day wasted.

Because I felt like I wasn't accomplishing anything I really wanted to get some solid seat time / practice in on my own without having to worry about run groups, time, or anything. So I basically found an empty area with a friend and did just that while getting a few pointers here and there. I pretty much spent the whole time trying to do donuts and failed for a while doing that which made me sad considering donuts are supposed to be really easy. Eventually I got the hang of it sorta and with the tires super hot was able to initiate a slide a little easier. I also got the hang of a proper clutch-kick as well. Basically I need to work on the transition from one sliding direction to the other now which is pretty tough to master.

I chewed up the insides of my rear tires pretty much completely and will probably need to get replacements before the next event / practice session.

The car has been pretty good so far, it seems to toss a check engine light randomly here and there for what so far has been nothing serious and the cooling system has been finicky. The system isn't bleeding air properly and seems to be overheating at idle. Hopefully the car will continue to be reliable for a long while until I can master the art of drifting...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


So a bit more money drained from my negative account... But, my bad O2 sensor was replaced, and now there's no check engine light!!! I went and got my emissions tested after and easily passed. For some strange reason the emissions attendant person asked me if the car was a 4-cylinder or not. I said no, I did an engine swap and then she asked me if it was a 2.5 or 2.8L motor. Apparently she just input my car into their system as a generic 328i or something. Whatever though, I passed without any issue so I should be good for 2 more years.

Also, I had a bigger rear diff installed (4.10 gears) to handle the increased power. The old small diff was making a pretty loud whining noise at high speeds although a bit of that noise can probably be attributed to the solid diff bushing that I'm using as you can still hear a bit of driveline noise with the new diff though it's no where near as loud. The new diff came from an automatic car and it looks great inside and out so it should last a while hopefully.

New strut-tops were put in that I mentioned in an earlier post. Since a lot of caster is needed to get the steering to return on its own while driving I had new M3 strut tops installed which just from looking at them seem to be a huge change. Hopefully it should make drifting a lot easier and more fun. You can see in the picture below the strut position is shifted / pushed back toward the rear which causes the front wheels to be angled foward more (this is what more caster is). I've included a picture of what the stock strut-tops look like and you can see the shock is right in the center of the tower--it's a pretty significant difference.

You can't really see too much of a difference from the outside though I didn't document any before pictures to find out. I think the wheel might be rubbing a little with the increased caster at full lock but I think I'll just have to deal with that.
With the new diff in and my clutch nearly broken in I tried some quick acceleration "tests" for fun and the car does have a bit more acceleration compared to stock. However, the rear didn't lose traction like I would have expected it to due to the increased power and torque. Either my car somehow gained a huge increase in traction magically or the weight of the battery, new diff, and old diff in the trunk (couple hundred pounds maybe) was helping to keep the rubber on the road. I'm hoping it's the latter and that when I remove all the garbage I have in the trunk I'll be to light the tires up more easily. I mean it's got more power! There's no reason I shouldn't be able to do that! I could do it with the old 4-cyl motor! Here's a shot of the rear suspension with all garbage in the trunk (groceries too), looks like the rear is lowered by an inch or so.
And finally, here's a shot of the complete engine bay. The nasty white residue is hot coolant that sprayed everywhere because for some reason the radiator cap popped off while I was driving. I really really hope I don't have anymore cooling issues with this car... I need to figure out how to get an electric fan wired up to the car before the next drift event.

The car is basically all set now except for general maintenance stuff. I need to pay off the rest of the swap costs and then I have another project in store which should be a lot of fun (in the looks department as opposed to performance).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Check engine light almost removed

So I've gone from 8 CEL codes to 3-4 down to 1 (or 2). Got rid of one code by switching the brake light connector with the 3/2-valve connector. Apparently I had them reversed and didn't realize it until it was pointed out to me that my reverse lights weren't there. That was an easy fix and was able to get rid of one code.

Went to Schucks and cleared the codes with their OBDII scanner and pinpointed the last code to one of the O2 sensors on the exhaust manifold. I have a new sensor coming in shortly and will have it installed with a new diff (bigger), and new M3 shock tower mounts (to increase caster).

Once all these things are sorted out I think the car is set... for at least a little while.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Formula Drift: Evergreen Speedway, Seattle

Yesterday I went to the last event of the Formula Drift Seattle series and got to see the Top16 drivers "battle" to the top 3 finishes. Chris Forsberg came out on top in his RedBull Racing 350z roadster, Sullivan came in 2nd in the Rockstar WRX, and McQuarrie in the Falken 350z came in 3rd.

An interesting turn of events occured during the final matches, in the final four match of Sullivan vs. Vaughn Gittin Jr., both Sullivan and VGJ did well when VGJ led and that's basically all the chase car needs to do, drift well in tandem with the lead car. However, for whatever reason (maybe VGJ wanted to show off a little or try to get some kind of edge), when it was VGJ's turn to chase, he closed into Sullivan's car and tried to initiate his drift before Sullivan which is a pretty douchey move on his part, this set the gears in motion for a nice crash in which Sullivan initiated his drift but because he lost a little speed doing it VGJ tapped Sullivan's car, causing both cars to lose control and culminating with VGJ t-boning Sullivan's car into the wall.

Then right after he crashes into Sullivan he high-tails it out of there back into the pits assumingly to fix his damage for what I assume he imagines is his next run--another pretty douchey move. Meanwhile, Sullivan's car is basically trashed and done for the day. Thankfully the judges recognized that VGJ effectively screwed over Sullivan hardcore and gave Sullivan the win-berthing him to 2nd place.

This scenario got me thinking about what would happen if a highly-skilled rookie drifter with not much in the way of sponsorship was running against a big-name highly-sponsored drifter. The drifter with more money could basically maliciously "tap" the other drifter into a wall, totalling his car, and everything would be fine in the end for the drifter with more money because the rookie is out of the game for who knows how long and the big-shot is ready to go after his pit crew rebuilds his car in 5 minutes. I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before something dirty like this happens in reality.

Anyway, onto the pics:

Grandstands were decently full. I got a kick out of the announcer saying that Evergreen speedway won the best crowd award last year. In reality, last year everyone was talking about how terrible the crowd was, it was pretty much pure silence with low energy.
RC drifting was present.

The Falken tent(s).
Pit car with trays containing suspension parts laid out for fast replacement. I thought this was a pretty sweet idea.
The Toyo tires tent, lots of tires to burn. Apparently the rear tires only last for 2 competition runs before needing replacement on this track.
Some of Toyo's drivers looking down on the crowds.
Joon Maeng's S14, Joon is one of the low-budget pro drifters I mentioned earlier. He's also probably one of the nicest / friendliest guys there.
Sullivan's WRX before being destroyed (no after pics).
Not a fan of RX7s but really love the paint scheme style.
A pretty clean and vibrant S13.
Chris Forsberg's car.
Gushi's RWD Scion, the crowd went nuts over this guy, probably only because of his name, "the Goosh." (I'll admit his headlighting is pretty sweet) In reality, I don't think anyone in the stands has seen him drifting very much. He didn't even last 1 competition run due to drivetrain problems--the exact same thing happened last year.
Nasty Hyundai drift car.
Tanner Foust after showboating his Nascar V8-powered Scion.
The top 16 drivers lined up.
More of the same.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Post Project Day 4

Got the exhaust system all sorted out, was kinda expensive but it's done. Now I can focus on something other than the insane exhaust sound. Well, with the new exhaust (Stromung muffler from my old 4-cyl welded onto the 6-cyl mid-pipe using a Y-pipe) for some reason it's SO QUIET. It must have something to do with the smoothness of the inline-6, by the way it is INSANELY smooth, that the natural harmonics cause the engine to be easily muffled or something.

By comparison, If I were to accelerate with the 4-cyl and let off the pedal completely really fast, the car would lurch unless the ease off the pedal really slowly. With the inline-6 I can let off the gas and the car decellerates smoothly without lurching, I'm impressed.

Took the car to Autozone to have the codes read (the check engine light is on, no surprise), and theres 8 stored codes... Most of them seem to deal with emissions which is good and bad. Good in that they might have triggered when I basically ran the car without an exhaust and may be clearable now that there's an exhaust--Bad in that I need to get the emissions tested next month for my registration and a check engine light is a fail.

I also pinpointed where the shifter is hitting the driveshaft and its the selector rod making contact with the driveshaft balancer (?). I'll need to bend the selector rod to get it to fit without rubbing on anything, that should fix my shifting troubles also.

So a few more little things to fix but the swap seems to be pretty much done. I'll need to get a bigger rear diff soon before I get used to accelerating hard and blowing it up. The increased torque is noticeable for sure.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Project Day 3: Finished... Sorta

So we didn't start until the evening, as a result things were rushed but I think we got everything together (it was dark). Reconnected the battery, turned the key, accessories powered on, car cranks (we're in business!!), took a bit of cranking but eventually once I presume the fuel rail started to pressurize, the car started!

Now mind you, the mid-pipe that we attached didn't completely bolt on because the people that pulled the engine cut the studs on one section of the manifold so there was not only no muffler but a HUGE exhaust leak at the manifold / midpipe connection. Needless to say, the car is LOUD under ANY load. At idle, the car is pretty quiet actually though with a bit of a rumble. Something is wrong with the shifter also. I can't shift into reverse and the connecting rod of the shifter seems to hit the driveshaft when trying to go into 2nd. This is a pretty bit hindrance at the moment and I'm not sure what to do about it as of yet.

First things first though, I need to get the car into a friend's shop to try and have new studs drilled for the exhaust manifold if possible and to have a muffler / muffler hangars welded also.

So far I can't determine the difference in power because the car is so loud that I don't want to punch it and because the car has a fresh clutch that needs to be broken in.

No pictures during the install due to the rush but I'll have some eventually.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Project Day 2: Almost there

The next day the morning was wasted since the engine leveler we ordered from NAPA never showed up, the employee there said it was never ordered but would call the order in and have it by 3pm. 3pm came around and guess what happened? NO LEVELER. We were furious over how inept and useless everyone at NAPA was. I had my money refunded and decided to try to drop the motor in without the leveler...
Turns out it IS possible, though really tricky / difficult, bent some part of the firewall a little bit I think but shouldn't be a problem.

It was tricky getting the oil pan around the steering column, had to remove the passenger side motor mount arm to sneak it around. It was fairly smooth sailing past that point barring a struggle to get the engine aligned with the motor mounts.

The rest of the time was spent reconnecting and reinstalling things. There was a freak out over whether the driveshaft would attach to the transmission since the new setup is a bit longer and we figured out that the driveshaft could be disconnected from the center bearing, attached to the transmission output flange, and then reinstalled without any issue.
The shift linkage is kinda wacky though, the shifter hits the plastic shifter surround when going into the northern gears (1,3,5, etc.) so I might end up removing the plastic to save some weight and get over this issue (sacrificing looks for utility).
There also was a large round connector on the wiring harness which didn't connect to anything which I started to worry about. However, after doing some research it seems to be a connector for the ASC system (traction control) which I won't be using anyway.

Tomorrow should be the last day of the project and will consist of the following approximately:
Install radiator / cooling hoses, install exhaust and associated connectors, fuel lines, etc., torque down all the nuts and bolts in the drivetrain, doublecheck the wiring harness to make sure positive cables and ground cables are going where they should be, replace EWS II unit, get and install power steering return hose, fill system with fluids (power steering, coolant, oil), reconnect battery, insert key, hope for the best. Shouldn't take very long to accomplish all this so I expect to be up and running shortly if all goes well!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Project Day 1: Out with the old

Didn't manage to complete the project in one day as planned, however, decent progress was made at least.

Since the photos will give it away, the car is undergoing a heart transplant, swapping out the old anemic 4-cyl motor for a nice juicy 6-cyl.
Step 1: Drain coolant, power steering, disconnect wiring harness, remove DME/ECU, etc.

Step 2: Remove intake bits, other miscellaneous materials attached to engine and ready hoist for pulling.

Step 3: PULL!

Step 4: Look at void where engine used to be.

Step 5: Prepare new engine for transplant (swap transmission, starter, etc.)

This is as far as we got in 1 day. Hopefully tomorrow will consist of dropping in the new motor without any trouble and reconnecting everything together / finishing touches. Will be picking up an engine leveler tomorrow morning to hopefully help shoehorn the massive motor into place. We'll see how it goes. I'm excited to start her up though!

Friday, July 31, 2009


So the car project that I should have finished by now... hasn't even started yet. Hopefully progress will be made soon (ie: starting).

One thing I did accomplish was relocating my car's battery to the trunk. It was a pretty simple job, bought a tray from Schucks, some hardware from Ace, drilled a few holes, mounted and installed and called it a day.

Project updates pending...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rear coolant pipe aftermath

Here's just a snapshot of the plastic rear coolant pipe after being replaced, wish BMW used a metal design but I'm sure BMW saved quite a bit by going plastic...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Project underway in 2 weeks

Will begin the secret project in approximately 2 weeks and will need to be finished in 1-2 days, it will be quite a feat if possible... Here's to hoping everything will work out...

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Just a little update:

Fixed the cooling system issue, the broken piece was in-fact the plastic Y-shaped bit. The cooling hose and clamp had completely snapped off with a ribbed portion of the piping inside of it. Had to remove the battery, battery box, some ducting stuff, and the main wiring harness to gain access to the area. Whole job took about 3 hours or so, refilled the system with coolant / water, bled the system and was good to go.

Will be receiving the core part of my secret project tomorrow, hopefully everything I'll need will be there so that I won't need to scramble for miscellaneous bits later.

Also, in order to improve the driftability of my car I've determined that I'll need more positive caster. This basically affects the rate of steering-wheel return that will be achievable (being able to flick the wheel in the direction of the drift and catching it) while drifting. My car's caster is fairly neutral and my steering wheel doesn't seem to return very well or very fast at all. I think some new 96-99 M3 upper strut tower mounts are in order to get some more positive caster.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A day full of grief

Woke up way early for a drift event in Bremerton, everything was going well, I was in the first run group and got 2 really poor runs in before an instructor hopped in and taught me how to clutch-kick it. Clutch-kicking really does help with initiating drifts especially in my low-powered 318.

Next run I let the instructor take my car for a spin and while he wasn't perfect, he did seem to show me that the car has some drifting potential. I was all excited to get back into my car and start practicing when a horde of people starting running over to my car saying oil was pouring out from the bottom (my heart sank when I heard this since this wasn't the first time something like this happened to me during a "racing" / motorsports event). I quickly pop the hood and a white mist is pouring from the rear of the engine, fluid is dripping onto the ground and liquid spray is coating most of the rear engine bay--turns out it thankfully wasn't oil but coolant.

After being relieved that it was only coolant, my anxiety grew once I realized that I knew what was likely causing the problem; a black Y-shaped plastic coolant fitting that bolts to the rear of the engine head between the firewall. The piece was invisible to see and I couldn't feel it either since the area was intensely cramped and covered in engine bits. Post probable diagnosis I began to worry about how I was going to get home. I called up my insurance company's roadside assistance and told them where I was and that I needed a tow back home, 70 miles away. I was shockingly told that roadside assistance covered a maximum distance of 15 miles and that I would have to cover the rest of the overage charges accrued. I questioned how much these "overage charges" would cost and figured I might as well foot the bill if around $100 or so. Unfortunately the real figure was no where near this prediction as I was quoted for a sum of over $3-400!! I died a little inside when I heard this amount, I definitely could not afford an expense of that magnitude at this time. I told the operator that I would think about my options and call him back if I wanted to arrange for the towing service.

I thought for a while and determined I had no choice but to try to limp the car back home on my own, which is an extremely dangerous idea (the engine temp guages by BMW are known to be poorly accurate since they use averages to draw the needle in the center of the display--meaning that by the time the needle is past center damage has likely been done). From the suggestions of others, I filled up a few water bottles with water and poured them into the radiator and went off to get to the Ferry back to Seattle which was around 5-10 miles away. I made 4 stops to flush the radiator of boiling liquid (steam) before getting to the Ferry. Coincidently, the 4:00pm ferry was full so I had to wait 1.5hrs for the next one. I eventually arrived in Seattle and dangerously made only 1 stop (the needle was touching red) before finally getting home.

In summary, today was terrible but hopefully I can replace the broken cooling bits with minimal expenditure and look forward to the future...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

FD Round 5

Formula Drift round 5 (Breaking Point) at Evergreen Speedway is just around the corner (Saturday, August 8th), I can't wait! Last year's event was a blast even though it was pouring... It better be dry this time, I want to see some tires smoking!!
I will be there for sure.