Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

…and then pauses

April 29, 2010 7 comments

The install day started off great. We got done with the break down of all the stock parts and were flying through the steps of the install. Stock manifold off, O2 sensor jammed (see below), stock air box/intake removed, new injectors installed, fuel rail reinstalled. We had to rotate the alternator back a little to get the header off, but that was no real trouble.

We were basically flying through everything with no problems until we got to the part where we were about to put in the turbo manifold, turbo, wastegate, and downpipe. We noticed a couple of little things and decided to take a closer look.


  • The primary O2 sensor was apparently put in by God himself as we weren’t able to get it out. I put some elbow and “breaker bar powa“(tm) into it and we then found out that I can break brand new O2 sockets. See the hairline fracture below on the near side.
(See that crack right up the spine? Yea, that was a brand new socket I destroyed)
  • Turns out that hot side of the turbo housing (exhaust side) had a broken bolt in it and one bolt halfway in. When we went to take the halfway-in bolt off the housing we found out that it was broken as well and really just held in the hole by a thread or two…great.

(Hard to see, but the leftmost two bolts are broken off in the housing)
  • We tried to extract the two bolts, but weren’t able. Took the turbo to the shop to have them try, but they weren’t able to either. Being that it’s the weekend all the shops we might need were already closed we made the decision to go back to stock.

Next steps:

The car is back to “stock” as it is right now. We put the stock plugs back in, stock manifold (with O2 sensor), we left in the bigger injectors because we weren’t comfortable clipping more wire. We’re going to try and run the car and see if the stock ECU will be able to handle it without choking out.
I’m stuck waiting for the oil pan’s RTV to cure so that I can put in new oil and hope those 630’s let me run.
  • Refill oil and test fire with the bigger injectors
  • bring the turbo to a shop capable of helping us with the broken bolts
  • buy new exhaust housing if old bolts can’t be removed
  • try the install again

If this had been a virgin kit, we would’ve been done by around 5pm. Oh well, c’est la vie. We’ll keep working at it until the Mediocre tC is up and boosting. 

– Unfortunately, Steve is the only thing moving hot air right now

Categories: Uncategorized

7th inning stretch

March 19, 2010 1 comment

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted something – I blame the Olympics, my son, and the Indian god Vishnu – so I figured I would take some time tonight to begin getting everyone up to date on the progress of the 3000GT repair. As the title suggests, I’m in the home stretch and should have it ready for its first startup within the next week! It’s about time, too. I’m willing to bet that my battery is low on charge, that I couldn’t explain who the hell Vishnu is, and that my tires have lost 10 PSI or more. But all will be well soon.

The last post I made about the 3000GT was about an assessment of the damage. It turns out that there was, indeed, a washer dropped into the intake manifold. It then got sucked into an intake valve upon engine startup and it proceeded to literally get chewed up between the #1 piston and the head. The resulting damage was plainly visible on the piston and the head, but less obvious was the damage to the two exhaust valves. I took the head to Auburn Auto Machine for repairs – Mike, the owner of the shop, is a friggin’ rock star, by the way – and it came back looking virtually brand new. The repaired area is nearly identical to the original, undamaged areas. Plus, I had some bad guides and bent valves replaced, the whole head was hot bathed and so looks new again, and everything was resealed. Nice!

(Ball hone used to prepare cylinders for new piston rings.)

Proceeding the damaged head being repaired/rebuilt and a new (used/rebuilt) piston being purchased, I began the long rebuild process. First off, I borrowed a ball hone from Auburn Auto and honed the cylinder to ensure a good seal against new rings. A little WD-40 and finding the right speed of oscillation vs. repeated penetration (yes, I did describe it that way), and the job was done. Next up was installing the piston with new rings. This was a bit more challenging. I bought a piston ring compressor, but I was trying to force the insertion before the cylinder opening was ready to take it (there it is again). I ended up snapping a ring before asking for some tips on how to do the installation. For starters, I didn’t lubricate the whole thing. Second, I needed to take it nice and slow, and ease that thing in there. Lesson learned, and my wife appreciated that.

(Is it weird that this makes me horny?)

Naturally, the next step was rod bearings. I installed new bearings on the piston #1 rod and checked the clearance with plastigauge. Good to go. I then tried to check the clearance on the piston #6 rod (old bearings) to see if I should replace the rod bearings on all six rods, but I couldn’t get the end cap off. Steve and Jeff were waiting around impatiently to continue on, so I gave up and reassembled everything. I figured the cylinder wall and old bearings on piston rod #1 looked fine, so it was probably cool, too.

The last step of the parts directly inside the engine was to remount the oil pan. Getting it off was quite the pain in the ass. I don’t have the “special Mitsubishi tool” (damn there are a lot of them) to remove the oil pan, so I used a tiny screwdriver and pecked away at a corner of it. Eventually I got the screwdriver through the RTV-made gasket and the whole thing pretty much just popped off. Putting it back on involved straightening out the part I bent during removal, cleaning up all the old RTV, and applying a new seal before mating it to the engine block. Jeff was there to help me with this part of the process and did the actual RTV application. Before we did, though – and I highly recommend this to anyone doing this job – I practiced installing the oil pan without bumping the sealing edge against the oil pickup or incorrect places of the block. By the time Jeff handed me the pan with RTV on it, I was a pro at maneuvering the thing on. Piece of cake.

(Jeff applying RTV to the oil pan. The red line on the ground is not RTV. It’s the cord for the shop light. Even Jeff couldn’t have messed up a bead of RTV that badly.

This is all I have time for tonight. I’m much further along than just this, so keep your eyes peeled for updates on the rebuild. Also, why does half of my post sound like it could be about sex and not at all about cars? I suppose working on cars is just as good when it’s as gratifying as this project is becoming. Just don’t tell my wife I said that.

– Alex “needs to stop writing posts when he’s horny” Gregorio

Categories: Uncategorized


January 18, 2010 5 comments

Those of us who are entirely addicted to our hobby know what it feels like to sacrifice some things to make sure that we can get what we want in others. Everyone has their limits of what they will and won’t sacrifice, but this limit is often variable as we continuously weigh our losses versus our potential gains.

Me? I’ve sacrificed some of my eating habits to hopefully save some dough for the upcoming turbo build. What does my sacrifice look like? Well, to most people it would look like absolute rock bottom, but to me it represents a delicious way to save big money on food. I present to you my newest low-budget Mediocre dining creation: Spicy Mustard Tuna!


             – Tuna

             – Jalepeños

             – Mustard

(Looks and sounds weird, tastes delicious for under a dollar worth of ingredients!)

Everyone knows what it’s like to sacrifice for something they really want, but can’t immediately afford. Some people know how to dig deep and really cut away all the things they don’t need and some people just aren’t willing to do it. Whichever you are it’s totally fine because we all build our cars at different speeds and the beauty of our hobby is that you can do whatever you want to get to your end goal. Just make sure not to judge someone just because their breath might smell vaugely of Jalepeños and Tunafish.

– Steve eats it right from the tin…now that’s hardcore

Categories: Uncategorized

Alex, stop picking at it!

November 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Last week, I was missing my 3000GT when I got home from work (explanation), so I go around to the front where the engine is as naked as a college sorostitute and turn on my shop light. With heavy heart, I look closely at the damaged piston and say to myself, “Hey, it looks like there is still some of the washer on there.” So I take a small screwdriver and take a few pokes at the piston surface not even considering the possibility that the two coolant ducts just below the piston are totally exposed and something could easily fall down there. Need I say more?

 Well, yea, probably. I’ll say that I felt like an idiot as I watched that piece of metal sink down into the coolant and out of my reach. I then began considering the consequences if I didn’t remove it: the shard of washer flows around in the coolant ducts and then ends up in the water pump. Said pump chokes up and stops working. The engine quickly heats up and boils the coolant still in the block. If I’m really dumb – and I should be honest with myself on that one – and continue to run the engine, the pistons heat up so much that they weld themselves right onto the block and seize up. End of the road for Mr. Twin Turbo.

 Fast forward a few days and I decide to try my hand at getting the shard out of the duct. My first reaction is to flush the coolant out of the engine and hope the shard comes with it. The problem there is just that: I’d be hoping the damn thing came out. I could make it worse if the shard got caught on something. I could pressure-flush the system, but that’s messy, a pain in the ass, and again wouldn’t guarantee the shard would come out or I could find it even if it did come out. So I thought long and hard (giggle) about it, and came up with the stroke (snicker) of genius below.

(This is how I supplied light into the coolant duct)


I used a dust buster with this tube taped on the end to suck out enough of the coolant so I could see the shard. After struggling for a while with how I was going to retrieve the shard, I attached the tube onto the end of my wet/dry vacuum and went at it. The shard stuck to the end of the tube without actually sucking into it. I then turned off the vacuum and pull the shard out.

(The “MacGuyver maneuver” on the wet/dry vac)

(Close up of the sealing job)

And finally, here is what I pulled out. Obviously the circle of pieces is the original washer that came out of the cylinder.

(The one with the arrow pointing out of it is the shard I pulled out)

-Alex “MacGuyver” Gregorio

Categories: Uncategorized

How Do You Keep Going?

November 17, 2009 Leave a comment

I had a moment a few weeks ago when I threw up my hands and exclaimed “Enough is enough; good bye Mediocre Jetta!”. I have since reconciled with the little black sedan. I think in cars as with most hobbies, sometimes we enthusiast reach that tipping point. I’d like to talk a bit about how I decided to keep going. But first, some background.

I overpaid for a 1991 Jetta GLI. After overpaying, I put almost the cost of the car into repairs to bring it up to daily-driver status. Since that time, I’ve spent many weekends handling routine car maintenance. Oil changes, brakes, back-up sensor, lights, cracked dash bezel, poorly installed radio, hacked radiator support and the like. A small fraction of that weekend work is dedicated to fun or performance oriented work.

All that work is why I feel like my car should work. Every day, I should be able to get in and it should start and run like a well maintained machine. When that isn’t the case, I start to get agitated.

The morning after returning from a hectic business trip to Vegas (I averaged less than 2 hours of sunlight exposure per day!), I hoped in the Jetta with Mo Volks to do our usual Saturday running around. The Jetta didn’t start. I took a deep breath, depressed the clutch pedal and tried again. No dice. Being extra tired and jet lagged, I launched into an epic rant about the car, blaming everyone from Houdini to the Pope for its problems. Quick self-diagnosis jumped to the (il)logical conclusion that there were starter problems.

(Mr. Rich while in Vegas)

Frustrated, I began to calculate what I could handle for a car payment, swearing off the Jetta and wishing nothing but ill upon its German engineered beauty. Many hours later, my head began to cool. I called AAA and had the car towed 2.8 miles (take THAT 3 mile free limit), to a shop for a more professional diagnosis. The problem was nothing major, a worn distributor cap.

How did I decided to keep going? It was simple, really. I looked at my parts list, and realized I was less than 20% ‘done’ with the Jetta. With a little inspiration from a beautiful VRT (VR6 Turbo) Black GLI on ‘tex, I thought to myself, “Screw it, I’m with this car till the end. Ups, downs and all”.

(The Mediocre Jetta Someday?)

Fixing the car last weekend was therapeutic. Aside from the distributor cap, I replaced a burnt-out light, put new OE door handles on the car and did a quick oil change. After the car was fixed, I realized why I keep going through the ups and downs with this car. It runs every day and looks the way it does because of the work that I do to it (with help from friends, of course). That satisfaction was worth every penny I put into the car, and then some.

Next time you get pissed about a flat tire or a dead battery, remember, you can fix it. Next time you’re WOT heading down the highway, smile, and remember, you keep your car on the road. Not a tech at the dealership or the oil guy at Speedy Lube, but you.

-Mister Rich

Categories: Uncategorized

Steve, I think we broke it

October 28, 2009 1 comment

A few weeks ago, Steve and I took on the task of replacing my 3000GT’s spark plugs, spark plug wires, and having the fuel injectors professionally cleaned and resealed. While we were at it, I also replaced the stock air box with an open-element K&N air filter, and replaced the stock bypass valve with an HKS SSQV blow-off valve that I’m recirculating back into the intake.


(HKS SSQ BOV…so many abbreviations such a small device!)

Everything went really well until I put the car back together after getting the injectors back. This video isn’t the first startup after reassembly, but it definitely showcases the heart breaking sound my engine now makes when running.

After deciding the sound was definitely coming from the front bank of cylinders, we removed the valve cover to get a better grasp on what was going on. We watched the camshafts while one person turned the crank shaft using the access panel behind the front wheel. We quickly learned that we couldn’t get a full revolution of the crank shaft in either direction before it required too much torque for us to turn. So we went fishing again into cylinder #1 with a magnet while moving the piston up and down. Bingo:

(Half of the washer that was mercilessly mauled by the engine…still looking for the other half)

This is only about half of a washer. We believe the other half is smashed into the inside wall of the head and is tapping the cylinder with each stroke. It couldn’t have made it past the exhaust valves because the turbo likely would be really unhappy about it, and that doesn’t seem to be the case. We can’t assess all of the damage to the head, piston, and cylinder until we get that head off, which is clearly the next step. But first I’m going to read up on the procedure – I hear it’s a pain in the ass on these cars – and gather up the required parts and tools. While I have the head off, I’ll also be performing the 120,000 mile service since I’m getting close to that mark anyway. I’m thinking I’ll also have the head fully serviced by a machine shop, which will include a hot tank bath, an inspection of all valve guides and seals, a resurface of the bottom of the head, a regrind and pressure test of the valves, and any TLC necessary for the cams and journals. All said-and-done this will easily be $500 or more, plus a few solid days of work. I’ll post updates as the project progresses.

So what’s the moral of the story? First, always check the intake manifold for any foreign objects before replacing the upper plenum. But second? Tie magnets to Steve’s hands to ensure he doesn’t drop a $0.20 part into the intake, causing hundreds of dollars in repairs and untold headache to the car’s owner. (Just kidding, Steve, I still love you. Mostly.)

–          Alex “Butterfingers” Gregorio

Categories: Uncategorized

The birth of a Toyota supercar

October 22, 2009 2 comments

If you pay any attention to the automotive world beyond the new variations of the same old boring cars you might’ve been hearing about a couple new and exciting things coming out of the Toyota camp recently. Most of the big buzz has been around the new joint venture between Toyota and Subaru (Toyota owns a % of Subaru’s parent company) that is being spoken about as the spiritual successor to the much loved and oft storied AE86 Corolla.


(The return of the little Tofu Delivery car that always could!)

The REAL news however is the launch of a Toyota bred supercar; the Lexus LFA. This car has been floating around in rumors, theory, and spy shots while sneak photos and video clips of it have teased us for months. Lexus went right for the gusto and launched the LFA straight into racing at the 24-hour Nurburgring endurance race with a pair of prepped LFAs.


(Seriously…who doesn’t love a set of hot twins?)

Just a few scant hours ago though, Lexus officially birthed the car to a whopping $400,000 price tag. Within the range of 99.9% of most people, hell no. They’re only making 500 units for sale anyway, so even if you DID have the 400k floating around, you’re going to have to fight for the right to own one. Still not convinced? Let me paste in some of the stats that I shamelessly stole from Jalopnik’s coverage of this.

– Top speed: 201.94 MPH
– 0-62 MPH: 3.7 seconds
– Redline at 9,000 RPM
– 4.8-liter 72-degree V10
– 553 hp @ 8,700 RPM
– 354 lb-ft of torque at 6,800 RPM
– Titanium valves, connecting rods, exhaust manifold, forged aluminum pistons,
– dry sump oil system
– Six-speed sequential gearbox
– Torsen limited slip differential
– 65% of the body is carbon fiber
– 3,263 pounds with a 48/52 weight distribution
– 15.4″ front carbon ceramic rotors with six-piston monoblock calipers up front , 14.2″ rear
– Production limited to 500 units


(I keep having trouble writing captions for this car because I find myself staring lovingly at it for long periods of time instead of writing)

Still not convinced? Let me share with you a little video that Lexus released (and I found on Jalopnik again, but was presented by

After I watched the video and had finally stopped panting breathlessly enough to regain the control of my motor functions, I was instantly thinking back to the time I spent at the Montreal F1 a few years back. It was a life changing experience and after having been a fan of F1 for years it was a completely different experience to physically FEEL the violence and beauty of the sport. There are very few things that make me have uncontrollable goosebumps and tingles all over my body (I’m not making this up or using hyperbole here) and the first time I heard an F1 engine in real life, I got that feeling. I still get it when I hear F1 cars on TV now…watching this video of the LFA, I had the same uncontrolled physical reaction

Seriously, I don’t know how to explain the true volume of the noise of an F1 motor at full throttle other than this: The air around me (even 100ft away from the car) sounded and felt like it was being ripped and shredded and pulled from existence. The sound of the motors was as beautiful as it was ear destroying though, and the cars sang a 10,000 RPM (at that time) Opera as they screamed past us exceeding 150mph. I’ve never in my entire life heard any motor sound so close to that experience (especially the operatic tones) as I have in hearing this video of the LFA.


(Pure magic, contained in a Lexus wrapped shell)

I’ll likely never have the chance to ever even SEE an LFA in person, and will have an even cosmically smaller chance at driving one, but today I’m easily one of the most excited little boys on the planet. Toyota built a super car…and it is pure magic what they’ve accomplished.

-Steve is gonna go watch the video again

Categories: Uncategorized