The Truth About Cars » Aftermarket http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Aftermarket http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Piston Slap: At What Rate, the Falcon’s Restomod Wings? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-rate-falcons-restomod-wings/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 12:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151185   Stephen writes: Sajeev, I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM) I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up […]

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Wendy 473

Envious. (photo courtesy: OP)

Stephen writes:

Sajeev,

I drive a ’65 Falcon convertible with the 289 and a T-5, hydraulic clutch, and 4-wheel discs just like it came from the factory. (Wink – SM)

I replaced all of the rubber in the front suspension about 15 years ago and it’s past time to do it again. I’m up in the air between sticking with factory stuff or upgrading to some of the aftermarket Mustang stuff (i.e tubular A and control arms). While the aftermarket stuff is significantly improved over stock, I actually drive the car; earlier this summer I did a road trip from Denver to Bozeman, MT via Yellowstone, a total of about 1800 miles. I can go to any auto parts store and get replacement parts, while I could wait for TCI, etc to FedEx me something.

Second question. I still have the 4bbl carb on it for the same reason. Do any of the aftermarket fuel injection system use mainly OEM parts (i.e injectors, fuel pump)? I did get between 23-28 mpg on the Bozeman trip.

Sajeev answers:

First we discuss:

  1. How that Falcon is disturbingly awesome.
  2. How restomods are usually done wrong, except here.
  3. How beautiful your part of the country is.

Ahem! So, about the suspension upgrades: look at the bushings. Bushing size (diameter, thickness) and composition (rubber, polyurethane) have an impact on ride quality and NVH control.

My experience with aftermarket suspensions on old Fords is personal: take this restomod Mercury Cyclone seen in Hemmings. The stance is sinister and it’s a blast to drive in the twisties, but the aftermarket (Mustang II style) control arms with teeny-tiny, non-rubber bushings are tough on Houston roads. It’s a bad-ass persona ideal for most restomodders, and I respect that. But, if I was in charge of this project, I’d ditch the kit’s control arms for factory Mustang II control arms with big, juicy, plump and delicious rubber bushings. A regression-mod restoration, perhaps? 

Granted your roads are a far cry from mine, but I wouldn’t add an NVH-averse suspension on a droptop Falcon without chassis stiffeners like subframe connectors. I’d add those connectors no matter what! Since you can (?) grab parts designed for the 1964 Mustang, I’d recommend the stock (rebuilt) suspension with the best shocks and springs you can find.

And what about EFI conversions? Many reputable setups use GM sensors attached to custom wiring harnesses, so don’t sweat that. In the spirit of your T-5 swap, add EEC-IV from a 5-liter Mustang, provided hood clearance is no different than ’60s Mustangs. Aside from the occasionally wonky TFI module, it’s a great swap: Fox Mustangs are losing their EFI systems for LSX-FTW swaps on a regular basis! You can pick up an entire EEC-IV setup (intake, fuel rails, wiring, sensors) for a couple hundred bucks!

Fuel pumps get dicey depending on the easiest fuel tank conversion. I’d put faith in expensive Aeromotive parts, but maybe these guys got the Falcon covered better. Often these assemblies use the same tube-shaped pump available at any parts store.

Your current mileage is impressive and proves that a well-tuned spread bore (?) carb runs nearly as efficient as EFI…provided it stays in tune. Swapping to EFI nets greater consistency in all driving conditions…if that’s what you really want.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Express-ions via More Data Points? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-12/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/piston-slap-12/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1150873 TTAC commentator TrenchFoot writes: Hey, I’ve got a problem in that I like data. As an engineer and car enthusiast, I want to know more data points than the manufacturer thought I would/should. So I want to add some tech to my ride, and I want it all. The problem is, no one seems to sell […]

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TTAC commentator TrenchFoot writes:

Hey, I’ve got a problem in that I like data. As an engineer and car enthusiast, I want to know more data points than the manufacturer thought I would/should. So I want to add some tech to my ride, and I want it all. The problem is, no one seems to sell the all-in-one solution I’m looking for.

I have a 2007 Chevy Express AWD 1500 (backoff with your comments, I love that van!), but tech in that rig is limited to a power locks. Since I use it to tow a smallish travel trailer, I’m always wondering about the state of the tranny. So my wish list is:

  • Backup camera
  • Bluetooth
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring
  • Tachometer
  • Tranny temp/gear/Torque Convertor Lockup
  • Do I want a tuner, too?

Some of what I want is available with low-cost double DIN stereos (backup camera, Bluetooth) and some is available with a tuner like one offered by Bully Dog (camera, gauges). Even though the van has most of the running gear from a Silverado, Bully Dog is one of the few tuner companies that support the Express/Savana vans.

Adding TPMS is the tough one. I’ve had 3 flats this year and lost both a summer and snow tire that probably could have been saved had I known I was losing pressure. I don’t want to end up with a tuner, standalone TPMS, and new stereo as the cockpit will start to look cluttered and inviting to thieves.

Any thoughts on a Swiss Army device or how I can get it all with just a new stereo and one extra display?

Sajeev answers:

I, as a former engineering student, understand your need for data. Hopefully there’s a 12-step program to rid you of a future with analysis paralysis. But let me be the enabler to your addiction!

There are 2DIN stereos that not only have the backup camera and Bluetooth, but also interface with the OBD-II port for useful vehicle information. As this video — disgustingly cute music aside — shows, Android has a nice tachometer for you!

Apple users aren’t left in the cold, either.

Either way, spending a couple hundred more for one of these is worth the upgrade from whatever you see at Best Buy. These new stereos cover a large number of your requirements in one clean(-ish) interface.

The vehicle tuner? Yes, you both need and want it to upgrade air-fuel ratios, transmission algorithms, etc. from the conservative factory setting to something that will perform better and likely net you a modest increase in fuel economy, and assuming the factory settings for torque/throttle management, cushy transmission action, etc. are not up your alley. I mean, you are an Engineer…right? 

You’ll want the tuner to see those transmission parameters, as I suspect they’re unique PIDs your average Apple and Android interface cannot grab. Damn those unique PIDs!

So you now have a replacement stereo in your dash hole and a BullyDog display. Brace yourself for an aftermarket TPMS monitoring system. Nobody’s gonna interface with an aftermarket system — unless later model Express’ have factory TPMS and you are willing to re-wire the chassis (and install a new powertrain control module) to make it work. I reckon that ain’t happening, no matter how strong that data obsession lies within your soul.

It’s really not a concern, considering your canvas.

2004 Chevrolet Express. X04CT_EX015MX

(photo courtesy: www.autoevolution.com)

Take it from the dude that left engineering school to pursue a career in car design (i.e. styling) now doing that Vellum Venom thing: You got ample choices to install both the TPMS and BullyDog modules. Cut a hole, mount them in: use glue, sandpaper and charcoal paint if needed for a super trick installation.

The Express was designed to be upfitter friendly. This is perfect for your needs and maybe 20 more modules!

Go make it happen!

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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BMW To Customer: Aftermarket Parts Cause Fires, Airbag Deployments http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/bmw-rep-customer-aftermarket-parts-cause-fires-unwanted-airbag-deployments/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/bmw-rep-customer-aftermarket-parts-cause-fires-unwanted-airbag-deployments/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1114961 Last month, I shared the story of an unexpected double front airbag deployment in a BMW X5. In the twenty days since then, that car’s owner has been working with BMW NA, which conducted an independent examination of the car while it was in dealership custody. Yesterday he heard from a BMW consumer service representative, […]

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Last month, I shared the story of an unexpected double front airbag deployment in a BMW X5. In the twenty days since then, that car’s owner has been working with BMW NA, which conducted an independent examination of the car while it was in dealership custody. Yesterday he heard from a BMW consumer service representative, who told him that BMW has determined the reason for the deployment.

If this was Upworthy, or if we used the Upworthy Generator to create headlines, we’d have to title the article “What This BMW Representative Told A Father About His Airbag Deployment Will Break Your Heart. The Worst Part Is At 4:23 In The Call Record.”

But seriously, if you have a BMW you might want to click the jump, because there’s a good chance that BMW’s reason for the deployment applies to you as well.

The X5 owner shared a recording of his call with me. In the call, the BMW rep assigns the blame for the airbag deployment to the only non-OEM part in the affected chain: the battery.

“You had an aftermarket battery that was not installed properly,” she tells him. “The positive cable had a loose nut. This caused thermal events… thermal damage to the cable. There were several faults stored prior to the deployment. The airbag light was on in your vehicle prior to the deployment.”

The owner states for the record that he never saw an airbag light and that, had he seen one, he’d have acted.

“The battery wasn’t installed correctly,” the rep states later on in the call, “which caused a short. The battery cable began to melt. There are two scenarios that could happen. Number one is your vehicle catches fire. Number two is there will be an airbag deployment. There was melted plastic throughout the cable.”

I try not to wear too thick of a tinfoil hat nowadays, so my first impulse is to believe that BMW did, in fact, discover a loose nut connected to a non-OEM battery in this X5. What’s confusing me is:

  • Would a non-OEM battery with a tight nut also be a problem?
  • Would an OEM battery with a loose nut also be a problem?
  • Why would a loose nut cause the cable to melt?
  • Why would a melted cable cause an airbag deployment?

It turns out that there are two battery cables on the positive side of a BMW airbag. One of them has an explosive charge mounted on it. Supposedly, when the airbags deploy, this device “blows the connection” between the battery and the rest of the car to protect first responders. You can see pictures of this device on E90Post.

So, it’s easy to see the intended chain of events there and not so easy to see how the charge cable might cause an airbag deployment. Perhaps we have a BMW tech in the B&B who can elaborate further. In the meantime, if you own a BMW that was manufactured some time in the past twenty years, you might want to consider having the battery, and cable, evaluated by your dealership. Loose battery terminals are as common in a parking lot full of old cars as empty cigarette cartons, so the news that having one could lead to an airbag deployment is worrisome, to say the least.

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Piston Slap: Minivan or SUV to Take the “A” Liner? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/piston-slap-10/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1074810   Clark writes: Sajeev, We plan on buying a hard-side folding camper (a.k.a. an Aliner) with a dry weight of about 2,100 lbs. Which minivan or SUV would you recommend? Sajeev answers: I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I kinda want a pop-up camper to tow behind my Ranger. Kinda the same thing…sorta. Anyway, if […]

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Get to where you’re goin’ in a hurry. (photo courtesy: roamingtimes.com)

Clark writes:

Sajeev,

We plan on buying a hard-side folding camper (a.k.a. an Aliner) with a dry weight of about 2,100 lbs. Which minivan or SUV would you recommend?

Sajeev answers:

I would be remiss if I didn’t admit I kinda want a pop-up camper to tow behind my Ranger. Kinda the same thing…sorta.

Anyway, if you stick with an Aliner and don’t totally overload both the trailer and exceed the tow rig’s GVWR, almost any late-model V6 powered CUV or minivan is fine. I’d go vanning, for practicality and stretch out comfort; ideal for a small family, a couple, or just one person with mucho outdoor stuff. And their boxy shape (usually) punches a larger hole in the air for the trailer to “rest” inside.

Consider these minivan parameters, in no particular order:

  1. The option for a large, standalone, transmission cooler. And maybe the same for power steering. Or, as previously discussed, a super trick bolt-in setup in the aftermarket. Or perhaps give up and get the largest universal-fitting tranny cooler you can slap in. The latter could be the best and most affordable alternative.
  2. Size of brake discs and, to a lesser extent, any variance in caliper surface area between manufacturers. While I’m not holding my breath for a minivan with 4-piston front calipers, that would be sweet.
  3. Towing Capacity: checking the manufacturer websites, Chrysler wins the minivan towing race for MY 2015. Not only does it have available trailer sway control, there’s an extra 100 lbs of tow rating beyond every 3,500 pound rated minivan. But is that extra rated 100 lbs a tangible improvement?
    1. Another option: The Nissan Quest offers the same 3,500 pound towing capacity, but is the CVT gearbox is a good or bad thing? Good: CVTs work so well to put down power with efficiency, no steps for downshifting must be nice with the extra demands from towing. Bad: well, who here actually knows people who tow with CVT gearboxes over long periods of time?
  4. Tires: with all that load, finding the van with the most tow-worthy rubber is also important. Or switch to LT tires.
  5. Ease of adding aftermarket camping accessories: if you want it, can you get it for non-Chrysler minivans?
  6. U-body with LS4-FTW. Obviously, the rightest of the most righteous answers, if not the easiest to acquire. How sad for everyone!

What say you, Best and Brightest?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: A Tale of Mastercrafted, Aftermarket Dubs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-tale-mastercrafted-aftermarket-dubs/#comments Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:18:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038753 Jimmy writes: I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First […]

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(photo courtesy: svtrichie @ www.Hyundaiforums.com)

Jimmy writes:

I hope this new year finds you well. Back in 2007 I bought a new Hyundai Santa Fe. Nothing special, no ABS or four wheel drive. But it did have 20”s on it with low profile 12 inch wide tires. Later that year I had the chance to drive it in the snow. First time ever. Was not a good time. 

The only thing I know about snow is take it slow. And that’s what I did. Driving down to the end of my block I gently pressed the brake to slow down easy. No problem, I’m almost stopped and got ready to make a right hand turn. When some where under 10 MPH the rear end whipped around and I found myself sitting sideways in the middle of the street. It took me some time to unclinch my anal orifice from the drivers seat.

I thought driving in snow was closer to suicide but I had to pay the gas bill if I wanted to keep the heat on.

The next four stop signs were no problem. But on the fifth stop sigh I had to make a left turn. And just like the first stop sign, the back end slid around to the right. Having never driven in the snow, I didn’t know if this was normal or not. Either way it sucked. Took it too the dealer and had it checked out. No problem. But of course no snow then either.

I just got the car back from the dealer after it’s secound oil change. It was cold but not snowing. It was 9 a.m. no wind. The snow wasn’t melting. And the roads were in good repair. The snow itself was 12 inches deep and even across the road. I was the first one down the road.

Their is no problem breaking on any other surface. During a hard rain last week I tried to make it do something stupid. It always stopped streight and true. These were not snow tires. They were Mastercraft with less then 7 thousand miles on them.

In each case I don’t think I was going more then 7 MPH. Is that too fast ?

I don’t know if this should go on the board or not. I’ll let you decide. I had one of the tires on my Hyundai Santa Fe come apart from the tire case. I took it to the dealer who said, those arn’t Hyundai tires or rims we won’t fix it under warranty. Makes since, not factory tires, but installed by the dealer. So I went to where they did the install. They said if I didn’t buy it from them, their’s no warranty. Before hitting the dealer I looked up “MASTERFCRAFT TIRES” on the internet.

They had a recall for the tires I had. But still no warranty. I’m still pissed off. 1650.00 dollars for a new set of Goodyears. Mastercraft tires according to tirerack.com had a price of 225 each with 80 thousand mile warranty. My tires didn’t make it past 7 thousand miles. Also screwed up some body work. But it did remind me to put a lug wrench in car to fit my fancy rims. After auto club took 4 hours to come and change the tire. On the first hot day of the year.

I don’t blame the dealer. After all it was almost a year since I bought the car and the window sticker did not have anything on it about the rims and tires. But I do think the mastercraft dealer should have done something.

As a side note: I was originally going to buy a Honda Pick-up SUV thing. But I went on my favorite site, TTAC, and found out the little Honda gets crappy gas milage. I did take the Honda for a test drive, and I couldn’t get the sales man to tell me exactly how many miles to gallon it gets. Just like TTAC predicted.

Thanks for the vent.

Sajeev answers:

My luck with off-brand tires on daily driven machines is horrible.  After enduring several sets of shamefully bad Maxima (off brand Generals) and Mastercraft tires on vehicles that eventually became my hand-me-downs, I said never more…except for limited use vehicles like my imported Ford Sierra with impossible to find rubber sizes.

And when you combine off-brand all-season tires, aftermarket 20″ wheels and snowy/icy conditions? Oh my damn, son…

That’s a terrible combination. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with big aftermarket wheels, in theory.  But they weren’t designed with your car’s suspension in mind, and those “recalled” tires were probably sub-par from day one. My advice?

Simple: keep the Dubs for the summer, if you really like them.  You need a proper set of winter wheel and tires (factory 16-17″ sizes) so you can go much faster than 7-mph on city streets. You could go, like, 14mph instead. Awesome.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Outdoor Convertible Storage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-outdoor-convertible-storage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/piston-slap-outdoor-convertible-storage/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 12:53:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1017562   Ken writes: Sajeev – I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that. Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can […]

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Or not… (photo courtesy: http://www.rigsofrods.com/)

Ken writes:

Sajeev –
I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that.

Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can see the dilemma. Two cars are DDs and one is a recently purchased pleasure vehicle/ toy – in a used 2007 Saab 9-3.

Since I’m married, my wife’s MKZ (the same one you provided mod advice on) owns one of the spaces – leaving me one for an SUV (2010 Xterra) and said convertible.

I live in New England and the convertible will not see usage from November through till April. This is my first winter with the two car dilemma. At first my decision was made for me. The Saab 9-3 would sit outside. We have a newborn and I didn’t want to trudge the little guy into the cold when we have an attached garage. And since a pop up carport went over with the Wife like a fart in church – I bought a high end car cover for the Saab.

Fast forward, things have changed and we no longer utilize daycare for the little guy. The Saab is now sitting in the garage. WITH a car cover on it. (Cause why not? Already have it.) I figured I could wrench on it occasionally during the winter. But if I’m honest, even though the garage is attached, its just too friggin cold. So it could sit outside.

Both vehicles I’d like to keep for a long time. But my Xterra is of more use to the family and should get the better treatment of the two. The Saab shouldn’t rust much as it will never see salt, but the Nissan is my winter driver.

My question is – which should be outside and which inside? With the latest snow storms I am a bit annoyed clearing snow off my car when I don’t have to – but its just me and I’ve done it for years so its not really a big deal. I’ve also heard that its better to keep a vehicle in the cold rather than cycles of warm and cold as the attached frozen salt will melt and corrode more. Is there any truth to that?

What are your thoughts? Car cover the Saab outside or leave it in the garage?

Sajeev answers:

A total no-brainer: leave the Saab in the garage.

Never leave a winter beater in the garage when you have a topless summer toy! Okay, so says the single guy who lives in Houston.

But still, the effects of snow on a droptop are dangerous, especially when it’s a vehicle lacking the ridiculously strong aftermarket support of something Mustang convertible-like.

 

You want it, they got it .(photo courtesy: foxresto.com)

 

Like the above set up, most of which I’ve replaced (some personally) on the Mehta’s own Mo-Stang, a 1987 Mustang GT droptop.  It’s pretty easy and super cheap, and the re-popped parts are often OEM-quality: making the Mo-Stang a pure joy to own and restore like most Fox Bodies.  But that’s really not the point.

The point?  What works for me is not so cheap and easy for you. So forget outdoor convertible storage, it ain’t worth the risk of wear and tear. Put the Saab in the garage and leave the rusty winter beater out in the winter.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2013-14 Honda CR-Z Receives HPD Supercharging Kit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/2013-14-honda-cr-z-receives-hpd-supercharging-kit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/2013-14-honda-cr-z-receives-hpd-supercharging-kit/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=897810 The Honda CR-Z will be gaining much needed firepower under the bonnet thanks to the automaker’s performance division. Autoblog reports Honda Performance Development has introduced an aftermarket supercharger kit good for boosting power from the hybrid’s 1.5-liter four to 197 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The HPD kit also comes with an air-to-air intercooler, […]

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The Honda CR-Z will be gaining much needed firepower under the bonnet thanks to the automaker’s performance division.

Autoblog reports Honda Performance Development has introduced an aftermarket supercharger kit good for boosting power from the hybrid’s 1.5-liter four to 197 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. The HPD kit also comes with an air-to-air intercooler, high-flow fuel injectors, a re-calibrated ECU that complies with CARB AT-PZEV rules, and an air filter.

The kit, priced at $5,495 plus the cost of dealer installation, is meant only for 2013 and 2014 CR-Zs with the six-speed manual funneling power to the front. If installed at a dealership, it also will maintain the vehicle’s 5-year/60,000-mile warranty balance. An optional limited-slip differential and sport clutch are available for $1,375 and $640, as well.

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Altezza Lights: A Retrospective http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/altezza-lights-a-retrospective/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/altezza-lights-a-retrospective/#comments Thu, 28 Feb 2013 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479378 There are some automotive fads that we can liken to the leather jacket; a contemporary piece of clothing that has endured the test of time to become a staple of one’s wardrobe. The Hoffmeister kink may be the best example of an aesthetic detail that’s achieved this sort of ubiquity and acceptance. On the other hand, certain things, like […]

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There are some automotive fads that we can liken to the leather jacket; a contemporary piece of clothing that has endured the test of time to become a staple of one’s wardrobe. The Hoffmeister kink may be the best example of an aesthetic detail that’s achieved this sort of ubiquity and acceptance. On the other hand, certain things, like denim shirts for men and a certain style of empire waist tops that were once labeled “tit curtains” by an old lady friend of mine ( due to their unflattering drape on her trim figure) have faded away after a few seasons in the department stores. The automotive equivalent of these unfortunate footnotes may be the “Altezza” or clear lens tail lights that were all the rage a decade ago.

The Altezza tail lights originated on the Toyota Altezza, also known as the Lexus IS in markets outside of Japan. Despite being sold as a Lexus, the Altezza was designed in part by members of the hachi-roku’s development team – the original, Corolla AE86, that is. Numerous boy-racer touches, like the chronograph style gauge cluster, the drilled aluminum pedals and the oversized wheels lent the IS a youthful sensibility that may have explained why the car never really did well. As a pubescent boy with a subscription to Super Street magazine, I thought it was the coolest luxury car money could buy and promptly bugged my father to buy one. All it took was one trip to the Lexus dealer, with him in the front seat and me in the back directly behind him, to convince me that I didn’t want to spend a second longer than necessary in the unbearably cramped rear seat.

Of course, none of that stopped the aftermarket from cranking out Altezza lights by the trawler-load. All of a sudden, everything from the usual Honda Civics to dubbed-out SUVs to the awful GM J-Bodies with egregiously oxidized rear quarter panels sported these dreadful contraptions in place of the stock lamps. Even though my idea of a chick magnet was an old Nissan 240SX spray painted rattle can black with a fartcan muffler and a whistling blow-off valve, I knew that Altezza lights were a step too far, an undeniable sign of poor breeding and limited economic prospects. If only I knew that the most nubile women in my cohort were attracted to precisely that kind of guy, and not somebody who read Tom Wolfe and still bought their clothes at Old Navy.

It wasn’t long before Altezza lights began to appear on other cars. The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution’s first U.S. bound iteration was the first to feature clear tail lights, and even Mazda’s timeless MX-5 roadster succumbed to this awful trend, a problem which was mercifully rectified during the mid-cycle refresh of 2009. By that time, the whole “Import 2NR” crowd had died off thanks to the recession, the “Fast & Furious” movies morphed into generic action/car-chase flicks and the Lexus IS had become a rather staid option in the sports sedan segment.

As of now, only one car comes to mind when clear tail lights are mentioned; the Scion FR-S. Despite my complaints about certain aspects of the car, I love the way it looks – save for those damn clear lights. Though I suppose, given the car’s lineage, it is a rather appropriate choice.

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Piston Slap: Putting yourself first via Remote Start? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/457376/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/457376/#comments Wed, 22 Aug 2012 11:11:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457376   Jonathan writes: Sajeev, I live in Chicago (actually a northern suburb) and own two cars: 05 Scion xB and an 03 Accord (4 cyl Auto). Due to logistics, day care, scheduling, and the like, both cars are used every day for the 1.5 mile drive to different train stations. And as you can imagine, […]

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Jonathan writes:

Sajeev,

I live in Chicago (actually a northern suburb) and own two cars: 05 Scion xB and an 03 Accord (4 cyl Auto). Due to logistics, day care, scheduling, and the like, both cars are used every day for the 1.5 mile drive to different train stations. And as you can imagine, we have some mighty frigid days here in the Windy City, and getting into a frozen car is not a whole lot of fun.

So I was thinking about installing an after-market remote starter in one or both of the cars. My questions are: Is this EVER a good idea? And if so, which types/brands should I look for and what professional installation gotcha’s should I beware of? And will the installation possibly reduce the future reliability of my car’s electrical/starter systems with the installation of such a device.

Thank you,

Jonatha

Sajeev answers:

Assuming a quality aftermarket installation, my question to you is: when is this ever NOT a good idea?

I only have one reason against this upgrade. There’s a (valid) school of thought that you should not let a cold motor idle around with cold oil: taking forever to warm up with no engine load, adding a ton of friction to the system for no good reason.  But OTOH, who gives a crap?

The extra engine wear could be minimized with a switch to fully synthetic oil.  And sometimes it gets so frickin’ cold outside that the motor needs to idle a bit just to safely drive the car on nearly frozen fluid.  And most people don’t keep cars long enough for this type of engine wear to matter.  And replacement motors from the junkyard are cheap…

I think you see my point. Find a reputable automotive aftermarket trim installer in your area (Yelp.com, ask local car dealerships, etc) and buy a kit they recommend to make this as easy as possible. With those two hurdles cleared, you shouldn’t have any problems for years to come. Especially on the somewhat simplistic  electrical systems of late model Hondas and Toyotas, as opposed to something BMW-like. Fingers crossed on that!

Question is, does anyone north of my hot H-town homeland disagree with this assessment?

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Vellum Venom Vignette: In God We Trust? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/vellum-venom-vignette-in-god-we-trust/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/vellum-venom-vignette-in-god-we-trust/#comments Sun, 17 Jun 2012 02:28:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449252 It’s funny how a college professor goes from cool to angry in a split second.  Case in point: my first transportation design class at CCS.  People showed off their designs as per usual, but one day I opened my big mouth. I mentioned that a classmate’s rendering sported wheels that looked like the Star of […]

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It’s funny how a college professor goes from cool to angry in a split second.  Case in point: my first transportation design class at CCS.  People showed off their designs as per usual, but one day I opened my big mouth. I mentioned that a classmate’s rendering sported wheels that looked like the Star of David. He seemed completely clueless about what he did. But I just had to “keep it real.” Oh boy, was that ever a mistake!

A design school that caters to the big automakers, staffed with adjunct professors who work in the business…well, they know better than some punk design student.  My wrist was (kinda) slapped, and everyone was warned to not include religious symbolism in their products.  Because everyone in this business wants to sell their product to anyone with green money.  Nobody gives a crap as long as you can “splash the cash.”

Stop reading if you believe TTAC has no business discussing religion.

So anyway, I didn’t much care for the exposed holes in my 2011 Ranger’s bed, and I wanted some tie downs to take advantage of my “Truxedo” tonneau cover when carrying bags full of recycling. With four bedside hooks, I could strap down oversized cargo with two belts, and the big flappy hunk of Truxedo vinyl would keep the recycling from flying away.

So I bought these Bull Rings.  Plus, from the photos I saw on the Internet, they look pretty awesome. A great piece of Industrial Design, worthy of kudos from any CCS professor. And worthy of a little positive Venom from this series.

 

I once read something in a Hindu temple suggesting that Universalism between religions exists. It was in stark contrast to the kids in grade school who told me I was going to hell for my beliefs. One person later gave me a half-hearted apology for that, but it proved a point. And I learned to get over it: that’s the beauty of growing older, I guess. Probably.

So when I installed these (easy to use, rather awesome) bits on my Ranger, I was surprisingly upset when I saw the fish icon under the ring.  I didn’t pay for this, and I assume the BullRings sold by FoMoCo don’t have Christian symbolism hidden under the ring. Even worse, it’s been over a week and these things still upset me.

My truck.  My money.  I did not pay for the fish, and it was not advertised as such.

I never gave much thought to it, but my CCS professor was right to make a big deal about car design and religion. Religion has a very important place in our society, and I respect that. But when I pay for a piece of Industrial Design, I don’t expect a hidden religious message to go with.

If you want to share your message, do it like the kids did in grade school: shock me by calling me “Gandhi” or “Maharaja” (neither of which are insults) and make fun of my religion because it isn’t Christianity.  I’ve always respected Christianity and have many friends in this faith who’d vouch for me, but these bits on my truck shall meet the grinding end of my Dremel tool.  Sorry peeps: not on my truck, not with my money.

This isn’t what I signed up for, son. Once again: my truck and my money.  I did not pay for the fish, and it was not advertised as such.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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Piston Slap: Being On The Level With One’s Self http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-being-on-the-level-with-ones-self/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/piston-slap-being-on-the-level-with-ones-self/#comments Wed, 09 Nov 2011 15:41:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416995   TTAC commenter jems86 writes: Dear Sajeev, I need your help again. I live in Colombia and, as you already know, I am the owner of a 2000 Subaru Forester (the 2.0 EDM model). This particular model has rear self leveling struts and recently they went bust. My dealership is asking 4 million pesos (about […]

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TTAC commenter jems86 writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I need your help again. I live in Colombia and, as you already know, I am the owner of a 2000 Subaru Forester (the 2.0 EDM model). This particular model has rear self leveling struts and recently they went bust. My dealership is asking 4 million pesos (about 2235 USD) for the replacements. I really think it’s a little bit steep so I’ve been searching online but haven’t been able to find the OEM parts. I read on a forum (http://www.subaruforester.org/) that you can put the non-self leveling struts. Is this a good idea? How much would the driving characteristics of my car change? If I go this way, what other components of the suspension should I replace? Thanks in advance for your help.

Sajeev Answers:

Oh yes! This is the age-old query of removing a factory self-leveling system for something more mundane, quite affordable and probably adequate for anyone’s needs. In theory, these systems are entirely interchangeable with a conventional damper, as the self-leveling feature only comes into play when the rear of the vehicle is loaded down. In practice, there might be a different spring to go with the unique strut.

That said, don’t always trust what you read on the Internet. Look up the part numbers to make sure there aren’t two different springs for the Forester. Once that’s cleared up, go ahead and eliminate the self-leveling feature: while a great idea when new, it loses a lot of luster once the miles rack up, the complicated bits wear out and the vehicle depreciates to the point where spending thousands on a repair simply makes no sense.
And this isn’t a unique situation: people have eliminated air suspension systems for decades on depreciated iron. Switch using OEM Subaru parts and you will be just fine. Or maybe the correct Subaru spring with a new set of four aftermarket dampers from a sportier vendor like Bilstein, Koni, etc. Unless your roads are pretty rough, then stick with the stock shocks for minimum abuse over potholes.

And your wallet will appreciate it, with little to no detriment to the Forester’s performance. Perhaps the ride will gain a little harshness, but I have my doubts: fully-air suspended cars are more susceptible to this.  I would have no concerns whatsoever with this swap.

Unless you are a chronic “overloader” of rear storage compartments…then you might want to buy the self-leveling bits online and find a local mechanic to install them for you.

So now you know, good luck with your decision.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com . Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Ford, Aftermarket Tangle Over Collision Replacement Parts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/ford-aftermarket-tangle-over-collision-replacement-parts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/ford-aftermarket-tangle-over-collision-replacement-parts/#comments Tue, 16 Aug 2011 19:03:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=407415 For some time now, there’s been something of a low-scale war going on between OEMs and aftermarket parts suppliers just below the national media radar. The issue: whether or not aftermarket structural parts are as good as OEM parts. Ford has been a major proponent of the OEM-only approach, making the video you see above […]

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For some time now, there’s been something of a low-scale war going on between OEMs and aftermarket parts suppliers just below the national media radar. The issue: whether or not aftermarket structural parts are as good as OEM parts. Ford has been a major proponent of the OEM-only approach, making the video you see above in hopes of proving that aftermarket parts aren’t up to the job. But the aftermarket is firing back, and they’ve made their own video in direct response to this one, which you can view after the jump.

The video above, made by the Automotive Body Parts Association, directly challenges the findings of Ford’s video experiments, arguing that they prove only that “motorists should avoid slowly driving into madmen wielding reciprocating saws.” In a press release, Co-Chair of the ABPA Legislation and Regulation Committee Eileen A. Sottile lays out her industry’s position

Time and again the aftermarket industry has demonstrated the safety and quality of its products, yet some car companies seem determined to counter scientific facts with fear-mongering. OEs cannot credibly argue that only their branded parts can provide safety, especially when it comes to components that play a very small role in crash energy management. If car company safety systems cannot handle a wide range of real world crash conditions and material differences in minor replacement parts then they are not robustly engineered and as such are a significant threat to the consumers.

You can read a compilation of material on the debate over at bodypartbusiness.com if you want to dive deeper into the argument, but it seems to me that the aftermarket is always going to face a single challenge again and again: branding. Whereas the OEMs can put their brands on their products, consumers will always be wary of parts made by different companies. Some consumers will always buy off-brand in hopes of a deal, but when safety is at stake, trust is of the utmost importance. Buyers trust brands, whereas the aftermarket’s myriad companies can’t all have the prominence of, say, a Ford… and they can’t all guarantee the exact same quality either. Still, that doesn’t mean the OEMs aren’t unnecessarily fearmongering…

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New or Used: Buffalo Butts Need Not Apply… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-buffalo-butts-need-not-apply/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/new-or-used-buffalo-butts-need-not-apply/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2011 23:31:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=404869     S.M. writes: Dear Steve and that other Dude, As you well know, I am a little hooked on old-school American iron, preferably of the V8, high performance wannabe-GT cum Land Yacht variety. Problem is, they are letting me down in terms of basic transportation to work. Not that my Cougar and Mark VIII […]

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S.M. writes:

Dear Steve and that other Dude,

As you well know, I am a little hooked on old-school American iron, preferably of the V8, high performance wannabe-GT cum Land Yacht variety. Problem is, they are letting me down in terms of basic transportation to work. Not that my Cougar and Mark VIII are complete turds, that guy with that Piston Slap column would have my ass if it came to that. But the occasional part needs replacement, and every recent modification (defective hi-flow fuel pumps, limited slip differentials assembled rather poorly) left me stranded and car-less for many days…and, well, you see my point.

I have a working budget of anywhere from 20-40k for a vehicle that’s new or lightly used. The ideal vehicle should be well proportioned with good visibility (no buffalo butts, I didn’t go to Industrial Design school for that crap), be RWD and not be a stereotypical European money pit that’s nearly impossible to repair in my garage. The ability to tune/tweak would be a plus and being more practical than my two coupes wouldn’t hurt, either. Not that I want another tuner car that’ll leave me stranded for one reason or another. Oh, and a stick would be nice.

Help!

PS: I am not interested in Panther Love. I wish you people would stop pushing these damn things on your readers. The only ones I’d consider are the “fat panthers” from the mid-90s with all the good stuff inside. I am not interested in taking a new, reliable “skinny” one and making it fat with parts from the junkyard. Been there, done that and already won the Fox Body trophies.

Steve answers:

Well Saj…I mean, anonymous dude.

You have a lot of nice wiggle room if you’re looking at the 20k to 40k range. If price is truly no object up to forty grand I would look directly at the the Hyundai Genesis sedan. It has plenty of power, Lexus levels of luxury, and an overall fit and finish that would make the Clinton era Panthers envious.

The 3.8L Genesis coupe with a six-speed would also be a great fit too since you may want something that is more akin to a touring sedan. Other non-Teutonic alternatives I would look at include the Ford Mustang, Chrysler 300, Infiniti G37, and my personal middle-aged favorite…a 2010 Corvette LS3 with a Targa top.

But I must ask… will at least one of your cars be running by the end of the month? Your predicament is why I avoid considering most aftermarket mods. Yeah, they may look good on the surface. But after years of looking at over 10,000+ repos a year as a remarketing rep, I got sick and tired of shiny plastic wheels and ‘upgrades’ that were like made out of recycled Chinese beer cans.

Keep your next ride stock. Only upgrade the obvious and chances are you may indeed forget that misguided chapter of your life called ‘Panther Love’.

Sajeev answers:

Damn son, you got mad issues.

I mean, choosing a car based on the height of its backside is more than a little disturbing. And not picking a “skinny” Panther completely goes against your grain. That said, Steve did a good job laying the truth on you: any Genesis, fat-ass Mustang or C6 ‘vette is what you need. Or maybe an Infiniti G37 coupe, it’s super classy just like that Mark VIII of yours. Good luck trying to keep any of these choices stock, however. You won’t last a month.

My advice to you is to grow the heck up. Stop looking at interesting, fast or inherently cool cars. You aren’t selling your hoopties and you don’t need anything remotely similar to them. It’s time to broaden your horizons and wake up to your future!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Merchants of Speed: The Men Who Built America’s Performance Industry, by Paul D. Smith http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/merchants-of-speed-the-men-who-built-americas-performance-industry-by-paul-d-smith/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/merchants-of-speed-the-men-who-built-americas-performance-industry-by-paul-d-smith/#comments Fri, 24 Dec 2010 23:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378546 I’ve got this intimidating stack-o-car books to review— it’s been five months since the last one— and so I figured I’d skim them all and pick out a few winners. I cracked this one open, got hooked right away, and read the whole thing while ignoring the rest of the pile. This 1938 shot of […]

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I’ve got this intimidating stack-o-car books to review— it’s been five months since the last one— and so I figured I’d skim them all and pick out a few winners. I cracked this one open, got hooked right away, and read the whole thing while ignoring the rest of the pile.

This 1938 shot of Ed Iskendarian and his Model T (note the valve covers— cast in Iskendarian’s high-school shop class— on the Ford’s Maxi F-heads) pretty much sums up the book; it’s a collection of short, well-illustrated biographies of 26 men who created the aftermarket performance industry during the immediate postwar era.

I’m already obsessed with Southern California memoirs and biographies (Richard Nixon, James Ellroy, Sister Aimee, Mickey Cohen, and Art Pepper, to name a handful; this one just dragged my head back to SoCal), so even without the rat-rodders-wish-they-looked-this-cool vintage car porn I’d be digging this book in a big way. With the notable exception of Harvey Crane (Crane Cams), just about every one of the 26 “merchants of speed” set up shop in the Los Angeles area, epicenter of the post-World-War-II racing and hot-rodding boom.

The stories of Hilborn, Edelbrock, Offenhauser, Weiand, and plenty of other familiar names may be found in this book’s pages. We also get the stories of big-in-their-time outfits such as Chevy six-cylinder kings Wayne Manufacturing. The ups, the downs, the ripoffs (according to Lou Senter of Ansen Automotive, the design of the Ansen Posi-Shift Floor Shifter was lifted by a person “who became quite a famous floorshift manufacturer” due to a legal gray area in a patent description), and the “where are they now” answers will allow the reader to geek out on engineering and hot-rod-golden-age tales to his or her heart’s content.

Speaking of Lou Senter, check out this blown Packard V8-powered monster! Yes, the first car to break 150 MPH in the quarter-mile on gasoline was Packard powered!

I’m giving “>Merchants of Speed a four-rod rating (out of a possible Mercedes-Benz-OM615-inspired five). Murilee says check it out!

Motorbooks

56 top 69 112 118 136 152 180 182 188 198 208 211 213 216 224 9780760335673 p.6 p.9 Rating-4ConRods-200px

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