The Truth About Cars » Rally The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 13 Jul 2014 19:22:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 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 (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Rally Explore the Jersey Shore in Your Hoopty Wed, 04 Sep 2013 12:00:54 +0000 Look closely, and you can see your humble author spewing the coolant that forced us into a head gasket swap that night

Look closely, and you can see your humble author spewing the coolant that forced us into a head gasket swap that night


Remember that guy who built a Subaru powered race car from a VW floor plan and a Wartburg? Sure you do. He won the car with an essay, beating a future TTAC contributor in the process. Still no? Well too bad, his name is Jim Thwaite and you should get to know him. He knows a thing or two about having fun with beaters, and he wants you to join him.

Jim is a veteran of multiple Big Apple to Big Easy banger events, a LeMons builder, GRM $2KX Challenger and general mad scientist who built his wife her own beach hammock from junk golf carts.

The steering wheel comes up through the hammock, and it all breaks down small enough to fit in the rear of a 1978 Mercury Colony Park wagon

The steering wheel comes up through the hammock, and it all breaks down small enough to fit in the rear of a 1978 Mercury Colony Park wagon

Still not convinced? He rescues dogs in his spare time. Yeah, he’s that cool.


Between all of this and his day job, Jim is also the President of Asphault Adventures; and on September 28th of this month they will be running a one day banger rally along the Jersey Shore.

Perhaps you have a crappy old car, a few C-notes burning hole in your pocket, or maybe you just decided to see how far you can push your spouse. Then this is the event for you. It is not racing, or even a rally in the sense one might expect. Think of it as a quaint, oddball scavenger hunt. You can even bring your nice car and have a great day exploring the New Jersey Shore and meeting other gearheads, or at least interesting people.

If you are near the east coast and are looking for a fun time, head over to Asphault Adventures and sign up. If you don’t live on the east coast, fear not. There is a RT 66 Run in the planning stages and should open up next year. It’s the most fun you can have in a beater without electrical tape over your nipples

Black Rock Nevada or the Barefoot Bar at the Oceanic Hotel in New Jersey?

Black Rock Nevada or the Barefoot Bar at the Oceanic Hotel in New Jersey?

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Capsule Review: Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 WRC Edition Mon, 12 Aug 2013 13:00:11 +0000 1004942_10151717360733654_1888168422_n

As America’s favorite pastime grapples with a cheating scandal involving its biggest stars, I can’t help but imagine motorsports devotees are looking on with jaded amusement. Cheating, along with exorbitant costs and tobacco sponsorships, is part and parcel of the fabric of motorsports, no matter the geographic location or formula. But few have cheated like Toyota. Who else has been accused of, or caught red-handed, at cheating in NASCAR, CART, Formula 1, and WRC? In each instance, Toyota’s machinations were always subtle and ingenious, nothing like Smokey Yunick’s 7/8th scale Chevelle or any of the famous “bending the rules” yarns. Take for example, the car you see above.

Group A cars were required to be fitted with a specific turbo restrictor that served to limit engine output. Toyota was able to engineer a special bypass valve that could not only defeat the restrictor without creating any evidence of tampering, but was designed to conceal itself when FIA technicians dismantled the turbocharger for inspection. Max Mosley himself called it “…the most sophisticated and ingenious device either I or the FIA’s technical experts have seen for a long-time.” By bypassing the restrictor, Toyota could get as much as 25 percent more airflow into the turbocharger, allowing the GT-Four to put down as much as 350 horsepower in a field where cars were limited to 300 horsepower. According to Toyota’s own specs, my friend Rob’s GT-Four puts down about 255 horsepower, but it sure feels like there might be a bypass valve in there somewhere.


Other assorted WRC bits are there as well. Those black GT-FOUR logos you see above are actually riser blocks for the rear wing. There are provisions for an anti-lag system, as well as an intercooler water sprayer. While the latter is easy enough to find and install, the anti-lag is a true competition-only piece. Running it on the street would necessitate regular rebuilds, something that Rob isn’t keen on. But remove the interior, add a rollcage, some bucket seats and some radio equipment and you have a ready-to-roll rallycar.


Unlike other GT-Four models, this is a WRC special, a true homologation vehicle of which only 2500 copies were produced. Previous iterations of the GT-Four were sold here as the Celica All-Trac, but the only way most people will experience the ST205 version (as its known to Toyota otakuis through copies of Gran Turismo. The “grass is greener” mentality, along with exposure via console games has led a number of enthusiasts to lionize Japan’s “bubble cars”. Some, like the Mazda RX-7, are truly special. Others, like the R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R, are just quick versions of plebian salaryman sedans, and were never imported for good reason. They spent all their money on the powertrain and threw their most dismal 240SX parts bin components at the interior. The car would have cost 300ZX money and without any of the Gee Tee Arr mythology, it would have undoubtedly languished in the showrooms compared to its more stately, luxurious and well-known brother, the 300ZX Twin Turbo.


The GT-Four was likely the victim of similar circumstances. Previous All-Tracs sold in minimal quantities, and most Celicas were sold to the secretary crowd. Rally racing’s popularity in America at the time rivaled that of Eugene Debs during WWI. Packed full of advanced technology that nobody would have understood, yet saddled with the exterior styling and interior materials of the regular Celica, it likely would have been a flop in a marketplace that wasn’t quite ready for Japanese sports cars. But what a spectacular flop it would have been.


Once you get over the whole right-hand drive thing, you are reminded of what good cars used to feel like. The clutch is beautifully linear, smooth engagement at just the right point through the range of pedal travel. The steering is full of heft and feedback in a way that is simply missing from today’s sports cars, save for perhaps a Lotus Exige. It’s not razor sharp like a Miata (or an FR-S, if you will), but this car isn’t for clipping apexes; no, this car is at home barreling down a snow-covered logging road, gently stepping the tail out sideways in response to careful left-foot braking. The slightly slow but communicative nature of the car is just what you want for that task.


The Yamaha-tuned 3SGTE mill builds power in a way that reminds you of the days of journal-bearing turbochargers, but it’s not nearly as laggy as, say, an early “bugeye” WRX. Rather than the Subaru’s “dead-below-3000-rpm” on-off style of power delivery, the GT-Four lets you feel the power build slowly below 2500 rpm, before it kicks in like a jumpmaster pushing his troops out the door and towards the dropzone. Once you hit 3000 rpm, the power seems to build in a logarithmic fashion, until your left hand is forced to change cogs. Each shift is punctuated by a crisp, satisfying “kssshhhtt”. It sounds like it should be aftermarket, but it’s not. The GT-Four stops as well as it goes, too. Like the clutch, brake pedal feel is firm, with the big, monobloc calipers (borrowed from a MKIV Supra Turbo) bringing the nearly 3200 lb Celica to a halt quickly. Sourcing rotors highlights one of the unpleasant realities of owning a rare import: rotors must be ordered from Europe or Japan, and the front set alone costs $400 by the time they get to your door.


Driving a rally-ready homologation special on a warm summer night when the tarmac is dry is almost a waste, but the biggest impediment to going fast in this car has more to do with your author than anything else. Getting used to right-hand drive in such a short timeframe was challenging. Shifting with the left hand proved to be somewhat less than impossible, but keeping the car oriented properly was tough. Throughout my drive, Rob would constantly be waving his hand to the right, a sign that I was coming close to drifting out of my lane on the left hand side and not staying far enough over on the right. I was reluctant to push the car too hard when I had trouble just staying in my lane. But I also plan to practice. According to him, it takes a few days of getting used to sitting on the “wrong” side of the car before you become proficient. This is something I plan on doing. After all, winter is coming…


Thanks to Rob for his photographs and turning over the keys to this very special bit of motorsports history. 

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QOTD: Help Pick TTAC’s Rallycross Project Thu, 10 May 2012 13:46:28 +0000

I wasn’t five minutes before my friend and I had gone to inspect TTAC’s Project G-Body Grand National that we began discussing the next foray into fiduciary stupidity. My friend Joey, not content with his cream puff 1986 Grand National (with a verified 38,750 miles on the odometer) wanted to know how we could “get in to rallying”.

The Maple Leaf Rally Club organizes Rallycross events a couple hours north of Toronto throughout the year. I’ve done a Tim O’Neill rally school course before, but never competed in any type of event. Joey has zero experience but is eager to learn. Based on what limited knowledge I have, a front-drive beater seems to be the best way to start.

Even though conventional wisdom suggests that a Subaru or something AWD would be the quickest path to victory, O’Neill himself seems to start his neophyte rally candidates out on front-drive cars like the Volkswagen Golf or Ford Fiesta. Having used the Fiestas during my own stint, I can attest that left-foot braking quickly washes away the cries of “fail wheel drive” from those whose competition license are issued by Forza 3.

So far the plan is to buy some kind of beater that won’t pass inspection or emissions testing for cheap (myself, Joey and another friend want to each throw in $1500). We’ll trailer the car using Joey’s work F-150 to save us from registering it, and see how our first foray into rallying goes. The only question is, what should our weapon of choice be? A clapped-out Golf or Civic seems to be the best choice, but is there anything more “interesting” (i.e difficult to repair, unreliable and from a dead marque)? Or explain to us why we’re idiots and something that sends power to the back wheels is the only choice. We probably won’t listen, but you can tell us anyways.

N.B the Grand National is nearly ready. There will be a full update. The car runs fine but we’re waiting on some interior pieces to be delivered before the car goes on the road. Joey wants it to be perfect and showroom shiny before it goes on the road – and before the inevitable upgrades happen.

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Group B Rallying Is Back! Sort Of. Wed, 11 Apr 2012 13:00:00 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

It may not be sanctioned by the FIA, but Group B Rallying is back in the UK, as more than 60 entrants have signed up for a competitive rally event taking place this August.

Evo magazine reports that an organization called “Rallying with Group B” is organizing a road rally in the UK that aims to recreate “the passion and atmosphere” that brought us “…fire spitting monster rally cars…” that sounded amazing and killed spectators. Taking place over the weekend of August 25th-26th, the rally will visit sites around Cheshire, including the famous Oulton Park circuit. Time to cash in those frequent flyer miles.

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A Second Look At Bill Caswell Fri, 06 Apr 2012 13:00:58 +0000

Bill Caswell, of the $500 Rally E30 fame, may not have “beat $400k rally racers” as Jalopnik’s headline, but the original feature by Sam Smith is definitely one of the “classics” of automotive journalism. Sam’s look at Mr. Caswell and his efforts at rallying now have an equally important corollary – an interview with the man himself, conducted by a journalist who is no stranger to rally racing.

Brian Driggs at Gearbox Magazine is no stranger to the US Rally scene, and has a 1991 Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 (or three) to help enable his addiction. Driggs sat down with Caswell for a pretty lengthy interview that delves in to Caswell’s background as an investment banker (selling Mortgage Backed Securities – yes, the ones at the heart of the financial crisis), his segue into auto racing and what the future holds for himself and his motorsports efforts. Take a look at another example of good journalism on this Good Friday.

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Review: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution GSR Mon, 19 Sep 2011 21:54:34 +0000

Let me be frank: I’m not a very good driver. Now, I don’t mean that I careen from lamppost to lamppost like a drunken pinball, nor that I have to spend my afternoons picking teeth out of the bumper and pressure-washing old-ladies and kittens out of the undercarriage; no, I’m merely pointing out that I’m not a racecar driver in real life, only on the podium of my own imagination.

I’ve had some professional driver training, so I know how to position a seat, how to set my mirrors, how to use peripheral vision, how to look through the corners and so on, but the fact remains that my driving skills are fairly average. At best.

My fingers are of purest butter. When clenched, they form fists of finest Virginia ham. My right foot is composed of an amalgam of the entire bottom row of the periodic table of the elements, alloyed with lead for extra heft. All these appendages are fastened by spindly arms and legs to a buffoon with a block of wood for a head and a pea-sized amount of cotton wool for a brain.

Luckily, none of these considerable drawbacks matter, because I am currently the greatest driver in the history of the universe, better than Senna, better than Vittel, better than Zaphod Beeblebrox. Ladies and gentleman, the Mitsubishi EVO.

…and in the next breath, the Subaru STi. One cannot be mentioned without the other: they are as Yin-and-Yang intertwined in the pantheon of petrosexuality as Nissan would love you to think that the GTR and the Porsche 911 are. While both are all-wheel-drive, turbo-nutter rally cars that probably won’t see gravel until their second round of ownership, the similarity pretty much ends right there.

EVOs and STis are like cats and dogs. The Subaru has the feel of a big friendly golden retriever, always happy to see you and go out for a nice long muddy run, preferentially mostly sideways. The EVO, on the other hand, grips with catlike precision as though equipped with retractable claws, and has a not-quite-bred-out killer-instinct on the track. The metaphor extends to their owners as well: Subaru fans are always waving to each other and hanging around together in car parks, and Mitsubishi enthusiasts live by themselves and have no friends. Only joking.

Sort of. Forgetting which car I was in, I saluted a fellow Subaru owner (yes, I’ve got one myself), and received an icy staredown as though I’d flashed a rival gang sign, or perhaps the sign-language for, “I cordially invite you to have intimate relations with your maternal ancestors.” Oops.

Which is best? Don’t be ridiculous. One might as well ask which is better: the colour blue, or potato chips? Potato chips, obviously, but when we start discussing cars this capable, it’s all going to boil down to taste; which brings us, rather long-windedly, to the styling…
Vader drives a GNX, right? Well, if a Grand National shows up with a bunch of white EVOs in tow, better get ready to clutch your wrist-stump and leap down an airshaft: this thing’s pure stormtrooper helmet. Or actually, the grille looks like the facemask of one of those ornery sandpeople.

Either way, it’s a great-looking rig. I took it over to the in-laws to ensure that they disapproved (mission accomplished) and my mother-in-law remarked that it looked unfinished. I think it’s the best-looking thing Mitsubishi’s ever built. You wanna talk unfinished? Check out the interior.

I had a chance to drive a base Lancer immediately prior to snagging the keys to the EVO, and found it to be the biggest heap of crap since Hercules bunged out the Aegean stables. No small part of the excrescence was down to the feeble interior design and this thing’s the same plastic-fantastic wonderland of dodgy build quality. Mitsubishi might as well have left a post-it note on the dash that says, “We saved money here.”

Exception: the seats. Gott in Himmel, the seats! I haven’t been ensconced so comfortably and comprehensively since I was in utero. There’s no height adjustment, and certainly no power functions, but they are possibly the best thrones ever. Why? Because race car.

Oh yes, now it’s on to the good stuff. “Horse and rider as one,” that’s the Mazda credo, yes? Well, imagine if you somehow managed to get a saddle strapped on to a panther without having your head bitten off. A telepathic panther.

To an amateurish driver, the EVO is a revelation, and that’s compared to my own fully-fettled 330hp WRX (uh, long-term-tester) in the driveway. You don’t steer the EVO, you think it.

How the Hell they managed to build Rikki-Tikki-Tavi out of the wallowing dugong that is the base Lancer, I’ll never know. You can’t sow a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but apparently you can make a running shoe out of pigskin.

It’s not just mongoose reflexes either. The EVO pivots and shifts and rotates and generally flatters you into thinking you’re Stig Blomqvist. Or maybe even The Stig. Some say, it’s all electronic trickery, and that the chances of anyone actually needing to engage the “gravel” function on the Super-All Wheel Control are as slim as that of being able to talk your way out of a speeding ticket in a car with fender gills, three holes in the hood and a whacking great wing. All we know is: it’s a bloody good time.

Admittedly, the 2.5L flat-four in the STi has a bit more grunt down low, but the Mitsu has no problem spooling its big turbine. What’s more, the EVO’s big front-mount intercooler doesn’t get heat-soaked, meaning that playing in traffic is just as much fun as Mom told you it wouldn’t be.

There’s a certain amount of roughness to the surge of power and, apocryphally, I’ve heard that the factory tune on the car is pretty wonky on the air-fuel ratios. Still, it’s a fast, fast car, and like the Nissan GT-R, is even faster if you’re a bit of a Fisty Rocks.

Try haring around the Nürburgring in a Viper ACR and my lap time would be DNF: DOA. Inevitably, I’d become a four micron thick and forty meter long streak of reddish brown drying on the Armco. In an EVO, I’d be lapping some silly upper-class twit in a M3.

And here we come at last to our hero’s Achilles’ heel: cost. For the price of this entry-model GSR ($46,348CDN – that’s a lotta seal-pelts), I could be driving a a very nicely-equipped 3-series sedan. Upgrade to the MR and suddenly you’re talking 335i Coupe territory, even more so as the Bimmer’s bound to have cheap leasing options.

Show up for a date with a roundel on your bonnet, and you’re going to win points. Screech to a halt in a pearl-white EVO and she’s unlikely to be impressed, unless she has a complete collection of illegally dubbed Initial-D and plays a lot of Forza. In which case: MARRY THAT WOMAN.

More housekeeping items: the fuel economy is appallingly dismal; bad enough that you half-expect to receive a handwritten thank-you note from the leaders of OPEC. I also found it tricky to heel-and-toe downshift as the accelerator pedal is somewhat recessed. And when you turn down the (inevitably) thumping hippity-hop on the stereo, the tinny cabin of the EVO fills with the toneless, thrumming base of an full-volume amp with an unplugged patchcord.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I. Don’t. Care.

As for me, well, I’m as pale as the driven soap flakes and have a shock of ginger hair, so piloting a white EVO ’round China-town while blasting Canto-pop and sipping bubble tea was as immersive as backpacking through Tibet or whatever else we white people are supposed to like. I even gave my best Russell Peters to a guy who cut me off: “Go to jail badboy!”

This is the EVO’s best trick yet. Whenever I slid over the bolsters, settled myself in driving position and cranked the starter, a little frisson of excitement shivered up the driving column and out through the steering wheel into my fingertips. The most mundane and humdrum of driving errands are made interesting. It may be chock-full of driving aids, but you are never less than fully-engaged.

The EVO’s full-moon lunacy is on the wane: Mitsubishi turns towards the all-electric i-MiEV as a halo car, and away from inefficient speed machines. It’s a great car. Drive it while you can.

Mitsubishi provided the car and insurance for this review.

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Down From The Mountain: Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb Photo Gallery Mon, 27 Jun 2011 22:00:44 +0000
Yesterday was a long, long day on Pike’s Peak. Above 10,000 feet, the Colorado sun bakes the will to live right out of you, while the lack of oxygen starves lungs and engines alike. Constant wrecks and breakdowns shut down the course for long periods, but all these things were just minor irritants, forgotten as soon as the next racer came fishtailing up the hill. The big news, of course, was the demolition of the 10-minute barrier by Monster Tajima, but every entrant got plenty of cheers from the thousands of dust-huffing hillclimb fans lining the route to the summit. Make the jump for some of my photo highlights from the day.

The Seat León Supercopa I encountered in a Manitou Springs motel parking lot on Friday looked and sounded great on race day.

Speaking of European cars we never see in North America…

I had a couple of friends driving in the race, but both faced setbacks on race weekend. Bill Caswell, LeMons race winner and low-budget rally hero, ended up stacking his E30 during practice and spent race day as a spectator. Meanwhile, LeMons Supreme Court District Judge Texas Dave of Rally Ready Motorsports was making a crazed underdog run at the 10-minute mark in his Evo. He looked extremely fast passing my vantage point near Gayler’s Straits, but engine failure above the tree line ended his run. Next year!

I was very happy to see a Pontiac Sunbird, of all things, roaring by. Unfortunately, things didn’t go well for Bobby Regester further up the hill. The good news: Regester walked away from the wreck.

Many of the vintage climbers were 60s Mustangs, so it was nice to see a Ford racer changing it up with a Falcon Signet.

Plenty of Carrera Panamericana cars roaring up the mountain. One of my favorites is Doug Mockett’s ridiculously fast ’54 Oldsmobile.

Competing in the Time Attack class was this ’80 Corolla.

The bike contingent provided plenty of nail-bitingly squirrelly antics for the crowds.

Monster Tajima’s car doesn’t look much like a Suzuki SX4, but that’s how the Unlimited class works.

All the entrants that make it to the summit stay there until the race is over, then roll back down the hill to the cheers and high-fives of the spectators. Even some of the wreck victims made it back down under their own power, with an assist from gravity.

Now I’m hooked. Pike’s Peak 2012 or bust!
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Pike’s Peak: 10-Minute Barrier Broken— Monster Tajima Runs 9:51 Sun, 26 Jun 2011 20:32:32 +0000
History made on the mountain just a few minutes ago: Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima just ran 9:51 and change in his run to the Pike’s Peak summit. Sayonara, 10-minute barrier!
I’m not sure of the exact time, but the crowds on the mountain have been shouting “9:51! WHOOOO!” for a while now. Congratulations, Monster!

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Could This Be The Ideal Colorado Winter Car? Fri, 21 Jan 2011 21:30:50 +0000
I moved to Denver over the summer and am now experiencing the joys of proper snow driving for the first time in the 29 years since the State of California saw fit to give me my first driver’s license. With just a ’92 Civic and a ’66 Dodge A100 in my personal motor pool, I figure it’s time for me to start shopping for something with four driven wheels. In fact, I need something that can do four-wheel burnouts on dry asphalt!
I could do what everyone else in the state— including my wife— did and just buy an Outback, but I was thinking more along the lines of a Scout… or maybe a BMW 325iX… or an AWD Justy. At the top of the list, however, sits the 15-years-before-its-time/the-fools-weren’t-ready-for-it AMC Eagle, a car that came about when the cash-strapped folks in Kenosha decided to drop a Concord body atop Jeep-based running gear. You see quite a few of them around here, but I hadn’t seen one that I needed to buy. That is, until I got tipped off about this excellent ’82 SX/4 (you can go here to see some photos, but do not attempt to install the American Greetings software that allows you to look at full-sized images. Trust me). Why, yes, a rally-ized Eagle coupe with hot-rodded 390, 4.10 gears, and manual-body Torqueflite sounds like a great idea! I’d probably have to cut out at least part of the full roll cage, since whacking one’s dome on a steel bar in a minor fender-bender isn’t my idea of fun, and I don’t feel like wearing a helmet on the street. OK, fine, it’s actually a very, very stupid idea, but still: I must have this car!

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