Editorial: Why Wagons?

This post is written in first person, as it’s a different narrative than the regular chronicle of events at SkunkRennWerks.

To me, the wagon forms a perfect combination of elements that make up a great car. You have the size, performance, and styling of a performance sedan; combined with the cargo and people capacity of an SUV or truck. The current trend shows wagons are big, wagons are in, wagons are cool again. Take this smattering of shots from the OUSCI photo gallery, which spans generations and continents for its wagon collection:

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I’m not a wagon newcomer, I was born into it. I cut my teeth real early on the wagon trend. My dad, Cryptic Father, started me on wagon path early, with his fox-based wagons. He swapped Mustang drivelines, suspension, and interior comforts into Fairmont and LTD wagons. This was before the internet and way before I could drive, so I grew up around these projects and had many a road trip in the back of a wagon.

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When I turned driving age, I had stewardship over the beige 1984 LTD wagon in the picture above, and I loved the 5.0 V8 power and ample room for friends and parts. I did (and still do) have affairs with non-wagon platforms, but I keep coming back to the staple that the wagon format.

When I met Shelby, she was shocked when I was quite taken with her family’s former shop project, an e39 wagon with a supercharger and loads of AC Schnitzer goodies. Seems Cryptic Father wasn’t the only one with hot rod wagon dreams running through his head.

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So it was a natural choice when we bought our first joint car, the e46 wagon I now race. And when the #stealthbomber needed to leave, what could replace it, but another wagon? Of course, this is different than any wagon I’ve owned, with AWD, 6-speed manual, and a boxer engine to boot. But it has already been a thrill and finally having off-pavement capabilities has been quite addicting.

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So with the question being “Why wagon?”, I’ll always reply back “Why not?”

 

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Charge It Up

We like cost-effective solutions, especially those that involve a bit of DIY. When we heard about a very inexpensive way to put together a trickle charger with multi-vehicle capabilities, we dove right in. Assuming you have soldering equipment laying around, total cost is under $15.

Tools

Supplies

We always start by laying out our items on our workspace.

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Then its simple cutting and soldering. First, prep all the wires by removing the alligator clips, then separating and stripping the wires. This is the standard red-to-red, black-to-black arrangement. Our charger-side wasn’t colored past the alligator clips, so take care to do one color at a time to avoid confusion.

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Soldering is a simple affair. Always remember to add your heat shrink tube first! We then warm up the iron, apply solder, then use our Helping Hands to hold each side. We use a simple 180 degree twist on each side to join the pairs. Apply your iron to the joint, add solder until sufficiently connected, then let the solder cool.

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Once finished, we used a lighter to close up the heat shrink tube. Next we would attach the ring terminals to the appropriate points on our vehicle’s battery, then plug in the charger when it is needed. Easy!

Because Racewagon

What is the #racewagon? At it’s core, a 2001 BMW 325i Wagon, with the grey interior wrapped in Alpine White paint, equipped with sport and premium packages. This wagon has been a staple of the fleet for a little over five years, as a daily-driver and parts runner. The unofficial motto of SkunkRennWerks is “leave nothing stock”, and the wagon is no exception. It is minimally prepped; with FK Streetline coilovers, ECS Tuning shift bushings, ZHP weighted shift knob, ECS Tuning aluminum water pump pulley, a square set of BBS RS2 18×8.5 wheels in a fetching liquid copper powdercoat, and Nankang Noble Sport NS-20 tires in a narrow 225/40/18 configuration. Additional non-performance mods include OEM Euro clear corners and taillights, and PlastiDip-blackout trim & kidney grills. It also has a rarely-installed  Yakima roof rack with spoiler for that ultimate stance-scene street cred. However we use the hell out of the rack, especially at Home Depot.

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After selling the #stealthbomber, we moved the wagon to race duty, with the addition of another wagon to the fleet, a 2011 Subaru Outback. Surprisingly, at least to non-BMW people, the little wagon runs very similar times to the #stealthbomber, even on it’s small non-sticky tire setup. Future plans call for something closer to the 200tw street tire class limit, along with a Porsche 996 Brembo brake package. After abusing the GT500 setup on the Bomber, big brakes are a must for all vehicles in the SkunkRennWerks fleet! Look forward to more race updates and work being done on the now 100% wagon fleet here at SkunkRennWerks.

4/30/16 – 5/1/16 California CAM Challenge

This past weekend we competed in the SCCA California CAM Challenge, hosted at Autoclub Speedway, in Fontana, CA. The CAM Challenge is a relatively new event for SCCA autocross, and was our first experience with National-level competition. Saturday consists of a day of in-class competition, with three-run morning and afternoon sessions giving drivers many runs to reach perfection. Best times were combined between the two sessions to establish class rankings and trophies. Sunday starts with a morning session for each class, where the top sixteen of each class are entered into a forty-eight car bracket for shootout racing.

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Saturday started wet and ended dry. The course was fast and a lot of fun. Our morning runs were extremely wet, and traction was just a dream for us on our worn Bridgestone RE-71R’s. Our fastest time came on our third run, with a competitive 66.476, but a cone strike increased our time to a 68.476. For comparison, the fastest time was a 63.684 and the slowest a 87.938. The weather cleared up for our work session, allowing the CAM-T and CAM-S cars to run much faster with the additional grip.

The afternoon was dry with a lot of cloud cover. Angry clouds rolled overhead, but only provided a very light sprinkling at the end of our session. Our second run ended up being our fastest run, with a clean 61.560. Again for comparison, fastest was 58.598, with slowest coming in at 70.061. The dry tarmac really sped up the competition. Total time for us was 130.036, placing us in eight out of seventeen. Our work session was dry with just a bit of drizzle at the end, giving a few Corvettes in CAM-S a slippery final run.

Winning the CAM-C crown for the day was BTM-AutoSport‘s Brett Madsen, taking fastest in both sessions with a total time of 122.282. His Modzilla beat out Greg Nelson’s 2015 Camaro with a 124.319, and Raleigh Boreen’s loud and hard to miss yellow 1998 Mustang Cobra with a 125.140.

In the other classes, twenty-five classics shredded tires in CAM-T, with Mary Pozzi and her 73 Camaro running away with the crown, putting down a fast 117.158 overall, followed up by Mike Trenke in a cool 1982 Four-Eyed Fox Mustang at 119.732, and Jake Rozelle rounding out the podium in his 69 Camaro with a 121.499. CAM-S, hereby known as the Corvette class; was snagged by Steve Abbott in a C5 Z06 with a 116.481, local favorite Tom Kamman in a very similar C5 Z06 with a 118.983, and Randy Gonzalez in a C6 Grand Sport with a 119.274. Sixteen cars competed in CAM-S.

Our fastest runs of Saturday, in video format, below.

Going into Sunday, we started similar to Saturday, but an hour earlier at 8:00 am. We managed to whittle our time down to 61.465. Brett again led the charge with a blazing 57.972, while slowest was  72.211. After CAM-T and CAM-S had their fun, we met at the timing trailer and got the plan for the rest of the day. Each class was placed into a bracket shootout of 16 cars total. Fastest versus slowest, 2nd fastest versus second slowest, and so on. Then, the top of each class went head-to-head, based on their PAX-adjusted time.

We were placed into grid according to our results from the morning, and had two runs to beat our competitor. Once those initial runs were completed, we went to single runs run hot, keeping the tires warm and the competition fierce. We easily advanced to the second round, beating out a 2014 Camaro ZL1 convertible. Our second round, we faced down Chris Darquea in his similarly equipped 2006 Mustang GT. We got unlucky with a cone strike, but so did he. We lost by a hair to his 63.487, versus our 63.504. The rest of the competition was quite exciting, with Brett Madsen taking home first for CAM-C  in the BTM-AutoSport Modzilla, with a 58.259. His PAX time computed to a 49.425, while Steve Abbott took second with a 49.488, and Mike Trenkle rounded out the trio with 50.061.

Our fastest morning run, followed by our CAM Challenge runs, in video, below.

We really enjoyed the format and the level of competition presented by the 2016 SCCA California CAM Challenge. We learned a lot, made a lot of new friends, and are already making plans to up our game for the 2017 Challenge!

Ch-ch-ch-changes

A lot has happened since our last update. The garage has been busy as hell at SkunkRennWerks and the lineup has changed. Let’s dive into it.

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From a racing perspective, while we love the #Stealthbomber, it wasn’t a great fit for the household, and with a certain 1988 Mustang lurking like a specter in the shadows, the Bomber wasn’t long for our stable. Upon discussing the car’s fate among friends, a fellow Mustang enthusiast jumped at the opportunity to continue the legacy.  A deal was struck and our S197 Mustang went off to a new home in November.

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What is the next racecar? We would be silly to say we won’t race again. Our daily driver BMW e46 Wagon has been given the go-ahead on becoming the new race vehicle for SkunkRennWerks, and the moniker #racewagon has been adopted. Look for a future post on the history of our little wagon that could.

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In addition to the #racewagon, we’ve replaced the Bomber with something a lot more practical. Something that can go off-pavement and haul a lot of stuff. Something from across the Pacific.

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Yep, we just went full wagon. We picked up this 2011 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium 6MT with a little under 50k miles in late November. Packaged in a pretty Azurite Blue Pearl, along with an Ivory interior, this wagon is our go-anywhere do-anything solution. In typical SkunkRennWerks fashion, we wasted no time in heading off the beaten path with it, venturing up Nate Harrison Grade to Palomar Mountain Observatory for Black Friday.

4/24/16 CSCC SCCA CAM-C Writeup

This weekend we ran with the California Sports Car Club region at Autoclub Speedway in Fontana, CA. This was another new venue for us, and we enjoyed it nearly as much as El Toro last month. This venue is similar in distance as San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, but is east instead of south. Setup inside one of the many lots in the shadow of the Autoclub Speedway NASCAR oval, this venue has slight elevation changes and a relatively smooth asphalt surface. It’s no El Toro, but it is worlds better than the SDR lot. We ran third and worked fourth. With this event being the same weekend as the Crow’s Landing Champ Tour, the turnout was small and only four run groups were scheduled, with a record five runs per group – perfect! The weather was a windy and slightly overcast 78 degrees Fahrenheit, with just a very light sprinkling of rain right as we were packing up to head home.

The course was long, technical, and a blast to drive. We DNF’d the first run, then cleaned it up for our second and fastest run with a 68.120. Our only improvement in the next three runs came on our final run with a 66.734, but a pair of cone strikes knocked that time out of contention. Brett Madsen of BTM AutoSport piloted the famous Modzilla, along with a 2013 Camaro SS, rounding up our only competition. Madsen ran away with the lead with a blinding 63.503 (4th in PAX!), while the Camaro could only try to keep up with our galloping ponies with a 72.105 (we apologize for the pun).

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After discussion with Madsen and review of our video footage, we could see that we were merely maintaining speed for most of the course, not gaining speed. We had the complete GT500 brake setup after our recent rear brake update, but weren’t putting them to their full use by adding more speed. We also left too much distance from the cones, not taking advantage of the entire course. Our fastest run in video format below:

NC Mustang Parts GT500 Rear Brake Adapter Install and Review

With the Steath Bomber’s GT500 front 4-piston Brembo calipers on 14″ rotors, we love the performance and the look. However, our stock 11.8″ rear rotors left us wanting more. Having read about the inter-changeability of the GT500 rear 13.8″ rotor, we researched and found the easiest method to be the NC Mustang Parts adapter brackets. The other popular method is to use the factory GT500 brackets, which requires removing the axles, which then leads into a rear differential fluid change. That seemed a waste, seeing as we had changed our rear differential fluid just a few months ago. The great thing about this swap, regardless of method, is that the GT and GT500 rear calipers are basically the same. The only difference is that certain GT’s have a bit of interference between the caliper bracket and the GT500 rotor. With years of grinding under our belt, we weren’t afraid to make sparks fly to fit this kit.

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We ordered the brackets from NC Mustang Part’s eBay store. They arrived quick and packaged well, and included all new hardware. We also ordered a pair of StopTech slotted rear rotors. We then gathered the required tools:

  • 1/2″ Electric Impact
  • 1/2″ Breaker Bar
  • 3/8″ Ratchet
  • 3/8″ to 1/2″ Adapter
  • 18mm Socket
  • 15mm Socket
  • 13mm Socket
  • 3/4″ Socket (for lug nuts)
  • Brake Cleaner
  • Matador Surface
  • Brake Caliper Compressor
  • Permatex Medium Strength Blue Thread Locker
  • Bungee Cord (to support the brake caliper)
  • 2x Jack Stands
  • Jack
  • 2x Wheel Chocks

We began by chocking the front wheels, then jacking up the rear of the car by the axle pumpkin. Placing our jack stands under the axle tubes, we lowered the car onto the stands. Using our torque wrench, we removed the rear lug nuts and the rear wheels. Side note, this is a great time to inspect your wheels for cracks front and back, as well as clean them!

Using our 13mm socket, we loosened the two caliper slide bolts, then hung the caliper from a convenient hole in the inner fender with a bungee cord. We removed the brake pads, then used our 15mm socket to remove the two bolts holding the caliper bracket to the axle bracket. The rotor was then able to be removed. We then used our caliper compressor kit to push the brake piston back into the caliper to make the coming installation easier. Laying the stock rotor on top of the new GT500 rotor, the size difference between them was obvious!

We dry-fit the adapter bracket (which installed with 18mm bolts), then the new GT500 rotor (noting proper orientation of the slots, and using a pair of lug nuts to hold the rotor to the axle flange), then the caliper bracket, and then the caliper. During each step we judiciously checked for proper clearance. Overall, at least 2mm of clearance was present at all points, and the rotor spun free. We then disassembled everything and reinstalled the adapter bracket and caliper bracket using a dab of Loctite blue on the adapter bolts, and proper torque on the caliper slide bolts.

We reinstalled the wheel, then repeated the entire performance on the opposite side. After both sides were completely installed, we removed the jack stands, lowered the car to the ground, and took a test drive to ensure everything was operating correctly. No noises were detected and the brakes worked perfectly. We torture tested the brakes a few days later at the CSCC Fontana Autocross, where they performed great and allowed the car to stay flatter and brake later when entering corners. We highly recommend this upgrade, along with the front GT500 brakes, for any S197 Mustang.

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