Monday 10 December 2012

The road continues here!

Thursday 16 August 2012


As the gymkhana trainings went, it became more and more obvious that Hagane's clutch was getting more and more worn out. The fact that when I bought the car it had a thick floor mat that did not allow full travel of the clutch pedal probably did not help in giving the clutch a long life. Aside from the acrid smell of the burning clutch plate that filled the cabin every time I gunned the throttle, the clutch was slipping more and more, and it was time to do something about it.

The clutch options for the '06 and earlier generations of Toyota Vios is not that wide, and since Hagane is in the first place my daily driver, I opted to stick to an OEM clutch. Furthermore, with Singapore's road conditions and long traffic jams during the peak hours, I thought I would be the wiser without a hard racing clutch or something the like.

Thus I procured myself an Exedy clutch and headed to LTM Performance for a helping hand in installing the new parts.

It's a rather straightforward affair, that only takes about 4 hours when you know what you're doing and you have the right set of tools. All there is to it is to unlpug the airbox (to reach the gearbox under it) and the starter, then lift the car, remove the driveshafts and bring the gearbox down. Once this is done, the clutch will be exposed and all after removing a few bolts, can be taken off to reveal the flywheel. Seeing the plain heavy stock flywheel was a poor sight, and I was very tempted to go source a stronger and lighter one, but this will be for another time. The clutch was the priority.

 Above, left: The old clutch in place. Right: The gearbox separated from the engine.

 Above, left: The stock, heavy flywheel. Right: the new clutch in place.

Once the gearbox is brought down, there is direct access to the clutch so all there is to it is to take it apart, have a good laugh at how worn out the old clutch is, put the new one in, reattach the gearbox, the driveshafts, starter and air box and voilà job done!


The old vs the new. note how faded and flat the old clutch is - no wonder it was slipping!
The result is beyond words - I rediscovered a new car, more responsive and powerful. Love it!

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Keep Rolling!

The SPARKS Motorsports Gymkhana Course done, I returned to my everyday life with Hagane and my everlasting hunt for affordable deals to continue the build.

I strongly suspect that Hagane has spent a lot of time at open air carparks before I bought her, and the front seats' so-called "leather" was starting to blister and peel off, especially on the driver's side where the daily use caused it to wear off almost completely. It was definitely time to do something about it, especially since gymkhana practices had me slide left and right in the seat which had me I waste a lot of energy into trying to stay behind the wheel of my own car instead of focusing on my driving. Thanks to a friend, I managed to get a set of second-hand SSCUS sports seats at a good price and instantly dropped them in. 

SSCUS is a Malaysian brand that devotes itself to making seats that have a great bang for buck and buying them second hand got me an even better bang for my buck, with is exactly what I needed.

I forgot to mention that just before the SPARK Motorsports Gymkhana Course that took place in May, I did some further last minute "showoff" mod.

The two stock strengthening bars that were behind the back seats were calling out to me, and their grunge/rusty look asked for a more flashy intervention.

With a smirk and a can of white spray paint, I thus resprayed them white, giving the bare back of my car a more sporty look - for a handful of dollars, I just can't help but laugh when even now people ask me where I got the aftermarket bars in the rear.

To complete the rugged look, I removed the centre armrest and cup holders and uncovered the gear selector and handbrake in the process. I wrapped white duct tape around the handbrake to avoid pinching my fingers with the revealed lock-spring on the underside of the lever, and admired the gear selector. Although in its purest stock form, the uncovered shifter impresses and more than one time I have been asked if it is a sequential shifter. Go figure. I then bought a small round black knob from Autobacs to complete its looks and feel.

Did I mention how much I love my car? :)


Tuesday 17 July 2012

SPARK Motorsports Gymkhana Course

On the 15th May, SPARK Motorsports organised a gymkhana course, which I promptly signed up for.

On the day, over 30 cars gathered a the Punggol Marina, with a choice of steeds ranging from the Nissan Latio to off-road monsters including a RWD converted STi and an RX-7, and all-wheel drive toys such as STi's.

The aim of the day was to practice gymkhana moves and, above all, to have fun!

Arriving on the scene, I changed the wheels of Hagane to the TE37 SL replicas I acquired for this purpose with the help of my friend and mechanic of the day, Victor. 

The day started with obstacle courses such as figure-8, handbrake U-turns, before getting down to the fun little competition at the end of the day. For the occasion, SPARK Motorsports flew down Akina Teo and Leona Chin, two highly skilled drivers from Malaysia to guide us through the course and give us highly valuable tips on how to improve our skills.

The track was simple, made to apply what we had learnt during the day with a couple of handbrake turns, figure 8, a donut and a threshold braking finish, all executed under the pressure of the stopwatch.

At the end of the day, I emerged 4th of the day with a timing of 29 seconds, with Hagane performing well, aside for the clutch that started to get more and more worn off and was starting to slip. I had already been putting clutch works for a few months, and I could definitely feel that it was not going to last much longer.

Nevertheless, I had a great day, and the day finished with huge smiles on all our faces.

Thanks to Victor for your help and Akina Teo and Leona Chin for your useful tips, the marshals and of course the guys at SPARK Motorsports for the pics and videos and the great organisation of the gymkhana course!

Monday 16 July 2012

Ready to Rumble!

Hagane was now the color I wanted, with a more charismatic exhaust tone and all I had to do was fill up the details.

I've always liked stripes on a car, yet racing stripes can be a real make or break in terms of looks. The line is fine between looking like a doofus in a racer-wanabee car and achieving a proper style. As you might guess, looking like a dodo was never my thing, so I went to find the guys at Project De Creation to make my ideas come true.

My idea was simple: two black stripes, off centre, the inside one thicker and the outer one thinner, which turn to white on the black roof. I also added the 9tro brand in cutout, since I was going to represent the magazine with Hagane. The sticker guys delivered flawlessly, and seeing the result made me realise that the sides looked plain, so I added the same stripe pattern to them, and totally loved the result!

With this and the cold air intake resprayed black, I considered the exterior looks to be done, and moved on to the interior.

Mid may, Spark Motorsports organised a Gymkhana Course, which I eagerly signed up for. In order to get the most out of it and have a bit of fun, I removed as much as I could from my car to save some weight. It was a quite straightforward affair, which I started by removing the spare wheel, jack and the heavy foam and wood floor of the boot. I then finished the diet by removing the back seats (just three bolts and two clips).

As I did not want to kill my everyday tyres pulling handbrakes and potentially creating bald patches on them, I decided to get a set of 15" TE 37 SL replicas for my gymkhana needs, a set I shod with the cheapest tyres I could find, the perfect thing for my tyre-unfriendly passion!

With this done, it was time to get down to business!

Hear Me Out!

Only a few days after getting Hagane back from the spray shop, I finally managed to get my hands on one of the two legal mufflers for my generation of the Toyota Vios In Singapore. This exhaust was developed by Toyota Team Europe (TTE) and offers a mild yet enjoyable upgrade in exhaust sound.
 (On top: the TTE muffler, bottom: the stock muffler)

A couple of hours after getting it, I jacked Hagane up and got busy underneath. Changing the muffler is a relatively straightforward job, which consists in un-tightening the clamp linking the muffler to the pipe and sliding the exhaust out of the rubber support brackets. WD40 or any other lubricant is highly recommended there, and will make the job a breeze.

The TTE exhaust fits perfectly in the stock support brackets and after tightening the clamp back, I lowered Hagane and enjoyed the more baritone tune of the new exhaust - and loved it!

Sunday 27 May 2012

Project Hagane - Back in White

After about two long weeks of waiting, I finally received a long awaited call from LTM Performance.

Hagane was ready.

Without waiting any further I quickly made my way there and when I saw her my heart skipped a beat - gone was the over-common grey car, Hagane was now wearing a gorgeous white gown. The fenders, widened and properly smoothed looked perfect and promised to be nicer on my tyres with little to no rubbing. The black highlights on the lower part of the rear bumper, roof, side mirrors and front grille brought a tad of differentiation and confidence to Hagane. 

I had the cold air intake revised and instead of having it stick out of the fog light cover, it was now integrated in the front bumper. The only mishap I found was that the funnel was sprayed white instead of black, but this would be rectified soon.

Inside, the three gauges on the A-pillar complemented the tone set by the tachometer with white numerals and red hands. I will now be able to keep an eye on the all-important temperatures, especially in sunny and hot Singapore.

As a final touch, I added a black sunshade covering the top of the windscreen, underlined by a red line, acting as driver recognition (mine is red, 'cause I like red!).

Following this, I right away went for a little night shoot, loving every aspect of my white Hagane.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Project Hagane - Workshop Time!

Time for an update!
It's been a while and a lot has happened since the cold air intake; I'll try to follow the timeline and give you every step of what happened since...
So yeah, the last update was about my DIY cold air intake. Fun. Could do better, though.

Let's do better then!
I started off by buying three NRG gauges to keep my engine in check in view of the abuse of gymkhana. The set consists of the basics: water temp, oil temp and oil pressure. This should give me enough info to keep my engine within normal operating temperatures and anticipate overheating.

Following this, I acquired a 4-2-1 exhaust header to improve on the low end power I will need for gymkhana.

While I would have loved to install all this myself, I opted to ask for LTM Performance's help to make sure the gauge sensors were installed properly, as well as the headers.

Dropping off my car at the workshop, I felt it was about time to address my hammered out fenders and the chipped paint on those. I gave the instructions and gave my keys, leaving my car in LTM Performance's hands for a long two weeks.

 A few days after dropping Hagane off, I swung by LTM Performance to check out on the progress. The gauges were being installed, with the sensors finding their place under the hood while the a-pillar cover was removed to install the gauge emplacements.

The fenders were still bare metal, but this time they were properly stretched and smoothed. As Hagane was jacked on one side so that the mechanic could access under the engine to install some of the sensors, I was given a preview of how much more travel the wheels could do under full compression, and I was now sure that rubbing was not going to be a problem anymore.
I then left the workshop not to come back before Hagane was finally ready... Stay tuned to see the gorgeous result!

Wednesday 21 March 2012

Project Hagane – Breathe In Deep

I had noticed that Hagane was equipped with an open pod filter a little while back. The good part of having one of these is that it does not restrict the air flow as much, and gives out better high-end power. The downside is that an open pod does not create much suction at low revs, which decreases the low end power.

Since I am getting Hagane ready for autocross, I would rather have low-end power than high end, so I decided to revert to a normal (stock) air box. The detail that irked me was when I sent my car for maintenance and I saw in the bill that they changed my air filter.

I thus popped the hood and opened the air box to find a nice filter smiling at me. Hagane was indeed running a totally useless open pod and stock filter setup. Looks like the previous owner was either conned into getting a useless open pod, or he was running the car without the filter.

Wanting to remove the useless open pod, I dropped the front bumper and got to work. The funny part was to see that the open pod was connected to the air box by an unfastened tube, which could have been disconnected at any time, rendering the setup even more useless.

I took off the whole open pod and pipe assembly and replaced it with a simple flexible intake pipe that I fastened to the air box. Since I was working on it, I decided to make it a cold air intake. The principle of a cold air intake is quite straight forward – bring the air intake pipe to the front of the car where the air is cooler so that the engine is fed with denser air, leading to a better combustion and a slightly better response.
 While looking for a place to place the intake, I found a very simple solution – I removed the side fog light cover and stuck the pipe out of it. Simple, a bit grunge, but it does the job!


Check out Gordini's Pit Stop on Facebook 
for a few night shots I took of Hagane during 
a night drive somewhere in Singapore.

Saturday 28 January 2012

Project Hagane – Shocking!

During the time I was saving for my suspensions, I decided to spend small dollars to change Hagane’s looks and differentiate her from all the gun metal grey Vios I saw on the road everyday (and trust me, there are tons of them!)

 I started by getting a new black sunshade (with a red stroke, for recognition) and a gloss-black roof sticker wrap to go with. I then complemented the looks by adding a few more highlights to Hagane.

Armed with some sand paper and a can of black paint, I sanded down and sprayed the side mirror covers and the front grille. Nothing like a little bit of elbow grease to get closer to your car, so I took my time, and patiently sanded down each part before applying four coats of black paint.

Once the parts sprayed and the paint dry, I purposefully omitted to add a final protective coat of varnish just in case if I want to touch up the paint, and proceeded to put the parts back in place. Instantly, my little grey Vios showed a little bit more character, which was complemented by the upgrade I have waited the longest to get – new suspensions.

It took me a long time to get there, and thanks to my boss and friend, Hong, I was finally able to get a set of STD Standard R3. STD Standard is a Taiwanese brand that produces a selection of street-to-race-ready shocks. The R3 model features damper and height adjustability with front pillow-ball top mount. The front shocks also feature adjustable camber for more dedicated use. Or for looks, as those who never bring their cars on tracks say.

 With that said, it was the first and only time where I was eager to get STDs. Pun intended.

While I unfortunately did not have the time, knowledge and tools to install the coilovers myself, I turned to LTM Performance for the installation. On the same day that I dropped my car off, I went to pick her up and my heart literally skipped a beat when I saw how low and aggressive she looked. Gone was the awful space between the wheels and the fenders, and with the spacers giving her that aggressive stance, Hagane turned from common to a real looker. At least to my eyes.

This is when trouble started. While this version of the STD Standard R3s were made for Toyota Vios, the addition of wide spacers (especially at the rear) was never taken into account by the brand, and even with rolled fenders, the rubbing between the wheels and the fenders was horrible. Horrible to the point where my rear tyres now sport and extra groove.

The next morning, I brought my tortured beloved car back to the workshop, and the good guys at LTM Performance had my rear coilovers sent back to Taiwan for some customisation. The shocks came back with greater height adjustability and everything was set back in place. To make sure the tyre torture would not happen anymore, I also asked for their help to knock the fenders out a bit more at the rear. The process chipped the paint on my rear fenders, and added some grunge to the overall rugged looks of Hagane.

Unfortunately that last part was not done up to my expectations, and the rear now sits still a bit too high to my taste and still rubs occasionally, while the front is just perfect. I will soon follow a friend’s recommendation and go to a shop that provides good fender knocking before finalising the rear suspension’s height to make Hagane at the same height at the front and rear, thus avoiding bringing unnecessary added weight on the front axle.

To finish her looks, I once again picked up the sand paper and spray can and underlined the rear bumper with an added touch of black.

I just love how Hagane looks now, and while the spray job is not perfect, the money it required to do it (under $15) makes it much worth it. Once I fix those rear fenders, I will finally be able to get the perfect height and the exterior/stance works should be done, excluding a nice new paint job.
On a funny note, while I totally love the way Hagane sticks to the asphalt, my dear girlfriend and a few other passengers tend to not enjoy the so called “bumpy” ride that Hagane gives. Too bad, right?