Between April and October, we did a complete renovation on the braking system. Following in the footsteps of a swap my Father did on his daily-driver 1985 SE, we installed a relatively unique brake swap. The calipers on all four corners are stock 2000 Subaru Legacy GT parts, which gets you dual-piston calipers up front, and single piston calipers in back. Front rotors are from the same application, which are 11.5" diameter and vented, with a 5x100 bolt pattern pre-drilled. Turn down a stock rotor and hub assembly, and slip these rotors over the hub. We installed longer wheel studs to compensate for the extra thickness of the new rotor on the hub. The Subaru parts fall within the 2x OEM cost rules for ChumpCar, and are much more of a plentiful supply when compared to Fiero parts. Full race pads are available for these calipers, so we made up some adapter brackets to mount the calipers to the knuckles. Unfortunately, we were doing this the week leading up to the race, so I didn't stop to take many pictures. Here's what the installed setup looks like.
Rear calipers are Subaru units, which do no have provisions for a parking brake, as that vehicle uses a drum type setup inside the rotor hat with a separate mechanism. We knew we didn't need the parking brake on the race car, so we didn't bother making provisions for it. For the street, my Dad used a 2005 Chevy Malibu caliper, which has a very similar parking brake setup to the Fiero. We used '05 Malibu rear rotors, which had to be drilled for 5x100.
Our pad of choice was EBC "Bluestuff" pads, which are designed for track day use. These proved to be very long-lasting, with great track performance. Very happy with the EBC pads.
I can elaborate much more on the details of this brake swap if people are interested. I'm going off the minimal pics I have at the moment.
The result was that we had significantly more braking power and longevity than before. Our brakes let us race with the best of them going into the corners.
We barely got the brakes done in time. We pulled an all-nighter the night before tech inspection for the October race. I hopped in the car at 7am Friday morning to take it in for an alignment, before taking off for the track.
October 2013 was the debut of two new Fiero teams in ChumpCar: Team Fieroline headed by my good buddy Damian (thedrue here on Pennocks), and Fiero Dynamics headed by a great guy from Canada named Brent. Fiero Dynamics was insanely quick, as they had a 3500 V6 swap, and Corvette C4 brakes. Unfortunately, a heavy wreck put them out of the race Saturday, but made it back out after working all night to race Sunday. They would go on to win the Spokane event in July of 2014. This car is really well built, and very well raced.
Fieroline broke all the conventions of a typical ChumpCar first race for a team, and had virtually no problems. They ended up finishing in 10th place, which is a fantastic result! You can view their build thread here.
For us, the weekend started off well. We were quick, but certainly not the fastest car on track. We made steady progress toward the front, and were running in front of both other Fiero teams. Given the pace we were running, it likely would have resulted in a top-ten finish, somewhere like 6th or so. Unfortunately, the motor was pinging heavily. We pulled a bunch of timing, and ran it, with few options to rectify the issue at the track. My co-drivers reported that the issue had been cured by taking a ton of timing advance out of it. I passed the car off to my teammate Drew, about 6.5 hours into the 12 hour race on Saturday. Immediately he reported that the voltage light was on. Looked like we had a failing alternator. About 10 minutes later, he radios in that there was a big cloud of smoke.
When I tore into the motor a couple months later, this is what I found:
Number one piston had a nice "three finger hole" blown out of it. Another piston (#4) had stress cracks in the same spots, and wasn't far behind this one it seems. I threw a pair of pistons in it, put it back together with new gaskets and fresh oil and ran it. Everything seemed to be okay. However, I would not let another motor go this way. I deleted the EGR that had given us problems, and dedicated myself to tuning the motor right.
An adjustable fuel pressure regulator was installed, as were Autolite brand Racing spark plugs. This helped immensely, but there was still a bit of ping at just the right load and RPM. With our first race of 2014 looming in August, it was time to do something about it. We attempted to install a tuned chip into the stock ECM, but never could get it to function. Instead, I decided to go for the '7730 ECM swap.
Keeping the distributor, and without most of the emissions equipment, the swap was really pretty easy. A tune was developed, and after a couple minor revisions of this tune, we raced on it.
[This message has been edited by ManMadeChickens (edited 04-05-2018).]
August in Portland was a new event; normally we race Spring and Fall. The option to race with almost no chance of rain was a fantastic proposition. As this event had a shorter schedule for the weekend, it only required a minimum of two drivers. My Dad and I elected to go at it as a pair rather than cramming four drivers into the time allotted. With all the time I'd spent tinkering with the car since October, we had high hopes for how things would go.
As Portland in October is typically in the mid 90's, we decided to build a cool shirt system to keep driver heat fatigue at bay.
The system consists of:
a cooler which is filled with a bit of water, and a bunch of ice
about 20 feet of nylon tubing
a marine bilge pump to circulate the ice cold water
a pair of quick disconnect valves to hook up the shirt
a Cool-Shirt brand t-shirt with a ton of surgical tubing sewn to it
The shirts are readily available for about $100, which I feel is worth the price. In my opinion that's fair trade for not having to sew all that tubing to a shirt. The rest of the system can be built for less than $100. Boy, is it money well spent. I have raced with a cool shirt before in another car, and it is a life saver. This worked exactly as I remembered. You put a five-pound block of ice in the cooler at the start of a stint, and it will circulate "icy goodness" through your drivers suit for about 75 minutes. With a stint length of 95 minutes, it did the job. A full run could be achieved by putting more ice in the cooler I suspect.
We strapped in the cooler to a crude bracket attached to the passenger's seat studs. This didn't work the greatest, but it held up the length of the race weekend.
The August event went really well. We ran 10th of 39 cars. Minor overheating issues when the car is pitted were really the only problems. We intend to resolve this by retrofitting a fully pressurized system to enable a higher system pressure, with a closed bottle. Using a valve, we will be able to isolate the coolant bottle if we need to add water when the car is hot. This should finally eliminate any cooling issues I suspect. I need to sort through the video from last month, and will post the highlights when they are available.
Forgot about this - when the car came up for registration again, we decided it needed new plates to replace the mangled ones on the car. I applied for, and was subsequently given the plate "RACECR" in Oregon. Now we take them off for race weekends for safe keeping.
[This message has been edited by ManMadeChickens (edited 04-05-2018).]
Thanks folks for a continued interest in this thread. I have primarily moved to posting the relatively small number of updates on the team's Facebook page. I will work on making a few summary posts of the happenings in the last three or four years in the near future!
October 2014 brought another ChumpCar series race at Portland International Raceway. This event was a three day deal, 5 hours Friday evening, 13 hours Saturday, and 6 hours Sunday.
The only notable change I can remember making to the car was a switch to EBC Orangestuff full-race compound pads. This helped stopping distances, and durability.
Friday, the car ran well, hitting new personal and car-best lap times. We ran consistently in the top 10 for most of the event, finishing 11th overall in a field of 50 cars.
Saturday, we started the race in 5th position, with Ken behind the wheel. He's very consistent and has few problems, but has the least aggressive pace of our drivers. He finished his first stint in P16 overall, putting Blake in the car. After pitting, Blake rejoined the race in 27th, and rallied to 19th during his stint. We only dropped to P21 to put Drew in the car. The racing line had dried out by this point, and the lap times were picking up. Unfortunately, he was forced off track by another car, causing an issue with the exhaust dragging. This cost us about 25 minutes in the pits, and a loss of another 7 spots in the running order. I got in the car and ran a full stint, with no issues. Ken was next out, and reported minor cooling system issues.
We rotated through the driver order, and finished 17th for the day. Ultimately, the off track excursion that cost us 7 spots probably hurt us the most. It was a valuable learning experience on how to improve the car, to prevent such damage in the future.Unfortunately, the days seemingly minor cooling system problem amounted to a blown head gasket. We investigated the issue, and feel like the head could have been warped or cracked. We were forced to sit out Sunday.
One big gain over the prior event was shaving a full TWO seconds off the car's previous best lap time, bringing it down to a 1:36.849.
In May of 2015, I had the opportunity to run the race car at a Dyno Day with a local car club. I was genuinely curious what it would put down, as the engine I had assembled was a total mashup of junkyard parts. At the time, it was a 1994 GM 3100 bottom end, Shaved Fiero flat-top pistons, a .040" head gasket, 19 pound/hr injectors, an enlarged neck Fiero upper intake, and a custom tune running on a 7730 ECM.
The upper intake was modified to delete the EGR flange, open up the narrow passage on the throttle body next, and add some volume on the underside of the plenum. This seemed to have a small gain in power and torque.
The engine always felt strong on track. It didn't have much top end, though. Shifting around 5500 RPM was the norm for us. Here's what it did:
155.5 wheel horsepower at about 5300 RPM, and 200.6 ft. lbs. torque at about 3600 RPM . Very broad torque curve, too.
Not too shabby, for an engine that cost me $400 to build. We gained about 40 horsepower and about 60 foot pounds of torque over stock.
[This message has been edited by ManMadeChickens (edited 04-05-2018).]
August 2015 I took the car back to Northwest FieroFest. On the way, thedrue and I played around a bit with some bump-drafting practice. One Fiero racer pushing another at those speeds is pretty interesting, and pretty fun. Unfortunately, this nearly blocks off the cooling air to the radiator, so you can only go nose-to-tail like this for a moment before the coolant temp starts to climb.
I collected a bit of Fieroline blue paint on my front bumper.
In preparation for the event, we modified the vent both in the fuel tank, and externally, to try to increase capacity as much as possible. We had upgraded to a stock 1988 tank, with it's larger 11.9 gallon capacity. We measured that if you were able to literally brim it, you could fit just shy of 14 gallons in it. We ran the line to the charcoal canister up to a high mount breather, to use it as an extra vent to get fuel in slightly quicker. In addition, I put a hose and elbow over the vent line inside the tank. As it is, the stock vent tube is both perforated, and not at the top of the tank. This means that when it is submerged with fuel, the only vent is through the filler neck, which is easily saturated with fuel when we fill in the pits. This makes it tough to get the car completely full. With this mod, the top of the vent tube is only about 1/8" from the literal top of the tank. We can get quite a lot more fuel in, and at a much quicker rate after these changes.
Later that month was our next event, at Portland International Raceway as always. Once again, very few changes since the prior race.
I started Saturday, and finished a one hour and fifty minute stint in 6th place overall. Pitted at the end of the stint, and remedied a blown gauges fuse, which dropped us to 12th. Around noon, there was some light blue smoke observed coming from the exhaust, and a slight misfire developing. By 1:00pm we were done for the day with a rod knock.
Overnight, we swapped in the spare drivetrain, a stock 2.8. By 3:45 AM, we had the car put back together, sitting at the track waiting for the following day's action.
We took the green flag on time Sunday, with Ken behind the wheel. This spare engine was having odd temperature spikes, and was hard to keep cool. We ran it hard, sometimes intentionally ignoring it's overheating. Drew got essentially a full stint out of it. I took the last stint, getting in a bit after 1pm. Coming down the pit lane, I noticed the steering wheel was not centered. I took off the quick release wheel, and reentered it. On my second fast lap, coming out of turn 3 at about 55 MPH, the steering wheel came off the hub. I instantly put both feet down, and plunged the car up to the windshield into a tire wall. Unfortunately, we had been plagued with camera problems all weekend, so this malady was not recorded.
This was the result. After the incident, I limped it around the track half way and brought it in through a back entrance to the paddock. The left rear tire was flat, and the brakes were very soft. Track safety officials were shocked that the car was able to drive away after the incident, and that the damage was not more serious.
The front bumper was torn off partially, the drivers side mirror was ripped clean off, the front fenders were damaged, and there was an immense amount of rubber tire marks all over the car. I pinched shut the left rear brake hose with a pair of vice-grips, put a spare tire on, and drove it home.
All told, it was not a very positive weekend. We needed a new engine, a whole lot of crash repair, and had likely ensured the end of our backup engine. At this point, racing in October was looking very unlikely.
[This message has been edited by ManMadeChickens (edited 04-05-2018).]
Over the winter, I left the car completely as-is. I didn't have any motivation to get to work on it. When the weather started to improve slightly by February of 2016, I began to refresh the car. I stripped all the fading and damaged decals off, and removed the damaged body panels. I had sourced a replacement for everything I needed. Here's some pics of the layout and mock up of those parts.
Front bumper and front fender replacements set in place.
New rear fascia, rear fender liners, tail lamps, and bumper "egg crate" plastic. I scored these parts off a GT in a junkyard.
From the same '86 GT in the yard, I nabbed a pair of crazed but mostly intact GT side windows. ChumpCar rules at the time stated that there would be value penalty added for Lexan, because it would be an aerodynamic improvement. Ironically, the $15 worth of lexan I had in place of these windows was far cheaper than the $300 or so that these could be worth. I cleaned them up, repainted the black background, polished the outside, and eventually installed them.
Next stop, engine swap! On track to make the July 2016 race with the newly formed Lucky Dog Racing League!
Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend 2016. Time came to make the engine swap happen. I pulled the old and tired backup 2.8, and got the new LX9 mounted up on the stand.
At the same time, thedrue's turbo 3.4 car was parked due to metal in the oil, and my dad was swapping in an LA1 3400 into his 1985 SE. This shop space was a busy place.
Shortly thereafter, the engine went onto the cradle.
Next, I started adapting the Fiero harness to the LX9 sensor locations, injectors, change to DIS coil packs, and other such changes.
I used the LX9's head-mounted coolant temperature sensor for the ECM, and tapped into the water outlet neck to install a coolant temperature sensor for the gauge and warning light.
An LX5 "Shortstar" 65mm throttle body mounted on a WOT-Tech adapter plate.
A Milzy Motorsports external crank trigger wheel, bracket, and 3400 CKP sensor to get a 7x signal for the 7730 ECM and ignition system.
A custom made stainless steel y-pipe to follow stock Fiero routing, with LX9 manifold ball socket flanges on the ends, designed to route past the LX9 water outlet neck, and clear the Fiero shift cable brackets. fully header wrapped.
Stainless steel downpipe, polished stainless glass pack muffler, and stainless side exit tailpipe.
A 2009 Corvette ZR-1 oil cap salvaged from a wrecked dry sump oil tank, indicating my preference for Mobil 1 oil. Should be worth about 5 more horsepower, right?
Our low mount alternator and tensioner bracket, A/C delete pulley. This was an 89" belt. Note the under drive pulley on the alternator, to keep it within specified operating RPM range.
Stuffed back in the car!
I took this opportunity to send out the old worn out tires to be swapped for a new, fresh set of Dunlop DIrezza ZII Star Specs.
The race quickly approached, and we were running out of time.
In order to adapt to the returnless fuel system of the LX9 engine to the return style fuel system of the Fiero, we bought and installed an Aeroquip external fuel pressure regulator. The LX9 is rated to run on 50-60 PSI fuel pressure with the key on engine off. A Fiero fuel pump is able to do about 45 PSI pretty regularly. Ours was only putting out around 30 PSI. This is likely one reason why we were having lean air fuel ratio and preignition issues- a weak fuel pump. At this point, we were going to have to pull the tank anyway, to install a new pump. I was curious about installing a Holley Hydramat, designed to be a large fuel pickup solution. The Fiero tank being narrow, long, and oddly shaped doesn't aid much in providing a constant supply of fuel to the pump pickup. If any part of the Hydramat is able to pick up fuel, it will wick it up. The mat we chose was a stretched plus shape, to help accommodate the length of the FIero tank. It is attached with strong magnets.
I cut out the plastic structure from inside the tank, and stuck the mat to the bottom of the tank. It has a female AN fitting which I used to attach a nipple to connect fuel safe hose between the mat and the stock tank module, with the Fiero fuel pump removed.
An MSD atomic external fuel pump was used to transfer fuel between the tank and the rest of the system. It is rated for up to 70 PSI, and good for up to 525 horsepower. It is a noisy thing, since it no longer has the tank and the surrounding fuel to insulate the noise. When this fuel system was installed, the engine ran correctly. A small number of final details were taken care of, and the car was ready to test.
On the first test drive, the serpentine belt was kicked off the pulleys and shredded.
This is how it was "put back together" for the race weekend.
We had an alignment appointment the following morning, early on Friday of race weekend. A new belt had to be acquired and installed first thing. The local NAPA auto parts had the belt, and I was there at opening. We made the appointment!
Race weekend, June 2016 at Portland International Raceway. Our first event running with the excellent Lucky Dog Racing League. It is very similar to ChumpCar, with arguably far better management and rules.
We put on the mandatory stickers, and some aluminum tape numbers, and passed through tech inspection on Friday evening.
Race day Saturday was a day of a few really positive moments, but plagued by lots of annoying problems.
We made it to the start of Qualifying, and sent Ken out for all forty minutes, as was our plan. Midway through the stint, it was reported back to the pit that there was a speed limiter still in place. Totally the fault of not having enough time to totally sort the tuning of the new engine. Thankfully, that was an easy fix between qualifying and the start of the race. The limiter was set at 108 MPH, so we knew the car was quick. Ken felt the car was really good; "The most prepared it's ever been" - said with a big smile. This is the sort of thing that makes all the long hours and real late nights in the shop worthwhile.
Drew started the race, beside our sister car, "Skideria Fauxrrari" (Formerly Fieroline). Drew passed a few cars on the front straight at the green flag, and ran a couple pretty decently quick laps, continuing to pass cars. Unfortunately, issues with the serpentine belt reared their ugly head. We had an issue with the belt on our first post-swap test drive, but thought we had the issue resolved.
The short version goes like this: we spent the day chasing issues with shredding the accessory belt, and kicking it off. Without the water pump spinning, the engine will overheat quickly, so there is no way to limp it around safely without the belt in place. However, when the car was operating correctly... it was a mean mean machine! Drew was able to turn a new car-best lap time of 1:34.57, faster than our previous best of 1:36.83! 2.26 seconds of improvement is awesome. Drew didn't really have a lot of time to get into a good rhythm or learn the new capability of the car, either.f There's still probably close to a second more left to gain from the car as-is I feel.
We spent the evening affecting repairs to hopefully run the entirety of the event Sunday. If nothing else, we learned a lot and will come back to race next time stronger than ever before.
Unfortunately, Sunday was frought with the same sorts of issues. We tried a number of things to try to alleviate the issue, but nothing was effective enough to keep the inevitable loss of the serpentine belt away. We had a good time with the newfound excellence of performance with the car, but disappointing results. 37th place on Saturday, and 34th on Sunday.
Thanks for the updates that was great. I think you could solve the surpentine belt problem with solid motor mounts and make a mechanical tensioner, that you adjust by tightening a bolt instead of relying on the spring loaded pulley. Really appreciate the the thread update.
Between our June 2016 Lucky Dog Race, and the next outing with ChumpCar in October of 2016, we needed to address the consistent and very irritating issues with the serpentine belt. The rear low-mount setup we chose initially would not be ideal, as this necessitated a much longer belt than was necessary, left several long unsupported spans of belt, and had extra parts and pulleys in the routing that could be a source of failure. We abandoned the layout and routing and started fresh. I decided to fab a bracket to put the 1988 Fiero alternator where the A/C compressor would be. This was the mockup on a 2005 LA1 3400:
The old setup used an 89" belt, which had somewhat limited original equipment applications. It was somewhat hard to find a replacement belt in this size. The new layout shortened the belt down to 66", and is a much more common belt. In fact, this is the same belt as a 1988 Fiero 2.5L with air conditioning, as well as several current Buick and Lexus models. Finding a replacement has not been difficult.
I went a step further and eventually installed a Gates Heavy Duty FleetRunner belt, which has it's iconic green rubber construction. That belt is still going strong on the race car today.
I did not change much else in preparation for the October race.
I am still catching up on editing videos for past races, so as those are complete, I will post race weekend summaries here with the highlight videos attached.
End of October 2016 brought along the traditional fall ChumpCar race in Portland. We signed up, looking for a more successful weekend than our engine swap debut in June.
This event featured a unique format, boasting a 7 hour endurance race Friday, a 6 hour endurance race Saturday, and six 30-minute sprint races split between Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately, attendance was slim after the formation of the Lucky Dog Racing League in the Northwest. The event ended up being just 13 cars.
The weekend started well, with Justin taking the helm of the car to start the Friday enduro. Starting dead last in the small field, we were able to make it up to third after the first lap, and took the lead on lap two. The rest of this stint was spent making significant time on the field. The car cut out several times in the stint, but was able to be restarted on the move. By the time the car started sputtering and seemingly fuel starving, we had put at least one lap on every car in the field but one.
Justin pitted, a driver change was performed, sending Ken out. The car started and drove off, but immediately started sputtering and misfiring again. It wasn't just low fuel at the end of Justin's stint. After several minutes of trying to restart, Ken was able to bring the car back in, and it was diagnosed that the fuel pump relay was intermittently opening. That situation was diagnosed and dealt with in roughly 20 minutes behind the wall. In that time, the rest of the cars made up the time on us, and put us back in the running order again.
The rest of the day went well. We cycled our third driver Zak in, as well as more stints for Justin and Ken. After the initial problems, the car ran excellent.
By nightfall, darkness and rain had covered Portland in a big way. There was standing water in several places around the track, and conditions were treacherous. The last stint driven by Justin saw us move from fourth place overall, into third, and making up three laps on second place. At times, Justin turned laps 15-20 seconds faster than the second place car. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to pass them and improve our position.
However, this meant we placed third overall, a podium place! Our best ever result by far! If we were able to avoid the on track stall and then fifteen minutes behind the wall at the beginning of the day, we would have been in contention for the win.
Saturday brought opportunity to try and achieve the same or better results of Friday. Sprint #1 went well, Justin drove and finished 4th. During this sprint, turned a fastest lap of 1:34.823: within a tenth as fast as the cars fastest ever lap.
Unfortunately Sprint #2 was more eventful and less successful. Zak went out, and was competitive, until the 8th lap when he went two-wheels off in Turn #7 and broke the left front lower ball joint. The car had to be towed back to the pits, and a new lower control arm with an unbroken ball joint installed. Unfortunately, we needed to run off site to pick up a spare control arm, and missed Sprint #3.
The Saturday 6-hour enduro was not as successful as our Friday podium effort. The car lacked a bit of pace after the front end repair, and the six hour race length didn't play into our car's strength of strategy. We can't go a full two hour stint on fuel, and so an extra pit stop put us back in the running order some. That, plus other minor issues throughout the day meant we started 12th, made up spots throughout the day and finished 8th.
Sunday brought the opportunity to run three more sprints. I had taken my share of time in the car, and felt that Zak should get another opportunity at a sprint after breaking the car in Sprint #2. Fieroline had broken their car Saturday, so I gave Damian and Kevin each a run in my car to check it out.
Zak won his sprint, and in a rather deciding fashion. Even with a couple of minor on track incidents.
Kevin ran well in his stint, turning in quick times and crossing the line second. Alas, he was unable to overcome the handicap imposed after Zak's large margin of victory, so he was scored as 5th. He turned a fastest lap of 1:34.928, quite quick indeed!
Damian brought it home in the last Sprint, and last event of the weekend. He powered his way up to second, but spun in turn 7, and most of the pack blazed past. His finish of 6th was bittersweet, as he turned in a blistering 1:34.800 but didn't finish up front where he wanted.
Overall, it was a very good weekend. We proved we have the pace as drivers, and performance in the car to reach for Podium finishes going forward. If we work on the reliability a little more, better results can be had in the future.
Justin, Zak, and Ken posing with the 3rd place trophy for the Friday enduro- a neat metal gladiator guy welded together on top of a brake rotor.
The trusty, but ugly and battered steed lives through another race weekend. The driver's side headlight door flew off during the Saturday enduro, and was lost.