Mar 052012
 

This project car update was originally published August 2, 2011.

As you may recall, 2010 didn’t end as I had hoped for me and the CRX. Bad weather, family obligations, an enlarged ego and unfamiliar territory all conspired to make my autumn a bit of a disappointment from a motorsports perspective.

So that means there was nowhere to go but up, right?

That’s what I decided, anyway. So, with that in mind, I set about planning how I could improve for 2011.

First on the list, as I mentioned in the last article, was to address the car’s poor lighting on the road. There are several options out there, from modifying a 9005-style bulb to replacing the factory headlights with HID projectors. I decided on something in between. I ordered a universal replacement HID (high intensity discharge) light kit from HIDCountry.com. This kit plugs in to the factory harnesses and uses the factory bulb locations, so installation is as simple as finding a place to zip-tie the ballast boxes.

The change in lighting is dramatic. I feel much more comfortable driving at night, especially on dark, unlit roads. In the future, though, I would probably recommend getting the 4300K coloring, which is more white than the 6000K bulbs I opted for. At operating levels, the 6000K is just a little too blue for my liking.

With that addressed, I turned my attention to an item I had been eyeing for quite some time: a rear sway bar. The DX model CRX came from the factory with only a front piece and the addition of the urethane mounts only served to remind me that the back was sorely lacking. I knew that adding one would dramatically improve the handling dynamics of the car, but I also knew that SCCA rules expressly prohibit modifying the rear sway bar in any way – including adding one where it was previously absent. I considered my options carefully and decided that, if I simply installed a Honda factory unit from a CRX Si model, I would be able to disconnect it before competing without much effort.

A little message board hunting netted me everything I needed (the sway bar, rear mounting brackets and both rear lower control arms) for $60.

An adequate description of the installation process can be found many places online (including here), so I won’t go in to detail. One small note, though: in addition to simply bolting the new(ish) parts where the old ones were, the installation also requires some drilling of the body so that you can locate two of the mounting nuts on each side. That being the case, I do not recommend this upgrade if you are not patient (and/or good with power tools).

Although I ran into some problems with seized bushings when installing the lower control arms, the installation went smoothly overall.

The change to the car was incredible.

Where before the CRX seemed to twist and contort itself through every turn, it now felt like it was rotating on an axis. It is, without question, the best $60 I have ever spent on a single car upgrade. Indeed, it makes me wonder just how great this car can be with some upgraded aftermarket bars.

But that is an experiment for another time. For now, I had to concentrate on making the stock car faster.

And I spent a lot of time over the winter thinking about exactly how to do that. Overall, I was happy with the mechanical condition of the car coming out of 2010. I was satisfied with the brakes, tires and suspension. There is very little I could do to add power to the engine, other than make sure it was given a proper tune-up.

The time had come, then, to tighten the most important nut of all: the one behind the steering wheel.

Since at least some of my struggles last year seemed to be mental I decided to invest in a performance driving school. The North Jersey Region of the SCCA offered the Evolution Driving School at one of their April events and I signed up.

The experience was incredibly enlightening. It was also challenging, and made all the more so by heavy rain during the event. If you think hurtling across a parking lot at 45 mph is intimidating, you should try it in the pouring rain with Hoosiers on your car. It was (pardon the pun) a crash course in staying alert and always looking ahead.

But it did the trick. By the end of the day I was become much more adept at knowing when to turn my head, how to pick reference points and pivot points, and how to better judge my braking zones.

I think learning in the rain was a little like a baseball player putting a lead weight on the end of his bat in the on-deck circle. Although it was incredibly difficult, it meant I could do it – no matter the conditions. I would recommend this school to anyone who is serious about getting better at this sport. It is worth every penny.

Now, however, I find myself in another difficult situation. I am primed and ready for the 2011 auto-x season. The South Jersey region, however, still hasn’t found a site at which to host its events, and it doesn’t look like one will be secured any time soon.

Other regions are an option, but scheduling then becomes a much bigger issue for me, since I would have to travel. Also, I am simply looking forward to actually competing for a class title in my own home region this year. Considering all I have invested in making that happen, I think that is a reasonable aspiration.

I guess all I can do is wait for the SJR to get its act together.

 

Further Information:
The EVO Driving School

Parts added in this article:
Honda factory sway bar (out of a 1990 CRX Si)
Universal HID headlight kit from HIDCountry.com

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