Feb 062014

To anyone that knows me, this was inevitable. For all the great things the 850 does — its quirky personality, its stubborn reliability and its Swedish comfort — there are three key things that it is not:

1. Nimble
2. A stick
3. Even remotely quick

Now, I admit that I knew all this coming in and chose this project anyway. I chose it for all the things it was not and accepted it as such. I also admit that I enjoyed it, and continue to do so, for all of those reasons. But as I said, anyone who knows me knows that this car couldn’t be my only automotive love for long and they are correct. I need something a little more from my cars and the 850 could never fill that role.

Don’t think that this is another sad farewell, though. No, this was a labor of love for me and I had so much invested that it only made sense that I treat it as such. As of this month it is my wife’s daily driver and she loves it for many of the same reasons I do, especially the seats. I am a little sad that it never got to see the challenge I had planned for it, but I am pleased that all my work won’t go to waste and it will live a long and healthy life with us.

Speaking of the work, this is probably the closest I have ever come to being “done” with a project. I know I didn’t get to chronicle it all, but I will leave you with a list of everything I did to it, including all the parts I installed. Some of it will be familiar, some was completed since my last update. If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments.

Project Volvo 850 base sedan — list of work completed

IPD odometer repair kit
IPD dash light repair kit
Alpine head unit
Integrated Sirius radio
Driver side window regulator
Volvo electronic ignition switch
Volvo keyless entry remote

IPD black egg-crate grille
Junkyard power antenna module
Custom rear trunk
Lamin-x yellow fog light treatment

Driver front caliper
Front pads & rotors
Rear pads, rotors and mounting hardware
Complete front coil assembly (IPD third party springs, Monroe struts, Volvo genuine XC90 spring seats, all hardware)
Heavy duty front sway bar links
Third party front lower control arms
IPD rear overload springs
KYB rear shocks
Goodyear Eagle RS-A tires

IPD upper engine torque mount bushing
Third party lower transmission torque mount
Transmission fluid drain/fill
Rebuilt passenger side driveshaft
Replaced driver side driveshaft
Volvo spark plugs, distributor cap, rotor and wires
Volvo fuel filter
IPD PCV breather repair kit
IPD 90-degree thermostat
Coolant drain/fill

And, just for old time’s sake, at the time of this writing I have just been informed that the “Check Engine” light is on. Guess she just wants my hands on her. The best projects never really do end, do they?

Mar 052012

This project car update was originally published August 22, 2011.

When last we left Project CRX, I was twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the South Jersey Region of the SCCA to get their collective act together and find a place to host events this year. With no encouraging signs forthcoming (and since the weather was nice) I decided it would be a good time to do a tune-up.

The car had other ideas.

I finished most of the basic stuff without issue, but when I went to take the valve cover off to adjust the valves, the top of one of the studs came with it. The best that I could determine was that the guy who did the last tune-up over-tightened it and stretched the threads. I decided not to take any chances and replaced all of the studs. Not one to lose an opportunity, I also decided to repaint the valve cover while I waited for the parts to come in.

By the time I had finally gotten everything cleaned, adjusted and put back together, we were in to the late May heatwave that had all of South Jersey (and most of the East Coast) grumbling about air conditioning and electric bills. Apparently the car found the conditions to be especially disagreeable because the first time I drove it, I got home and the radiator burst.

While my face was under the hood.

I was starting to wonder if the CRX had developed a vindictive streak — I couldn’t get it out on course, so it was finding other ways to amuse itself. Expensive ways. Continue reading »

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. Continue reading »

Mar 052012

This project car update was published on July 9, 2010 on my original WordPress site.

When last we talked about the CRX, I had made some minor changes and was pleased with its all-around performance, but frustrated by my inability to coax it to its first auto-x class win. The limiting factor, I had decided, was the all-season tires I was using.

Some would argue that, in most cases, the only part that needs to be fixed to make a car go faster is the one located between the seat and the steering wheel. And while that is true (and I could undoubtedly pick up time by improving myself) I could see, for lap after lap, just how close I was to beating my competition.

I have the rest of my life to hone my driving skills; I wanted to win now. Continue reading »

Mar 052012

This project car update was published on June 28, 2010 on my original WordPress site.

The following is a conglomeration of two pieces, originally written in April and May of this year. In an effort to get back on a current timeline sooner, I decided to combine the two. This meant I had to eliminate some parts and the result is a bit dry. With the return to the current timeline, I promise that any new updates will be written in the old, more friendly style.  —Chris

In the last installment I introduced you to my latest project, the 1991 Honda CRX, and gave my early impressions.

Not long after, I got my first opportunity to see what the car could really do, as auto-x season opened in South Jersey on April 11. I decided to treat the event as a true shakedown and run the car without any changes, with one exception. I switched my wheel and tire combo to the 14-inch steel wheels and BFGoodrich g-Force Super Sport T/A tires that I had bought for the rusty Civic. Continue reading »

Mar 052012

This project car update was published on June 15, 2010 on my original WordPress site.

Last August I bought a Civic.

It was a 1993 CX hatchback model, and I bought it for several reasons: I had a long commute to work, so I wanted a car that would get good gas mileage. I wanted a car that I could take out to the occasional autocross (which I will refer to as auto-x from here on in) and maintain a decent level of competition. Most of all, though, I wanted a project—something that I could tinker with endlessly and see the results, hopefully without breaking the bank.

The Civic, then, would seem like an ideal car, right? I mean, it is inexpensive, there are enough parts available to fill warehouses, and it’s a competent chassis for amateur racing. It sure seemed like a slam-dunk to me.

Then I discovered the rust. Continue reading »