I haven't had an update in a while, but that's more or less because I've been lazy, not because things haven't been happening. So I'll try and catch up to speed here. Active Auto Body never stopped being dicks and refused to fess up to the damaged wheels. A number of months back I paid a visit to Skip's Wheel Werks in Beaverton. They come highly recommended from several people. He pointed out that in fact the wheels do have a finish on them, and it was this finish that was eaten off. Since he (or probably anyone else other than SSR) couldn't recreate that finish, he said the best solution would be to simply take the wheels apart and polish the rims. The finish is very close to what polished aluminum looks like anyway. Since I'd be doing both wheels on the same side of the car, he doesn't think one would notice that the wheels on the other side of the car were slightly different. It'd be a different matter if they were on the same side. I still am not convinced that I wouldn't notice the difference, and this is probably why I haven't gone ahead and had him do the work yet. But I will eventually. He wants $150 per wheel. $300's not too bad for the two, but it'd suck if I had to do the other side to make them match.
I've also always questioned the paint work of Active Auto Body. Initially the paint looks great and is a perfect match, but I wondered if it was as durable as the stock paint job (they claim they use an identical process, which I don't buy). I first wondered this after they resprayed my front bumper in February of 2002. I noticed that it seemed to get a lot more rock chips after they repainted it. Here's the look of the bumper today:
This came into question again after this winter. We had a ton of snow for Portland they put a TON of gravel down everywhere. I tried to limit my driving directly after the snow melted, but when I did have to drive, I could just hear the thing being sand blasted. I didn't know the extent of the damage until I just looked at it today. It was the driver's side door that was resprayed by Active Auto Body 5 months ago. The passenger's side has the 4 year old paint from the factory. Also note that the passenger's side should always get more rock chips because it's on the shoulder side. This is evident on the bumper where the chips are much worse on he passenger's side. Below is a comparison between the driver's side (left), resprayed by Active, and the passenger's side (right), with 4 year old factory paint. The pictures don't do the problem justice, but you should be sure to click on them to enlarge them (ignore the color difference, that's just lighting):
Yes, the passenger's side has the chips too, but the driver's side is much worse. There are rock chips all along both sides of the car. I use to NEVER get any rock chips on the sides, not even on the rear fender flares that everyone always complains about. The problem is three fold. 1) Active Auto Body's paint work clearly sucks ass. The first picture above is truly disgusting and makes me sick. 2) They graveled the roads way more this year than any previous year, so there's just a lot more debris out there on the roadways. 3) Since I have to run 15mm spacers in the front, the front wheels/tires are kicked out farther, and surely are kicking back a lot more gravel. Check it out:
To hopefully help cure the problem I ordered some front mud flaps. I'm not sure if I like the look or not, but at $27 it's a cheap try and it certainly can be a seasonal addition. I know I don't like stoneguards (and that wouldn't fix the fact that the chips are occurring all down the door). I sure am pissed that my brand new paint is chipping as badly as it is, though. From about 10 feet you honestly can't notice it, and the car looks really shiny still, but up close it's horrendous. I really hate Active Auto Body and urge people to take their cars elsewhere.
Moving on... I really needed new tires:
Yeah, that's bad! After approximately 24,000 miles (WOW!), the Kumho 712's were bald in the rear and almost to the wear bars in the front. That's pretty impressive mileage considering these are high performance tires with 4 track days on them. Of course they should have been replaced long ago. Anyway, I did a ton of research on the new tires and decided upon Goodyear F1 GS-D3's. I heard they were nearly as good as the best Z rated tires in the dry, absolutely the best tires around in the wet, and also they're suppose to last to 20,000 miles (same wear rating as the 712's, at 280. Most Z rated are closer to 220). These tires recently came out, and due to all the good press many sizes are backordered. The 265/35/18's I had on the rear were on nationwide backorder for months with not even a production date! I needed new tires so I went ahead and ordered 275/35/18's. They were mounted at mile 38,420. Cool looking tires...
With 2,000 miles on the tires so far I can tell they're quite impressive. Downright amazing in the wet, and I do think quite a bit better than the Kumho 712's in the dry. I haven't really exercised the car much lately, so it's hard to say. I'll know for sure March 13th, the first track day of the year (goody goody gumdrops!!).
If you recall my suspension writeup, I mentioned that I was getting some rubbing in the front fender wells. I really like the ride height, so I don't want to raise the car any. Well, the lip of the fender well has warn all the way through on the driver's side. And you can see on the passenger's side the built up melted plastic. Sweeeet...
To cure this, I think I'm just going to just dremel off the lip. It is rubbing a bit in the middle of the wheel well, but not as bad as this lip. I can probably also cut away that middle spot without any troubles. While under there I noticed something interesting... the top couple coils of the H&R struts seem to rest on top of each other at rest. I guess I'm not concerned about this since there's so many coils, but it is interesting...
All these pictures were taken today because I finally got around to waxing the car. I swear that P21S stuff is amazing... I've never seen a wax make as big a difference as P21S does. It's the best looking wax I've ever used. Naturally the pictures can't do it justice. I also waxed the bike the same day... They sure are purty! And now simply for some gratuitous pictures...
Ever since installing the H&R Coilover kit and setting the ride height where I want it (aesthetically), I've been getting some rubbing in the tightest of turns. Usually these are only sub 30mph turns, or turns with bumps. It only rubs when I'm really flogging it... never rubs in day to day driving. If I'm really pushing it, the wheel rubs pretty bad and makes me cringe. In anticipation of the first track day of the year, I figured it was time to cut the fender back a bit to (hopefully) eliminate the rubbing. PIR doesn't have any really tight turns, so it may not have even rubbed, but I figured I'd do it anyway. I looked at the fender well to see how far the rubbing was extended. I cut a bit above that point. Here are before and after pictures of the Dremel work, with the car jacked up a bit so that I didn't Dremel bits off my tires...
Once this was done I decided to go on a short drive since the weather was so nice to see if it was rubbing anymore. One thing I noticed while pulling out of the driveway (which was wet since I just washed the car) and into the culdesac, was that there were huge wakes coming from the front tires... this could suck. Once the water wore off things were fine. I'll have to see how bad this is when it rains again.
On one of my tightest, favorite roads, I started pushing pretty hard. Not a bit of rubbing! I turned around and came back, this time pushing a bit harder since I now knew the conditions. I did get very slight rubbing in a sub 30mph turn, but mostly it was perfectly fine. My "short drive" was over, but I was having so much fun I decided to continue it for another hour, hitting some of my favorite roads in the area. This was the first time I really got to push the car in nice weather with the suspension and new Goodyear GS-D3s. All I can say is both are AWESOME! The suspension, matched with the superior tires, makes the car so much more predictable and tossable. It feels so flat now compared to the stock suspension. I can not wait for the track day!
Dave #3, who lives north of Seattle and has a Black S52 M Coupe, bought his car with a B&B Triflow exhaust. After a few months, he determined that it was too loud for him in day to day driving. He wound up getting a stock exhaust from someone, and I chirped up with a suggestion for what he should do with his old B&B! He brought it down the day before the Alfa track day. We met up with Dave #2 at Dennis' house to do the install, since he has a lift. I had planned on doing a dedicated writeup for the exhaust install, but it's really not worth it. It's really a very simple job. Simply remove and replace 8 bolts per side, move the hanger to the new exhaust, and that's it! I recommend replacing the exhaust gaskets though (part number 18 11 1 723 379. You need 2), and probably using new bolts (mine were totally rusted). After some musical British cars, we got the M Coupe up on the lift. So... how many Daves does it take to install an exhaust? Why three, of course!
Once we got the stock exhaust off, we decided it would be a pretty good idea to start the car without any exhaust and see what that sounded like. Pretty damn sweet, actually, as this video (5 meg AVI) demonstrates. I wouldn't mind running it like this :-) Once the B&B was installed we took another video (12.5 meg AVI) of the first start. And here are some pictures.
The left exhaust was centered almost perfectly in the hole in the bumper. However, the right wasn't anywhere close. We wound up installing washers on the various bolts to line it up pretty close. I'm going to have to fine tune this, because it still isn't perfect... Dave showed me how the openings of his bumper were melted a bit from the hot exhaust touching it... so I want to be sure they are pretty centered.
While we were under the car we took a look at the guibo. It has a small crack in it, by the upper right hand bolt in the picture, but this isn't really a problem just yet... I'll have to keep an eye on it.
The B&B is pretty nice. A very deep, rumbling sound. I still think I like the Supersprint better overall, but this is a certain improvement over stock, I think. Most of the noise happens under low acceleration, below 3000rpm. That's why I don't think the noise of it will really bother me. It's only marginally louder on the highway, but I've only had limited driving thus far. Thanks for the exhaust, Dave!