Project JDMVette is complete, running, and race tested but far from over.
Photo courtesy of Chump Car World Series.
Our race team put on a great showing at the Chump Car invitational race at Iowa Speedway. We completed all 25 hours of racing and ended up 19th out of 47 cars after completing over 1,300 laps. Our problems were relatively minor excluding the final hour of the race. The oil cooler in the RF wheel well caught a rock in the final hours of the race. We didn’t have time to protect it with a wire mesh in the last minute scramble to get the car together in time for the race. Simply looping the lines at the motor solved that issue. The motor was also consuming water for some unknown reason, so we had to refill the radiator a couple times in the final hour of the race. We will have to see if the radiator had a pinhole leak or the headgasket went bad and was seeping water into the combustion chamber. The brakes are another area of concern. We are turning way faster laps with the new motor swap and we are exceeding the capability of the stock brakes. The solid front rotors can’t dissipate the heat generated slowing the car from triple digit speeds and become heat soaked in a hurry.
Overall, the car performed extremely well for its first race. An exotic motor swap with zero testing lasting 25 hours in brutal racing conditions is a great building block for a successful racecar in the future.
This will be a quick and dirty post as I’m currently sitting in the pits at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa for the National Champion ship race.
The JDMVette survived the first day of racing, 12 hours of abuse in all, with only a few minor issues. The weather was horrendous with off and on downpours through out the day. The rain ended up leaking through the lexan windshield directly onto the fuel relay for the ECU. A makeshift repair of a plastic grocery bag taped around the offending part got us back in business. The air filter sticking through the core support was great for getting cold air, it also ended up being great at ingesting water. A duct tape bridge between the bumper and hood was enough to shield the filter and MAS from most of the water.
Other than those minor issues the car has been solid and has gotten us to 21st place out of 48 cars if I counted correctly. We lost a Tom of ground in the standings because we ran 30 minute sessions for each driver at the beginning of the race instead of the maximum 2 hours. We wanted to ensure every driver had a better chance at driving at least once in case the car blew up in spectacular fashion.
Lastly, I don’t think a Chevette hood was designed with a turbo in mind. The paint was discolored pretty badly after 12 hours of racing.
The progress on the construction of project JDMVette continues on. We came up with an unorthodox solution to help keep the motor cool while we flog it around a race track for hours on end. We added an intercooler to help cool the hot air the turbo will be pumping out but we didn’t install it in the usual manner or use the usual materials. This car really limits us on space and the type of racing we’re doing really limits our budget. What follows is how we managed to stay within those requirements and help extend the longevity of our motor in the process.
The Chevette chassis really limited our options for intercooler placement. Most cars use a front mount system to ensure maximum cooling capability from a steady supply of fresh air. We wouldn’t have that luxury as there isn’t any room for the intercooler in addition to the radiator. Seeing other cars, such as Subarus, use a top mount system led us to seeing if that would work for us. Luckily, the cowl area was very similar in size to the beat up intercooler core we had. Body mounts were constructed out of 1/2″ steel tubing to position the intercooler where we needed it.
Once the core was in place, we scavenged the radiator hoses from the drivetrain donor chassis and repurposed them to route the turbocharged air where we needed it.
It’s not an ideal solution but it’s not a bad result of a $20 intercooler and scavenged parts being thrown together.
As our race team continues the mammoth effort of swapping in a Mitsubishi four cylinder motor into a Chevrolet Chevette we decided to follow what NASCAR did recently and convert our carbureted fuel system to fuel injection.
This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Our car runs a fuel cell, so adding the requirements for fuel injection is far easier than adapting a factory OEM fuel tank. There was one concern though, most fuel injection gas tanks have baffling around the fuel pump pickup to help prevent fuel starvation. Fuel starvation can lead to the engine running lean and causing catastrophic damage. This isn’t an issue for carb engines as the float bowl on the carb itself acts as a miniature reservoir for the fuel supply. We needed to add our own reservoir to prevent any fuel starvation under sustained cornering at the race track. Luckily, many racers have already solved this problem and have come up with a mass market solution called the surge tank. Adding one to our setup took a bit of planning and a couple of shipments from Summit Racing.
Our surge tank would provide the proper reservoir for the fuel injection pump but we need to ensure the tank is full by using a low pressure feeder pump that pulls from the fuel cell.
Once the surge tank has the required fuel, we need to give the fuel injectors the fuel they need at the required pressure they need. To do this we bought an inline EFI fuel pump and mounted a fuel filter between it and the surge tank.
Once we got the high pressure fuel into the fuel rail and fuel injectors, we needed a way to regulate the fuel pressure the motor would see. To accomplish this we mounted a fuel pressure regulator in the engine bay and plumbed it into to the fuel rail. The regulator will also ramp up the fuel pressure as boost rises when we plug in a vacuum reference line from the intake manifold. More boost is more air going into the engine, which needs more fuel to keep the needed air fuel ratio.
The regulator keeps the fuel pressure at the the proper level by returning whatever fuel isn’t needed to the surge tank. Running a line from the FPR back to the surge tank completes the fueling circuit and also completes the conversion to fuel injection for our fuel setup in the Chevette.
Our project has taken its first step in a very long journey, we got the motor and transmission situated in the car. Getting things in place is only one of many, many things required to pull off a motor swap but it was a pretty big step for our build. We weren’t completely sure the damn thing would even fit in our car. The block had been in the car previously, but we never had a complete drive train to stuff into the chassis. Luckily, the Mustang T5 transmission fit in the tunnel and nothing vital was in the way of another vital part. Sure, we had to ditch the front sway bar but that’s optional. Right?
Jockeying the motor into the proper position was not the most elegant thing ever witnessed but it was functional. We verified the orientation of our motor to insure it would operate happily for a long time to come. It’s not perfect, but the motor sits pretty close to where it should considering the tight confines of the Chevette chassis.
There isn’t a lot of wasted space after we dropped the 4G63 into the engine bay. The Mitsubishi engineers were kind enough to clearance the factory oil pan for the downpipe, which nicely clears the steering rack in our car. The intake manifold also nicely clears the stock brake master cylinder (the first time I was glad we didn’t have power brakes) and the shifter almost lines up with the stock cut out.
Motor mount fabrication was pretty simple as I cheated and used stock Eclipse mounts as a starting point. We then chopped them up to conform to the stock chassis mounts and welded on plates to tie everything together. The transmission mount wasn’t anything fancy either, just some flat stock that was bent to mate the stock cross member to the transmission.
Once everything was bolted back together, the motor was finally resting in place on its own. Now we just need to address the million other issues required to fire this thing up and it’ll be ready to move under its own power.
Our endurance racer is starting the transformation into a one of a kind, unique vehicle that no sensible person would ever dream of creating.
After the car’s maiden voyage on the race track at Iowa Speedway, we learned a couple things. The first was that the stock 1.6 liter four cylinder engine is able to withstand 24 hours of abuse at the hands of four sleep deprived amateur racers. The second thing we learned was that the stock 1.6 liter four cylinder is only marginally faster than walking at a brisk pace as witnessed in this in car video. Check your speaker volume before starting the video, there’s a bit of wind noise.
After our team had accomplished its goal of finishing a race at Iowa, we set our sights higher. The 1.6 motor had served admirably but it just didn’t have what it took to duke it out against the myriad BMWs we were facing. We needed a different solution. After racking our brains and searching for dirt cheap cars on craigslist we came upon an idea.
We figured buying an old beat up Mitsubishi Eclipse, tearing out the engine, and stuffing it into the Chevette engine bay seemed like a good way to go. Surprisingly it fits.
Over the next few weeks I plan on documenting the engine swap and our efforts at bringing Project JDMvette to life.