Friday, January 23, 2009

HSV GTS Fenders & Wheels have arrived

So thanks to 'Crazy Paul' over on and Holmart I now have the much coveted HSV GTS 20" Wheels and the HSV GTS Fenders to put on my g8! It will be a while before I'll be able to put them on due to serious lack of funds, but as soon as I do you know there will be a post up here with new pictures. For now here are some blurry cell-phone pictures of said items:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vector Motorsports Tune - Part II

When I first learned about 'tuning' I figured you had to have your car on a dyno. So when I first heard about Vector last year and their 'remote tuning' by sending you cables & software
I was a little unsure if they could really do a good job. However, concerns about how well they could tune remotely simply vanished when real-life numbers started appearing comparing dyno-tuned cars by others with Vector's numbers. Having a Vector Tune on my car now since August, and now freshly returned I've come to really appreciate Vector Motorsports a LOT for what they offer.

Yes "Technically" on the dyno you can tune much more precisely , but most places have no experience with G8s so they don't quite know what they're doing, Don't have experience with changing the Transmisison Settings on the 6L80 and basically tune for a high 'peak' horsepower number at WOT (Wide Open Throttle) with no regards to behavior during normal driving.

Vector on the other hand has tuned dozens of G8s already in all kinds of different configurations so they can provide base-maps for different Mod-Configurations (CAI, Exhaust etc) based on your specifications that will perform just great out of the box. Vector will even make themselves available if you want so you can be strapped on a dyno somewhere and they'll tune remotely while you're still strapped down so you can give real-time feedback. How's that for service?!

I initially got my tune a while ago which was a basic tune for just my intake. If you're interested in the process & results read my old post where I describe how their system works. This time it was time for a retune because of my new Torque Converter and exhaust upgrade to American Racing Headers. As I was close to Brandon/BobTheMonkee who was just getting his VMS cables around the time I was getting my headers installed he was kind enough to let me use them after him instead of me having to wait for them to be mailed out again.

Before the tune I noticed that the computer would be 'hunting' for the lockup point at times in the 'stock' converter with the rpms going up & down a range (usually around 1500). I mentioned this to Kirk and this was easily taken care off by simply giving him the specs on the new torque converter. I also told him I had the 1-7/8" American Racing headers so that the rear O2 sensors could be turned off (They will throw codes most likely otherwise because the High-Flow Cats take longer to heat up than the stock ones) and I wanted to change up the Torque Management a bit.

My old VMS Tune had 50% Torque Management in place so it's easier on the transmission etc when shifting. People have been playing with these numbers and reporting great results turning them way down (or completely off) so I decided to give this a try as well. I went with 40% in Drive (Normal driving a little better, but still very comfortable ) 20% in Sport (you really feel it shift and pushing you back in the seat) and 5% in Manual (Didn't want to go 0% but you definitely feel it!). I could probably go 10-0% all around if I get a retune though.

So how does the car run afterwards?

Well let's just say I accelerated so hard at one point that my radio front fascia actually came off....
You read that right! It...came... off... Now i do have to admit I accidentally broke ALL the clips that hold it in place so it just hangs by the connectors, but even so I find that pretty damn impressive! Taking off from a dead stop? Wheel spin guaranteed and Traction Control working overtime!

Also before when cruising at 60mph and standing on the gas the car would speed up, but it would be at a decent pace and at a certain point stop pulling. Now after the tune, before I know it I'm hitting 120+ in 4th gear and it's still pulling hard! Or how about the traction control coming on at 70mph when it shifts because it's sending that much power to the wheels? Good times! :D

Local shops around here keep bad-mouthing any 'canned-tune' or 'mailorder-tune' but Vector delivers! I'm just gonna have to really learn to take it easy and not accidentally end up side-ways/backwards (or worse; upside down) because this car now has GOBS of power, and it's ready to pounce!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

American Racing Headers

When it comes to exhaust choices for the G8 it can be overwhelming what to pick. Axle-Back? Cat-Back? Long Tube or Shorty Headers? Even if you know what you want done, what brand do you go with? I held out for quite some time making a decision to upgrade my exhaust after getting my Stolen Fox H-Pipe and Axle-Backs a while back. I was quite content with the sound and how they rumbled but were not overly loud. Obviously no power gains, but sound-wise I was happy.

During this time several new products were released such as the Magnaflow Cat-Backs which were a very popular choice, and also the ARH Headers. As time went on, SLP released their headers which would bolt up to the stock exhaust and Kooks came out with their headers ( & axlebacks). Since I wanted a full system (to the rear axles since I already had mufflers) the choice was between ARH and Kooks.

Based on user-experiences i found that ARH Provides EXCEPTIONAL customer service (even assisting people who bought competing brands who were having install problems or needed an extra part ASAP), Their products look & sounds amazing and are fantastic quality. Kooks, while a long time player in the header market seemed to drop the ball on initial construction & sound quality (people complaining about things not lining up, drone and/or twangy sounding exhaust) and customer service (people with issues not being responded to etc). While i'm sure Kooks has a 'good' product i decided to go with the American Racing Headers system in 1-7/8" since they really go above & beyond.

Here are some pictures of some of the components - I LOVE the detailed engraved plaque they put on! (since I forgot to take pictures, these are from other people's install :) )

Here's the Header next to the Stock exhaust Manifold & Cat:

I once again had Turbo Technologies in Tacoma do the install (yes should've done it at the same time as the converter, but several things prevented this from happening). They are normally 'Kooks fans' so to speak and somehow had never really heard of American Racing Headers (they thought it was a wheel company). Their initial 'concerns' about the quality of the kit were soon laid to rest when they dug in there and inspected all the parts. "Wow.. this is a really nice system!" I heard one of the mechanics say. Indeed it is! The quality truly is exceptional - it really makes the exhaust almost a piece of art!

Install should've been a breeze, and after roughly 4.5 hours I got the call they were on."Good" I think to myself - that's right about the amount of time I figured it should take. Shocker was that since they 'used two guys' I got charged 7 hours of labor!!! What the !?!? This for an install some people do in their driveway by themselves in 4-5 hours..... so I totally got raped on that one. The guy who installed the kit (main guy I guess...) came out and told me he was really impressed with the quality of the kit and it was so easy to install and that it fit like a glove.
Nick, the guy who runs the front office, said they were at least as good at the Kook's systems they usually install. I took that as a compliment coming from a hardcore Kooks-Fan ;)

Here are some pictures Nick @ Turbo Tech took of the actual install on my car - i'm SHOCKED how clean the bottom of the car is!:

My car hadn't been pulled out of the shop yet so as I'm waiting all of a sudden I hear this loud rumble... could it be? Oh yes, that was my car! As I look the car over and have it idle , the idle is REALLY rough and the guys are like "oh well it just needs to be tuned for the headers". Ok.. i'm a bit of a 'noob' when it comes to all this so i'm thinking 'ok' and take off.

I took it for a few passes up & down the street and something didn't seem quite right. When I had the Torque Converter put in I had gobs of power to spin the tires. Now, It sounded great albeit a little rough, but it simply would not make enough power. (video to follow). I take a peek under the hood, just focusing on the headers and they seem to be on alright. That's ok i'm thinking to myself, it must just be tuned for the headers. As i'm driving back to the office the car keeps idling rougher and rougher and the Check Engine Light came on. A few times it backfired and sounded like it was about to die.. what the hell, this just isn't right I think..

Somewhat irritated that after what altogether was a $1300 bill it's not running right I decide to email Kirk @ Vector what's going on and that i need a new tune ASAP and also call up the Master himself ,The man - Charlie! I describe the problem to both of them and they both almost instantly reply with "yeah you've got a misfire going on". Probably causes would be cracked spark plug or disconnected plug wires. With Charlie still on the phone I go out to the car and as i'm going through the plug wires what do I find? The middle 2 on the passenger side are sticking out by at least an inch too far! Son of a.....

As i'm trying to fiddle with them to push them back in all of sudden I feel a sharp pain, hear a sizzling sound and all of a sudden smell some kind of baked pork product..Hmm is someone grilling a piece of spam? I'm getting hungry... oh, wait...OUCH! Charlie says: "oh yeah and you may want to check this when your car has cooled down! Otherwise it'll be hot if you accidentally touch the headers!" ehmm Thanks Charlie, but too late! as i notice I am missing my fingerprints on two fingers. I start it up again and the car sounds ROCK SOLID all of a sudden, though it still has the occasional dip under 500rpm which makes it stumble. Ok we're all good I think!

Next day i'm driving and it's still throwing the Check Engine Light and the weird idle is still there. Hmmmm I suddenly remember reading something by 'BobTheMonkee' and 'WreckWriter' how for both of them when they had work on their car done their Roto-fab had come apart and was now showing that behavior. I pop the hood and (for the first time since getting all this installed) really pay attention to my intake. What do you know, the hump hose was basically completely disconnected! This must have happened when they pulled the transmission which causes the engine to lean back a bit.

Ok so I fix this on the spot, restart the car and smooth as silk without any stumbles and best of all, NO Check Engine Light! Ok now the real testing can begin. The rest of the drive was amazing.

My initial concerns with the Stolen Fox Axle-Backs were that they'd be too loud!
But when idling or cruising the car almost sounds like before and it's only when I really step on the gas it gets loud (and it gets L O U D ). Though the fun part is, it's not loud inside the car at all, but outside you can hear the car blocks away if you're in the 3000rpm+ zone. That's basically a perfect combination in my mind!

The sound is hard to describe - the H-Pipe gave my car more of a muscle-car kind of sound , that classic "bup-bup-bup-bup" sound. This setup has that sound at idle, but when you get higher up in the RPM band it sounds more like really bad-ass Growl/Scream. From what i've read this is one of the main differences between H-Pipe and X-Pipe, and in the end i definitely love the sound.

The car definitely has more power and pickup as well, and the infamous butt-dyno says "quite a bit more!" Now traction on even dry roads is becoming an issue when stepping on the gas, so it's quite easy now to break out the rear end when taking corners etc. Going to have to get used to that and take it easy :)

All in all, the ARH Headers are what i consider the ultimate upgrade to your exhaust and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for a better sound (even with stock mufflers they sound great!) and a good 30hp+ gain!

Circle-D Torque Converter

When writing up a review it's always hard to come with good descriptive terms that convey what the experience is like. In case of the Circle-D Torque Converter my initial reaction is best described by Peter Boyle, who played Frank Barone in the Tv-Show 'Everybody loves Raymond'. His catch-phrase? "HOLY CRAP!"

Some people who are not that much into cars may not even understand what a torque converter is. The Converter is what transfers the power from the Engine to the Transmission. It basically is comparable to a clutch in a manual transmission car. And we all know that if you step on the gas and rev up the RPMs before releasing the clutch you get a lot more power to the wheels than if you were to release the clutch at a lowly 1000 rpm. Going with an aftermarket converter is similar to this; it provides a way for the engine to raise the rpms to a certain spot (the stall speed of the converter) so that you're at that sweet-spot in the rpm band faster. (warning: the above explanation may not be 100% accurate and is just to clarify the basic principles to people who are not familiar with torque converters ;) )

Circle-D has been synonymous with quality converters for quite some time now in Ford,GM and Chrysler markets. They have a track record for products that can take abuse over and over using quality Billet front ends and Lock Up Pistons. When we first started looking into available torque converters for the G8 we were basically left with 3 big names: Yank, Precision Industries, and Circle-D. While they all make 'good' products, based on comments & experiences we felt that Circle-D was above & beyond these other converters.

Circle-D offers 3 levels of converters for the Pontiac G8 (6L80 transmission). They are:
  • Billet Street Series - Stage I
    Billet Front & Billet Lock Up Piston
    Fully Furnace Brazed & Hand Tig Welded
    High Carbon Lock-Up Clutch
    Lightweight Design ~ 30lbs
    Heavy Duty Roller Clutch
    9.5" 245mm - Stalls from 2500-4000
    Rated up to ~450 RWHP
  • Billet Racer Series - Stage II
    Custom Billet Front & Billet Lock Up Piston
    Fully Furnace Brazed & Hand Tig Welded
    Lightweight Design ~ 30lbs
    Rigid Billet Front Cover
    Anti Balloon Reinforcement Spokes
    All Torrington Needle Bearings - 3 Bearing Design
    High Carbon Lock Up Clutch
    Heavy Duty Roller Clutch
    9.5" 245mm - Stalls from 2500-5000
  • Billet Pro Series - Stage III
    Custom Billet Front & Billet Lock Up Piston
    Fully Furnace Brazed & Hand Tig Welded
    Unique Square Tab Design on Clutches Prevents Rattle
    Lightweight Design ~ 34bs
    Rigid Billet Front Cover
    Anti Balloon Reinforcement Spokes
    All Torrington Needle Bearings - 3 Bearing Design
    Heavy Duty Roller Clutch
    10" & 9.5" 245mm - Stalls from 2500-5000
    100 Square Inches of Clutch Lining
    And look at their statement for their Stage III: WOT Lock-Up - We dare you to break it!!
I had received mine a while ago, but just had not yet had the opportunity to get it installed. Since I'm new to the entire torque converter thing and had no clue what I wanted/needed I had Charlie come up with a good spec for my car & future plans. He and Chris @ Circle-D ended up going with a 2800 RPM stall speed and slightly larger with 258mm. It comes in an attractive black color (not that you'll see it after it's installed, but at least it avoids the 'pink inside' jokes like with some other converters ;) )

I had it installed by a local shop who had never worked on a G8 before (Turbo Technology in Tacoma,WA) and their quote was for 7 hours of labor at $85/hr. (I'll do a separate write-up on my experiences with them). I had read before about yank/precision saying you needed to break the converter in by 'casual' driving for the first 100 at least. So i took it easy.... until i was out of their parking lot!

Just as a comparison, beforehand if I wanted to spin my tires I would have to brake torque and then get going. If I just stomped on the gas from a deadstop, the tires would 'squeak' just a little and that'd be it.

The street was empty so I just stood on the gas, no brake torquing or anything. Instantly the RPMs shot up like a rocket and besides a roaring engine I heard the lovely squeal/swooshing sound of tires spinning on blacktop. It took off like a rocket going sideways & spinning tires through 2nd... HOOOOOLY CRAP! This thing definitely put a perma-grin on my face the rest of the day! I did several more passes down the street with and without traction control and either way this thing will have you sideways before you now it. I noticed (though this may be purely me imagining things) also that when cruising on the freeway and stepping on it, it gets to the 3000-5000rpm range way quicker.

At this point it's actually HARD to keep traction if I step on it from a dead-stop so i'll have to learn to 'roll into' the throttle instead if I want a good 0-60 time, but it's just too much fun to stand on it and break out the rear-end!

It totally transformed the car into a MUCH more fun/responsive car to drive and i would recommend this to ANYONE looking to improve their driving experience.

So if you're in the market for a Torque Converter I Highly recommend Circle-D!

Voice - 713-895-8834

Fax - 713-895-0636

13807 Aston St. Houston TX. 77040