Back in Oct 2011, after I had posted the “Dummies guide to modification”, I got bombarded with questions that could have been easily answered had they bothered to read what I had posted. But nevermind, no harm in informing a fellow enthusiast on how best to modify their car.
One question however popped up a lot : “I drive an auto [insert car manufacturer] and I feel it’s not enough power. How do I modify my car?”
Back then when I was still driving my 3-speed auto, I believed the torque converter still had potential and that it could still give manuals a run for their money, if done right.
How wrong I was.
This is what it used to look like. Simple P, R, N, D, 2 and L. D and 2 being used the most, I had thoroughly abused this indestructible gearbox sometimes hitting the rev limiter whenever the need arised (you never really need to hit the limiter, it just sounds cool. Sorta). Back then, my car was named “Sharon” because that was the first name that came to mind when I first bought her. Reliable, sexy and completely manageable.
A friend of mine called me up and said “My car’s going to my sister. Wanna swap gearboxes? Just pay for workmanship.”
Are you bloody kidding me? Do I need my kidney? Of course I want to swap gearboxes for almost free!
Meet Sid Tan. He’s a good bloke and quite the mechanic. 3 days to swap out our gearboxes and all the little bits and pieces. 3 days. Alone. Hats off to this crazy bugger who accepted our request and kudos to his excellent handiwork!
If you’re not DIYing stuff, it’s always good to find a reliable mechanic. (Having said that, it doesn’t mean DIYing is perfect, I came across a thread in ZTH that had the confessions of hardcore DIYers and their failures) Especially when you haven’t the tools to get things done. I didn’t for one have the time or tools to do this gearbox swap and personally it would’ve taken me a month bare minimum. Probably because I’d be anal about keeping my house floor clean and chip-free.
Now that she’s got a new set of gears, ‘Sharon’ seemed an inappropriate name. No longer was she easy to handle where you just give her a little nudge and she’ll waft off into the direction you point her to. She now had to be coaxed with a clutch and put her in the wrong gear, she’ll scream at you until you re-clutch and prod her into the appropriate gear.
Alice on the other hand is the real man’s car. 3-pedals and you always have the last say on whether she screams ecstatically “REV ME HARDERRRR, MORE MORE MORE!” or gives off a slow and mild cough, sputtering off in the most unassuming way.
I know modern cars these days have dual clutches that shift in nanoseconds or superb DSG gearboxes that change gears so fast and so seamlessly you hardly notice the change, but ask any hardcore driver… Manuals rule.
I’ve already done a dyno when my car was still Sharon. Soon I’ll re-dyno Alice once I sort out the ignition timing and cam angle to squeeze out the maximum amount of orgasmic pleasure I can get from her.
I’ll continue this story later when Alice is dyno ready. Till then, here’s the advice to all newbies out there looking to modify your car :
Forget the airfilters, the camshafts and whatever. As long as your car is auto, that’ll be the biggest bottleneck you’ll have. Swap that out to a manual then only start on the other things. Torque converters sap as much as 30% of your base horsepower whereas manuals only up to 15%. That’s sh*tloads.
Get a third pedal!