Car modding for dummies… again?

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 daysAlone. 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.

Meet Alice.

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!

  • S
  • Sep 26, 2012
Totally Agree.......back then when I converted my ride to a manual GB, I released an additional 15whp and >30Nm of wheel torque.....imagine to increase in power and throttle response ;)
  • S
  • Sep 26, 2012
Well, just in case if U've not done this. There is a slight difference between the manual and auto trans chassis where the air cond vent is being mounted.

It's also where your clutch pedal vertical bolts is suppose to mount as well. The auto bracket has to be drilled out and manual bracket rivet(at least) in for the 3rd bolts.

This bracket can be easily obtained from the EVO/Lancer(manual) chassis from the halfcut junk yard at no cost, but installing it is a mess. Need to remove the dashboard and fold the carpet on the firewall. Then drill out the auto bracket and put in the manual bracket. Can either drill holes and rivet or MIG tack weld.

If drill and rivet, beware of drill debris entering the sockets and electronic components.
If weld, beware of heat in contact with carpet and wires.

So, in the case of clutch pedal sinking, u know where to hunt for the gin.

Happy modding.
  • I
  • Sep 26, 2012
Thanks mate. That bracket was already sorted earlier!
  • D
    Danial Leroux
  • Sep 26, 2012
this is awesome..i need more post like this
  • S
  • Sep 27, 2012
Welcome. Avoid tying brackets onto the steering racks.
  • W
  • Oct 15, 2012
hye all,i own a 4dr civic with d15 carb engine,the engine is still great if we rev it hard enuf tho it lack of power n had some leaking here n there,bcos it still in a gud condition,im thinking of changing the standard carb wif weber carb,i wonder wil it be any better..?
n 1 more thing is,can my carb be replace with injection system by using small vtec d15 head and all the wiring..? n how much will it cost..?

  • D
  • Oct 23, 2012
FYI, inspira 1.8 manual makes more/similar whp compared to the 2.0 auto cvt