Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Head In The Clouds

In  June of 2001, the Mainstream Film Company released The Fast and the Furious movie.  For those of us who were already auto enthusiasts at the time, it was one of the better automotive movies to date and it only helped to increase our enthusiasm for cars.  For those who were seeing a different side of the automotive world for the first time, it was eye opening.  What was really special about the first Fast and Furious movie, was the fact that it featured mainstream/affordable cars.  It meant that the car that your parents made you drive, what most would consider to be a lousy Japanese econobox, could actually be cool!  Not only that, but it didn’t take a college degree to figure out how to make it fast.  This perception, that when modified, everyday cars could be just as quick and desirable as expensive cars, opened the door to a wide range of new automotive enthusiasts.  

One of those enthusiasts was Wil.  After seeing The Fast and the Furious movie, he was instantly hooked, and his first car, a 1998 Honda Civic, was quickly embellished with a Black Widow body kit, and 18” wheels.  From there, things snowballed as he continued to modify anything he could get his hands on.  His new found passion for modifying cars would lead him to work at several dealerships, and then on to specialty performance shops, all the while continuing to modify his own cars and motorcycles. 

After heavily modifying one of his own motorcycles, he realized that in order to get the most out of the modifications, he would have to take it to a track.  This led him to attend several track days and eventually official competition.  He began his racing career by joining the Central Motorcycle Road Racing Association.  Only a year after joining, he took third place in the local endurance series.  As he developed his skills as a rider and became a consistent podium finisher, even winning several races, he decided to upgrade to a larger bike.  This turned out to be a premature decision and a mistake, so he traded the new bike for an Aprilia SXV550 Supermoto.  Success in Supermoto didn’t come as easy, and as he continued to struggle, a fellow friend and racer suggested he pursue Hill climb racing instead, specifically the Pike Peak Hill climb.
Every year, during June, the motor racing elite gather in the Rocky Mountains outside Colorado Springs, Colorado to participate in one of the most important races of the year, the Pike Peak International Hill Climb.  This race has been taking place every year for the last 100 years, albeit a brief hiatus during World War 1 and 2, and is the second oldest American motorsport event.  The course is comprised of 12.42 miles of paved roads with 156 turns, as it ascends the 14,115ft Pikes Peak.  Today, professional teams and racers from around the world come with custom built machines to tackle the mountain course.  It is an exclusive event, only allowing 100 applicants to participate each year.  This did not intimidate Wil in the slightest, and in 2012, he took his friends advice and participated in his first race at Pike Peak.  The event had a profound effect on him.  During the event, he realized that racing was his true passion, and Pikes Peak was his new favorite venue.  Immediately after the event, he quit his job and founded his own race shop, IDB Racing.  His goal was to provide repair, maintenance, restoration, and race build/race prep services for luxury, high-end, exotic, and high-performance automobiles, but ultimately providing himself with the perfect environment to further pursue his desire for racing. 

Even though motorcycles played a huge role in fast-tracking his racing career, Wil’s heart remained in a driver’s seat.  From the very beginning, he was a big Honda fan.  When he first got involved in the automotive tuning world, the internet community was not the invaluable tool that it is today, so he had to rely on the local community for help.  However, there was one web forum that he was able to find early on that was very helpful, called  Even though Wil doesn’t consider himself a ‘forum guy’, since joining, he has received a lot of help, and has even made several close friendships with the people from the forum.  In fact, that is how his first generation CRX story began.

It was a 1984 Honda CRX that had been owned and raced by several members of the forum.  The car ended up in the possession of a friend of Wil’s who had purchased it with the hopes of building the ultimate 1G, but got trapped in the swirling toilet bowl of domestic life, and had to punt.  He did however, have it long enough to acquire a large cache of rare and expensive parts for the car.  After deciding that he would never be able to finish the car, he tried selling it with no success.  As desperation took over, he offered the whole lot to Wil for a price he just couldn’t refuse.  

The offer from his Hondaswap friend came at a unique time.  With the shop just being opened, and the thrills of his Pikes Peak experience still coursing through his veins, he was in the hunt for an older project car that would have one purpose and one purpose only, to conquer Pikes Peak.  “I thought it would be cool to build the crap out of an old car that isn’t typically seen at events like that and see how far we could take it… and attempt to set the FWD record up the mountain in one of the (if not the) oldest car at the event.”  Even though working on a car this old would have its challenges, he knew that this was the opportunity he was looking for.
The original plan for the car was to create a mid-engine, rear wheel drive monster, but that quickly changed after receiving the news that his application to participate in the 100th anniversary Pikes Peak event was accepted.  Since the race was only months away, Wil decided to temporarily abandon the mid-engine idea and replace it with a swapped turbo concept. 

The build started late in 2015, and with the race being in June of the following year, the timeline was going to be tight.  Unfortunately, things didn’t start smoothly.  The build was delayed several months while Wil and his team were waiting for a sequential shift setup that they had ordered from an Australian company. The company in question ended up giving them the run-around and never supplied the parts.  Since the engine and transmission selection for the car was dependent on what kind of shift setup they were able to obtain, the issue with this particular parts supplier kept the entire build from starting until April of 2016.  Yes, that’s two months before the race.  Not only did they encounter issues with the shifter company, but they had several other suppliers and vendors back out on them as well.  So with time and the odds stacked against them, the build officially began.  

The first thing to tackle was the body.  Everything that was able to be removed from the unibody, without compromising its structural integrity, was removed.  The factory suspension mounting points however, were left intact.  Custom engine mounts were fabricated to hold the customized B-series engine setup about 6-7” rearward of the factory engine location.  A Denver-based aerodynamics company, Brooks Motorsport, in conjunction with a 3-D scanning company, digitally scanned a scale model of the car in order to design and manufacture the front and rear spoilers.  The Housman body kit that came with the car was extensively modified to allow proper airflow and down-force.
As the body work continued, the next major task was the drive-train.  Wil and his team ended up building two engines for the car, and not just to have a spare one in case the first one blew up.  The first engine they built was a B-series stroker motor that threw a rod during testing, two weeks before the race.  Somehow they were able to build the B-series turbo setup that you see in the images, in less than two weeks.
They started with a B16A and threw the parts book at it (as far as their limited budget allowed them to).  It received a Portflow ported GSR head with a BC valve train, CP pistons, BC rods, and VTECH was deleted with a set of Ferrea roller rockers and a pair of custom 4Piston Racing camshafts.  Attached to the front of the block is a one-off turbo setup that consists of a hand-made “265 PPIHC” equal-length twin-scroll v-band manifold by LoveFab, a Garret GT307r Turbo, and dual Tial MVS wastegates.  To cool the air entering the engine, a custom water-to-air intercooler was installed in the passenger seat area.  It is connected to the 70mm throttle body and Edelbrock Victor X intake manifold by a set of HosePimp silicone hoses and clamps.  For fuel delivery, the intake manifold is garnished with a set of Donkee Power Injection 1000cc injectors that are fed by an AEM 380 fuel pump in an Integrated Engineering surge tank.  The AEM 380 is also fed by another Walboro 267 pump with fuel from an 8 gallon ATL fuel cell.   To cool the engine, air is channeled to the rear-mounted radiator via two large air scoops (originally designed for the Ford Mustang) that are mounted where the rear side windows would normally be.  The coolant is forced through custom aluminum piping and into the engine by a Meizere electronic water pump.

Engine performance is managed by an AEM Infinity standalone unit that was tuned by Jason 'Stoopid' Herrera of Stoopidfast.  It sends commands through a RyWire Infinity MilSpec Plug-n-Play harness that is protected by a RyWire race fuse box.  For further control and data visibility, Wil and his team also installed a GaugeART module that plugs into the wiring harness via an AEMnet connector, and a $40 ebay monitor.  He was reluctant to go this route since most teams use Racepak units, but the setup turned out to perform very well in the end. 

After the engine and drivetrain were sorted out, Wil and his team moved on to the chassis.  A full set of Tein Medieval Pro coilovers, 31mm torsion bars, Medieval Pro billet camber/caster plates and Energy suspension bushings, from Heeltoe Automotive, were installed.  Luckily, Wil was also able to obtain a set of rare Mugen racing sway bars that rounded off the suspension setup nicely.  The factory rear axle was swapped out for an Integra axle of the same vintage that was supplied with all new brake hardware.  Unfortunately, when the factory brake calipers were removed and disposed of, the e-brake cables were tossed as well, causing Wil to run the entire event without a parking brake.  Not an easy thing to do when much of the area is made up of steep grades.  The factory front brakes were replaced with 98 Civic hardware and Hawk pads, and the hubs were swapped for Karcepts hubs in order to fit the larger-splined axle shafts.  Thankfully this setup allowed the maximum braking performance while also allowing the Hoosier A7 wrapped, 13x10” Panasport wheels to fit over them. 

All of this, including the last task of adding a racing seat, 6-point harness and window net from Ultra Shield safety equipment, was completed in a matter of weeks, and with very little time remaining, the race weekend was upon them.

The race weekend started out much like the build had begun; with major challenges.  Shortly after arriving, one of the Panasport wheels developed a crack which led to a JB Weld repair job in a parking lot.  Then during the first practice, the engine blew a head gasket.  But Wil and his team just kept rolling with the punches just like they did during the build process.  They didn’t come this far just to be sent home with their tail between their legs. 

Race day had finally arrived and it was time to accomplish what they had come to do, conquer the mountain.  Their scheduled start time was 1:00pm, but by early afternoon, as per usual Colorado weather, the rain-clouds had rolled in.  The weather delayed the IDB team’s start until after 3pm.  That was no matter though.  As with most storms in Colorado, they leave as quickly as they come, and with a freshly dried track and the boost turned all the way up, Wil left the starting gate leaving spectators in a cloud of dust and screaming engine noise.  The first two thirds of the run went very well.  The car was tearing up the mountain like a bat out of hell, and Wil was leaving it all on the mountain.  However, as the race timer stuck 6:20, so did fate.  The engine finally let go, leaving a trail of coolant to the place where Wil brought the car to a stop.  It was over.  The IDB team may not have posted a time that day, but they did what they came to do.  They left it all on the mountain.  Wil’s short but amazing journey led him to a quiet place above the tree line where the views go on for miles.  His dreams had led him into the clouds, and I can only hope he keeps aiming for them.  Only time will tell what other incredible things he will be able to accomplish.  Awesome job!

Videos of the run:

Additional sources:


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