To quickly recap the 2018 season, we ran at two Champcar events: The “24 Hours of Nelson” at Nelson Ledges, and the “2018 Cookie Cutter Classic” at Gingerman Raceway. The car performed moderately well throughout the season, leading us to our best finish (16th overall) in our final race. However, there was still plenty of items left on the to do list, and with the Michigan winter in full effect, it was time to get to work.
The car was back in the shop and it was time for inspection.
- The car was leaking water, something we had already discovered at the Gingerman Champcar event. Upon pressurizing the cooling system, we were relieved to discover it was only a crack in the plastic radiator end tank and not a leaky head gasket.
- The fuel filler neck was close to leaking, a recurring theme thanks to the excess body roll in the rear. We fabricated a few sheet metal shields to protect the hose, but by the end of each race the shield was typically worn through from contact with the inner edge of the wheel and tire.
- The inner tie rods were trashed along with two wheels after bumping a Miata, compliments of yours truly.
- The stud securing the steering rack brace snapped, leaving the rack only half attached on one side.
- The driver’s front knuckle had a slowly growing rust hole, but after owning a handful of NG900’s, we had more than a few spares.
- The transmission went from bad to worse as the season progressed, rendering third and fourth gear practically unusable.
- And just like any other race, there was a slew of maintenance items that had to be attended to.
The first task at hand was a new radiator. The AC condenser and stock oil cooler were already removed, so with the additional room, we decided to order an aftermarket all aluminum radiator. The aluminum design was more robust, allowed for welded repairs, and after all, bigger is always better right? The stock core support had to be chopped, but nothing a welder and some angle aluminum couldn’t fix.
The next issue we decided to tackle was the transmission. Thanks to that handful of 900’s we owned, we had a couple spares, but both were plagued with the same issue. The search for new or rebuilt versions came up empty. We had no other choice but to tackle the rebuild ourselves. We ordered up some OE synchros, gaskets and O-rings and got to work.
The differential also received some special treatment; a few thick beads of filler rod to lock up the axles to help us pull out of corners. No more one tire fires this year! Expect to see a full write-up of the rebuild process once we get it all reassembled, installed, and know it actually works 😂.
Our next install was a long awaited upgrade, something that not only fixes our filler neck issue, but allows us to run longer stints, adds reliability, and helps the weight balance of the car. You guessed it, a fuel cell.
The installation is still a work in progress, but the plan is to mount the cell where the spare tire once was, run an external fuel pump for ease of maintenance, install a hydro mat to offer access to every drop of fuel in the tank, and replace our current soft lines with hard fuel lines to decrease the likelihood of sustaining any damage. The filler neck will be replaced with a 2.5″ hose mounted straight out of the c-pillar.
Lastly, were the suspension, steering, and maintenance items. We began by drilling a hole in the firewall to install a grade 10.9 bolt to secure the steering rack, hopefully once and for all this time. The old damaged tie rods were swapped with a spare set that boasted freshly installed inner tie rod bushings, alignment screws, and tie rod ends. We swapped the strut and spring from the rusted knuckle; installing a new wheel bearing and hub in the process.
Additionally, we installed new bearing and hubs in the rear as preventative maintenance. Judging by the amount of rust, I’d be willing to bet they were on there for quite some time.
We have our sights set on an opening track day at Gingerman sometime in April, so for any followers who plan to be there, hit us up! We’d love to chat with any fellow gearheads. As for the 9-3 ‘Vert mentioned in our first article, it is deep into prep, and you’ll surely hear more about it as it prepares for its 2019 Champcar debut.