Even though I retired long ago, I’m still on a distribution list for visitor message alerts on DSMtuners. If some illiterate stroke firebombs your profile over there and you click the alert button, I get an email. Can’t do anything about it and tend to ignore them, but a morbid sense of curiosity had me clicking through on one the other day.
I’m glad I did. Today, GBXM shares the story of a gearhead building with conviction and purpose.
Introduce yourself. Who are you, where do you live, what do you do for a living, and what do you drive?
My Name is Chris Essman. I live in Chicago, Illinois, USA. I work at a large telecom group providing emergency management for a few states, their various agencies, and a couple constituent companies.
I have two project vehicles, both of which were undergoing constant metamorphosis until last year.
The one getting all my attention lately is a 1992 Mitsubishi Eclipse GST which I intend to use for “Standing Mile” passes and hope to progress on to Land Speed events.
The other is a 1.5L 2008 Honda Fit Sport that I daily drive but have some plans for, that I at least find exciting. It has already had one home-made turbo kit on it and I am currently designing a compound (or staged) turbo system involving a trio of stock DSM turbos (two T25s as the primary stage and a 14B as the secondary) that I have laying around.
We’ll get to that later if you find it pertinent or interesting, provided the rest of this doesn’t exhaust you… haha. [Editor’s note: We WILL be talking to Chris about the triple-turbo Fit in the near future. COUNT ON IT.]
Both of which I see as a sort of tribute to my late father, who succombed to end-stage esophageal cancer in January after an absolutely brutal two and a half year battle.
He would’ve been 65 this past March, taken well before his time. My father had an avid love for intellectual pursuits and a brilliant mind for engineering, something he did his best to have instilled in me. At least I would like to believe so. This was something he had always supported me with and encouraged me to push my understanding of, saying if I hadn’t broken anything I wasnt trying hard enough. Sure enough between a few friends we have a “wall of shame” with a whole host of parts that either failed us.. or we failed them.
And thats where these two cars come in. They are my rolling engineering experiments, multi-discipline endeavors that provide a constant challenge, and headache.
The real goal above all else is to build a car that I can drive under its own power a couple states over, make a few full bore passes at the mile tracks, change the oil, put the all-season rubber back on and putter home suffering as little carnage as is possible.
I fully realize how silly this sounds to Standing Mile and LSR veterans of course. Especially when my secondary goals are to eventually pull off a 200mph Standing Mile, as well as 225mph on pavement at Loring in Maine and 200mph on the salt at Bonneville.
These tracks are a ways from Chicagoland. Would you still look to drive the race car all that way and back? Aside from not having a ride home after a DNF, what other risks do you see in driving the race car long distances to the track? Would you retain HVAC functionality, a radio, any creature comforts? How might your desire to maintain streetability impact your ultimate performance goals on the track?
I do have a vehicle I can tow the car with, and I will have a trailer which I intend to haul tools, camping gear, parts, fluids and equipment. The plan though is to keep this car street legal and “streetable,” though that is an extremely subjective term.
The car does not have heat or A/C, even though most of the time I drive my DSMs it is during Chicago’s brutal summers. I am debating on putting a radio in, but I doubt I would be able to hear it over the fender-exit exhaust or even the 4.5″ straight pipe I am having made for street duty.
As far as driving a car like this great distances? Certainly there is the worry of an incident, or failure with extended street duty. But in all honesty I have not had much difficulty with daily-driving modified/heavily modified cars. Even on my current 17 mile commute (one way).
A temporary work engagement from late April through early July of 2011 had me commuting at minimum 40 miles from the far North East side of Cook County towards the Lombard/Joliet Area and often as far South as Kankakee/Bradley which is about 80 miles each way. At the time both my cars were modified. The Honda Fit had a second harnd journal-bearing GT2560 being tuned with a set of DSM 450cc injectors and an AEM FIC-6, and the Plymouth was powered with ECMLink V3, FIC1450cc injectors a couple fuel pumps, meth injection kit and sporting a 59mm Borg Warner S200sx in a variety of turbine housings.
I was experimenting with drive vs. boost pressure at the time so the Plymouth was constantly apart and put back together, but neither had ever left me stranded. *knock on wood*
I can’t say I expect to have the same luck with the Eclipse, as I’ve surely jinxed myself with that last sentence. But one can hope.
There will have to be some compromises made in terms of driving the car on the street of course. The Fit is the only car I take out if there is any hint of rain/snow forecast for the week.
What the extent of those compromises will be? I can only guess at this point in time. Admittedly being stuck in traffic on a main artery in stop-go traffic with a heavy clutch pedal, no A/C and a lightswitch-like clutch in 95*F heat wearing slacks and a button-up can prove uncomfortable. [As someone who also wears the button-up and commutes to work in an older Mitsubishi with no AC, one sympathizes. -ED.]
Driving the race car to the race and back is no mean feat for a full crew with sponsors, so I can appreciate how ludicrous that sounds for an unknown twenty-something working out of his garage on nights and weekends with only the support of some great friends, family and a dedicated girlfriend of 6 years. All of whom put up with my madness and car-babble.
The 1992 Eclipse is not my first DSM, but it is certainly the nicest so far.
I spent three years looking for a shell that had not been either destroyed by the salt that plagues the northern half of the US or an over-eager and under-researched teen who could arguably do as much damage and more in less time.
Finally in July of 2011 I found her, just a couple towns over. It was being sold by a Porsche Technician who had inherited from his mother and he had intended to turn it into a project of his own. Both of them had garage kept the car for the entire twenty year duration of its existence, and it just barely showed signs of use in spite of the one hundred and twenty thousand miles it had turned over.
It was immaculate and had all the small touches done to it that really made it stand out. Every mount and bushing had already been replaced with hard polyurethane, all the brake lines done in braided stainless steel, the AWD half shafts had been installed with the driver side A/C bracket that helped cut down on wheel-hop, and the list went on.
The owner’s name was Chris, and he just wanted his baby to go to a good home where it would be appreciated. I told him of my plans to run it in the mile and eventually take a shot at entering into Land Speed a few years down the road and a massive grin lit up on his face.
“Boy, do I have a surprise for you!” he exclaimed. Never would I have guessed that in the garage adjacent to where I was standing that there was a full-tube chassis, former record holding Lakester class LSR vehicle. One that had done nearly 300mph and held two records at one point. I was floored. They were getting prepped for SpeedWeek at my Mecca… Bonneville. Unfortunately they were too busy for any real pestering but to get just a glimpse of what went into such a feat laid out in front of me was a true eye opener.
This coupled with my recent discovery that Mike Reichen of all people had been my HVAC tech for years and had actually worked in my house, I was now determined to try my hand.
Who is Mike Reichen and why is this important to mention? (We’ve heard of him, but for those who might not…)
Mike Reichen is the owner and pilot of multi-record holding Evo 2, which had been trapped at an astonishing 237mph in the standing mile recently. From a standstill to 237mph in just 1 mile! In a two liter 4-banger no less.
My longer term goal, for 5 years from now, is a paltry 225mph at Bonneville with a couple miles to wind out. He [Reichen] rowed that car through – yes it is a manual transmission – in a mere fraction of that distance. Clearly the result of the machine cooperating, years of hard-earned experience, and a team of capable gearheads that I hope to try and emulate in due time.
He is also a very nice, hard-working and humble individual. I can however guarantee he would not remember meeting me as did not even recognize him when he was working at my house over the course of a couple days a few years back and then another visit last summer. It wasn’t until a colleague of his was back for a follow-up appointment and saw my Eclipse in the garage that any dots were connected because he made an off hand remark to the effect of “I know this guy Mike who races these Mitsubishis” and it wasn’t until a prodded him a bit on that did I learn just who he was referring to!
I won’t give away where he works as I doubt he would appreciate that.
So after years of trial and error on a few different platforms, endless research and little sleep I have come down to a combination of parts I think will be capable of actually hitting 200mph.
Currently the Eclipse build consists of:
|JMF intake manifold||Snow Performance water/meth injection||TRE transmission|
|Kelford 288/280 cams||ECMLink V3||Quaife LSD|
|Fidanza adjustable cam gears||4″ Garrett front mount intercooler||Moroso oil pan|
|Kiggly hydraulic lash adjusters/springs||4.5″ fender-exit exhaust||Brembo slotted rotors|
|custom twin scroll exhaust manifold||Mahle pistons||Hawk pads|
|twin-scroll Holset HX52 Pro 71mm turbo||K1 rods|
|twin 38mm dumped wastegates||ATI crank damper|
The next step is getting the chassis certified to meet the exceptionally stringent rubric for Land Speed, including the full cage, roof rails, the suit, and the halon system. Then the aero and suspension modifications, as I get a few shakedown passes in and see what she feels like at speed.
Can you shed a little light on some of the more challenging build requirements you’re facing for LSR certification and how they’re different from the typical 1/4 mile or road racing car? Why are these requirements so intense?
Because I eventually intend to work my way into the LSR game, and I am on a severely modest budget due to all the goings on of buying my first house and other costs of life, I need to go big the first time on the safety equipment. That means having a cage built to remarkably stringent standards that the LSR tech officials require of cars that intend to exceed 200mph.
Being that my biggest ambition is to try and touch 225mph, the cage, fire suppression system consisting of 20lbs of halon, roof rails, parachute, helmet, and fire suit all have to meet code. Since I can guarantee a legal 200mph license run wont happen for a few years at the minimum, I have to plan on over-building as rules change. Some tracks, particularly standing mile tracks, have vague and varying rules. So what one tech may certify another may flag.
The sanctioning bodies for LSR events at the Loring Timing Association and Bonneville are so intense because its first and foremost about safety. Not just mine either – spectators, other racers, and emergency personnel.
They are concerned with not just what might happen if the car gets loose and goes end over end at 150+ mph, but also what the first responders will encounter when the car stops moving and they have caught up to survey the scene and extricate me. If thats even possible… or necessary at that point.
A grim thought, but a stark reality of not just LSR/standing mile, but motor sport in general. There just seems to be less room for error when you approach the 200mph marker. Which is why I plan to take baby steps. My budget may certainly help to that effect.
As far as what aerodynamics and suspension work needs to be done, there is what I have read, what I’ve been told, what I suspect, and then ultimately what I will have to learn the hard way. Theory and practice very well may not line up. Air will be creating a remarkable amount of friction on the surfaces of the car.
The undercarriage and wheel wells will create weird turbulence and pressure points. Any body panel gaps, deep offset on the wheels, high pressure areas at the body transitions at the hood cowl and rear of the cockpit will all contribute to parasitic losses.
I have only had a couple chances to get the previous chassis, a 1992 Laser RS Turbo (5MT/FWD) which is for all practical purposes identical, up to speeds where those things become a serious consideration and obvious problem. Unfortunately there was not much data gathered at the time beyond the physical sensation of speed and an unsettling feeling of the front end lifting off as the stock tach needle sank past 9k in 5th gear. This was on a closed course, I want to point out. I won’t say when or where, but lets just call it “Mexico” for now.
I have a lot to learn, that cannot be overstated. But its the challenge that has me interested in the first place.
- What’s the fastest you’ve ever gone in a car (on a closed course, naturally)?
- Have you ever attended a standing mile of land speed racing event? When & where?