Mark's Badass Targa Newfoundland Race-Truck.

The first truck to compete in Targa Newfoundland is just about as badass as you would expect. When one thinks of a "racing truck", the first thing to come to mind is most likely the NASCAR Truck Series. But other than a slight passing resemblance to the millions of pick-ups we see on the road every day, I’ll let you in on a secret- they aren’t really trucks. To further refine our question, what immediately comes to mind with you think of a street truck that’s built for racing? Maybe a Ford Lightning? How about a GMC Syclone? Either way, one’s thoughts probably turn to a truck from the modern era. Well, Mark Bovey has built his street truck to also serve as a race truck, and it’s much older than you’d think.

That wasn’t really his intention, but it just sort of worked out that way. Mark lives in downtown Toronto. Upon first meeting him, you may just get away with thinking that he looks like a guy you’d expect to see sipping a pint on a Queen West patio. He’s the creative type, and a car guy who you’d expect to own a Porsche, maybe even a Lotus. Nope. The only vehicle he’s has ever owned is this 1971 GMC ½ ton long bed pick-up. The truck has actually been in his possession for the last 26 years, after his father purchased it for him for a mere $100. The little truck has since undergone several changes and many iterations. He states that he never planned on being a truck guy. He was 14 years old when it came into his possession, and he certainly didn’t expect to still own it at this stage of his life. “I toyed with the idea of building a vehicle that had better bones for competition but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I’ve been through so much with this truck it just made sense to carry on. Even if it’s not the fastest, it’s so much fun to run.”

Mark has racked up over a 160,000 miles in his time with the truck. During that time, the truck has had 3 engines and 4 transmissions. It suffered collision damage on a couple of different occasions, been the subject of a graffiti attack and even survived a tornado. The truck’s current iteration is a formidable one, featuring a fuel injected LSX- based 427 cubic inch GM small block under the hood. Mark estimates it produces around 600 horsepower. All of that power is fed through a T56 6-speed manual gearbox. The engine is built with a Callies rotating assembly, Diamond forged pistons, AFR aluminum heads, an Edelbrock aluminum intake, a NASCAR distributor conversion and Wegner Motorsports front drive belt system. Said power is routed to the rear wheels via a chromoly drive shaft, which hooks up to a 12-bolt GM truck rear end with 3:73 gears and a limited slip. The engine had a mere 4 hours on it when Mark and his then girlfriend- now wife- Liz, decided to drive it some 13,500km across Canada to British Columbia, down the West coast of the United States and then all the way back. It’s been to the East coast several times and to North Carolina for some land speed racing. Mark has also drag raced the truck for many years. When looking for yet another outlet to subject the truck to, he discovered autocrossing through a friend in 2013.

Autocross is a motorsport where most new entrants start competing in whatever vehicle they have in their possession at that time, and Mark was no exception. Despite some initial reservations on the part of the organizers and some raised eyebrows on the part of his fellow competitors, Mark was quickly accepted after he asked for the opportunity to prove the trucks mettle. Canada has been behind the curve when it comes to the massive Pro-Touring movement that is going on in the U.S., where it is now a regular occurrence to see cars and trucks from the 60’s and 70’s dicing it up at an autocross event or on the racetrack. “People are very enthusiastic. Some just don’t get it, but then they see it blast around the track or autocross and then they understand. It’s big, it’s noisy and it’s just plain fun. Fun to watch, fun to ride in. Crazy fun to drive.” Quite often, autocross leads to a desire to go faster, so Mark began to dabble with higher speed events on an actual racetrack. Then he set his sights even higher. It goes without saying that first in anything is a big deal. You’re always remembered if you’re the first at something regardless of your result, and this past February, Mark decided to go all out and become the first truck to compete in Targa Newfoundland.

For the uninitiated, Targa Newfoundland turns public roads into high-speed, closed rally stages for 5 days in Canada’s most unique province. It’s on the bucket list of many automotive enthusiasts, Mark himself included. “Doing something like Targa Newfoundland is the kind of thing you will do some day, but based on the level of dedication it requires, I personally don't believe the timing will ever be right. This year is more open than any year I've had in the last decade, so it seemed like the small window of opportunity. Targa wanted a truck to run. I own a truck that I love to run. If that is not opportunity, I don't know what is.” Of course, if you want make a vintage truck turn, you have start with the steering, and the original 24:1 ratio steering rack just wouldn’t do. The truck now sports an internal Billet race box from AGR. It’s completely custom right down to the matched pump and cooler and a 14:1 ratio. Surprisingly, the chassis is remarkably close to what GM’s Oshawa, Ontario factory was producing during the early years of the Trudeau era. The frame, front cross-member with independent A-arms and the rear trailing arms are all stock. There are some bolt on modernization modifications though with the front suspension utilizing Classic Performance Products front spindles, dropped coil springs and front sway bar. Out back, the rear suspension also features dropped coil springs with the addition of 2 inch lowering blocks, Early Classic Enterprises shock relocation brackets and a Classic Performance Products adjustable pan hard bar. Shocks? Well the truck’s handling prowess comes from a suspension set-up developed specifically for Mark and his truck’s needs by Ron Sutton of Ron Sutton Race Technology. The shocks are Ride Tech HQ units with Ron’s proprietary valving designed specifically for the Targa Truck. Stopping is at least as important as turning, and the truck rocks disc brakes all the way around with Wilwood 4-piston calipers in the front.

At Targa, Mark plans to run sticky 295/35/18 BF Goodrich Rivals on a custom 18x10 wheel package. One of these tires is most likely as wide as all four of the original ones that came on the truck! Future plans call for an entirely new chassis built by Rob MacGregor from No Limit Engineering and engineered by Ron Sutton. “There is a new chassis plan in place. Ron will do the engineering and supply some very specific parts. He makes his own version of a NASCAR Grand National front hub for example. At the moment, No Limit is my first choice for the fabrication. Both Ron and Rob have worked together but this will be the first tag-team build for them. Not sure of the start date yet.” Oh and yeah Mark’s aware that a long-bed isn’t as ideal as a short-bed would but he doesn’t plan to change that, thank you very much. So what does the truck handle like on the track? I wanted to find out, so at a recent Sigma Time Attack event, I took the opportunity to be a passenger in the truck for some time at the track.

Slipping over the roll cage and into the interior, the aroma of fresh paint greeted my nostrils from the recently completed 8-point roll cage. It’s a work of art that extends into the bed and handily passed the critical eye of the Targa scrutineers. Settling into the Corbeau seat and strapping myself into the 5-point harness, what struck me immediately is how low the seats are compared to a stock bench in these trucks. There is room for another helmet on top of mine, and even then I have plenty of room up top. Mark mentioned that the Corbeaus are his street seats and he has a pair of Momo seats for Targa. It’s a one-of-a-kind rush when he hammers the throttle as we enter the track. The LS sounds awesome and has no trouble pushing you back into the seat. I’ve been in faster vehicles, but certainly none more visceral than this. I had a grin pasted onto my face by the first corner. Despite the aerodynamic efficiency of a moderately-sized town’s city hall and being forced to do something its engineers never intended it to do, the truck handles really, really well on the track. It corners pretty flat for 4083 pounds of American steel, which is a couple hundred more than a Nissan GTR. For a fleeting moment, my mind turned to thoughts of applying for the co-driver’s position.

With this year’s Targa Newfoundland arriving before you know it, Mark still has some work to do. He’s still waiting for his custom wheels to arrive and is also currently interviewing potential co-drivers to take up residence in the passenger seat. “I have every intension of building this truck into a monster, I plan for this truck to always evolve and take on the next challenge. You only live once.” Mark does point out that he is painfully aware of becoming complacent with owning a vehicle that has been yours for so long. “I've noticed that as people grow older with their cars they've had for a long time, the car sits in the garage and collects dust. No thank you. It's a truck, it's only worth something to me and it's worthless unless I use it.” Mark’s Targa philosophy follows that old adage that states to finish first, first you must finish. “I’ve broken everything down into a series of tasks that need to be finished to make the truck last. Targa is an endurance competition that only the strong survive. My goal is to cross that finish line, ideally in one piece.” When asked about what happens if the unthinkable occurs and the truck does suffer a crash, Mark immediately replied with “I’ll just build it again.” Now that’s proper dedication.


In September of 2014, a couple of months after this article was first posted (on a website that no longer exists), Mark and his co-driver Miles Markovic took the title of the first truck to attend Targa Newfoundland. Then they became the first truck to complete Targa Newfoundland. With 40 stages that take place over 5 days cover roughly 1800 kilometres (1100 miles) and a 30% competitor attrition rate, just finishing Targa Newfoundland is anachievement in itself. Their efforts were rewarded with a 2nd place in the Targa (Classic) Division, an incredible result for their first time out! After making history in 2014 the Targa Truck didn’t attend Targa Newfoundland in 2015 or 2016 but we certainly haven’t heard the last of it. What’s next? Follow Mark and his team at

For more information on Targa Newfoundland visit

Crazy Ivan's Porsche 911 Experience: Part 1

Unlike Suren, I hail from the other side of the states. I've loved cars since I could see over the dash of my dad's Trans Am. My high school driver's ed teacher actually called my mother to warn her of my bad driving habits. I have been through many vehicles, most of which ended up totalled or close to it, that is until I started getting older and wiser. How I'm not dead yet is beyond me, as I've been in many horrible accidents. Guess I gotta just keep trying!

I started off with a 1987 Prelude with a purple neon light in the front grill and two Orion 12s behind the flip down seat. Neon lights were new to the scene, as this was at least a decade before Fast and Furious came out. If I continued to detail out all the cars I've owned, we would be here all day, so I'll leave that for another time. After many cars, I got out of the car scene when I got married. Since then, it was difficult to find a car that was worth writing home about. It wasn't until 2011 that I purchased a brand new Mitsubishi Evolution GSR, unbeknownst to my wife at the time. That went over just as expected, and she moved out... my first victory with the Evo! And while I may not have won many races with it, I did participate in quite a few, and I did have a blast with that car.

Once I made the decision to give up racing (due to circumstances beyond my control), I had to make the decision of what my next carriage would be. Starting off, I intended on going the Doug Demuro route and buy something from CarMax, mostly because of their warranty. I spent a good day going through a number of cars on their web-site, including but not limited to BMW Ms, AMG Mercs, and a couple of Jags. I was looking for something older, something that has depreciated enough to warrant the purchase. It's ridiculous what you can find in the $25k to $30k range nowadays.  I mean, look at this ‘05 SL55 AMG at only $25,000. Keep in mind that this car once cost over $60, and can still show up a number of today’s sports cars with its 5.5l V8. I was hell bent on buying something stupidly unreliable just to take advantage of the warranty, and part of the reason why I wanted the warranty was because I was switching over from a Lancer Evolution. Anyone who’s owned one knows that the warranty is about as good as the interior, and if you as much as use an unauthorized air filter, the dealership will do their best to screw you over on warranty work.

Then the light bulb flicked on, and I remembered a Jalopnik article about the poor man's Porsche 911. Yes, Suren... it IS a 911 no matter how much you want to deny it (which he denied in this article). I started my research, as the Evo taught me many valuable lessons, one of which was the importance of doing your damn research before you buy anything for a car! The Evo was my first sports car in a long time, but now that I’m divorced (talk about more lessons learned), I figured why not get another.. Owning a 911 is definitely a bucket list item, considering I can't afford a Ferrari or Lamborghini. After much research, I knew what I was looking for. It had to be the pre-facelift 1999 model Carrera, it had to be rear wheel drive, most definitely did not want another turbo, most certainly had to be manual, and I didn’t want a sunroof. Before I go into the reasons for these decisions, let me disclose that my beater car is actually my dog's 87' E30. Simba, my loving dog and best friend I got from a rescue, will throw up in any vehicle unless it's an E30.... no kidding. I love my E30 because it's very simple. Night and day difference between the Evo and the E30. Although my Evo was reliable, there is a certain paranoia that goes along with daily driving a $35k car with more electronics than is needed to send a man to the moon.

I settled on a 1999 for a number of reasons: It was the one year model that didn’t get any of the useless electronic gadgets (such as using cables instead of wires to open the hood and decklid). It was also one of two years with a reinforced bearing, you know that thing Suren changed that he didn't need to? I didn't want a turbo or 4wd, because again... gotta keep things simple! I wanted a vehicle that was powerful enough to kill me, all the while not having the controls to stop me from doing so. Another advantage of not having these options is the weight loss, as the Evo was a pig no matter how much the electronics try to fool you. Suren hit the sunroof on the head; it's extremely rare. I still have a hand crank sunroof in my E30, so I don't have high expectations. Then there’s the manual transmission... do I really have to explain that?

With the options decided, I needed to think about the wear and tear. I had to stop and consider how many miles would be good for a 17 year old European vehicle? Low mileage usually means the car was a garage queen, and cars that sit are about as much of a gamble as cars with tons of miles. On the other hand, I didn't want it to have too many miles, because that leaves you to wonder whether or not the car was maintained properly. With being pretty lenient on the color of the vehicle, I began my search. Given I was adamant about my options, I opened the search to a 500 mile radius. Even though I wasn't familiar on long distance purchases and transportation, I still went head strong. Day one, had one in Texas and one in Florida fall through. Day two, faith knocks on my door. While downing my morning caffeine and searching for the latest listings, I finally found what I was looking for! She was not more than thirty minutes away, and was at a very well known dealership. How did this happen on day two of my search is beyond me, but rather than question it, I just decided to be thankful!  1999, two owners and a ton of service history at 62k miles... with the aero kit! Damn beautiful in this color, and paint was well taken care of for a 17yr old car. Having done my research (unlike Suren) I knew I needed a PPI (a.k.a. a pre purchase inspection). I found a nearby Porsche mechanic to do the PPI, which in hindsight missed a couple of things... nothing like Suren's nightmare though.

The PPI revealed that the two brake rotors and pads needed to be changed, broken horn button, and coolant change required. During my search for this 911, I did notice that no one would negotiate on price like a typical run of the mill vehicle. I took this to my advantage, and had everything fixed/replaced with original OEM equipment. Keep in mind, I still haven't seen this 911 in person nor driven it. I just knew it was meant to be, kinda like prom all over again. Now to deal with all the paperwork before I could get her to the motel at the end of the night. Prom night was successful! I had a great test drive before I had to do the dirty work to get her home. This 996 911 is mind blowing in my opinion. However, I may not be as spoiled as Suren. I've never driven, nor been in a Porsche before. Stay tuned for my review and experience of the 996 911!

What's in My Tool Box: 2016

Writing is only one of my hobbies, however wrenching on cars is something I do professionally. But before I was even into writing, I was way too into Apple computers. Back in '09-'10, I used to make YouTube videos reviewing applications and various other Apple related topics, and one of the series was called "What's in my dock". It was inspired by many other similar video series, some of which are still on-going today. The idea was quite simple- go through your favorite apps that are sitting in the dock, and say a few words about why they deserved to be in there. Fast forward several years, and I decided to apply a similar philosophy to this new annual series of articles. 

Towards the end of each year, I will be going over what I keep in my tool cart, and talk a little bit more about the tools I prefer to use the most. The box itself is a U.S. General from Harbor Freight, which has served me well so far. Obviously I won't be going over every single item, but I will definitely be covering the ones I use the most. Note that I am not sponsored or paid by any of the manufacturers to review any of their tools, hence I always want to make sure that I'm getting my money's worth out of each item. I occasionally say harsh things about certain pieces (such as this Milwaukee M18 Impact that everyone seems to adore), and that's because I paid my own hard earned money for it. Then again, even if I did get these things for free, I still wouldn't pull any punches. 

I'll go ahead and start with my most expensive drawer, which would be the one dedicated to everything socket related. Besides what was once a $600 Snap-On® torque wrench, you'll find an inventory of Snap-On® 6-point as well as 12-point sockets and hex keys. Not seen in this photo is my 3/8" Snap-On® digital torque wrench, which is perfect for head studs/bolts, main bolts, rod bolts, and clutch bolts. Before anyone thinks that I have a lot of sockets, if you click on the right side of the image, you will see what 20+ years of working as a mechanic in a relatively niche market can do to you. My personal favorites in this drawer are actually my Milwaukee 12 volt 3/8" impact (the review of which can be found here), and my Aircat 1/2" impact. You can actually purchase a Nitrocat (which will provide an extra 50ft-lbs of torque over the Aircat) on Amazon for the same exact price as the Aircat. At the time, the Aircat was around 40 dollars cheaper, and it was and still is more than enough for me anyway. I have yet to find the need to depress the trigger all the way on this baby, as a simple hair squeeze is all that it takes for it to rip lug nuts right off. Seized axle nuts are about as bad as it gets, and even then it doesn't take much to get them off. Not pictured is my 12 volt Milwaukee ratchet, which is absolutely stunning. An honorable mention here would be my Snap-On® breaker bar, both of which have been nothing short of awesome over these years. I bought most of my hand-tools used on eBay and saved myself a big wad of cash, although buying brand new SK Hand Tools hardware will be cheaper overall, and from what I know, all of their stuff is made in the good ol' U.S. of A. The 12 point torx set is by Neiko, and is used mostly on flywheel bolts and seat hardware. The large sockets go up to 36mm, and are used to bust axles nuts and various other unconventionally large hexes. These are made by Powerbuilt. Now you may notice the alligator socket, and I want you to know that that's the least favorite/used tool in there. The socket just doesn't work for me, no matter many times I tried to give it the benefit of the doubt. Over time, it has become an eyesore, but for the purposes of this review, I decided to get it out of my secondary cart and place it in my spark-plug socket rail. To tell you the truth, it's an absolute waste of money, and about as vulgar to use as channel-locks on a brake line fitting. 

Speaking of brake line fittings, you may notice that I have no flare nut wrenches in my hand-wrench drawer. That's because I haven't needed one ever since I bought my Blue-Point® wrench sets. A well machined and a quality built open-end wrench such as these will perform well enough, and before any of the forum experts jump in and start throwing tantrums over how dangerous it is, I want the readers to know that after almost two years of using the Blue-Point® set, I have never stripped a single brake line fitting, and I have been working on cars as new as 6 days young, and as old as my 70-something year old grandmother. My Blue-Point® ratcheting wrenches absolutely outshine everything else I've tried in the same price range. I just couldn't find a reason to buy Snap-On®, as Blue-Point® is also covered under their warranty. The small wrenches you see in the photos are barely ever touched, and are mostly used to open small bleeder valves on brake calipers. My DeWalt crescent has been more than enough for use on fittings and nuts larger than 30mm. I mostly use the two adjustable wrenches on aircraft fittings (specifically to break loose stubborn ones). Not pictured is my 36mm wrench that I use on oil lines found on older 911s. 

Now before I continue, I'd like to explain why I decided to stick with a small box: One, I won't be making enough these couple years to warrant purchasing a huge Snap-On® box. The other is actually to prevent me from buying too many tools that I don't need, and while this may sound like a nonsensical reason, I'd like you to bear with me for a second. I have a major spending problem, and I have two tool carts already (the other cart will be mentioned again later). Having a cart that's small helps me buy stuff that I will absolutely need, and not just want. Then again, truth be told I still find myself going on eBay and looking for vintage Snap-On® tools, as well as browsing the SK Hand Tools catalog on Amazon, so it's safe to say that I'll have a real tool box coming up soon. 

Next up is my second favorite drawer, and that would be the one dedicated to diags. The ones I use the most are the big red cutting diags and the green needle-nose ones. The round tip red-handle diags are perfect for replacing the BMCs on older 911s, which require quite a bit of finesse (especially considering the age of the lines). Channel locks are mostly used to stop gas from pouring out of the rubber lines when the time comes to remove a gas tank. While it may be improper to use channel locks on rubber lines, I'd like the reader to know that the lines are usually going to be replaced anyway, considering an entire tank is coming out. And if you think that's a lot of diags, click on the right side of the picture to see my colleague's collection. Fact of the matter remains, you can't have too many diagonal pliers. 

The drawer above that is dedicated to miscellaneous tools and items that would otherwise find themselves in the main part of the cart. Specifically, I keep pens, witness markers (I use Sharpie® Paint markers), the small Harbor Freight pick set, and various other items that can be seen in the picture. The witness marker is extremely important, and is used to mark bolts and nuts that have been secured properly and checked for appropriate torque. And speaking of torque, you may also notice the blue 272, which I use on items that I don't want coming off until the next short to mid-term service interval. The small valve-stem tool is what I use to service my compression and leak-down gauges. If you work on or plan to work on newer European cars, the wheel hangers are a good idea. Do you need them? No. But do you really want to leave the wheel hanging on the lip of the hub when that sudden Chipotle order of yours decides that it wants out? Probably not. 

And since I mentioned food, I keep a fork and a spoon in my main tray, for obvious reasons. Even if it's the plastic ones, I suggest saving them for when you forget to bring utensils with your lunch. You'll also note Craftsman screwdrivers, one of the few items Craftsman claims to be manufacturing in the United States. Whether or not this is true, I am not aware, and I can only hope it is. Either way, these screwdrivers are very good, and are most certainly worth the 30 dollars they go for on Amazon. My coffee thermos is a must, otherwise I'm absolutely useless in the mornings. The little yellow trays are used to store miscellaneous hardware that can be useful on free "under 5 minute" repair jobs. In addition, I use them to store extremely rare bolts and nuts which were made specifically for the cars I work on, and are no longer sold through their respective dealerships (ahem, Rusnak, ahem). On the right side I keep my Tekton pry-bars. At first I was almost disappointed with my purchase, and I thought I would have little to no use for them. Fast-forward to this day, and each and every one of those suckers now could use a wipe of POR-15. Finally, there's the 8 dollar magnet I bought from the Snap-On® guy, and it has been the best 8 dollars I've spent on a single tool. Not only does it allow for easy access in tiny crevices, it's also perfect for cleaning out freshly chased M6 (and larger) threads. 

Before moving on to the drawer for large tools, I'd like to dedicate a few sentences to my beautiful persuasion bar which hangs menacingly on the left side of the cart. I was once followed by a pair of bicyclists who couldn't tell the difference between a red and a green light, and I kept this baby in my trunk at the time. The sight alone was enough to persuade them to avoid any conflict, hence the name. On the side tray I keep my paint and primer, which are used mostly for rust prevention on newly fabricated pieces. Why not powder-coat, you may ask? It actually depends on the application. Whenever I'm in charge of restoring a factory part, such as an oil tank or a set of control arms, the piece usually gets sent to one of our many local powder coating experts. For smaller items, such as pedal extensions, which are fabricated on the spot, the primer and paint will do just fine. An absolute must is my moly grease, which is used on threads, bearings, and many other questionable applications. 

At this point, we arrive at Jeremy Clarkson's favorite instrument- the hammer, which sleeps in the drawer dedicated to medium sized tools. And I don't just have one hammer, either. Ask any real mechanic, and they will tell you that you can't have too many different types of hammers. The rubber mallet is for more fragile applications, while the 5 pounder is for when things get properly hairy. You'll also notice the step bits, which are perfect for making holes for custom fuel lines and oil lines on race-cars. I've used this Harbor Freight set ever since I started at the shop, and they've been holding up just fine for these past couple of years. The little 12-volt 90-degree drill by Milwaukee is a soldier, and absolutely crushed my 18-volt Ryobi, which got sent home. I also use their 18-volt impact drill, as well as their regular drill. Both are amazing pieces, and well worth the buy. The impact drill is perfect for removing screws that have been seized over the years due to rust formation or any other reason. 

Speaking of screws, my trusty Harbor Freight 1/4" hex bit set has been one of my favorite purchases, as it offers a relatively good variety of tools for a pretty great price. I've had little to no reason to replace these with any of the more expensive sets that might be made in the same factory in China. Sadly, there wasn't much else interesting happening in my black cart, as it stores tools I barely use. Some of these are bigger (or smaller) varieties of wrenches and hammers already seen. Others are tools mostly used on my personal cars, which have little to no application on the cars I work on professionally. It does, however, store my OTC Leak-down tester kit, and I must say, what a set! I bought it on Amazon for around 60 bucks, and the price has fluctuated since. OTC also offers a compression tester, but my good ol' 30 dollar one has served me well for a couple of years now. Mind you that regardless of what brand pressure tester you purchase, the valve core will need to be serviced once every few years or so. It's good to be prepared for this, and I purchased my core off of Amazon as well, although I'm not sure it was a good buy as I feel like 6 dollars can buy much more than just one valve core. 

And that's about it for this year. Hopefully I get to make enough money next year and buy myself more tools, maybe even a new cart. My current cart was just not worth talking much about, as it's a very generic one that basically every other mechanic owns. I am considering investing in a larger Blue-Point® one down the road, and you best expect a review for it if I do end up pulling the trigger. 

Going over the 595 RS-R.

With the new RS-RR out, I figured it would make sense to review the last gen 140 AA A UTQG tire in the Federal line up. Now whether or not they will discontinue the RS-R is not yet certain, although it woudn't make much sense to sell two different 140 AA A tires, when one is supposed to be superior to the other. One thing for sure, however, is that many people have used the RS-R tire, with the primary incentive behind the purchase being the value. Intense hype was built around these upon their initial release, with users claiming these tires to be as good as RS3s, but for a fraction of the price. Being the skeptic I am, I decided to try them out for myself. 


I've used RS3's, and I've gotta say, their grip is unparalleled to practically any street tire out there for track use. I've also used AD08Rs, and their braking performance leaves the rest of the competition in the dust. So exactly where does the RS-R stand in this mini-chart? Well, let's just say it has yet to make the list. Look, anyone who came out and said that RS-Rs compare to the RS3s must have been high on some really good crack, because these tires aren't even on the same playing field. I've had BFG g-Force sports grip only slightly worse than the RS-Rs, which would be only expected. Yet, why should I even bother comparing the RS-R to the BFG sport? I mean sure, they have slightly more grip, and they brake quite a bit better, but that's the bare minimum I expected from a tire that was as hyped as Stannis Baratheon during season five of Game of Thrones. Sure, the value isn't too bad, costing around $280 per set of 205-50-15s, when compared to almost double that for the RS3s, but doesn't the price simply reinforce the good ol' idiom "you get what you pay for"? And exactly what is it that you get for these $280?

Well, for starters, the tires don't grip too badly. As a matter of fact, they do grip pretty well at first. As the race event drags along, however, the confidence level in the performance of these tires plummets. I can't count the amount of times I've had grip, more grip, plenty more of it, and then suddenly found myself wiping out half a dozen cones or spinning out into the dirt on the race track just because they decided to let go. And yes, they do just decide to let go, get greasy, whatever you want to call it. They do maintain grip better on the race track rather than on an autocross course, but you'll eventually spin. It doesn't help that the more the tire is heat cycled, the less likely it is to maintain grip throughout the run. Not only does this mean less confidence in the overall performance of the car, but also results in slower lap times, because you end up having to slow yourself down to prevent the inevitable injury or death. 

Speaking of slow, they do slow down the car pretty well. As a matter of fact, these tires are good enough to put most of the strain of braking on the pad and the rotor, as they grip well enough to prevent locking up. Do keep in mind that upgrading to decent pads would only make sense, unless you like your pads falling out of your calipers and your piston dropping out, pissing out brake fluid and leaving you relying on your e-brake for the rest of your trip (don't ask me how I know). Yet, their braking capability is about the only consistent thing about these tires, and my personal favorite aspect of them. My least favorite aspect, however, is not their lack of consistency. Rather, it's the occasional cracks that cover the surface of the tires, and by cracks I mean the type of cracks that will scare a casual driver away from these tires. And I was not the only one who had this issue, look it up. I don't even have to go and tell you one of those stories about a friend of a friend, it's all in the internet. And it's not about whether or not it's actually harmful, but admit it- it just doesn't inspire much confidence to see your track-day tires split. They do last a while, though, especially considering I had crap alignment for a good half of the time I had these tires. I put on around 4 auto cross events and a single track day, and they still had around half of their tread. 

So are these tires worth the money? Well, they most certainly are not a bargain of this century, far from it actually. Unless this is your first set of sports tires, I wouldn't go as far as to say that they are worth the money. I'm not going to assume anything about the RS-RR, but the previous generation always sets a precedent, and let's just say that if I were to decide on whether or not to purchase the RS-RR solely based on the performance of the older sibling, I would avoid it if at all possible. Would I buy these tires again? Sure, as a cheap, absolute-emergency spare set; you know, the set you use after your three other sets of tires wore down or exploded, or the set you buy because you have one more event coming up that you need to score the third place to win overall, and every other manufacturer is sold out at the time. The RS-R then, is much like a closer batter that's never batted before in a baseball game, and is only allowed on the plate because there is only one inning left, and the winning team has a 6 point lead. You get the point, there are better options that are simply worth the extra few hundred dollars, and if your budget allows, you should just spend that extra few hundred on tires that don't split, and don't surprise you with a sudden loss of grip, sending you straight into the flag station. 

10 Great Valentine's Day Presents For Your Gearhead

Valentine's Day is only a week away, and it can be hard to shop for your partner. If your significant other is a gearhead, I'm sorry for you, because this must mean they spend more time with their cars and car buddies than they do with you, and the fact that you have stayed with them despite of this just shows how lucky they are. Regardless of gender, however, most gearheads can be rather easily satisfied with some of the presents I will discuss in a little bit. Just remember that the thought is all that counts, and you will not be dumped for getting them an extra 10mm socket, for every gearhead knows that you can't have enough 10mm sockets. Back to the topic at hand, there are tons of things you could get your partner to make them happy for the fourteenth. Matter of fact, I went ahead and compiled a list of ten things you should consider purchasing for them, and a few words as to why. Many of these things I received myself, and I am incredibly happy with them (otherwise I wouldn't be suggesting them to you). Keep in mind, I am not paid by any of the manufacturers of these products to suggest their items to you.

1. GoPro!

This one's a no-brainer. You can buy your partner a GoPro for every Valentine's day, and they will still find a way to need another GoPro. I personally have one, but if I had more, I would keep two in my garage, four for my race-car, another three or so for my daily. Some may call it being greedy, but I want to capture as many angles of my life around cars as I can. Not only can the footage be used for bragging rights, but it could also be used to review any mistakes made for future references. 

2. Snap-On Tools.

Any Snap-On tool will do; whether it's a ratchet, or a set of allens, it can really hit your gearhead in the right spot. If you can't make up your mind as to which tool you should get them, just pick up the Snap-On corded LED light. They run around fifty bucks and are a great present for almost any occasion. They only use 25W of power and project 2000lm of light, more than enough to light up a small garage. I found this light to be perfect for when I work underneath my car, regardless of the time of day. It's easy to handle, the cord is long enough to stretch to the wall and it's ridiculously bright. I only wish they made them in the United States. 

3. Any bright 1000lm tactical flashlight. 

I personally use a FenixPD35 Tactical Flashlight. The kit I purchased cost around $80 and included a battery, a charger and a belt holster. Now you may think, why would anyone pay that kind of money for a flashlight? Well, for starters, it's very bright for something that is mobile and fits in the palm of your hand. You can control the brightness as well, from dim to blinding bright, and it's really a blessing when working with the dash loom. Combined with a flashlight holder, it can really make any repair job ten times easier. Besides automotive work, it's a bright flashlight with a very long battery life, so it really helps to carry it around. I found myself carrying it in my holster attached to my Redwing belt, which also gave my belt another purpose. There's also the Streamlight brand, and while it is slightly more expensive, it's much easier to charge. 

4. Redwing Boots. 

Speaking of Redwings, here's a good one for you. If I had to wear one pair of shoes for 5 years straight, my choice would easily fall to the Redwing Boots. While expensive, the boots are less of a "purchase", and much more of an "investment". They'll last you for years and years to come, and you can have them resoled for around a $100. Redwing Shoes offers free laces as well as restoration and leather maintenance kits. You could easily spend around $400 the first time you visit a Redwing Shoes store, but remember- it's an investment. Not only are they comfortable once formed to your feet, but they're tough. Mine have been covered in hot metal from welding and cutting, transmission fluid, multi-purpose solvent- you name it. I really put my shoes through a rigorous test throughout the day, and these Redwings are holding up pretty damn well. I find myself recommending them to every gearhead I meet, and while at first they question my sanity for paying over $300 for shoes, they come to realize the true concept behind them. Not to mention, these shoes are made in the United States, so you'd be supporting the American labor force. 

5. Ryobi Impact Kit. 

The Ryobi Impact wrench has always been a favorite of mine for working on my car at home. It's got just the right amount of torque to bust lug nuts loose and even subframe bolts. Matter of fact, you can pick up the impact driver and wrench kit from Home Depot with a charger and two batteries for only $129 dollars, which is an absolute steal-deal. The Impact itself delivers 200 ft/lb of torque, and the batteries can last quite a while. It does help, however, to purchase the jumbo size batteries down the road. They last much longer and deliver slightly more power to the tool, allowing for even more tasks to be completed in the same time frame. 

6. A torque wrench. 

Having a torque wrench is an absolute must. Whether it's a 3/8" or a 1/2", a torque wrench will prevent broken studs and also it will make sure the wheels don't fall off the car. As far as the brands go, I personally use a Snap-On Techwrench 1/2" torque wrench, and will be purchasing a 3/8" version soon enough. While expensive, the digital torque wrench can store up to three torque settings and is covered under Snap-On lifetime warranty. Much like anything else posted on this list so far, it's more of an investment rather than a purchase. Yet if you can't afford a Snap-On Techwrench, there are always less expensive options from Snap-On. 

7. Racing Helmet and/or a Hans Device. 

While both are pricey, but they will save the life of your significant other in a crash on the track. Of course, this is assuming they even go out to the tracks. A Hans Device will prevent the neck of your partner from being snapped in a forward/backward motion. The helmet is pretty self explanatory. Each run at around $500 and are by far the most expensive items on the list, together beating the $600 Snap-On Tech Wrench. Keep in mind, however, that at the end of the day, the life of your loved one should be worth more than anything else. Of course, this is assuming you can afford these items, and if your partner hasn't bought these for themselves yet, at least try to convince them to do so as soon as possible. 

8. Halguard Fire Extinguisher.


Fires happen, and they can spread very quickly. The Halguard fire extinguishers can help minimize damage and prevent the wiring from being deemed useless, mostly because they are use Halon. A small bottle of the Halguard fire extinguisher is around a $120, and more than perfect for a daily driver. However, if the car in question is a race-car, a proper fire suppression system should be installed, and this is something that your partner should probably address on their own time. 

9. A Blu-Ray of "Senna". 

This is a true tear-jerker. If you haven't heard of Senna, you are missing out on one of the most amazing people in the history of racing, and maybe even humanity. Ayrton Senna was a Brazilian F1 driver who had an almost divine talent. While F1 drivers are held to a certain standard, Senna has always been on a level of his own. The documentary is a great present, and I guarantee that even if your lover knows nothing of F1, they will become attached to the story of the most incredible driver of all time. Matter of fact, they will be so addicted, they may just end up watching it more than once!

10. Hot Wheels®!



Now look, I don't care how old you are, Hot Wheels® are incredible. Probably the cheapest yet one of the best presents you could pick up from your local CVS/Walgreens for this Valentine's. If your partner collects these, make sure to take a picture of their collection to avoid buying doubles. Also, please don't buy any of the generic ones; there's a huge difference between picking up an E30 M3 and getting a "Twist-rocket-monster", because only one can find a special place on the "Hot Wheels® shelf". Whatever you buy, just keep in mind that one can never have enough Hot Wheels®, so feel free to drop maybe even $40 on these. 



So what's wrong with the NB Miata?

I've had an NB Miata for a bit more than a month now, and I've got to say, the car is pretty great as far as cars go. It handles well, it's fun, it did more than well in a crash, and costs nothing to insure. Look, as far as roadsters go, the Miata is perfectly fine. It drives well and is cheap to maintain, probably the best bang for the buck out there. It's so great, that I have two of them (the other one is my NA, which you can read about here), but for some reason, I can't seem to attach myself to the NB. It's just nothing special to me, I don't want to spend money on it, and worst of all- I don't even look back at it when walking away from it. Don't get me wrong, it's far better than the NA as far as the engineering behind it goes- it's more powerful, gets better fuel economy, still relatively inexpensive to maintain and I would even go as far as to say it's a more precise car. So then, why is it that I can't get myself to like it?


Let's start from the beginning. I picked up the car shortly after I blew the engine in my red Miata. I needed a daily driver, and I already had experience with one, and it just so happened my coworker was selling his' for a steal- and so I pulled the trigger. The first couple of weeks I loved it, especially considering that all it needed was a thermostat. I thought it was the best buy I've made, even better than the 1500 bucks I spent on my first Miata. After a short while, though, the emotions started to taper. I even considered selling it, after all it was still a cramped little convertible, and I wasn't learning much of anything new about cars by driving a slightly updated version of my previous one. Sure, it had more power, turned in better, and got better mileage. It didn't take long until I crashed into another car, and you know how that goes- you don't rear end anyone if you're paying attention to the road. Details aside, I got somewhat re-attached to it, and I was planning to do the whole wide body street driven show car, and have the red Miata be my track car. After some more time passed, however, I lost all interest in it again. I couldn't stop taking pictures of the red car when I got that, so then why was I so bored by the newer, better car? I even tried taking it out to an auto-cross event, and while I had fun with it, I wasn't particularly impressed by it. The entire time I'd been wishing I had taken the NA. So what is it, then?

Well, if you have ever taken both cars apart down to the bone, you would notice that the chassis aren't that much different. Matter of fact, some parts are actually interchangeable, especially the soft top. The suspension components, brakes and front and rear subframe are also interchangeable, so is the drivetrain. The differential and transmission are direct swaps, and a 1.8 swap requires couple of extra components here and there, but is otherwise pretty straight forward. The only real difference is the front subframe, more specifically the positioning of the steering rack on the NB is better, resulting in better handling geometry and a far more responsive car in general. What about the interior? Well, seats are better, the dash is nicely organized, the gauge cluster is very familiar, the steering wheel is by Nardi, and the materials are of great quality for even today's standards. To put that in perspective, an NB miata feels nicer to sit in than a 986 Boxster- yes, you read that right. So then, it's a much better car, a faster car, and built to a higher standard- then what is it that I'm missing?

Let's look at the negatives- the car is heavier by a hundred something pounds, but the extra power should offset that, and unless your name has "Ayrton" or "Senna" in it, no mortal would feel the difference. It's missing the pop-ups, but I'm actually a fan of flush mounted headlights. And that's about it, really. If anything, the NB just as easy to wrench on and runs smoother. What in the world is it missing then? To find out, I decided to delete the NA from my history temporarily, and think of the NB as my first Miata, and you know what I discovered? The problem with the NB, is the NA! To put it simply, it's just not as raw as my NA. The added comfort features make it less of a driver's car, that 90's feel is gone, and the car just turns out to be a watered down version of the NA. Look, if I had the NB before the NA, this review would've been about how great it is, and I would've stopped there. It is the better overall car, but what is the real issue is that it is not like the old model, much like the difference between a 964 and a 911. If the car before it never existed, the NB would have been all praise, but my instincts simply move my hand over to where the keys to my NA are sitting, and for some unknown reason, I find myself enjoying the NA much more than I do the NB.