For most car enthusiasts the prospect of spending a sustained amount of time in isolation, without human contact, might not be that daunting.
I know that I’m guilty of being a lone wolf at the best of times, and I’ll use just about any excuse to bury myself in a technical book, head down a YouTube funnel, or just get the music on and spend time in the garage.
This side of returned ISS astronauts, we might just be the most well-equipped sub-species to deal with the current climate. Which is a pleasant change. Ordinarily, such acute car attention focusing is a massive disadvantage. It’s certainly got me into an argument or two at home or behind schedule researching the next mod. This period is going to allow a unique opportunity to delve extra-deep into my car nerdery without the negative trade off.
Speaking of being a nerd, ever since visiting the Porsche Museum I’ve been obsessed with the Porsche GT1. Especially the water-cooled twin-turbo engine in the back and the sound it made on the road. After months of searching, it’s culminated in owning a 3.6-litre version that comes handily attached to a 996 Turbo.
I’m in a dangerous early stage of fanaticism that has the potential to snowball; there is still so much to explore. Give it a month and I’ll emerge from the garage wearing Porsche clothing from top to toe.
Right now, I can think of a couple of time-absorbing jobs that I’m itching to tackle. First up – and most embarrassing to admit – I’m looking forward to getting out the polisher and putting my apron on. Now I’m not about to sign-up to be a detailing forum member, but hear me out; I have a theory. I don’t mind scratches, swirls, scrapes and stone chips, but only if I’ve caused them. It might sound fully insane, but I cannot handle looking at a car with someone else’s damage on it.
I’ve got to clean it up and protect the paint so that I start with the best base I can. Even if it’s only to chase my friends round a circuit immediately after and pepper the paintwork with stone chips. Being a Basalt Black 996TT, it’s surely going to end up with its fair share of those.
The modifications have already begun too, after scoring an EVOMS intake from eBay for a tough-to-resist price. I feel like this is the first of many things to be bolted onto this car during isolation.
There’s also some not-so-fun fixes to attend to. On the way home from purchasing the car a few interior trim and electrical gremlins came to light, but nothing a few hours in solitude won’t fix. It’s no-cost improvements like these that sometimes are the most rewarding.
Then there’s the subject of the garage itself. While you’re working on cars inside one, you’re often trying to maximise the free time, not use it up. There’s an ugly list of jobs to work through but, of course, it’s natural that I’ll tick some of the more entertaining ones off first. Hanging old Le Mans artwork, painting the floor and chasing the spiders out should see me busy for a few evenings.
I’ve been avoiding one big job, though, and that’s pairing down my spare E30 wiring loom to leave just the charge, start and battery supply circuits. Before Christmas (it seems like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it?) I took the plunge and bit the bullet to fit standalone management and ITBs to my M20-powered E30. It’s almost ready to run and has a new Longman Racing motorsport wiring loom for the engine control. Total overkill? Yes, but you only live once.
I’ve never been a fan of 30-year-old wiring looms and whilst sifting through wiring diagrams isn’t really the most entertaining task, it has to be done. You just can’t have a lovely purpose-made loom sat next to one with surplus connections. Music on loud, cup of tea (maybe several) in hand and a fresh outlook might just see me manage it though. It’s important to get right as it could see me save some crucial weight and dip under the magic 1,000kg (2,204lb) marker. I’ll update you on the build in a little more detail as it progresses, but I’m pretty excited about that car.
That’s just the jobs that spring to mind right away, without looking at the workshop whiteboard. I could be busy for months, even years I bet. Any day now a tasty package from Air Lift Performance will drop for my 318is STW project too. When that day comes, my girlfriend won’t see me for some time.
All this got me pretty excited, but also had me thinking… Am I alone in this opportunist outlook? Am I totally weird? No need to answer the last question, that’s purely rhetorical as I’ve come to accept that much already.
To further entertain myself, I thought I’d ask some of the other Speedhunters team members around the world what they might be planning to do in self-isolation. Here’s what they had to say…
While the current situation in the world could look a tad bleak, there’s always a silver lining to everything. Unless you live in Los Angeles, California – then it’s usually a stellar sunset.
Los Angeles County is under a shelter/stay-at-home order, which means that no-one is allowed to be in the streets, go to work (except for those deemed to be essential workers), no gatherings, and no stores open other than those supplying groceries. So allow me to reminisce about a good run up Angeles Crest Highway in my new daily – a 1982 BMW 320i – AKA, Gumby.
Featuring a long list of wiring issues, enough miles to have driven to the Moon and then some, a four-cylinder that’s knocking like a girl scout slinging Thin Mint cookies, a sideswiped mirror, a broken taillight, and seats that have lost all their filling.
Thankfully, the stay-at-home order means I will have plenty of time to tinker and fix things, other than the wiring (I tend to catch things on fire when playing with electrical components).
Queue up a couple of CAtuned goodies, a set of Recaros, an M50, a mirror and a taillight, and I’ll have my hands full for a bit.
Other than attempting to fix a 38-year-old car, I have a couple terabytes’ worth of hard drives to pull content from and share with you all over the coming weeks.
Stay safe and call your grandparents.
When Ryan tasked me with writing a few hundred words about self-isolation, I was immediately struck down with anxiety. Not because of COVID-19 or missing my friends and family; I’ve been practising the fine art of social distancing for 30 years or more, so keeping away from other people would be a walk in the park. It’s that annoying guy called Mark Riccioni that has seen my anxiety peaking.
Ricci has a brilliantly whacky car collection, his photography’s not bad at all, and, when it comes to stringing words together, he’s a witty bugger. In fact, it’s very hard to like Mark. So, for the purpose of this exercise I suggested we save his update until last.
What have I been up to? Well, rather boringly, I’ve been isolating for the past week after developing some coronavirus symptoms, but I am all good. Before the UK stay-at-home order, I needed my latest money pit project, a Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.3-16, moving for a photoshoot.
With the wonders of email, American Express, and a nice lady called Laura at EM Rogers, the car was booked for collection, all whilst I was working from home. The very next day the 190 Cosworth was taken from Regal Autosport in what can only be described as a very regal-looking car transporter. Thanks for the photos Ryan.
I’ll share the story behind importing Project 190 Cosworth over from the United States with you next week. It’s safe to say, though, the carbon footprint of this whole process is enough to trigger even the most zenned-out, bicycle-riding vegan.
In fact, I’ve got a handful of features to finish up, and, of course, a bunch of procrastinating to do. It’s hard to stay focused when your inbox is being updated with the latest and greatest series that’s just started streaming.
On that subject, the other day I watched Adrenalin – The BMW Touring Car Story, on Amazon Prime. Once it got going it was brilliant and super insightful.
Over the past few years I’ve been collecting books, magazines and various tat on my travels. Whilst times like these give you a new appreciation for the freedom that we enjoy, it’s also an opportunity for me to read and geek-out over the stuff I’ve been accumulating. Japan, the United States, road trips across Europe are a great source of neeky literature. Also, my love for press releases, brochures and launch posters courtesy of eBay needs organising.
When I was a kid, I lived dangerously near Wales and was obsessed with motorcycles. More specifically, Honda’s RC45. I followed Aaron Slight and Colin Edwards in World Superbikes religiously, and have always loved the Castrol Honda liveries. I couldn’t afford an RC45 in the ’90s, plus I wasn’t experienced enough to own one at 17 years old. So I bought an RVF400 that had been repainted by a company called Dream Machine in Castrol colours.
Here’s a wild and infamous last lap featuring Slight and John Kocinski. This is the final round of the WSB season in 1997. Aaron Slight needed to finish in first place to get the points required for the Castrol Honda team to take the championship 1-2. What unfolded left even Carl Fogarty’s jaw on the floor, and saw Kocinski fall out with his team and Aaron Slight. Great racing, though.
Anyway, what’s my point? Well, you can definitely feel a little less guilty about getting lost in YouTube for an hour or two during the stay-at-home order.
And that motorcycle chat brings me onto Ducati. 916, 996, 998, 748 and, of course 955, are cubic capacity numbers that make wonderfull v-twin noises, all wrapped up in the most beautiful-looking package.
This Ducati 916 book by Ian Falloon is full of the history and an amazing amount of information. I have my head burried in the 748 section at the moment. It’s well worth reading if you love motorcycles or engineering in general. I don’t know whether I get extra ‘scene points’ for buying this copy from the incredible Tsutaya Books at Daikanyama T-Site, but you can also just get it here from Amazon, probably for less than I paid for it.
For peak neeky times, there is this, The Kussmaul Chronicles by Craig Watkins. I ordered this last year from the United States and it’s incredible. Craig has used QR codes throughout so that you can listen to interviews he has made with Mr. Kussmaul. The book is wordy and goes deep in the story of Porsche’s sports car racing history. I haven’t even read 10% of it, so I’m planning to tackle this as well over the next few weeks.
There’s a couple more eBay finds that I’ve yet to fully digest. On the right is an English language M3 CSL press pack acquired from a German seller. It was produced by BMW Press Munich in March 2003. It’s not in perfect condition, but is probably tidier than the CSL right now after I fitted winter tyres and took a road trip to Austria and back.
These press packs are a great source of original and legitimate information. It’s ironic that I think you cannot believe everything you read on the internet, as I type these words for a publication on the internet. But whatever you do, don’t believe everything you read on the internet!
I see Ryan’s mentioned making a cup of tea in his piece. Without a doubt, the way Great Britain gets through tough times is to put the kettle on. For max car geekery, I love sitting on the floor of my living room, playing music and flicking through these old car press releases and brochures.
Yet another book on the list is Magnus Walker’s Urban Outlaw: Dirt Don’t Slow You Down. It’s available on Kindle if you’re that way inclined. If you need some positive vibes in your brain, then Magnus is always on hand to provide that kind of mindset.
I’m going to tap out of the digital world mid-week and get stuck into this. It’s been sat on my desk since 2017, so it’s about time I gave my mate’s book a read. Sorry it has taken a pandemic for me to dust this off and get past just looking at the photos, Magnus!
This is the CSL’s history file. All nice and organised, right?
Welcome to the mess that is Project 190 Cosworth‘s paperwork. Another job to do that I’ve been putting off.
In these challenging times, everyone can log on to news sites for the latest info. In fact, it can be tricky to avoid the constant updates. Personally, I find it best to check in on the happenings once or twice a day. Speedhunters will always be about imagination, automotive fantasies and in Mark’s case, delusional car buying and perpetual engine rebuilds. If you’ve got any recommendations for car racing documentaries to watch or books to read, feel free to mention them in the comments. It’s not like I don’t have enough to keep me busy.
As in the rest of the world, it’s becoming harder and harder to do your daily work activities here in South Africa. I shoot a variety of things on a full-time basis, and this week many of my shoots have been cancelled or postponed. The biggest hit on a ‘staying sane’ level has been the fact that schools and pre-schools have closed, and my wife and I are now taking care of our 4-year-old and 20-month-old at home.
Luckily my son is a massive fan of anything with wheels, so I’ve had the chance to become a bit of a kid again. When I haven’t been working, my days have been filled with Hot Wheels-related activities. I’m not going to lie – building tracks, having crash derbies and intense races with a child has been a lot of fun.
Although I’m not opposed to my son’s Hot Wheels being used and abused, I have quite a collection of these little things myself. I’m quite OCD at times, and as you can see, my collection is a bit all over the place at the moment. I’m on around 300 cars now, and when I started collecting I would arrange them alphabetically by manufacturer. Then there was a time when it was stuff like JDM cars together, American cars, German cars, etc.
Since then, as I’ve been acquiring more, they’ve pretty much just been put down wherever I find a place. With the fact of me being stuck at home most of the time, over the next month or two this will probably be the perfect time to arrange them in a way I’d be happy with.
Since the family came along I haven’t had a project car, as it was sold for something more practical. Don’t get my wrong, my VW CC is the most comfortable daily I could ever ask for. It’s so great that I haven’t even had the urge to do a single modification on it, but sometimes I do miss my MK5 GTI.
I had a United Grey one with a K04 turbo, coilovers, 18×9.5-inch Work CR-Kais and a huge sound system, which I simply loved at the time. Maybe since I’m going to be stuck behind my computer for so long, I should just go have a peek at what’s on SA’s Autotrader at the moment. It can’t hurt, right?
I have one GTI in the garage still, but I think I might just be a little too big for it. It did just receive a wheel change today, though, which my son executed perfectly.
I remember wanting one of these electric ride-on cars as a child, but wasn’t lucky enough to ever get one. That’s why it’s given me such great joy to be able to give my boy one. But I must admit, he’s moaned a few times that it’s too slow now. I’ve tried to connect two 12V batteries to it before, for some extra power, but that didn’t go so well.
I got the new Need for Speed a while ago, but I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t really played it much. Due to the current worldwide challenges, a lot of time has just been freed up, so I’ll be building a few of my dream cars over the next few weeks. At least this way my real-world bank balance won’t get depleted if I do crash out; I can simply reset.
One car that I’m fully looking forward to getting running again is my 1/10 scale Rallycross Fiesta. This is an awesome little machine, but it’s been sitting idle for more than a year now, which is quite sad. It’s super-quick and has a lot of torque, which just happens to be the reason that it broke. To give you an idea, it can reach 55mph (88km/h), in just a few seconds.
It’s actually quite trick and even has a set of slipper clutches, but trust me – when they say this is an off-road car, they really mean it. I made the mistake of driving it on a tarmac surface once, and with a blip of the throttle I completely melted the slipper discs, hence why it’s been an ornament on my shelf since. After a long search I managed to get the right parts to fix it up, so with this current downtime, I’ll be able to go shred on some dirt – and dirt only – pretty soon.
I guess that’s the coolest thing about being a petrolhead. It doesn’t matter what type of car or what size it is – if it has wheels, you can have fun with it. It looks like the next few weeks in isolation won’t really be that bad after all.
Since Sara and I both work from home, our routine has changed surprisingly little as the global crisis unfolds around us. The biggest difference is that instead of going to the grocery store the groceries come to us, which is actually a welcome change.
In all seriousness, we’ve been doing what we can to mitigate the situation by taking health experts’ and government officials’ advice and staying home as much as possible. So, what to do? While there are some food shortages and certain products are sold out, one thing still seems to be working just fine: our cars.
Sara recently picked up a 190E, and once we run a bit of clean up on the car over the next few weeks while we’re hunkering down at home you can expect an introduction. Meanwhile, I’ve hardly worked on my own Project 345, as for the most part I’ve simply been enjoying the M3 on the backroads in Oregon and Washington, where you can find fantastically smooth and unmolested twisty bits through the forest with very, very minimal traffic.
At the time of writing, we aren’t required to ‘shelter in place’ here in Southern Washington as others in larger cities are, so I’ve been taking advantage of the even thinner traffic and finding new dream drives around the corner from our house.
Beyond good driving some real updates certainly are on the way, though, as we need to iron out the aforementioned kinks in a few of the systems on the M3, and Sara’s Mercedes needs a bit of a mechanical refresh. A few cosmetic items wouldn’t hurt either; although you have to admit, those chrome-finished alloys are peak ’80s Mercedes owner. It’ll be a bit of a shame to see them go…
If the coronavirus could be transferred between cars, my garage may as well be called the Pandemic Automotive College. No amount of hand sanitiser could’ve stopped this virus; it’s taken me a solid 31 years of terrible car buying to get here.
The epicentre lies firmly within the JDM corner of the garage. My R34 GT-R needs another new cylinder head and the RX-7 a whole new engine. Although that’s more like seasonal flu for rotaries. Having acted relatively fast, the German side managed to avoid full quarantine in the form of a new boot release (M5 Touring) and new exhaust valve (S600 AMG). If you listen really carefully, you can hear a tiny violin playing in the background.
Seeing as we’re all being told to self-isolate – and having zero mechanical ability beyond turning the ignition off and on again – I figured it’d be wise to eliminate the risk of transporting any cough-carrying swines by getting a single-seater instead. Something practical, understated and low maintenance.
Unfortunately, the doctor prescribing this medication is Ozz at Harlow Jap Autos, whose workshop houses the automotive equivalent of 100 racks of toilet roll. He’s recommended a Ferrari 360 Challenge race car – which happens to be road legal – and as I’m keen for a speedy recovery it seemed like a no-brainer. Or rather, it seemed like a decision to be made by someone with literally no brain.
Still, when the world descends into an episode of The Purge with ANDREX CEO Tristram Wilkinson at the helm, the 360 Challenge’s 100-litre race tank should allow me to reach either civilisation or a right fiery death. Both of which sound infinitely better than another month at home.