2020 is looking to be a big year. As if the Riyadh auto show wasn’t epic enough, I hope to surpass that.
This, is my Probe:
It doesn’t look like much, because it really isn’t much. I picked this baby up on Ebay for $500. It had 266,016 miles, and it didn’t run, but the engine turned over and it was in decent cosmetic shape, with a complete interior. There’s some underbody rust and the rear hatch is going to need some repair, but it’s a solid foundation. The Mazda 2.5L KLDE V6 is healthy. I have good oil pressure, and a compression check (on a cold engine!) was in spec. I may drop the pan and roll in a set of rod bearings and ARP rod bolts just for insurance, but the engine’s healthy.
Over the last few months, I’ve been tinkering with it, fixing bits here and there. So far, it has a new ignition system, which I converted from the failure-prone stock ignition module to a GM HEI module. It has a shiny set of Chinese stainless steel exhaust headers. It has all new Powerstop brakes, and a driver side halfshaft. There’s a new timing belt and accessory belts.
And the last step to getting it to run was a DIYAutoTune MSPnP. Something in the engine harness was messing up the signal for the airflow meter, so the car wouldn’t run with a stock computer. The Megasquirt is speed density and doesn’t need the air meter, so it started right up on the aftermarket box.
Still to sort out is a fuel starvation issue. I found it doesn’t get enough gas to rev much past 3000rpm, and the accelerator pump enrichment is really bad. But! It made it back and forth the the County Clerk today to be inspected for roadworthyness and get a place. It’s now street legal to drive again.
So what’s the plan? What could I possibly be wanting to do with this heap?
I’ve had a blast running my Grand National in the Optima Search for the Ultimate Street car series over the last three years. But this year I’m going to try this car.
Why? Because almost every social media thread involving the Optima series has some troll that sticks their nose in to comment on the amount of money people have buried in their rides. It’s a fair point, but often is presented by the troll as a negative, or a reason “regular” people can’t possibly participate. Which I think is hooey. I firmly believe that with proper construction and a good driver, you can compete in this series with a car that doesn’t break the bank.
And this series has been extremely good to me. The connections I’ve made, the new friends from all over the country. All of it is available to people of reasonable means. You don’t have to be a millionaire to get to Vegas, and I’m going to try and prove it.
This car is my attempt to show those trolls they’re wrong. I have set a budget, and I think I can qualify for OUSCI in Las Vegas with this car with less than $4000 in the car. And I’m not going to strip the thing out and just crush people on the autocross course with an ultra-light car. That’s not what this series is about. It’s going to have full interior and working A/C. It’s going to have an attractive sticker package. I’m going to pull the hail dents out of it and restore the paint. I’ve already replaced the factory CD player, which weighed four pounds, with a new Blaupunk unit that doesn’t have a CD transport. It weighs just 250 grams! The opportunities to re-engineer stuff on this car are endless, so good D&E Scores are possible despite the age of the vehicle.
And I’m going to turbocharge it.
The car weighs 2600 pounds. I can fit 255mm tires under it as it sits, and an Ebay turbo kit paired with the Megasquirt will give me 250 horsepower to the ground for under $1000. The age of the vehicle means stuff I repair on the interior and body will garner D&E points. The infamous Cold Lotion race team has proven a Probe to be capable of 2:23 laps at NCM. That’s enough to launch any car into the top 25 hot lap times. Top-5 overall finishes in the GTC class are within reach, and that’ll get this Probe to Vegas and show that it is possible not just to show up and run, but to succeed in this series without dropping $250,000 on a super-high end build. In fact, my entire set-up, including the truck, trailer, and the car at each event will total less than a $9,000 all in (for the hardware, not including consumables like fuel and lodging).
I’m registered for three Optima events: Atlanta Motorsports Park in April, Road America in August, and NCM in October.
“Is the Buick done for, then?” you might ask. Nope! Once it gets back from Saudi Arabia (hopefully be early February) it’s getting a new set of front wheels with the proper offset to solve a rubbing problem, and then I plan on running the it in the DriveAutoX series this summer, with an eye towards winning my way into UMI Performance’s King of the Mountain event. It’s not going to be easy, but I did well at the DriveAutoX event I attended last summer, and the issue that knocked me out of the pursuit has been fixed on the car.
So, stay tuned to this space, as well as my Instagram for updates!