Back in July, I went on a trip with a group of my friends down to North Carolina. Avid motorcyclists and gear heads might already know where this is going but the lot of us packed ourselves up and headed to the infamous Tail of the Dragon. Once we arrived at The Dragon, we quickly got settled at Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, torqued our wheels, checked our tire pressures, put on our racing gloves and calmed our nerves.
Our collection of vehicles consisted of right hand drive Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) imports, specifically all of the old JDM legends from back in the day and a couple of more modern sports cars. Mazda RX7, Eunos Cosmo, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution II, Toyota Celica GT-Four, Mazda Miata, Toyota FRS, Honda Civic; a fantastic collection of cool, fun cars. Piloting my Toyota Celica GT-Four, I took a run at the mountains and quickly found the limits of my nerves, driving skill and grip levels of the tires on the car.
Throughout the week, I learned more about throttle control, braking control, smoothing out my steering inputs and proper heel-toe downshifting. While my goal was not to achieve the fastest time up and down The Dragon, I feel confident that my goal of learning how to drive a car quicker and smoother was achieved. I’ve been told countless times by my friends how critical seat time is to get quicker and continuously improve your driving skills and my week at The Dragon is a direct reflection of that. With that being said, I still have a ton to learn.
I did take one very crucial point away from my trip down south though. While my Toyota is definitely a capable sports car that you can have a ton of fun in, the car was limited by its size, weight and partially due to the All-Wheel-Drive. It was observed that the Celica is a very neutral car with the Hankook RS-3 tires, the alignment setup and stiffer/thicker rear sway bar meaning the car doesn’t tend to understeer or oversteer – it’s very predictable. This is great because not only is it easy to learn on, but its also very forgiving… To a point, of course.
It wasn’t just the Toyota that I learned from though. After riding as a passenger in a handful of cars, I quickly realized what excited me the most and what the best setup is for The Dragon. It was the same lesson I took from my day Autocross last year in my old Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X; the Lotus philosophy. Taking a couple of quotes from Mr. Chapman himself: “Simply, then add lightness” and ” Adding power makes you faster on the straights; subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere”. The small, lightweight, Rear-Wheel-Drive cars once again shined. This includes both the Mazda Miata (NA, NB, and ND chassis) and the Toyota FRS.
All week long we continued our driving up and down the mountains, learning our vehicles and smiling ear to ear. This got me thinking; “Wow, I really want to go and buy a Miata!” and “Wow, I really want to go and build an Exocet!”. The thought of a 1700 lb, Rear-Wheel-Drive, reliable vehicle (Exocet) suddenly possessed my mind. The only issue with the Exocet is that you can’t drive them on the streets as they’re a tube frame, a motor and wheels. Obviously this was discouraging but I then remembered something really obvious: I already own a 1700 lb, Rear-Wheel-Drive, reliable vehicle that I am building… and I can legally drive it on the road. I need to get my head out of my ass and start working on my Triumph again!
Now recently timing hasn’t been working in my benefit, life has been busier than ever. After accepting a job offer two weeks ago, I am now going to be working in the Greater-Toronto-Area (GTA). This will allow me to dedicate more funds towards the restoration however its definitely going to be taking some time away from it as well. I want something small and nimble for next year. I want to drive through the mountains in something historic, beautiful and quick. I can’t wait to continue with the project. I have a a full wiring harness for the Miata and the Triumph so I plan to map the two out and create a new, hybrid harness. In addition, I now have a brand new Mishimoto radiator and shroud that I will be retrofitting to the vehicle to ensure I never have to worry about coolant temperatures. I want this car to be reliable so I never have to worry about it leaving me stranded.
I’m going to try to dedicate more time to it now with the new inspiration and hopefully have it done before the group of us heads down to The Dragon next year. I’ve been working on fixing up my old Mitsubishi Lancer so I can start using that to commute to and from Woodbridge each day – I’d prefer not to rack up the kilometers on my Toyota – I don’t want to ruin the car. The Lancer used to have a Lancer Evolution motor in it and I thankfully was able to complete the motor swap to the stock 4B12 motor this week. All that needs to be done is inner fenders, charge the AC system, bleed and refill the clutch fluid and get it licensed. Once this is complete, my time will once again be dedicated to the Triumph.
One thing I have been able to do is measure up the GT6 under body and design an exhaust system that will, in my opinion, look and sound awesome. The system is made entirely of purchased components, cut and welded to size.