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From the Ground Up: Web Extra


Story By Alan Cesar

We spoke with Tim Harper and Steve Burke about their Mitsubishi Galant VR4 for our April 2014 issue of Grassroots Motorsports magazine. We couldn’t fit all the details there, so here’s the extra.

The Acquisition

Steve Burke purchased the VR4 from David Buschur of Buschur Racing. David had built the car to drag race and it had done a low-10-second quarter-mile back in the day. Steve Burke is also my co-driver. He was more show than go back then, so all he really did was polish the car and drive around like the big limp noodle that he is.

When the new Evo X came out, he got the bug to finally ditch the old girl and get with the new kids. He decided that he wanted to sell the VR4, but in its drag race trim, it was too fast for him to sell to just anybody. When I got word that he was planning on parting it out, I put into motion my plan to do One Lap.

Four-Wheel Steering

The 4-wheel steering system in the Galant VR4 was similar to the system used in the 3000GT VR4. It used a mechanical gear oil pump mounted to the rear differential, along with a looped series of high- and low-pressure lines from the front power steering system to actuate a separate rack mounted on the rear subframe.

The rear trailing arm front mounts are rubber isolated, and the rack basically defected the bushings allowing for a few degrees of rear toe change. The system activated more than 30 miles per hour, and the rear wheels steered in the same direction as the fronts. This helped keep the car “flat” during lane change maneuvers, and it proved to be a neat feature for the regular driver.

The problem is when you start to race the car, you end up in a situation where you are trying to turn the car on a race track at speeds much higher than 30 miles per hour, and the rear wheels are turning the same direction as the fronts. This causes the rear of the car to push the front and makes for massive understeer.

To make matters worse, as these cars aged, the lines would leak and the system would either fail completely or only work some of the time. The solution to this problem is to remove the system entirely.

The rear suspension and drivetrain in Eclipse/Talon/Laser group of cars is identical in every way to the Galant VR4, except it does not have the rear steering components. It still has the rubber-isolated front link on the trailing arm. So when you toss an Eclipse in a hard corner, that bushing still deflects and toes in the loaded side—causing understeer. It also can induce some rear toe instability when the surface of the track changes dramatically, causing a snap oversteer condition at the limit. The solution to this—and how I solved it in the VR4—is to weld the front link solid to the trailing arm with a big washer. That eliminated the very last vestige of rear steer from my car and helped transform it into a car that could be made to rotate in a turn and have more predicable manners near the limit.

Transmission

Jon Ripple, the owner of TRE Transmissions, put together the transmission to handle the rigors of road racing with an engine that makes 450 horsepower and more than 450 ft.-lbs. of torque to the wheels. That’s quite a job for a transmission whose gear set is the size of a breadbox.

He started with a brand new transmission from Mitsubishi. That got him a box with all the factory updates, including a double-synchro first and second, and strong third and fourth gear set. In road racing, third and fourth gears take a huge beating, and the Mitsubishi design is pretty limited from the factory. Even the later model Evolution gears are not strong enough to handle the torque and abuse. Heat and subsequent loss of film strength in the gear oil is the number one killer of road racing transmissions.

To combat this, I installed a Tilton gear oil pump and fan-assisted oil cooler to keep down the temps. One of the last guys to road race a VR4, C.J. Moses, had worked with Jon earlier on a custom sprayer that would return part of the cooled gear oil directly onto the 3-4 hub/slider assembly with the hopes of keeping it cool. This past racing season, including the One Lap of America race, the transmission has been flawless and the cooling setup appears to be doing its job.

TimmySpec

In 2011, Steve told me he didn’t want to do One Lap in the VR4 anymore. He wanted to take his brand new Evolution X. During the build of that car, we found that the Whiteline adjustable rear control arms were on backorder.

This was a week before the start of the event, and we were faced with a car we couldn’t align to race specs. I crawled under the car to take a peek and proclaimed, “I can build that.”

Steve laughed a bit and said, “Okay, do it.”

So I did. I built a set of adjustable rear control arms for the Evo that worked flawlessly. I even built a set for a competitor’s Evo X.

Then I built a few for some local guys, at which point I decided to protect myself as a limited liability company, and TimmySpec was born. I found some cool little companies to build my parts to my specification, and I assemble them in the garage. I also manufacture and sell rear sway bar links.

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Comments

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greengsx
greengsx
1/11/14 12:56 p.m.

Thanks to Alan Cesar for his passion and expertise with the article. He also took some really iconic shots of the old girl at Daytona. If you want to know more about the Galant VR4 and all the great people in that community be sure to visit galantvr4.org

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