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icaneat50eggs Reader
3/21/12 8:49 p.m.

TL;DR warning.

Welcome your comments, hints, ideas, mocking, and derision. BTW my family has the over under on miles before slamming backwards into something set at 5.5.

After all the positive response I got on on my "learn me read engine car" thread, as well as requests on the other 2 boards I frequent I thought I'd start a build thread.

A little background, on how I got here. I'm a boring middle aged guy, married with 2 young boys. I'm a civil engineer, and while I can build roads bridges, water systems I'm a relative rookie (at least for this place) on cars.

About a year ago my younger brother moved back here, and we are all big car guys. I wanted a project that my dad, brother and two boys could all work on together. At the time money was very tight, so we started looking for a lemons project.

My brother provides all the technical expertise, he is a mechanic by trade, and has an incredible job. He works here

awesome job or awesomest job EVER? There isn't any luxury dealers in our town, so they do most of the bmw, mercedes, porsche etc around town, as well as lots of old muscle cars and race prep work.

Things he's done lately include putting 502's in one customers 64 chevelle, 62 pontiac biscayne and 59 impala, redoing the transmission on a dinan supercharged m5 with about 650 hp, replacing the clutch on a shelby super snake. He likes to send me texts all day of "gotta go make sure the turbos are working on the viper".

I also have a friend that is a subaru expert. He builds custom computers that go in high powered sand rails. If you guys have never ridden in one of these things, you really can't fathom how fast they are. My buddies is 1600 lbs 400 hp and can go over 2 foot high whoops at 70 mph as smooth as a cadillac.

Anyway, back to the fiat. one day while browsing the lemons cars for sale forum, I saw a post that a guy was giving away his fiat, and thought some broke lemons poster would come haul it off for him. I was lucky enough to be the first to email him, and promised to be there bright and early the next saturday morning to take it off his hands. So friday we loaded up the 'burb and trailer and made the 500 mile each way trek from Amarillo to Austin and back.

When we left all I knew was he had a car with no engine, and a pile of parts, and it was a 67 fiat 850 spider. When we got there I couldn't believe what he was giving to us! He had spent a LOT of time and money turning this car into a very competitive scca solo race car.

Here is a video of it at the 2008 nationals 2008 scca nationals

He told me a little bit about the car, and that he had LOTS of money in the fiat 850 engine in it to make only about 80 HP. After nuking the engine he decided to start over and built a formula 1000 car IN 5 MONTHS! he has some serious fab skills. I came away with the complete car minus the engine, including the VW transaxle he has used, 4 sets of wheels and tires, a hard top, and an uncut front windshield frame. right when he gave us the original windshield he says, "Just don't break this, they are impossible to f..."

Crash, my brother steps on it.

After getting all the stuff home we snapped some pictures

Here is my youngest son, and big helper.

Here is the rear end with the the VW trans.

After a few weeks of pondering this thing in the garage, we came to the decision that this was too nice to be a lemons car. I also didn't want to be out there in a 1400 pound car when someone else was racing a 72 ltd at 5000 lbs. (the lemons forum also let me know that it was a cool project, but showing up with scca national stickers and wilwood brakes would not go over well)

Then we had to decide what to do with it. Money was very tight at the time, so we went looking for the cheapest options. $645 for a JDM ej20 twin turbo seemed to be the perfect fit. Of course, then I had to figure out something for the transaxle, and I knew I could build up the VW, but after looking at it, I found that porsche 915's are about what I'd pay for the VW, and it has 5 speeds (important when you are running mighty 13" tires!)

Progress was slow, mainly because it took months for me to scrimp together the savings for the various major pieces. Right about the time I made the last big purchase, I got a new job, that pays well over twice what I was making, so now things can progress much faster since I'm not sitting there waiting for the next part for months.

Tomorrow I'll get some more pics of all the mods and stuff that he did to the car, and what I've done. (if it looks good, it's the previous owners!)

mazdeuce New Reader
3/21/12 9:10 p.m.

This thread is exciting already.
Go on.......

FlightService SuperDork
3/21/12 9:15 p.m.

yes I agree, go on...

icaneat50eggs Reader
3/21/12 9:46 p.m.

Okay, next a little bit more on the specs of the car.

The previous owner stated that with the vw transaxle and fiat 850 engine it weighed about 1325 pounds.

From what I can dig up my engine/trans should be about 75 lbs heavier. I'm also going to have a much bigger radiator, but mine will be mounted up front, somehow, somewhere, so more weight, but more weight up front has to be good, right?

Here is the one engine pic I have right now

The fancy shiny exhaust is from these guys super subi dudes

If you ever need subi info, parts, etc get in touch with them, they are incredibly helpful.

I'm going to run it stock right now, two turbos, should be between 220-235 hp. (heck, at first i might run without turbos at all and try to survive a few laps)

Later, if when I need more HP I should be good up to about 300 without opening the motor.

I got the adapter to go from the subi to the porsche 915 from Kennedy engineering, I've heard very mixed reviews on the 915, power ratings "somewhere around a hamster wheel" to " top fuel dragsters can't break these things."

We are going to run a hydraulic clutch instead of the normal cable with the 915. with a 7000 redline and my current little bitty tires should be good for north of 137 MPH, not that I ever want to go that fast.

The front suspension is a-arms and coil overs, with wilwood brakes, the rear is trailing arms, and VW drums.

icaneat50eggs Reader
3/21/12 10:09 p.m.

Here are some questions from the other thread, or statements that brought questions to my mind/ulcers to my stomach.

Hstocksolo said: Add a huge front sway bar to bias handling towards understeer as much as possible.

I have the hand crafted front swaybar the previous owner had. I'm assuming it worked well for him. anyone know how to fab one up that is bigger should I need it?

ditchdigger said: I don't want to say it couldn't be awesome since Abarth did bolt a 2 liter into the back of a few 850 chassis cars, but by installing a monster of an engine back there you have taken an excellent handling car and probably ruined it. The stock engine weighed ~125lbs. What is back there now? 300?

not a monster, just trying to get about 225 hp. I've read that the ej20 weighs somewhere arond 240 stripped down like I have it. plus the radiator is going in the front.

amg-rx7 said: be quick on your hands to manage power-on oversteer

someone want to translate this so a guy that has spent 15 minutes on a track in his life can understand it?

And a humorous story from my one track experience. For my dad's 60th bday my brother and I took him to a NASA trackday. None of us had ever been to a track before, and we were swapping out sessions in my dads s2000. My brother (the mechanic that drives so much cool stuff) piloting the s2000 got passed by someone in a rented toyota yaris. I'm sending this link to him, just to be able to rub it in one more time.

Maybe I should wait till after he fixes my timing issue before I send it to him.

As soon as I get everything mounted up and it off jackstands, I'm getting it weighed and we can see where we sit with f/r split CG height, etc.

The battery and gas tank are already up front, and the cute little radiator he had mounted in the rear isn't going to cut it, so a bigger one will be going up front.

So i've heard everywhere about "not lifting" and "trail brake = death" etc. can someone break this down for me? You are coming down a long straight at a good clip. My understanding is get all the braking done, get the trans in the correct gear, get back on the gas, and then (and only then) turn. Is this correct? If I go in to a corner to hot, am I better off putting two pedals down and taking a straight shot into the weeds rather than touching the brakes while turning?

Sorry for the idiocy of these posts. I feel I'm giving all you good people fair warning by posting pics, so if you are unlucky enough to see this thing on the track you will know to stay way way way far away.

3/21/12 11:13 p.m.

Join NASA and when you register for your first event, request an instructor who drives a Porsche 911.

Not to scare you, but buy high-quality safety gear, and arm restraints. Please, please, please, buy arm restraints.


AngryCorvair PowerDork
3/22/12 11:39 a.m.

In reply to icaneat50eggs:

fast hands = quick counter-steer reaction time. i think another important point here is a sensitive assometer, so you can feel when to begin the counter-steer. if your assometer is good, your corrections (counter-steer) will be much less dramatic.

MrJoshua PowerDork
3/22/12 12:06 p.m.

The Subie motor is a great choice because it is short short short. I bet it is even shorter than the tiny little Fiat motor it replaces. It is also very low so it wont contribute as much to roll. I would shove the engine and transmission as far forward as possible. Your limit should be what your CV joints and seats limit you to. I would then consider moving the two turbos forward if possible and maybe even switching to one. You do have the advantage of losing the power steering pump and AC compressor off of the Subie motor so that will help some with removal of weight behind the rear wheels. I think you will be fine though. I would build it with the turbos where they currently sit and see how it drives before worrying about moving them.

ditchdigger Dork
3/22/12 12:24 p.m.
MrJoshua wrote: The Subie motor is a great choice because it is short short short. I bet it is even shorter than the tiny little Fiat motor it replaces.

The fiat motor is under 14" long and for being a cast iron block very light.


A 2.2 subie weighs 280lbs without turbos!

I went through a lot of agonizing over what motor to install in my 850. I keep landing on a boosted G13b as the best choice of weight to power.

I really don't mean to be negative. Honestly, I really want this to work and for someone to show me it can still handle afterwards. Then I wouldn't have so much trepidation about the d series swap I want to do.

MrJoshua PowerDork
3/23/12 10:50 a.m.

In reply to ditchdigger: Wow-14" is really short. Do you have Subie measurements? IIRC they are something like 18" front to back.

amg_rx7 HalfDork
3/23/12 11:29 a.m.

You should practice "race" driving by doing some indoor karting. :)

icaneat50eggs Reader
3/25/12 4:13 p.m.

ahh the irony. right when I start this thread hoping to document some real progress work comes to a halt. the next time i hit the garage, i was using a 4 inch grinder to cut away some sheet metal to clear the transaxle, the disc brakes, and the grinder slams my hand into the car.


one broken ring finger. i tried to work on somethings but man my left hand is useless!

FlightService SuperDork
3/25/12 4:45 p.m.

dude that sucks!!!

Get Well Soon.

MrJoshua PowerDork
3/25/12 6:40 p.m.

Lol-I split open my thumb smashing it with a Sawzall and you broke your finger smashing it with an angle grinder. It seems the obvious danger isn't always the most likely one.

icaneat50eggs Reader
6/25/12 10:05 p.m.

So after a three months of very little progress, things are finally getting back on track.

Progress died for 3 reasons, two bad, one great. As I posted above, I broke my finger on my right hand, and spent 6 weeks with it in a splint. I found that I'm unable to brush my teeth left handed, much less work on a car.

Right when I got my hand working again, my brother (and mechanic) had his first kid. I can say I'm a huge fan of my first nephew, and didn't mind not making progress because he couldn't come over and we were trying to help him out with the new addition.

Then my house decided to try to kill me, on back to back to back weekends then hot water heater went out, then they dryer and dish washer, then the basement flooded! while that was 3 weekends of no work, it really killed the budget. No money at this stage basicallly meant no progress.

Well the delays finally stopped, and no the engine and transmission are in and mounted.

Most of the car wiring is done, (not the engine yet) but now it's just all the details. The two major hurdles yet are figuring out the radiator and getting cv/axles that are the correct length.

We did some playing with it and I think I have 2/3 of the weight on the rear end.

JThw8 UberDork
6/26/12 6:51 a.m.

Not to derail things too much but where did you manage to get that motor for $675? Did it come with wiring and ECU?

The car is looking great and should be insanely fast when done!

icaneat50eggs Reader
6/26/12 8:24 a.m.

I got the engine from jdmtigerjapanese.com

I know they have a bad reputation but I was happy with what I got. When I got it the wiring harness was cut, so you have all the injecto and coil wires, sensors, etc but no ecu. Im goingto run a microsquirt ecu. I have a friend that has built several subie engines with micro/ mega squirts.

Giant Purple Snorklewacker
Giant Purple Snorklewacker UltimaDork
6/26/12 8:31 a.m.
icaneat50eggs wrote: one broken ring finger. i tried to work on somethings but man my left hand is useless!

That hand looks perfect for holding a TIG torch!

icaneat50eggs Reader
6/26/12 8:51 p.m.

holding a torch or becoming a torch?

I had to get it changed once after I drenched it in brake fluid.

friedgreencorrado PowerDork
6/26/12 9:23 p.m.
icaneat50eggs wrote: holding a torch or becoming a torch? I had to get it changed once after I drenched it in brake fluid.

Well, the weave in the fabric actually kind of looks like Nomex! What was that stuff made out of, anyway?

ransom Dork
6/26/12 9:26 p.m.
friedgreencorrado wrote:
icaneat50eggs wrote: holding a torch or becoming a torch? I had to get it changed once after I drenched it in brake fluid.

Well, the weave in the fabric actually kind of looks like Nomex! What was that stuff made out of, anyway?

Yeah, I almost thought it was one of these:

Kreb UltraDork
5/13/16 9:15 a.m.

As the current owner of this vehicle, I'm going to start posting here as I update Der Frankenfiat. I asked luke if it was OK a year or so ago, and he said yes, so hopefully that's still the case.

I'm focusing on the front of the car right now. More on that later, but in the mean time I'd love some feedback. The car had been running a tiny little 2 or 3 gallon tank for tooling around town and doing autocrosses. Among other things, I want to be able to take it on multi-day trips, so I'd like to have a fuel tank of at least 8 gallons, and preferably more. So here are three possible locations for the cell:

"A" is where the old cell was. My tendency is to want to offset that turbocharged Subaru hanging off the rear by adding weight up front, even though that'll hurt the polar moment. Problem is, that puts the cell right in the crumple zone if I run into something, and balls of flame aren't my thing.

"B" is about 9 inches rearward from there. The spot is smaller, and may only fit 6 gallons or so, but it is partially protected by virtue of having the front wheels and some of the suspension in front of it.

"C" is a foot or so forward from where the factory stock tank went. It'd be right behind the driver, but a stout firewall would help. It would have the highest CG, best polar moment, and worst fore/aft weight distribution.

So what do you guys think? I knew an endurance racer who built a huge gas tank and set it right where the passenger would normally go. But he's got bigger balls than I do.

EDIT- Hey moderators: can you get this moved to the builds section?

Mezzanine HalfDork
5/16/16 1:51 p.m.

I'm sad this car wasn't sold to me, but so happy to see progress continue! Give us a little more detail of where it has been (and been through!) over the last few years!

Stampie HalfDork
5/16/16 4:25 p.m.

When I saw this I though oh maybe it's up for sale again. I love this car.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
5/16/16 4:28 p.m.

Glad to see progress being made, and as you asked, the thread has been moved.

Good luck with the project.

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