09th Jan2015

Living The Dream

by Michael Chandler

VORE vacation-20

How do you measure success?  Are you successful if you have millions of dollars, property across the globe, dozens of cars, a few boats and access to a private plane?  Is it having a family, working a 9-5, 3 kids, a dog and a modest house?  Is it finishing that dream build you’ve been wanting to do since you were old enough to know whats what?  What if it’s none of those, but a combination of them?  People say that I’m living the dream because I cover races, take pictures of cars, and occasionally travel to do so.  I don’t say that I am.  If anyone I know is living the dream, it’s Jason Smith.  His job is to teach people how to drive fast in the desert, and race across it himself.  He has his drift project BMW and daily drives a very nice Ford Raptor.  He has a nice house in the suburbs of Las Vegas, where he lives with his lovely wife, three awesome children and two dogs.  That’s the dream, but it hasn’t always been.

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I first met Jason way back in 2010, right after CAM was founded.  I was going to cover the NASA Nationals, specifically the Honda Challenge races because the only locals I knew were running in that.  And I barely knew them.  I was going to interview the three of them, but before meeting face to face I sent them some basic questions.  I figured we would chat when we met and I would have more.  Jason was the only one to respond to the email questions.  At the interview he told me he wouldn’t be running in Honda Challenge, nor would he be there most of the weekend because of his job at Discount Tire.  But he had set up the other two cars for success (which was undone by an out of town “expert”).  That told me he was a good dude, and he would only cement that the longer we knew each other.

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We would run into each other at the track, we added each other on Facebook, and one day I had a problem.  The tires on my Subaru were toast.  I needed new ones, but I didn’t really want to deal with the local tire dealers.  Then Jason piped up.  He said that if I bought a set online that he would mount them for me.  All I would have to do is drive to his shop, Innovative Garage, in Orem.  So I did just that.  I was ready to pay him for his services, but he said it was all good.  He owed me for the Honda Challenge coverage.  After that we kept in touch on Facebook and such, seeing each other at meets and the track.  Then he moved his shop to my neck of the woods, and then something else happened.

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Our boy got a job at Miller Motorsports Park, working on the Mustangs, taking people out in said Mustangs and being a driver/instructor for their Raptor Assault program.  Our baby boy was growing up!  Innovative was still kicking, and they were doing a lot of suspension set up for local racers.  They were also dabbling in the local drift scene.  Before long Innovative was the title sponsor, and Jason (along with some of the local drifters) was the driving force behind Salt City Drift.

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From tire tech to a driving instructor by day and champion of the local drift scene by night, He had come a mighty long way.  Through him drifting had a better foothold at Miller, and some locals had sponsors for their pro-am endeavors.  It had looked like Jason had set down roots, and wouldn’t be leaving Utah.  How could he?  It’s not like an even better opportunity would come along…

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As fate would have it, a better opportunity did come about.  The Vegas Off Road Experience offered him a position where he’d be doing a lot of the same things: instructing, working on the vehicles, and racing said vehicles.  Not just little things, but full on desert races: Vegas To Reno and the Mint 400.  He also go to do stuff at SEMA, like drift and jump one of the VORE Raptors and hob knob with industry execs.  If that isn’t top 5 dream job, then I don’t know what is.

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I consider Jason a true friend, a guy who if he needs something I’ll go out of my way to help.  And he’s done the same for me and CAM.  When we needed a place to stay for SEMA last year he opened his house to Joey and I.  He hooked me up with parts for Rhonda, and I’ve shot some products for Innovative and Miller when he was there.

When people ask me what living the dream is I point to my friend Jason and say “that”.  He’s doing what he loves, providing for his family by doing so, and raising a trio of awesome kids.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Words and photos by Michael Chandler
*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

22nd May2014

Rhonda Gets Low

by Michael Chandler

Supra Update Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (1 of 12)

When last we left off with Rhonda, our MA70 Supra project car, she had proven that a late 80’s GT car can be surprisingly practical. We also rifled off a list of issues that had arisen. Well sir, we got around to addressing some of those issues and found some others.

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If you recall the old girl was damn near doubling up on the boost, hitting 15psi instead of the factory set 8. It sounds cool, but hitting fuel cut in every gear except first isn’t. All the vacuum lines were intact so obviously it was something a bit more intensive than that to fix. There were a few options, including pulling the turbo off and looking at the wastegate; however, we’re on a budget with this so a plan was hatched to find a throw on a boost controller. The guys at Ziptie Dynowerks recommended the Hallman Pro RX Manual Boost Controller.

The big feature of the Pro RX is the ceramic ball it employs instead of the standard 316 stainless steel ball found in other manual boost controllers. The ceramic ball is lighter, which allows it to act quicker than its stainless steel counterpart. The lightweight ball allows for very fine control of how much boost you want to run. It came with a light and a heavy spring, the heavier spring allowing for more boost. Since we didn’t want to go that crazy just yet, we left in light spring in. After a few runs up and down the street (the dyno was occupied by someone who booked some time and was paying  to use it), the boost was set at 10psi and that was that. Next up was a trip to Innovative Garage to adjust the attitude by changing the altitude.

Supra Update Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (3 of 12)

Choosing the right  set of coilovers is somewhat tricky. There are hardcore, remote reservoir 1632 way adjustable sets out there that cost more than this car did. There are dirt cheap, a step above cutting your springs sets that are just barely that. Then there’s the boat we found ourselves in.  There’s not a lot out there for the MA70, and those that are out there are either a middle of the road as far as stiffness and adjustablity are concerned or crazy track series coilovers. Eventually we landed on the Megan Racing EZ Street coilovers.

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They’re a basic monotube design and are 15 way adjustable. The spring rates are 14kg/mm in the front and 8kg/mm in the rear. They’re also shiny and blue, which is a lot better than the beat up black the stock springs and struts are. Unfortunately they didn’t have provisions for the adjustment motors that were atop the stock bits. Yeah, she had adjustable suspension from the factory back in 1987. Oh well, it’s not like that’s gonna be the end of the world or the mere existence of said motors would make the install any more difficult than it should be.

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While Tyler was on the horn with Megan Racing, I inquired about a radiator. Megan makes one, and so it was tacked on to my order and went in with the coilovers. It’s a three row, all aluminum piece that came with a 1.1 BAR radiator cap. It also didn’t have some of the nasty crap that flowed out of the old one, so that’s a bonus.

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The front went together fine…ish. Aside from a gigantic bolt holding the upper control arms in, everything went smoothly. The rear on the other hand required some trimming of some interior trim just to get those stupid motors off the top of the struts. And even then we barely got them out!  And then there was the issue of mounting the bottoms of the struts. What should’ve been a straight forward, slide em and bolt em in affair became a date with the bench grinder.

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After a light show they were slim enough to squeeze in. And then came the alignment and ride height setting. The former is still an ongoing process (26 years of life on the road means that somethings that were once separate are now one) but the ride height was pretty bang on out of the box.

Supra Update Michael Chandler CAMautoMag (12 of 12)

Here’s how she sits currently, a much more welcomed stance than her previous set up. The Megan’s feel great, borderline stock feel. I haven’t had much time with them aside from blasts to and from Innovative because while we were pulling the wheels off the front we found a bubble in the sidewall of one of the tires. Pair that with the gash that extends from the outer tread block down into the sidewall and we’ve got a sketchy situation. So next up are some new shoes of the 17 inch variety, and rubber that doesn’t look like it’s going to blow out and kill me!

SOURCES:

Innovative Garage

Ziptie Dynowerks

Megan Racing

Hallman Boost Controllers

Words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.

 

20th Sep2013

Drift Utah 6

by Michael Chandler

Drift Utah 6 Michael Chandler CAMautoMag-1

The sun rose over a chilly Miller Motorsports Park.  The rain had stopped, but the already slick surface of the west paddock was puddle ridden.  The drivers arrived and unloaded their cars, and prepared them for a full day of drifting.

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Nick and Brandon gathered the drivers for a meeting and a rundown of the course.  Some showers had returned, which made it feel even colder than it did earlier.  After fielding few questions and introducing the DJ (Joey Harrington, aka G-Type, aka The Hair, aka Trueno the Panda), the drivers went out for a parade lap.  And then the fun began

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The guys took the first few cuts somewhat conservatively.  I say somewhat, because the slick track was a bit of a trick to get used to with the water.

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The cones at the entry of the first big right hander took a beating from a few of the drivers, but then OP went on course…

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DERP!  By the way, the E36 M3 is apparently built like a tank.  His car showed no signs of damage, and he gave ride alongs the rest of the day.

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Turbo and N/A S chassis were taking cuts, mustaches not required.

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Your favorite Pro/Am drivers and the resident Formula D driver were out giving ride alongs, and showing off some tandem skills.

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Then this showed up.  Things were getting wild, crazy even.

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Thankfully a contest broke out, which calmed things down.  David Curtis took the win, and whatever prize came with the respect and adulation.  All was calm.

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Well, at least it wasn’t weird.

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What the hell?

The last and final event of the Drift Utah season is tomorrow, September 21, in the Midway at Miller Motorsports Park.  $6 to watch, $5 for a single ride along, $20 for an all day Ride Alone Pass, $90 to come take some solo cuts, $140 to dance with a partner.  Register here, and make sure to come spectate by 4pm.  Thats when the contest starts!

And as always:

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Words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article and Photos are copyright of CAMAutoMag.Com and their respective owners.
04th Oct2012

First Start: Innovative Garage Civic

by Michael Chandler

A few weeks ago Jason Smith, of Innovative Garage, texted me and asked if we wanted to film him starting his long awaited Civic race car.  I said yes, and so began the rolling ball.

The car is a pretty basic thing: K series motor, cage, big brakes, fancy suspension and slicks.  All of that stuffed into an EK hatchback with nothing in it to begin with makes for something that looks to be very quick.

This thing is really all about Trent’s video, because a car starting up translates better on video than it does in stills.

 

This thing, along with the Black Pearl, will be out on track on Saturday.  Come check it out if you can, but if you can’t then you gotta wait til I post the photos from Lap Battle

Video by Trent Bray, words and photos by Michael Chandler

*Article, photos and video are copyright of CAMautoMag.com and their respective owners. Images and words may not be re-posted, re-distributed, modified or copied without expressed written consent from CAMautoMag.com

14th Mar2012

Shop Feature: Innovative Garage

by Michael Chandler

Innovative Garage in Utah

There used to be a quaint little shop in Orem that had a reputation for setting up the suspensions on some fast cars.  Unfortunately that shop is no more…in Orem. Yes, as you have probably heard Jason packed up Innovative Garage and moved it to Cottonwood Heights. I swung by, shot some photos and video and drank the Rockstar he offered me.

Honda and Acura road race cars

They’re still getting settled in at their new location (1346 Fort Union Boulevard, Cottonwood Heights, UT), but they are still offering all their usual services: from routine maintenance to race/track car prep and storage to driver coaching and track support.

Road Racing Civic

 

Racing supply shelf

Whats left to do?  Finish up the store front, set up the lounge, paint and keep doing business

import race cars

Innovative Garage shop feature from CAMautoMag on Vimeo.

Words and Photos by Michael Chandler

*Article, Video, and Photos are copyright of CAMautoMag.Com and their respective owners. Images and words may not be re-posted, re-distributed, modified, or copied without expressed written consent from CAMautoMag.Com