I would love to accommodate your request for a sound clip but unfortunately I don’t have one. My car is going through what I’d call an “extensive” overhaul and has been off the road for awhile. It currently sits without a motor, transmission or interior. It is, by all accounts, a rolling chassis.
I never did get the front or center diffs for the car. They became unavailable as soon as I started looking but ultimately, they really weren’t necessary unless off-road was the destination.
I must send a special message to pero and express how completely enviable I am of your Dodge Caravan! I bet it really gets the soccer moms going!!
The exhaust went on very easily, with the exception of the crossmember at the very back of the engine bay. This is the one that connects the lower control arms to the chassis. TTE didn’t use this heavy support, opting for a lighter alternative similar to a Cusco brace. There was a section of this layered steel support that needed modified. After marking and cutting, I pounded the section flat and rewelded. That aside, everything else went well! Each piece went together flawlessly, fitting exactly as engineered. The tabs on each pipe were unique because they weren’t large enough to accommodate bolts, so I had to get creative. Imagine a small round piece of steel fashioned in the shape of an “A” and welded on the pipe. A quick application of safety wire would suffice until a proper solution could be found. Or so I thought. The safety wire held for about 5 minutes. And then an epiphany……coil springs for fence doors. And sure as hell I can’t tell you how that popped in my head, but it worked! Lowes had some stainless jobs and they’re still on the car to this day. Once she was all together, I was eager to fire it up. With a slight belch of black smoke, she fired and let out an enormous roar! Because a cold engine cycles through what’s called “open loop”, it idled about 1500 rpm until the O2 sensors warmed up. Most assuredly, it woke all the little critters up.
First impression….fantastic, until I fed the accelerator. With a gentle roll on the gas, I would accelerate with little turbo lag. But it quickly hit overboost and the ECU ended the fun, putting it in “Limp Home” mode and checking the engine light. I turned the key off and restarted, which allowed everything to reset. But the problem was I had no time to fix it and had to drive the car home (50 miles from work) without going into overboost. The All-Trac factory boost settings are around 8 psi if memory serves, so getting to that point happens fast. But it was such a disappointment not to be able to enjoy my exhaust. Still, it was loud. And at this point, I had already stripped much of the interior and sound dampening out. So my already loud car was magnified, and resonated throughout the cabin giving little wonder why I’m going deaf. I did some research and found that a simple resistor soldered into the circuit of the ECU would fix the problem. Tracked it down, popped it in and the fun was on! The car had much less lag and, paired with the Turbonetics hybrid CT 26, worked very well! I was never a fan of a variable boost controller because with my luck, I would get overzealous that one time and pop the engine. Instead, I placed a small plastic vacuum connector inline with the wastegate so that it would open around 11.5 psi. And still very much in the safe zone.
Fraser and I have known each other since 1998, and I’m regaled by his stories! He was on the front lines during development of the GT-4, and I was eager to pick his brain. After racking up countless phone bills to the UK and talking with his lovely (former) wife and sister-in-law, both of whom worked with him, I was elated when he was in England at the time of my visit. One of his tales was when the new bodystyle GT-4 (ST185) came out. The ST165 chassis was well sorted and winning rallies when Toyota changed the car. This presented an entirely new set of challenges. I remember him telling me the design was “all wrong”. As mentioned, the GT-4 creates a LOT of under hood heat, becoming one of its largest downfalls. And anyone that has ever popped the hood can attest that not an ounce of engine bay was spared. The first mistake was in putting an air-to-air intercooler smack on top of the engine. By nature, heat rises and saturates the intercooler, causing it to rob power. Plus, there was nowhere for that air to go, meaning the scoop acted more as an air brake. The ST165 had an air/water cooler, making this development a huge step in the wrong direction. He was part of the crew that developed what would become the Carlos Sainz and RC cars. They developed another air/water chiller, redesigned the hood and changed the bumper to promote proper air flow. He said it was his idea to create a hole in the hood above the timing cover. Once all these modifications were made, they had to convince Toyota to produce enough cars to meet homologation requirements, which they did. At the time, I believe 5,000 examples had to be produced before the car could officially race which is why those cars are only available in limited numbers. The idea behind this is that the FIA wanted rally cars to emulate what a customer could buy for the street. And I really liked that! It enhances the romance of the car. If it’s tough enough to race off road, it’s tough enough for me! Though there are very little similarities between the two, the core of the car is still there.
When heading out of Banbury, I took a small asphalt road to the north that quickly became a beige pebble road, barely wide enough for my Nissan Micra. I was naturally apprehensive driving on the opposite side of the car, but even more so when I met a truck coming the opposite way. Picture something about the size of a dump truck, but a third longer and you’ll get an idea of the size. I nearly ran off the road. The journey through the countryside was idyllic and almost beyond words. The day was beautiful, a rarity in England and we traversed along the ridge of several hills, affording long-reaching views of the countryside. We approached a small village, adorned with a tall brick vine-covered wall on the left side. And yet another lorry. As we slowly entered the village, I noticed the rooftops of all the houses were not shingle or slate or even tile. They were thatch. Simply bundles of sticks carefully placed in layers to keep the elements out. The idea that this was what sticks in my mind borders ridiculous, I know, but it was so new and unique that at that point, I actually felt like I was in England. The village was very small, with a solitary pub on the right and a boys school on the left. All the children were in uniform, playing soccer in the gardens out front, with the occasional ball rolling into the road. This wasn’t a 25-mph school zone. You crept along the village as if entering a driveway. We waited for the kids to cross before advancing, though not without remark of how many “points” we’d score for the ones we hit! On the outskirts of the village was the small airfield I’d drawn a picture in my head of for the past two years. Not to exaggerate the situation, we all form images in our head of places or people. It’s inevitable. I just wanted to see if it matched what I envisioned, and it had. A very serene setting! I approached and saw a BEAUTIFUL white GT-4 in the drive, parked next to the office/hangar building. As I approached the door, I wondered what Fraser would look like. I’ve built up in my head almost a pillar of motorsport greatness, and the man I was about to meet would leave an indelible impression!