Hooniverse Asks: What do you always modify?

Alan Cesar August 14, 2017 Hooniverse Asks

We just can’t leave well enough alone. We’re car enthusiasts, so we must adjust, modify, improve and accessorize our cars. Most cars ship from the factory with a broad market in mind, so to stand out, we must make it our own somehow.

Ever since I figured out how to drill and tap a billiard ball, I’ve been using them as shift knobs. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Miata, Escort, WRX or minivan: If it’s got a stickshift, it gets a new knob. My only exception has been my Subaru Justy, which has a 4WD switch built in to the shifter. That big, red button is too cool to replace.

Maybe you live on a dirt road, so you’re a mudflap person. Or you always do springs and shocks. Perhaps you can’t stand factory stereos, so you always throw in a new head unit.

Whatever it is, we want to know: What’s your go-to modification?

Since these are about you, feel free to exclude your spouse’s and kids’ cars when considering your top tweak.

Project Car SOTU: (Hopefully) Brief Ownership of an AW11

Chris, a co-worker at my day job, teased me for two years with the possibility that he’d sell his MR2. It had been in his family since new, first bought in 1986 by his uncle and handed down to his brother and himself later on. It was a car they enjoyed during their college years, and Chris had kept it since. I occasionally spotted it in the parking lot. He’s a family man and not much of a car guy, so “occasionally” is all the exercise it got. We’d always chat a bit about how it’s slow, but fun to drive. I introduced him to the adage, “It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than to drive a fast car slow”—pardon the grammar.

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Project Car SOTU: Justy Little Compression Test

It’s been about 2.5 years since I first tested compression on my Justy project car’s three cylinders. That was when I found out it was running on only two of them. Adjusting the valves made it a little better, but it still needed not only a valve job, but a full rebuild. Now that the (finally) rebuilt engine has more than 3,000 miles on it, I thought I’d check compression again.

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Hooniverse Asks: What was your biggest automotive false alarm?

I was replacing oil cooler hoses on my AW11 Toyota MR2 this weekend. They were original, and after 31 years near hot exhaust and in a hot engine bay, they had started to leak. The job’s a bit fussy and requires that you’re flexible enough to shove your head in your own ass, but it’s doable. So I doable’d it.

However, I had a moment of terror when I started it up. Staring at the oil pressure gauge, it read zero at first. “The lines are just empty,” I told myself. “Give it a second.”

So I did. Then a second more. Then a second more. Terrified, I shut it down.

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Justy Little Project Car: Long-Wearing Tires and Steering Fixes

Now that the Subaru Justy is taking on weekend recreational duties, I can continue sorting out the various small problems it had before I embarked on this engine rebuild.

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Rotten Rental Car Review: Dodge Journey

The small people-hauler didn’t die with the Mazda5. It got restyled into an SUV, and as a result, lost a substantial amount of its utility in the conversion. This is what’s left of the affordable minivan market, and it’s a dismal place to be.

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Gadget Review: Recon Rings Silicone Wedding Band

The welding world is full of horror stories about accidents involving wedding rings. The one I heard from the instructor in a community college welding class ended in the words, “peeled off his skin like a glove.” I’ll spare you the details; you can find as many stories as you can stomach all over the Internet. Though I don’t do much welding, the possibility of getting hurt while wrenching because of my wedding band has always been in the back of my head. Well, for as long as I’ve been married.

It turns out that my nascent fear wasn’t unfounded; losing your ring finger is a risk for any of us who work with our hands. While you’re busy not searching for welding accidents, you also shouldn’t search for images of ring avulsion either. A minor accident or slip while wearing a wedding band can have severe consequences. One doctor writes: “It is difficult for patients to understand how otherwise inconsequential stumbles or movements can result in the damage or loss of a digit when a ring is involved.”

That’s how I ended up trying a silicone wedding band in place of the tungsten carbide one I’ve been wearing for years.

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Justy Little Project Car: Firing it Up, and Justy Few Videos

Alan Cesar February 6, 2017 Featured, Project Cars

I tried so many times to get a video of the first time I started my Justy after the engine rebuild.

“Alright, here we go!”

Not quite. Turns out the wiper blades are on. Remember how you put the oil pressure gauge on the windshield?

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Gaming Autonomous Traffic: How You Can Beat Robot Rush Hour

Alan Cesar February 2, 2017 All Things Hoon, Featured

In a world of autonomous cars, the autonomous driver will be king.

We’re all familiar with the image of that one person walking steadfast against the throng of automatons. It’s a delicious visual, especially for the palate of rugged-individualist America. When autonomous cars become affordable for the average person, it’s only a matter of time before there’s enough of them that traffic becomes a smooth-flowing stream of cars free from human error.

That’s the utopian hellscape that car enthusiasts fear, and we cling tightly to our keys and steering wheels as symbols of vehicular freedom. You can have my stickshift when you pry it from my cold, dead fist.

But the daily commute is currently just a miserable chore. In the future, it’s a chance to fully explore your freedom.

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Justy Little Project Car: Approaching Completion (?)

Alan Cesar January 11, 2017 Featured, Project Cars


My wife fully gestated and expelled a baby in less time than it’s taken me to finish my engine rebuild. It was September 2015 when I removed the engine from my ’91 Subaru Justy project car. I had it apart shortly after that, pricing out exhaust valves, bearings and machine work to see if a rebuild was financially feasible (and if a motorcycle engine swap was a better idea). By the end of November 2015, the machine work was done and I had most of the parts I’d need, but it wasn’t until this month that I put the engine back in the car.

Now I’m making the final push to get this car mobile so I can let another project gestate in my garage. A Pontiac race car with a due date 10 months out. Read on.

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