Justy Little Project Car: The joy of a good machine shop, and a rogue Nissan Axxess


I don’t understand it. Even though I live near the birthplace of speed and some kind of important race track, engine machine shops are hard to come by. I drove 40 minutes one way to the machine shop when I rebuilt my WRX’s engine, and they even had to send the crankshaft out to another shop to get serviced because its journals were too small for their machines. My co-workers at a car magazine at the time had no suggestions.

I expected triple the hassles when rebuilding an abandonware 3-cylinder, but shortly before I tore my Justy’s engine down, I managed to find a more local shop. A friend stumbled across a pamphlet of theirs that listed a bunch of services and standard prices. When I saw lightening and balancing, crank knifing, and head work services all at attainable prices, visions of a high-revving, high-compression, 100-horsepower Uber-Justy danced in my head.

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HCOTY Nominee: Google’s Autonomous Car

Google’s self-driving car isn’t new for 2015. It also isn’t particularly fast: It’s limited to 25 mph. Regardless, it did reach an important milestone this year. The self-driving car got pulled over, and its “passenger” had a chat with a police officer. This happened in Silicon Valley, because of course it did.

This story was trending on November 12, when Zandr Milewski posted it to Facebook. Milewski works at Electric Imp, a tech company in Los Altos, Calif. that specializes in the so-callled Internet of Things. IoT refers to the expanding world of Internet-connected devices, of which the Google Car is likely one. If you think about those thermostats you can control over the Internet using your smartphone, you’ve got the idea. Connected devices can range from thermostats to washing machines to commercial jet engines. In the case of the latter, it’s common for jet engine manufacturers to constantly monitor and collect all kinds of operating data as a plane carries you and 200 other people to your snowbird destination in Boca Raton.

But I digress. Milewski recalls this event:
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Justy Little Project Car: Engine Teardown and Inspection


The engine’s out, all 1.2 liters of it. Since my last post, I separated it from the transmission and hung it on an engine stand. There’s not much left to do except to start taking it apart and see just how bad I’ve got it.

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Race Championship Recap: 2015 SCCA Runoffs at Daytona International Speedway

Alan Cesar November 9, 2015 Featured, Motorsports


The SCCA‘s national championship Runoffs has been a rather static thing for long stretches of time in terms of location. Five years here, 20 years there, 10 years there. This gave a significant annual advantage to racers who had the track’s nuances committed to muscle memory. It was also more difficult for those who live far away from, say, Road America, to travel there for the club’s annual championship event.

The club announced a few years back that, after the 2013 Runoffs, it would begin moving the championship around the country: a different track every year. Last year was Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. For 2015, they came to Daytona International Speedway. I stopped in to check it out.

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Justy Little Project Car: Pulling the Engine

Alan Cesar October 19, 2015 Featured, Project Cars


I’m done with half-measures. This Justy engine—with its frighteningly uneven compression figures across its three cylinders, thrust bearing slop, huge oil leak and worn motor mounts—had to come out. I could have tried to take care of these things with the engine in situ, but odds are good that it would require pulling the engine anyway. Removing the engine makes all of these jobs quite a lot easier. Now that my AMC Eagle Hell Project is gone, I actually have the space to do it.

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Justy Little Project Car: Suspension Maintenance and Specs

Alan Cesar October 13, 2015 Featured, Project Cars


When I was still driving the Justy regularly, it wandered all over the road whenever a tire hit a bump or found a curve. It darted left and right as far as a foot in some cases. I learned to watch for irregularities in the surface and countersteer in anticipation. I needed new front strut mounts. This was a good opportunity to measure suspension components and prepare for future upgrades.

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Former AMC Headquarters Auction Starts at $500

Alan Cesar October 8, 2015 All Things Hoon


The old American Motors headquarters is up for auction. It can be yours. Bidding starts at $500, but you’ll also have to deal with a possible piles of filler dirt, a building that might be partially gutted, and six figures’ worth of overdue taxes by next summer. Which begs the question: like a cheap Mercedes, is there really such a thing as a cheap world headquarters building for a dead automaker?

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Some Heroes Are Worth Meeting


“Someone just asked us to take their grandfather’s ashes around the track. We’ll have to figure out how to strap that in,” says Andrew “H” Smith. No one calls him Andrew. Or Andy. Or Smith. Just H. And In that one moment, he’s shown the core of Robertson Racing.

They don’t have to do that. It won’t make the car faster. It won’t make sponsors happy. It’s just a favor for a fan, one easily brushed aside with any number of potential easy excuses. But they’ll do it anyway, the same way they let kids hop in the car and let people wander under their awning. They’ll do it because they’re full of heart. They’re forever thankful for their fans. You don’t get that with a lot of professional race teams–especially not ones that have stood on the podium at Le Mans. But then, not many drivers have shared a podium spot with their spouse on their wedding anniversary either.

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Marine With One Leg Leads in Continental Tire Series, Supported by a Whole Mess o’ Veterans

Photo courtesy Mazdaspeed/Al Merion Padron.

Half of Liam Dwyer’s clutch leg is gone. His right knee has been replaced. A steel plate, a rod, and 23 screws hold his right forearm together. He endured more than 50 surgeries over four and a half years.

Dwyer is a retired United States Marine. A Taliban IED hit him on May 22, 2011.

Whenever possible, Dwyer is strapping into a Mazda MX-5 Miata race car, attaching his prosthetic clutch leg, and blazing out on track to compete for position with drivers who have four complete appendages. “I have no regrets,” he says. “I would do it again knowing this would happen.”

Dwyer is a professional race car driver. He has trophies to prove it. His team is in first place in the IMSA Continental Tire Series ST class. Next week, he races at Circuit of the Americas. A number of other veterans have helped him get there, and he’s paying it forward, too.

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Justy Little Project Car: Shifter Tips for Everyone, Sweet New Wheels for Me

Alan Cesar August 17, 2015 Featured, Project Cars


Though my Subaru Justy’s cabin is surprisingly roomy and airy for such a small car and the pedals are well placed for podiatric gymnastics (I can make up words), the sloppy and vague shifter has always been something of a disappointment. The 4-wheel-drive system also wasn’t switching on. It might seem silly to work on these small problems when I have the elephant of low compression also looming in the garage, but after two years of fighting with an AMC Eagle’s clutch, I needed to establish some forward progress and eke out a little satisfaction from this project car before I could knock on the door to the engine party.

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