The Guide to Higher Performance

By Dennis Grant, 98 02 24.

Welcome to the Club DSM Canada Guide to Higher Performance, a no-nonsense guide to making your DSM go faster, turn harder, launch better, and generally put a bigger grin on your face.

The information in this Guide was compiled through the efforts of the Club DSM Canada membership, their research, and their hard-won experience.

Getting Started

So, you've got yourself a DSM, and you want to improve how it performs. Probably can't wait to break out your wrenches (and your wallet!) and get right down to it, eh?

Well, before you go running off to buy that nifty-keen chrome plated carbon-fibre muffler bearing from your nearest speed shop, take a moment out to answer a few questions:

Let's look at these questions in detail:

Why do you want to improve the performance of the car? - Be honest here. Do you intend to race the car at all? If so, will it be full-time, or a combination street/race car? Are you out to impress your friends, or the guys at the corner hangout? Are you looking to add a little more zip and confidence to your commute, or are you just looking for a wekend project to occupy your time?

Many, many people, especially younger guys with their first real performance car, think they want x out of a project, when in reality, they want y. You have to know why you want to improve the performance of the car, before you start. Halfway through a project is no time to discover that what you're building isn't what you want.

How will you be using the car?: If the car will see street duty, then there are laws you must conform to. The car must pass the provincial saftey inspection, and must be insured. It's no fun driving a "slightly" illegal car - every time a police car happens to be in your rear view mirror, you'll be a very unhappy and nervous camper.

If the car is to be raced, then there are rules the sanctioning body will require you to follow as well. It's no fun to be kicked off the track for an illegal or unsafe car. It's also no fun to be placed into a higher class than you're cabable of playing in beacause a mod you made put you in with the big boys.

How much are you willing to spend? - There is an immutable law of the universe, Speed Costs Money DSMs can get more with less than some other makes of car, but the bottom line is that if you want to play , then at some point, you're going to have to pay for it. Nobody runs 10's on $100.

What are you willing to live with in terms or comfort and noise? - Race cars are uncomfortable, nasty devices. Full race exhausts will prevent conversation, drown out your stereo, and attract attention. Full race suspensions will rattle your fillings loose, and make long trips unbearable. Radically lowered cars will grind and bang over speed bumps and curbs.

BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF! That really cool car in the magazine is probably trailered from event to event. The guy that owns it may have a minivan as his daily transportation. When in doubt, err on the side of conservatisim.

Words to Live By

Here's some simple rules to remember:

  1. There's No Such Thing As A Free Lunch - Everything you do to the car has tradeoffs involved with it, and anything that sounds to good to be true probably is.
  2. A street driven car MUST be kept street legal! - This may seem obvious, but I'm constantly suprised at the number of people who try and "cheat" the law. It will come back to haunt you later on!
  3. Don't be a lemming! - Don't let peer pressure or something shiny in a magazine let you take your eyes off your goals for the car. Getting sidetracked on "the trick of the week" will cost you time, money, and frustration, and you won't be any faster for it.
  4. Give yourself all the advantages - That means bringing the car up to a state of 100% stock tune before going after more power. What good is 500HP in a car with bald tires, no brakes, leaky shocks, and a rust hole in the floor? Note that sometimes that means you have to admit that your current car may not be worth the effort and money in restoring.

Special Points for Racers

If you will be going racing, or if you think you might be going racing at anytime during the car's life, there are a few more points to concider:

  1. Get the Rulebook - In racing, the Sanctioning Body is Mother, the Sanctioning Body is Father. They hold the rules, and if you don't follow them, you don't get to play. Thus, before you slap that massive turbo onto the car, get the rulebooks and read everything they have to say. Then, plan your modifications to fit the rules.
    Rules can be found for the SCCA and the NHRA online too.
  2. Buy Saftey Equipment First - A helmet is expensive, and may eat the cash that may otherwise have gone to add some speed to the car. There's something even more expensive though - your head. Get a good helmet up front.
  3. Do a season in an Unmodified Car - This is the one that takes the most willpower. There is more performance to be found in the driver than in any other part of the car. By way of example, a stock '97 TSi AWD in the hands of a newbie does a 15.6-15.8 second quarter mile. The same car in the hands of a good driver will go 14.4-14.5. That's a 1.2 second difference! Learn to drive You'll be faster, and spend less money in the long run, and the best way to learn to drive is to race a full season in an unmodified car.