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Featured Article
Getting Ready for the 2015 Season
Maintaining and Setting Up a B-Street Car
By Bruce Harmon

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Getting Ready for the 2015 Season
Maintaining and Setting Up a B-Street Car
By Bruce Harmon

This is sort of a how-to story, but mostly it’s about what I’m doing to get my 2007 Pontiac Solstice ready for the 2015 Solo Racing season. One can’t help but notice that many competitors’ cars at local Solo (autocross) events are modified from a little to a lot. For example many are fully prepared race cars, like those exciting CP cars. It finally dawned on me that there is a lot more to Solo racing than just showing up and running on various summer weekends. For people in this sport, the fun and enjoyment is as much or more in building and preparing their cars as driving them at events.

In the Street (or stock) classes little modifying is involved or allowed, mostly just wheels, tires and set-up. So what the heck, I decided to join the fun and create some make-work on my car. And yes, I’m still going to stay in the street class, to save money and still be able to enjoy my sports car on the road — but there’s still plenty to do to get the car ready.

So here it goes: For the last two years the Solstice ZOK has been up-graded from C to B Street and is no longer very competitive in its new class. But I’m going to suck it up and stay in B-Street anyway. I just like the car and want to keep it as a nice sports car to drive around on sunny days.

Starting with wear and tear repairs, both door handles and the driver’s seatback frame were broken from hard use at all those adrenaline-packed events. Replacing those items was a pain because I had to install the new parts back to original factory condition. Clearly that was a difficult part of the project before even getting started.
Now, for minimal allowed changes: In an attempt to improve it’s already good handling, I am replacing one (allowed in Street) anti-sway bar by keeping the factory original front bar and putting a stiffer one in the rear of the car to eliminate some understeer and hope to loosen the car up just enough. (Hope I don’t make things worse — actually a lot of thinking went into this change) The process of replacing the rear bar was pure hell in the tightly crowded rear suspension, bumper, muffler, etc. It meant taking out all of the exhaust pipe from the catalytic converter back to access the muffler enough so it could be removed to actually get at the sway bar. Then a rear toe link was loosened and moved out of the way so the old bar could finally be removed and the new, larger one wiggled in. Then, of course all the nuts had to be properly torqued during reassembly.

Next, the shocks, which can be changed in street classes: The car has accrued over 37,000 miles of racing and driving to and from events. So those dampers may be a little tired. Experts have told me that that could be the case. At least I’m having fun changing them out with high-performance units, whether they’re needed or not.

The brakes: During runs I have noticed that the front wheels tend to lock up under hard braking, (Why am I braking so hard? That’s no way to go fast!) so here’s my fix for that. To improve the bias toward the rear brakes I am installing new pads all the way around, with a more aggressive compound for the rears. Also the disks are being turned and the brake fluid replaced. Speaking of fluids, the transmission, limited-slip differential and engine oils will be changed as well.

Now to check the set-up: In a stock car, the main thing one can do is align the four wheels. In my case, the alignment has worked out to -2.4º camber a 6º caster in the front and -1.4º camber in the rear. (Thankfully, the Solstice has plenty factory adjustment capability, though many stock cars don’t, so set-up can be restricted in the street classes.) Zero toe-in seems to work best at both front and rear. These numbers work well on most autocross courses and still allow the car to be driven comfortably on the street without severe wear on the regular street tires.
Finally, the all-important autocross tires are next. I have my excellent race tires from last year that proved to be too tall in aspect ratio, so I am going to replace them with a lower cross section for a smaller diameter to lower my final drive gear ratio. (This might help, since this normally aspirated car has relatively low power.) By the way, the current 245-45/ZR 18 Dunlop Direzza Star Spec ZII extreme performance summer street tires, which have at least two more seasons of wear left on them, are for sale, very cheap. Hint hint.

In every step of the way during reassembly, I looked up the torque values and torqued every nut to spec. Now we will have a well-maintained, still stock, if slow, B-Street car with all the nuts and wheel lugs torqued nicely.

I’m getting the idea. It really is fun working on my pride and joy. Now if I can just square away that nut behind the wheel… 


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