Saturday, October 24, 2020

New Head Unit - Alpine iLX-W650

Ever since I got the Cayman I've been wanting to add a head unit to it so I can use Apple CarPlay and install a backup camera. They were always so expensive and included features I didn't really care about like built-in GPS so I never did. Since my car has the factory Bose unit, you can't just replace the head unit either. You need a HUR adapter to connect it to the fiber optic system used by Bose and those are also pricey. My car already had a Tranzit Blu Bluetooth to radio adapter installed by the previous owner so you can send bluetooth audio to the factory unit directly over the antenna cable but sometimes it randomly decides to it can't find my phone. 

Alpine iLX-W650 installed - 10-24-2020

I eventually ran across the Alpine iLX-W650 and it's pretty much the perfect head unit for me. It supports Apple CarPlay, doesn't have extra things I don't need (hence the much lower cost), and more importantly, is only 4 inches deep leaving lots of space behind it to fit all the wiring you need to connect all the adapters you need. I got it from Crutchfield along with an Axxess AX-PO90052 Wiring Interface (HUR Adapter) and the American International POR911 Silver Dash Kit which is a perfect match with the factory panels. I also decided I'd make an attempt at getting a rearview camera working. I looked around for something that would be discrete and almost stock looking and I found this random cheap one (Natika brand) on Amazon that was nice and small and fit the bill (if you're a native English speaker, the instructions are laughable translations that make little sense). I also bought a parking brake bypass kit since you can't just fool it by grounding the wire. It needs to sense power first before it goes to ground. These are also available on Amazon and the instructions are really easy to follow. 

Alpine iLX-W650 - half the depth of a typical double-din HU. 

Axxess AX-PO90052 Wiring Interface

Natika rear view camera

Hand brake bypass

The Crutchfield instructions for the wiring harness were spot on. I soldered and heat shrunk all the connections during the week then worked on the installation today. It should've been nice and easy but one of the 5mm hex release clips was rounded and wouldn't release properly so I couldn't get the factory head unit off. After about an hour and a half of trying everything, I found a video of what the head unit looks like after it's removed and realized all that clip did was push a tab and with enough force using your fingers, you can actually push the tab in yourself so I finally got the head unit off...ugh, all that wasted time. 

Factory head unit and other panels removed

The old Tranzit Blu setup was actually really well installed which unfortunately for me meant spending more time undoing that installation first. Once I got that out, I plugged in the new head unit to make sure all my wiring was working. I was hoping to reuse the microphone from the Tranzit Blu setup but it turns out it wasn't compatible and no one could hear me so I ended up having to remove that and run the new microphone that was included with the new head unit. 

Taking off the rear bumper to install the rear camera 

Running the wire to the back for the camera turned out to be the easy part. I ran it by the channel where the rubber seals were for the doors, under the "umbrella holder", then back up the channels to get to where the seat belt is. I then stuffed the cable in the gap between the side compartment and the back panel to the trunk. Removing the bumper was supposed to be just a few Torx-30 bolts and a 5 minute job but the two bolts by the exhaust were not accessible to me because they're blocked by the much larger FVD muffler I have. I had to drop the muffler to get to those bolts which is a pain because the muffler barely fits through the gap. I drilled a 5/16" hole dead center above the license plate and installed the camera there. It looks like it came like that from the factory.

Rear view camera installed

Rear view camera installed (really stealthy)

To power the camera, I tapped into the wiring for the right tail lights. Brown is ground and blue/black is +12V for the reverse light so the camera only gets power when you're going in reverse. The downside is that I can arbitrarily view the rear camera while driving but the upside is that it's not always powered and therefore is going to see less usage and will likely last longer as a result. I ran the wire up the bumper then into the gasket for the tail light. I'm actually surprised the car has a reverse trigger in the factory harness so it automatically detected me putting the car in reverse and switched inputs. 

Rear camera working

This particular camera already includes guidelines (which you can turn off by cutting some wire specified in the instructions) so for now, I've disabled the guidelines built into the Alpine unit. These lines shown in the image above are what's generated by the camera. Finally, I buttoned everything back up and made sure everything was still working. I love how clean it makes the interior look and it'll be good to have my navigation up on a bigger screen rather than looking all the way to the passenger side to see my phone which is mounted on a Rennline Exact Fit mount.



I think if I had a more stock car, this install would've gone a lot faster. Overall though, I think it was worth the effort. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

GTI Maintenance - Wiper Blades and Cabin Filter

Just noting this here for the records that I changed the front and rear wiper blades as well a new cabin air filter today.

Bosch wiper blades - 10-11-2020

Maintenance Update:

Mileage: 61,818
- New Bosch front wiper blades
- New Bosch rear wiper blade
- New air cabin filter

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Driven DT-40 Oil - OK for Track Use

I last changed the oil on the Cayman in October 2019, so about a year ago, but due to everything that was going on in the beginning of the year I never got around to changing it before going to Watkins Glen in July 2020. This actually isn't as bad as it sounds since the car was parked most of the time due the global pandemic but still probably not ideal. I had also read that Drive DT-40 oil isn't really recommended for track use and that I should be running their Driven XP-9 oil instead which is a dedicated race oil. Since I was driving to the track and back, I wanted to see if DT-40 would be ok anyway. I already had a box of XP-9 around but that oil that only lasts 500 miles apparently so is probably more ideal if I was trailering the car there.

Latest Oil Analysis - 10-7-2020

Anyhow, between two very hot track days in the middle of summer and the length of time the oil was there, I really wanted to know the condition of it all so when Speedsport Tuning installed my Bilsteins a week or so ago, I had them get an oil sample for me which I sent to SPEEDiagnostix. I had an oil sample done in mid 2019 before going to Nationals so I'd be able to see how it compared. Just a note here that today's oil analysis was street + track, and my previous oil analysis was street + autocross. Both samples had been in the car for roughly the same number of miles.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the results were even better than my previous oil test. I have even fewer wear metal particples present and while the oxidation value continues to stay on the high side, that's expected from an oil that's used hard. In fact, the oxidation value is slightly better than last time despite the oil being run even harder. The engine continues to show good health. More importantly, it shows that Driven DT-40 is certainly capable of being used as a track oil even in the middle of summer so I think I'll continue to use it as my main oil for the Cayman under both street and track conditions. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Prepping for Body Work

I seriously believe that when someone sees you fixing up an aircooled 911 that you're somehow made of money and that you want all the best things and anytime you want something done, you want it done to full concourse, all original goodness. That's not me. When I got this car late last year I knew the paint needed some TLC but more importantly to me, what I wanted to focus my effort and money on was making sure she was mechanically solid. For those that have been following this build, you can see that I didn't compromise on making sure when things were mechanically questionable, things were replaced with equal or better parts. That's how all my cars are set up, everything inside and under the car gets all the attention first, cosmetics come last. 

Headlights removed and holes taped up

After going through the entire build to get the kind of mechanical confidence that she can do an entire road trip without even batting an eye, my last bit of focus is to give the exterior a refresh so that she doesn't look neglected. She's an old girl but there's no reason for her to look that old. This is where I rant a bit because as I've made my rounds to Porsche specialty body shops, the numbers they throw out are just insane. They're not insane because they overprice, but because they all want to basically do a full body restoration, so yes, that's a LOT of hours of labor and therefore expensive! I'm not debating that. Anyone spending that much time on a car deserves to get paid that money. Although I will admit, I did have one especially bad experience with one shop that seemed to judge me and assume I couldn't afford a paint job which was further confirmed by the fact that they never even bothered to send me a quote after going over the car with me. I'll just leave it at I think I didn't fit the demographic of people that usually go to that shop. 

Side mirrors removed, stock wheels and lug nuts back on

What irks me is that they're not listening to what I want. I get that many of their customers are old people that finally bought their dream Porsche and want it restored back to just the way it was in the 80s. Good for them. That's not what I want. I just want my car to look decent. This car isn't a garage queen. I intend to drive the snot out of it, just the way you're supposed to. I don't want an engine out, down to bare metal, full body respray. I want a respectable exterior paint job and I don't care if the paint in the engine bay or under the carpet or in the frunk or under my seats still looks tired. Unless it's rusted out, which this car isn't, I don't care to touch those non-visible parts. 


Interior back to stock with just the driver seat for easy access

Ultimately I ended up choosing K2 because they did a great job on Bumblestook but more importantly because they listened to what I wanted to do. We're doing a glass out full exterior respray. That's still a fair amount of work but certainly much more manageable than basically stripping this car completely down to the bare chassis and spraying every nook and cranny. The car is going to them soon so I've been putting the car back into a state where I minimize the number of parts they need to be extra careful with by putting the old interior back in, reinstalling the old OEM wheels and even removing the headlight and mirrors. I'm slightly sad the car will be "down" for about two months so I won't be enjoying driving her during the Fall but I am looking forward to having her look proper again before she gets tucked away for the winter and I'll have many more years in the future to get to enjoy her anyway. 

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Testing the Bilstein Damptronic coilovers

After being quite pleased that my new Bilstein B16 Damptronic coilovers met my requirements for a more compliant street ride, I wanted to see how much I gave up in terms of performance to achieve this compromise. Thankfully Tamra and Andrew were there in their "new to them" Cayman S on my old MCS 2WNR setup. While I'm technically no longer legally in STU due to the SCCA not allowing any aftermarket active dampers, this would be a great way for me to see how this new setup stacked up. 

NNJR SCCA Autocross - 10-4-2020
Meadowlands, NJ

I hadn't changed anything else on the car other than the suspension so I started off running the car using my old tire pressure setup of 28 psi front and 29 psi rear. The swaybars were exactly as they were before. After two runs, it was obvious that the car was a bit on the loose side and I had to back off in order to keep the rear in check. With some advice from our "autocross dad" Jose, I lowered my pressures to 27 psi all around and immediately felt an improvement. She was really well balanced and predictable. I ran the car in sport mode (including PASM to sport) and PSM off. I noticed two differences from my old MCS setup. First, it seemed to be easier to drive on the wavy lot. Second, it was slower in the fast transitions. 

Results - 10-4-2020

Overall though, I was very pleasantly surprised. It still had a respectable pace and I was glad to be less than a second behind Tamra. That difference in time is easily driver so at least for this event I'd say these Bilsteins are within ballpark. I believe there is an adjustment knob at the bottom of each shock for further tuning but I didn't mess with them for today's test. The car also seems to like the factory ride height. If the springs don't settle much further, I'm going to lower the car around 10mm. 

My fastest run - 61.108 - 10-4-2020

I'd best describe these coilovers as an OEM+ setup for a PASM enabled Cayman. It's great for someone that wants something a bit stiffer and more performant than the factory setup without giving up the PASM capabilities. I'm running the factory 235/265 tire stagger so I suspect that's why the balance was spot on as I'm sure that's what Bilstein tests in their R&D. I'm excited to feel what this setup will be like once I add a DSC Sport Controller with 3-way accelerometer next year for even better active damper control. I'm confident these will suit my needs at the track as well. I would not recommend this setup to someone that wants to really fine tune the suspension setup for different conditions (unless of course you're adding DSC and willing to mess around with that controller). It's also obviously not an option for anyone that wants to compete nationally for autocross because it isn't legal yet. However, for anyone wanting a really good all around performer and isn't subject to restrictions, I would highly recommend these in a heartbeat. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

New Suspension Setup and Upgraded Brake Feel

My goal for all my cars nowadays is to make them capable of doing whatever I want whenever I feel like it whether that means car meets, street driving, autocross, or even some track time. I just no longer want to be limited to one activity so special purpose builds for me are a thing of the past (for now at least). The Cayman has been terrific fun but the competition focused MCS setup I had was less than ideal for bumpy NY/NJ roads. I wouldn't call them unbearable but as I've gotten older, I want the ability to have a more comfortable ride when I choose to. My Cayman came with PASM (Porsche Active Suspension) that allows for a comfortable street ride in regular mode and a more aggressive ride in sport mode. However, it's still a bit too soft so I wanted an upgraded version of that stock setup. The answer of course was from the very company that makes the OEM Porsche dampers, Bilstein. 

Bilstein B16 Damptronic
Photo from: Bilstein

Bilstein makes a B16 Damptronic coilover system that gives me full height adjustability, uprated springs and most importantly integration with the factory PASM controller. I picked these up from our good friends at Tatis Motorsports. Since these are compatible with the factory PASM controller, it means that in the future I can also fit my car with a DSC sport controller for even better active damper control, something I plan to do over the winter. When you normally install these you're suppose to move over the top hats and a few other pieces from your stock suspension but that's just not my style. I went with Tarett Engineering monoball shock mounts front and rear and all new hardware. 

Tarett Monoball front top mount

Tarett Monoball rear dome top mount

The box barely fit in the rear trunk but it does so I dropped the car off with Bryan and his team at Speedsport Tuning a few week ago to have them swap it in. Swapping out suspension is unfortunately a bit more cumbersome now that I have a rollbar installed but thankfully since it's all bolt in and sectional, it wasn't as horrible as it could've been. They reinstalled and re-activated my PASM controller which was previously disabled and removed when the MCS 2WNR dampers were installed by them almost 2 years ago. I'm quite happy that all the buttons that I actually paid extra for when I specifically looked for a PASM Cayman S are working again.

Damper button works again
(Sport automatically activates it as well)

Since I'm expecting that the springs to settle a bit in the next few weeks I had them reset it to near factory ride height. It doesn't look horrible but once the springs settle, I definitely want to drop the height a bit and re-align. For now it's got a baseline alignment (max camber up front, etc) just so I can do some testing this weekend with the NNJR SCCA.

Rear dampers installed

Front dampers installed and marked

A little higher ride height for now - 10-1-2020

I also made holes in my old front frunk panels to easily make shock adjustments but since I won't be needing that now, I bought new ones so that the car looks unmolested again.

Time to replace some panels

Frunk looking fresh

Another issue I wanted to address was the brake pedal feel. Boiling my brake fluid at The Glen a few months ago was bad but I finally got to feel what people were saying about the Cayman brake pedal in general. Under aggressive repeated braking in track conditions, it just feels a bit spongy, even on fresh fluid. The fix is to replace the brake master cylinder with one from a GT3. You've got to love how Porsches are like Lego and you can just pretty much swap stuff between their different models of the same generation. I ordered a brand new brake master cylinder from FCP Euro which the shop also swapped in along with a full brake flush. The pedal feels fantastic now. It's super firm and has a very solid feel that really gives you a lot of confidence. They also do a trick where they recode the computer to think it has PCCBs so that it doesn't freak out about the new brake pressure. 100% would recommend this upgrade.

GT3 Brake Master Cylinder

Overall the ride feels really good. In normal mode, the car feels firm and critically damped as you'd expect from a sports car and if you run over some uneven surfaces, it soaks those up quite nicely. Sport mode stiffens up the dampers a bit. I'd say in sport mode they feel a bit closer to my old MCS setup on the street but still do a better job of absorbing rough road conditions. I'm really happy with this change and I can only imagine how these dampers will respond after we get the DSC controller and 3-axis yaw sensor installed.

Lastly, I wanted to get an oil sample to send over to SPEEDiagnostix so I had them do an oil change. I'm curious how the Driven Racing DT-40 oil handled the super hot 2-day track day and whether I need to run more racing purpose oil when doing track days. 

Maintenance Update:

Mileage: 42,513 miles
- 8.5 quarts Driven DT-40 oil, NAPA gold oil filter
- New magnetic drain plug
- New GT3 brake master cylinder
- Brake flush with Motul RBF660

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

NJMP Thunderbolt with S2K Takeover

We were supposed to be at NJMP with S2K takeover earlier this month with Global Time Attack and SCCA TNIA but that event got cancelled. Thankfully, Brad was able to get us in with NETC instead yesterday which turned out to be great because S2K Takeover had our own session so there were only S2000s on track when we ran which made things super fun. 

NJMP Lightning - 9-28-2020
Photo By: Ben Tiu

It's been over 8 years since I last ran at NJMP Lightning. Last I went in Bumblestook, she still had her F20C and big wing. It rained heavily the night before but thankfully it was bone dry by the time we ran. The track is still as fun as I remember and it was an excellent learning opportunity to follow some of the fast S2K track guys to learn their lines. This is definitely a track where aero is highly beneficially to gain lots of confidence in keeping the rear settled. I found myself having to back off a bit to keep the rear in check during quick transitions but at the same time I was also struggling getting the nose tucked in during some of the faster sections like the light bulb. 

Andy filling up my side mirrors

I was able to get into the 1:20 lap time after I remembered to check my tire pressures which had risen quite sharply throughout the day and way out of the optimal tire pressures for the Yokohama A052s. Just lowering them down to 28psi/27psi helped me find 2 seconds in my final session. I think more time can be had by doing some minor tweaks on the dampers and maybe swaybar settings. I'm resisting all temptation to get big aero, big brakes and R-comps and turning the car into a dedicated track car. I think there's still plenty of time on the table as is. There's quite a bit of self-preservation going on here since I do actually care about this car so I'm not actively trying to stuff it into immovable objects by going full send. I just need to find the right balance between fast and safe. Not trailering and having a strong desire to drive the car home on its own power are strong incentives to not roll the dice. NJMP is thankfully more forgiving than other NorthEast tracks with adequate runoff in most sketchy areas so there's at least that if I can accept going into lawn mower mode once in a while. 

Bumblestook @ NJMP Lightning with S2K Takeover

Unfortunately, this is my last track event for the year.  Hopefully next year will be a bit more normal so I can actually get the cars out to more events.