1. Obtain a Hyundai Excel. It's best if it has about 150k miles or more on it when you obtain it, but if not, you can just drive it until it's got about that many miles on it.

2. Drive around until you start to hear a loud, low thrumming sound coming from the back.

3. Say to yourself, (and this part is very important) "Hmm, maybe I should have my muffler looked at."

4. Start driving towards your house.

5. When you hear a loud, consistent clanging sound, it means that your muffler has partly fallen off and that passers-by are noticing the shower of sparks flying out from the back of your car on the road. The noise your car is emanating at this point is good enough to draw their attention to this spectacle.

6. Continue driving until you get home.

7. The next day, fasten the muffler back onto the body your car with a wire hanger.

8. If you dragged the muffler long enough the day before, chances are there's not really much left holding it onto your car besides the wire hanger, so start the car, and drive it until the rest of the attachments fall off. You'll start to hear a much uglier scraping sound when this happens, and passers by are seeing an even cooler light show than they did yesterday. At this point the only thing holding your muffler to the car should be the wire hanger, and maybe a kind of rubbery thing that can be easily cut with a knife. Stop driving immediately.

9. Remove the muffler from underneath your car, and put it in your trunk.

You've now no longer got a small, ordinary economy car..you've got a race car! Vroom Vroom!!

* Be sure to drive around with the windows open, so you don't die of carbon monoxide poisoning while stopped at a red light.

Seriously, it is possible to (sort of) turn your Hyundai Excel or other asian econobox into a race car. With a few hundred dollars and some work, you can make it hold its own against low-end Mustangs! These modifications are written mainly for 4-cyl. econoboxes with owners on a tight budget. A much different situation applies for muscle cars and those who have thousands to spend.

Econoboxes tend to have quite good high-end torque and a high specific power rating. Because of the high-end torque, however, the power can only be fully utilized in the high RPM ranges. Thinner tires on the drive wheels (in this case, the front wheels), increase the effective gear ratio, which not only increases torque, but puts the engine into the high RPM's quicker. Thinner tires on all four wheels can help improve handling, as well as increasing torque. You can probably get a set of two thin tires for 13-inch rims for $100 or so.

Nitrous oxide provides a cheap and easy-to-install boost for any car. Nitrous oxide is rated in horsepower shots, which is the approximate gain in horsepower for the system. For a 4-cyl. econobox, a 50-hp shot is sufficient and safe. If you know what you are doing, a 100-hp shot can be used, provided the ignition timing is properly retarded, high octane fuel is used, and the fuel system is upgraded to handle the extra fuel (if the nitrous system is a "dry" system).

Weight reduction costs nothing, and will improve handling, fuel consumption, and make your car faster. You can probably save 100 pounds on an econobox by removing the extra seats (don't worry--they can be put back in later), cleaning out the trunk, and removing any big stereo systems and rice boy stuff, which really just adds weight, nothing else.

High performance air filters can provide a cheap, albeit small, boost in horsepower, by increasing airflow. They cost around $50, and there are two brand names--Holley and K&N. The former seems to be better.

Makeshift ram air induction is a virtually free way to provide another slight boost in horsepower. Not only does ram air utilize colder, denser air, the air is delivered at slightly above atmospheric pressure, increasing volumetric efficiency. Just cut an opening in your hood, put a mailbox without a door on top of it,attach the intake hose to the opening, and seal any gaps. The mailbox will collect the colder air, and "ram" it into the intake hose.

So you want to race a Hyundai Excel. And you want to turn corners as well, perhaps do a bit of road racing. That is quite possible, but you'll have to jump a few hoops along the way.

The first problem is that the Excel is not classified in the General Competition Rules of the Sports Car Club of America. The Tiburon is, and it races in Showroom Stock C against Neons, the Ford Focus and the Mazda Protege. Classification's not necessarily a major barrier. The SCCA is a club and the probable reason the excel's not classified is that no one has-- up to now-- asked. All you have to do is become a member in good standing and you have the right to petition the competition board. A competition license would help. They'll have a nice chuckle, but if they believe you're serious they'll find the car a place to race. You get to be first!

Before you ask the board, you ought to have a good idea of where you want to race. There are two approaches. The low buck approach is to go improved touring racing. IT offers lots of close, competitive racing in cars that are modified from stock. If you're really well off, and you want to go really fast, you might want to consider GT.

Improved Touring

The early excels had a 1.5 liter SOHC engine and weighed just over one ton. That would make it a natural for ITC where you would race against Honda Civics, Volkswagen Rabbits and the first generation Ford Escort! (yes there are people who do race those things)

Under the rules of IT racing (see improved touring) you would strip out most of the interior, all of the pollution control equipment, blueprint and balance the engine, install camber plates, new shocks and bushings. Headers and bore the motor .040 over, if it will take it. It would be nice if you could put in a Quaife limited slip differential, but they don't make one for the car, so you'll have to run open which will limit your traction. Or weld the differential and make the car almost undriveable in the paddock. You would run on DOT approved tires-- which doesn't mean they're street tires at all. One preferred IT rain tire, the Hoosier Dirt Stocker lasts about a lap and a half when it isn't raining. Street legal my ass! In compensation, the soft rubber will allow you to make your last lap a really fast one.

You would have to install an approved roll cage which would probably have to be a custom design, because I'm not sure any bolt-in kits exist. Brace your seat, install a five point racing harness, window net, a fire bottle and an electrical master switch and you're ready to go racing. I'd chuck the tank and go with a fuel cell but I'm a safety conscious kind of guy.


In GT your Excel would probably end up in GT Lite running against Toyotas with the 2TC engine, the Opel Manta, Ford Pinto Datsun 510 or 1400cc Nissans. Pray they don't put you in GT-3. But in GTL you'd have a chance. Might even make The Runoffs.

Remember the old adage: Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go? GT will offer you the chance to find out.

First of all, strip everything off the body. Tube it out. In fact, just throw the body away! But first use it to make body molds to repair the inevitable crash damage. Truth is, you'll have to abandon the tub if you want to win. Buy, or build, a tube frame. Have a body shell reformed out of carbon fiber. You can use fiberglass if you're cheap. The excel is a front wheel drive car. How'd you like to run rear wheel drive? It's easy. Just throw away the front transaxle and rear suspension. Install a live rear axle, say a quick change or a narrowed Ford nine inch. You have your choice of mounting points, whether you want to install a watts linkage or a panhard bar. Brakes not good enough? Throw them away. Install the biggest most bad-assed Brembos you can find that will fit inside a 13" wheel. As many pistons as your wallet will bear. Don't like the macpherson strut front suspension? Order a bigger dumpster and toss those struts. Install double A-Arms of any geometry you like. Lots of 'any' in the GCR section for GT.

You see, GT class cars don't have to start out as an Excel. The GCR states that they are "highly modified replicas of series produced automobiles. Why, run GT and the Comp Board may allow you to throw away the engine, and use another Hyundai engine of its choice. Go to the junkyard and find an Excel with the few required parts. Then get out your catalogs.

Engine and transmission rules are permissive. A five speed hewland or jericho is the hot ticket in GT. Sequential shifting will cost you 50 pounds, but if your butt is large like mine that won't matter much. And when we get to the motor we really get to have fun.

Engine internals are free as long as the bore and stroke are maintained as stock. Think Wiseco. TRW. Federal Mogul. Replace everything with pure race components, with the exception of the block and cylinder head. You have your choice of compression ratios. How's 13 to one sound? 14:1? Fifteen? After all, you're running racing gas anyway. You will blueprint and balance the engine, but this time you get to remove as much material as you want. Just remember, the farther you go the more likely the motor is to go Chernobyl on you. How many motors can you afford?

Port the cylinder head. In GT, the GCR specifically says that the head may be ported and material may be added to the head to facilitate this work. Five grand will turn those nice little valves that came with the motor into coke cans. Any ignition system, any racing camshaft. If you want to redline at 14,000 RPM, go for it. What's a few blown engines anyway? You may or may not be given a spec carburetor setup. Probably you'll choose a pair of 32 DOEC Webers. The 32 stands for millimeters in the throat. That's a lot of carb for a liter and a half. You can even choose fuel injection of any type so long as you observe air inlet rules. Chip away!

For tires you run slicks. Race tires, whose rubber never saw a tree. You have your choice of hard, medium or soft. You run hards if you can barely afford to run, or the race is long. You run softs if you want to win. If it's wet you run rains. Or intermediates if you and Mother Nature can't make a decision. Indecision will leave you slower than everyone who guessed right, and faster than everyone who guessed wrong. They may also keep you on the track.

But you don't get to run nitrous. The SCCA doesn't allow nitrous oxide in any of its race cars. But club races last a lot longer than 14 seconds. Sometimes they go for 24 hours. At Nelsons Ledges Road Course I lap at about 1 min 25 seconds. Fifty seconds of which is at full throttle in my old ITB car. In an average sprint race, I will spend 20 minutes at full throttle. How long does your bottle last? Worse, everyone would have to run nitrous if it were legal, and lots of engines would go boom. In GT, a lot of them already go boom. And why would you want it anyway? Your Excel has become an 1850lb, 200+ horsepower car that will corner at over 1 gee and is stable at 150 MPH. If you want to go faster start with a Mustang or Corvette.

When you're done 'modifying' your Excel you'll have a race car that absolutely nobody else has, so you'll draw a lot of second looks. And you will be grinning. That I promise you. Racing is better than sex.

for info on modifying the excel check out http://www.hyundai.cia.com.au/ In the SCCA, there is a step between IT and GT categories, known as Production cars. Production class cars are highly modified, but you do have to keep a whole lot of things you threw away to run GT. Recently Production was reorganized with a 'limited prep' division of cars that run GT safety specs and racing slicks, but are otherwise prepared to IT standards. Your Excel would probably end up in H production racing Austin-Healey Sprites.

The problem with procedures like those outlined above is that they make the assumption that a) you have common sense and b) you know what you're doing. This is, in my experience at least, sadly not always true. While I do not dispute the effectiveness of any of the above, I would like to offer a few safety points from the POV of one who has seen friends screw up while racifying cars, even when they did have common sense and did know what they were doing. So by all means, if speed is your thing, PLAY! Just please exercise a bit of safety.

Lower-diameter tires will indeed give you more torque. They will also make the car less able to handle the sorts of bumps that everyday driving will throw at you - road joints, potholes, ramps, curbs, etc. Hitting any of these at any speed will be more likely to 'flatten' the tire against the wheel; this can cause unexpected flat tires (from abuse that any normal tire could withstand), especially if the thin tires in question are 'bargain' versions. Performance tires of this type designed for use on rough but real tracks are typically either solid or contain a high fiber count, both of which make them pricier. Also note that 'performance' tires will typically have more surface in contact with the road (for increased traction). This means that in wet conditions they will lose that traction to hydroplaning much, much more quickly.

Nitrous Oxide, while itself not terribly hzardous, is designed to do things to your engine that the designers didn't want to happen. This is especially true in econobox 4-cylinders, whose engines were designed for efficiency and high RPMs. Modern 4-cylinder engines ride much closer to their physical limits than larger, less efficient mills. As a result, it is much easier to push them over that limit using what may seem like very small amounts of boost (nitrous or air). Start very, very low, and remember, each time you use a nitrous system, you put extreme stress on valves, piston rings, and in fact most of the moving metal in your engine. If the engine can't put out that much torque normally, remember, the moving bits probably aren't rated to handle it either.

Weight reduction is typically quite safe as long as you're not removing structural bits or car systems. ;-) Remember that modern cars use monocoque designs, and don't have frames; some body parts themselves provide structural strength.

Finally, ram air induction. Yes, cold air directly into the intake will boost your power a tad; however, remember, air filters are there for a reason! Bypassing them will allow grit, dust, insects, what-have you and the like into your air system, and there is a reason that racers like their air to be clean-room grade. With an engine already at very fine tolerances, every particle is destructive. The mailbox solution would probably cause a slightly noticeable boost in power - but so would removing the air filters. Both options will likely increase your chance of cylinder damage to extremely high levels.

All this leads me to my final recommendation: use common sense. Remember: the designers of your automobile didn't just design its engine to put out the (maybe currently unacceptable)amount of power that it does. They also designed its brakes to be able to handle that amount of power and speed; they designed its steering to be stable at those lower speeds; they designed its transmission to handle those power ranges. Overengineering, in consumer auto design, means lowering profit margins - remember that. Modifying your car, if you're going to do it for speed, DOES NOT STOP WITH THE ENGINE (and, realistically, shouldn't start with it either!) Most modern autos are capable of more speed than they can safely handle without tweaks - adding nitro and other riceboy gadgets just widens the gap between 'able' and 'safe.'

First, make sure you can drive your car at these speeds. Take a racing course. In the U.S. (with which I personally am familiar; I won't speak for the rest of the world) there are any number of reputable racing schools designed to teach you how to handle automobiles at speeds higher than you are used to. This is not something you 'learn by doing' with no instruction, unless you have a death wish.

Second, while you plan your assault on your four-banger, practice up your wrenching skills by upgrading some other critical stuff. Install high-performance brake pads. Check your rotors; consider putting in high-performance ones that keep cool better and/or perform better when hot. Triple-check your steering. Are those bushings a little worn? Maybe you should replace 'em. How's your power steering/brake belt? A high-perf one will only set you back a few bucks. Check for hydraulic fluid leaks and pressure; higher engine speeds may mean higher pressures in those systems.

Safety doesn't stop under the hood. How are your seatbelts and airbags? If you're not sure, have them checked. If you're going to do this semi-regularly or more often, please, think about investing in a safety harness! That one mod alone can do more to save your life than anything else. Check with the authorities; some places, it's illegal to drive cars with race-prep gear (even just the safety stuff) on the street, under the wonderfully bureaucratic logic that if you have it, you must intend to use it, so you're guilty. Some things are good to have no matter what - a fire extinguisher, for example! Those are legal, and besides your life they can save you oodles of money and angst if a fuel line breaks or an electrical fire breaks out by preventing your hard-tweaked baby from burning itself down to ash. One final tool I've had to use: a safety glass hammer. It's much more difficult to get trapped in a car if you can pop whatever window you're looking at quickly and safely.

Finally, never road-test alone. Don't carry passengers, but be sure there are others nearby watching you who can perform the most vital lifesaving maneuver - calling 911 - if required, as well as warn you of obstacles, problems on the exterior of your car, and the like. Again, most race tracks will offer 'speed days' where you can bring your modified car and test it on a closed safe surface, with professional emergency response folk around. You'll have to sign ridiculous waivers, but so what? It's your choice. ;_)

In any case, yes, by all means, play with your car. Cars used to be meant to be worked on, and any time you spend working on your car will likely make you better able to grasp its limitations and abilities, if you pay attention. Plus, the mundane stuff can save you money if done yourself!

Have safe fun!

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.