"I began to notice that when my friends with 240SXs, RX7s and Supras matted the gas mid corner, they'd get "driftoid-impress your friends" oversteer. This was part of my rational for seeking out only cars with rear wheel drive. However, I found that when I would try to induce oversteer, I'd hear the howl of 16 valves through a Flowmaster 50, feel a whole lot of g-forces, and emerge out of said corner with SPEED."
Now, all well and good to hoon out now and again, but this is also a cautionary tale… both in the mechanical sense and to your safety. Jarrett knew what he had, and he knew that it was a sharp knife. He knew it had the potential to make him miserable if things weren’t set right. Not only did he take on a 944S with 16 valves with poor maintenance history as his first car, it was really the first car he worked on. The 16 valve head is a bit complicated and under-engineered when it first arrived. It has two bolts on one flange, where the later models used three, and sits on two flanges. There have been more than a few instances of this flange shearing off, or the chain tensioner mounting bolts pulling their threads. Cams sometimes break or the gears wear down, then you get to the little hand grenade in the middle, the tensioner pad. A non-wear item that wears and sends it’s dirty, dirty shrapnel all over the place. This was the first place Jarrett needed to inspect on his car, and he knew it. Of course, not all was right in the kingdom of timing world.
"I was aware that I was working with a rear transaxle platform, but had no clue that the rear end of my car sat on torsion bars. I shit you not, when I first got the car I was confused as to why I didn't see coil springs somewhere around the rear end. Basically this all chalked up to what water-cooled vets call the "polar moment". You may remember this term from high school physics - it basically is a measure of an objects ability to resist torsion due to some form of torque. What does this have to do with the handling of a 944? Well, the aforementioned torsion bar rear end is laid out in such a way that it will squat under hard acceleration, which causes an increase in negative camber and is tied together by a low roll center. It should also be said that without a spring, perches and associated hardware, unsprung weight is kept to a minimum, which is very good. This all adds up to this fantastic feeling of the rear end "hunkering down" when on the accelerator through a corner. Now that I've been doing this a while, I can say that I've never really driven another car that mimics such confidence inspiring handling characteristics."
Armed with a Millennia’s sense that the internets vast dump of knowledge flattens the key ingredient, Jarrettdiscovers Colin Chapmans key ingredient to very cheap speed… just add lightness. It becomes obsession. He dumps his stereo, chucks cruise control, basically anything that stands in the way is fair game. Clubsport wheels, perhaps the lightest stock 944 option, go on and tire sizing and offset are analyzed to the smallest detail. But then he decides to go big:
"I also added the ability to play with ride height at all four corners, such that I can mess with roll centers and my center of gravity for the flattest cornering possible. Suspension upgrades are nothing without an alignment to tie them all together. Once again, popular choice yielded a mildly aggressive negative one to two degrees camber, maxed out caster up front and rear toe that allowed the rear to settle and zero out at speed. I chose to be slightly more aggressive with front camber to accommodate the whacky camber curve of the McPherson front end and slightly less aggressive in the rear to accommodate my square tire combo." [Whats funny is that tomorrow, my own transaxle streetcar is getting an alignment/balance, I’m targeting his spec closely]
"Turn in is snappy, the rear end behaves, the car stays flat. I'm in love."
Youth is grand… so much energy, time and capacity to do whatever you want… But the hooning. I think most of us have seen this firsthand, if you read this far. Eventually, you wreck your first one. Apparently he was in the West Hills of Portland, enjoying his excellent alignment, new rubber, manual rack, superlightweight setup when he finally got grazed by the bullet. Going wide on the road and entering a ditch before going upside down, that’s a pretty damn big lesson. Still, he walked away. I saw him the following afternoon, he was relaxed and showed no evidence of any injury, crediting the car with absorbing all the impact… with a tremendous bend in the frame.