Dirans 2gr-fe powered Mk1 Mr2 Testimonial
Glorious day on 21st of May 2010 and I find myself with a day’s holiday to get the train to Durham and then coast back down to the smoke.
I arrived within 10 min of quoted time and spotted Paul’s E36. After escaping the station we got to chatting about work at WS and the amount of comments the project had been getting (!). This was not my aim and the car is not quite show-worthy despite the high standard of WS (it needs a bit of welding and paint on the original panels that I hadn’t budgeted for in the conversion) but it’s always nice to know there are like-minded people on the scene.
Arriving at WS, the car sat gleaming in the yard and I had already failed to suppress my grinning enthusiasm, much to the amusement of Phil and Anth! Pleased to meet you both gents
I chatted with everyone and took ”the tour” – a captioned peek around many, many tasty MR2 in various states of undress / surgery, including a couple of 2GR powered examples besides my own (Owen’s Mk2 scarlet 355 and Phil’s Vader-esque MK2), as well as Moustachio’s v. Tidy MK1 1MZ, Rexer’s soon to be 2ZZ’d Mk1 and a certain, lesser known 4.2 litre, 32 valve Mk1..... A veritable sweet shop for any petrol head!
After a quick squirt around the yard in my car (I managed not to stall but was very pedestrian so Paul kindly demonstrated the G-forces available – suffice it to say I left a crease in the seat!), I handed over the obligatory pack of hob-nobs, we said our goodbyes and I set about dismantling 260+ miles of motorway. Of course, the M1 meant a disproportionate number of 50mph average speed check zones (yawn!). Bit of a waste, but one has to get home eventually!
The driving bit:
The first 50 miles or so were spent taking things easy and undertaking the customary vigilance on temperatures and pressures etc.. I’d filled up with 97RON which the car seemed to approve of. My immediate observation was that the car felt familiar yet completely different. The throttle seemed to have zero slack and combined with the less tolerant (but still manageable clutch) and uber short 1st gear meant decisive but restrained action was need to pull away smoothly at relatively sane pace. If you try to slip it, it will chatter – better to either feed it in swift and smooth with little or no throttle, or use semi-race technique of blip the throttle and let it in all-of-a-piece. This is fun but unsubtle because the revs flare angrily if you’re clumsy. It is hugely satisfying when you get it right though and I think a couple more weeks (I only drive on weekends).
Tip: Setting off in 2nd or even 3rd is possible and much less likely to result in skippy-type antics. The rest of the time, you just launch like a jet being catapulted from an aircraft carrier (only with a better sound track).
The car is so ridiculously over-endowed with torque that third (to get going) and fifth (once rolling) are all that’s necessary if you like.
Better still, the noise is intoxication personified and despite our effort brazenly loud Three-fifths air-cooled 911, two-fifths Alfa V6, with a racer-ish blare as the revs get up. It remains relatively subdued on light openings but nice and exuberant with a tickle, rising to something truly intimidating (yet still melodic) when you explore the full travel. Exactly what such performance deserves in other words!
The brakes are strong and easy to modulate although I’m taking it easy on them to bed in the discs and pads. I’m still perfecting my rev matching (something that was very easy on the standard car) due to the slightly long travel on the brake pedal – perhaps a M/C upgrade will help firm it up? – and the throttle which is set quite high and is very sensitive (a good thing, if making inconspicuous progress tricky at very low speeds!). I might try relocating the throttle pedal to help as well – I do like a bit of heel and toe.
The Drive By Wire itself is easy to get used to (had it before) although occasionally you get the sense that the engine is “adulterating” small inputs (perhaps for emissions purposes on the factory ECU) as no matter how smooth you are going on and coming off the throttle in normal driving, it will occasionally give you more than you were expecting or cut the fuelling more abruptly. I’m sure this can be cured as time goes on or calibrated with a bit of judicious tweaking but if not I’ll learn quickly to be even smoother with my inputs!
The SW20T gearbox is short and positive in a way the factory AW11 5 speeder could only dream of (in my opinion at least). Although it’s occasionally notchy it’s nicely weighted and satisfying to use – more so than the SW20 N/A’s I’ve driven. The Final drive is clearly shorter than ideal for the engine characteristics (it could happily pull a 3.6 ratehr than 4.2) but is entirely usable – a lower rev count at a cruise would be nice but you wouldn’t need a higher top end.
There’s no doubting the engine dominates the car. It’s not overbearing but you can definitely feel the proximity of a large (for the car!) lump and hear the valves / fuel pump clicking and zizzing away. Personally, I find it generally no less refined than the standard car, although for some it would not make for a sensible city or long distance car.
The pay off is a level of performance that is borderline scary. I’ve not fully explored this fully (understandably!) but even brief instances of more than 20% throttle get MiFu lunging at the horizon like it has afterburners instead of exhaust tips. Hard acceleration is violent, as Paul described, even before you get to half throttle and it feels no less nimble or wieldy so far despite weight gain and a bigger set of boots – just more planted. It also generates nice forces in the corners, allowing you to carry huge amounts of speed (as if it was necessary given the straight line fireworks).
The sense of a small car being hurled up the road by a quad cam V6 complete with ASBO-spec pipes is one of the most surreal and gratifying motoring experiences I’ve yet had - and I’ve been lucky enough to drive some fairly interesting cars.
It is part fierce concentration, part fear, part exhilaration. After about 3-5 seconds of acceleration, you brake (backing off gives good engine braking effect but you’ll be going too fast anyway) you just pause, hanging on the inertia reel and marvelling at the noise, the ability of the car to outsprint your internal organs and blur your peripheral vision. Then you give an evil cackle.
It is an addictive trip having that sort of performance at your disposal. Almost as addictive is making people’s eyes pop out on stalks when a tiny, girly blue Toymotah makes a noise bigger than a TVR as it rockets up the road with a twitch of throttle - 5th is sufficient; 4th is showing off; 3rd is plain offensive as far as other road users are concerned. A declaration of violent intent, if you will.
I hope to try a few vids this weekend to give you guys another taste, although no warranties as to quality or irresponsible antics!
This car is made of pure and unadulterated insanium and I love it.
There are some compromises and some work still to do, including improving the ventilation to the rad to avoid some of the heat soak issues I’ve been suffering during town driving (it has been hot weather lately – I plan on moving the license plate and getting a vented frunk lid asap); the fact I need to address the odd bit of bodywork (25 year old car = rust spots) and work out how to insulate the trunk from the rear bank (the access panel gets v. warm!) and make the frunk luggage friendly now there’s no spare…. but so far this car is everything I’d hoped for and much, much more