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Apex Driving Academy President John Holmes Speaks!

THE NUT-AND-BOLT, or why this might be exactly what your car needs

As some of you may know, I recently parted ways with my turbo Miata race car. It was a great car and did everything well. That said, I am too old, fat, and busted up to get in and out of a Miata with a roll cage. So then I was on the hunt for a GD chassis Subaru. I have come to realize they are my jam for HPDE cars. I have had four. Not going to argue the merits of my decision, it is just the right platform for me.

What I ended up with was a never built from the factory WRX Limited wagon with a full STI drivetrain swap. Think about that for a second – harness, gas tank, both sub-frames, engine, tranny, all suspension, brakes – were swapped. I bought a potential nightmare. The good news is that it has been an awesome car.

I decided before I got too far off the deep end and into the abyss of modifying a car that I needed to have it checked out and nut-and-bolted properly. To me a nut-and-bolt is when you check everything on the suspension and mark the bolts to re-check them later and determine if they have moved. You take a paint stick and mark the bolt and/or nut and the frame or surface to which it tightens.
The swap I purchased had pages of forum documentation and I was lucky enough to have some car guy friends check the car out for me as it was not local. It was given a clean bill of health by people I trust before I completed the purchase.

Now comes the extra work and expense of The Nut-and-Bolt. I would not ask most shops to do a nut-and-bolt as they are not equipped to do it, i.e. they will not make the time to do it properly. I have always taken my special cars to a dedicated “race shop.” A race shop will understand race cars and should be able to look up the torque specs and do the job accurately and precisely.

I chose Texas Track Works to do this for me. They are located in Fort Worth and they have done work on many cars for me in the past. So I need to publicly thank them for making my car safer for me: Thank you, Texas Track Works! (Of course, there are many qualified shops in DFW. Please let us know if you need help finding one in your area.)

In my case it was money well spent: I happened to be there when they worked on the car, and as a full drivetrain swap goes, it was not bad. Here is where it gets interesting. Of the front cradle (the subframe) that holds the engine, tranny and front suspension, 50% of these components had loose bolts to the frame. A few might have been on the verge of backing out completely. There was indeed some play in the front end that is gone now. Imagine that!

Safer is the key, right? I don’t want a bad thing to happen to me on the track or to any of you. So if you have been tracking your car hard and have not checked things lately or have not had a real tech inspection done, please do it now. Do it whether or not you're driving a never built from the factory WRX or the family sedan, or whatever car you're driving on the track. This is not only your life, your safety and your car – it is the lives, the safety, and the cars of your friends and family with whom you share the track or the highway. Safety means taking the time, taking the responsibility, and ultimately enjoying the satisfaction of a great car and amazing adventures.

Thank you,

John Holmes
Apex Driving Academy
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