The tale we're about to tell reminds me of the time I went out drinking on Valentine's Day and woke up the next morning in my roommate's bed, wearing his girlfriend's underwear. Such is the magic and mystery of uninhibited ethanol consumption.
Regina, Saskatchewan, resident Russ Weisgarber also knows a thing or two about alcohol consumption. In fact, the comprehensive revision of his 1997 Chevy Cavalier was, believe it or not, initiated in an alcoholic haze similar to our underwear ordeal.
If you're under 21, stop reading now.
Russ bought his Cavalier new when he was 16, but couldn't afford to do much to it at the time. He drove it in stock condition, got smoked by most everything else on the street, and dreamed of being fast.
One night, he and his friends got together for a few beers, and things started happening. "I woke up the next morning, hangover and all, to find most of my motor spread around the garage," he recalls. "At that point, I figured 'what the hell, I'm in this deep already, so I might as well do it right.'"
Weisgarber and his mentor and father-in-law, Leon Breker, performed all the work on the car, from building the engine to executing its clean, well-planned body mods.
First on their to-do list were the requisite bolt-on power adders: a custom short-ram intake with open-element filter and a 2.5-inch quasi-dual exhaust. They also ported the intake manifold and upgraded the ignition with an MSD control unit and 8mm plug wires, lightened and balanced the flywheel, and re-installed the engine with solid metal mounts.
The two also dropped the car 2 inches using Sprint springs matched with Mantapart sport struts, replaced the rear anti-roll bar with a 22mm Addco stabilizer, and stiffened the Cavalier's chassis with front and rear strut tower bars and a GRD subframe brace. For running gear, Weisgarber went with a set of white 17-inch ADR wheels and wrapped them in Kumho Ecsta 712 rubber, sized 215/45R-17.
Interestingly, none of the factory brake equipment has been upgraded. "I only like to go fast, not stop fast," Weisgarber notes.
With that in mind, he took the car back to the street and found it to be much quicker than it was originally. And, given its unassuming street presence, Russ found he was able to surprise a lot of unsuspecting stoplight racers.
"It was quick enough for me for the time being, so I decided to make it look like something," he says.
In the ensuing months, Weisgarber and Breker added a full RK Sport "Import Fighter" body kit, RK Sport ram air hood, and RK Sport three-piece spoiler. They also repainted the car themselves, using a GM black base with Arctic White SS stripes. The overall effect is quite telling, evoking visions of Chevy's late Super Sport Camaro.
With the body done, Weisgarber felt pretty sure he had exorcised his performance demons and was ready to call the project finished. One day, chance found him helping a friend install a turbo kit on his Pontiac Sunfire. He took a ride in the car, felt the thrill of the turbo spooling, listened to the music of the wastegate purging, and knew his own vehicle was not quite finished.
The next day, Weisgarber called on his father-in-law one more time to help him devise a forced induction solution for his Cav. To keep costs affordable, the two decided to construct their own turbo kit from scratch.
The system is centered around a Garrett T3 turbocharger and Turbonetics Deltagate external wastegate. The two adapted an exhaust manifold from an old Chevy 2.0-liter to support the turbo. The ignition module was upgraded with an MSD DIS-2 dual Accel coil packs. Engine management is still provided by the factory ECU, but the fuel system has been replaced with high-performance equipment and the MAP sensor was altered with a homemade "check valve" to allow for greater air flow.
Augmented fuel flow is provided by a Vortech FMU, a second Melpassi adjustable fuel pressure regulator, and a MSD booster pump.
Additionally, father and son-in-law fabricated their own forced induction plumbing, even going so far as to incorporate a front-mount Supra intercooler core for better efficiency.
Weisgarber has ingested an array of 2-inch Auto Meter Phantom Series system gauges inside the car's cockpit to accurately monitor his engine's activities. The set includes oil pressure, oil temperature, water temperature, boost, EGT and air-fuel ratio, as well as a 5-inch Monster tach. The rest of the Cavalier's interior, except for a new shift knob and a few upgraded stereo components, remains completely stock. There are no restrictive racing buckets, no awkward roll cages. It's a car that retains every bit of the factory feel and familiarity-but with a whole lot more power.
According to Weisgarber, the engine still runs as strong as the day he first fired it up. The forced induction setup has proven to be very reliable, he says, and only cost him about $1,200 Canadian total, to boot.
"I built it to drive it and to enjoy it,"
Weisgarber says. He especially enjoys surprising fellow speed enthusiasts at the stoplights, claiming a perfect record of hole-shooting the inattentive or overtly self-confident. "Honestly, it's a Cavalier. Everyone expects to win. But I'm unbeaten so far."
Sounds like it's time for that brake upgrade.
|1997 chevrolet cavalier |
|Engine || || |
|Engine Code ||: ||LN2 |
|Type ||: ||Inline four, iron block, |
| || ||aluminum head, turbocharged |
| || ||and intercooled |
|Internal Modifications ||: ||Stock |
|External Modifications ||: ||Ram air intake, quasi-dual |
| || ||exhaust, ported intake |
| || ||manifold, MSD DIS-2 ignition, |
| || ||MSD plug wires, Garrett T3 |
| || ||turbo, Turbo XS blow-off |
| || ||valve, Turbonetics external |
| || ||wastegate, Toyota Supra |
| || ||intercooler, solid motor |
| || ||mounts |
|Engine Management Mods ||: ||Vortech FMU, Malpassi fuel |
| || ||pressure regulator, MSD |
| || ||booster pump |
|Drivetrain || || |
|Layout ||: ||Transverse front engine, |
| || ||front-wheel drive |
|Drivetrain Modifications ||: ||Lightened and balanced |
| || ||flywheel, Clutchmasters |
| || ||stage 2 clutch |
|Suspension || || |
|Front ||: ||Polyurethane bushings, |
| || ||Sprint springs, Mantapart |
| || ||sport struts, GM strut tower |
| || ||brace, GRD subframe brace |
|Rear ||: ||Sprint springs, Mantapart |
| || ||sport struts, GM strut tower |
| || ||brace, Addco 22mm |
| || ||anti-roll bar |
|Brakes || || |
|Front ||: ||Stock |
|Rear ||: ||Stock |
|External || || |
|Wheels ||: ||17-inch ADR |
|Tires ||: ||215/45R17 Kumho |
| || ||Ecsta 712 |