Being new to Springfield, we often get asked...
"How did you get into tuning?"
"How long have you been doing this? "Did you have to take special classes to figure this out?" I've always liked fast toys. I grew up on dirt bikes, and hearing stories of my Dad's race boat and Corvette. Naturally, I wanted to make everything faster.
Back in 2001, I was riding a Kawasaki KDX200 that I felt was too slow. Totally naive to tuning, or even the need for tuning, I decided to install an FMF Torque Pipe, to make my bike faster... It ran terribly with the new exhaust.
I started talking to people online, and quickly found out that I would have to make some jetting changes to get more fuel to accompany the extra air that my new expansion chamber was scavenging. From some recommendations, I ended up with a copy of the "Two-Stroke tuner's Handbook" from the library.
(Now available remastered as a PDF: http://www.amrca.com/tech/tuners.pdf )
The "Handbook" had an incredible amount of information, and has served to be a foundation for where I'm at today. There was a lot I still did not understand at the time, but following processes outlined in the book, I was able to get my KDX's jetting closer to where it needed to be. It was a lot more fun to ride.
In High School, I fell in with a group of friends who liked modifying cars. Typical teenagers, we'd cut off mufflers, gut cats, "Port" throttle bodies, and other silly obnoxious things. I got some of my first experience tuning around 2005 on my friend's Grand Prix GTP, using a Digital Horsepower "PowerTunr". My friend and I followed the crude "guides" we had available to us at the time, and actually managed to make the car a little bit faster.
My friend Mark and I were at the Junkyard one day, when we found a Turbo Probe, with the same engine configuration as his 626. Being young, ambitious, and reckless, we loaded all of the forced induction parts from the Probe into a wheelbarrow, and set out to work.
Over the next 48 hours, we (Literally) sleeplessly thrashed on the 626 to get it running with a turbo! Working through the night, the parts stores were closed, and we had to resort to scavenged items from WalMart and other appliances to get the TurboMazda buttoned up.
The driveway was a mess, the car was a mess, and we were a mess. The 626 ran, and we had our first experience with turbochargers. What's left of the VHS tape we recorded that weekend is on Mark's YouTube:
We proved we could make a Junkyard Turbo work, and after about a week, we ended up fixing our hack-jobs. Mark tried a "Probeinator" ECU, and ended up settling on a Megasquirt Standalone (MS1). I got my first stand-alone experience tuning this car. We tried a lot of different ideas like methanol, water to air intercooling, exhaust cutouts, and various other tricks. We ended up getting the TurboMazda to run a 14.6 at 98mph in the quarter mile at KCIR.
While playing with Mark's car, and tuning a few other GTPs, I had been putting the final touches on my car -- A 96 Mercury Cougar, with a Vortec Suprecharger. I had been in contact with an SCT Tuner in Florida that specialized in these platforms, and had paid for an SCT Device and a remote tune. I got the Cougar running (Very poorly) in Spring 2009, and sent some preliminary logs to the tuner.
Months passed, with several un-answered phone calls and e-mails, and I still had not seen a revision of my tune to get the Cougar actually running. Nobody in town would tune a Cougar, and I was frustrated. If I couldn't rely on someone else to tune my car, I was going to do it myself.
Not familiar with SCT at all, I ordered a Megasquirt Stand-alone (MS2), LC-1 wideband, and pulled a wiring harness out of a Crown Victoria at a junkyard to cut up and get my car running. I hadn't even used a soldering iron before this point.
I spent a couple evenings under the hood, and build my first wiring harness, running the MS2 as a piggyback. The car started fantastic, and I was able to heat cycle the motor for the first time. (Language warning, 20y/o Ryan cursed like a trucker)
With the Cougar running on Megasquirt, I was able to take it out street racing that weekend!
The Cougar has been through several revisions and upgrades since. It's now flex fuel, on 15psi through a T-Trim supercharger. I'm still running stock heads and cams. On pump gas, it puts down 430hp / 405ftlb and on E85, it makes 485hp / 430 ftlb.
I horded cars for a few years... I had 9 cars at one point... There were a lot of projects among them, such as a 1G DSM, Z32, SVT Focus, Miata, IS300, and quite a few others... I got tired of having so many projects, and sold a number of them to buy a C5... I wanted a car I could trust to hold power and be stable at 160+. The Corvette fit the bill the best.
My group of friends was planning a trip to TX2k15, so mid 2014, I started putting together a solid build for my Corvette. - TEA Stage 2 243 heads (2.02 intake valves)
- Tick SNS 2 Torqe Cam - Fast 92/92 - Kooks Longtubes & 3" midpipes - B&B Mufflers - Vararam Intake - 36lb Injectors - Tick adjustable master cylinder - Spec ST900 clutch with an organic hybrid disk - All the differential bracing money could buy
I got the Corvette together Fall 2014, and bought my first HPTuners cable to tune it and start having some fun. The Vette drove great all the way to Texas, and I finished up the tune on the Dyno at TX2k thanks to some new friends at CUNDN Racing.
Around this time, I met Kelsi for the first time, out street racing in her Cammed 4th Gen Camaro.
... And beat her in the Cougar ...
... And beat her in the Corvette (Sorry honey) ...
Kelsi and I started dating, and she noticed how much I enjoyed tuning. I'd be up well past midnight, looking over data, and making corrections to things. While I didn't feel like there was enough money in Tuning to live on, she pushed me to give it a try anyway.
We came up with a name, and started tuning some Gen-3 GM cars that I had experience with. Our name was getting out, even with several other shops in KC, and I was learning more with every car.
Kelsi's parents had a H/C/I 5th-gen Camaro that they had pulled out of a local shop that wasn't able to complete a F1-A install they were wanting before world of wheels. They had asked for help, and the Camaro ended up being our first experience with Gen-4 LS PCMs.
With a conservative tune, and 11psi, we saw power numbers in the high 700s, with a bit of belt-slip up top. With the slip corrected, and some minor maintenance work, the Camaro was in the low 800hp range.
Kelsi had always wanted a Pontiac G8. We found an opportunity we couldn't pass up, and made the trip to get it.
The G8 had been repossessed and was in fairly rough shape. There was a leak at the front main seal, the harmonic balancer was about to fall off, and the car was obnoxiously straight-piped. Kelsi hadn't even driven the car, and we took it apart for a cam swap.
We knew we'd put tens of thousands of miles on this car, and decided on a very small GMPP cam with .525" lift (Most performance cams for these motors are around .620" lift). It was enough to sound mean, and we wouldn't have to replace the valve springs all the time. Kelsi completed the cam swap on her own, aside from torquing the head studs.
Owning the G8 was great for tuning experience. We dialed the Pontiac in, and wrote over 300 revisions, getting everything perfect. We ended up redoing the exhaust, adding a built 6L90, 3.91 gears, and converting it to Flex Fuel. I can now pretty well tune the Gen 4 E38 ECU and 6L80 in my sleep.
Neither of us wanted to stay in Kansas City. The Street racing scene was petty and annoying, KCIR had closed down many years ago, and I spent about two hours in traffic each day, driving downtown to my day job at the Finance company. We'd both been to Springfield before, and liked the town. We started driving down every other weekend to be a part of the car scene, and see what racing was like. We knew we had found our home, and signed a lease on a duplex.
We wrote several tunes out of our driveway for cars you've probably seen around town!
At the end of the day, we needed a shop, and weren't having a lot of luck. Most of the houses with shops had foundation issues, or were outrageously priced. Others, had issues like high voltage lines running over the property. With our son on the way, that wasn't an option.
Frustrated with our lack of options after looking for almost a year, I suggested taking a look at commercial property. Kelsi quickly found a humble shop in a suburb of Springfield at a fair price.
This shop had the space we needed to grow, and the town had agreed to write us a permit to operate a dyno in the future.
The shop needed a bit of work, and didn't quite meet our needs in terms of accommodating our customers, but it was a healthy start with a solid building.
Our offer on the shop was accepted in October 2017, and we started to make it our own!
My Son was born Mid-October and got to take part in our shop renovation!
We had a lot of cleaning to do, and a plan. You can see or original floor plan laid out in tape below:
Lumber is a lot more expensive than I ever would have realized, and the quality of studs was worse than I expected too