Guide to Performance Tuning
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The Geo Storm starts out as a quick, good handling, light weight, and reasonably durable car.
Like all cars, it was manufactured to be comfortable, quiet, reliable, fuel efficient, and safe. These are all
compromises, trading performance for other things. Performance tuning often involves trading some, or all, of
these things, for speed. Expect discomfort, noise, more frequent maintenance, and lower fuel economy.
Results will be best when the vehicle is built for a specific purpose, and every effort is made to capitalize
on the vehicle’s strong points, while fixing its weak points. As mentioned earlier, good handling and low weight
are significant strong points. And as with all four cylinder compact cars, brute engine force is not a strong
point. Maximizing the handling ability and wringing as much torque and power from the engine as possible is a
good approach. With careful planning and keeping a goal in mind, the Storm can be built into a real cone-carver
for autocrossing, a very competitive club racer, or a top level drag race car.
Here are some principles that offer guidance:
A broken car with a lot of modifications, is still just a broken car.
Performance tuning an automobile means raising the performance level above that of the original or stock level.
In order to do that, the vehicle must be in good to excellent working condition before it is modified. Spending
thousands dollars and hundreds of hours modifying a car that has burnt up bearings, dragging brake calipers,
leaking piston rings and valve seals, and a host of other problems, is never going to net the same return in
performance as the same modifications made to a vehicle that started out in good working order. Start by getting
the vehicle running like new. Then begin modifying.
Speed is just a question of money, how fast do you want to spend?
Quality costs money, and in most cases, building something yourself is going to cost three times more than what
a good quality part costs, if you can successfully make the thing yourself. Scores of these cars have been sold
for scrap after owners discovered that the cost of building a race car has no relation to the purchase price of
a non-running project car. And home-made parts are more difficult to make than just boldly saying (or posting)
“I can make that myself for nothing”. Many more cars remain on blocks in people’s yards, their owners refusing
to face their inaccurate assumptions, overestimated abilities, and ill-informed claims.
Performance tuning is not a competition to make the longest list of crap that has been bolted to the car, to
post on a web page.
Performance tuning is a competition to make the best performance numbers and fastest lap times. Carefully
choosing the best quality, best performing, and most compatible modifications, which work best together to enhance
the areas needed, will yield the best performance results. Going down a list possible modifications and ticking
off each box with the cheapest, easiest, and least effective possible option, is going to lead to a well decorated,
but poorly performing, vehicle.
Don’t leave performance on the table, it can never be picked up somewhere else.
Compromising quality and performance for budget is also going to yield less power than doing the job right, with
the best parts. That power is never going to be recovered in another area or with the addition of another part
or modification. Most often, those compromises will sooner or later become limiting factors, reducing the
effectiveness of later modifications, until the earlier compromise is removed and replaced with a higher quality
and better performing part.
Some people will suggest that they can give up power and handling, and make up for these deficiencies in driver
skill. The rationale usually goes something like “A skilled driver can beat a faster car through better driving
technique.” In nearly all situations, this is completely false. Go to any autocross or club racing event, and
the other drivers will likely have as many or more years of racing experience as you, and their cars will have as
much or more tuning and modification work as yours. Unless you just so happen to be a multi-year national
champion driver, who races 25+ weekends a year, and your competition is a newly licensed, sixteen year old driver,
who shows up in a Dodge Viper or Ferrari, then you are not that highly skilled driver, and you need whatever
mechanical advantage you can get.
It’s the stuff down inside, that you can’t see, that makes the car go, not the shiny stuff on top.
Do not be distracted or seduced by pretty ornaments on top of the engine. Quality fit-and-finish, good design,
and lasting durability are all important. But matching candy color wire loom to spray painted engine parts does
not make a car go faster. Time and concern is more usefully spent with the appearance of the crankshaft, pistons,
bearings, differential, and the many things that can not be seen when the hood is opened to show off the top of
the engine. Money spent on the unseen pieces deep inside, and up underneath, yield higher power and better
handling measurements, faster lap times, and more victories on the track, which is what performance tuning is
really all about.
Shops - A list of shops offering parts
specifically for Geo Storm and Isuzu cars.
Index of Tuning Pages