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 Post subject: 1980 TE Sedan "Bella", And My Drifting Story As A Whole...
PostPosted: Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:38 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:02 pm
Posts: 1567
Location: Mount Barker, Touge Country
Car(s): Many Many Many Geminis
Finally got my external hard drive with all the pics setup so here we go! This will be a long post so the usual rules apply, lots of pics along the way though.

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So the story of me in drifting goes back a fair way, right back to even before I was into Geminis (if that's believable). Ever since I was a pimply faced teen in high school watching Initial D for the first time I wanted to drift, I just didn't know how, when or in what car I would eventually get there.

If you ever followed my posts on this forum and others you'll know more or less that it started haphazardly with my first gem, the TD sedan. I did a lot of hills runs on my Ps and won't deny I would from time to time find a deserted spot and tromp the gas around a few corners to see what it felt like. Being fairly stock and with an open diff this wasn't really going to ever be the ideal starting point, and I love that car to death so was never going to seriously street drift it or put it on the track, so I waited for a long time to find an alternative.

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My first attempt was way back in 2010, when I bought "G3MBRO", off of Tyla. The old blue TE sedan with the yellow/white interior. It suffered rear end damage which is why he sold it, and I naively believed that I could handle a half decent repair and put it to use. The specifics I'll leave to that thread if you care to look, but I was younger, less motivated and less aware of what I could and couldn't do at that time.
The long and short of it is, I bought a bunch of parts, but that's about all it amounted to. I scrapped it early in 2013 along with my first coupe shell, and the white TX sedan I'd had since 2008. Sad times...

About a year after I first bought the TE, I decided to try and find a cleaner base shell to work with. I was fairly sure I wanted a late sedan, as they are far more common and I wasn't going to feel bad about screwing it up. Nevertheless, a complete rolling TX coupe shell came up for $500, and I jumped on it.

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This is the shell I nicknamed "Zero", which I still own to this day, although it is currently in storage... more on that another day.

I continued on where I left off with the blue TE, slowly buying bits and pieces and making a plan for exactly what I was going to put together. It was mid-late 2012 by this point, and the build was progressing slowly, when I bought another car.
I wanted another clean TE shell to transplant all my diesel running gear into at that time, so I bought Pavlos' defected TE sedan for $600.

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Structurally sound but also was a complete running, driving car. So I hatched a plan.
In November of 2012 I put most of the performance bits I had been collecting onto the TE, got some shitty tires, and made my way up to Tailem Bend for the last round of Stadium Drift for that year. I had no expectations for myself really, as the only thing I had really done beforehand was the above mentioned stuff on the street, and a school day in my open diff, RB20E, at-the-time daily Cefiro which was just a complete waste of time. I entered the feeder L2 class with 5 or 6 other cars from memory.

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The day went about as well as I expected, in other words I sucked but it was a good learning experience. The layout was the classic "high speed entry" layout that Eli (Archangel62), had been running for years at that venue. I knew my car with a stock pollution tech G161, overheating issues and a stock clutch was not going to be able to manage anything other than the most basic entry, but I still did my best and got my first real taste of drifting on track.

A month later I entered a private day at the same track. I got far more laps here, and was able to completely drift the high speed first corner. Looking back it's such a minor accomplishment, but at the time I felt so proud of myself.

This marked the end of 2012, and with the new year beginning I was invited to a drift wedding, of all things, again at Tailem Bend. This time I wasn't going to be in the TE though...

In the background I had still been working on the Coupe, and had managed to get the rebuilt G200W I owned at the time in the car and running (with the invaluable help of Antus and his expertise). I decided rather than taking the TE with it's 30rwkw at most, I would try the twincam coupe and see how a smidge more power would do me.

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This would be the only single time thus far that I have ever driven the Coupe, and was also the single worst day at the track I have ever had. The Coupe had been rushed, shortcuts taken, and I paid for it.

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Over the course of the day I had numerous issues:

It leaked gearbox oil
The alternator wouldn't charge
It had no working lights at all
It killed a fuel pump
It had ZERO castor (near impossible to drift)
It had no sealed firewall due to rust, which meant I almost didn't pass my safety check
The motor was tuned way too rich, and had next to no power compared to what it should have
Lots of little things came loose over the day

Needless to say it put me in a real downer for a long time, and not long after this I also had to start stripping the TE in preparation for transferring the running gear (cliff note, I never did end up doing it and eventually gave the stripped shell back to Pavlos to rebuild).

So I had the Coupe, and I was determined I was not going to try to drive it again until it was actually in a decent state of build, not rushed like I had this time. So I went back to the drawing board. Over the course of the next 2 years or so I kept chipping away at things when I got time, but largely I got distracted with other projects.

Fast forward again to the eve of 2014, nearly 2 years since that failed attempt at Tailem. I was sitting one night staring at the Coupe, in pieces, with a mess of V6 Commodore engine parts in front of it trying to figure out a conversion, when something snapped inside of me.

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I had been doing the same thing for nearly 4 years now, trying to build a car from scratch, get everything perfect, in between all my other commitments, projects, work, family, friends, and believing that I was going to get on track within the forseeable future. I was fed up and needed something to change.

That's when Bella came along...

(End Of Part 1)

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 Post subject: Re: 1980 TE Sedan "Bella", And My Drifting Story As A Whole.
PostPosted: Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:35 am 
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Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2008 9:02 pm
Posts: 1567
Location: Mount Barker, Touge Country
Car(s): Many Many Many Geminis
As though it was fate for things to play out that way, somebody that I'd met and made friends with that very day that I brought that Coupe out to Tailem had recently bought himself an original paddock spec TE sedan for $300, and wanted me to help him out swapping the G200 and 5 speed from it, into his own street car. In exchange for the work, he offered me the shell. It was an opportunity, and I jumped on it.

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The last few pics were taken shortly after we had finished stripping the car of all non essentials, and anything going into the other street car. I had then set to work putting my own running gear and suspension mods in.
Not long after the attempt with the Coupe I took the G200W back out, and sold/swapped it for a solid rebuilt G161Z and 5 speed with twin sidedraughts. I put the sidedraughts on another spare G161Z long motor, and put it into the car with a good 4 speed, welded the diff, threw some Koni shocks in with the stiffest springs I had, and did whatever else I could think of to make it more drift-ready.

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Right around christmas I got it running for the first time, and that's when I saw on Facebook that the DCA (Drift Challenge Australia) national series was holding a three-day double header round with two seperate competitions, over the Australia Day long weekend, at my ol' friend Tailem Bend.
It was a fair chunk of money to spend, and I knew that a national competition was definitely out of my league, but the sheer amount of track time was too good to pass up. Even if I made a complete ass of myself I knew that what I needed to do was just get in a car and drive, and that's exactly what I did.

Jan 2015: DCA Aussie Day Double Header

Day 1 -

I dropped the car off on the Friday, and returned on the Saturday to a full field of some of Australia's best drivers ready to slide. I immediately felt totally out of my comfort zone and was the most nervous I've ever been. I also had no idea how the car was going to run, or if it could even drift.

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Unfortunately I don't have very much in the way of photos or footage of this event, so I'm going to do my best to paint a picture of everything through words for a bit.

Because of the tire regulations that DCA runs, I had to run a specific front and rear tire that fit into their regs, so I'd ordered a brand new pair of 205/60/R13 Federal 595 SSs for steer tires, and a pair of 175/70/R13 Bob Jane All Rounders, also new, for the rear. I chose the bob janes because they were the cheapest tire I could get that was on the tire list, that my local tire shop stocked.
Looking back I realize how stupid of a decision this had been, as the tire list was designed and intended to stop the high level guys running stupid levels of grip on the rear and out pacing everyone. My little NA 1600, with a motor making at most 50-60rwkw, was never going to be able to spin new grippy compound tires. I would have been muuuuuch better off using second hand scrappies, and might have even done somewhat okay out there. In any case, the bulk of my issues with understeering and straightening up across the weekend came from using these grippy tires on the rear. Hindsight is a wonderful thing indeed...

Anyway, after the briefing I was told that we would start off practice in solo runs and gradually move to tandems. "That's a relief" I thought to myself, as I was definitely not keen to jump straight into tandems with pro drivers, in a totally untested, underpowered car, and with me not even seeing a track for the last 2 years.
I did one... single... solo lap, before Luke Fink (National Series winning driver, and the guy who runs DCA) points to me in form up and orders me to lead a tandem run, against a professional built car with around 600hp.

I'm not going to deny, I was genuinely scared at this exact moment. I seriously thought about just turning around right then and there and putting my tail between my legs. I held myself together though and made it through the run, even with the other driver right behind me probably thinking who the hell this idiot was holding him up.

"What the fuck am I doing?" I thought to myself as I trundled back to form up. "I shouldn't even be here right now, I'm not ready for something like this."
Then I realized something. In the stress and panic of the moment, and despite a bunch of straightens and some very sloppy lines, I actually got the thing sideways around most of the course.
The layout DCA used was different to the high speed setup I knew from years ago, this one came from the opposite direction, was more technical and with lower speed corners. It was far more suited a smaller underpowered car like mine, and even around the wide second gear corner at the end of the course I was able to hang the tail out.

In a split second, as I trundled back to the line, I went from being completely disheartened, to excited beyond words. I all of a sudden had a real taste of what drifting on track was like, even if was sloppy. I now had a starting point, somewhere to measure myself from, and immediately started thinking about what I needed to do to make the most of what I had right in front of me.
Practice continued, and while I still struggled with straightens, I had the opportunity to drive behind a few people and watch the lines they took. Slowly but surely I tried to put together a half decent lap. Qualifying for the first comp of the weekend was coming up soon, and I wanted to do my very best even if it meant I wasn't to come close to being a part of the field.

My two qualifying laps were run and done, and as expected I wasn't good enough to make it through. I wasn't surprised, but I also didn't care. I was having a blast, was more focused on improving my own driving at my own rate, and just stoked to finally be experiencing it all first hand, instead of always be watching on the sidelines.

Day 2 -
The comp ran itself through for the first half of the day, and then it was immediately time to switch things up with a new layout. This time the entry point was the same, but ran through a different combinations of corners, which included a fast right hand initiation into a skidpan area which was difficult to judge, at least for a newbie like me. In a lot of ways I had to start from scratch again, as the lines I had wanted to improve on from the previous day would no longer be relevant.

I did practice for this layout as well, and aside from understeering and nearly nosing the car into a concrete block I made it through without any issues. I still straightened everywhere, and was also spinning a lot of my transitions, which later was found to be a terrible front end alignment and castor settings.
I attempted qualifying for this round as well, and once again didn't make the cut. It was pretty much deja-vu, but despite all this I was getting a lot of encouragement from the other drivers, and surprised quite a few of them when I told them I built the car for basically nothing.

There was one particular driver who stood out to me. His name was Duane, and drove a KE70 with a CA18DE conversion. He'd road tripped the car over from Melbourne just to drive the event, totally fearless and drove it hard. He qualified 12th out of 28 starters I think, as he drove the lines the judges wanted and generally just kicked ass. It's fair to say that him and several others served to inspire me after DCA was over, and I got some really good advice from him later that night at the after party in town.

Day 3-

Once again the second comp ran for the first half of the day. Duane came in the top 8 I remember, was beaten by a V8 Cefiro after 2 or 3 reruns, and only after blowing a radiator. Even though he'd just won, the other driver got out of his car and helped push the KE70 down to the pits. That right there is why I fell in love, and still love, drift as a sport.

As I hadn't qualified (again), I sat out until the final expression session after lunch. This session was my best opportunity to get some real track time and try my best to get some tandem runs going. By this stage I did feel a lot more comfortable on track and was getting the hang of the Gem as well. Duane's advice among others was keeping me from spinning too much, and the car was running fine, so I just kept doing more and more laps.

Eventually there was a point where everyone inevitably wanted to do massive drift trains, which is a DCA staple. I found myself at the front of a line of around 17 cars ready to go, with Luke Fink there at the line once again. I took one look behind me, looked at him with a terrified expression, and said to him "I think you might want to let me go solo for this one". He laughed and agreed, and I did an okayish solo lap.
The reason I mention this is because as I transited back to the line, he let the entire field of cars go in one single train. As they all burned past me down the course I remember staring at them and thinking to myself "this is it, this is what I want to do. I'm going to work hard and be a part of that one day"

As the day, and weekend drew to a close I did my best driving of the event, did a few closeish tandems, and had made some awesome new friends once we all left for home.
This was the start, the start of me and Bella in drift, but by no means was it the end.

After DCA I made a decision that I was going to drive as often as I could, even if it meant sticking with a slow, basic car without having the time to upgrade too much between events. I was determined to make the most of what I had, and to always make seat time my top priority. It paid dividends.
Over the course of the last 12 months I've entered drift schools, practice days, casual weekends with mates, competition days, Matsuri events, and competed in a full series of Stadium Drift SA in the L2 class. I came fourth overall, with two top four finishes in the first two rounds and a lower result in the third.

The car started with that older 1600 long motor, and lasted about 4 months. On my first weekend out at JDMX Park it let go completely after a full weekend of skidding, so I swapped it out for the rebuilt G161Z I got with the sidedraught setup. This is the motor I still use today.

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Aside from this the car was upgraded about 6 months in with a modified front end for more lock that designed myself. This included thread on rack spacers, extended LCAs for around 8deg of Camber, trimmed lock stops on both the arms and hubs, and flipped UCAs for more castor.
I also replaced the springs all round for stiffer items. The rears were live axle Commodore Pedders springs cut down, and the fronts were EB falcon King Springs with the same treatment. About 4 months ago during a marathon of 4 events in one month I finally figured out how to adjust my Konis up, and was surprised to find they were set at the softest setting possible. Now that they have been wound up the car is the most solid it has ever been, and despite it's still very low peak power it steers nicely and has a lot more lock.

My last event was the January Malalla Matsuri last month, and after a full year I feel that now is the time that I will start looking for more power. I have plans for what I want to do, but it'll depend on a few things. For now I'm just trying to keep drifting as much as possible, as what i have learned throughout all of this, is that seat time is the most important thing of all.
In the end it doesn't matter what you drive, whether or not it has 500hp or adjustable everything, just get your butt in the seat and get to the track. Keep it reliable and safe for sure, but don't sweat the small stuff, you'll figure it out as you go.

I can honestly say, hand on heart, that putting this TE together 12 months ago was the single best decision I ever made, and while my first event was jumping totally into the deep end, it gave me a starting point and allowed me to see where I was, and where I wanted to be one day. I'm not there yet, not by a long shot, but even compared to back then I have already come so far, and made so many awesome friends along the way.

I'm looking forward to what 2016 and beyond has in store for me, and I'll be keeping this thread updated as I go.

Oh, the other thing is I made a Facebook page about halfway through the year, so if you're interested in checking that out feel free to give it a look:

And now, without further ado... photodump:


Drift School - March 2015:

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Stadium Drift Rd.1 March 2015 (Came in top 4 in L2 Class On Debut)

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(More In Part 3...)

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 Post subject: Re: 1980 TE Sedan "Bella", And My Drifting Story As A Whole.
PostPosted: Thu Feb 18, 2016 4:53 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 24, 2008 2:00 pm
Posts: 1134
Car(s): TX SR20DET, TX G200W, Dato 1200 Ute
Interesting read. Cheers for writing that up and posting!


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