Project Drift Chick – Part 2


Choosing a Chassis

Since Kelsey’s team decided to pursue the new build, the search for a chassis began in early November of 2015.  By mid- November the team was lucky enough to locate a completely stripped S14 chassis that already had a basic FD-spec roll cage installed, although some additional work was needed.  The chassis was procured and delivered to Kaizen Performance in Orlando, FL to begin fabrication work.

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Chassis Preparation

Chassis fabrication work was significant and addressed all areas of the car.

An important feature of any drift car is ease of access for service and repair. To help provide improved access and to allow fitment of the Longs shifter on the G-Force GSR transmission, the transmission tunnel was heavily modified within Formula Drift specifications. The tunnel plan was finalized once engine and transmission positioning was finalized by the team.

Kaizen Performance first cut out the existing tunnel and proceeded to fabricate the more open tunnel. A frame was first created followed by new sheet metal. Fello Ambivero (Fello Racing) also played a major role in fabrication. Working for Kaizen, Fello actually took the lead on all the tunnel work, dash supports and a few other elements.

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While the chassis had a roll cage that would meet Formula Drift requirements, for added Safety, Dan decided upon a few additions to strengthen the structure and better protect the driver, Kelsey. Additional door bars were added to provide more shoulder and side impact protection while rear cage reinforcements added strength. A dash bar was also added to increase side impact strength and to provide a base for pedal and steering column mounts.

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The front of the chassis was modified to allow for easier access to components and to incorporate a bolt on crash bar.

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Here Alberto is fabricating the front crash bar, working to integrate the bars with the front bumper cover used for the car.

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Of course, the front would not be complete without a custom radiator support.

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The rear of the car was completely removed to accommodate the new and more robust frame structure to support the fuel cell and battery as well as support a bold on crash bar. Radiator mounts were added later after the radiator arrived.

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Plans were altered as the build proceeded. New plans now required a rear mount radiator as the supercharger pulley kit consumed a significant amount of engine bay space when installed on the engine. This was also an advantage in that it also shifted weight to the rear of the car.  Dan worked out a design concept for the rear that required the fabrication of a rear bulkhead to create room for the cooling system and also separated the driver from the rear of the car.

A template was made; Sheet metal was then cut and welded in place.

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Alberto Rosa, owner of Kaizen Performance, led the fabrication and welding efforts following the conceptual engineering and design specifications prepared by Dan. Alberto has the excellent ability to take the design concepts and implement the details necessary for the finished product.  Working together, the team worked through the process to develop an excellent chassis for the new car.

Go, Stop and turn

To accommodate placing the Ford Performance Parts Aluminator engine as far back as possible, the OEM brake booster and brake and clutch master cylinders had to be removed. These were replaced with a set of Wilwood pedals and master cylinders, all mounted inside the car. The first step was to fabricate supports to securely mount the pedals. In locating the pedals, the team had to be sure to allow for placement of the new steering column as well as accommodate the driver with some adjustability. With the driver’s seat placed in the car, the team carefully determined pedal and steering column placement to accommodate Kelsey’s driving position as best as possible. The team was also able to leave some room for adjustment in the final set up.

To accommodate the Aluminator’s electronic throttle, a Ford electronic accelerator pedal was required.  This pedal also required its own unique mounting and the team work to design and fabricate the mounting for the pedal to allow proper positioning relative to the brake and clutch pedals. The pedal mounting bracket itself also had to be modified to fit around the transmission tunnel.

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Once the pedal mounts were fabricated, it was time to finalize the location of the new steering shaft and fabricate the mounting.  For steering, the goal was keep the universal joints required to two, with three joints as a last resort, since these systems work better with an even number of u-joints. With placement of the engine and initial considerations for the exhaust manifolds, this would be a challenge as Dan desired to keep u-joint angles well under the 30 degree limit.  It was also decided, properly, to locate the steering shaft and then work to modify the driver’s side exhaust manifold to fit.

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Ultimately, the system design evolved to accommodate one u-joint at the rack and pinion and one a few inches inside the firewall, each connected by a shaft that was inserted through a firewall bearing.  The inner u-joint then connected to the steering column which was placed to accommodate the driver as well as pedal placement. The use of a collapsible steering column provided both adjustability for wheel placement and adds a nice safety feature to the steering system. Great care was taken to design the steering shafts with proper u-joint alignment and orientation.

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The result is a smoothly turning steering wheel, free of any binding.

Blasting and Painting

After most of the chassis work was completed, the chassis was sent out to All-Bare Media Blasting in Orlando, Florida for blasting and painting. The entire chassis and crash bars were prepped by media blasting before painting with a good primer followed by a very tough polyurethane enamel.

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To meet schedule demands with the blaster and painter, the radiator support structure was fabricated and painted after the chassis was painted. The simple mounting system employed stock bushings and brackets from a Toyota Supra to mount the big Mishimoto radiator.

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 “Aluminator” Install challenges

Positioning, aligning and mounting the Aluminator

Prior to installing the engine the first time, Dan took a number of measurements to confirm the theoretical placement in all axes.


Here is the engine with transmission bolted up, ready for the initial fitting. At this point the clutch had not yet been installed as the team needed to first address the chassis requirements.  Note the Canton Racing Products Coyote oil pan, a truly nice, baffled, seven quart pan. Designed for road racing, the pan should adequately address the Aluminator’s oiling needs. With oil controlling the four variable timed cams, sufficient oil flow and pressure is critical.

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To prepare for the Aluminator installation, the rear sub-frame with differential was installed in the chassis to check fitment and to provide a reference point for driveline positioning.

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The engine was then placed in the chassis the first time to confirm fitment within the engine bay.

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The team confirmed that the cross member would be notched slightly to accommodate placing the engine slightly further back while still clearing the seven quart Canton Racing Products oil plan. 

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Dan had three essentials for properly positioning the beastly Aluminator engine:

  • Assure proper drive line alignment between engine and differential
  • Locate the engine as low and as far back as possible
  • Leave enough room to install other components, such as exhaust manifolds and alternator, and to provide access for serviceability, such as clutch replacement.

The engine was placed in the chassis as low as possible, just clearing the steering rack and cross member. The team then located the engine at the approximate center-line of the chassis and tensioned a string from the transmission to differential to aid in alignment.

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With the engine placed, the team worked to center the engine using the differential, transmission output shaft and engine crankshaft pulley as reference points. Measurements were obtained from points on the chassis to the engine and transmission center-lines to help assure alignment during the final installation.

In addition, the team worked to level the engine left to right and then measured the engines downward angle from front to rear for comparison to the differential angle.  The goal was to have the crankshaft and differential pinion in perfectly parallel planes. And yes, the team found beer cans measured to within 0.0005 inches!

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Based on the initial and desired placement, three new issues arose:

Given the engine position finally decided by the team, Dan determined that the differential would need to be re-clocked in the sub-frame by 3.2 degrees to assure proper driveline geometry.

The team confirmed that the alternator would interfere with the upper portion of the driver side frame rail by about 3/8 of an inch and modifications would be needed. 

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With the engine positioned low in the chassis, oil pan ground clearance became a concern.  In addition, Dan had concerns about the ability to quickly remove the steering rack, if needed, with the oil pan just a sixteenth of an inch over the rack. PVC pipe worked well for mock up work.

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Before proceeding further with the engine installation, Dan had some engineering problems to solve.
Learn more about solutions pursued by the team in Part 3.

Part 3 coming soon!


Go to Part 3

Return to the Crew Chief’s Garage

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