Octane Insights

I felt like one of the major obstacles on my quest for speed would be the low quality gas here in Utah. After substantial testing I can definitively say that it makes a huge (negative) difference. For the uninitiated here is a great article about octane: How Stuff Works.

While I’m pretty happy with my 91 octane tune I’ve been experimenting with some OTC octane boosters. You have to be careful with these products as the listed benefits are often misleading. Take for example this bottle from Lucas. It has a label that warns you not to be fooled by “misleading advertising”. However, the bottle itself claims “3X the Boost” but provides zero information about potential octane level increases one could expect.


That being said, the Lucas bottle does provide this useful tidbit: “It takes 10 octane points to equal 1 octane number.” Some boosters will boast that they raise your octane level by 7 octane points (or something like that). If you used 91 octane gas and put in that booster you would have 91.7 octane. Hardly an improvement. Buyer beware.

Personally I like the two octane boosters below. They both clearly explain how much your actual octane level will go up. The NOS booster claims up to 6 octane numbers while the Royal Purple provides a boost of 3 octane numbers. Actual octane increases would be difficult to pinpoint but I have used the NOS and Royal purple octane boosters, logged my car’s data and they both seem to provide a definite benefit. Looking at engine data there is virtually no knock when these products are used in conjunction with my 91 octane tune. In contrast, without the boosters small amounts of ignition timing retard are common. So, I’m a believer!


Note: If you log your car’s data and see any ignition timing being pulled it’s very possible an octane booster could help your car run more smoothly. However, without aftermarket tuning it’s unlikely the car will be any faster. To illustrate this point: While my car has certainly benefited from these products I haven’t necessarily really seen any speed gains. I would have to create a 94-ish octane tune to take advantage of the modified fuel.

After playing around with octane boosters it was time for the big leagues. It took awhile but I found a location in Provo (Christensen Oil) that sells 100 octane unleaded at the pump. It’s not cheap but I decided science demanded that I try it. I filled up my nearly empty car with the 100…


…and after putting on a new 100 octane tune I could tell right away there was some magic happening. The top end power really filled in and came alive. I was so excited that I decided to drive out to my private racetrack that night and do a couple of runs. I did some 3rd gear pulls for data analysis. They looked good so I decided to go for the whole quarter mile.

The launch was perfect- the wheels just hooked up and then the car exploded forward. The acceleration was finally intoxicating and the car just keep pulling.  I could tell I got to 130 pretty quickly and the results were as good as I could have hoped for:


That’s a huge amount of time shaved off with the race gas and tune. No tricks, no gimmicks, no games (i.e ice on the intercoolers, driving down a huge hill, etc). This run comes right on the heels of several 3rd gear pulls to 100 mph. I’ve even got catalytic converters on my car which makes the number even more impressive (I think I could shave off another 2/10ths with them off- more on that later). With this set up I feel like I’ve got a good shot at running my first “official” 10 second quarter when I hit RMR on the 9th. We’ll see.

So, in conclusion- octane boosters can be beneficial. Although to achieve next level performance it’s necessary to run much higher octane fuel and have a tune that can take advantage of it.

Escort Radar 360 Max – Mini Review

Right out of the box you can feel the build quality isn’t on par with some other radar detector offerings. I compared the 360 Max to my STI Driver and, admittedly, it made me a little sad. The Max is also on the large and heavy side. However the 360 purports to be one of the most comprehensive radar detectors on the market so maybe it takes a lot of room to fit all those features in there. With it’s LCD screen and indicator arrows it certainly looks like it’s built for business.

I immediately liked the included accessories. The power cord is a smart design; I can plug in the curled portion inside my glove box and then run the straight portion of the cable up to the windshield-mounted 360. The windshield mount is a sticky cup design (like my old mount which has been excellent). The new mount has a magnetic latch that makes the 360 super easy to mount and remove. At first it seemed like the detector wasn’t being held securely but pushing it back against the mount with a bit of force remedies the problem.


The Max has plenty of preference settings making customization easy (display colors, sound options, band lockouts, etc). The LCD screen shows quite a bit of information making it easy to know what’s going on.


My first time out The Max 360 blinked and hollered at everything. But turning off the X-band and a few more trips made a world of difference (after detecting fixed signals a few times the 360 will store “false” alerts and stop pestering you with them). Detection seems to be alright although there were a couple of instances where I saw a police car but the Max didn’t register any radar activity. In my experience with my STI Driver when there is a police car there is radar. I may need to do some side by side testing.

The directional indicator is a very nice feature but in my limited testing it seemed to have trouble figuring out where to point the arrow. I will reserve final judgement for a month or so and see how the Max 360 performs over time. Possible detecting glitches aside, the Max 360 seems to be a comprehensive standalone solution and it’s been enjoyable to use thus far.

Overall Rating:  7/10

If want more information on the Escort Max 360 I’d check Vortex Radar’s incredibly comprehensive Max 360 review.

$4 991 Steering Wheel Modification


I recently wrapped some white electrical tape around my car’s steering wheel. The 911s have an independent section of leather on their wheel and so the tape slips into the grooves and nearly looks like stock offering. Although I thought of this and tried it all on my own it appears from having later Googled the idea that others have attempted similar things.

Practically speaking, I think it’ s a great visual addition. The tape had held in place just fine. No stickiness or peeling issues. The electrical tape is vinyl and so it’s easy to clean. The best part was that it only set me back about $4. A highly recommended aesthetic modification.

RaceLogic VBOX Sport – Mini Review

The Racelogic VBOX Sport is a must have for any driving / racing enthusiast. If you’re like me you want to know your 0-60 and you need your quarter mile time and trap speed to compare with your friends (okay, not really). Sometimes it’s hard to get out to a track and the VBOX is the next best thing. Using GPS signals it logs your acceleration, braking and speed data for predefined and user designated parameters.

The construction quality is excellent and the unit feels solid and is well designed. The Sport is water resistant so it’s possible to take it on a boat or jetski and it would fare well off road (in a dusty environment). I purchased the optional suction cut windshield mount and it is similarly well constructed and has worked flawlessly. Although the VBOX sport doesn’t have an integrated screen it connects to an iPhone or iPod via Bluetooth where the information is displayed.


The unit’s operation is pretty straightforward: Once the Sport is turned on it acquires the necessary GPS signals. From there you simply pair it with your phone allowing you to start tests and review results. I’ve only had one pairing issue and it was easily resolved.

Accuracy should be quite good given the technology employed by the VBOX Sport. Users report that times and speed are fairly close to what is run on actual tracks (less than a 1% margin of error). I’ve posted the best results I’ve gotten in the Turbo S (so far) below:


10.88 at 126mph! I know the times shown by the VBOX are in the right ballpark since I have actually recorded a few of my quarter mile runs (prior to having the Sport) but I’d be really curious to see what the car would run at out local track. I have also tried the VBOX Sport out in my truck and the results seem spot on.

As I said, this is a great unit. It’s not cheap but I think it’s absolutely worth the price and is a valuable tool that any modder, tuner or racer will appreciate (check it out at Racelogic’s website). If anyone in Utah wants to use my VBOX please – especially if you’re planning to go to the track- please hit me up!

Overall Rating: 9/10

Car Adventures July – Tuning

Adventures in Tuning: 

Following the aftermarket part installation it was clear the car was going to need some tuning. This time around I decided to use Cobb and their Access Port. Back when I had my 997 I had to take out the ECU and send it in to EVOMS (shudder- such bad memories of those guys) to get a new map flashed onto the car. This made it nearly impossible to make small adjustments. However, the Access Port (AP) allows you to flash the a tune onto the car’s computer though the OBDII port! You can load on a new tune in just a few minutes. Additionally the AP logs data which you can send to a Cobb tuner and they can make adjustments as needed for you. This is a game changer.


COBB Access Port Tuning Module- this is where the magic starts & how we make the magic faster.

Right out of the box the AP comes standard with a slew of off the shelf (OTS) tunes. Before putting my new parts onto the car I installed the OTS stage 1 tune. The low end seemed more powerful but I didn’t notice much of a difference up top. After the parts were installed I uploaded a stage 3 OTS tune. Again, more bottom end power but very little difference up top. It’s tricky to get a good tune in Utah. I’m fighting high altitudes, catalytic converters (restrictive) and low octane (91 standard here). This is one reason that it’s so important to be able to log data and make tune modifications.


The Cobb Accessport is a very cool piece of hardware. It allows you to tune the car from the OBDII port! After installing the Access Port software onto your car you can upload new tunes. The tunes can be tweaked by logging data (via the AP) and then sending it to a qualified tuner.

I’ve been working with Sam (at By Design) and Mitch (at Cobb) to try and dial in the tune. While there’s a lot of stuff I understand, there’s plenty that doesn’t make a ton of sense to me. When I look at all the data from a logged file some columns leave me scratching my head and I’m forced to put quite a bit of faith in the tuners. Below is a 0-140mph run of my third tune version.

The corresponding times for this run were pulled off of the Cobb Access Port.
0-60 in 3.013
60-130 in 9.693
0-130 in 12.706
At this point I didn’t have a good way to measure a quarter mile run. As I look back in time there are quite a few things I wish I had done differently- gather timing hardware beforehand, test and measure the car in stock form and measure results of each tune iteration. Hindsight…

I’m up to version 4 of my custom tune at this point and the car seem to be running well and I can finally feel a bit of the torque in the upper end. Probably one last tune will eek out all there is with the current set up. Realistically that won’t be much more than I’ve already got- there’s just too much working against us here.

After loading in version 4 of my tune I did an experiment and put some octane booster into my fuel (real octane booster). The data logs looked so clean it was unbelievable (almost no preignition / knock) and the car gained nearly a second in the 0-130 range. With tune version 4 and 93-ish octane here’s what I ended up with (these were measured with a VBOX and a mini review will be posted shortly):

Quarter Mile: 10.92 @ 125
Half Mile: 17.39 @ 151.8
0-60: 2.96
60-130: 9.24
0-150: 17.08

That’s not too bad! I finally have a 10 second Utah car. Apparently if you live in Utah, spend a butt load of money and put in premium gas that we don’t even have here you too can run stock times! Yes, sadly these are pretty much the same times one might run if they lived in California at sea level and had just driven the car off a dealer lot.

Admittedly that leaves me perplexed- it’s hard to understand why a forced induction car would run so much slower in Utah given that the car should be putting roughly the same amount of air into the engine (turbos compensate fairly well for altitude). My goal is to find a stock Turbo S that I can measure at some point to see what a baseline speed might have been. I’m probably being way to scientifically anal about things but I want answers!

If my research pans out I think I’ll look into a methanol kit. A methanol system would give me the equivalent off 115 octane. Given the positive effects of octane I’ve seen I imagine that this would add a significant amount of power and top end speed. I am clearly not very good at being content.

Update: Somehow I managed a new best time of 10.88 in the quarter mile… with plain old 91 octane in my tank. I wish I had logged that run (I have 3rd gear pulls from the same round I can look at though). The worst part was that I had my GoPro setup but forgot my memory card (ahhh!). Maybe octane wasn’t the magic ingredient- I will have to explore this a bit more.


DJI Phantom 4 – Mini Review

Since I have a little more free time I decided to fill it by acquiring a drone. I picked the DJI Phantom 4 to try out. Obviously I’m not going to be “droning”  professionally, but I wanted something I could take some “good” video with (the P4 does 4K @ 30FPS… with some caveats…)


Initial impressions are favorable. Setup is pretty simple if you’ve got a advanced engineering degree (I would plan on a couple of hours to upgrade firmware, get software installed and configured and get your actual hardware charged and ready for flight).

Flight is remarkably easy. The P4 uses GPS to help with flight which made me more confident and definitely makes controlling the drone much easier (it hovers in place when not moving). When starting off you start out you can use a “beginner” mode which keeps the Phantom within a 30m radius (of whatever you designate). Once you get more comfortable DJI claims you have up to 3 miles of control. The POV on the remote is excellent and makes flying intuitive. The P4 has some anti-collision technology to make sure you don’t crash but I found it incredibly annoying and restrictive (however, that was while flying inside my house). In sports mode the drone can travel up to 45 MPH but flyer beware.

Video quality is not quite what I expected. There are a lot of video artifacts and a distinct moire effect on detailed surfaces like grass. I think this has something to do with transmission transmission throughput. I’m trying out different settings and I’m hoping I’ll find a way to clean things up a bit (maybe encoding stuff through software like Adobe Premier will help- I’m not sure yet).

You can record video in any resolution up to 4K and / or take hi-res photos from the air. I don’t know why, but (as I have mentioned in previous posts) I am enamored with aerial photography.


Overall construction quality is good. A lot of work has clearly gone into the design and implementation of this product and it’s a blast to fly. I love the fact that the blades can be removed and installed in a matter of seconds. Transport in a backpack should be no sweat as the unit is compact and fairly light.  It will be fun to get some aerial shots of upcoming adventures.

While the P4 is obviously not a professional quality drone I did expect better video quality (I watched a lot of videos from the P3 and this seems to be a step bbackwards).  Knowing what I know now I would probably buy it again. Remember to register your Phantom drone with the FAA and avoid restricted airspace. Happy flying!

Overall Rating : 7/10

911 Car Adventures : June 2016

I swore I would never do it again, but he siren song of aftermarket parts and more power has always proved to strong to resist…  There are so many well developed and proven upgrades and technology for the 991 that I felt comfortable giving them a shot. I teamed up with Fabspeed, IPS, ByDesign, Cobb Tuning and Ken Garff Porsche for the build. It is, thus far, one of my smoother builds to date.


I bought this cool wall art from Fabspeed. Then they asked me if there was anything else they would help me with. That was the beginning…

I collected everything I needed over the next month (more on that in a second) and made the necessary installation arrangements. 

This is what came out of the car: 


The old parts they took out look so much worse than the new stuff going in that it’s hard to believe! This is the old muffler and exhaust tips, the old catalytic converts, exhaust headers, air filter, intercoolers, plenum and Y-pipe.

And these are the new parts that went into the car replacing the items above: 


Fabspeed X-pipe exhaust


Fabspeed X-Pipe exhaust detail.


Fabspeed headers


Fabspeed header (detail)


Fabspeed catalytic converter


Fabspeed black ceramic coated exhaust tips.


IPD Y-Pipe & Plenum


IPD Plenum close up.


ByDesign billet intercoolers


BMC air filter

The installation was done at Ken Garff Lehi. They have a beautiful new facility and all the guys there were super cool and did a fantastic job.


June 25th: Officially underway. The car has been pulled apart. Parts will be added soon…


June 25th: Ken Garff’s service department is new (gorgeous) well organized and they do solid work.


June 25th: Love the way this car looks under the hood (or rather under the bumper).


Headers are in! Daniel (one of the salesman) was holding the headers prior to install and said, “Look at these- like art!” I don’t know about that, but they’re pretty sexy. The catalytic converters are in too!  Everything seems like it’s fitting well.


June 27th: Love the way the Fabspeed X-pipe exhaust looks. This should be wicked.  So far really happy with the guys at the dealership.


A quick comparison picture of the stock vs Fabspeed headers. Also the stock vs By Design Intercoolers.  And then everything zipped back up. It is an absolute shame that you don’t get to see any of the cool stuff locked away in the bumper  but at least you get a peek underneath. Visually I really prefer the Fabspeed exhaust to the stock box hanging down off the back of the car.

So ends the installation portion of my journey. Next up- tuning!

New Arts – October 2015

Since it’s “Inktober” I’ve had a strong urge to draw. Here are a couple quick pieces I did this past month. The heart is drawn in marker first and then the lines are colored in black ink.


The coloring technique I used here- small shaded pieces – while artistically interesting, doesn’t do as much for the piece as I thought it might and is intensely tedious.I think it’s still cool but another coloring method could have been more dynamic.