Last week I left off talking about the drive home. Just before I talk about that, I found a photo of my friend Travis towing me through the dunes that is too good not to share.
I previously mentioned needing to replace some of the sensors due to sand. I was frustrated to no end about this, because I had brought multiple junkyard spares of each sensor with me and gone through all of them. I should have spent the money on replacing all the sensors, it would have saved me a lot of headaches. Here’s a photo of my friend Brandon working on the car. He was replacing the crank position sensor in the parking lot of the local town Autozone.
We set out from Moses Lake on the morning of Memorial Day, 2014. At this time the car was stuttering because of a junkyard MAF sensor. I also had a broken clutch pedal, so I was starting the car in first gear and rev matching between gears. I’ve been driving semi trucks up and down a side road for years, learning to float gears so clutchless shifting comes naturally to me now. Last year the car made it 160/180 miles home with an aircooled engine. This year the car made it 110/180 miles home with the Subaru engine. It all came down to me being cheap and not buying a new MAF sensor. Despite the 6 or 7 spares that I had on board, none would allow the engine to run anymore. One of my friends drove me from the other side of Snoqualmie Pass, over to Issaquah and the shop where I was building the Baja. I borrowed the tow truck, drove back over the Pass, got the car loaded up, and returned back to Issaquah. All of this turned a typically 4 – 5 hour drive into a 13 hour day.
I honestly can’t remember if I bought a new or used MAF for the Baja after that whole ordeal. I did get the car running well enough to dyno it at Waterwerks on the Green in North Bend, WA. The Subaru EJ25 factory spec was 160 horsepower at the flywheel. On the dyno the car made 100 wheel HP and 120 ft-lb of torque at 120 mph. Let me tell you this car suprised the hell out of anyone who came across it on the street. One of my favorite things to do while driving the Baja was look at the expressions on peoples faces. I remember looking over while driving down an on-ramp and seeing a man wide-eyed and mouth wide open. I smashed the throttle and went about 90 mph down the on-ramp. His jaw opened so far that I never could see the bottom of his mouth beneath the door sill of his car. There was another late night drive that I love to recall. I was headed out of town on a 7 mile long straight away. It was dark out and I had all my lights on. Watch the video below to see how bright my LED taillights are. I liked them so much on my mini trailer that I put a set on the Baja. Anyway this group of Harleys comes up behind me and goes for the pass. I let the first bike get around my back tire before I downshifted to 3rd gear and floored it. I easily left them in the dust. When they finally caught up to me at a light in the next town, I heard “Hey man, nice LEDs!”. I yelled back “Yeah because that’s all you could see!” as the light changed and we drove our separate ways into the night.
I had been loosely documenting the build on my personal Facebook page at the time. A few months after the trip to Moses Lake, I gave up on the rear radiator setup and moved it to the front of the car. The engine had no problem staying cool at speed, but it couldn’t even think about idling without overheating. This became a problem in traffic or even simply while waiting for a stop light to change. I can’t remember the amount of hours I spent on fab, but I remember the custom metal coolant pipes that took me 2 days to build. The front radiator setup was never the solution that I had hoped for. When the project was completed I had a coolant system that took 3.5 gallons and ran through 20′ of pipe. It was an absolute pain in the ass to bleed the air out of the system.
I set the Baja aside after it overheated on me shortly thereafter. I was tired of chasing issues with this engine.
The car sat until 2015. I was again making good money working as a Marine Diesel Technician. I asked my friend Brandon who had helped me with the original install and the wiring if he would be willing to work on the car. I delivered it to his house, gave him some cash and told him that I didn’t want in back until it ran without overheating. He changed the radiator with a different one, swapped some of the coolant hoses and added a front coolant cap to the system. I was working on the east coast while he made modifications and test drove the car for weeks. I got back from working and picked the car up in early February. My friend Brandon builds all sorts of cars in his grandparents small garage.
The engine overheated not even 20 minutes down the freeway from Brandon’s house….
The same group of friends who I went to Moses Lake with also throw a yearly get together in late February down in Sand Lakes, Oregon. You would think by now that I would have learned my lesson with this car. I built this car to perform and I have never been one to trailer my cars. I met my group of friends and we all drove down to Sand Lakes for the weekend. Honestly thinking back about that trip, I can’t remember if I had issues with the car or not. The most standout memory from that weekend is the image below.
I was watching the sunset from a higher vantage point just prior to taking this image. I was about to head back to camp but decided to head down to the beach for a quick photo. I am so glad that I took the quick detour. This image went viral for a week or two on Facebook back in the day. I remember when TheSamba shared this image, it received over 30,000 likes. I was blown away.
Let me tell you that I had no plans to make this a 3 part blog post when I first set out. Originally I wanted to write a witty Craigslist ad that I hoped would go viral and aid in selling this car. When I started to tell the story, I realized just how long this car has been a part of my life. I love telling stories, and I hope that y’all have enjoyed reading these blog posts so far. I will leave you off this week with a few more images from my weekend at Sand Lakes. Thank you!!