I Found the Best Motor Oil on the Planet, and It’s Better & Cheaper Than Mobil 1

And Here’s a Mind-Blower: It’s From Amazon

If you don’t want to read this whole thing, don’t bother. The best consumer motor oil is Amazon Basics Full Synthetic. If you don’t believe me yet, you will, but just read on.

I spend a lot on motor oil. If you have any modern Porsche (which I don’t any more, for reasons like this), you’ll spend over $475 for an oil change at the dealership, according to RepairPal. You’ll get synthetic Mobile 1, but I’ve owned cars in my life that cost less than $470.

“Project Farm” on Youtube Tested the Major Synthetics and There Is a Clear Winner

First, Kudos to “Project Farm” on Youtube. This channel performs ludicrously thorough testing of all sorts of engine performance products and tools. They wreck some engine here and there in their testing to add to the fun.

Project Farm ran Valvoline dino, Amazon Basics Synthetic, and Mobil 1 Synthetic. Amazon Basics handed both of the major brands a licking.  The test was thorough, testing “cold temperature flow, lubricity, evaporative loss after exposure to approximately 400F for 2 hours, and cold flow of each oil after exposed to heat for 2 hours”.

I am sold, it’s my new go-to oil. You can see the full test here.


Sharpbuilt Type IV 911 Cooling Shroud

Part 1: Getting Started

My Sharpbuilt Shroud is old and tired, and cracked, and burned, and ugly. It cools very well–probably over cools a bit.

I have spoken to Mike Sharp in AU, and have ordered a new fiberglass replacement shroud–I will reuse the same hardware.

See? Lots of cracks and it’s been repainted (poorly).

Update: New Shroud Just In…

I just got my package from Sharpbuilt today with the new shroud in fiberglass. The exchange rate with Sharpbuilt is very good nowadays (they are in Australia) so I got the shroud and side skirts, delivered, for about $380.  I thought these pictures would be helpful for people about to undertake the install, because there are very few high-resolution pictures showing what actually shows up in the box. Now, keep in mind, I didn’t get the full kit, I will be renovating my original kit so keeping the existing generator stand and crank pulley.

I will keep this post updated as I progress through the installation of the Sharpbuilt shroud.

Updates! New Shroud Is In the Car!

Lot’s of learning here. Installing or replacing one of these Sharpbuilt Shrouds, you need to be a real multi-disciplinarian. You need to do some electrical work (for generator connections), paint and prep, mechanical stuff obviously, but there are gaskets as well as trimming to be done.

It’s also a good chance to recondition the bands. Mine were previously just black paint over the cadmium coating–so the paint flaked off. This is all high heat engine two-part epoxy:

Here is the shroud at the primer stage, using Eastwood 2k high-heat primer:

Sharpbuilt Shroud in Progress


How to Register a Porsche 550 Replica in Texas

I just registered my Vintage(tm) Porsche 550 Replica in Texas, here’s how to do it…


It wasn’t that hard to do. This will also work with Cobra replicas, I believe. I’ll lay out below how I did it. This is July 2016, and a few things have changed in the past few years from the forum posts I have read.

First of all, this was a previously registered car out of Louisiana with a Louisiana title. If you are not previously titled, you have a few more steps to go through to verify 1) the weight of the car with a weight certificate from nearly any truck stop, and 2) receipts for the major components of the car. So, this process is precisely for a previously titled replica, but the main point is that it is legal to register a replica car in Texas.

Familiarize yourself with the law surrounding “Custom Vehicle” registration. Texas’ Transportation Code has a section 504.501 that authorizes this type of registration. You want to search for and read this document, available online: “Custom Vehicle and Street Rod FAQs – TxDMV.GOV”. There is a second document you want to read, Texas’ “Assembled Vehicle Manual”. You want to reach Chapter 4 of that guide. I showed up to my tax office with those two documents in a binder but never had to refer to them.


What You’ll Need to Register Your Porsche 550 and Transfer Title

Again, assuming you purchased the car with a title, you’ll need the titled signed over to you, obviously.

You need insurance to do any of this, just like any car. I got my 550 registered through Hagerty Insurance. Cost was $547 a year on a stated value policy of $35k.

You will be applying to register a “Custom Vehicle” and the title and registration will state the actual year of manufacture and “ASVE” or “ASSM”–I left these fields blank and let the guy at the Texas tax office help tell me what to put. A Custom Vehicle application is based upon a form called a VTR-852. The 852 requires a special sort of inspection by an ASE Technician. I brought my car to Auto Spec in Round Rock, Texas and they have an ASE Technician on staff. Just call around and you can find an ASE Technician. A shop that works on race cars or vintage cars is going to know about the 852. The shop must also provide a printout of the ASE certifications held by the technician that fills out the 852.

You are applying for a title, of course, so you’ll need the standard 130-U application form. Don’t forget that you’ll need the seller’s signature on this form in addition to having the title signed over. Again, I left the make/year/model blank when I went to the tax office. My local tax office is the main center on Airport Blvd. in Austin–forget about getting this done through a contract title service, they’ll be baffled. You need to go right to the official county tax office.

Now, will you need the safety inspection? There are differing opinions on the forums, and here’s what the guy at the tax office told me. Technically, a run-of-the-mill inspection or a safety-only inspection isn’t required, however, my car was coming in from out of state, so there is no green sheet any more and this safety inspection serves as a verification of an out of state VIN. I would just do the safety inspection anyway, in addition to the ASE inspection anyway.

The “four photographs”: it is a requirement that you submit 1 photo of the car the replica is meant to represent. I used the picture of James Dean at the gas station (taken on that fateful day), and a front, side, and rear picture of my car. Curiously, the Tax Office employee gave me two of my pictures back, and kept 2. I just used ink jet printouts for this.

What you walk out with

So I received a traditional windshield sticker and a paper temp plate–this must be a new procedure because if you read Texas’ guides there is supposed to be a special sticker for “Custom Vehicle” designations that goes in “the rear window”. Perhaps this has changed with the Texas one-step registration sticker scheme. The receipt notes the model as “2004 ASSM”. The Texas law is pretty clear that the title has to bear the actual year of manufacture and the abbreviation for “Assembled”. On the receipt, the “Mileage” is indicated as “Exempt”. The receipt also notes “Plate Type” as “Custom Vehicle Plt”.

Nothing on the receipt though, says anything about my car being exempt from annual inspections, which is certainly what the law regarding custom vehicles dictates.

While the title and metal plate isn’t in my hand yet, I can’t imagine things going awry from here.

Update! Got my metal plate after about 8 days…


What happened at the Tax Office

My interactions at the Tax Office might give some people some insight. The gentleman who helped me was a rather stern looking man of about 55. He had a “by the book” demeanor that didn’t instill confidence. He did ask this: “do you want to register as a street rod or custom vehicle?” I said, “custom vehicle because a street rod is for a replica of 1948 or older”. He stared at the form for about 20 seconds and mumbled “yes”. We probably spent at least 5 minutes sitting in silence while he read through my forms.  He never called over a supervisor, he just methodically went to work on his computer. At one point he said “well, it looks like it would be a fun car.” After about 20 minutes he handed me my packet and said, “well, you did it”.

If you are building a new kit…

If you don’t have a pre-existing title to work with, you’ll have more paperwork to do, but I firmly believe it could be done. In essence, you’ll need two tasks done: one is to get a VIN number and you’ll need to prove ownership of the main components: engine, frame, and body. Your manufacturer (Vintage, Seduction or otherwise) is going to know how to put that packet together for you. If you are building yourself, you will just need receipts, receipts, receipts.

There is even another way

Even if this process didn’t work, I did come across a second way to do this. In my research I talked to a guy from the DPS office in Austin. He told me, “just do custom vehicle, that way you won’t need the inspection every year.” See, in Austin, this is an emissions county, so that would be completely hopeless for a 2004 or worse, 2016 car with a type IV air-cooled motor. But he did say, “if you can’t get custom vehicle, make an appointment here and we’ll issue you an exemption waiver, we know the kit cars and street rods can never pass emissions, then you can just do the safety inspection and register as a regular car.”

Overall, I would say that Texas is very friendly to replica owners.

Good luck with yours…

Pretty Cool CBR600rr Fender Eliminator

Yes, I know, this isn’t for a car and isn’t for a whatever, but I had to put it up somewhere. I got this kit from user areyourshop-a on eBay for $39.99.

Sorta Like Rumble Concepts & Puig

It’s very similar to a much more expensive kit from Rumble Concepts, and a bit like the Puig kit. I don’t want hassles from cops, so I did not want a kit that put my license plate the legally shadowy area deep within the wheel well; I won’t get hassled if my plate is out in back, where cops can see it.

Quality was great, metal is thick enough. Powdercoat is nice and even. I like the look, and the design is harmonious with the rest of the bike. The light is another eBay item and not included with the kit.




Bride VIOS Replica Seats Review [Transcript]

Unboxing these are the Taiwan Brides. There is a pair in here with gradated fabric. We’re going to take them out. Ok so these are really lightly padded. The box was sort of double walled but the tape had kinda come undone little bit from the jostling.

The seller of these was on eBay in Illinois. These wound up shipping from Spring, Texas which is outside Houston and I’m in Austin. They came pretty quick I gotta say and judging by the box they are decently light. There’s no extra padding here – this is really thin bubble wrap. If you go in here this bubble wrap it really shreds up pretty quickly. I didn’t do this, it shredded in the box. But these are cheap, cheap, cheap.

Let me keep going here, I’m going to move the camera. OK so here they are, well one of them, out of the box. Overall for $300 and some change once shipped. What the heck I got these because anything sort of expensive doesn’t fit in my Miata. I’m a tall dude, I need something that I can barely squeeze into and that’ll go really low to the ground. These fit the bill.

I’m going to use some closeups here to show you details on these. I like these. I will put them in a streetcar that is trackable but they’re not mind blowing in the construction. You can see a little bit of pinching here. You know, it just wasn’t sewn beautifully. This fabric though – it feels pretty robust. I don’t think this is gonna pill. It’s kinda tough, you could probably wash it.  And check this out – you can take the foam out and actually wash this. Because this will get dirty, it’s the bottom pad.

This may just be from shipping, some of these wrinkles my work themselves out. Again the fabric feels pretty high quality here and this one has the removable foam piece here so not bad. Now this actually gets a little better. Even this part is removable. I mean I’m not gonna take the whole thing apart but I would guess this cover might come off entirely too. So you can actually clean this if you really lived in it for a while and dirtied up. I’ll spin it around to show the side here.

You can see some problems with the gloss, like it just wasn’t polished.  I’m not gonna polish it, I’m just gonna go with it. Put it in the car and drive with it. I wanted to point out this was the second seat. This one’s got more of this attempt at polishing. There’s some residue left here. It’s rubbing off. I’ll polish this a little myself which I think I’ll try. Screws are included. I don’t know that you’ll get the same ones that I got but you know they’re marked as Bride but let’s be realistic they’re not the Japanese ones.

OK well I just can’t give up. I remembered I had some of this Meguiars Ultimate Compound Color and Clarity Restore so let’s just give it a rip. I won’t finish it, I just want to know and teach whether this will work or not so let’s give it a try. This is a really fine compound and just biding slightly and I can begin to sorta see through it. Some of those blemishes are gone. If I would have done that more neatly it totally would have resolved it. Look at that. There’s the ticket. Just a little bit of compound and just a little bit of work to make it shine.

RacingSeats.io currently has these seats in stock. Head to the Bride VIOS 3 page to order today.

Check out the actual review video of these Bride VIOS replica seats below!

Bride Vios Racing Seats Replica Unboxing & Review from michael david on Vimeo.

Staff Ride: 1990 Spec Miata

This staff ride is a 1990 Spec Miata that runs in the Challenge series (a slightly de-spec’ed class at the Harris Hill Raceway in San Marcos, Texas). It is outfitted with two Ultrashield Rally Sport seats (2 seats is convenient for frightening passengers). It’s a stock 1.6 motor with a fully caged interior and stock exhaust.

The local rules allow for a minor suspension change: Racing Beat lowering springs on stock shock absorbers. realdeal

As for seats, these have driver and passenger Ultrashield Rally Sports.

seats m miata-seats miata-1

From the Graveyard: CompositeWorx SP-1s

Rare, Italian Carbon Fiber Seats from Now-Dead CompositeWorx

These CompositeWorx SP-1s are rare. These were in the car of one of staffers until recently when they were sold to Cody, the marketing guy at Cobb Tuning. These were marketed on the Lotus forums as direct replacements for Exige and Elise seats. They were pricey: about 2,300 for the pair shipped to the US.

And then they imploded…

The miracle of CompositeWorx seats is if you actually ever got them. In late 2013, orders to the US started slowing down, and then eventually stopped, leaving many buyers stiffed out of their deposits. The Lotus forums tell the full story of how CompositeWorx eventually failed to ship a large number of pre-paid orders.  But boy, are they good-looking.


$150 Video-Enabled Home PBX Voip System

I recently built a 3-phone, video-enabled, full-blown PBX Voip phone system based on a RaspberryPI B. The system makes extension-to-extension and Voip video calls (very good for talking to kids without yelling upstairs), and the system makes and receives normal outbound and inbound phone calls for about 1 penny a minute through FlowRoute’s normal SIP/Voip rates. This is the 3rd Raspberry Pi running systems at home, I already have two Raspberry Pis running independent music servers, which we described earlier.

Dinner is ready
“Amelie, dinner is ready” “Okay, Daddy”


You’ll need a few pieces of equipment, which I’ll outline here, and a little bit of Linux experience to get the system going. Once set up, though, you’ll have a Donald Trump-quality phone system but your telephone call charges are unlikely to exceed $30 for the year.

The Software: RasPBX/FreePBX for Raspberry Pi

The brain is a standard, $35 Raspberry Pi, available on Amazon, and a 4GB SD Card, which I subsequently upgraded to a 16GB card. The software to run is donation-supported freeware (RasPBX) available here: http://www.raspberry-asterisk.org/. With a little bit of tweaking and some detailed insight from Nerd Vittles on their RasPBX installation, and I was up and running in about 1.5 hours. RasPBX bundles a linux operating system along with a slimmed-down version of the popular FreePBX/Asterisk Voip software. For a SIP provider, I use FlowRoute’s SIP service to connect calls, and FlowRoute provides easy setup instructions for FreePBX.

Here’s the RasPBX using a modest amount of space in my network rack:


The Phones: Nortel-LG 1535 Video Voip Phone

There is a bit of a mystery behind the Nortel-LG 1535 Video Voip phone. You can pick these up easily for $30 on eBay, but the features far exceed the intemperate $450 Polycom Voip phone I have on my desk at work.

The Nortel 1535 is strangely abundant, hence the low price. Here’s the wrinkle, and a further clue to the mystery: it loads a Turkish Telecom logo at the start. Hmmn. I imagine an ambitious transaction to bring Voip service to Turkey that went sour, leaving a glut of these feature-rich phones available for pennies on the dollar.

Nerd Vittles has a writeup on how to change the phone over to English menus, and some general information on the 1535. Note that the non-wifi version of the 1535 will be significantly less than the wifi version of the phone that goes for about 70 or 80 dollars.



I picked up 3 of these phones for $30 each on eBay, at last check, they remain available. I’ll likely add 3 more phones to my system.

Fun With Features

With the FreePBX software running I was able to easily set up a ring group that rings for inbound calls to the kitchen and office phones, but not to my daughter’s room. Voicemail is an easy setup in FreePBX, and the system can even email you a .wav file of the voice message. All the basic features of FreePBX are included in RasPBX.

Here’s a great feature: the Nortel 1535 includes and SD Card slot for importing and exporting images, so I went to work creating backgrounds for each of the 3 phones. I simply created a few 320x240px backgrounds in Gimp in about 5 minutes, and loaded them into each phone (use a low-capacity SD Card like a 256MB).

Amelie’s My Little Pony-Inspired Phone:




The Office Phone:


The Kitchen Phone: