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Hi All,

This is more for posterity sake, in case anyone comes across this and is interested in picking up a Kappa car for similar intent. I enjoy reading this sorts of threads so I figure I'd contribute to the interwebs.

I picked up this 2006 Solstice about a month ago; 120k miles on the clock with deferred maintenance. Got it for relatively cheap ($3k) and the motor felt lively, it was registered and smogged... so I figured why not; I was in need of a tinker toy and wanted to join some friends out there dodging cones.

I'm coming off a 911 (997) I tracked regularly, prior to that a built S2000, a couple of Miata's, GTI, Prelude, Corvette, etc. etc. Whole heap of fun stuff.

So the night before I did an oil change, threw in a new air filter, tried to ozone the car to get the prior smoker smell out (only worked partially) and gave her a quick bath in the driveway.

I'm still getting a significant oil leak. I cleaned the underside oil pan and trans case and I see the drip is coming up near the oil filter housing area. I did what I could in the few minutes I was under there with a flash light and some shop rags and simply green. Still leaking though. The car ran fabulous all day; coolant stayed around 180-205, I had a whine from the power steering unit by the end of the 4th session, was my last run of the day anyway; when I got back home I didn't hear it anymore. Brakes don't get used much but held up anyway.

At the track:

Speedventures autocross in Fontana. I've been running with SV for several years, mostly autocross as I'm not a big fan of the Speedway Roval. My buddy (MR2 Spyder) and I had our normal setup going and even made a friend, another Solstice owner!

I'm an ok driver; certainly not the fastest but I can hold my own and after 15 years of participating have an idea of what to do to be quick. The 'fast' cars of the day were running mid 36's that included some modified S2000's, an FC RX-7 and a very fast ND Miata. So the usual suspects. A couple of retired spec race cars also cracking in the 37's give or take a second depending on driver and a surprisingly slow BMW 3 series race car in the 38's. There was an Exige S260 next to us, he did around a 37.7-38.0 and a new GTR was doing around 40-41 most of the day before cracking into the 39s by the end. More typical stuff is 40-44 with a few taking it easy in the mid to upper 40s.

This layout is a the typical speedventures track; the chalk lines are completely wrong, the cones tend to float around throughout the day and the parking lot asphalt is..uh.. rough. I think the track favors speed, personally, there's two long sweeping turns and a couple of chicanes with one or two easy kinks. Still it's 75% driver 25% car.

With a passenger I was doing 39.1 consistently all day. Dropped the weight and ran back-to-back 38.5. Personal best for the day. I'm running some generic Nexen brand, not even sure the model. Rear passenger is bald though! Hah. Running 32 psi all four corners. No mods and a very worn out car with very little clutch and the slowest, daintiest starts I could possibly bring to the table.

Here's a couple of pictures





Driving impressions:

Feels very familiar and yet a completely different driving style all together. Compared to a Miata or that Spyder in the picture; there is not a lot of communication to the driver through your hands - that information is gleaned from your butt, a little from your feet, from your ears and 90% from your brain. There is a LOT of tire with 245 all around and only some ~125 whp to play with. Don't get me wrong, I still get a second gear chirp but it certainly needs some bad driving to get it slide-ways. So you're driving on faith and it feels like a bottomless well. I'm convinced. I need a GXP! :grin: Understeer rears its head on quick transitions with offset weight; hard right to left to right with a dab of brakes to unload the rear and get the butt to rotate; first time I had a big case of understeer, second time I brought more speed, a harder tap and got her nose around the cones.

There's still a very familiar feeling about the car though and I had/am having a hard time describing it. Maybe it's the front-engine rear wheel drive classic layout. I've been putzing around in the rear engine stuff for so many years this feels like putting on an old t-shirt that still fits. It's reassuring, confidence inspiring and certainly fun.

I had the Spyder driver try it out. He has very little front-engine rear wheel drive experience and even less autocross experience. So I told him; try to overdrive the car. He's working with 185 tires on his Spyder: specifically so he can get some counter steer action going and learn weight distribution and general sport driving dynamics. That was a purposeful decision (on my part!) for him to get those basics under control. My first go in his car and corner one we're sliding and driving on ice with those skinny bicycle tires. Great fun. He's getting there. Anyways back to the Solstice. I asked him to overdrive it. He couldn't break traction and led to numerous accounts of terminal understeer. Goes to the point; you're not having a good dialogue with the car: you're driving with your head more than you hands. It's certainly a different type of fun. I dig it.

Where to go from here? Well, I'm convinced I want a GXP. I need to test drive one as the other Solstice driver there commented he wasn't too impressed by the GXP performance over the standard car. I love the quirkiness of the Solstice. I hate the dash but short of that I'm amused and charmed by everything else - even the top and the 2 gallons of trunk space. I cannot imagine 300 hp/350 ft lb would be boring in our platform and it should certainly provide more entertainment for the 245 tires which I feel is over-tired for the naturally aspirated motor.

So until I find a GXP deal this winter I'd like to keep all the 'mods' transferable. First things first; I'm eye balling a set of wheels with some good rubber. Not that this car needs any more grip but when in Rome. Thinking Motegi M131 in 17x8 with 245/40. Only issue is the load rating; our tires are 96Y I think and most tires in the 245/50 size are 95... A shift knob adapter and ditch the worn knob in the car, that's something I could transfer over as well. A high density foam kneepad! Holy Moly I have a big bruise on my right knee cap from the hard channel being my leg brace. Going to investigate some high density foam to cutout a strip for support there.

Cheers!
 

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Glad you had a good time. I've autocrossed and tracked the Solstices, a Vette, a Boxster-S, an Esprit and a few other cars. A friend's 360 Challenge Stradale was probably the highlight, but there's something nerve-wracking about driving a car on a track that cost more than my house. I had a string of 2nd gen RX-7s way back in the day; glad to hear there are a few still running.

I'm having trouble imagining going from a 997 to an NA. But, I've also had much faster (and more expensive) cars in the past. My decision to get the Solstice was based on the need to have a car that, in case I slammed it into a wall, wouldn't cause financial distress. It's also a ton of fun.

...as the other Solstice driver there commented he wasn't too impressed by the GXP performance over the standard car...
That's very surprising. I have an '06 (with turbo kit) and a GXP. Even stock, the GXP was about as fast as my turbo'd '06, and WAY faster than the '06 pre-turbo. The power difference between a stock GXP and an NA is very, very impressive. 80hp / 80tq without even modifying the thing - that's about 45%. A GMPP tune pushes that to 290hp/340tq (crank, not wheel, duh). Throw in a good tune that pushes the boost up in the ~25psi range (vs 14-ish stock) and you're really talking. And then you start looking at bigger turbo, upgrades to the cooling system... it's a slippery slope.

Honestly, I'd question how much time that driver spent in a GXP. Mine is easily as fast as my C5 was and it's much cheaper to insure.

One thing to keep in mind for autocross: under SCCA rules, the stock GXP is in AS. That means you're in the same class as, for instance, a C7 ZR1. It makes zero sense, but such is life. Modifications will put you in SSM or CAM-S. Those are both populated by very fast cars. I don't mind that I'm in CAM-S, but it's something to keep in mind.

Welcome to the club! There's also a pretty active Solstice / Sky autocross group on Facebook. Look for "KappaCross." Post some videos if you've got them.
 

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Ditto Rayguns comments on the GXP. It's a wildly different animal, particularly with a tune.

Note that of course, a tune will bump you out of AS and straight into ASP, SSM or CAM. (And I think he meant the C7 Z51 runs AS, as the C7 ZR1 wasn't eligible this year and will certainly be in SS next year.)

As you get stickier tires (I'll politely disagree with you that a 245 is wide enough for anything fun) you'll want to add the rear pro-beam and front venom bar or PWerks "Strut tower brace." As you've already noticed, the handling of these cars is pretty sloppy at the limit so while I personally have my doubts either of those braces really improve grip, they make it much easier and more predictable to drive at the limit. Of course, neither of these are legal for many SCCA classes, so you'll probably just end up in CAM.

And if you aren't already aware, make sure you always keep your 3 hub bolts tight. They love to come loose on these cars. I loctite and paint mark mine.
 

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So the night before I did an oil change, threw in a new air filter, tried to ozone the car to get the prior smoker smell out (only worked partially) and gave her a quick bath in the driveway.

I'm still getting a significant oil leak. I cleaned the underside oil pan and trans case and I see the drip is coming up near the oil filter housing area. I did what I could in the few minutes I was under there with a flash light and some shop rags and simply green. Still leaking though.
The leak might be as simple as a cracked/bad oil filter cap. And/or did you replace the cap ring seal with the filter?

Note, some filter brands include a new cap with the filter, though I can't recall which brand(s) - and many include a new cap ring seal. Otherwise you can get a Dorman one cheap: https://smile.amazon.com/Dorman-917-003-Oil-Filter-Cap/dp/B000TYTSH8/
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Wow you guys are great! I didn't think there'd be any responses to this; figured it'd be more of an echo chamber for me to track progress. Awesome - thanks everyone.

Glad you had a good time. I've autocrossed and tracked the Solstices, a Vette, a Boxster-S, an Esprit and a few other cars. A friend's 360 Challenge Stradale was probably the highlight, but there's something nerve-wracking about driving a car on a track that cost more than my house. I had a string of 2nd gen RX-7s way back in the day; glad to hear there are a few still running.

I'm having trouble imagining going from a 997 to an NA. But, I've also had much faster (and more expensive) cars in the past. My decision to get the Solstice was based on the need to have a car that, in case I slammed it into a wall, wouldn't cause financial distress. It's also a ton of fun.

That's very surprising. I have an '06 (with turbo kit) and a GXP. Even stock, the GXP was about as fast as my turbo'd '06, and WAY faster than the '06 pre-turbo. The power difference between a stock GXP and an NA is very, very impressive. 80hp / 80tq without even modifying the thing - that's about 45%. A GMPP tune pushes that to 290hp/340tq (crank, not wheel, duh). Throw in a good tune that pushes the boost up in the ~25psi range (vs 14-ish stock) and you're really talking. And then you start looking at bigger turbo, upgrades to the cooling system... it's a slippery slope.

Honestly, I'd question how much time that driver spent in a GXP. Mine is easily as fast as my C5 was and it's much cheaper to insure.

One thing to keep in mind for autocross: under SCCA rules, the stock GXP is in AS. That means you're in the same class as, for instance, a C7 ZR1. It makes zero sense, but such is life. Modifications will put you in SSM or CAM-S. Those are both populated by very fast cars. I don't mind that I'm in CAM-S, but it's something to keep in mind.

Welcome to the club! There's also a pretty active Solstice / Sky autocross group on Facebook. Look for "KappaCross." Post some videos if you've got them.
Ray - we're in the same boat. Although I wish my boat had a 360CS in it, too. :surprise: I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

I was doing DE TT's with PCA and always took out a track-day insurance policy, I was mortified at the idea of balling up the car with a note on it: of course you add it all up and over those years I could have bought a a replacement Boxster with all that insurance money. Then my became pregnant (five years of IVF...) and the first kid came along... that whole process kicked off a financial anxiety roller coaster I'm still riding today. He's 11 months old now and I've "settled" on the Solstice. But to be absolutely fair to the Kappa cars and I'm certainly preaching to the choir here on this board - they are fun, quirky and interesting cars in their own right ESPECIALLY for a modern day car. I love being an ambassador for the model and showing folks all those weird eccentricities they have and reading the Lutz stories behind it all. I've really been charmed by these things - I'd like to keep one in the garage for posterity sake as I think they will be true collector cars (and not just the low volume coupes) for all the fun reasons.

Enjoyed this post! Very well written.
Thanks Bama!

Ditto Rayguns comments on the GXP. It's a wildly different animal, particularly with a tune.
Note that of course, a tune will bump you out of AS and straight into ASP, SSM or CAM. (And I think he meant the C7 Z51 runs AS, as the C7 ZR1 wasn't eligible this year and will certainly be in SS next year.)
As you get stickier tires (I'll politely disagree with you that a 245 is wide enough for anything fun) you'll want to add the rear pro-beam and front venom bar or PWerks "Strut tower brace." As you've already noticed, the handling of these cars is pretty sloppy at the limit so while I personally have my doubts either of those braces really improve grip, they make it much easier and more predictable to drive at the limit. Of course, neither of these are legal for many SCCA classes, so you'll probably just end up in CAM.
And if you aren't already aware, make sure you always keep your 3 hub bolts tight. They love to come loose on these cars. I loctite and paint mark mine.
Thanks Phil - haha I certainly don't hold anyone over the water if they want more tire, stickier or wider. I should clarify with the autocross - with Speed Ventures they don't abide by any rules/classifications. Its more a wrung-what-ya-brung activity. I've tried several times over the years and simply couldn't 'get into' SCCA events here in Southern California. Not for the lack of wonderful people but the structure wasn't for me. I ran a little with VARA and enjoyed that but best was PCA, personally. SV keeps it very loose and very casual. Like I said I wouldn't run the big course with them because it's too loose for my liking. But $80 gets ya 30-40 runs, time to hang with buddies, there's always a neat food truck and lunch in the stands watching the race cars go on the bank. We have our own inter-competition and sometimes folks out there like to take on times as incentive to get a little faster the next time since you see the same crew time and time again. I've got the DDP package on my wish list for my birthday in March. I'm asking Santa for the wheels and tires first :)

I certainly am not aware of the 3 hub bolts issue. I will deep dive it, I hope you don't mind I may send ya a private message for more info if I get lost. Thanks for the tip!

The leak might be as simple as a cracked/bad oil filter cap. And/or did you replace the cap ring seal with the filter?
Note, some filter brands include a new cap with the filter, though I can't recall which brand(s) - and many include a new cap ring seal. Otherwise you can get a Dorman one cheap: https://smile.amazon.com/Dorman-917-003-Oil-Filter-Cap/dp/B000TYTSH8/
Tomato - that's a brilliant suggestion. I didn't examine the filter cap in depth. I did replace the rubber O seal with the new Bosch filter I received. But if it was overtorqued by the quick-lube shop from a previous ownership that could explain the constant daily 5 drop drip. I will pull it again on the weekend and do another cleaning to observe. I swapped the original drain plug with a magnetic tipped one. Glad I did - that previous rubber crush washer/oring was nearly gone.


I agree with everyone's assessment that a GXP is going to offer more thrill per-pedal-press than the base car. I, too, think the other driver may have had a unique experience test driving that particular GXP - I cannot imagine 300/350 in a 2,900 lb car with a 95" wheel base is going to be any sort of dull. I'm certainly on the lookout - have my CL, cargurus and autotrader alerts set (who am I kidding they've been set for months now!) I'm a believer, time for the torque - this is a fun car, certainly a different kind of fun, but fun nonetheless.

Cheers all!

By the way - if anyone is in Southern California, ping me! Would love to grab a coffee or beer and talk cars. I try to organize a 'tech' night the evening before the autox events. I get a little mini-keg going with buddies and some tunes for basic wrenching and prepping.

And if anyone is in Germany/Europe over the summer; I try to make it out to the Nurburgring for a few days of lapping those rental race cars on the Nordschleife with friends during the Summer months. My mother is from Trier, nearby in the Eifel region and I grew up as a kid in the area visiting family. Always happy to meet up with gearheads abroad!

Pics say much more:

My first Miata! Every time I see that bar I shudder and thank my stars I was never rear ended.


Double shot - the second Miata and the GTI (Wolfsburg Edition) in the background.


The one that got away - a first series FF5 Cobra Challenge race car. I was active with VARA around this time; I should've bought it. Was offered by a friend. I went for the test fit, fit great, I fell for it hard but logistically didn't have anything to tow it with. Financially to make it pencil was more than I was comfortable with (see IVF comment above!).


The 911 took over for the GTI and S2000 at that time.


I'm an avid motorcyclist, too! My first bike.


A fun run up to Kings Canyon, roll'd with a VTX crew! That's a VTX1800R - great bike. That trip was after I had taken a pipe to the left arm while riding on Highway 91. Did some big damages. Several stitches and hours of physical therapy later I wanted to prove to myself I wasn't going to be discouraged by the experience and did the weekend ride with pops and his riding club.


My favorite motorcycle of all; the VFR. I've had 3 of these bikes. Love, love, love em. I need to pick up another one.


I even got my wife interested in getting her Class M! She got this as a reward after passing her MSF course. Sadly, my paranoia didn't let us ride further than the local coffee shop. Ahh.. I love her to death but she simply didn't carry that sort of defense driving demeanor needed to survive ignorant cagers.


Me and my gut (thanks to five years of marriage then) at Rent4Ring. The best place to rent a race car for the Nordschleife!


Sorely missed but appreciated for all the great times. Now I can sleep a little better at night knowing there won't be a $12k penalty my oil pressure drops too far and I don't catch it!
 

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Thanks Phil - haha I certainly don't hold anyone over the water if they want more tire, stickier or wider. I should clarify with the autocross - with Speed Ventures they don't abide by any rules/classifications. Its more a wrung-what-ya-brung activity. I've tried several times over the years and simply couldn't 'get into' SCCA events here in Southern California. Not for the lack of wonderful people but the structure wasn't for me. I ran a little with VARA and enjoyed that but best was PCA, personally. SV keeps it very loose and very casual. Like I said I wouldn't run the big course with them because it's too loose for my liking. But $80 gets ya 30-40 runs, time to hang with buddies, there's always a neat food truck and lunch in the stands watching the race cars go on the bank. We have our own inter-competition and sometimes folks out there like to take on times as incentive to get a little faster the next time since you see the same crew time and time again. I've got the DDP package on my wish list for my birthday in March. I'm asking Santa for the wheels and tires first :)

I certainly am not aware of the 3 hub bolts issue. I will deep dive it, I hope you don't mind I may send ya a private message for more info if I get lost. Thanks for the tip!
Well now I'm jealous. I used to have a few good non-scca groups around me but they're hardly functioning if functioning at all anymore, so it's scca for me. I miss the days of nearly unlimited runs where you could actually see what you and your car were capable of, instead of how fast you could learn a course.

Feel free to PM anytime. I check here fairly often. But the hut bolts are pretty easy to check up on. They're the three equally spaced ones on the backside of each knuckle that hold the hub/wheel bearing assembly to the knuckle. I don't remember the socket size or correct torque but they're pretty easy to get to, and once you know where they are most can be seen and reached from underneath without lifting the car if you don't mind rolling around on the ground a bit.
 

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Congrats on the kid. I've known a few that have gone the IVF route and it is neither fun nor cheap. But, look at it this way:in a few years you'll have the joy of losing your hair while attempting to teach your son how to drive a stick in California traffic.

(Or, as my friends that had kids before me said: "Don't worry. It'll get worse.") In all seriousness, my kids are the most expensive, painful, anxiety-inducing and exasperating thing I've ever encountered, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. (But, man - that Ferrari... maybe I'd trade one or two of them.)

My biggest complaint about autocross is lack of seat time. An event with a LOT of runs would help a lot, but I've not found anything around here (DFW) that meets that description. Track days are a ton of fun, but more expensive (see: kids == expensive, also), and in you typically need a roll bar. I have one, but it cost about as much as an NA Miata.

Regarding hub bolts: he's not kidding. Between the two cars over the past five years, I've lost 12 of them. I once returned home from a road trip and found my LH rear wheel held on by one lonely bolt with about three engaged threads. It was not awesome.

Every couple of years I think about swapping these things out for a C5 or a C6, but I'm sort of addicted to the GXP. That may be Stockholm syndrome.

I also had an '00 and an '05 Miata. The '00 was a track car. Had a very nice Hard Dog roll bar that probably saved a friend's life when he wrecked the thing. Really, really fun cars - super predictable, loves to oversteer.

I've been to every track within 400 miles of Dallas, which is more than you might expect. Spent quite a bit of time in Germany at my old job; always meant to make it to the ring but it never happened. I'm jealous.
 
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