DSPORT Issue #238
Text by Michael Ferrara// Photos by DSPORT Staff and Marybeth Kiczenski
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of discovery, it was the age of failure, it was the epoch of learning, it was the epoch of forgetting, it was the season of turbocharging, it was the season of broken axles, it was the Spring of engine management, it was the Winter of carburation, we had every part we possibly wanted, we had none of the parts we wanted, we were going straight to performance Heaven, we were all going to end up in performance Hell. The early 1990s marked the most significant time in the history of “import performance.” Unlike today, modifying and tuning a vehicle to run right required much more than deep pockets. You had to have brains, passion and a subscription to Turbo and Hi-Tech Performance magazine if you wanted to modify and tune your car to run its best. My first project car build as technical editor of Turbo and Hi-Tech Performance magazine was named Project Talon. This project showcased the best performance parts available at the time and explored new technologies to go quicker and faster than the limit of HKS’s top stage allowed. While Project Talon went into retirement early (when its ability to make power far exceeded the solutions available to keep the driveline together), it did serve to inspire many DSM owners to pursue higher levels of performance. Here is a look at one such build inspired by the Project Talon saga.
Introducing J.P. Joans II
J.P. Joans II came from a family rooted in the auto industry. His grandfather Charles Joans was an executive at Chrysler that later became an owner of a dealership. J.P. worked on cars since he could hold a wrench and upon high-school graduation started working at a Mitsubishi dealership in South Florida. His first car was a 1987 Dodge Shelby Daytona, but when the Talon, Eclipse and Laser DSM appeared it wasn’t long before he had to get some 4G63 power. His first Talon would be a white-on-white 1991 Turbo FWD that served as the gateway drug to DSM performance. When upgrades resulted in more tire smoke than performance, a TSi, all-wheel-drive, edition of the DSM was on the wish list.
A Flood of Opportunity
In 1999, an extremely wet hurricane (Hurricane Irene) on a unique path delivered more rain to South Florida than it had seen in nearly 20 years. Several cars experienced severe flood damage and among them was this 1990 Eagle Talon TSi. While the car sold for just $1,000 due to the flood damage, J.P. had big plans for the TSi. After a complete disassembly and reassembly to address the flood damage, J.P. turned his attention to Project Talon and the pages of Turbo & Hi-Tech Performance for inspiration and direction.
“I had pictures of DSM’s all over my room and read every Turbo magazine I could find. I started following Michael Ferrara’s Project Talon, I would try and copy what he was doing. If he bought a VPC, I tried to get a VPC. When he got a front mount intercooler, I tried to get a front mount intercooler. But when he blew-up the car, I tried NOT to blow-up my car,” says J.P.
Twenty-Plus Years of Lessons and Love
J.P.’s initial attraction to the 1G platform was for the power potential of the turbocharged 4G63 and the superior traction of the AWD configuration. At one time his Talon sported a cage, racing seats and 5-point harnesses. In the first six years of ownership, J.P. attended as many DSM/EVO Shootouts as possible, but the Shootout of 2005 would be this Talon’s last for a long time. In the years following, the direction changed from racing and repairing to restoring back to a factory look. After amassing a number of parts over the years, 2019 marked the beginning of the restoration. This restoration would have probably taken a number of years, but it was put on the fast track thanks to the support of J.P.’s girlfriend Gina and the massive increase in project time due to Covid 19 pandemic of 2020. The Talon’s return to the Shootout for 2021 was not just a reward for J.P. but also a real treat for the annual gathering of the world’s largest DSM and EVO enthusiast group.
While the interior and exterior look screams original and period specific, J.P. had no plans to rely upon 195hp of OEM power under the hood. The original 4G63 block received a makeover to improve its power handling and efficiency. Now, a set of forged Wiseco pistons and Pauter 4340 connecting rods drive the OEM crank. This crank drives a pair of HKS 272 cams that orchestrate the Ferrea +1mm valves that are controlled by Crower springs and titanium retainers. When the valves open, cylinder filling is improved due to the porting of the cylinder head.
The flow paths for air, fuel and exhaust were also improved in the makeover. Intake air now enters through a Buschur Racing intake that feeds the XONA Rotor 7864 turbo. Charge pipes direct the output from the compressor to a Spearco intercooler that rejects the heat created from the elevated boost levels. From the intercooler, the plumbing directs the charge air to a 75mm Accufab throttle body regulating airflow to the JM Fabrications billet intake manifold. This intake manifold is designed with tuned lengths and tapered runners to improve cylinder filling for peak performance.
To fill the cylinders with the proper amount of fuel, an adequate fuel supply is maintained with an upgraded Walbro intank pump. This pump feeds a quartet of 1650cc/mm FIC injectors. On VP Racing C16 race gas, the fuel system was adequate to meet the 550 horsepower realized with the Forced Performance Red turbo. Now that a higher-capacity XONA Rotor turbo is in place with the flow potential to reach 700+whp, the in-tank pump will need to be addressed especially if E85 flex fuel is in the future.
Once the air and fuel undergo compression and ignition, cylinder pressure drives the crankshaft. When the power stroke is near completing, the exhaust valve opens to feed the high-energy exhaust gases to the Morrison Fabrications turbo manifold. In addition to sizing the runner diameter for the specific application, Morrison Fabrication also optimizes the transition from the cylinder head to the exhaust manifold to essentially become an ideal extension of the exhaust port. Another added bonus to the custom-designed exhaust manifold is that the position of all components are optimized for the turbocharger being used. To eliminate false knock readings, the output from the TiAL wastegate was routed back into the exhaust system. After the exhaust gases have imparted the bulk of their energy to the turbine, waste gases are eventually channeled to exit a period-specific A’PEXi Dunk muffler.
From Booth to Book
When J.P. set a deadline to showcase his restored Talon in the Forced Performance booth at the Shootout 2021, he didn’t expect the Talon would end up in a DSPORT magazine feature written by an author he’s followed for 25 years. On the one hand, it was a dream come true. On the other hand, J.P. is quick to admit he still wants to do more. Upgraded brakes, driveshaft and power steering will join an upgraded fuel system. There will also be some more tuning time to optimize the calibration of the Haltech ECU for the elevated power levels. In the future, this Talon should be able to realize the 700+whp potential of its new XONA Turbo.
Many argue that time travel is not possible. They are wrong. If you owned a DSM back in the 90s and had an opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat of J.P.’s Talon, you’ll go back in time. The dash, steering wheel, center console and seat will remind you of a time when the driver was the most important person in the car. It was a time when the driver was responsible for throttle, vehicle stability control and depending on the option level, anti-lock braking. While the interior, exterior and some period-specific upgrades may take you back in time, updated technologies allow for a respectable boost in performance. While the fate of Project Talon gets darker each passing month, a clean and mean blast from the past like this build from J.P. makes me wish there were more hours in every day so that Project Talon could return to action. Hopefully, one day.