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Road Race Talon Tsi AWD Build


Probationary Member
Aug 29, 2022
Royal Oak, Michigan
Hello Everyone,

I just purchased this chassis about two months ago with the sole purpose of turning it into a time trial/SCCA/GridLife Touring Cup race car.
I have taken some inspiration from AMB, John Freund Racing, and Jess E. with their builds, and hopefully I can join that group of people seriously competing on road courses with their DSM.

This car is a 1996 Eagle Talon Tsi AWD.
It has a complete 6 bolt swap, and from the previous owner (not verified 100% everything just yet) this is my starting point:
- Short block: 6-bolt block, upgraded piston rods, stock 1g pistons, stock basically everything else
- Head: Evo8 beehive springs, stock cams, ARP head studs
- Intake: Ebay FMIC with some custom welded piping, HKS BOV, GM 3.5in MAF
- Exhaust/Turbo: FP Black, cast manifold, eBay ext. wastegate, 3in Apexi-style exhaust, hood dump
- Drivetrain: upgraded 300m input shaft, DSS 900hp rear axles, upgraded LSD (unknown)
- Electronics/Management: DSMLink V3, AFR, Boost, EGT, H20, Oil temp gauges
- Suspension: Tokico adjustable dampers, Eibach lowering springs, stock stab bars, Volk Racing adjustable rear toe links, various poly bushings on FR/RR
- Cooling/Misc.: Mishimoto radiator, fans, shroud - wired to interior switch, 2Gb Eclipse front bumper/headlights, OZ Superleggera 17x8.5in wheels

I am dividing my tasks in the following three categories, with the intention of fulling shaking down the car after each stage in order to solve any potential issues that may come up. All testing/driving will be at local autocrosses or track days - this car will be street driven basically only in neighborhoods or short runs.

Stage 1: Engine Rebuild

- The engine currently leaks a considerable amount of oil from the exhaust valve seals on Cylinders 2 and 4. The car also would start to misfire after hitting boost higher in the RPM range, that I suspect was in part due to the oil leaking. There are likely other causes I will uncover once I can get a good baseline.
- Compression on the engine was reasonable except Cylinder 4 (75-150-150-150) so I will first remove the head to see if there's something obvious like a bent valve or cracked valve guide. I will plan to replace the piston rings and verify all dimensions on the block anyway, but that may help to uncover any other problematic areas.
- Plan is to rebuild the head and block of winter 2022, and replace all other regular maintenance items on the timing side.

- I have purchased an RTM Racing intercooler, so will replace the original eBay unit. Much beeifer at 3.5" and should provide a better cooling factor than the eBay 2.5in cooler
- I also purchased a MHI Small 16g, as I considered that to be properly sized for my goals. Per GLTC rules, I need to maintain a very strict power/weight ratio. I may also get a stock 14b as back-up in case I lighten the chassis enough to warrant the change.

Stage 2: Chassis tuning

- The dampers are all in good condition, although I will start to play with various spring rates. I need to calculate the motion ratios so I can target the correct wheel rate considering the tires/wheel size I have currently, and to leave some head room for future improvements
- I plan on upgrading the AWD calipers to Evo 8/9 front/rear calipers. I'm not a fan of upgrading just the front, so will do the rears to maintain proper braking balance
- Install brake bias valve - for the aforementioned balance control
- Remove ABS and install non-ABS prop valve

Stage 3: Race Preparation

- Roll cage - I intend on designing this myself and then outsourcing the installation. I will 3D scan the interior of the car and then design the cage to be as close as reasonable, and also optimize the shape and location of the attachment points/gussets to give the best balance of weight and stiffness
- Fire system - requirement for racing
- Oil accumulator - knowing the oiling system and configuration of these engines, this will be a bare minimum for sustained competition sessions.
- Racing seat - requirement
- Harnesses - requirement
- Electronics - kill switch, Raspberry Pi dash (JF Racing), rain light, other things I am sure I am not thinking of right now


Probationary Member
Aug 29, 2022
Royal Oak, Michigan
Update 10/17

To date, I have begun removal and disassembly of the car to uncover it's issues and current state.

Intercooler, radiator, front bumper, and old turbo setup have been removed.
I found the GM MAF is no good, as there is a huge hole in the element, so that will need to be replaced in the future.

Removing the valve cover showed the head was actually in very good condition - someone had at least rebuild it relatively recently and used decent quality old.
I cannot identify any issue with the valve train outside of normal wear, so will condition to dig deeper to uncover other issues.
The fuel rail and injectors (FIC 1050), valve cover, and wire harness have been removed and bagged for storage.

Also, found that 3/4 engine mounts have been changed to poly inserts (forgot to mention in intro post).

Interior wise, I removed all the carpet and front and rear seats, center console, and started removing the center dash - radio, gauges, etc.
Unfortunately it looks like someone may have parked this outside a few times with the windows down, as each footwell had some surface rust. It will clean up perfectly fine, but a little disappointed to find this.
--> This is the only rust on the whole car, which is honestly why I bought it in the first place. There's more paint damage on this car than rust, and I will take that any day here in Michigan

More disassembly to come, and plan to have the engine out and disassembled by Christmas.


Proven Member
Sep 25, 2022
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Cool car and looks like it's going to be an awesome build, too. Share some pics when you get a chance!


Probationary Member
Aug 29, 2022
Royal Oak, Michigan
Update 3/20/2023

It's been a while and winter in Michigan really isn't motivating to work on things outside, but I have made a little progress recently.

After getting further into the engine, I uncovered some of the unfortunate history and it's not great.
The engine had been running rather poorly when I purchased it - it would start and idle for about five minutes, and then after some gentle driving would develop a severe misfire. It was most prominent on cylinder 2 and 3, but cylinder 4 also presented a bit when I did a simple test by pulling spark on each cylinder with DSMLink.

Issues uncovered:
1) The power steering rack is leaking pretty badly - I will replace that outright with a reman unit for simplicity. It may be changed out for a manual rack at some point in the future but I'd like to keep power steering for racing for now
2) Bottom end showed detonation on 3/4 cylinders, with the pistons having various degrees of dimpling
3) Cylinder head also showed the same dimpling
4) Small oil leaks from the OFH and front case, although it's difficult to tell where all is coming from because of the power steering
5) Clutch plate was literally falling apart when I took that out, so will be replaced

Good Signs:
1) The block is actually virgin and showed ZERO damage on any of the piston walls. I was surprised to find this considering the issues with the pistons, but I lucked out there.
1-a) The cylinder wall dimensions are oblonged in the thrust direction, but I expect that for a virgin 6-bolt. This will be corrected with an engine build
2) Transmission, transfer case all appeared to be a good condition, small shifting/rotating and the fluids were relatively clean. It seems as if the fluid itself had less than 10k miles but I cannot be too sure
3) The suspension components needed a good clean, but overall are quite healthy. Ball joints will be replaced but all other bushings have been replaced with poly already

Game Plan: Engine Rebuild

I was initially planning on doing this myself, but due to time I have elected to have a very good friend and engine builder do this for me. He is in Wisconsin and not as familiar with this platform, but I know his expertise and meticulous nature. The build will only be an OEM+ style, so his skills should be perfectly adequate.
Here are the parts that will be new vs. reused
-New 85.5mm cast pistons
-New ACL Race Bearings +0.001mm oversize for additional oil clearance
-Reused OEM oil pump
-Reused connecting rods, crank
-Reused ARP Main Studs, Rod Bolts, and Head Studs
-New (replaced) cylinder head
--> I bought this second hand, and already had black nitrided and +1mm oversized IN/EX valves, dual valve springs, and a light port job (way overkill for my purposes but you get lucky sometimes when buying on the internet)
-New Felpro composite head gasket
-New timing belt kit, OEM tensioner, water pump, etc.

Will post pictures of the engine build once I get it back in a few weeks.

Engine as it was in the bay. There's a lot that needs to be cleaned up.


The view as I opened up the engine.
Cylinder 3 had the worst of the damage.

The head had the same detonation markings as each cylinder also.


Finally, a few pictures of the new cylinder head.
I had it cleaned after purchasing it, and then reassembled it myself.
Both IN and EXH have been cleaned up to remove the casting flash, which was a nice surprise.
All valves are +1mm oversized and in excellent shape, so I reused everything I could. New valve stem seals and lifters, and this head is ready to go back on



15+ Year Contributor
Feb 16, 2004
Muskegon, Michigan
Yeah winter really kills the motivation. Seems like every fall I have big plans for the winter off season and then about spring (after not doing any of it) I think I wish I had time to do x, y, & z.🤣 Where in MI are you located? West MI here...Muskegon area specially.
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