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El Andrew

BA Turbo - build thread (sort of)

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I’m about to get moving on a few things with my car and so thought it would be worth starting a thread.  Calling this a build thread is probably a bit ambitious – more just my own history of what maintenance and upgrades I’ve performed and why.


It is good to document this for myself, and hopefully it is of interest or use to someone along the way.  Must be a few people who want better than stock, but not looking for a 600kW monster.  My job is mainly human resources, so anything I tackle is a bit limited.  


The car is a BA XR6 Turbo in Lightning Strike (or ‘primer’ for short’).  I bought the car in 2015 from a bloke in Sydney (I’m in Canberra) after a bit of searching – I was basically looking for something stock that had hopefully had a relatively easy life.  The car had been a country car for most of its life and had about 125,000km.  I really knew nothing about turbo cars at that point. 


So far in terms of basic repairs and maintenance I’ve done myself:

-New NGK coils and plugs (this brand have been fine on stock boost, but will probably go genuine next time)

-New high pressure power steering line – twice.  First one was a Repco one that only lasted two years.  Second one is a redesigned one from Ultimate Power Steering that allows the o-ring to be changed without replacing the whole line.

-Full set of radiator and heater hoses

-Front pads and rotors

-Sway bar bushes, various front end bushes

-Spigot gear in the rear driver’s side door lock actuator

-All the usual stuff – coolant changes, brake fluid flushes, engine oil and filter every 5k.  Trying to look after it and make it last.

-Probably a few other things that caused plenty of swearing at the time but I can no longer remember


Had a few other fixes that I've had done professionally:

-New turbo!!  Blocked oil feed killed the first one.  Good news – housings were OK.  Bad news – I’d bought an Earl’s filter and braided oil feed line a week earlier and hadn’t fitted it yet.  Got a genuine Garett CHRA.  A couple of mechanics have since said to me that it has some sort of upgraded core (ceramic bearings??) that have been available the last couple of years.  Haven’t yet grabbed any part numbers and checked it out further.

-A few bushes here and there (centre diff bush, outer upper rear control arm bushes)

-Tailshaft centre bearing


The stuff I have improved/added/upgraded so far:

-Twin gauge pod with oil pressure and boost/vacuum

-AEM wideband controller/gauge with sensor in the dump

-King springs and KYB shocks all round (this combo feels much better than the, admittedly old, stock gear).

-Braided water line for turbo

-Tyres – Goodyear Eagle F1 Directional.  Great set of rubber.  Replaced the Dunlop Sport SP3000s that wre on it – out and out the worst type I have every driven on, except for maybe the Sumitomos I had on a rental i30 once!

-Cut a hole in lower half of the airbox – not sure it does anything, but it sounds slightly better and it was free

-Chrome Fairmont interior door handles – they make a nice difference to the interior of a BA

-3 inch 100 cell cat into twin 2.5 inch X-Force system.  Sounds decent, definitely comes on boost better, but has a habit of wanting to knock on the diff cradle once everything gets warm

-Towbar – bought a secondhand factory unit.  Kept the wiring plug in the boot for a cleaner look.

-A couple of power ports for a Bluetooth handsfree kit and dash cam


Car is now at 165k.  The overall plan is to keep the car looking stock-ish and only mildly modified.


I’ve been doing a heap of reading with a plan to either getting the car tuned (and at least understanding a bit more about what has been done and what I should expect) or learning to tune it myself.  Going to go down the latter path and just picked up the PCMTec software.  Should be a good learning experience an I’ll definitely know my car better.  I feel like I am picking up the concepts of what I am reading OK so will give it a go.


Ready to go in when I next get a few hours free:

-PWR trans cooler – got the kit that has the right fittings but no brackets, plus bought some bar and extra hose so I can work out how I mount it all once the bumper is off.  Plus a decent flush of the BTR and new filter.

-Walbro 255 pump 

-Bigger intercooler


I'll then tune to around 8 PSI, but will leave timing along or only play with it gently.  Baby steps here - I want to try some things based on what I'm trying to learn, and see the result but without being stupid and having an additional inspection hole.  Learning to tune seems like a good way to work on your car during a Canberra winter!


Once I'm feeling like I'm on the right track, I look to upgrade the injectors and turn it up a bit more.  I'll go gentle with the timing, and maybe even take a couple of tunes to a dyno with some knock detection gear and see where I'm at.  I'm a long way off that though.


Brakes will need some work later in the year, so am accumulating bits to go to a 322/328mm setup, with braided lines and reasonable pads and rotors.  Should be better than what I've got and sufficient for where I am aiming with the car.


Anyway, as I’ve said it will still be a pretty modest thing compared to some of the stuff on this forum.  But should be a strong daily, good for the Snowys cruise and best of all will be largely my own work.  I may well end up getting it tuned by someone if I struggle to achieve what I want to, but I want to give it a good go myself first.


A couple of pics from the day I got it and shortly afterwards:



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Something like that! They were a bit smoky. Rears are gone anyway and front on their way.

Might go the PMUs, or even the SP500s Matt and Jet were recommending.

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haha yeah, they're a necessary upgrade if you like to drive "spiritedly" on twisty roads. Good pads with some DBA4000's and better (Dot 5 or Dot 5+) and flushed brake fluid is enough, as you saw with my car :)

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Good stuff. Dot 5 is probably too much hassle, but 5.1 might be a goer. I've got the 322mm brackets for the front, plus a full set of braided lines to go in. Territory rear calipers will be cheap and then I'll probably have a chat to RBS about the rest.

I reckon improving my braking style would help too - I was on them a bit early and longer.

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