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When Building & Racing Is Life

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When Building & Racing Is Life


So many amazing car culture stories cross over the (virtual) editorial desks here at Speedhunters, but every now and then something extra special really piques our interest. Such was the case when we were tipped off about a 29-year-old stunt performer out of Atlanta, Georgia who builds fast Subarus and drives them at the limit.

You might not know the name Tyler Witte just yet, but we’re pretty sure you’ll remember it after watching his latest video below.

A long time in the planning, the just-released short film is a dream realized for Tyler. After watching it more than once, we just had to know more…

SH: First up Tyler, tell us a little bit yourself.

TW: I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio riding BMX. My interest in cars didn’t really come until I was out of high school; I was unsure of a career path but started attending automotive classes at Cincinnati State. Soon after, I realized this was going to be a passion of mine and that I wanted to pursue it fully. After graduating, I apprenticed for a year building ARCA trucks and late model chassis, and then moved onto the Daytona prototype team Doran Racing where I worked as a fabricator and team member.

After more than a year with Doran I decided I wanted to build and race my own rally car – so I did. I bought a Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS, immediately gutted it, and then put my fabrication and mechanical skills to use building the cage and getting the car up to spec. My first ever rally event was the Lake Superior Performance Rally (LSPR).

SH: How was that experience?

TW: I towed the car with a borrowed van from my dad and a borrowed trailer from my uncle, and had one friend help me with service. We slept in the van and had soup and peanut butter sandwiches for the weekend. We also left with a second place finish and would go on to podium six of the next eight rallies. But the high cost of rally made it difficult for me; I couldn’t afford it. But my passion for motorsports was definitely not finished.

SH: And that’s when the idea to make videos, Block-style, came about?

TW: Yes, it did. What Ken Block has brought to the automotive world through his videos has inspired and influence an entire generation and car culture. I decided I wanted to make my own video but really had no idea how difficult it would end up being.

SH: Tell us about the car build itself. 

TW: Although I had built cars before, nothing would test me like this one did. In my head everything went smoothly and was straightforward, however things got off to a really rough start. At the time I was working for a live stunt show, and while I was on tour a friend of mine who had totalled his Open Class rally car was parting out the power train and usable parts. I decided to buy it all and then pay a shop in New Jersey close to him to swap the parts over for me. Months went by and finally I was off tour and expecting the car to be delivered. However, when it finally turned up it was basically a disaster. I spoke to the owner of the shop about some sort of compensation, but he declined my request an told me I needed to speak with his attorney. Not wanting to waste anymore time or money, I simply stripped the car back down and started over.

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SH: That’s unfortunate, but looking at the car it’s obviously all in the past now.

TW: Over the next eight months the car was transformed into what I had envisioned. My friend Ryan, who owns Driven Fabrication, was gracious enough to give me a spot in his shop so I could build it. After a few months of fabrication and gathering new parts the car was ready – or at least I thought it was. For the ECU, I went with the AEM Infinity which was brand new at the time and was yet to have Subaru firmware. I spent a fair amount of time making custom cam and crank triggers and manually inputting ignition sequences into the ECU, and with some help from my friend Jacob and AEM, the car finally ran. After it was tuned I took it out for a little testing, but approximately 20 minutes later the motor blew up. Cause: detonation on #4 cylinder.

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SH: Oh dear. So back to the drawing board?

TW: I tore down the motor and started on a new build. The new motor was sent out to be machined and after approximately a month and a half I got it back, only to tighten the case housings together and realize that my crank was seized between them. This had been caused by worn dowel pin holes and the line bore not being within tolerance. I sent the block back to the machinist who tried to fix it but couldn’t, so then I had to start over yet again. The third motor was built by Kendall Samuel at Mechanical Advantage Engine Design and it’s ended up being the charm. We got it in and tuned with the AEM and finally I was off to make my video.

SH: We’re glad you got there in the end! Tell us about the video.

TW: The video was no easy task; I packed my car, spare parts and tools, and towed it all to New Jersey where I had permission from a heavy equipment owner, Mike Beeler, to use his diggers and property. There, I spent five 16-hour-long days with some awesome guys who helped me build all the obstacles I wanted. After some cutting, welding and lots of heavy lifting we had created exactly what I had been dreaming of.

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SH: And how long did it take for the actual video production?

TW: We filmed for two days, but with some more mechanical issues I didn’t get all the footage that I wanted. That’s when I decided to go back to Ohio and film at a second location there a few weeks later. Again, we ran into a few issues, but I did the best I could during the allotted time. I’m really excited to get more time in the car, work out all the bugs, and then make some more videos.

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SH: We have to say, what you’ve created is pretty awesome; we’re excited to see what you come up with next. 

TW: My mind is still full of new ideas and I’m very motivated to make more. I’m hoping that the process will become easier with time, but I’m really looking forward to continuing my passion for building, creating and racing.

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SH: Finally Tyler, we’re sure there are plenty of people and companies you’d like to thank for the parts they played in bringing this video to life, so fire away!

TW: I’d like to give huge thanks to Fifteen52 whose Turbomac wheels wheels took everything I could throw at them; AEM Electronics for their amazing Wideband Failsafe and Infinity ECU; K&N for all my filter needs; Competition Clutch for a twin-disc that performed flawlessly through all the four-wheel burnouts; Mechanical Advantage Engine Design for such a strong, reliable motor and their support; and Jacob Buchanan at Ascension Motorsport Electronics. Last but not least, I have to give so much thanks to Mike Beeler and Duane Utter for letting me film on their properties; without them none of this would have been possible.

 The Speedhunters

Tyler Witte
Instagram: t_witte
Facebook: tyler.witte.35

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