Posts Tagged ‘Sentra’

Synaptic3 Performance is a prime example of what this website was started for. Located in an out-of-the-way, unassuming business park in the fully unassuming town of Candia, NH, brothers Ron and Dana Salb have created a world-class performance shop that is turning out some of the most complete builds to be found on either road or track. Simply pulling into the shop’s parking lot is proof enough that Ron and Dana are for real. A handful of Synaptic3 tuned and customized Mazda RX-7s, RX-8s, and Subaru STIs effortlessly shatter the cloudy, dull gray that permeates this late fall day—deep paint hues, pearlescent carbon fiber hoods, and lithe, aggressive stances make for a striking welcome party.


The seeds of Synaptic3 Performance have been taking root for years. Ron and Dana starting tinkering with friends’ cars as well as their own, using their parent’s garage as an impromptu shop. Both Ron and Dana have kept their lives and careers woven around the automotive industry and have continued to build Synaptic3 even while pursuing school or other interests. The brother’s diverse skill sets, along with their infectious enthusiasm, is the driving force behind Synaptic3 and its growing success.

The Synaptic3 that exists today began in large part because of the rally scene. The ability of Ron and Dana to fabricate FIA-spec IFrollcages really helped jumpstart the company. The result has been Synaptic3 tuned cars that have not only competed in Rally America, but have won rally championships as well.

“While we have a fair amount of exposure in Rally, it’s actually a pretty small sport and community,” said Dana in an email interview. “We’ve worked on a half a dozen full blown rally cars. Some started out as virgin chassis, other were revamps of previous rally cars that were gutted and rebuilt to bring up to current class specs. We’ve covered everything from building FIA spec roll cages and chassis preparation… to doing motors builds, setting up suspensions, building wiring harnesses, fuel systems, and safety systems, etc.”

Two things are readily apparent immediately after stepping into Synaptic3’s crowded, but clean, shop. #1, the market for customization is as unique diverse and the people who enjoy it—a customer’s race-prepped Porsche awaits its turn on the lift, several Mazda RX-7s sit in various stages of completion and manage to look fast even while motionless, and a Nissan Sentra Spec-V is getting finishing touches on its crazy custom turbocharger setup. And #2, the guys here are really good at what they do.

“We’re currently working on a forced induction application for a brand new Nissan Sentra Spec-V. The customer is very contentious about the details. It’s going to be quite the sleeper. We have a number of big turbo Subaru’s being built and a host of third generation RX-7s for street, track, and show all leading into the winter.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the things that makes this shop so special is the level of engineering and attention to detail that even the smallest parts receive. Case in point—Ron and Dana stick their heads under the hood of the turbo Spec-V to explain in detail all the time and effort that went into designing a single bracket used to move a part out of the way of the new turbo piping. Beautifully fabricated and covered in crackle finish, it’s a small but perfect example of their work.

“We can build you a tube chassis frame, an award winning stereo system, install and dial-in your track suspension, or turbocharge and tune your daily driver,” said Dana. “Two members of our staff have Bachelor’s degrees in Industrial Design (product design), so we can come up with solutions and execute them in a unique and effective manner.

A range of cars find their way under the wrenches at Synaptic3, but Ron and Dana’s specialty is tuning Japanese cars. They have found that Japanese cars are a preferable platform to work from because they begin life at the factory with a superior level of quality and allow for higher levels of tuning and customization.  This mirrors their own quasi-obsessive standards.

“We adhere to our own best practices that we’ve developed over the years. We sweat the details, and will not cut corners to get a job done quickly. Many customers have told us it is that reputation that has brought them to us. We take the time to make sure aftermarket components not only fit but allow for service in the field should it be necessary.”

IFWhen a car comes into the shop, Ron and Dana’s first mission is to figure out what exactly a customer is looking for. Instead of getting right to work, they start with questions—Do you know what you’re looking for? Are you going racing with the car? What kind of racing? What is the purpose for upgrading? A concerted effort  is made to clearly define what the customer is looking for, and then working to build a solution that meets or exceeds the customer’s end goals.

One of the significant customer service elements that Ron and Dana employ is to take meticulously detailed photos the car in its various build stages. Synaptic3’s website has literally thousands of such photos and they provide a unique glimpse into the kind of work Ron and Dana are capable of.

Next to Synaptic3’s main building is an unassuming steel shed that serves as the company’s dedicated dynamometer room. Inside it has to  2010-09-17_00001be one of the most thorough dyno setups ever put together. Instead of being installed into the floor, the all-wheel-drive Mustang 500SE unit sits above the floor, allowing for easier access to  car’s underside and the dyno’s moving parts. Built directly into the wall facing the dyno are four giant fans capable of pushing 40,000 cfm through the room, while a dedicated exhaust fan sucks fumes out from the back of the building. Like anything Ron and Dana do, this facility was heavily researched and designed to meet their exacting standards, and it’s clear the guys are proud of the setup.

When asked if he could describe what Synaptic3 was all about in one word, Dana paused, let out a deep breath, and thought for a moment. He then looked up and said, “Dedication.” And, after seeing the inner workings of the shop and spending several hours with Ron and Dana, there couldn’t be a better word to describe Synaptic3. To learn more about the company and how they can help you on your next project, be sure to visit the Synaptic3 website at, and ‘Like’ the Facebook page.

Welcome, Synaptic3 Performance, to The Torque Tube.


Many thanks and much respect to Dana and Ron for their time and energy for this piece, and for allowing me to poke around their shop.

At an undisclosed warehouse somewhere in New Hampshire, I’m lead through a smeared and smudged glass door, then through a curtain of blue plastic sheeting who’s function is to deter prying eyes. There’s a musty smell in here, something like damp concrete, dust and age. I flip the lightswitch and several overhead fluorescent lights snap on with the classic tink-tinktink-tink sound. The long room I’m standing in contains a partially restored antique truck, a white 1970’s Porsche Carrera, a jet ski, and judging its the sheer size, something clearly very special underneath a tan car cover.

Resting under that cover is an absolutely mint Packard Carribean. Long acres of hoods and gleaming yards of chrome reflect the long bands of sharp flourescent light as the cover is gently rolled back. In the ’50’s, the Caribbean was Packard’s halo vehicle and was only produced from 1953 to 1956. This car, a 1955, has a great hunk of American iron under it’s sculpted hood – two sets of Rochester four-barrel carburetors on it’s 352 cubic-inch V8 help make 275 antique horsepower. Even today, the Caribbean’s proportions feel right and there is something truly attractive about its design. But don’t take my word for it, click HERE to check out a video from someone who knows a thing or two about classic cars – Jay Leno. It runs a little long, but it’s worth it to watch it to the end.

Cars from this era have a unique “something” in their character and design that seems to have been lost in the few decades since the Caribbean first hit the road. Case-in-point, the sensational “cathedral” taillights on the Caribbean: styling cues like those just don’t translate into most modern cars. You take a look at those epic taillights, then you see the supremely bland-tastic new Toyota Camry or the mind numbingly dull Nissan Sentra, and you can’t help but wonder where that gusto all went. Don’t be mistaken, this isn’t a nostalgic appeal for cars to be made “like they used to”, just an observance that you have to swing way, way above the Caribbean’s pay grade and into an entirely different class of vehicle to find anything with this much style.

While older cars don’t normally make their way onto the pages of TDC, it seemed appropriate to feature the Caribbean as it is such a special machine. If given a choice between choosing a classic car or a modern vehicle, the majority of the time, the newer car would make the cut and end up in the TDC garage. However, with a car that looks this fantastic and has this much style, I’d make an exception for the Caribbean. All I saw in that musty warehouse when I first looked at the car was riding low and slow down a sun soaked boulevard, one hand on the wheel and the other resting on the door. Someone hand me my Ray Ban’s, let’s go for a ride.

grav-i-ty: (n). The force of attraction by which terrestrial bodies tend to fall toward  the center of the earth.

chal-lenge: (adj). A call or summons to engage in any contest, as of skill, strength, etc.

If you’re going to do battle with gravity, be prepared to be in for the long haul; the force of gravity never sleeps. People pit themselves against gravity’s endless pull in a range of different ways: skydiving, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing, or anything else that tests mental and physical fortitude and comes soaked in adrenaline. Few people, however, seek to test their limits of fortitude on one of the most challenging mountains in the country six times in one year, in four different sports, all in competition. Welcome to the world of Tim Mather.

Tim Mather: The brains, and brawn, behind the Gravity Challenge.

The premise for Mather’s epic battle with gravity, appropriately named the Gravity Challenge, was simple: compete in all the events held at Mt.Washington in a single year, which included auto hillclimbing, running, skiing, and cycling. Mather’s athletic background, unwavering dedication, and familiarity with Mt. Washington made him uniquely qualified to undertake this herculean feat. Mather was gracious enough to speak with TDC about the Gravity Challenge, his inspiration, and his racing career.

What was the inspiration for the Gravity Challenge?

Mather’s primary inspiration for the Gravity Challenge was the return of the ‘Climb to the Clouds’ hillclimb after its decade long hiatus from Mt. Washington. Mather was actively involved in hillclimbing for many years and the return of the epic ‘Climb’ event created the perfect opportunity for Mather. “The goal was to do [all the events] in one year. I can’t win them all because I cant afford to spend the time to win them all, I was just going to participate… It was hard with my personality because I like to win, but I wanted try to do it and have fun and to keep my life balanced… When I was thinking about the challenge I though, ‘How perfect is this, I can take all the things I love and do all of them… too good to be true to not try.'”

How did you get into the auto hillclimbing and racing scene?

Dialing in a little opposite lock on Cragway, the Auto Road’s most scenic turn.

“My high school was holding autocrosses, got interested in it, and I scraped up a few dollars and bought a 1984 Mazda GLC Deluxe and my career started. Ran that car for a number of years… and ended up opening my own car stereo business, and the racing petered off for a bit.” Mather eventually got back into the racing scene and purchased a 1991 Nissan Sentra that played double duty as his daily driver and his race car.

Mt. Washington’s epic backdrop obscured by rain clouds as Mather makes quick work of the Auto Road.

Over time, Mather pursued other types of racing like rallycross and ice racing.” A typical year would start in the winter time and I’d go down to Massachusetts and do ice racing, and then some time trial racing in the spring. At that point I had gotten into rallycross and a little bit of rally, and my car really wasn’t ready for that so I ended up buying a old Subaru GL and I did a couple of Apple Hill rallys in New York to kind of cut my teeth on the sport, and then went to a rally school with the Sentra. Bob Legere did most of fabrication on the Sentra.” Legere is a world renowned fabricator and resource for Opel cars and parts.

“In the fall of 1992 I did my first hillclimb… While I was [at the Mt. Ascutney hillclimb], I got the opportunity to take some of the hillclimb employees up the hill.” Mather found out about the Mt. Washington hillclimb from these employees and it immediately got him thinking. “That winter, I bought a bolt on cage and then did the Mt.Washington hillclimb.”

Nissan Sentras, especially from the early ’90’s aren’t exactly known as performance machines. How did you get that race-ready?

Mather’s ’91 Nissan Sentra hillclimber.

“There were a lot of custom made parts that were primarily made by Legere because there was basically nothing available [for the Sentra]. Talk about ignorance is bliss, we didn’t know any better… We did a new engine in the car, but it was still basically stock, really nothing crazy about the car. I wanted to keep it turn key, pump gas, emissions legal.” As the car was his daily driver as well as his race car, he didn’t have much choice in keeping it mostly stock. “I built my racing career around low horsepower cars that really centered around the actual driving.”

How did you get into other sports like cycling? What kinds of events did you compete in before the Gravity Challenge?

“I spent a year and a half road racing, and it got to the point where I won my class in 2000, and between disbanding the race and really being done with the sport, I got into cycling. One of the guys I was racing with had a bike and sure enough, I could ride! I slowly got into cycling, bought a road bike and started riding.” The bike shop Mather purchased his bike from was into the triathlon scene and they introduced him into the sport. So Mather pretty much parked his race car to pursue this new passion. “Off I went into this next part of my life into multi-sport.” Mather’s resume includes an Ironman triathlon at Lake Placid and a spot in the Boston Marathon.

How did finish in your events in the Gravity Challenge?

Victory! Mather on the top step of the podium at ‘Climb to the Clouds’

Climb to the Clouds- “I had no expectation on how I would do. There were a lot cars in the class, I hadn’t been there for a long time, but I decaled [the car] up, bolted the tires and wheels on it and away we went….  It was such a neat feeling to go through sections of that mountain flat footed. It’s so much fun!” The weather on the first day of the hillclimb was rainy and driving conditions were poor and Mather felt he would place well at the back of the pack. To his surprise, he finished far out in front of his competition even though many were putting down bigger power figures. That trend of feeling like he was running bad times when he was actually crushing the competition continued throughout the weekend, and Mather won his division. “It was very unexpected, but I was very, very happy… You dust the car off after nine years, dust the driver off after nine years, and go out there and hammer… It was really fun.”

Ski to the Clouds – “It poured the whole time, but I didn’t come in last! There were only three people behind me, but I didn’t come in last.” Mather’s goal with the skiing event was not to try and win, but to finish and enjoy the experience. It was his first ski race and his first time skiing up a mountain (what a mountain to cut your teeth on!)

Mather (in yellow) crossing the finish line.

Mt.Washington Roadrace-  “I did much better than I thought I would do.” Mather set a personal goal to finish the run in under one minute 45 seconds, and he did just that finishing in an impressive one minute 40.52 seconds, putting him 31st in his age group.

Can you tell he was concentrating when this photo was taken?

Newton’s Revenge/Mt. Washington Bicycle Hillclimb/24 Hours of Great Glen - Back in 2006 when Mather was in his physical prime, he competed in a bike race at Mt. Washington and qualified the “Top Notch” class. Getting into this elite group is like qualifying for the Boston Marathon. From an excerpt on the Newton’s Revenge race on, “At the seven mile mark I caught and passed another top notch rider. I turned off my watch as I knew it was going to be close for a top notch finish. The clouds were very thick and I could not see 10’ in front of me but I could hear the cow bells and the cheering at the finish… As I looked up, I saw a 1:21 on the clock, NICE!!! I just made it across the line and almost fell off the bike. I got my medal and my fleece blanket and just hung on my bike for a few mins to collect myself… I had nothing left, just the way I enjoy finishing a hard effort!!!”

What are your plans for the future? Will you keep racing?

“I see myself getting into hillclimbing…  and I’d like to travel and see some tracks and have some fun… I dunno, there’s a piece of me that wants to do a half Ironman in June… I know there’ll be cars in it, I know my wife will be in it, I know there will be athletics in it, so we’ll see where all that falls.”

Welcome, Tim Mather, to The Torque Tube.

Mather and his wife, Sas, on the summit of Washington.

Much respect and many thanks to Tim Mather for his time and energy for this interview. Be sure to head over to his website for more information on the Gravity Challenge, and to for specifics on his Sentra hillclimber. Welcome, Tim Mater, to The Torque Tube.