Hello my name is Jeff and I drive a Kia.
If you had told me 15 years ago that I'd be running a bar in Cambodia and driving a Kia I might have believed the former (I always knew I was crazy enough) but never the latter. Not a chance. I'm a car guy. A Kia?
Well sir I've had my UNTAC vintage '94 Sportage (5-sp, 4WD) for a few weeks now and I am digging it more than I would ever have thought. Ride, handling, visibility, really just about everything works (well the electric windows don't but hey it's old). The road in front of my daughter's school is filled with potholes that could (and may) hide small hippos in the rainy season but the Sportage manages it fine, much better than the Camry did in its day.
Being a irredeemable hacker and one committed to never leaving well enough alone, what I find particularly intriguing about this car is not what it is, but what it could be. What few people would know is that this car has a magical engine, from a tuner's perspective one of the best ever -- up there with the Studebaker V8. I'm not kidding. The Sportage -- a product of a Kia-Mazda/Ford collboration -- is the only vehicle imported to the US utilizing Mazda's 2.0L 16v DOHC FE3 engine which first appeared in the European 626GT. Although never offered commercially with a turbocharger it was in fact designed with turbocharging in mind, and a number of turbocharged rally cars were built by Mazda.
According to WikiWhichNeverLies "the FE-DOHC is already built for turbo with large forged connecting rods, large journal dimensions, oil cooler, piston oilers, web-stiffened block with main girdles (and braceplate where equipped). This robust engine design is a favourite of tuners who are aware of its capability because it already has a high-power capacity perfect for custom turbo jobs. As much as 600 whp (insert HOLY CRAP emoticon here) has been seen on a stock engine. The common FE-DOHC crankshaft is cast while the forged crankshaft is fitted to the aluminum sump engines with both the main bearing braces and the main bearing girdle plate".
Now of course there is nobody in Cambodia capable of doing a turbo retrofit, but if I were in Bangkok I'd do it in a heartbeat. The stuff of dreams. Meanwhile, having the little 140hp machine to fling around is a blast as is. Bring on the rainy season.