I thought it about time I wrote a few things here about SSAC and their wares.
I've purchased, sold, tarded, fitted, raced, removed, modified and blown up most of the parts they offer for Ford, Nissan and Honda over the last few years. Some of it has been downright junk, some of it has been OK (for the price), and some of it has been nothing short of superb!
TURBOSFirst and foremost, SSAC et al DO NOT manufacture! they simply buy (in great quantity) from China! This is partly the secret to some of their very variable product lines and quality controls. For instance, I had a T3/T4 turbo from them that started blowing smoke the first time I hit boost. Embarassing, saying as I had installed it for a customer after they had purchased it from SSAC themselves. Nothing a full rebuild seal kit couldn't solve, and it did leave a semi decent product in the end. Likewise, I've had GT28RS knock-offs that have failed in short order; some down to poor installation and maintenance, some down to the product itself. Equally, my daily driver Nissan 200SX with a CA18DET motor is still going strong after 12,000 hard miles.
There seems to be various 'life stages' to the turbos SSAC have supplied. As time has gone on, the products have gotten much better whilst some have remained abject junk. Some turbos have come with XS Power cast into the compressor housings; these should be avoided like the plague. I've never seen a good one of these. Buy it, rebuild it, save a few pennies, and put it down to experiance when it chews itself to pieces after a year. GT28s come in two flavours. Earlier ones seemed to have a rough finished compressor housing and quality was variable. Later ones had a smoother housing and seemed more reliable (I have a later one - see above for my experience). I have NEVER seen a repeat of the 'legendary' internet compressor housing failure due to it being held together with epoxy resin. It's easy to tell a housing that has been welded together; there will be marks around the circumference where the weld has been ground back.
Never heard anything bad about the T70 turbos the Supra boys love either. Only installed one of these myself, but the owner soon discovered mid-corner boost buildup, and the car never saw the road again, sadly.
MANIFOLDS (NASP AND TURBO)Again, more mixed reviews. We've all seen the horror pics of the Honda manifold that has failed at the flange and left the turbo dangling by its oil lines, right? We've all also looked at the pic and noticed that it's been cut up and rewelded at an angle so the massive turbo can clear the block, right? And we *DID* all look at the pic and realise that it was the owners weld that actually failed, right? Thought so.
However, they can and do crack; especially the turbo manifolds. Hang 30lbs of turbo off a piece of cheap stainless and heat it to 700 degrees celsius, and sooner or later it's gonna fail. Again, earlier manifolds were worse, later are better but not great. One thing to bear in mind when you pay $150 for a turbo manifold... Bracing from the block to prevent cracking is not such a good idea. This will mount the turbo almost rigidly and force the manifold to take up all the changes in shape they go through when heated after you beat on it going down the on-ramp. This will exacerbate the problem. Most of the ching chong meow brigade have either braced the turbo flange to the header flange, or fixed the crappy welding. They're still cracking though.
Oh, and by the way. When you've got one, make sure you clean out all the welding deposits that get left inside with a Dremmel, and check the flange isn't too warped. Yes, they're all warped, no, don't bother asking for a replacement unless it's 1/2" out like a Toyota 3S-GTE one I once had. They will virtually all pull flat with a bit of judicious torquing; and maybe some skimming of the flange in bad cases (this is a good time to introduce you to their variable customer services - sometimes mediocre, often dire, sometimes downright litigious. Don't contact them unless you absolutely have to. When you do, it'll often be the stock answer of ship it back to us, and we'll ship you another one).
NASP manifolds (headers if you live in the colonies) can be variable. Mazda MX5/Miatas are dire. I fitted and early one and ended up calling the customer telling them it just wouldn't fit. I even wondered if it was from a different car. Same warped flange problems, but with added hassle of trying to make it fit at two points instead of just one. Some OK, most to be avoided. Very little experiance of them myself; would appreciate feedback from others?
CATBACKSWell, rice-tastic if you like that sort of thing. Hard to make an exhaust badly for a turbo car. Most N/A systems sound horrible. Particularly pleased with quality and fit of Nissan SR20 S13/14 200sx systems, especially with a downpipe and cat eliminator. MR2 systems just loud enough to wake the dead regardless. Very popular with the 'bling bling' crowd.
The 38mm Tial style ones with the polished housings are ok. The 44mm ones with the finned housings should be melted down for scrap. Funky annodising does nothing to prevent boost spiking and creep. A lot of the problems are down to the crappy wastegate take-off ports ben slagged up and poorly located on the manifolds though.
FPRsAre you kidding? Obviously not. I wouldn't like to comment. I'm not brave/stupid enough to risk one.
BOVsFine if you like that sort of thing, not my scene really. The ricers I install for seem to like them. Mainly available as turboXS knock offs. They all sound awfull, but anything to extend the life of those crappy turbos above.
PIPING KITS AND INTERCOOLERSFor once, not too bad. Those HUUUUUGE FMIC kits are 'bling bling' enough for all buy the most pimped out ricer, but the boost drop accross them can be a problem. Bigger isn't always better; this isn't porno, buy the right size for your application. Charge coolers (stamped XS Power) are actually pretty good. Piping kits are, and will always feel made of thin alloy without bead rolled ends. Do the right thing and have a local shop bead roll them at the very least. The kits are also made up of universal pieces and RARELY fit the intended application without SOME modifications.
SUSPENSION AND CONTROL ARMSSee above; I'm not that brave.
Overall, food for thought. there will always be the crap (Toyota MR2 turbo downpipes - they WILL crack, regardless, and they've ALWAYS fitted badly) and the surprisingly good (Supra manifolds, T70 turbos, later T3/T4 turbos, some intercoolers). Most of it will be clouded and argued about by the 'h8erz' who have no experiance of the products first hand; merely being regurgitated conjecture from Honda-Tech will always detract from what can turn out to be a source of suprisingly usefull parts.
Just remember, low-balling means you don't get to complain about it when your $400 turbo kit craps out on you. Careful maintenance, installation and not being too disappointed when it does crack means tht you can get performance on a budget. Just make sure you invest the money saved on the parts on a good tune instead. The old adage that there's no substitute for dyno time rings true, and anyone complaining that "dis shizzle melted mi pistenz dawg, y0!" needs to be hung up by the hoses of their rising rate fuel pressure regulators.