Monday, August 8, 2016

White Rascal/Art Car v2 Testing 8/4-5/16

Last week we took our shop car to the track for some testing. We had a few things on the slate to test out:

  1. Replacement caliper seals and titanium bolts
  2. Our new prototype shifter
  3. Larini valved muffler
  4. Intake and tuning changes
We headed out to our favorite test track, Spring Mountain Motor Resort. After arriving late Thursday, we drove the car around the paddock and ran an autocross course that was setup just to give the car a little shake down and put some additional miles on it before we really got to it on Friday. 

Everything went smoothly Thursday evening so early Friday morning we were on the track when it went hot at 7am. After 150 total miles were run, the track went cold and we went home for some cold ones. 


It is amazing what a good set of pads and some weight reduction does to the braking performance of this car. While braking at the end of a long straight, you appreciate the fact that the shoulder harnesses are keeping your face out of the steering wheel. There was no sign of leakage or degradation from the brakes all day. The replacement seals we have acquired come from a manufacture that is well versed in making similar products so we had no doubt they would function as advertised, but we felt that running them in 100F weather on the track was a good way to verify they were up to our standards. Shinoo had tested these seals in the car a couple of weeks ago at SMMR.  Additional heat/cold cycling stresses parts and after multiple days of track use you can see if a part will hold up.  We are happy with the results.  Expect to see these available soon. 

The new shifter is very promising. The engagement and function feels much more positive compared to the standard setup. You know which gear you are selecting and it slides into place with a gentle push from your palm or pull of your finger tips. We definitely have some changes to make but the functionality of this first version is excellent. Track testing confirmed that the action was a true upgrade.  We've had several clients try out the shifter since we installed it and everyone agrees that it is an excellent improvement.

Valved Muffler
This new Group N muffler brings the same valve technology used in the Evora system to your Elise or Exige. When the valve is closed, the car is very quiet but when open, you are presented with a wicked sound. There are several ways to activate the valve. We tested the car with the valve closed, open, and connected to the stock actuator that opens the flap in the air box. 

Intake and Tuning
This car has our de-cat and cup airbox tune on it. We decided to play with some intake changes and log the results. We used an AiM Evo4 logger and a wideband in the de-cat pipe to log several parameters including Speed, RPM, AFR, TPS, MAF, IAT, ECT, ABC, 123... We gathered some good data and are continuing work on some new things. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Brake Preventative Maintenance and Caliper Rebuilding

It goes without saying that the brakes are probably the most important system in your car, but often times they seem to receive little attention (until they do not work of course!). Most people know that fresh fluid is always a good idea but often times we pull fluid from brake systems that looks like this.
Brake fluid is hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs moisture from the air. This moisture combined with repeated heating and cooling cycles breaks down the fluid. This contaminated fluid will boil much sooner than fresh fluid and also tends to eat away at the brake system components. We recommend bleeding your brakes before every track event and doing a complete flush at least once a year Motul RBF600 is our favorite fluid and Torque RT700 is recommended for those who see extreme brake fluid temperatures.

In addition to keeping your fluid fresh, it is also necessary to realize how old some of your brake components are. Most critical are any bits made of rubber or synthetic rubbers like your stock brake lines and caliper seals. With most Lotus Elise/Exiges now at over 10 years old, replacing brake lines with stainless versions like our innovative QWKbleed lines is not a bad idea from just a safety perspective alone. There are also rubber parts inside the calipers themselves, the piston seals. These little rubber rings are the critical bit that lets you transfer force from the brake pedal to the pad. We are currently track testing our replacements to ensure they are of sufficient quality to survive track abuse. We worked with a manufacture that makes seals for many applications (including Lotus) but we strive to do our own testing and validation, especially for safety critical items.

We have also rebuilt several calipers here in the last few months and are exploring the possibility of offering it as a service. I bought some nasty black calipers for my own Elise, stripped, painted, and rebuilt them with new hardware. 

Another interesting thing we have tried is cleaning calipers cryogenically. This is similar to sand blasting, but rather than sand, frozen CO2 (dry ice) is used. You can see the results below. These calipers had 52,000 miles on them. 
Before Cyro
After Cryo
Art Car v2 caliper with Ti Bolts
  Another interesting thing we are looking at is Titanium caliper bolts. We are currently track testing these to see how they hold up but they are certainly cool looking and are worth about 0.36lbs of unsprung weight.
Ti Bolts vs Stock

Monday, August 1, 2016

Battery Tenders and You (and your sports car)

The reality for many people is that they do not get to drive their sports car every day. One of the issues that arises from lack of driving (other than self loathing) is that the battery in your pride and joy slowly drains away every day it sits idle. Lotus cars are particularly brutal on the battery as the electrical system has a rather strong drain while the car is off. When you add a light weight battery, you also decrease the amount of time the battery can sit idle before it is completely drained. This constant draining shortens battery life and puts unnecessary stress on your alternator when you do finally drive the car again. If you allow the battery to go completely flat, irreversible damage can result from chemical reactions inside the battery and the best case scenario is that battery life is severely shortened.

CTEK Smart Charger
The solution to all this doom and gloom is to use a battery tender. This sweet little device keeps the battery voltage topped up to optimal levels so it is ready to go at 100% when ever you require a little throttle therapy. We choose to carry the CTEK Smart Charger as it is a bit more sophisticated than most chargers and can really extend the useful life of your battery. Using the charger is pretty simple, you can either use the provided clips to temporarily secure it to the battery or use the provided pigtail with ring terminals. The Alfa 4C happens to have extra posts on the battery terminals that make adding charger lead a pretty simple affair.

Alfa 4C ground terminals. The positive post has a similar setup.
Note the two spare studs, perfect for trickle charger leads.

Light weight battery systems are one of the cheapest ways to shed serious pounds on your light weight car. On the Lotus Elise and Exige, our Xtender bracket and raceBATTERY will save 10 lbs on the back of the car while in the Alfa 4C our BB4Cpack will save a substantial 20 lbs of dead weight.
Light weight battery bracket for Alfa 4C

Friday, July 8, 2016

Secure Your Hips in Your 4C!

We've come up with a simple way hold a person in their Alfa 4C seat.  Though we are big proponents of race harnesses, we know that some people don't race their cars on track or frankly don't want to add a harness bar and belts.  Our idea is a half step that does make a difference.  

This should only be done in conjunction with the stock 3pt belts.

We have installed our BLBmount kit and the waist belts from our Schroth 4pt Profi II belts.  This solution can be clicked in before you place the stock 3pt.

Step 1: click in the race waist belt first
Step 2: Click in the factory 3pt belt over the race waist belts

This should only be done in conjunction with the stock 3pt belts.

I ran our 4C with this exact set up on a recent canyon run with a few other Alfas. It was a simple and quick way to keep me better anchored in the seat.

This should only be done in conjunction with the stock 3pt belts.  We can't stress this enough!!!!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

White Rascal Update #8: ArtCar v2

Our little White Rascal has a new moniker: ArtCar v2.  ManoirArt has finished our Elise and we unveiled it at the Secret CarClub in Rancho Santa Fe last weekend.  I'm very happy with the result.  Unlike our first Art Car, this one sports an especially vibrant paint livery.  You won't miss this car, coming or going.  The finish is hand painted so the brush marks and textures are all apparent.  This is not a show-car finish that is glassy smooth, it looks like paint on a canvas.  Ever since I saw the BMW Art Cars, I knew that one day, I would commission something similar.  Sector111 have now completed two art cars and I could not be more stoked...  

Neil spent 28 days working on this car, painting it by hand.  See our FaceBook album for more details pictures of his process: HERE.  He is available for commissions if you have a car you would like to paint.  Please also check out his art work - it is for sale.  If you like modern art, he's doing some really cool work.  Check out his website and contact him directly: HERE
photographer Nate King
We will be taking the ArtCar v2 to SMMR soon.  Our prototype shifter is coming together in the next two weeks and will go into this car.  We can then run it hard to see how it works.  

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lifting Your Evora onto Floor Stands

Mid-engined cars usually require the rear of the car to be lifted to conduct typical maintenance like oil changes.  If you don't have a lift, then reversing the car onto ramps is the technique many people utilize.  This of course is a sketchy proposition.  We have come up with a simple and safe way for you to lift your Evora and place it onto floor stands.

Suggested tools:

Step 1: Place the niftyLIFTY onto your floor jack

Step 2: Position the rubber pads of the niftyLIFTY at the seam between the rear difusser & undertray

Step 3: Lift car until higher than flatJACKS

Step 4: Place flatJACKS in one of two positions:
  • Position1: under the niftyLIFTY as shown below

  • Position 2: under the chassis where the lower control arms attach to the chassis

We like this position best
note location carefully

We like the Position 2 best as it gives you full access to the rear diffuser if you plan to remove it.  This make muffler changes or inspections a much easier process.  Of course sometimes Position1 is best if you simply need to pull the wheels, etc.

Lifting a car is dangerous - especially if you plan to work under it.  We assume you understand the basics of floor stand placement and use.  Working on your car can be rewarding - just use the right tools to ensure you don't get hurt.  

Watch our video below to see us lift an Elise and the an Evora:

Monday, June 27, 2016

Placing your Alfa 4C onto 2 or 4 Floor Stands

Working on a car can be dangerous when it gets lifted.  We like to place our cars securely onto floor stands whenever we need to get under a car.  This blog shows how to safely place an Alfa 4C onto four floor stands so that you can easily pull all wheels and/or work under the car.  This is especially convenient with brake jobs, oil changes and mechanical inspections - especially before AND after your track/AutoX events.  We also show how to place the car safely onto two rear stands.

Suggested tools:

Placing the car onto 4 Jack Stands

Step 1:  Jack the car from center jack pad that is located on the chassis
jack from the center pad that is located on the chassis (small red rectangle)
drive rear tires onto wood to raise car 

  • The center pad is rear of the front pad
  • Use a low-profile floor jack or drive the rear car tires up onto pieces of wood to provide clearance for a normal floor jack (as shown)
  • We use a small piece of wood between the floor jack and the chassis - we like being sympathetic to our babies...and the rubber pad fell off our jack years ago. 8^)

Step 2: Place a flatJACK under the rear jacking point and one under the front jack pad

rear jack point -  car is NOT resting on stand
front jack pad - car is not resting on stand

  1. The rear point is ribbed and in-line with the arrow molded into the side sill
  2. The front point is pad molded into the chassis and is in-line with the arrow molded into the side sill.
  3. Lower the  car onto the stands slowly

Step 3: Lift the opposite side of the car from the center jack point

Left side is elevated and resting on floor stands
  • Carefully lift from the center jack pad
  • Lift the car just enough to clear the flatJACKS (floor stands)
  • Slide the flatJACKS into position
    • rear jack point and front jack point
    • slowly lower car onto floor stands

Step 4: Remove car from floor stands
  • Reverse the above process
Placing the car onto 2 Jack Stands

Most maintenance tasks required usually only need the rear of the car lifted and placed onto stands.  We do NOT recommend attempting to place the 4C onto 2 front stands as the car will not be stable.  It is safe to place the 2 stands on the rear of the car.

If you follow the above Steps 1-3, you can safely place your 4C onto two rear stands.  The process below shows a quicker process to placing the car onto 2 rear stands but requires our 4CLIFTkit - or your own DIY version(see previous blog).

Step 1: Install 4CLIFTkit

Step 2: Place floor jack under diffuser at the seam with the undertray
  • Lift carefully

Step 3: Place floor stands under rear jack points
  • remove the floor jack

Step 4: Get to work!

These are a couple of safe ways to get the 4C onto stands.  Use the safest method possible.  I can't over stress the need for you to be safe.  All of the above assumes you are working on a flat stable floor and you know how to use the tools/methods described.  If in doubt, call us, your mechanic or a trusted friend!  

Inspecting your car before and after your driving events is critical.  Light-weight cars are a joy to drive on track but track use will quickly loosen joints.  These loose joints must be caught and tightened otherwise parts may begin to fall off your car...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Jacking Up The 4C

One of the first things we did when we got our Alfa 4C was to assess how to jack the thing up without jacking it up. Upon pulling the diffuser and engine tray, it became apparent that like the Lotus, there is not a real good way to jack up the rear of the car without destroying something. The way the diffuser and engine tray bolt up to the car leaves an air gap between the thin pieces of metal and the structure of the rear subframe. If you simply put a jack on the diffuser and lifted the rear of the car, you would successfully lift the wheels off the ground only after you crushed the diffuser and engine tray...
Luckily, I have no pictures of Alfa damage.
So here is a picture to remind you to pay attention to how you lift your car!

The solution to this problem is a simple one, all you need to do is fill in the gaps between the panels and the subframe. We happened to have some stuff laying around the shop to prototype this concept. The first air gap is about 0.25" between what I will call the subframe extension bit for lack of the official term. This plate is bolted to the subframe and by way of rivet nuts, provides the places for the diffuser and engine tray to bolt to. We cut out a 5" x 5" square of 0.25" plastic to take up this gap.

Here you can see the 0.25" piece of plastic we placed between the subframe and the plate.
It sits flush once put in place properly.

The second gap is between the engine tray and the plate pictured above. This air gap measures about 0.125". We cut a 2"x 9" rectangle from some 0.125" plastic and used some double sided tape to fix it to the engine try. 
The black part is the piece we added.
Everything bolts back together just like stock and you can not tell this stuff is there. However, now you can jack up the rear of your car easily.  Our flatJACKS are the perfect way to then stabilize the car so you can safely work on it.

As indicated by the above picture, we will make a kit available for those who want to do this mod. We posted the details in this blog for the DIY crowd to make their own.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

White Rascal Update #7: Becoming an ArtCar

The White Rascal is now mechanically running and sporting a new tune.  The mismatched bodywork was screaming for some attention.  We contemplated getting a quick paint job or have the car wrapped.  We posted up a pic on our Instagram account and one of our old partners in crime, reached out to us.  Neil painted our original ArtCar and was interested in taking on this project.

Neil has been pursing painting and has built up a cool collection of work.  See it on his: website.  He has been venturing into a new style that I really like.  He sent me a very cool rendering of what he would like to do and I was immediately stoked.  See the teaser below.  Follow our Instagram for more teasers.

We struck up a deal and I trailered the car to his studio.  So in a couple of weeks, we should have our new ArtCar v2...