Sunday, February 28, 2016

Alfa 4C Canyon Testing: Springs, Mudflaps, Power, Wheel Studs

One of the joys of my role at Sector111 is the in-car testing we must conduct.  We usually run our cars on three 'circuits': short (around town), long (in the canyons) and track (Spring Mtn).  Our 4C has several new products that we have developed and needed further testing.  These included our new lowering springs, mudflaps, powerkit and wheel studs/nuts.

This morning I had the pleasure of taking the car out and hitting our long test circuit.  This canyon road has a proper mix of everything that most clients might experience on a back country run.  It has smooth sections AND very rough sections, on camber, off camber, fast sweepers, tight corners, uphill and downhill.  I've run this road for 15+ years in various cars (Lotus, Ariel, BAC, etc)and know it quite well.  I've run the 4C on this course many, many times in stock form and now in modified trim.

We have installed lowering springs on the car.  We wanted to address client requests for a lower car without the cost of shocks/struts - which is really the only current option for lowering your 4C to reduce the fender gap.  Our progressive rate springs were targeting a .75-1" drop for the car.  Once we had it installed, we actually experienced a 1-1.1" drop.  The car looks great but I immediately started to get concerned about the clearance and ride quality.  The pictures show the difference.

Well a quick blast through the short circuit revealed that the ride quality was actually enhanced over stock.  The bump compliance was remarkable.  Our spring supplier is a world-wide expert and delivered a very excellent ride.  Clearance is not bad and I did not find myself bottoming out - though I had to be careful on any steep incline.

I drove the car on our canyon circuit and came away with even more confidence. The car absorbed the countless road irregularities and pot-holes very well.  Dare I say with aplomb?  Turn-in response seem to be the same as stock and could not perceive any loss in control over stock.  The added compliance gave me more confidence to attack the corners knowing that the suspension would absorb the bumps without upsetting the chassis.  Additionally the car felt marginally flatter through the curves with less sway.  This is really the advantage of properly engineered progressive rate springs; they can be more comfortable yet still deliver sharp handling.

I think most clients will be pleased with the handling though this ride height may prove to be too low for some.  To address this issue, we are seriously considering offering two ride heights - this current one dubbed 'Track' and another that offers less drop that we may call 'Road'.  Luckily our supplier is capable of delivering the ride heights we specify - especially now that this kit has been tested on our car and baselined.  Ultimately, we will have sway bars that will make for a really good handling upgrade while still delivering good ride quality.

The mudflaps appear to be holding up well.  I attempted to run over every gravel patch and sand trap that I saw on my drive.  Our mudflaps bolt to existing holes in the body so that it is an easy installation.  We've used carbon fiber to dress up the look of the flaps.  But of course, CF is not the most durable material for stone impingement.  So we needed to get innovative.  We choose a CF that offers a fair amount of flex to absorb the 'hits' and then we added a special layer that makes this composite even more durable.  

I had one moment, during the drive when I hit a hard bump and a bunch of gravel in quick succession.  I heard what sounded like shattered CF so I pulled over.  The mudflaps were fine and I realized that the sound came from the gravel bouncing off of the bottom of the car.  So far so, good.  We will run her for awhile longer to ensure they hold up.  We have a couple of clients who have also offered to test the flaps for us.  If you click on the images, you can see the mudflaps a bit better.  They are fairly discrete and don't really call out for attention.  Frankly, that is good with me.

The 4C comes with wheel bolts which make removing/reinstalling wheels a bit of a pain.  We have switched to studs and nuts on our Lotus many years ago, even though they originally come with wheel bolts.  These also make for safer installation of wheel spacers that some 4C owners have installed.  We are testing both HEXstuds and BULLETstuds with YELLOWfellos on our 4C.  Both work well and should be a nice upgrade for all owners.

The Power Kit is running well and the added mid-range is noticeable.  I ran in Dynamic and Race modes to manually select gears.  We've now run the car with the kit for a couple of weeks and it is really fast and delivers plenty of thrills.  Our partner will be announcing details on this kit soon.  We think it is a safe amount of power and adds just the right amount of additional kick to the 4C.  We are still running the stock airfilter though the car is equipped with our 4CRpipe.  We plan to offer additional power upgrades in the future.

The 4C continues to impress me.  It is not quite a quick as an Ariel/BAC/Drakan but would easily keep up with a Lotus in the canyons.  Considering the added amenities that the 4C offers over the previously mentioned cars, makes it better as a 'practical' sportscar.  Do I miss a manual in this car?  Yes, but it is hard to argue with the pace that this car can keep on back roads!  

We will reveal our new Harness Bar, Race Harnesses and CF seat next week at our Open House.   Once these are complete, we will finally have a fully comprehensive package for the 4C owner who loves both road & track.  

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