Thursday, October 27, 2016

Safety Reminder: Fuel Systems and Plumbing

We love modifying cars as much as the next guy but things need to be done properly. Original Equipment Manufactures (OEMs) go through a lot of testing to ensure that flammable liquids stay inside their respective systems. Not only does a car run better when fuel and oil are kept in the correct places, but it is much much safer as well. When we modify our cars, we need to make sure that we are paying attention and respect the systems we are working with.

In a recent blog, we mentioned the merits of good practices when plumbing or wiring a modified car but the safety aspect needs to be addressed as well. Fuel and oil lines are not places to save money on cheaper parts, they are not places to save time while building, and attention needs to be paid to how these systems are routed and secured. Too many times have we found loose oil or fuel lines in a vehicle that were about to cause an issue. We even had a problem during our Drakan testing when an OEM fuel connector came off the hard line it was attached to because too much movement was allowed. A simple ziptie fixed any future problem.

Below is an example of what a fuel fire can look like inside a car. This video shows the speed at which a fuel fire can start, the importance of safety gear (it is not all created equally by the way) and the importance of practicing getting out of your car in an emergency. While we do not know the cause of the fuel fire in this vehicle, it is a very eye opening look at the seriousness of a fuel fire, no matter the cause.
This is especially relevant to the Lotus Elise and Exige community because the design of the stock fuel tank allows the engine to be fuel starved in left hand turns when low on fuel. In our opinion, there are two ways to safely take care of this issue.
  1. Keep your tank topped up.
  2. Use a baffled fuel tank like our V2 Tank .
We like a baffled fuel tank because it retains OEM wiring and fuel plumbing. Another solution is a surge tank, but we do not recommend them.  Surge tanks require that you make modifications to the fuel system and wiring system to install them. We have seen 2 cars that have caught on fire from issues related to the surge tank. No matter how well designed a product is, all things being equal, more points of failure mean more opportunity for failure.

Here another video of a Lotus Exige on fire:

Here is less alarming (actually quite funny) video from another fire. This one is more likely oil related than fuel, but the lessons still apply.

So please remember:
  1. Pay attention when modifying fuel, oil, or wiring systems.
  2.  Wear your safety gear! 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Shifter Update 10/24/16

Original concept/prototype.

We have been busy working on our shiftR111 for the Lotus Elise/Exige. The first prototype has been in the car for a while now and we are happy with its function. It is much improved over stock and anyone who has sat in our car has said as much. Almost everyone has gotten out of the car and asked "when will you have production parts" and "how soon can I get one!". The issue we have with the first iteration is it just costs way too much. Figuring that no one wants to buy a $2,000 shifter no matter how good it is, we have put a great deal of time and brain power into simplifying the design.

We redesigned the shifter while keeping the function and core concept the same, and reduced cost and complexity. After much discussion with our manufacturer and much internal brainstorming, we were able to come up with a lot of solutions. Version 2 has 73% less machined parts, 79% less welding and costs 35% less to make. The upside to this is that the shiftR111 is now much less complex which makes it much more cost effective and reliable. The downside is that we now have to spend another large chunk of money to get the machine shop to make us a new prototype. In the end, we think all this time, effort, and money will be worth it.

Here is a side of the new concept that has not been seen before.
Little treat for you blog readers. 
Eagle eyed readers will notice a number of changes. Note the retention of the stock reverse lockout collar and the provision for the hand brake. When the center console and shift boot are installed, the shifter will look stock. This setup can use any stock or aftermarket shift knob, but of course we recommend The Bollock. It will also be compatible with stock cables, our TRANScables, and our Shifter Re-Enforcer. The ultimate solution is combining all of these parts with the shifter to really bring the shifting to another level.

We have also tested the prototype with the LETSLA short throw shifter and it looks to be a good match. (Look for a kit coming soon to adapt our TRANScables to the LETSLA shifter.)

We will also have parts available that will facilitate running the shifter without the center console and/or without the handbrake. These parts are in development and we expect to have them shortly after the shifter is available for sale. The second prototype is currently being made, we will have to test it and then make production parts. We are shooting to have production parts done by the end of the year.

It also looks like with a few tweaks, it will fit in the Evora...

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Evora Track Car Bodywork Mods

WIn our previous post we talked about an Evora track car we have here in the shop. In an effort to focus the car more for track use, it was decided to do a few modifications to the bodywork.
     The goals were:
          1) To make the clam easier and faster to remove.
          2) To improve air flow and heat extraction from the engine bay.

After looking the car over (and taking most of it apart to do the clutch replacement), we decided that rather than do a true race car quick release style of system, we keep it more simple. The basic plan was to essentially eliminate some attachments that we feel are just not needed on a track only car. We also switched out some attachment methods. For instance, in the trunk, we replaced 6 bolts with a 4 studs and nuts. There are a few advantages to this: the studs capture the shims so they don't fall out and they help align the clam when it is installed. We deleted the two in the center for simplicity.

We also had to address the things that attached the clam to the vehicle other than the fasteners. Namely the battery, coolant tank, and truck release cable.

The switch can be reached from the driver
seat or through the passenger side window.
We decided to relocate the battery to the passenger compartment behind the passenger seat. This setup has a number of advantages besides making it simpler to remove the clam. We are able to reduce weight, better weight distribution, and increase reliability with this modification. Moving the battery inside the car reduces the vibration and thermal stresses on it, it also gets a large bundle of wire out of the already crowded engine bay. Moving the battery gets weight off the rear of the car which helps with the polar moment of inertia of the vehicle. The battery switch we installed will also prevent the car from draining the battery while stored.

Nice little unit from Moroso really cleans up the
engine bay and gives a high performance look.

The coolant expansion tank was another issue we encountered as it too is attached to the clam. We looked into relocating the stock tank but opted to replace it entirely with a nice offthe-shelf unit from Moroso. This tank fit cleanly against the firewall and should last the life of the vehicle. Here again we were able to move weight off the rear of the car and increase reliability by getting rid of the stock plastic tank.

The truck release cable that runs inside the cabin to under the rear seat was the final small thing that we wanted to move to make clam removal simpler. We decided just to re-route the stock cable so it can be pulled from the rear of the vehicle. In the future, the hatch will probably be replaced with something a bit lighter and we may do away with the stock latch, but for now, this will work great.

Stock heat shield in place.
While we were at it with these modifications, we wanted to do something that would help reduce engine bay temperatures. We decided to reconfigure some of the heat management. Since this is a track only car, we do not have a trunk to keep cool, we were able to get rid of some heat shielding and do some ventilation. Lotus obviously had a tough time controlling engine bay temps with this "big" V6. Our plan was to remove all this heat shielding and ducting and allow the heat to escape out the back of the car, rather than through just a few small ducts.
Much cleaner.
We drilled several holes in the clam and also removed an access panel in the truck to vent the engine bay to the trunk area. We then removed the bumper and drilled several holes in it to vent the trunk/engine bay area to the rear of the car. Since this vehicle also has a muffler delete setup on it, we vented the floor of the trunk to give the hot air another option for exiting. We aligned the holes that we cut with the holes that were in the subframe.  These mods were inspired by the GT4 version of the car and should help lower engine bay temperatures. We also happen to think it looks pretty cool.
Deburring the edges with sand paper
is a pain but gives a finished look.

Rear bumper vent holes.
Swiss cheese.  We also painted the rear black so the orange would not show through the rear bumper holes

Luckily, the only thing this car will be
hauling is ass around the track.

The end result of all this is a car that is lighter, more reliable, and easier to work on. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Evora Track Car TLC

One of our clients requested that we bring in his Evora for a little TLC. His clutch was not disengaging which prompted this work. Clutch replacement is a 40hr job on an Evora so he asked us to take care of a few other items at the same time.  This blog lists some of the items we found and fixed or upgraded.  

One key client request was that we make his rear clam easier and quicker to remove. The rear clam has to be removed along with the engine to do a clutch replacement on the Evora. This will be the second time the engine has been out of this particular car and the owner wanted to reduce the costs of any future service. As this car lives at the track, this is a smart move.

This was the first time we worked on this car so we needed to get a good handle on it's condition.  As we dove into the car we found the following:
  • Broken clutch
  • Loose exhaust
  • Missing rear engine mount bolt (!!)
  • Broken engine mounts (left and rear)
  • Broken/heat damaged shifter cables 
Here's an Evora with it's heart removed. Look familiar?
We found several other issues, some of which were mentioned in our last blog entry. At some point, the rear engine mount bolt fell out, and the resulting excessive engine movement caused or contributed to all the other problems (besides the cables). With the knowledge that this car is now a dedicated track car, we decided to take the opportunity to do some worthwhile upgrades including simplifying and adding lightness - who needs AC in a track car - right? 

First order of business was removing the clam and engine. One of those things that is easier said than done. This is definitely a time intensive job.  We came up with some ideas to speed up reinstallation/removal.  Since the client still wanted to keep the stock rear hatch (for now), we were limited in some of our ideas.  Certain items, like the battery was relocated to the passenger compartment to help speed up the R&R process.  

Broken disk = no bueno
The first thing we swapped out was the clutch.  The original clutch failed because a spring broke free from the disk.  We took this opportunity to visit our clutch supplier to discuss options for the Evora.  We landed on a couple of different balanced clutch/flywheel packages that we think will work well on Evoras.

New Clutch/Flywheel Bits
The clutch we chose is a heavy duty solution but the pedal effort is just as light, if not lighter than stock. The hub plate is much stronger and should retain the springs very well.  We also threw in an aluminum lightened flywheel for good measure. This combination should last a long time, which is a good thing considering how involved a clutch replacement is on this car. 
One of the broken mounts.
  When we discovered 2 of the 4 engine mounts were in bad shape, we called up our engine mount supplier to try our their upgraded solution. These mounts should be an improvement over the soft stock ones. Reducing engine movement helps with throttle response and shift feel.  They will be available for sale as soon as a few fitment issues are resolved.  We had to modify the mounts to get them to fit correctly. 

New TRANScables
The shift feel on this car was also terrible. One push of the gear lever let us know immediately that something was not right. After a very short investigation, it was apparent that the cables were causing excessive drag. We think that the stock cables are being damaged by high engine bay temperatures and the housings are shrinking around the cables. The cable housing/sheath was also cracked and broken near the ends (see pic).  

Since we have had great performance from our TRANScables for the Elise/Exige, we contacted our supplier to make us a prototype set for this Evora. The difference is astounding. The improvement in feel is apparent even when compared to the other Evora we currently have in our shop. That car has good cables and the shift quality is fine, but these cables bring it to another level. Expect to see this on our site soon as well.

Another interesting area that we were able to study is the actual shifter mechanism.  It is very similar to the Elise shifter which means our shiftR111 should likely fit with some minor tweaks.  First we need to get it released and running on the Elise/variants.

Wiring was a bit lack luster in this car. The interior was gutted and caged so much of the wiring was exposed.  There was so much unsecured wiring that it gave us anxiety. Wiring failures are a very common problem on race cars and that simply does not need to be the case. A few well placed zip ties or p-clips go a long way to preventing damage or failure.  Anyone who has ever had to trace a wiring related issue will agree that preventing an electrical failure is almost always easier than fixing one.

More details on the modifications we did to the bodywork on the next blog....