Last time, we introduced to you kuhol.net’s series on our project car, a 1998 Hyundai Elantra. We told you what we wanted to use it for (racing it in various amateur motorsports), and that we wanted to field it in an upcoming Slalom race. If you need convincing that the Elantra is just the best damn project car that an automotive news and features website can ever undertake, ever, feel free to read our Introduction to Project Elantra.
For this update, we’ll shed some light as to what exactly we were working on until present in the areas of suspension and electrics. Read on more to see what we were up to.
Prior to Project Elantra being placed on jack stands several months ago, the car’s suspension was lowered by 40mm via a set of uprated boingers from SMA Suspension in Korea, and KYB Excel-Gs handled shock absorption duties. The car was very fortunate to have also been equipped with an aftermarket rear anti-roll bar from Ultra Racing, purchased directly from the Philippine importer.
Anti-roll bars are suspension components that resist, well, roll. When you turn a car in a corner, its weight shifts into the side outside of the curve causing that side to dip. That leaning of the vehicle’s body is called roll. The roll stiffness (i.e. resistance of the car to lean) is a function of the stiffness of a vehicle’s springs, but eliminating roll by using stiff springs results in a spine-crushing ride in situations where body lean doesn’t happen (i.e hitting a pothole, driving over a speedbump, road undulations). Therefore car manufacturers use anti-roll bars to increase roll stiffness instead of using stiffer springs.
Changing anti-roll bars affects the handling characteristics of the vehicle. For front-wheel drive cars such as the Elantra, increasing the roll stiffness via thicker rear anti-roll bars reduces understeer (car doesn’t want to turn into a corner, as opposed to oversteer, where the car turns too much into the corner thus spinning out). The Ultra Racing bar is 19 inches in diameter, approximately double the thickness of the stock unit. Our driving impressions right after fitting the Elantra with it were positive. The car feels like it just loves to turn, attacking the corner apexes with aplomb. However, it is not a mod that will give you pogi points. Only oil change attendants looking under the car would see its white powdercoat finish.
We initially wanted to look at changing the KYB shock absorbers to units with adjustable damper settings, like a Koni or Bilstein strut. Thing is, Bilstein does not make such a shock for the J2 Elantra,and Koni only has the fronts available. More research showed that the next best units that we can acquire for it were… KYB Excel-G’s. Unfortunately, we had installed the KYBs in another Elantra, and so the project car was left shock-less.
A few years ago, Project Elantra was fitted with a set of Tech-Pro race coilovers which have given up the ghost. First attempts to have the coilover shock rebuilt locally were not successful; meaning, after a few days the coilovers were leaking oil worse than British Petroleum. The coilovers were stored and the existing lowering spring/gas shock combo was fitted as a replacement.
Racing coilovers are inherently rebuildable, but only if you would be sending them to the manufacturer’s authorized service center, which for the Tech-Pro’s would be somewhere in Korea. A trip to the Elantra’s motherland while hand-carrying the dampers would be nice and all, but it would be way easier if it can be rebuilt locally.
We have heard of Cruven Auto Specialist from local Internet forums. They specialize in suspension repair, with technologies to recondition bushings, tie rod ends, and shock absorbers. The nearest outlet to us was their Sucat branch, and we then proceeded to give them the tired coilovers with the hope that they can repair them. Fortunately, they have had experience with this type of dampers and were able to. After a week or so, we got them back and proceeded to fit them to the car.
During installation we found that the top mount of the front left coilover did not fit the holes on the shock tower mounting point. We head-scratched till we drew blood and found that the top mount was bent slightly enough that its studs were skewed from vertical. We do not know if it was due to anything that Cruven did or due to wear and tear the coilovers have gone through in its past, but a quick press job by a machine shop set everything right.
We got it in the car and initial road testing has shown that the shock repair restored the coilovers’ operation back when they were new. That is, the shocks are stiffer than an Englishman’s upper lip, every minor road undulation feeling like you just ran over a Sierra Madre mountain. Granitic ride aside, the Elantra is just a sticky tire away from being a purposeful track star.
We did mention that the car was already turbocharged at the beginning of this series. The open-element air filter was placed in the location where the battery used to be, right behind the driver’s side headlight. That was done so that the engine can suck in cooler air, but of course the battery had to find a new home, and so it was booted into the trunk.
The problem with the initial relocation was that the battery was too far away to be charged by the alternator, and that the battery, a cheapo low-maintenance unit, was rather weak on cranking output to begin with. That was why the car had a penchant for not starting at all. We wanted to put a new battery in the cabin, placing it closer to the engine, but putting a regular car battery inside the car is a bad idea. Typical lead-acid batteries emit noxious fumes as part of their normal function. If you breathe them gases, trust us, that’s gonna be bad, mm-kay.
A battery box, bolted rigidly to the car and with a vent to the outside, would be necessary should you insist to put your favorite Motolite battery in your car’s interior. What we did instead was to spring for an XS Power D680 battery. The D680 is an absorbed glass mat (AGM) design, similar to the battery packs you see in emergency lights and UPS for computers, but rated for automotive use. AGM batteries never vent out nasty gases, never need water, can be mounted in any position except upside-down, are vibration-resistant, and size-on-size more powerful than regular lead acid batteries.
Even with a small footprint of 7x4x6″, the D680 is powerful enough to start the Elantra’s engine, especially since it hadn’t ran for a few months, long enough that spiders were calling the engine bay home like the mother tree in Avatar. They do cost a bomb, though. You can buy two decent maintenance-free batteries for the price of these little puppies. And you can’t just take them to a battery shop for a recharge. AGMs are very intolerant to overcharging as they rapidly degrade should they be charged so.
Lucky then that we come across a AGM-compatible trickle charger at a car show. The DHC SC015E Battery Charger/Maintainer not only charges AGM batteries but also features a five-stage process of charging a multitude of battery types. It even “tops-up” a battery’s charge without overcharging, which would definitely prolong the life span of our expensive XS Power unit. It only draws 1.5 amperes which doesn’t induce spiraling electricity costs but is too weak to charge bigger batteries. More powerful units are available. We picked this one because it was the cheapest and is sufficient to volt up our tiny power pack.
We located the D680 behind the driver’s seat simply because our existing battery wires were routed on the driver’s side. Nobody will be sitting behind the driver soon, as legroom in that area is, let’s just say, severely compromised. We secured the battery using a wooden tray fashioned out of a scrap door jamb, a plastic battery holder and bolts from the old relocation setup, and flat bars scrounged up at a junk shop. The latter was cut and welded to form a box structure, with one end bolted to the tray and the other sandwiched between the rear mounts of the driver’s seat and the floor. Ghetto, yes, but hey, it works, and the only cost entailed was the welding of the flat bars together.
After all this work, the car is on its wheels and it starts on one click. However, there are some other issues we have not addressed. We noticed that the brake line at one corner was peeling its outer skin, and while taking the car out on an initial run, there was a wonky feeling while depressing the clutch. We’ll update you on the other stuff we did to make it for the race (or did we?) at the next installment of Project Elantra.
Until then, keep it slow, dudes.