Generally speaking, modified cars are troublesome, irrational and expensive beasts. And yet here we are, slaves to these incredibly thirsty money pits.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The sometimes near-endless cycle of frustration occasionally yields a sense of satisfaction like no other. More importantly, the Gods of Internal Combustion sometimes reward our ritualistic burning of money with levels of freedom found in no other earthly possession.
The pendulum that swings between levels of success and failure will vary significantly depending on how heavily invested or how far we choose to push our machines. Ownership of a lightly modified Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX is usually smooth sailing.
But not always.
As simple an undertaking as Project Nine is when compared to much of the automotive art we see on Speedhunters, it still brings frustration from time to time. Times like right now.
I could just gloss over the negatives, but I thought why not share the whole experience? Even at the risk of me coming across as a massive whinge-bag with my relatively small issues compared to those of a more complicated build.
Because the majority of you guys come here seeking true car culture, right?
I’d had the bulk of this update’s contents in mind for some time now: A quick update on how the new DBA 4000-series rotors and DBA Extreme pads held up when abused on the track, and possibly a rough comparison with a second set of brake pads that utilize a different material. But I never had the opportunity to test either properly.
The consolation prize was the chance to inspect them while my Evo sat in pieces on a hoist. Yep, they sure still do look like brakes.
Clutching At Straws
The first source of frustration quite literally slipped in during the Evo’s first proper drive after fitting the new rotors and pads. It was the tail-end of an extremely long day of spirited driving when a white R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R and I splintered away from the main pack and snaked our way along one of New South Wales’ more challenging roads.
But it didn’t last long. The engine began revving freely despite being in gear, and my cabin filled with an unmistakable and pungent odour of Kentucky Fried Clutch. Dammit! On this drive it was – luckily – only at higher RPM and high load, but with each subsequent drive the slipping became more apparent and began further and further down the rev range. Great.
I’d need to find a replacement, and quick too. Both time and my clutch face were running dangerously thin.
There’s never an ideal time for mechanical failure, but after adding up the high number of kilometres my daily-driving, photo-exploring, and occasional enthusiastic-launching Evo had ticked up, I felt as though I’d extracted enough value from the clutch to be satisfied.
A closer inspection revealed what a great job I did at destroying the unit. 10 points, Matty. If you’re unfamiliar with what a clutch should look like, it shouldn’t look like this.
Just as expected, the flywheel would also need replacing.
A slipping clutch causes hot spots on the flywheel and an irregular mating surface, not good for the new clutch engagement. It is possible to machine the flywheel face back to a flat surface instead of replacing it, but this can also mean there is a greater distance for the clutch to travel to engage. Best practice is to replace the flywheel if it has fallen victim to serious slippage, as mine had.
Another reason why machining a flywheel with hot spots isn’t advisable is that those blue spots above are incredibly hard – much harder than the surrounding material. These were created by intense heat generated by excessive slippage. The discolouration is a by-product of a change in characteristics to the affected area; the heated steel becomes harder and more brittle.
Not only will the hot spots shorten the life of your clutch and reduce its effectiveness, in extreme circumstances, they may also be a point where cracks can propagate. Cracks in a flywheel are bad news; there’s a lot of energy stored down there next to your legs. If you’ve never seen a flywheel tear itself apart at high RPM, head to YouTube for a fright. Kaboom!
Out With The Old, In With The New
After a week of cautious throttle use, fantastic fuel economy and nightly research, I ordered an Australian-made Organic Extra Heavy Duty clutch package from NPC Performance. I’m unsure of how far NPC’s reputation extends past our borders, but locally they’ve grown a solid reputation for strong and reliable kits that suit a whole range of applications.
The kit consists of a heavily modified Exedy heavy-duty unit, a clutch pressure plate, and thrust bearing. As you can see, I opted to replace rather than try to machine my destroyed flywheel, too. This kit almost looks too good to be hidden away inside Project Nine, although I don’t expect it’ll look this pristine after my first drive.
I won’t pretend to be able to you tell all of the actual differences between the standard Exedy unit and NPC’s uprated version. Instead, I’ll sit back and let NPC themselves do the talking.
“The lightweight flywheel is cut from billet steel and milled around the outside edge to keep the rotating mass down. But we also keep it thicker in the contact area to help draw heat away from the clutch plate.”
“This clutch is capable of applying 1,300kgs of clamping force, rating it at approximately 300kW (402hp) to all four wheels and 740Nm (545ft/lbs) at the flywheel.”
“We run an Exedy sports pressure plate, but we don’t use the sports clutch plate. We change the clutch plate to run a different organic plate that has a marcel (or wave) segment between the linings that gives a smoother feeling engagement. That way we have a very strong clutch that is almost just like driving a factory-style clutch.”
Last but not least, my new lightened NPC flywheel. Slightly heavier than the previous Exedy unit and with a little more meat behind the surface area, the new flywheel should also act as a better heatsink by drawing more heat away from the clutch disc.
A single-piece billet flywheel also avoids the ring gear detachment that can sometimes happen with pressed ring gears at high temperatures. That is, the starter ring spinning by itself when you go to start the car hot at the track.
I guess I’ll let you guys know how it performed in (hopefully) a couple of years.
Fit & Run
There was the only thing left to do. Well, two: Fit these beautiful shiny new parts, then transform them into filthy old parts by using them in anger.
I don’t mind getting my hands dirty and tinkering, but swapping the clutch in a wrong-wheel biased, four-wheel drive was a task that was way above my pay grade and skill level. That job I entrusted to Sydney’s V-Sport, a name you may be familiar with already if you’re a long time reader.
And this is where the story should end – except it doesn’t. It ends with me limping off the race track during my second session with a suspected bent gearbox selector, or worse. That’s right, I made it to the track but was forced to retreat long before I could form an opinion on the brakes and also before taking a single photo or video.
Cars are a stupid hobby.
All That Glitters