Lotus Elan

What is all this 'Fast Road' nonsense anyway?

PostPost by: Elanman99 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 12:04 pm

I see many references and mentions to parts being sold by the usual Lotus specialist as being suitable for 'Fast Road' use.

I can see the reason for having parts aimed at racing or other specific purposes, but what is the difference between 'Fast' and just driving on the road?

Equipping a car with 'Fast Road' suspension, exhaust, etc might influence (in the event of an accident or insurance claim) the authority that the car owner was a bit of a tearaway who drives at the limit. OK that might be an exaggeration but I get the impression that the parts suppliers use the fast road description just to enhance the product appeal. A bog standard Elan is absolutely fine for road use although whether (with parts available today) it is possible to return say, the suspension of an Elan, to what it was with Armstrong dampers, Aon bump stops is doubtful.

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PostPost by: 69S4 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 1:34 pm

I've wondered that myself, whether there's a 'clique' of hardened hooligans who delight in pushing our 50yr old cars to their mechanical limits by err... 'interpreting' the legal road limits. It's not as if the std Elan equipment needs upgrading to keep up with modern traffic and keeping up with it on most roads is as much as you can do in a car - any car - these days round where I live.

Most sunny weekend days you don't have to go far to see or hear our two wheeled cousins employing a 'fast road' riding technique but what's marginally acceptable (even at the expense of a few expletives when they come past) on two wheels is not on four. Just about any overtaking manoeuvre on single carriage roads is frowned upon unless it's a tractor / bicycle etc. and I wouldn't have thought you'd need 'fast road' upgrades to do that. Maybe it's the attraction of track days that it's intended for and 'fast road' is a more marketable phrase than 'mild track'. :D
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PostPost by: cobraboy » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:00 pm

You get more speeding tickets with fast road parts.
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PostPost by: The Veg » Mon Dec 03, 2018 2:49 pm

Since vehicular performance is 'never enough,' I figured it was an attempt to make improvements while still retaining road-practical qualities.
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PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 3:44 pm

Remember the phrase 'go faster'?

As in:

Go-faster stripes - racing stripes, especially if found on an otherwise unremarkable car

Go faster stripes - what boy racers put on their cars. Thinking that this will improve the speed (as in 'Look at the geek with the go faster stripes on his car. Now he can do at least 50 mph')

Both of the above are on-line dictionary words, not mine!

But 'go faster' is the expression that 'fast road' conjures up in my mind!

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PostPost by: types26/36 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 4:39 pm

trw99 wrote:Remember the phrase 'go faster'?

As well as that immortal phrase "souped up" :lol: :lol: :lol:
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PostPost by: pauljones » Mon Dec 03, 2018 5:48 pm

Sympathetically modified
Kick the tyres and light them fires...!!!!!!!
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PostPost by: JonB » Mon Dec 03, 2018 7:11 pm

So all joking aside... what good is all the "fast road" crap?

I just want to restor my car to "proper" handling.

I'm stalled, as you probably worked out (not posted much lately!) and looking at TTR "fast road" shockers for the front. But should I buy them?

Sounds like what we need are some Armstrong equivalents. But I've not seen anyone make a recommendation to that effect.
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PostPost by: Gardog » Mon Dec 03, 2018 9:08 pm

I'm not sure that I am on the "fast road" program either. No matter what I do to the car my wife's mini-van is always faster.

Instead, I am sticking to the 3Rs - Regular Road Reliability.

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PostPost by: elaninfuture » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:31 pm

I have an Alfa Spider. Alfaholics, an aftermarket company, sells a "fast road" suspension kit. I also thought the name was silly, but the suspension kit is fantastic. I think it means "better than stock" but not so racey that the car can't be driven on the street.
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PostPost by: JonB » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:38 pm

So they say.

If these items were so good, I'd expect to see emphatic recommendations. Instead, there's a continual stream of "which one should I buy?" type threads. Difficult to choose, with so much cash at stake.
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PostPost by: elaninfuture » Mon Dec 03, 2018 10:50 pm

I suppose. But in the case of suspension, it really depends what you like as a driver and how and where you drive. In my case, I've learned the hard way that too much engine and too firm suspension is not so fun when you drive the car on the road. So I tend to stick fairly close to stock. I think there's a tendency to improve road cars far beyond what's necessary.
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PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:05 pm

Jon, DaveBean, in his excellent catalogue, highly recommends Spax as good and capable Armstrong replacements.

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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Mon Dec 03, 2018 11:49 pm

I think one needs to consider the context of the time when our cars were first built. Consider the marketplace and the sports cars competing for the buyers' attention at the time.

The tires of the period were terrible, radials only slightly better than bias ply. The radials would hold a little better but fall over on the sidewalls.

There were not a lot of motorways or "freeways" as we Yanks call them. Most roads were two lane and followed the terrain, some better than others. Some quite bumpy.

The suspension technology of the time for most sporting cars was based on oxcart leaf springs and friction dampers. Most cars of a sporting nature had stiff springs and shocks, bolted to a flimsy ladder type chassis. i.e., MG, Triumph, etc,. Drive one and you got beat up. The rear of the car would skitter across the bumps and step out. Pull up on the sloped apron of a driveway at an angle and one door would fall open from the chassis flex.

Colin's basis of earlier designs were the Austin 7 and he learned suspension travel and good damping was important to keep all four wheels applied to the bumpy pavement. The early trials cars and later the circuit cars utilized this philosophy running on skinny tires. Colin as a aircraft structures engineer exploited what he learned as he produced faster and faster race cars with stiffer chassis so the suspension would do the work. The Mk 8, Mk 9 and the Eleven were the product. The Elite was a watershed car of course, using the same philosophy. It could be noisy and harsh as a road car even though it was softly sprung. It really rolled in the corners but the grip was amazing.

Enter the Elan. It was intended as a road going car only, modern styling with a modern race car suspension to match, but provide civility and road isolation to the driver and passenger. The rubber bushings and Metalastic LotoCones, helped refine the ride and driver experience. The front had a sway bar, but there was lots of body roll to maintain compliance. The front springs were 75lbs/in. The original rear springs were 68lbs/in, with several inches of preload. That's very very soft by any standard.

Radial tires got better. More grip. Roads got better. Modern tires with wider section widths provided grip levels that easily rivaled bias ply race tires of just a few years earlier. The newer tire designs had much stiffer sidewalls and the Elan suspension camber gain was causing the tires to fold under when driven hard.

So the "fast road" concept to reduce chassis roll and exploit the new tires with slightly stiffer springs and better dampers, particularly in rebound. Miles Wilkins, Mick Miller, and Dave Bean developed their various flavors of "fast road" they thought customers would like. The result is the Elan was able to "catch up" to the improved tires with reduced cornering lean, more responsive steering and slightly stiffer ride. Dave Bean's front springs are only 40lbs/inch stiffer than stock. The rears are 27lbs/in stiffer. The combination of the stiffer springs and properly tuned/adjusted dampers make for a much improved drive and handling in the twisties with only a slight increase in harshness.

I have driven several Elans in both setups side by side. I like the "fast road" much better for its more "planted" feel in the corners and less lean. It's also important to add a stiffer front sway bar to further reduce the body lean. My Elan still has the stock springs and swaybar, with old Koni's installed. When the car comes apart for its rebuild, I will upgrade, probably use Spax or AVO dampers.
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PostPost by: Elanintheforest » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:36 am

Nice analysis Mr Stresscraxx, and I totally agree with it.

Our cars and many of it's contemporaries were very often modified when they were new or nearly new by folks who didn't want the inevitable compromise built into the cars by the manufacturers. The balance of performance / handling / comfort / economy is an averaging exercise to get the car to appeal to the majority of customers. The fast road modifier is happy to compromise one or two of those measurements for one or two of the other ones!

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