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AutoCon LA 2017

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March 25, 2017

Images Courtesy of Tyler Lee @ CarNinja

 

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The Los Angeles Convention Center hosts some of the most epic automotive events in the nation. On March 25, 2017, AutoCon filled the halls with a few of the finest machines from across the country. Crowds came in droves, lining up outside the convention hall for hours, waiting for their chance to file into the grand halls of the Convention Center. For an event held on a Sunday afternoon from 1pm-to-8pm, thousands of attendees waited in lines that snaked all the way out the front of the convention hall as interest in the event and the excitement of anticipation built up to a fever pitch.

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Once inside, the fans were greeted by a balanced presentation of high quality vehicle builds ranging from vintage rides and domestic muscle to aggressive imports and European exotics. AutoCon attracts a strong following of quality builds, ensuring that everyone in attendance experiences the finest in vehicle construction. There was no shortage of eye candy and inspiration for the car lover in us all.

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Slammed chassis, custom paint, aggressive aerodynamics and numerous engine swaps could be found throughout the vast convention halls. Eye catching machines showcased the latest trends and delivered a good idea of what is popular in the scene. The bolt-on overfender styling of Rocket Bunny, Liberty Walk and RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF (RWB) continues its foothold in the scene as platforms ranging from the accessible FR-S/BRZ up to the more exotic GT-Rs and Ferraris featured wide over fenders and aggressively offset wheels.

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The “slammed and stanced” trend continued as some machines had so much negative camber that the car was rolling on its inner side walls while the outer shoulder of the tires never touched the pavement. Note the daylight shining through?

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Honda chose this particular venue, rather than a traditional main-stream auto show like Detroit or Los Angeles to debut its entry in the hot hatch category: the 2017 Civic Type-R. This machine just captured the FWD track record at the Nurburgring Nordschleife Circuit from the previous record holder, the Volkswagen GTI Clubsport, with a lap time of 7 minutes 43.8 seconds. (Check out the latest video on YouTube)

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As the night drew to a close, the grand exodus of these machines formed a procession of horsepower leading out of the halls and onto Downtown Los Angeles’ streets, a sight to truly behold. We can hardly wait for next year.

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Brake Systems 401: Bigger Calipers Clamp Down on Speed

By Richard Fong

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It’s no secret that brakes serve an important role from the standpoint of both performance as well as safety. After all, the typical street vehicle (cars, motorcycles, etc.) generates approximately 80-percent of stopping power from its front brakes. In Brake Systems 101, we covered some of the basics of braking, focusing on pads and rotors. Brake Systems 201 put emphasis on two-piece rotors as well as stainless-steel braided lines and higher performance brake fluids. The third installment, Brake Systems 301, introduced one component of the Big Brake System, larger rotors, which increases the heat capacity and friction surface area relative to stock. Now we’re going to look at the visual and functional star of the big brake kit, the brake caliper.

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Applying Pressure

Brake calipers serve one purpose, to squeeze the pads against the rotor to generate friction, shave speed and eventually bring the vehicle to a stop. Calipers come in a variety of types, configurations and sizes. One of the most common factory caliper types is the sliding caliper, where one or more pistons press against the inboard brake pad, while the brake caliper housing slides inward, pulling on the outer pad to equalize the pressure to both sides of the rotor. Automakers often favor this type of caliper for its low cost and satisfactory stopping performance on the street. Unfortunately, these calipers suffer from excessive deflection under performance conditions and contribute to less than ideal braking performance. By contrast, fixed or opposed calipers, as the name implies, do not slide or move. There are an equal number of pistons that press on the pads isometrically to ensure equal pressure is applied to both sides for even wear.

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Bigger Rotors, Bigger Calipers

Increasing the heat capacity and the friction surface area by way of larger rotors prompts the use of correspondingly larger calipers. Upgrading to larger brake calipers and the use of larger brake pads make best use of the increased area availed by larger rotors for improved stopping performance. Larger calipers also tend to employ multiple pistons to ensure even application of pressure to the backing plate of the larger pads as they generate friction with the rotor surface.

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Pumped Up Pistons

The number and size of the pistons that a caliper employs is typically an indicator of the size of the calipers, pads and rotors. As rotors and pads get larger, so do the size of the calipers necessary to make use of the available friction surface. In order to evenly apply pressure to all of the available friction surface area, it becomes necessary to increase the number of pistons pressing on the pads. Sliding calipers employ a single, dual or even triple piston configuration, while fixed calipers feature an even number of pistons in an opposed configuration (pressing toward each other.)

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In an opposed, multi-piston caliper, the caliper body stays in a fixed location while the hydraulic fluid builds pressure behind the pistons and forces them to squeeze the pads to the rotor surface.

 

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Cast, Forged, One Piece, Two Piece

Calipers are not only defined by their size but also their construction. Calipers are included among the components of unsprung weight and are subjected to a variety of conditions such as extreme temperatures and pressures. Thus, caliper design must take several variables into consideration.

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In the case of a single piston sliding caliper, the piston (red arrow) pushes on the inboard brake pad onto the rotor. The caliper body moves the opposite direction from the piston (green arrows) and pulls the outboard brake pad (blue arrows) onto the rotor surface.

The least sophisticated is the cast sliding caliper. Sliding calipers strike a balance of cost, weight and performance for the average streetcar. However, these calipers suffer from deflection and inadequate pressure under performance conditions, resulting in less than satisfactory results.

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The cast two-piece caliper features an opposed piston configuration that resists deflection while offering improved application of pressure to the brake pads. An even stiffer solution is the forged two-piece caliper. This fixed caliper shares similar design traits to its cast cousin, but benefits from being forged for greater strength and stiffness.

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The stiffest and lightest solution, which also happens to be the most expensive, is the fixed, forged one-piece monoblock caliper. These tend to be machined from a forging of aluminum for strength and light weight. While offering the greatest performance, the cost to manufacture this type of brake caliper becomes cost prohibitive for all but the most well-funded of individuals or teams.

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Racing calipers are massive, stiff and look really cool. But they’re not for street use. Racing calipers must be rebuilt on a regular basis throughout the racing season. As you can see, they do not have dust boots covering the pistons. This could lead to failure if debris or other contaminants damage the seals. Street calipers do not require the same maintenance schedule as racing applications, making them ideal for street driven vehicles.

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Piston Power

As mentioned earlier, calipers feature a greater number of pistons based on the size of the pads and the rotor. When increasing the pad and rotor size, applying equal pressure across the entire pad surface becomes essential for even application of pressure for optimal generation of friction. This can be achieved (up to a point) by way of larger pistons. When the caliper design calls for a lower profile to fit within the barrel of certain wheel sizes, adequate pad coverage can also be accomplished by way of additional pistons. Typical multi-piston configurations can range from four to six pistons with some designs employing up to as many as twelve pistons.

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Bigger isn’t always Better

So, when four is good, six is better and twelve is fantastic, right? Not necessarily so. Optimizing your brake system depends on a myriad of variables, including purpose, vehicle weight and power output, to name a few. There is such a thing as overkill, and overkill on brakes could actually compromise other aspects of performance like handling and feel. Brakes fall under the category of unsprung weight, which has a direct effect on responsiveness and overall feel. This is why a smaller and lighter vehicle like a first generation (NA) Mazda Miata that weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds would not benefit from the massive factory six-piston, forged monoblock brakes engineered for the 3,800 pound Nissan R35 GT-R. Not only would the Miata have to run much larger wheels just to fit this brake system, it would be far too much brake for the fly-weight Miata. The nimble feel of the NA would also be lost due to unsprung weight gained at each corner. Conversely, the much heavier R35 GT-R would brake as if it were in the vacuum of space while trying to stop with the NA Miata’s diminutive braking system. Exaggerated examples aside, a properly sized brake upgrade can lend greatly to vehicle performance. The right combination can improve feel, heat capacity and longevity while mitigating detrimental side effects related to unsprung weight. Ultimately, the right brake system upgrade for your ride will complement the overall build as well as its appearance.

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Sized Up: Brake Master Cylinder

Brake systems function on the mechanics of hydraulics, which is the use of fluid to perform mechanical force. In this case, the movement of the piston(s) in the calipers to apply pressure to the brake pads by displacing the pistons with brake fluid. The brake master cylinder forces fluid through the brake lines to each caliper to apply pressure to the pads. Since the amount of fluid displaced depends on the size and number of pistons, properly sizing the brake system includes evaluating the size of the brake master cylinder. When upgrading to a larger brake system, it is necessary to measure the displacement of the system to ensure that the brake master cylinder displaces enough fluid to deploy the pistons to press the pads against the rotor surface. Small bore brake master cylinders produce high pressure, while larger bore master cylinders deliver more volume.

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Automakers go to painstaking lengths to properly size the brake master cylinder to the brake calipers they equip the vehicles with to ensure a balance of pedal feel and brake system performance. Properly sized, bolt-on brake systems should be designed to work with the factory master cylinder. If upgrading to significantly larger brakes, it is sometimes necessary to increase the size of the brake master cylinder to ensure that the feel and performance is not thrown out of balance.

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Science of Stopping

Properly-engineered brake system improvements ranging from the most basic pad and rotor upgrades to full Big Brake Kits will enhance the feel from behind the wheel while delivering longer sessions on twisty highways or quicker lap times. While horsepower will make your car faster, balancing that horsepower out with improved braking performance will help you navigate the streets and the track safely and, in record time.

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Find out what STILLEN has to offer to improve your brake system! Check out www.stillen.com and click through to the brake section. 

Brake Rotors

Brake Pads

Big Brake Kits

Brake Fluid

Brake Lines

Got questions or ready to upgrade your brake system? Reach out to STILLEN at 866-250-5542, by email at sales@stillen.com, or via Live Chat at stillen.com!

STILLEN Event Tracking

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Skyline Syndicate Launch Event

March 11, 2017

By Richard Fong

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Ideal car meets are, at best, a fair weather experience. People lose interest quickly at the first sign of precipitation. When clear skies and warm temperatures are the first things to greet you as you walk out the front door, it’s a good bet that a great day and an even greater event await your arrival. This is especially true when the event is focused on the Nissan Skyline GT-R.

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Skyline Syndicate, which started as a group of friends with a passion for all things Skyline, quickly gained momentum and evolved into a brand of its own. On Saturday March 11, a meet to celebrate Skyline Syndicate’s Launch Event took place in the City of Industry, California. With the support of the Purist Group, led by Sean Lee, this social media-promoted event drew import and European enthusiasts of all walks, in addition to the fortunate few that own Skylines.

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Upon arrival, a walk through the parking lot gave attendees plenty to look at, including some gorgeous Supras, NSXs, BMWs and other desirable platforms. But the stars of the events were located close to the warehouse entrance. After passing a few R35 GT-Rs, we came upon a trio of R32 Skyline GT-Rs near the entrance to the warehouse.

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Once inside the warehouse, a few more R32s along with a Stagea lined the walls leading up to the heritage row. Parked side-by-side, a triumvirate of Skylines (an R32, R33 and R34) was staged up on display. Near the loading docks, a NISMO equipped R33 was positioned next to TK Taka’s red Hakosuka.

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Although the event was scheduled to last from 10am to 3pm, the camaraderie, conversations and anecdotes kept some attendees at the event to well past 6pm. As the sun set on the event, the Skyline Syndicate enjoyed a great start to its brand. We can hardly wait for the next event!

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Brake Systems 301: Increasing Torque, Friction & Surface Area

By Richard Fongstillen_u_banner_v1 (1)

Practice and experience lend to improving your driving skills. As you go faster and quicker, you will inevitably uncover more limitations of your vehicle’s hardware setup. In Brake Systems 101 and 201, we explored the basic bolt-on upgrades that help to improve initial bite, heat capacity and feel while retaining the stock calipers and rotor dimensions. However, even aftermarket upgrades have their limitations, especially when it comes to heat capacity, which leads to brake fade. This is where upgrading to a big brake kit could prove an effective solution.

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Understanding Big Brake Kits

As had been mentioned before, the factory equipment on most vehicles are selected as a compromise of cost versus performance – meaning that the vehicle manufacturer will offer you a safely adequate braking system necessary for your vehicle within their targeted budget. This opens the door to aftermarket improvements, and a big brake kit usually rides high on the list of upgrades. However, contrary to popular belief, upgrading to a big brake kit is not for the sole purpose of shortening stopping distances. Its greater merit is increasing the heat capacity of the braking system. A big brake kit increases the heat capacity of a braking system by incorporating larger rotors, larger pads and larger calipers. The increased surface area lends to greater heat capacity and an increased friction surface. (NOTE: Before investing in a big brake kit, consider the wheel size you are running, as some kits might require specific wheel sizing and offset to clear the rotor diameter and the larger brake calipers. Contact STILLEN for more information.)

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Physics of Braking

Braking is the conversion of kinetic energy (motion) into heat (and stopping power) by way of friction generated between the brake pads and the brake rotor surface. Put simply, the greater the friction produced, the greater the stopping power. However, with more friction comes more heat. While certain pad compounds thrive in specific operating temperature ranges, the collective brake system also has particular temperature requirements. Individual systems begin to fall short once their optimal temperature range has been exceeded. Increasing the temperature capacity by way of fluid upgrades and rotor cooling strategies are logical first steps. To take upgrades a step further, increasing the heat capacity by way of larger rotors and correspondingly larger calipers and pads add to the available rotor surface area and the size of the pads that can be used to generate friction.

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A Big Brake Kit not only benefits from increased friction surface area and greater heat capacity, it also benefits from a greater moment of torque.

Get More Torque From Your Brake System

Increasing the heat capacity and applying more friction are just two of the benefits that a big brake kit offers. Another important benefit comes in the form of increased torque. The application of torque is a matter of leverage. In the same way that increasing the amount of leverage by way of a breaker bar (torque arm) helps to increase the torque applied (moment of torque) to a bolt or nut, the same principle applies when increasing the rotor diameter and caliper size. Increasing the diameter of the rotor increases the torque arm and subsequently increases the moment of torque for braking. This is one of the significant advantages that a big brake kit has over a factory brake system.

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Rotor Designs

Most vehicles come equipped with vented rotors up front, which help to facilitate cooling of the rotors in order to mitigate the potential for brake fade. A variety of vent types (radial, pillar and directional) have been developed in the pursuit of efficient rotor cooling.

 

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The Disc Brakes Australia proprietary “Kangaroo Paw” pillar design (left) compared to a typical radial vent design (right).

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As mentioned in Brake Systems 101, the various brake pad compounds deliver varying levels of endurance, initial bite and resistance to heat. Pads designed for the street require little warm up and offer great initial bite, but sacrifice braking performance (reduction in friction under conditions of excessive braking and heat build up) when subjected to an endurance or heavy use situation. By contrast, an endurance race pad can take a lot of heat while maintaining optimal friction, but they must be heated to racing temperatures before becoming effective, which is unlikely to be achieved during normal street driving. Somewhere in between, there are pads that offer a balance of performance and endurance that suit a wider variety of driving situations.

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Exotic Materials – STILLEN CCM-X Brake Upgrade

Technology and space-age materials have enhanced our world in many ways. When it comes to stopping, STILLEN and AP Racing have worked together to improve on the heavy yet nimble, Nissan R35 GT-R. Their efforts led to the development of the high thermal capacity (HTC) Carbon Ceramic Matrix brake rotor (CCM-X) that offers superior heat capacity compared to its iron counterpart. Once found only in the world’s most exotic sportscars, this is the first CCM rotor offering for a production tuner vehicle. In addition, STILLEN worked with Pagid to formulate its RSX1 pad material to offer easy bedding and greater performance for both street and track applications. During extreme performance testing at Auto Club Speedway, the HTC CCM-X rotors and RSX1 pads proved to run 142F cooler than previous generations of CCM rotors (1,346F vs. 1,488F), which validated the test results recorded on the brake dyno at AP Racing’s facilities in Coventry, England.

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At the Limit

At this point the question is, how do you know when you’ve reached your brake system’s heat capacity? Since the friction between the pads and the rotor generates heat, this heat transfers into the components of the brake system (rotors, pads, calipers and brake fluid.)  If you’ve upgraded these basic brake system components with aftermarket components (as outlined in Brake Systems 101 and 201) and are still experiencing unresponsive braking and/or a spongy pedal feel after aggressive driving, you’ve likely reached the heat capacity of the brake system. This condition is referred to as brake fade.

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Don’t Get Faded

Brake fade occurs because the heat generated by the friction between the pads and the rotor has built up to the point that the pads are no longer able to create friction with the rotors (unresponsive braking) or pockets of air have formed in the brake lines due to brake fluid boiling (spongy pedal feel.) In both situations, heat is the culprit, which drives home the value of cooling the brake system. While adding brake ducts that direct air to the calipers and rotors certainly helps to facilitate cooling, increasing the amount of surface area available offers greater heat capacity and an increased friction surface area for use with larger brake pads and calipers.

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 More Surface Area

Generally speaking, improving a brake system’s heat capacity typically requires more iron and thus, larger rotors. Larger rotors offer more material to absorb and dissipate heat, as well as a larger friction area for a larger brake pad to be employed. This is also why larger calipers are an integral part of the big brake kit (to be covered in Brake Systems 401). By increasing the amount of friction surface, more heat can be stored before reaching temperatures that cause fade. The increased heat capacity also increases the usable range brake pads have that would not have been practical on a lower heat capacity setup.

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Mechanical Grip Improves Braking

While increasing the size of the brake calipers, pads and rotors inevitably improves the heat capacity and overall brake performance, a brake system is limited by another factor, mechanical grip. Mechanical grip refers to the tires, the only thing between your vehicle and the pavement, ground or terrain. In the case of road vehicles, the brake system’s ability to slow and stop a vehicle depends heavily on the tires. A vehicle with worn or inappropriate tires (i.e. endurance tires being used at a track day, rain tires when its dry, etc.) will not perform optimally compared to one fitted with tires suited to the purpose at hand.

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Continuing on the subject of big brake kits, the next issue of STILLEN University, Brake Systems 401, will go into caliper sizing and selection along with the mechanics of how they work. Do you need a 4-piston or 6-piston caliper? Is bigger always better? Check back with us soon!

Check out some of the available brake rotor and pad upgrades available at www.stillen.com!

STILLEN Sport Brake Rotors

Disc Brakes Australia

AP Racing By STILLEN

STILLEN Brake Pads

Hawk Performance Brake Pads

Ferodo Brake Pads

Mintex Brake Pads

Pagid Brake Pads

Got questions or ready to upgrade your brake system? Reach out to STILLEN at 866-250-5542, by email at sales@stillen.com, or via Live Chat at stillen.com!

 

 

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Boost Festival 2017 by Honeywell Garrett

February  25, 2017

By Richard Fong

 

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Only the excitement of going to the track can get me up at 5am with enthusiasm. The STILLEN crew rose before the sun to make the trek out to Willow Springs International Raceway for the Boost Festival 2017 by Honeywell Garrett event. This multi-faceted event was run in conjunction with Global Time Attack, Just Drift and Drift 101. For the time attack fans, GTA conducted its first round for 2017 on the Streets of Willow, while JustDrift took over the Horse Thief Mile track where participants smoked some tires. For those interested in learning to drift or seeking to improve their drifting skills, class was in session at the Balcony as Drift 101 conducted lessons on how to get slideways.

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On Horse Thief Mile, JustDrift participants practiced drifting as Drift 101 instructed its students up at the Balcony.

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Global Time Attack Round 1 Results:

 

CLASS            Time               Driver                            #       Car                               Team

Unltd RWD     01:22.577      Hessam Toudiee           458   Ferrari 458 Italia      Rules of Traction

Unltd RWD     01:22.692     Jason Sharek                   63     Mercedes C63 AMG   Jason Sharek

Unltd RWD     01:22.988    Will Wattanawongkiri  107     BMW M3                    WWR Racing

Unltd RWD     01:36.505     Matt Perkins                   166    Honda S2000         Gryphon AutoLab

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Unltd FWD     01:28.789     Martin Gonzales            73      Infiniti G20               MotoIQ

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Unltd AWD     01:18.717     David Haagsma            422      Nissan GT-R            SP Engineering

 

CLASS            Time               Driver                            #       Car                               Team

Street RWD     01:23.617     Clement Kwong            6      Honda S2000            Raceline USA

Street RWD     01:24.531     Henry Lam                   29     Mazda RX7                lucky7racing

Street RWD     01:25.353     Karla Pestotnik           54      Honda S2000   Karla Pestotnik Racing

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Street FWD      01:29.177     Bradley Herrock         3       Honda Civic Si          Herrock Racing

Street FWD      01:29.193    Chris Hofmann         501     Chevrolet Cobalt LT    Foximus Motorsports

Street FWD      01:33.400   Jack Thomas               19       Fiat 500 Abarth   R1Concepts/Jolly Club

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Street AWD      01:20.637    Markos Mylonas       555     Subaru WRX                Snail Perf.

Street AWD      01:22.791    Johnny Hernandez    30      Subaru WRX STI         lido labs

Street AWD      01:26.028   Sally McNulty            412     Subaru WRX                Snail Perf.

Street AWD      01:26.540   Jaime Jacquez             51      Subaru WRX STI         Unleashed Racing

Street AWD      01:27.497   Cody Nicot                   44      Subaru Legacy GT       Nicot Racing

 

Pro/Comp        01:19.600   Richard Buckingham  28      Ariel Atom SRA          R. Buckingham

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CLASS            Time               Driver                            #       Car                               Team

Ltd RWD         01:21.445      Ken Xu                         88       Mazda RX7            Diamond Hills Coll.

Ltd RWD         01:23.904     Joshua Haddox           20       BMW E90 M3            Racewerkz Eng.

Ltd RWD         01:25.297     Jon Rook/Ravi Tomerli  8    Acura NSX                  WDL Racing/SPN

Ltd RWD         01:25.402    Jerome Silvers            427      Chevy Camaro           Snail Perf.

Ltd RWD         01:27.652    Travis Barnes               24       Ford Mustang GT350  Snail Perf.

Ltd RWD         01:27.764    Michael Sutton            36         BMW M3                EDGE Motorworks

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Ltd AWD         01:19.445      Steven Chan              720      Nissan GT-R            RD Engineering

Ltd AWD         01:24.915      Alan Bidgoli               55        Nissan GT-R            Abiddyy

Ltd AWD         01:25.397      Nick Bright                  7         Subaru WRX STI    Prolific Auto

Ltd AWD         01:25.408      Daniel Albrecht        117       Subaru 2.5RS          Albrecht Racing

Ltd AWD         01:27.748       Scott Santellan          53       Lambo. Huracan   Caliber Customs

Ltd AWD         01:29.667       Lars Wolfe                23         VW Golf R               Lars Wolfe Racing

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CLASS            Time               Driver                            #       Car                               Team

Enth RWD      01:26.912       Hessam Toudiee         77      BMW M3                 Rules of Traction

Enth RWD      01:28.249       Mike Kang                  248     Subaru BRZ             CounterSpace Garage

Enth RWD      01:29.311       Ariel Salazar                5       Mazda Miata           SBGarage

Enth RWD      01:32.368       Giuseppe De Vivo      50      Alfa Romeo 4C        Caliber Customs

Enth RWD      01:32.650       Vincent Anatra          89      BMW M3                 Hoonigan

Enth RWD      01:37.391       Bret Nicoletti              10      Mazda Miata          Rooney Speed Racing

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Enth FWD      01:30.107       Efrain Flores            17       Ford Fiesta ST          FloresRacing

Enth FWD      01:31.373        Daniel Barker        805     Mazdaspeed 3            Durp Squad

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Enth AWD      01:28.190       Taylor Libolt          42        Subaru WRX STI         Libolt Racing

Enth AWD      01:29.294       Chris Hain             813       Subaru WRX                  Hain Racing

Enth AWD      01:30.091       Team Snail            124       Subaru Impreza 2.5RS    Snail Perf.

Enth AWD      01:35.564       Istvan Klag            214       Subaru WRX STI     Nightmotorsport

 

 

 

Brake Systems 201: 2-Piece Rotors, Fluids and Lines

By Richard Fong

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Upgrading brake pads and rotors can make considerable improvements to a vehicle’s braking system, especially since the factory equipment is generally adequate for an everyday street application but not always ideal for high-performance driving. However, there are a few other variables that can further enhance the performance of a factory brake system before making the jump to aftermarket calipers and larger rotors. Now that you’ve been familiarized with some of the first and most straightforward brake-system upgrades in our Brake Systems 101: Pads and Rotors, it’s time to look at the next modifications in line to optimize the factory brake system. Two-piece rotors, performance fluids and braided brake lines can further improve your factory brake system for greater performance on both the street and the track.

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Room to Expand

A smoothly-operating vehicle typically indicates that all is well and functioning properly. When an ABS-like vibration feeds back through the brake pedal, it can be disconcerting to some and annoying to others. It’s certainly an indication of something amiss that requires attention. That vibration could simply be caused by uneven pad material built up on the surface of the rotor, for which a proper brake service (new pads, resurfaced or replaced rotors, brake fluid flush) would remedy. However, in the case of performance and heavy utility applications, the damage to the rotors could be more severe.

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Dissipating Heat

A vast majority of brake rotors on the market are manufactured as a single piece of iron for cost and durability. As the friction surface for the pads, rotors are subjected to extreme heating and cooling cycles. Since the center or “hat” of the rotor bolts to the wheel hub, it is sandwiched between the hub and the mounting pad of the wheel. This limits the rotor’s ability to expand and contract freely when subjected to extreme braking conditions (as would be the case on a racetrack or during an aggressive mountain drive) and could lead to warped rotors. A viable solution would be to upgrade to a 2-piece rotor solution. In this application, a billet aluminum hat is fastened by way of “floating” hardware to a rotor, which permits the rotor to expand, contract and dissipate heat without being restricted by the hat. A 2-piece solution also permits the use of exotic and lightweight rotor materials as well, like a carbon-ceramic matrix.  An added benefit to having a billet aluminum hat and/or lighter rotors is reduced unsprung weight. This weight reduction helps to sharpen and lighten steering response which further lends to improved handling.

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Boiling Point

A recurring theme in brake systems is that heat is the enemy. For the most part, this is true, the exception being specialized brake pad compounds formulated to function optimally at higher temperatures (racing brake pads). Aside from this instance, heat that is generated by the friction between the rotors and the pad material eventually transfers to the calipers and then the brake fluid. Modern brake systems are hydraulic, which means that they rely on incompressible hydraulic fluid (in this instance, brake fluid) to actuate the pistons against the pads when the brake pedal is depressed. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has established standards to indicate a fluid’s capabilities. DOT 3 brake fluid is the most common fluid used in automobiles. The name denotes the fluid’s heat capacity and performance capability as required by the DOT. Street vehicles rarely exceed the capabilities of DOT 3 fluid under normal driving conditions. When brake fluid heats to the point of boiling, pockets of air form in the brake lines. These compressible voids translate into a spongy brake pedal and an unresponsive brake system with dramatically reduced stopping ability. If you’ve upgraded your pads and rotors and have not upgraded the brake fluid, this could be the cause of poor braking performance. The solution is to upgrade your brake fluid. Under performance conditions such as on a track or a road requiring significant and frequent brake input, upgrading to DOT 4, DOT 5 or DOT 5.1 brake fluid will help to maintain the responsiveness and effectiveness of the brake’s hydraulic system.

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DOT Standards

Typical factory brake fluid is engineered to function within a prescribed temperature range optimized for the majority of driving conditions that the manufacturer expects a vehicle to encounter. This covers a broad spectrum of conditions ranging from freezing to triple-digit ambient temperatures. While these requirements cover a seemingly broad range of temperatures, the brake fluid must endure far more extreme temperatures. DOT 3 fluid is the most common fluid type employed by automakers with some requiring DOT4 fluid (in the case of higher performance or heavy duty applications). DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 are polyethylene glycol based fluids while DOT 5 is silicone based. The hygroscopic traits (propensity to absorb moisture from the atmosphere) of the DOT 3, 4 and 5.1 fluids could render the fluids less effective over time. Regular flushing of the brake system mitigates this effect. The silicone-based DOT 5 fluid tends to cost more but benefits from its hydrophobic properties.

Fluid Grade               Dry Boiling Point                  Wet Boiling Point

DOT 3                                          401 F                                              284 F

DOT 4                                          446 F                                                311 F

DOT 5                                          500 F                                                356 F

DOT 5.1                                       500 F                                                356 F

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Typical OEM rubber brake lines tend to expand under hard driving conditions, resulting in slower response and a spongy pedal feel.

Containing the Pressure

Another component of a factory brake system that could benefit from improvement is the brake line. The stock brake lines are often high-pressure rubber hoses designed to be flexible throughout the full range of travel for your suspension. However, during high performance braking, these factory lines tend to expand under extreme pressure, resulting in reduced responsiveness and braking performance along with a spongy brake pedal. To improve the responsiveness of the brake system hydraulics, swapping out the factory brake lines with performance brake lines is an essential upgrade. Performance brake lines (like those offered by Goodridge) feature a PTFE liner (inner hose) that is shrouded by a flexible sheathing (stainless steel or even exotic materials like Kevlar) that protect the liner and prevent expansion. This keeps the fluids moving toward the calipers, for more responsive braking under all driving conditions.

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Stainless-steel braided brake lines like this Goodridge unit feature a PTFE liner for durability. The braiding helps to protect the liner from abrasion while also mitigating the expansion of the line under pressure.

Maxed Out

Now that you’ve learned about the basics of brake systems, you can maximize the stopping performance of your vehicle. Slowing and stopping are paramount for safety as well as performance, regardless of your application. From streetcars and track cars to tow and utility vehicles, a good braking system is a must. If you’re pushing your vehicle beyond these bolt-on solutions, you could be a candidate for a big brake upgrade, which will be covered in the next two installments of STILLEN University. Stay on track!

Do you have more questions about what would be right for your application? Reach out to us at 866-250-5542, at sales@stillen.com or by Live Chat on our website stillen.com to help you select the product that best suits your needs.

In our next installment of STILLEN University, we’re going to explore big brake system upgrades in greater detail. Check back with us soon!

STILLEN Product Announcement: Street Legal Edelbrock E-Force Supercharger Kits

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50 State Street-Legal Boost by Edelbrock

The term “street legal” applies to cars that roll off the dealership’s lot or showroom floor. For the enthusiast seeking more performance, maintaining street-legal status requires the installation of government approved upgrades. The state with the most stringent requirements in the nation is California, as set forth by the California Air Research Board (C.A.R.B.).

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Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86 Supercharger Kit

If a manufacturer wishes to sell parts that have any effect on the emissions of a vehicle, it must submit its products to C.A.R.B. for evaluation. Once the design satisfies C.A.R.B. requirements, CARB will issue that specific product and vehicle application an Executive Order (E.O.) number, indicating that the part(s) or upgrades have been approved for street use. This is especially important in states that require emissions, where a visual inspection will fail if the parts installed are not street legal.

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Camaro SS Supercharger kit (2010-13 Kit #1598 Shown)

Edelbrock has submitted numerous products to C.A.R.B. to be evaluated for street-legal use. Its latest E-Force Supercharger Systems for the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS, 2015-16 Corvette Z06, 2012-16 Jeep Wrangler and 2012-16 Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ and Toyota GT86 have all received E.O. numbers, allowing more horsepower to be made legally.

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Part Numbers                       E.O.#              Applications

1558, 1559, 15580, 15590  D-215-92       2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

15731, 157310, 157320      D-215-90       2015-16 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

1527, 15270                          D-215-91       2012-2016 Jeep Wrangler

1556,15560                           D-215-93       2012-2016 Scion FR-S, Subaru BRZ, Toyota GT86

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Jeep Wrangler Supercharger Kit

For more information about Edelbrock E-Force Supercharger solutions or to purchase an E-Force Supercharger kit for your ride, contact STILLEN at 866-250-5542, by email at sales@stillen.com or via Live Chat at stillen.com.

Automotive customization is really starting to hit the mainstream more often these days. You used to walk into a dealership, pick your color and a few options and that was the extent of the customization available at the dealer. However, things are changing, and for the better. More manufacturers and dealerships understand that consumers want their vehicle to be unique and reflect their personality. Automakers now offer more trim packages, color combos and more elaborate accessories than ever before. While this has satisfied a number of buyers, some dealerships realize that their customers wanted more.

Funding to modify a brand new vehicle often poses a hardship, as consumers generally spend a good amount on the down payment in order to make the monthly payments more palatable. Often times, this doesn’t leave a lot of cash for customization. Bennett Infiniti of Wilkes-Barre, PA understood the dilemma and decided to offer its customers the opportunity to drive off the lot with a customized ride. When this dealership modifies the car for you at the time of purchase with parts sourced directly from STILLEN, the cost can be rolled into your financing. This means you can add some nice modifications for approximately $40-$120/month (amount varies depending on cost of parts and labor).

Here is a great example of a modified Q50 Red Sport AWD that Bennett Infiniti put together. They installed the STILLEN Front Splitter, Side Splitters, Rear Diffuser and Wing to really give the Red Sport a more appropriate and aggressive appearance.

2017 Q50 Red Sport AWD STILLEN

The dealership informed us that the modified cars on the showroom floor always garner the most attention and it’s easy to see why. So next time you are in the market for a new car and want it modified, you know where to look!

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To order or if you have any additional questions, please feel free to give us a call (800-576-2131), shoot us an email (sales@stillen.com) or reach out to us on Live Chat at STILLEN.com.

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Lowering your vehicle is one of the most noticeable modifications both in visual impact and driving dynamics. We get quite a few inquiries about suspension setups and are often asked about the best practices to lowering a customer’s car. We are here to give you a brief “101” overview to  lowering your vehicle with springs and also complimenting them with shocks.

Lowering your vehicle has several benefits:

  • Roll Center Reduction – The reduction in distance between the chassis and the ground reduces the roll center of the vehicle. This benefits the car in the weight transfer from one side of the vehicle to the other in a turn. Less weight transfer means more evenly-distributed pressure on all 4 tires which means better traction.
  • Spring Rate – In combination with the lower center of gravity, the increased spring rate of a lowering spring, which helps compensate for the shorter shock travel, improves handling by reducing body roll.
  • Aerodynamics – Lowering your vehicle improves the aerodynamics by reducing the amount of air passing under the vehicle. Reducing drag not only aids in performance but also improves fuel economy.
  • Style – Visual impact is typically the main reason people lower their vehicle. There is no denying that a lowered vehicle looks more stylish and sporty.

Springs have been the go-to method for lowering vehicles. The design of a good lowering spring takes into consideration things like factory spring rate, factory shock dampening, vehicle weight, and suspension geometry. Companies like RS-R and Eibach factor in all these  variables to create  a spring that offers good ride quality, improved handling, and does not compromise the factory shock absorbers. You can expect a slightly stiffer ride after installing lowering springs. Most enthusiasts welcome the increased road feel and the average consumer can’t tell much of a difference in comfort. With springs being fairly inexpensive and straight-forward to install, most enthusiasts choose them for lowering their vehicle over the more expensive coilover systems.

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When selecting a spring there are typically a couple of options: Spring type (Progressive vs Linear) and Lowering Amount (I.E. 1 inch vs 2 inch). Selecting the amount you want to lower your vehicle comes down to preference and also how much ground clearance you feel is adequate for where you drive. For selecting spring type, it is important to know the differences between Progressive and Linear springs.

  • Progressive springs are pretty much what they sound like. The spring rate progressively changes as it is compressed. The advantage of this design is being able to keep a close to factory spring rate in a given operation range (say the range you would typically be in during daily driving) which retains factory ride quality. The range past this in which the spring would be compressed at a faster rate, such as aggressive turns and impacts (bumps and potholes), a mildly higher spring rate improves performance and also keeps the suspension from compressing too much (which could result in bottoming out or moving out of the operation range). Lowering springs typically utilize this design because of the versatility.
  • Linear springs are also what they sound like. The spring rate is constant along the entire spring. Linear rate springs are used when a specific shock absorber is designed and tuned to go with them. They offer a more consistent feel under compression (like what you would feel in racing and aggressive driving). When used for lowering a vehicle you sacrifice ride comfort. Because you are running a much higher spring rate, you don’t have the same comfort range like you do on a progressive spring. For most enthusiasts, the benefits do not generally outweigh the decrease in ride comfort so they are less commonly used by manufacturers.

Shock absorbers paired with lowering springs are also a common upgrade. While properly engineered lowering springs are matched to the factory shock absorbers, there are still performance benefits from a more aggressively-valved shock absorber or by simply replacing the old factory units with newer ones. There are several great offerings from Eibach for replacement shocks that are valved specifically for lowering springs so the performance benefits of your springs will be increased along with the peace of mind that comes with their 2-year warranty. Most shock absorbers last between 40k-80k miles depending on vehicle weight, driving habits, and road conditions. If you are in that area we definitely suggest looking at upgrading or replacing your shocks while you are installing lowering springs.

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If you are still not sure what route you want to go to lower your vehicle, we would be happy to help you in any way we can. Please feel free to contact us for questions or further advice on all your modifying needs. Check out our website for our great deals!

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2016 Nissan Altima lowered on the Eibach Pro-Kit.

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The VR30DDTT is an impressive motor. It is underrated from the factory as we have seen with dyno testing. The Hi-Output version is rated at 400 hp and 350 ft-lbs at the crank and the Low-Output version is rated at 300 hp and 300 ft-lbs at the crank. We have consistently seen ~375 whp and ~350 wtq from the Red Sport Q50’s and Q60’s and ~300 whp and ~290 wtq from the “300 hp” versions.

That being said, everyone is still excited to see what these motors can do. With factory forced induction there is often a ton of room for gains when you simply tune the car and crank the boost up. Now there is a lot to consider before assuming power gains by simply increasing boost and tuning. So strap on your thinking caps and prepare for the math!

The factory turbos on the VR30 are produced by Honeywell-Garrett. The model of the turbo is MGT14446LKSZ. We could talk technical specifications*, but in the end let us just say the turbos are small. What is more important is we have the turbo map for the MGT1446 turbo. This has allowed us to see what efficiency range the turbos are operating under stock boost, as well as the limits of the turbos when it comes to boost levels and power gains.

compressor-map-garrett

We can see the VR30 Red Sport (400) boost curve looks something like this. With this knowledge, we can run a series of calculations to see the efficiency of the turbos throughout the RPM range.

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For everyone who would like to do the math themselves the basic formulas are as follows.
Cubic Feet/Min:

cfm-formula
Corrected Air Flow (CAF) lbs/min:

caf-formula
Pressure Ratio (PR):

p-formula

So for stock boost our table will look like this:
*we use 1.5 liters as displacement as only half the motor feeds each turbo.

Q50 Red Sport – Stock (14.5 PSI)
400-hp-stock-turbo-table

Utilizing the same formula and increasing boost, we made a graph then overlaid onto the Turbo Map. We included the Low-Output graph for reference as well.

q50-turbo-map-hi-and-low-output1

You can see that even at stock boost (for the Red Sport) the turbos are off the efficiency island (below 60%) post 5750 RPM. So what happens as you move off the island? As turbo efficiency goes down you begin to generate more and more heat for the given boost pressure.

If you look at the stock dyno sheet, you can see where the horsepower curve begins to flatten out at around 5000 RPM. We have also seen with an aftermarket exhaust and secondary cat deletes the gains past the 5000 RPM area are far less significant. This can pretty much all be attributed to the turbos.

2017 Q50 Red Sport Dyno

2017 Q50 Red Sport 3.0tt Stock Dyno Sheet

We went ahead and also did graphs of increased boost pressure following the factory curve up to max pressure. We assume the lower boost pressure below 4000 RPM is to keep the torque under control for driveability’s sake.

turbo-mapping-vr30ddtt-with-notes

Looking at the chart, one can see that as you increase the maximum boost levels you move out of the efficiency island very quickly. At 17 PSI you move below 60% efficiency at 5500 RPM which is not much worse than stock. However, once we get into the 19 PSI Range you can see us leave efficiency by 5250 RPM. On top of that we are moving over 23.6 lbs/min (or 342 CFM) at 6250 RPM very far outside of the efficiency island. This puts a lot of stress on both the engine and turbos.

So aside from changing the turbos (which there are no upgrades available at this time), what can we do to safely increase power? We believe it is unwise to spin these turbos much past 17 psi in search of a lot more power (at least above 5000 RPM). So with a moderate increase in boost pressure, the name of the power game will be EFFICIENCY (yes I’m sure you’re tired of reading that word).

Restrictions:

With any factory setup, there are going to be restrictions. Some are cost related, some are emissions related, and some are Noise/Vibration/Harshness (NVH) related.

We already know the first restriction point lies in the intakes. Factory intake systems are the first point of emissions and sound control on a car. The STILLEN intakes have already shown impressive gains in the mid-range powerband. This makes sense as the highest efficiency range of the turbo at factory boost levels (and even elevated boost levels) will be in the 3250-5000 RPM range.

The factory exhaust system on the VR30 powered cars is definitely a bottleneck as well. We know the secondary catalytic converters narrow down to 1.5 inches (diameter) just before the cat-back. On top of that the factory cat-back exhaust is a mere 1.75 inches (diameter). Now removing the factory catalytic converters is frowned upon by the EPA, so we can’t recommend changing those out. However, a cat-back exhaust is perfectly legal and voids no warranties (which we are sure most of you know). On top of giving the Q50 & Q60 the exhaust note it deserves, the cat-back greatly increases the efficiency of the turbos by reducing back pressure. This reduction in back pressure reduces the resistance on the turbines and in turn allows them to spool faster and easier. This means for the same given turbine speed, you are able to create more boost (or the same boost) with less heat.

Cooling:

While heat is necessary for an engine to run properly, too much is definitely a bad thing. While on a naturally aspirated motor, a cooler intake charge can greatly improve performance. Forced induction doesn’t yeild as impressive of results. Why is this? The air pulled through the intakes enters the turbo which compresses the air. The compression of air causes an increase in air temperature (see Boyle’s Law and Charles’ Law) which is problematic for internal combustion engines. With most forced induction setups there is an intercooler (or aftercooler) which is located between the turbo and the lower intake manifold. Said intercooler can be either an Air-to-Air or Air-to-Water system. The VR30 uses a pair of Air-to-Water intercoolers. The heat exchanger for the intercoolers (how the heat is removed from the system) is located in front of the radiator behind the grille.

The Red Sport version of the Q50 and Q60 both come with two waterpumps (push-pull) to increase cooling for the intercoolers. This makes sense as the Red Sport boost levels create a lot more heat at higher RPM than the 300 hp version. Knowing that many people will be increasing the boost of both models, everyone could definitely benefit from more cooling. While the intercooler units themselves would be difficult to upgrade since space in the engine bay is quite limited, the heat exchanger up front has some room to grow. Increasing the size of the heat exchanger does two things: allows for more heat to be extracted from the hot fluid, and increases the volume of fluid which increases the overall thermal capacity of the system. While this isn’t the ultimate solution, it would make running higher boost levels (17-18 psi) safer as well as reducing potential heat soak after prolonged aggressive driving.

Tuning:

While there is still a lot of exploring to do when it comes to tuning, there are several things we can see just by looking at the turbo map and dyno sheets. Your biggest gains will all be in the mid-range (2500-5000 RPM) with the stock turbos.

Based on the turbo map, tuning to 18 PSI from 4000-5000 RPM puts you in a very ideal efficiency range for the turbos. Now dropping the boost after 5000 RPM is important as holding too much boost is not ideal for the motor or turbos, but also won’t gain much additional power. This fine tuning of boost pressure adjustment is made easier by the factory electronically controlled wastegate actuators.

400-hp-optimal-turbo-table

q50-stock-boost-vs-optimal-boost1

While we are still waiting on the tuning companies we work with to release official software, we are confident it won’t be much longer. You can bet we are just as anxious to start tuning these cars as you are, but with any new platform the best products take a little time to develop.

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Although we probably won’t be seeing any 600 whp Q50’s or Q60’s without bigger turbos, there is still a lot of potential even on the factory units. Needless to say, we are all working on more ways to make power with this platform. STILLEN is about to release our new intake system for the 3.0t Q50 & Q60 along with our Cat-Back Exhaust for the 3.0t Q50!  Our engineering department has done a lot of work on these products and designed them with the factory setup in mind as well as future upgrades. Stay tuned (pun intended)!

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*From the information we could find from Garrett:
Compressor side: TRIM 55 – A/R 0.46
Turbine side: TRIM 76 – A/R 0.40
Cooling: Oil and Water