Alex Racing Club Enthuse 4: Mid-motor Japanese exotic
Regardless of drive-train type, most touring cars have the batteries somewhere in the middle of the chassis and the motor mounted behind them, but that trend could be changing. With their mid-mounted motors. the Team Los! Street Weapon and OFNA OB-4 stand out as exceptions, and the latest arrival in my touring car fleet also has its motor ahead of the batteries. The Alex Racing* Club Enthuse 4 (CE4) is a unique mid-motor design that puts the motor up near the steering bellcranks with its upper layshaft above the motor and the batteries close together in the rear. The suspension is similar to other A-arm cars . but Alex has incorporated a few new features there, too. Let’s see what makes the Alex car unique, and more important. let’s see whether these features work on the track.
* DATA CENTER
VEHICLE TYPE iho-scale electric 4WD touring sedan
BEST BUYER Experienced racers looking for a competition sedan
KIT RATINGS (poor, satisfactory, good, very good, excellent)
Instructions Not reviewed. Our test sample was sent directly from Japan with a Japanese instruction manual. U.S. kits may come with an Englishlanguage version.
Parts fit/finish Good
Overall performance Good
LIST PRICE $450
Wheelbase 10.07 in. (255.8mm)
With 7.37 in. (187.2mm)
Tota, as -estal 53 oL (1,506g)
did Woven carbon fiber
Type Dual-belt 4WD
Driv shafts CV-style axle
Differentials IF/RI Torque splitter/ball
Bearing type Metal-shielded hearings
Type Lower A-arm w/adjustable upper link
Oil-filled coil-over aluminum shocks
Type 5-spoke, one-piece plastic
LU lightweight nylon outdrives.
* CV-style axles.
* Precision-machined aluminum components.
* Sturdy woven carbon-fiber chassis and towers.
* Flimsy suspension arms.
Spur gear isn’t included.
Optional parts required for full-time 4WD.
* Chassis. The CE4 features a double– deck woven-carbonfiber chassis, but its design is unlike other race cars’. The CE4 is a mid-motor car; that means that the motor is behind the steering bellcranks and in front of the batteries. Depending on gear selection, a slot under the motor mount allows the motor to sit low in the chassis. Behind the motor is the section where the electronics are mounted, and this section has more cutouts-this time, to reduce weight. The saddle– pack-battery slots bring the pair of 3-cells close to the center to reduce chassis roll; strapping tape holds the cells in place. The upper deck is a narrow carbon-fiber plate that has a tab for the antenna holder. The deck spans from the center to the rear bulkhead and also plays host to the belt guide. The guide tensions the belt and raises it enough to allow the batteries to fit beneath.
* Drive train. Like most touring cars, the Club Enthuse 4 uses a dual-belt design. The machined– aluminum front bulkheads are the stars of the show. The large pieces house the motor and layshaft and then arch over the bellcranks to grab the front diff. Actually, it isn’t really a differential, since it’s equipped with one-way bearings in a purple-anodized aluminum housing for each steel outdrive. Likewise, the layshaft pulley that spins the “diff” is equipped with a one-way bearing. This arrangement is commonly referred to as a “torque sputter,” but it isn’t used in most stateside racing, where fulltime 4WD is preferred. Unfortunately, the oneway layshaft pulley can’t be locked out, so you’ll have to replace it along with the front-drive pulley assembly if you want 4WD with front and rear differentials. If you wish to go this route, just pick up an additional rear diff-it will drop right in, and it’s a nice piece. The outdrives are machined of lightweight nylon to reduce rotating mass, and their closed ends prevent the halves from splitting under acceleration. The diff rings are notched and keyed to the outdrives.
The rest is pretty much a conventional ball diff: bearing supports, a thrust bearing, a pulley and a locknut with spring. For easier battery installation, the long rear belt snakes through a pulley before it gets to the diff, and a short belt transfers power to the front. Universal axles with CV– style joints (who doesn’t copy MIP CVDs these days?) transfer power from the center drive train out to the wheels, and all the parts turn on shielded ball bearings. The only thing missing from the drive train is a spur gear. Now, I know that this is a racecar, and I can understand that it doesn’t include tires, body, or electronics, but no spur gear? C’mon.
* Suspension. The CE4’s suspension is a combination both of innovative and conventional components. Starting up front from the inside, the black-anodized machined-aluminum arm supports are separate from the center bulkhead. They capture plastic pivot balls that support the hinge pins. Long suspension arms (that is, long for a 190mm car) hold the hub carriers and steering knuckles. These parts and the rear arms are molded in soft plastic, which is good for durability but not very good if you want precise handling. Other parts-such as the two-piece rear hubs-are more solid. A machined-aluminum block supports the axle bearings, and a graphite plate attached to the block reaches toward the chassis to grab the camber links. The links are adjustable steel turnbuckles threaded into captured ball ends. Thick, woven-carbon-fiber shock towers are bolted to the purple-anodized aluminum front and rear bulkheads. Dual cap shocks feature aluminum bodies, titanium-nitride-coated shafts and double O-ring seals. The dual cap design allows you to build the shock from the bottom up so that you’ll trap less air inside. You’ll also be able to bleed excess oil out through a screw hole in the cap. Heavy springs and an assortment of preload clips round out the suspension package.
* Steering. Alex “borrowed” the steering bellcranks from Yokomo’s MR-4 series. The main bellcrank incorporates an adjustable servo-saver with both sides supported by brass bushings. Because the steering servo is behind the motor, Alex supplies a long turnbuckle to reach the front-mounted bellcrank.
* Body, wheels and tires. The CE4 does not come with a body, but I had just received the new Protoform* Chrysler 300M body, which not only looks cool but also appears to have excellent aerodynamics. I painted mine with Parma* FasKolor paints and mounted it on the car. The kit does include a set of yellow 5-spoke rims, but it doesn’t come with inserts or tires. I started with a set of new Ride* RS Belted Type J28 slicks with HPI* hard inserts in the front and medium-soft in the rear.
I went to my home track, RC Madness in Enfield, CT, for one of the season’s last outdoor meets. I went out on the track with a summer setup: SSV%7T oil in the front, 45WT in the rear; warmweather tires with hard inserts in the front, medium in the rear. I also installed the optional ball diff for the front and locked the center one-way bearing. The track at Madness is pretty tight, and one-ways just never work.
I hit the throttle, and the car whined as it took off; the diffs were obviously too loose. I rolled the car slowly around the track for one more lap to allow the notched diff rings to seat themselves in the Delrin diff halves. I pulled in, tightened the front and rear diffs and went back out to finish my practice pack. The car was very responsive to the slightest steering input, but when it came to taking a hard turn, it just slid. This was most likely because of the cold weather, but even so, the CE4 was nimble, and I was able to gather it up and successfully negotiate the course.
I went back to the pits to change to a cold-weather setup. To “soften” the car and gain traction, I put Losi* 45WT oil up front and 40WT in the rear. I also switched to Pro-Line* wheels, tires and inserts (see the “Setup” sidebar). Back on the track, the car handled a lot better with only slight on-power push, but when I let off with a little coaster brake dialed in, I was able to make my way quickly around the tight corners.
What about durability? you ask. Here’s a durability story for you: I was in the middle of practice just rounding a corner dot and preparing to accelerate down the straight when another driver decided to practice. He turned on his radio with-you guessed it-the same channel as I was using. The CE4 went full tilt into a semi-raised corner dot and smashed the front end. It then continued straight into the cement barrier on the outside of the straight. It rolled away unscathed, but my beautiful 300M body looked as if it had just been run over by a Mack truck.
At the track, the Alex Racing CE4 was the subject of a lot of “What the?” comments, and they were generally followed by “Cool!” With its precision– machined- aluminum and graphite parts, the CE4 is a well-crafted car. My only complaint is about the car’s soft plastic suspension components. They may have been the culprits behind the car’s push during my track test. This flaw can easily be fixed with Alex’s aftermarket “hard” arm sets, which I have already installed but have not had time to test (look for a follow-up report soon-probably with carpet testing). If you’re looking for a highly tunable, one-of-a-kind racecar with good handling characteristics, check out the Alex Racing Club Enthuse 4.
*Addresses are listed alphabetically in “Featured Manufacturers” on page 256.
Copyright Air Age Publishing Jan 2001
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