Projects & Trip Reports > Trips

Elwood Road [June 7th, 2010]

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Now that my car is running great, it's time to get out and start driving it!

The first trip I took was up Elwood Road. Click here for a map of the route

1st pic: Here I am heading down Belmont Ave

2nd pic: The crazy Nazzi farm at the far side of Hidden Valley at the bottom of the steep hill where all the fun begins.

3rd & 4th pic: Parked along side HWY180 in Squaw Valley. Notice the 20V PWR plate is still there. This is after "running out of time" at the referee on Monday. My moving permit was still valid so I had to put it to good use you know!

5th pic: Dropping down HWY180. This drive would be better to go up and then right back down, but I was very low on gas so I had to bail out.

The lack of pictures prove that this drive was AWESOME. Also, I was pretty nervous and was continuously checking gauges and listening to the engine; I was too involved to take pics!

Everything on the car is working PERFECTLY.

The road is a GREAT road, but unfortunately there are a lot of wild life and cow crossings. I had to slow down for two horses in the road, and also had to slow down twice for two different incidents of cattle in the road. On the 2nd incident, I had to drive between a calf and her mother(?) and I was moving slowly as to not scare them, that I thought they might ram my car. There would have been nothing I could have done, they would have badly dented the MR2 for sure.

Other than that, this road is great, however these concerns do trouble me... The cattle crossings are HORRIBLE, I have to slow to about 15 or 20 or else the rear suspension bottoms out really bad. And beings how old my Tokiko Illumas are, and the fact that I don't want to replace them, I don't want to abuse the suspension like that.

But let me tell you. There are 3 or 4 really great sharp right hand uphill 2nd gear hair pin turns. And mid way through the turn in 2nd gear, once I can feel the suspension settle and I can feel the balance, I can really lay down some power and on the 3rd corner I did a very small power drift! It was sweet! It was very small and the drift went away really quick and the rear end locked back on its track with a small jerk. hahahah I love it! Just need a bit more power at that RPM (or a bit less rear weight) and I could really rip out of those corners like that.

Also, if you noticed my fuel gauge above, I was low on fuel. By the time I was coming back down on 180, I lost a considerable amount of power. The engine would still rev, but it would go completely flat. I feared I jacked something up, but I also knew it could just be a lot of debris in the tank that was finally breaking loose from all the fuel sloshing around. And sure enough, when I got a full tank back in there, it ran full bore and pulled hard again.

Road ratings (0 out of 5)
Click here for Google Map of route
Total Distance of road: 5.4 miles
Time of day: 5-6pm
Weather: Clear, low 80s

Road Conditions...
Access from my house: 5 (27 miles from my driveway)
Quality of pavement: 4
Smoothness of road: 2 (the road is great but the cattle crossings suck)
Cleanness of road: 4 (There was very little dirt on the road, definitely not a factor)
Width of road: 2
Accident avoidance: 2 (If you make a mistake, there is no shoulder room so you'll eat cake really quick)
Visibility: 2 (blind corners abound)

Frequency of other traffic: 5 (I only saw two trucks coming down the road the whole time, that was it)
Frequency of corners: 5 (the road continuously dishes em out)
Steepness of grade: 4
Amount of uphill: 5
Amount of downhill: 0
My ability to handle this road: 3 (I need more practice on a really tight & windy road like this)
My MR2's ability to handle this road: 4 (Surprisingly the MR2 is quick through the slow speed corners here. Is it because it's uphill?)

Mechanically Speaking... (no rated scale)
Average gear: 3.3 (A couple times I wasn't sure to use 3rd or 4th. The SC torque band picked up the slack and pulled hard in 4th at lower RPMs. Dancing the RPMs in 3rd gear would result in a blistering fast time up the road, but I do not know the road that well to use the full potential of 3rd gear here)
Average constant cornering speed: 30 MPH
Fastest Straight-a-way Speed: Room to go 70+ on a couple uphill straights
Slowest Corner Speed: 10 MPH in 2nd gear

Overall Impression...
Thrill factor: 5
Would I drive it again: 4 (I can't blame the animals from this 1 experience, and the cattle crossings are something I have control over by simply slowing down for them)
Tougue factor: 5 (this road would really expose driver and car skill differences)
Final Road Rating: 4

Close to home
Lots of corners
Steep grade
Really tests car and driver

Very short at only 5.4 miles long
Wild life
Cattle Crossings
Little room for mistakes

Since I've not attacked the hills like this in over half a decade, here are some other things I noticed

Once my brakes warm up they become 500% better. For some reason I don't remember this from the past. About 1/4 of the way up the hill I noticed my brakes all of a sudden just totally came alive and they FREAK'N WORK GREAT. I _LOVE_ the Supercharged brake booster, wow the brakes are amazing on this car.

I really noticed the close ratio 3rd and 4th gearing of the AE89's C56 transaxle. I never got enough seat time in the past with this transaxle. 3rd gear is most apparent; it is indeed close to 2nd gear. 3rd-->4th gear is more of a stretch than 2nd-->3rd (makes sense for any 5 speed manual trans). I really like the engagement point of 3rd gear. Because 3rd gear is a lower ratio, I don't have to rev 2nd gear as high to find 3rd gear: 3rd gear seems to always be ready to go. A short shift to 4th gear is noticeable, however. It will be nice to get the 6 speed in here. Man oh man I am looking forward to the 6 speed.

These tires are very old, the front right is the worst. It is sun rotted and has cracks in it. I wasn't sure how they would do, but once I got into it and got some miles down, I stopped caring about them. But I need to get new tires soon, but I gotta save up $350 first :o Dang...
Also, the tires are not balanced and the death-wobble resonates around 55-60 MPH which really sucks

Steering is great. The feedback through the wheel is exceptional. I can precisely feel the car begin to understeer.
One thing I noticed is that even though the car is understeering, if I input even more steering, the car somehow manages to turn in more. It's already pushing and then if you force more steering, it somehow deals with the understeer on its own. This is another thing I do not remember from when I was younger. I remember when the car would understeer, that was it, it would hold that cornering angle until you eased the throttle or removed steering. I remember that additional steering input would only result is pissing the tires off. Hmmmm

This is a strange feeling, このかんじ。。。 I certainly do not believe I can drive the car better than before, but I feel I can identify more with the car. It's like I understand the feedback better, or it's like I know what the car is trying to tell me. I don't remember this from the past, at least it wasn't as obvious to me... I know it's difficult to express this from only my first mountain attack, but something feels fundamentally different to me...

Wow, I just found out Google Maps has this road documented.

1st pic: One of the couple 2nd gear hair pin corners

2nd pic: What a lot of the corners look like: right turn into a blind left turn

This looks like a great road to do some spirited driving on.
While you're on the 6 spd topic, if you could source out a reasonably priced 6 speed swap for my sc300 I would be indebted for life ;)


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