Category Archives: 5. Triumph TR4

Question of Weight

The proverbial question of weight.  The less weight one has to carry around, the faster and nimbler one will be.  Take a look at professional cyclists – small dudes (on really lightweight carbon bikes).  Take a look at Formula 1 cars – they are piloted by small dudes (on really lightweight carbon cars).  See a pattern here?

Back in the 50’s a fellow by the name of Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman founded an automotive house that specialized in extremely lightweight cars powered by (of all things) twincam inline four cylinder engines of small displacement.  No, they did not have carbon back then – they had aluminium.  Lotus Cars became a major force in the automotive world, producing very quick and nimble cars.  Basically he proved that very lightweight cars could be extremely competitive…  The holy grail: the lighter a car is, the quicker it will not only accelerate but it will stop.

TR4 on scales

Well, the ECOTEC TR4 was built based on this premise.  If you look close enough at the photo above you will see things that are not in your average TR4:  for one, the hard top; then the bonnet is missing the ‘bulge’ and believe it or not, the boot lid is not ‘original’.  All of these three components have been hand crafted from aluminium.  To save even more weight, the glass in the hardtop shown above is not exactly glass…  It is plex.

Close inspection of the pic above also shows the ECOTEC TR4 sitting on scales.  The silver case in the middle holds a Longacre automotive scale.  This is where things get interesting.  I’m sure you know where I’m going here.  So what is the total weight of this car?

Let’s start at the front, shall we?

Front weight

That is it:  984 lbs, 47.2% of the total weight is on the front wheels.

Not let’s take a look at the rear:

Rear weight

That is 1099 lbs, 52.7% of total weight is on the rear wheels.

And finally, the total:

Total weight

Total weight:  2083 lbs.  Now keep in mind a few things:  the frame is brand new, made from scratch.  The ECOTEC is all aluminium and the car was put on  scales with an oversize fuel tank, 90% full.  Not bad huh?

Comments?  Questions?  Let me know…


Running ‘codes’ on an ECOTEC

The ECOTEC in the TR4 is performing like a champ.  However, we had our first ‘oh shait’ moment.  The thing started missing under acceleration and given that is is a four banger, having 25% of all power missing intermittently makes a big deal.  Time to scratch the noggin’…

Well, this is where the thing really gets interesting.  We’ve had plenty of experience with all sorts of fuel injected GM engines – from the humble”throttle body” to the L98 TunedPort to the legendary LT1/LT4 and let’s not forget the awesome LSx family and last but not least the L32 in bowtie6.  Some of these can be fiddled with by changing ‘chips’ (L98 and TunedPort) while others like the LTx and LSx family can be modified with laptops and software.  And the oddball, the L32 – well he is pretty much hosed.  That poor critter is so old school that no software exists to fiddle with him.  Bugger.  🙁

Scanning some of the OBD I engines was simple enough:  jump the appropriate ALDL connector terminals and watch the MIL blink.  Count how many times it flashes and look it up.  Voila!  On L98’s, LTx’s, LSx’s, L32’s…  We’ve used several code readers – the last one we bought was pretty slick but it did not allow for tuning the ECM’s.

Ah, but for the ECOTEC…  Now we are talking!  HPTuners offers one very awesome software package and that is one more advantage about using this particular engine.  And, it can be used on the LTx’s and LS’x too.  So back to my original post…

We hooked up our  trusted laptop running HPTuners and we were able to scan for codes.  Sure enough, the thing showed we had an engine misfire.  But this is where it gets pretty cool:  not only did it confirm the misfire, it was smart enough to tell us which coil was causing the misfire – the coil on number 1 cylinder was the culprit.  We promptly changed it, cleared existing “DTC’s” and off we went.  Problem solved.

The point I’m  trying to make here is that with the proper tools, diagnosing FI is not rocket science.  Folks make this to be a great mystery.  I’ve heard from so many folks through the years that if has a “computer” it is not worth messing with.  Adding insult to injury, I’ve read of folks stripping the FI system off L32’s and replacing that with a “Holley”.  Oh dear…

What is an ECOTEC Powered TR4 Like?

In my post the other day about the ECOTEC TR4, I mentioned a video.  Got one to share – it is short and wobbly, but you’ll get the idea.  Now, before we get started keep in mind a few things:

  • Note how quiet the TR4 is.  Video was made with the windows up and the aluminium hardtop in place.
  • The engine has a redline of about 6500 revs.  You can hear the engine spool up and the powerband is indeed very sweet!
  • Some sorting out of the rear springs has to be made.  The car is a little bouncy.  The front is dead on, but a new set of rear springs has been ordered that will certainly make things even nicer
  • The ECOTEC has a handmade header.  It dumps into a 2.5″ pipe attached to a single baffled muffler and at the end a special made adapter with Supertrapp discs.  The Supertrapps really are nice and enable fine tuning of how much exhaust noise you want.  I think this one is spot on.

Well take a look…

I made this video with my iPhone4; it is not exactly great but you get the idea.  Hopefully I’ll post a better video in the next few days.

Hope you found this interesting.  The ECOTEC is indeed a very viable and excellent performing engine.  You have comments?  Questions?  Sure would like to hear from you, just fill in the “Comment” box below.

Riding and Driving the ECOTEC TR4

We have been riding and driving the ECOTEC TR4 on the road and it is quite simply amazing!

Today, I had a chance to finally ride and drive it.  As with every project it will need some debugging, adjusting and fine tuning but out of the box I can tell you it is one awesome ride.  Quite frankly, I can’t wait to get the 4 mile crate ECOTEC in bowtie6.

So what is it like?  The powerband on the ECOTEC is quite impressive.  Add to that a very lightweight body and you got yourself a very nimble sports car.  The 2.4 litre version is the way to go – the extra torque over the 2.2 is very pronounced and the extra hp’s are very welcome too.  The gearbox is quite amazing.  This is an Aisin five speed and it shifts very quick – the gear spacing will take some getting used to.  Another thing that will take some getting used to will be the clutch.  It travels very little before it engages.  It is not bad, just different.

The ECOTEC is fly by wire.  This means the gas pedal is not connected directly to the butterfly in the throttle body via cable.  Instead, the pedal is wired to the ECM and then the ECM tells the throttle body how much to open or close.  This is the exact same setup in my wife’s Chevy HHR.  This is very nice indeed!

I know all these words mean nothing unless they are backed up with a video.  No.  I don’t have one today, but maybe next weekend if the weather cooperates I’ll be able to make one and post it here.  So stay tuned…

Folks, the days of the 3.4 V6 as an option in British cars are over.  I can’t explain how awesome this four cylinder engine really is.  This engine revs to about 3500RPM’s very tamely.  The fun really begins around 4000RPM’s when the variable valve timing kicks in.  From there up to about 6500 (where the rev limiter jumps in) is just awesome – it really pushes you back in the seat.  Of course, the rev limiter will be coming out as soon as we can hook up a laptop and make a few ‘adjustments’.  That will be fun!

ECOTEC Powered TR4

ECOTEC engines in British sports cars are a reality.  These engines offer great power-to-weight, excellent mileage and a wonderful exhaust note.  Folks, this is the way to go when modifying a British sports car.  The proof of concept was my cousin Jim’s TR4.  He has been working on this car for a couple of years, and little by little it has become a reality.  There are so many awesome things about this car!

The frame is hand built.  This is the same design that is being used for bowtie6‘s new frame.  My frame will be a simpler version of the one on the TR4 but basically will consist of the basic principle:  square tubing, modified TR6 front suspension, and a 4 point suspension rear axle with posi-traction.

The TR4’s body has been left stock, except for the bonnet, boot lid and hard top.  These components have been hand-made out of aluminium.  Yes, aluminium.  The main directive for the TR4 was to make it as light as possible and by making these body panels from aluminium a great deal of weight was saved.

The engine is an ECOTEC 2.4 litre and matching five speed from a Solstice.  Last year, the car was tested with the smaller 2.2 litre version.  We found the engine to be awesome and very responsive.  The ECM had to be fiddled with a little, but the result was quite impressive.  If you want to see a video of the car at that time, check this out:  ECOTEC TR4 video

Pretty cool huh?  Well – that was done about a year ago and showed the car in pretty rough state.  It was in primer, things were not bolted down tight, the interior was missing and the wiring was still being worked on.  Some 1500 miles were put on the car by Jim and all pointed in the right direction:  the care was lightweight, very responsive and the frame provided a very tight, solid feel.

The TR4 was fully disassembled, this time for its final assembly including a new 2.4 litre ECOTEC, paint and interior.  This time it is for real!  After many months of work, this is what the first ECOTEC powered  TR4 looks like: