The demographics of PRI cater heavily to the dirt track crowd and drag racing community. The road racing contingent is represented, albeit in a limited fashion. When we happened upon the rework-in progress from Lovefab we had to take a knee and admire the savagery of this purpose-built hill climber.
Located in its primary sponsor booth Vibrant Performance, this naked tube-chassis racer bared-all for us to analyze and admire. Lovefab owner Cody Loveland has come a long way with this car ,and has transformed it a few times in it’s lifespan.
“This is the reincarnation of the version we ran in 2013 that we crashed heavily after a suspension failure. It’s taken two years with life getting in the way. We’ve designed all new suspension and dropped a lot of weight,” explained Loveland.
The tubular chassis exhibits the fabrication style and triangulation of an open-wheel desert race car — no surprise when considering the condition of the road surface on the infamous Pikes Peak Hill climb.”We built the whole chassis in-house at Lovefab, and had some help with the engineering side to double-check some of the strength stuff,” elaborated Loveland.
When we inquired about the genesis of the Enviate, Loveland explained the Japanese roots of the little mid-engined monster. “The 2013 car was based on an NSX, it was actually a tube-chassis that used NSX subframes, and NSX suspension. We chopped all that off and everything is brand new.” he said.
The compactness of this platform is stunning. With the engine and trans tucked right up to the the rear firewall and the cockpit as tight as a child’s seat, the overall footprint of the Enviate is modest, perfect for the unforgiving bends of Colorado. Keeping the weight to a minimum Loveland stated, “We’re about 1,800 pounds right now, I can drop another 50 pounds or so by changing some components.”
Goals for this custom car are pretty clear cut — record-setting insanity up the slopes of a rocky hillside. “This is an unlimited class car so we are shooting for the eight-minute range. I’m probably not going to drive it, I’m going to put a hired-gun in there,” explained Loveland.
The twin turbocharged mid-engine drivetrain of this open class hill climber is nothing vanilla. A forced induction V8 helps to combat to increasingly thin air as the climb elevates machines a vertical mile from start to finish.
“The motor is a truck motor, it’s out of an Escalade — it’s an LQ9 with a stock bottom end but, dry-sumped, boost cam , valve springs, head gaskets, and studs to keep the heads on. With six pounds of boost it makes 550 horsepower and 575 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. We should be able to turn it up to 10 or 12 pounds and be well over 700 horsepower,” Loveland said.
“The Garrett GTX3576 I used in the last iteration and did really well for spool time at elevation,” said Loveland.
Electronics to control an engine of this magnitude are an important component when it comes to efficient running.
“Haltech stepped up with its 2,500 Elite plug and play system, we had a Haltech Sport 2000 system but after the 2013 incident and fire the system was irreparable apart from the ECU,” detailed Loveland.
The final demands of the car are aesthetic and aerodynamic. With a full composite shell looming in the future, the rough chassis will soon be obscured by flowing curves. “The body is the next major hurtle, we have a friend of an F1 team that’s helping in his spare time, we’ll get the foam plugs made and start pulling molds soon. We’ll do the body ourselves,” projected Loveland.
The suspension for this single-seater is derived from the ultra high-performance arrangements of Formula 1 and IndyCar contemporaries. Pushrod-actuated QA1 coilovers are mounted cleverly to provide independent damping and roll control.
“Each wheel has it’s own shock, and the black vertical bar is the actual sway bar. When both shocks activate it compresses the third (center) shock, which is a down-force shock. The car is going to make three to four tons of downforce,” boasted Loveland.
Stopping power for this high power-to-weight racer comes courtesy of Stoptech brakes made for the original Honda donor. “It actually uses NSX wheel bearings and shifter so I carried over those brakes and built my own knuckles to work with an NSX big brake kit,”he said.
The challenge of making the climb to the summit is no trivial nine-minute run. The drops are unforgiving, the corners harsh, and the surface unpredictable. Plans to expand the driver aides will no doubt improve safety and driver confidence. “Pikes Peak is not a road course, it’s an oily, greasy road, and every year I’ve gone there and it rains or snows, so traction control can save your life,” concluded Loveland.
We are always excited to see exotic applications for both domestic and import platforms. The combination of NSX and GM components is surely a combination with potential. We look forward the the 100th anniversary of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb in 2016, and wish luck to Cody and his team.