We'd love to tell you how well the Hotchkis Celica slices an apex at the edge of adhesion, but we couldn't push the car fast enough on the street. We've been chasing the Hotchkis Celica for months and even when the scheduling was finally working out, we were just coming in under the wire. The car was in full race configuration with 2.5-inch diameter race coils and a track set-up on shock valving and camber. Getting the car to street trim in the time frame we faced wouldn't be easy. The answer-test the car on the street in road race mode. The only alteration was a more friendly camber setting and swapping the race tires for Yokohama street rubber mounted on purple-centered Advan Model 6 aluminum.
The Toyota rode quite satisfactorily. In fact, we've ridden enough cut-spring-lowered imports to build up quite a database and this car wasn't even in that league. An occasional binding of the coil spring sound was the lone race-only compromise in the system.
Our original plan was to take the car to a Palmdale drag race via twisty Angeles Crest and Angeles Forest highways that snake through the San Gabriel Mountains. But the drag race was the same day the car was slated to battle on the road race circuit. So we'd have to drive the car on our daily commute.
On the road, the first thing to strike us was the steering; it was hyper responsive and had the feedback of a Vulcan mind-meld. The Celica reacted authoritatively to even slight steering inputs. It was quick to turn in, but the chassis remained stable, so when you counter-steered (as in the second turn of an S curve), the car was neutral and balanced between the curves and very tractable in the curves. Just how tractable we couldn't tell because the car was nowhere near the edge of its envelope.
Hotchkis has done its homework-and continues to do so. The company has continued to track test its set-up and used the data obtained beating Porsches and Vipers to update the designs of its street components.
The trickest part is the camber kit with an integral strut tower bar. The piece is fully polished, so it looks as good as it performs. The springs, struts and anti-roll bars are components that reap the benefits of Hotchkis' aggressive track testing program. Racing is about balance and control; on the street, it takes balance and control within the confines of ride quality.
As tested, the Hotchkis Celica provides all the strengths of track adhesion with acceptable ride quality. It's a bit stiff, but it doesn't pound your kidneys into submission. Additionally, the Celica was fitted with a Stoptech brake upgrade to allow for late braking on the track and an extra safety advantage on the street.
Experiencing a race set-up on the street was educational, but we're not through. We plan to put the Celica to the test again, only this time in full street attire. We'll also attack that same mountain road we proposed the first time around and we'll find the edge. You can take that to the bank.