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Project 2004 Saab 9-2X: Part 5

Brakes and other odds and ends

Jay Chen
Aug 25, 2005 SHARE

In our rush to get Project 9-2X to perform and show off its capabilities, we neglected to talk about all the other odds and ends that had been put into the car. Though some of them don't necessarily lend to the vehicle's performance stats, they are worth mentioning. Let's face it, we're european car and we should put a little fluff into our project vehicles. If it was just brainless performance we were after, we would have spray painted the car flat black, swapped in a Subaru Impreza STi motor and called it a day. We also ran into some real world complications being that this is a real world project car. Even magazine projects have their fair share of issues. Read on and find out.

Brakes
The most notable improvement we made this installment was the addition of Rotora's four-piston front big brake upgrade. One of our biggest gripes were the brakes. Though it stopped just fine, pedal feel and modulation weren't in this car's vocabulary. The brakes were either on or off which made for a jerky ride. On top of that, the free pedal play with the stock brakes further took away from its sporty feel.

The Rotora brake upgrade uses a dual piston (opposing fixed mounted caliper design) and a two-piece 13 inch diameter slotted rotor. The caliper is cast aluminum with a carbon-steel mounting bracket, reducing the overall unsprung weight while remaining robust enough to minimize caliper deflection under braking. The kit also includes ceramic brake pads and braided stainless-steel brake lines. We also upgraded the rears with Rotora slotted rotors. These upgrades mad a marked improvement in the brake feel both on the street and the track. Rotora also makes a four-pot caliper upgrade for the rear and a six-pot front kit for more serious applications.

Taking advantage of the opportunity at hand, we went and tested the Saab's braking capabilities to see if the big brakes really worked. I had already taken the liberty of testing the 80 to zero mph braking distance in stock configuration and with the new wheels and tires. It was interesting to see how much of a difference tires made in braking. I expected the absolute braking distance to be better with the Kumho tires, but not necessarily improve with the brake upgrade. Braking with an ABS system means your tires are the limiting factor to your stopping distance. Though the new tires were much stickier, the Rotora brakes actually posted longer absolute stopping distances.

Not all is lost though. The reality is that big brakes often do not stop as fast as stock brakes, but they also don't cook as fast. That's really the point of a big brake upgrade: more thermal mass and a more convective surface. We managed to cook our stock brakes after three hard braking runs while the Rotora setup kept consistent numbers for at least twice as many runs before the pedal started going to the floor. Had we upgraded the rear pads and lines, the added braking balance would have also increased the overall performance.

Wheels, tires and fender rolling
Wheels? Well, sorta. More appropriately wheel repair. Without going into details, one of the Work VS-SS wheels had a clandestine encounter with a curb that resulted in a five inch wide flat spot, something deemed irreparable by most in their right minds. Replacing the wheel wasn't in our budget and would take a month while a new custom wheel was built. After several depressing prognosesoeveryone we went to said the wheel couldn't be fixedothe miracle workers at Shoreline Motoring came to the rescue. In only five days (normally three for less catastrophic dents) the car was returned with the damaged wheel more polished and balanced than the remaining three.

Part of the reason behind the bent wheel were the recent rains and some near-bald tires. The Kumho MX tires on the car at the time had been tracked so much hardly any tread was left. (Some overzealous driving on my part might have also been a factor. We call it running out of talent.) While the Saab was at Shoreline, they replaced the aged Kumhos with Continental's ContiSportContact 2 Max Grip tires. Although the grip and handling on the MX rubber is fantastic, the stiff sidewalls made the ride too loud and bumpy. Since the upper suspension upper mounts couldn't be replaced with rubber mounts, I opted for a more conservative tire in an attempt to reduce cabin noise, the Contis because of their wide acceptance as an O.E. tire on many of Europe's best platforms. Though often ignored, the Contact 2s are great street tires with the right combination of grip and overall comfort. This tire is a better fit for our touring wagon, with plenty of grip on the street and a softer, quiter ride, though the Kumhos would still be better for the track.

Shoreline also rolled the rear fenders for added tire clearance and race aligned the car to our specifications. The technicians were able to bend the fender lip completely back without having to repaint the entire section.

Bolstering the driveline
In preperation for more power, the driveline required bolstering. The clutch is usually the first thing to give way on an all-wheel drive platform. Stickier tires and more power means that whatever is in between it will have to give. We called Advanced Clutch Technologies (ACT) for its SB3-HDOO street clutch, rated for 411 ft-lb of torque, and the accompanying XACT Street Lite flywheel. Compared to the stock 23.7-pound flywheel, the 13.9-pound Steet Lite unit frees up that much more power to accelerate the car, and not the flywheel. In lower gears, the advantages are definitely noticeable. If you do the math and calculate the change in rotational inertia, the car should act like it lost more than 250 pounds, if you believe the math.

ACT's street clutch has a heavy pedal by O.E. standards because it was designed for the WRX enthusiast. It feels right for aggressive driving, but in traffic it got tiring. Be warned if you're thinking about installing this. ACT can also custom build a clutch that might require less effort, but we were in a rush to get on the road.

Wipers, Lights and a turbo timer
We take the fair weather around here for granted. How good our wipers are is literally the last thing on our minds. Recent rains have changed that. With another storm system rolling in, we made a quick call to PIAA and acquired a set of the new Super Sporza Silicon wipers. With the windshield properly pre-treated using the solution provided with the kit, the Sporza wipers perform as well as the flexible wipers found on high-end Audis and VWs, a pretty impressive upgrade for a small investment.

One of the little things that's been bothering me about Project Saab was the lack of side signal lights, a telling sign that the 9-2X doesn't have true European origins, and something that just isn't safe. Saab provided a set of side markers, bulbs and harness plugs from the 9-3 parts bin. We had these and the taillights treated with Wet Works' proprietary Street Tint treatment. Though they were tight lipped about it, what we could figure out is that it's a paint ing process that doesn't require color sanding or polishing and gives a mirror-like, fade-free, semi-transparent surface. Audio Designs, our go-to guys for mobile electronics, installed the side markers for us by creating a custom harness and cutting each fender. We spliced the side marker wires into the front turn signal wires.

Knowing how hot we keep the turbo, it was about time to install a turbo timer so we don't have to wait inside the car until the turbo cooled off. A'PEXi supplied a compact turbo timers for the job. The beauty of this piece is the display's inconspicuous size and the added voltmeter and theoretical air/fuel ratio display functions. The timer uses the car's stock shortband oxygen sensor to determine the A/F ratio and samples it in the automatic time-down mode. Using a Subaru turbo timer harness from HKS, the installation was a simple plug-and-play deal. We didn't wire up the O2 sensor function because we'll be using a wide-band oxygen sensor when the new turbo is installed.

More hidden horsepower
Next time we'll go in search for more hidden horsepower with a Random Technologies 3-inch downpipe, and we'll test if an upgraded grounding system works. Hopefully we'll have our prototype turbo by then, too.

Braking results
 Stock brakes and stock tiresStock Brakes and 18 inch Kumho MX tiresRotora 4 piston upgrade and 18 inch Kumho MX tires
80-0 mph braking distance 220 ft214 ft223 ft
Front Caliper Weight (per corner)14.2o lb 9.7 lb
Front rotor weight (per corner)13.{{{90}}} lb 12.9 lb
Rotor Diameter11.5 inch 13 inch

At a Glance
Estimated time: 10hr @ $99/hr = $990

Upgrade Costs
Wheel repair: $165.00
Fender rolling: $140.00/axle
Competition alignment: $129.00
Mounting and balancing: $98.00
Wet Works taillight street tint: $125.00
ACT SB3-HDOO XACT Street Clutch: $621.00
ACT 600175 XACT Street Lite Flywheel: $293.00
A'PEXi Timer: $119.00
Continental ContiSportContact 2 225/40YR18: $171.00 x4
HKS turbo timer wiring harness: $18.00
PIAA Super Sproza Wiper: $24.99 x2
Total: $3431.98

Project Timeline
Feburary 2005
Part 1: Project intro and Saab optional partsWe got familiar with project 9-2X and picked out our likes and dislikes. We also tried on some optional parts from Saab's Accessories list.

March 2005
Part 2: Electronics, gadgets and navigation.The 9-2X received some refinement with the installment of a stereo, navigation system, back-up sensors and an auto dimming central mirror.

April 2005
Part 3: Suspension and wheels.We finally got to the fun part and significantly improved the Saab's handeling with Work wheels, Kumho tires, GT Spec chassis reinforcements, anti-sway bars from H-Sport and a custom tuned adjustable suspension from Tein.

June 2005
Part 4: Bolt-on power and tuningProject Saab made it a quarter way to our power target of 300 whp with the addition of a cold-air intake, exhaust and some serious tuning by XS Engineering using EcuTek's programmable software.

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By Jay Chen
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