Robert Isaak, a self-confessed über-nerd and track racer, brought his modified Model 3 to an electric car event in Bundaberg a couple of weeks ago and told me his remarkable story. I was allowed to share it with my readers CleanTechnica. enjoy.
Written by Robert Isaac
I’ve been a car enthusiast ever since I swapped the engine and gearbox for the first time in a Mitsubishi Sigma over twenty years ago. I’ve been interested in motorsports for over twenty years, too. I ended up with a Sigma turbocharged and put in rally suspension and upgraded brakes.
About fifteen years ago I decided that a petrol car was too inefficient to get me back in place, so I switched to a small motorbike and sold the car. I ended up riding a few motos but I never lost my excitement in modding and in performance riding. I didn’t get into motorsports on bikes, but it was always on my mind. I ended up riding an electric motorcycle during the pandemic and even upgraded to a Braaap MotoE after a while.
I used my twelve years on motorcycles to set aside some money for an all-electric purchase. First I got solar, then an electric mower and sniper, then an electric motorcycle. In 2021 I bought a Tesla Model 3 SR+ and modified it for light performance driving. I went to a few motorkhana and ski days with the Skid Control and loved how well the car performed, while retaining perfect street manners and a very low running cost. Then I bought a second set of wheels and a big set of brakes and took it to Queensland Racecourse to run around the course (which has corners; not drag racing) for a fast day. I was hooked and enjoyed the feeling of part Tesla driving and part BMW of car modification after modification. It was competitive with the naturally aspirated Nissan 350Z and had consistent performance with top 80% battery.
Then, early this year, I received an offer that was too good to turn down on a performance-aggravated Tesla Model 3. The interior smelled a bit, the paint was seldom washed off and full of stone chips, the tires were clearly abused with insufficient pressure, and the bottom seams were full of rocks, leaves and dirt. But I took it for a test drive and the suspension, brakes and steering worked perfectly. It would be a perfect base for mods, so I sold the Model 3 SR+ to buy the Model 3 Performance.
Basically, none of the Model 3 SR+ parts were directly transferrable to the Model 3 Performance, so I started making a list of the parts I wanted in order to build my perfect street car. The goal was total confidence and ability on the racetrack with the big sticky tyres, and a firm but refined (Porsche-style) ride on the street. I had the narrow 18-inch wheels to rid the Model 3’s performance brakes but to allow me to run comfortable and efficient street tires, while the second set of wide 19-inch wheels would let me hit the easy-to-find 275/35R19 tire size for the track.
The parts list is pretty solid. Not much factory suspension stays in the factory at all. As for the brakes, only the calipers are factory when set up for the track.
Parts of a Mountain Pass performance:
- MPP Sports Coilovers
- MPP SuperSports springs (higher spring rate)
- MPP front upper control arms for quick and easy camber adjustment
- MPP front lower control arm ball bearing for significantly stiffer steering
- MPP Front Radius Arm is ball bearing to keep it stable under heavy braking at high speed
- MPP rear drag, trailing, cam, spring arms for tighter rear end and weight savings
- MPP Page Mill directional brake rotors front and rear
- MPP brake lines and Bagged Racing brake pads
- MPP 12 volt lightweight lithium battery
- MPP Partybox and Cooling Party console to customize cooling, traction control, stability control and e-Diff
- Tevo brake master cylinder strut
- White Line adjustable front and rear sway bars
- Performance non-contact rear lip spoiler with movable rear downforce flap (to cancel the inherent lift above approx. 160 km/h)
Wheels and tires:
- Street – Custom 18″ x 8″ forged wheels with 235/45R18 Michelin Primacy 4+ (likely e-Priority if available)
- Track – Custom 19″ x 10″ Alloy Wheels with 275/35R19 Nankang CR-S
When I have a track day, it takes about an hour to change all 4 wheels, adjust all 4 dampers, and increase camber front to 3.6 degrees and rear to 2.6 degrees (with proper alignment). The next morning, it takes the same hour to get the whole car back on the wheels and straighten the streets. I get my cake and eat it too; There’s no tire wear or economy issues for street use, no noisy exhaust, slow turbo, or hard clutch pedal. My partner and my mother-in-law are completely comfortable driving in “cold” mode. It’s a modified sports car without compromise.
Beyond just enjoying motorsports, my big motivation in taking the car to the track (and leaving the racing numbers full time) is to get people to come and talk to me about the car. There are countless articles publishing the environmental qualifications of electric transportation. Sports electric cars target the luxury performance market. I wanted to be an early example of a Tesla driving competitively on the track, and to show people that EVs aren’t the death of motorsports or vehicle modification, and that it’s cool to live with even a modified one.
Overall, I’ve had a surprisingly positive response. For people who haven’t seen him at the track before, I get a mixture of curious and suspicious looks. But after the first session, the car earns more or less universal respect for its performance. Not everyone is convinced sports cars have to be quiet, but on every outing I get one or two people asking more questions than curiosity alone can explain.
Oh, and the teapot is calling out to my fellow über-nerd. My permanent race number is 418. The car is called “Teapot Trixie” with reference to both HTTP status code 418 and a character from Speed Racer – Trixie. Very few people have seen the HTTP 418 status code let alone read its history, but it’s an interesting little piece of Internet history. It is an error code belonging to the Coffee Pot Control Protocol (HTCPCP). This first link tells the story briefly, and the second is a Wikipedia article for more chronology and proper references.
Let’s cheer Rob and his teapot racer on his quest to show that sports cars don’t need to be cool and that electric vehicles can be fast racers.
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