There is a line in the sand that separates the likes of “kit cars” from other low-production race cars like those of famed marques including Lola, Dallara, Reynard and more. The distinguishing factors that decide which camp a car falls into are usually pretty obvious and include advanced engineering and design, homologation, setup support and other provenance racers demand.
At the 2016 PRI show in Indianapolis, we discovered a car that blurs the identity lines between kit car and pure-bred racer. With a price tag firmly in kit car territory, the Superlite Aero offers nearly LeMans Prototype levels of performance and a design foundation worthy of that acclaim.
“This is a gentleman’s club racecar that can run in NASA or SCCA. It’s an American-made car, made in Detroit. The car is powered by a 490 horsepower LS3 developed by Katech, and power is transferred through a Graziano 6-speed transaxle,” introduced Fran Hall of Superlite Cars.
“This is one of 18 different models of cars we manufacture, all different. We have two companies, one is Race Car Replicas where we build GT-40s, Lola T70s, Porsche 917s, and then Superlite Cars are my original design; we have the Superlite Coupe, an off-road Baja truck, and this car.”
With a mid-engined layout, packaging other subsystems was paid equally great attention. The Aero features pushrod-bell crank suspension and swaybars at all four corners – keeping unsprung weight down and sprung weight more centrally located inboard. Penske shocks provide damping, Wilwood 6-piston brakes provide stopping power and the chassis and cockpit are engineered to accommodate a driver up to 6-foot 4-inches tall.
On the powerplant side, Katech’s warmed-over LS3 includes an ARE Dry Sump system, MoTec data logging, a 25 gallon fuel cell for endurance racing and is controlled by Chevrolet Performance electronics. “Engine management is handled by a Chevrolet Performance E67 controller because in spec trim we want to lock it out,” Hall mentioned, alluding to their plan to launch the Aero cars as a spec series.
“The longterm goal is that we will have our own spec class in amongst an SCCA or NASA event, but it can also run as an experimental Super Unlimited or anything you want. In the current configuration we have one running at Pikes Peak for 2017 with a supercharged LS-based engine,” he continued.
With a name like Aero, one would expect this car to fill some pretty big shoes in the wind tunnel. Aerodynamics were certainly not overlooked when it came to developing the bodywork. “This particular car was done completely on the computer before we made a single part. Olivier Thomas, my aero engineer is ex-McLaren. We did all of the body work in CFD (computational fluid dynamics) and all of the chassis in FEA (finite element analysis),” Hall assured.
“It has a full flat floor and a 15-degree diffuser at the back. In the current configuration it makes 1,000 pounds of downforce at 125 miles per hour (and that’s trimmed out, we could make a lot more). The rear wing is a Selig 1223 profile carbon wing, same on the front, they front splitter is actually a true wing profile.”
Another feature worth explaining is the ease of maintenance and spares support engineered into the Aero. In most racecars you need a collection of spare parts including one of nearly every part on the car, parts are often blueprinted to a function and not interchangeable from one side of the car to the other.
“Every suspension component is machined from 6061 so it’s really easy to model. It’s an ambidextrous chassis system so one upright does every corner of the car. All of the control arms on the left work on the right, the joy of being able to do it in CAD gives you that freedom,” Hall explained. “There are a lot of universal parts on this car front to rear too, for an endurance racer you’re going to need a small spares package to keep this thing on the road.”
Spec wheels and tires fro the Aero are from Forgestar and Hoosier. 18×10-inch wheels in the front and 18×12 in the rear are wrapped in Hoosier A7R7 for NASA competition but if you choose to run in an open class you can run full slicks.
“The turnkey price at $70,000 is with this package, obviously we can accommodate other requests. We have a customer that wants an open class car right now – we’re putting an Albins STR transaxle in it, and 800 hp engine, carbon brakes, carbon wheels etc. It’s a platform that other people have already decided they want to use to go crazy,” Hall told us.
Being able to afford a fast car is one thing, but finding the opportunity to buy the specialized knowledge to set it up properly is something almost impossible to find. The setup and tuning of an exotic platform like this can be an intimidating task, but Superlite addresses that too in their design.
“We supply full setup information, the cool thing about this car is that the way we designed the uprights. They’re all shim adjustable uprights like a Daytona Prototype/LMP car. The shims are all one millimeter thick so when yo take one out it’s 1/4-degree. When you did your initial setup maybe the tires were cold or not wearing the way you want – you don’t have to re-setup the car, just take the shims out because it’s a pre-determined value which makes setup really easy,” Hall concluded.
The Superlite Aero is an enticing option for club racers and serious sportsmen alike, the modular “ambidextrous” chassis design, powerplant and gearbox options, and price tag set a new standard for kit cars.