RX8 Project – Part 17, Changing to a concentric clutch slave.

To preface this I’ve not actually run the car with this setup yet so please make your own decision if you give it a go. This was done on the gearbox from a 2006 year RX8 5 speed box so may not be applicable to others. It looks like it should work but that’s only my opinion – your mileage may vary!

So this is a bit of an odd problem which depending on the engine you’re swapping in may not be and issue but in my case I decided a V6 was a good idea and unfortunately the standard clutch slave on the RX8 gearbox is on the top offset to one side which lines up perfectly with one of the cylinder heads on my V6. Add to this if you made the better decision mentioned earlier and made the adapter thicker you may be able to avoid this as well. But since I’m largely making this up as I go along here we are!

Now I did look into whether anyone offered a concentric slave conversion for this car but it seems that was never a thing anyone did so I set to work building my own. Luckily there was one thing I knew which would help this process quite a bit – the input shaft on the gearbox is the same diameter/spline as most Ford patterns and so a Ford part should be exactly the right clearance. Add to that I’m actually using a Ford clutch if I get the depth right everything should just match up ok.

So that’s the good news, the bad news is the RX8 gearbox was never intended to be used in this way so mounting a cylinder could be an issue. Now on the RX8 there’s a flanged sleeve mounted which the original release bearing slides on the outside of. This is held on by four bolts into the back of the bellhousing and so this appeared to be essentially the only option. The tube itself can’t stay because the new concentric slave is the same ID and so clashes with it but I thought why don’t I just unbolt the tube at the flange and bolt a suitable adapter there and we’re good to go? Well it’s never that easy is it. Under that flange is a location lip which not only keeps it concentric to the gearbox input shaft but it turns out it also the height of the shoulder accurately holds the input bearing in place behind it so if I just remove that whole part the bearing will move out of position and that will very likely result in it not having enough support and rapidly removing itself from the gearbox in small pieces.

3D model of the RX8 gearbox input bearing retainer
Unfortunately I can’t find a photo of it but the part looked like this!

Ok so I can’t just remove the flanged tube and stick an adapter plate on but how about cutting the tube down to the flange to leave a flat face above the bearing retainer and just using some longer bolts to keep it all in place. After some very careful trimming I was left with this:

Modified RX8 bearing retainer

Next was picking a suitable concentric slave from the Ford range. After a bit of poking about and trying to find something I could make fit I found the Teckmarx TMCS00047 which is a 3rd party part number for a 2001-2007 Mk3 Mondeo/Cougar among others which as you might have read earlier was also available with this same V6 engine I am using and this model has a few advantages firstly that both in and out hydraulics are in one direction so if I make that line up with the original position of the clutch fork I should have easy access and also that they’re threaded the standard M10x1 brake fitting thread so I can direct connect hoses or hardline as I need to make it work. another major advantage is they’re used on loads of versions of the car so they’re widely available and very cheap at under £25 delivered. It also seems that the RX8 also has almost same clutch master cylinder bore as the Mondeo (18mm vs 19mm) which should mean pedal travel is still sensible.

Mondeo mk3 concentric clutch slave

3D model of Mk3 Mondeo Clutch slave

Now with the clutch slave accurately 3D modelled I could measure the 4 bolt flange from the gearbox bearing retainer and by overlaying the two bolt patterns aligned on the centre of the input shaft I could design an adapter which I could index the relative rotational angle of the bolt patterns in the software until the fluid connections where in the right place for the hole in the bellhousing. The resulting first version was this :

3D design of first adapter design

Initially I transferred this to a bit of scrap plastic to make sure I hadn’t made any stupid mistakes before spending much more time cutting a proper steel adapter plate.

Plastic prototype RX8 clutch slave adapter

So with all that checked out and nothing apparently an issue I moved onto the steel one. I did make a mistake here if you can spot it…

To make the adapter I did the same as I had done with the plastic where I printed out the design at 100% scale, stuck it to the steel and then used a centre punch to mark the centre of all the drill positions. I admit this isn’t the most accurate method but it seems to work quite well!

Clutch slave adapter Mk1 in steel

This is the initial adapter, the four larger holes are M8 clearance holes. on the original RX8 flanged retainer they’re 9.4mm but I think I did them 8.5mm as that’s the drill I had available and tightening up the tolerance was probably a good thing. This actually turned out to be less of a problem in the end but that’s another story. The centre hole is larger than the original design to allow for the location feature I’d overlooked on the new slave (which is 42mm OD) to sit within it.

Clutch slave adapter trial fitted to the gearbox

So it fits, I called this good progress but it should come as absolute no surprise that it wasn’t quite that simple…

Clutch slave unit fitted to adapter plate

As soon as I tried to add the clutch slave all the issues become apparent as it just clashed with everything. This told me that I’d need to change the adapter to countersunk bolts so the slave didn’t foul them. I could have changed the rotation but I wanted to avoid having lengths of pipe in the bell housing if I could. Plus I’d already made this steel adapter and didn’t want to do it again!

The other thing I noticed is that the cast webs off the original pivot point actually clashed with the adapter plate preventing it from quite sitting flat so I decided to remove some of the plate to correct this minor issue.

Now the adapter sits flat and at the same time I countersunk all the adapter bolt holes and replaced the bolts.

It all fits more or less where I wanted it but when I tried to bolt up the gearbox I saw another problem. With the bearing retainer plate, a sensible thickness for an adapter plate and the height of the concentric slave itself the slave was already almost fully pressed down so that which it may have worked initially as the clutch wore the slave would prevent the clutch from fully re-engaging. Clearly not ideal so we need to get more radical. First off the back of the clutch slave had a lip similar to the one on the RX8 flanged plate which initially I was just going to leave on and sit on top of the bearing retainer plate as it was slightly thicker than the adapter plate but that just wasn’t an option any more. Below you can the way the slave is totally compressed. Also note how close the hydraulic connection point is to the original pivot point casting.

Stack height issues in the new clutch assembly

This lip was adding a couple mm of stack height we needed to remove so I proceeded to carefully file the lip off down on the slave such that it would sit full within the adapter plate and ideally totally flush to the back of the plate.

On trying to refit this in its new position I realised I’d created another problem that I glossed over earlier – that I’d need to remove some of the original gearbox casting to make the new slave sit flat in the orientation I needed as the original clutch fork pivot point clashed with the location where I wanted the hydraulic connections on the new slave. The best method I found was a drill bit larger than the feature and just drill the top of it away until it clears the new slave.

Around this time I realised really I needed to remove the original flanged bearing retainer plate as it alone added about 4mm to the stack height so I engaged in the type of butchery that makes engineers wince. I took the flanged retainer and trimmed the flange off it. Yes I specifically mean that – if you cut through the bearing retainer ring it will reduce the height such that the bearing is no longer held tightly so you need to carefully trim off just the flange plate leaving a ring the right height fill the gap between the bearing and where the retaining plate face would be. because the new slave retaining face was now flush with the adapter plate this ring will now be held in place by that. Removing this plate now meant I had to drill yet more out of the pivot casting to prevent it clashing but that’s easy.

Final fitment of the concentric slave conversion from the original fork position

Now everything is in place and the hydraulics are accessible through the original clutch fork hole.

RX8 gearbox refitted to the car

And all back in the car…

For anyone who may want it here’s the PDF drawing for the adapter :

RX8 Project – Part 7, Introduction to flywheels

Having decided what engine I was going to use and deciding to keep the existing gearbox so I could retain the factory carbon prop shaft the next logical step was to work out how exactly to achieve that…

First off the engine I had bought was from an automatic and so had a flex plate rather than a flywheel. This is a comparatively thin piece of steel which gives the starter ring gear, which would be on the outside of the flywheel on a  manual, a fixing point and also mates the torque converter to the crank. In automatics the torque converter provides the rotating mass to smooth the engine pulses. So the first step was to get a flywheel that would work. My first idea was to take the factory RX8 flywheel which has quite a deep offset (i.e. it is quite dished) which would help correct for gearbox adapters which would space the gearbox off the engine. So I looked into simply machining off the back of the RX8 flywheel flat and drilling the bolt pattern from the V6 crank into it. While technically this would work there are a few problems.

RX8 V6 Flywheel Mod

(Taken from here : http://www.locostbuilders.co.uk/viewthread.php?tid=185939&page=2)

The image above shows exactly what I’m talking about, this is a factory RX8 flywheel modded onto a V6 crank. I believe the engine used in this case is the Mazda KLDE. While this all looks good there are a couple of issues. First is that the RX8 flywheel isn’t balanced as it stands, it forms a balanced arrangement with the rest of the engine and so needs modifying. I don’t have a picture of this but the weighted lip on the rear ranges from thin on one side to very thick the other. Aftermarket flywheels get round this by using balanced flywheel and a separate counterweight. Problem two is that the factory flywheel is cast iron, this has an irregular structure and can have flaws and other weaknesses from new but parts are generally made with a factor of safety to account for this but modification in this way will remove some of this additional strength and change areas of stress. I actually 3D modelled this change to see if it would work:

Original:

RX8 Flywheel Bottom OldRX8 Flywheel Top Old

Modified:

RX8 Flywheel Bottom NewRX8 Flywheel Top New

Having modelled this I performed a stress analysis of this based on the force created by the flywheel spinning at 8000 RPM. This is more than redline as it stands but it seemed prudent to plan ahead! It turns out the stock flywheel is only about 20% stronger than required based on the nominal ‘standard’ properties of cast iron. The new version would be below strength at this speed, dropping to 7500 RPM gave something around 102% strength. Not a number I felt confident in at all! Just to make a point here as people argue the safety of modded flywheels a lot (mostly from “I’ve done it and it’s fine”). I’m not saying it will fail modded like this, in fact the numbers suggest it is (just) strong enough here but there is no margin for error even on the ‘ideal’ material and cast iron does vary significantly. A given flywheel might be fine like this for years, but get a weaker one or one with a flaw or even give it a hard jolt when it’s at full revs and it may just shatter. If it does, be somewhere else!

So after deciding the mod wasn’t really the best idea I realised that all I needed was a flywheel that would bolt up and work. A fairly easy task at face value since it turned out the the standard Ford clutch splines (1″ dia, 23 spline) match the gearbox the solution suddenly seemed simple and I just needed a stock Ford flywheel and clutch for that engine. It turns out there were a few variations of the Ford flywheel depending if you went for an ST200, ST220 or just a vanilla V6 Mondeo but the difference between them seems to be some are ‘lighter’ versions to make the more special cars rev a little more freely. This is achieved by leaving out sections of the outer lip on the flywheel. In my case I had no idea if this project would ever work so I bought the cheapest! This is when another problem emerged:

 

Mondeo Vs S-Type Starter

Note the starter ring gear on each. The top is the S-Type flex plate, the bottom is the Mondeo one. It seems the Ford and Jag use a different starter motor as well. Add to this that the Mondeo flywheel puts the clutch far too far forward to mate to the gearbox and because the starter is on the engine side on the Jag but on the top of the gearbox on the Mondeo (because it’s transverse) – something we can’t do on the RX8 as the gearbox is wrong and there isn’t the room in the tunnel the whole idea falls apart! Modifying the cast one seems to be the only sensible option.

Around this time I happened to have a chat with a colleague at work who is a professional mechanical engineer and 3D designer I know through the job I had at the time and explained the problem and he directed me towards a machinist who did a lot of work for him and was well into cars. By chance a few days later this machinist came into the office and as soon as I explained the problem he just said “ah, we’ll just make you a custom one if you do a design”…. So I found myself with the challenge of designing a custom flywheel which as per the machinists recommendation would be made out of EN24 steel. As a comparison changing the models above to EN24 changes the safety factor to something around 300% from memory meaning we can lighten it significantly later if required and not risk weakening it dangerously.

More to come…