I’ll always remember talking with Pat Cyr of Cyrious Garageworks as he was buttoning up the install on the Vortech Supercharger going into my FR-S. We were both impressed that the tune from Vortech allowed the car to run at nine PSI and reach almost 300 horses, yet not need to upgrade the fuelling. You’re also able to run the stock clutch with this tune, but Cyr, a master of the 86 arts, knew that was only for a limited time.
“You still have the stock clutch in there?” Cyr asked, grinning.
“Yeah, I do,” I replied.
“Not for long,” he laughed.
He was right. About a year later, I noticed less pressure from the clutch, missed shifts due to some slipping, and less power being transferred to the ground. It was time for a new clutch; an upgraded clutch. Now, I’ll level with you: I’ve never owned a boosted car before. Previously, I’ve only owned Hondas from when I was a first-time driver to a poor college student, and forced induction was out of reach, leaving me to settle for VTEC instead. As such, I’ve never had an upgraded clutch before and didn’t really know where to start, so I contacted our friends over at McLeod for a helping hand.
After speaking with Bob Scheid and Krista Baldwin at McLeod and explaining my power level, driving habits, and modifications, I was set. I ended up with a Street Elite clutch from their Tuner Series on-route to the office and I couldn’t wait to get it bolted up and spinning away. So, why did we choose the Street Elite clutch kit? Most importantly, the power rating was exactly what I was looking for. Rated at 50 to 70 percent more power than stock was perfect for me, since I’m currently making about 50 percent more than stock, and this leaves some room to grow. Also, the combination of the high-clamp-load pressure plate and sprung-hub carbon-organic disc (I was told) still offer smooth engagement and better holding power; something I need for daily driving, and something my stock clutch wasn’t giving me anymore.
After a bit of a wait, the black and red McLeod box was sitting on my desk and I was booking shop time. For a clean, decently-lit place to shoot, plus a trusted installer, I gave Jamie Campbell at Grounded Conceptz a shout, and, as usual, he hooked it up. He gave me a date and time and arranged for Bartek Stopa, an experienced Subaru tech, to come in and head-up the installation.
Soon, my car was up on the scissor lift at Grounded Conceptz and Stopa was stacking parts on the floor in front of me. With the underbody covers, the middle portion of the exhaust, and the driveshaft out, Stopa was able to unclip the transmission from the tunnel and then unbolt the rear to unveil the OE clutch setup. After yanking the pressure plate, disc, flywheel, clutch fork and throw-out bearing (all still hot to the touch from my commute), we could see the signs of wear and tear from contact and the discolorations from heat.
When comparing the components side by side, the biggest differences I noticed were the clutch disc’s springs were shorter and thicker and the throw-out bearing was a lot more heavy-duty, which should aid in providing smoother engagement and some better bite. The pressure plate is also red, so I’m pretty sure that’s guaranteed bolt-on horsepower. After the flywheel had its bearing replaced and surface cleaned up, and the McLeod throw-out bearing was mounted to the clutch fork, Stopa reversed the process to install the new clutch. With everything finally bolted back up, it was time to take the car off the lift.
When getting the car onto and off the lift, we had to put stacks of plywood on either side to let the lift fully depress and allow my car to drive off. Low car problems, you know? When getting onto the plywood, there wasn’t much drama, but getting off was a bit of a surprise. As I thought I was being “easy” on first gear to get the car to roll off, the clutch bit way before I was ready and shot a piece of plywood behind me. It had been so long without a proper clutch that I forgot what engagement was supposed to feel like, but after a short test drive, I soon remembered.
The McLeod Street Elite does what it promises and engages smoothly, with the right amount of aggressiveness, giving me that acceleration and power to the ground that I was missing all this time. There is some more pedal effort involved, but not enough to bother me in my daily commute. Besides, it’s better to have some pedal effort than none at all. It feels like I’ve supercharged the FR-S all over again.
As the clutch is worked in, I’m sure things will get even smoother, and it won’t be long of a break-in period either since the new clutch just makes me want to get out and drive more. Make sure your power is supported because you don’t know what you could be missing out on!
Clutch saving tips
If you’ve just installed a new clutch, or you’re trying to keep the one you have alive, here’s a big tip that can help extend the life of your drivetrain. When you are stopped at a light or in some stop-and-go traffic, take your car out of gear into neutral, instead of leaving the car in gear and the clutch pedal fully depressed. Leaving the car like that for extended periods of time can seriously stress out your clutch disc, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, and even your clutch fork. If you’ve come to a standstill, pop it in neutral.
We would also say to avoid burnouts, but we won’t tell you how to live your life.