On the weekend, I contacted Peter Scott about getting together to check out his active UZZ32, as I have only ever had a brief look at one other Soarer apart from mine, and that was a TT.
We arranged for the Australia Day holiday Monday afternoon,. When I arrived, Peter had also arranged another 2 owners, so an informal chat degenerated into a Hills Hoon!
The afternoon was spent driving, swapping cars then more driving, stop for a chat, wonder what time Jackie would show up, and more driving.
What a blast, 4 V8's and 4 Peters. "Hey Peter!" "yes?", "yes?", "yes?" It was a bit like an echo, but all good fun.
The cars were:
My stock GT UZZ30, no modifications apart from a crude practice BFI.
A GT UZZ30 with 17" wheels, new full exhaust including headers, TT intake duct.
A Ltd UZZ31 with 17" wheels
The UZZ32 active suspension belonging to Peter Scott with it's numerous well documented modifications at http://www.planetsoarer.com The BFI had been replaced with a standard air box minus snorkel, as the BFI is being used for supercharger testing.
The driving was hills, hills and more hills, no freeway or town driving so I was only able to enjoy these fine cars under fun conditions. The weather was clear and sunny, warm but not hot, the ideal drive day.
The first car I drove, was the UZZ31 with air bags. The overall impression was of softness, perhaps even sogginess. I can understand why UZZ31 drivers might think the '32 has a harder ride, but they would also probably say that about my '30. An all round nice vehicle, suited best for someone looking for a smooth soft ride, but still able to have fun when required.
The next car was the other '30. Noise! Yum!. My V8 being stock, makes almost no noise, in fact the noisiest part now is the crude BFI. While I enjoy the discrete aspect of it, which tends to make the car a bit of a sleeper, I also think that a nice V8 should sound like a V8, especially when it is working. With the full upgraded exhaust system, this was a car to enjoy with the windows down. That also made me aware of the wind deflectors fitted to the doors, they reduced the noise and wind gusting in the car very nicely. They would just about be a "must have" if you enjoy the growl of a V8 with a decent exhaust. The new exhaust has a few problems however, rubbing somewhere on tight left hand turns, and droning a bit in the car with windows up in top gear and overdrive. But in the almighty "hills driving" second gear with windows down, it was pure delight.
After another car swap, I was in the active. Now this is a car you need to learn to drive. With a little practice, as Peter Scott demonstrated when he took me for a ride in it later, you can make this car go around almost any corner. With his oversized brakes, he can scream down a hill towards a very tight corner, dump on the brakes and lose improbable amounts of speed, then just steer through the corner as if it was a Sunday drive with your granny in the car. Overall, the sound is also better inside his car, no droning as in the other '30, though the '30 had a slightly nicer bark under pressure with the windows down. The price for this incredible handling is that the car is a bit sluggish off the mark, though once you get the revs up, the car flies like any other V8 Soarer, but the extra weight certainly shows from a standing start. As Peter Scott says, it drives a bit like a go-kart, always stays flat and just turns when you point it.
Then it was back to my stock '30. Simply, I found mine to be a fun car to drive. It is lighter than the '31 and '32, and it was snappier than the other three, it also felt a bit tighter in the same way that a new car feels tighter than an older one. At one point after we were all back in our own cars on the way home, we were held up by some poor commuter that had 4 eager Soarers on his/her tail, they turned off just at a straight part in the road and we all floored it. I was 3rd in line, and had to touch the brakes lightly after a few seconds to allow the 2 Soarers in front to get more speed up. The weakness in my car according to Peter Scott is the brakes, he did a few hard stops and it was fading in the 3rd one. Machining and new pads might help, but the other solution will be to upgrade to bigger brakes, which also means bigger wheels and tyres, a fair cost in one hit, and I am not fully convinced that there won't be trade-offs against the ride and handling.. Both the other two non-active drivers had 17" wheels, and both liked my standard 15"s. On the other hand, even when hooning, it's not likely that I will have to do three or more hard stops in a row.
I am now very used to my own car, so all this isn't very objective, I have the seat and wheel set to suit me, and I am pretty used to it's handling characteristics, but at the end of the day, I am very happy with the basic GT, something I was previously wondering if I should upgrade to an active at some stage.
Viewing the "Girl from Ipanema" video showing the active being chased by a TT, I have to wonder who is having the most fun.
These were all excellent cars to drive, depending what you are looking for, they all felt like Soarers, with similar balance and feel, but with different driving characteristics under pressure.
A good time was had by all!