ATOMIC CARBON - Ion Spec Carbon Fibre Chassis

Atomic Carbon have been making parts for the ZX-5 for a little while now, Initially starting with their Carbon Fibre top deck and shock towers which looking around at race meetings have proven quite popular. 

Atomics first chassis was the "atom", an exotic and expensive design in thick carbon fibre with milled cell and motor areas, the chassis we have on test here is the "Ion" spec chassis, with cut outs instead of expensive milling, this chassis is significantly more affordable.

Zx5 mid chassis swap with only the top deck.

The main chassis is cut from 2.4mm thick, quality carbon fibre, The chassis I have here is the last prototype before production, the only difference being the holes for the front end rear pin brace will have more material supporting them. 
The Original kit chassis is largely quite stiff with all ribbing and curved sides, but the front of the original chassis is, just like this, quite narrow where the gearbox mounts. On the kit composite chassis this area has a good deal of flex (before the top deck is added) but on the Atomic Carbon chassis this area is very stiff already, as is the rest of the chassis.

The actual Ion spec chassis is a significant slice of carbon fibre, on the scales it weighs in approximately 23g lighter than the Kit composite chassis, a good saving.  The cell slots in the chassis prevent any front-back adjustment of the cells but do hold the cells in securely, The actual slots are 4mm further forward than the front position of the cells in the original chassis, this position was worked out by testing and feedback from racers. 

The installation of the chassis is just about straight forward, the holes are all perfectly aligned and everything goes on without any troubles at all. Once on it really cleans up the look of the car, you can see the pivot blocks properly (and change things like shims more easily).

The battery posts screw down to the chassis and the kit battery strap fits perfectly over them.  Because of the differing heights of the posts / cells on this chassis I found I had to flip the battery strap upside down, this really fits well and forces the cells into the slots without being too tight as to be hard to pin them down.  You can add some foam to the battery strap for added pressure on the cells but I found the standard strap upside down works really well.

As there are no curved sides to this chassis, there is no easy way for me to velcro the shell on which is my normal method.

I have seen people fix an L shaped strip along the top edges of their chassis which can be used to stop dirt ingress and hold the shell on with velcro, you only have to look at cars like the new Yokomo 4wd of Paul Bradby to see what I mean.

Paul Bradbys Yokomo 4wd.

For the review I decided to install all 4 body posts from the zx5, these need to be attached with more care and attention than on the composite kit chassis. 

To gain the proper body post height I used a nut and plastic washer, with all 4 body posts attached and the holes drilled in the shell, the shell really is held down well (without any pins as I'm lazy).

Body mount, lifted up with a nut and washer.

The actual gap between the shell and flat chassis is virtually non existent providing you don't have messy wiring pushing against the shell.  I still had velcro on my shell which caused it to bend slightly (see photo left)

I would be more than happy to run the car in poor conditions since there really is minimal chance of debris entering at the sides..

Jonathan at Atomic Carbon mentioned the car would be stiff with the Atomic chassis and top deck combo, and he was of course right.  The car feels stiffer than the Bj4x4 in this setup.  He also mentioned that on very slippery surfaces it would be possible to remove the alloy bracing tubes and tune the flex of the car to suit conditions.

Assembled all back together, and with the other zx5 carbon fibre parts that Atomic produce, the car looks superb, it's just so clean and neat.

I took the car to a winter indoor club meeting at Batley Buggy Club, the track was a mix of carpet and polished floor (fairly high grip and very low grip respectively).  I decided to keep the bracing tubes on the car and keep it as stiff as possible and I'm glad I did, along with other suspension changes the car was awesome.  Prior to getting this chassis I had been running the cells at the back so the change to this chassis was moving the cells much further forward than I had tried before, and it definitely worked.  The cell position felt really balanced on the high grip carpet & very low grip polished floor.
The car felt more responsive, maybe that's part suspension tweaks and part added stiffness, but it felt like it went just where I wanted it to go.
The car ready for action, with full carbon fibre kit from Atomic.

I finished 2nd in all my heats behind craig collinson every time, being that craig is a vastly better driver than myself I was more than happy with that, craig was also running the ZX5 with Atomic top deck and towers.  I was really looking forward to the Finals but sadly electrical problems stopped me on the line and the day was cut short.

I like the moulded composite chassis on the ZX5, It even looks nice (ok, I'm weird), so I didn't think I'd like a carbon fibre chassis as much as I do, I thought there would be a desperate need for an under tray (which I hate the look of) but there isn't, because of a combination of quality shell moulding on kyoshos part and exact measurements on Atomics part there is barely any gap around the chassis.. 

I put the carbon chassis through its paces in the worst conditions, internals were OK.

A Chassis like this isn't going to suddenly make you a winner but I personally do like the extra rigidity and tuning options you get with this chassis, the cell position, though not adjustable, seemed bang on and a a definate improvement to what I had been running. And ofcourse the chassis gives your car a trick look which stands out from all the ZX-5's out there now.

I'll be running the 4wd Nationals with this chassis on the ZX5 so I'll update this page later in the year.

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Thanks to Atomic Carbon for their help

all images, designs, texts and concepts copyright 2003-2005. All Rights Reserved. Jimmy Storey. rc(at)oople(dot)com.

Thanks to Jonathan at Atomic Carbon for his help, Richard Lowe for driving in the photos, Paul Robinson @ team17 for the Fisheye use.