Team Associated TC7 Factory Team [REVIEW]
Team Associated is a racing brand, so when the company decided to come out with a new version of its electric touring car, it should come as no surprise that it’s aimed squarely at elite-level competition. However, Associated wasn’t content with just making a few geometry changes here and there but rather addressed every aspect of the car, including improving the plastics, providing a higher level of tuning options, and even partnering up with legendary motorsports brand Fox to deliver shocks that have been treated with Fox’s proprietary Kashima coating. The result is a touring car that is changed far more significantly than you might expect from the name merely changing from TC6 to TC7. But the proof of the new car’s worth is its ability to translate all these changes into winning lap times, so let’s get the Team’s latest built up and onto the track.
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Like other pro touring cars, the TC7 uses graphite plate for its chassis components. Associated specs 2.25mm for the lower chassis, which is a narrow 88mm wide for maximum cornering clearance. Thinner 2mm plate is used for the upper deck. The chassis holds a standard-size LiPo battery situated to the right (included plastic parts help with any variations in LiPo hardcase dimensions) and motor, servo, and other electronics on the left. At both ends, symmetrical blue-anodized aluminum vertical bulkheads attach the two decks and keep things in line while providing the platform for the updated 2-belt transmission. Near the back, the motor mount is a one-piece design that works with a floating spur gear with the goal of maintaining optimum chassis flex. At the front, the new updated dual bellcrank steering system attaches on the lower deck symmetrically or can be tweaked (with aftermarket parts) to attach to the underside of the upper deck for more tuning of flex with net gains in steering. To prevent the servo from influencing chassis flex, it is installed on a floating mount.
Refined Suspension with Kashima-Coat Shocks
The TC7’s suspension design is the result of extensive development and refinement. The car uses carbon towers and a low center-of-gravity shock system with updated composite arms that improve durability and lower mass. Multiple shock and camber link locations with inner vertical ball studs are incorporated, and use blue-anodized aluminum shims and titanium turnbuckles with open ball-cup eyelets for fine adjustments. However, it’s the details that can make the difference, and the TC7 doesn’t shy away from addressing every minute feature that untrained eyes may miss. Independent aluminum arm mounts are used in place of hingepin blocks to help maintain uninterrupted flex and use pivot balls with plastic block inserts to tune kick-up, toe, inner pin width, and squat. The threaded aluminum shocks incorporate full-size racing technology. The bodies are treated with “Kashima Coat,” a process used by suspension giant Fox in full-size applications. The coating bonds super-slick molybdenum disulfide to the aluminum shocks to decrease friction and resist corrosion more effectively than Teflon, according to the developers of the technology. Inside the shocks, machined pistons increase precision and work with hard-plated shock shafts, and an updated bladder profile helps with consistency. Front and rear swaybars attach to the arms via threaded aluminum ball studs, and droop screws are threaded into the arms.
Improved Dual-Belt Drivetrain
The TC7’s dual-belt drivetrain layout keeps the belts close to the chassis centerline by having them straddle the spur gear. The belts are softened and optimized in length to produce better on-power steering and a more efficient drivetrain. Each belt can be adjusted for tension via indexed eccentric bearing holders, and there are four diff-height settings. Instead of a differential, the front end gets a fixed spool with plastic outdrives. The CV-style driveshafts are steel, and use plastic “blade” ends to interface with the outdrives for minimum wear. The rear uses an oil-filled composite-plastic gear differential with metal outdrives and can be tuned by changing the fluid viscosity (3000 weight fluid is supplied).
BEHIND THE WHEEL
Once the full-size Reedy LiPo battery pack was fully peaked and the gears set, it was time to hit TQ Raceway in Chino, California, for some indoor laps. A note worth mentioning is that the battery needs to be installed with narrow strapping tape, so make sure you have the correct width. Out on the track, I took a few laps to learn the layout and adjust to the way the car was handling. Out of the box the car had a slight push, but a small adjustment to roll center by installing a shim under a ball stud by using a hex wrench through the turnbuckle eyelet and I was good to go.
In fact, there are a number of ways I could have made quick and easy changes to the car. Part of racing a modern touring car is tuning it, and the TC7 has a long list of ways to tune to the conditions. I could have easily changed shock locations, steering geometry, flex pattern, swaybar thickness, differential fluid, kick-up, anti-squat, toe, and on and on. Another nice surprise was to see genuine Fox Kashima-coated big-bore shocks with machined pistons. Suspension on a car needs to start with a solid foundation, and these dampers come out swinging with buttery-smooth precision—easily Team Associated’s best to date. All of this adds up to almost unlimited options at my disposal. But if I wanted to push even further, it has additional aftermarket options, such as reattaching the steering bellcrank on the underside of the upper deck for those who have the dexterity and feel for those types of changes. However, inherently the car just corners better and smoother than its predecessor, and this can be attributed to a number of improved items, including the front spool with composite outdrives, overall light weight of the new plastics, floating servo mount, narrow chassis, and updated drive belts. Acceleration has also improved, and the light weight of the composite internals on the rear gear differential means spec racers will also enjoy all of the unexpected attention to detail. As my testing progressed, it was inevitable that I would clip a corner or take a tumble, but the car just kept coming back for more. Keep in mind, this is an elite racer with razor-sharp handling, so durability is relative, but compared to other options on the market, it fared admirably
Make no mistake—this is not a car for the novice. You will still need to pick out a body, tires, and wheels; tape in your battery pack every time; and use competition-grade electronics to take advantage of the TC7’s abilities. But when all of the above comes together, those glorious moments on the track are blissful, and the wrenching needed to improve or chase those handling characteristics in the pits are now easier. Team Associated has built an elite racer to compete with the best, and it addressed every area without sacrificing performance or value and delivered with the TC7. This is an elite car designed for the Team’s elite drivers, and if you can can afford it, you can drive exactly what the Factory Team pilots put on the track. –Carl Hyndman