Retro/Active Motorworks: Setups for the Discerning Enthusiast

Welcome to Retro/Active Motorworks, a compilation of builds/setups I’ve done over the past few years that I feel are worth sharing with the community at large. Most will be older cars (hence the name), and none of them will be anywhere near optimized for leaderboard performance.

Let me stress that: These cars WILL NOT be competitive at the highest levels of play.

If you’re looking to dominate the leaderboards or multiplayer hoppers, I’m not your guy. My builds are focused on enjoyable driving dynamics, balanced performance across all tracks, and conservative visual aesthetics. They’re fun first, fast second. If those sorts of things interest you (and you don’t mind compromising outright performance a bit to get them), you’ve come to the right place.

These setups will all be tuned for a wheel. I’ve been told (by people whose skill and opinions I trust) that my setups tend to be a bit… lively. Not sure how much of that is differences in hardware, how much is differences in in-game/wheel settings, and how much is personal preference/driving style. Just something to keep in mind.

Each car will have its own post (with a handy hotlinked index), consisting of a short “character description” giving you an idea of what you’re getting into, a Performance Delta (PD for short; explanation below), and a more detailed (read: fluffy and needlessly wordy) description offering my thoughts on the car itself, any driving tips for getting the most out of the setup, or whatever else strikes my fancy.

Lastly, I’ll gladly discuss the details of the setups, my tuning methodology, or pretty much anything else topical if anyone has an interest.



Performance Delta explanation:

I wanted to have an objective means to quantify how well my cars perform compared to an optimized setup, and this is the system that struck the best balance between accuracy and expediency.

PD is a direct comparison of my best time at Spa-Francorchamps vs. the #1 worldwide time on the appropriate leaderboard (Rivals for class-based setups, Free Play for homologated setups). It uses the following, very complex math formula:

[my time] / [#1 world time] = X.X%

Spa was chosen because it’s a fairly balanced track, has a large-ish pool of leaderboard times, and is short enough I can set a reasonably fast lap in a reasonably short timeframe. Those factors should limit the effects of human error and allow for a reasonable amount of consistency from one build to the next. Keep in mind that my driving will account for 2-3% of the total, so a build with a PD of 3.0% should be pretty damn competitive.


Car Index

Note: A ** tag will denote a dual-duty build that’s capable in both its homologation Division and a given Class. I’ll list it in both relevant categories.

== PI Class Builds ==

Ford De Luxe '40
MG MGA '58

Ford Lotus Cortina '66 **
Jaguar E-type '61
Porsche 356 '57
Porsche Carrera '73

Abarth Punto '13 **
Porsche Carrera '73

Porsche 911 Turbo '82

Aston Martin DBR1 '58
Porsche 911 Turbo '82**
TVR Sagaris '05**

TVR Cerbera Speed 12 '98 **

== Homologated Builds ==

Elite Factory Racers
TVR Cerbera Speed 12 '98 **

Formula Mazda Spec
Formula Mazda '15

Hot Rod Revival
Ford De Luxe '40

Major Micros
Abarth 595 '68

Modern Hot Hatch
Abarth Punto '13 **

Open-Wheel Legends
Brabham BT24 '67

Sport GT Icons
Porsche 911 Turbo '82**
TVR Sagaris '05**

The Birth of Grand Prix
Maserati 8CTF '39

Vintage GT Racing
Aston Martin DBR1 '58
Shelby Cobra '65

Vintage Sport Compact
Ford Lotus Cortina '66 **

Vintage Sport Coupe
Jaguar Mark 2 '59
Porsche Carrera '73

== E300 ==

  • R/A E300 v1.0
  • PD: 4.9%
  • Character: Focused and precise, but gets grouchy if you push it too hard.

The MGA is probably my favorite sports car ever. There’s nothing disproportionate, nothing out of place. It’s a flawless automotive design, and if I ever win the lottery it’ll probably be the first thing I buy. Followed immediately by an entire Miata drivetrain to install in it so it’ll actually run when I try to drive it.

This version’s pretty exemplar of what I’m going for with my builds: It retains the smooshy vintage character that makes these old cars so engaging to drive, but polishes the experience a bit so it’s actually somewhat usable in the context of the Forza Motorsport game. There shouldn’t be any surprises when driving this one; its handling is very consistent across various turn types and conditions, it doesn’t have enough power to really get you in trouble, and if you do exceed its limits it’s very forgiving and easy to get back under control.

Shift point is somewhere in the 6,500 RPM ballpark, but the motor will work with higher or lower if the track layout demands it.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

E300 v1.0 initial release.

1 Like

== D400 ==

  • R/A D400 v1.0
  • PD: 5.7%
  • Character: A little spongy and a little twitchy.

The 356 isn’t an easy car to set up. Give it too much tire and it’ll lift the inside wheels and lurch you into the weeds. Give it too much power and it quickly becomes unmanageable, especially on more conservative tires. On top of that, there seems to be something off about the suspension modeling, as even with the springs set very stiff and ride height set fairly high it’ll still hit the bump stops with alarming frequency and intensity.

Finding a workable balance between all those factors took a lot of build iterations, a lot of work (more than any other car I’ve tuned, I think), and a stubborn determination to make something useful out of the car.

I had hoped that with some clever component selection and some setup wizardry I could get it to exhibit more of the Porsche character (trailing throttle oversteer, power-on understeer), but given the limitations of the platform itself I’m satisfied with getting it to a workable middle ground between mid- and rear-engined character.

Shift point is at 5,500 RPM. You can go beyond that if you need to stretch a gear to avoid a shift, but power starts to drop off pretty quickly.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

D400 v1.0 initial release.

1 Like

== Open Wheel Legends ==

  • R/A OWL v1.2
  • PD: 3.6% (in v1.1)
  • Character: WHOA, NELLY!

Open Wheel Legends represents the absolute best aspects of FM7’s homologation system. The cars are all of the same type and vintage, the PI and build requirements work well for the car selection, and (most importantly) those requirements serve to accentuate what makes these cars special rather than hiding it under a mountain of Forza Motorsport PI manipulation tricks. What you end up with is a bunch of cars that are all potentially competitive and races that look great in replays. If the rest of the homologation Divisions followed this kind of formula I’d have been a happy camper.

The Brabham’s probably the least difficult to drive of the OWLs. The low(ish) power puts a lot less stress on the stock-compound tires, which in turn gives you much more forgiving behavior at and beyond the limits. Not that it’s easy by any stretch; you’re still sitting in a kayak with 330 horses sitting inches behind your back, and it’ll remind you of that if you even look at the loud pedal too vigorously.

The setup is fairly neutral, with a good balance between front-end grip on high speed sweepers and good traction on tighter corner exits. It’ll put up with a little yaw, but doesn’t thrive on it like some of the other OWLs. It’s also as close to competitive as one of my setups is likely to get, thanks largely to how well-designed the Division is.

== v1.2 Update ==

Same build as v1.1, with a from-scratch overhaul of the setup. The most obvious difference is wider gear spacing (better launch and a higher top speed, at the cost of less optimized power output across shifts), but I spent a lot of time tinkering with the suspension and differential to balance the car’s behavior across various tracks and conditions. The end result is easier to push hard than v1.1, allowing for more aggressive driving (and thus faster lap times). I don’t have a PD for v1.2 yet, but I it should be measurably faster than v1.1 was.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

OWL v1.1 initial release.
OWL v1.2 released.

== E300 ==

  • R/A E300 v1.0
  • PD: 4.5%
  • Character: Well-balanced and smooth.

There’s something magical about an old-school cruiser on whitewall tires. I’m not big into the whole Americana thing, but there’s a certain kind of panache to the cars associated with it that you just can’t find elsewhere. Of those, the De Luxe is probably my favorite. Really clean, timeless design that still looks sharp 80 years later.

The build’s pretty standard fare for me: Naturally aspirated motor, square tire setup, Cragar Smoothies. I did opt for race cams, as without them the flathead V8 is a little… agricultural for track use.

The setup’s a joy to drive. Turns in with confidence, takes a set right away, and allows you to just power out of the turn. If you do it right, you shouldn’t need to turn the wheel at all; just get it pointed at the exit, get on the throttle, and let the weight transfer take care of the rest.

Shift point is right at the rev limiter, but the flathead’s got enough low-end grunt you don’t need to downshift nearly as often as you might expect.

== Hot Rod Revival ==

  • R/A HRR NA v1.0
  • PD: 4.9

Aside from the loss of the whitewalls, there isn’t a huge difference between this setup and the E300 build. It’s a bit sharper and more aggressive-feeling, but not enough to spoil its personality. I couldn’t quite get the PI up to 375 without compromising the visual character of the car, but the game will still let you into HRR events at 366 and the car’s competitive enough to hold its own.

Shift point is still right at the rev limiter.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

E300 v1.0 initial release.
HRR NA v1.0 released.

== B600 ==

  • R/A B600 v1.0
  • PD: 7.1%
  • Character: Hates you and wants you to die. Classic Porsche.

Performance-wise this is probably the worst build I’ve ever done, but it’s such a riot to drive I really don’t care. You set up your turn entry, let off the brakes, and then all hell breaks loose. The rear of the car tries to pass the front, your sphincter curls, and panic jumps you like Mister Dead half-jumped Max in Beyond Thunderdome. Stomp on the gas and choirs of angels sing, the car magically stabilizes, and you power off to the next corner to do it all again.

This build came about because I discovered some of the aero options available on the 930 were really hideous '80s tupperware deletes, and the car could be made to actually look good. I still think the original 911 is the best iteration of the design, but the 930 body style is a very close second when it doesn’t look like the automotive equivalent of a permed mullet. Beyond that, the build mostly consisted of swapping out the turbo mill for a high-strung NA motor, finding a good balance of tire grip relative to car performance, and knocking the burrs off the car’s demeanor.

Realistically it could use a bit more tire, but the next width up is staggered (I hate staggered setups) and the next compound up is a bit too grippy for the chassis. The Sport compound 225s will have to be enough.

== Sport GT Icons/A700 ==

  • R/A SGTI v1.0
  • PD (SGTI): 7.5%
  • PD (A700): 8.6%
  • Character: More professional than its little brother. That’s “professional” as in “contract killer”.

I wasn’t happy with how the B600 build scaled up to SGTI/A700 specs, so I redid the entire build and setup from scratch. The end product is a little more composed and a little easier to push hard, but you still need to keep a tight reign on it or it will get away from you. The extra 200 horses don’t help matters any.

Shift point’s just before the limiter (about 7,400 RPM), and you really don’t want to short shift much if you can help it.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

B600 v1.0 initial release.
Added SGTI v1.0.

Had a run out in the MGA, took it to some short tracks as they’re my preference when hotlapping. Managed a couple of PB’s on Barcelona School & Miami (the small one, just come off the game & forgot it’s name).

Car definitely benefits from smooth inputs, a fun drive and I did manage to catch the car a couple of times when I got it wrong. Something I can’t always do on my wheel.

I’d not driven an MGA before, between homologation and various hotlap challenges, driven more cars on fm7 than a lot of other forza’s - so seeing this gave me a reason to try it out. Thanks.

Vintage Sport Compact/D400 Lotus née Ford Cortina is about 80% done. Should have it up before next weekend.

Welcome. Glad you liked it. And yeah, this thread is possible because I’m not scrambling to put a build together for the HLCs every week. Left to my own devices it takes me about two weeks to build and refine one car, so I never had time while the HLCs were running.

== Vintage Sport Compact/D400 ==

  • R/A VSCm v1.0
  • PD (VSCm): 2.9%
  • PD (D400): 5.0%
  • Character: Chuck it. Chuck it as hard as you can.

Of all the cars in my FM7 garage, my Cortina has the most miles on it by a good margin. There’s a purposeful aggression to its driving character that makes it hard for me to put down, and it retains it across a wide range of builds. It’s also ****ing fast. I think an optimized build with a good driver at the wheel could put a Cortina at the top of a lot of leaderboards, but I’m not fast enough to prove that point myself.

The most important thing to remember when driving the Cortina is it needs to be pushed hard to get the most out of it. Don’t baby it. Run it deep into the braking zone (the brakes are phenomenal), turn in sharp, and get back on the throttle as soon as you can. If you’re not countersteering a tiny bit at track out, you’re probably not pushing hard enough. The car’s really responsive to subtle changes in driver input, so you can easily adjust its position and attitude as the situation demands.

Shift point is around 6,800 RPM. You can stretch it up quite a bit (fuel cut is around 7,500), but it’ll bog down if you short shift by more than a couple hundred.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

VSCm v1.0 initial release.

1 Like

== Modern Hot Hatch/C500 ==

  • R/A MHH v2.0
  • PD (MHH): 4.0%
  • PD (C500): 5.5%
  • Character: Textbook definition of “perfectly balanced”.

…and now for something completely different.

The Punto’s pretty far outside my typical stomping grounds. I don’t like forced induction, I loathe FWD (aka “wrong wheel drive”), and I’m not crazy about the whole “hot hatch” thing. Don’t get me wrong; I love hatchbacks for their praticality and utility, but they have about as much business dressing up in performance clothes as a dairy cow does dressing up in a tuxedo. I don’t care how fast you make one, it’s still a mini-minivan at heart.

Thankfully Forza lets us remedy the most heinous of those flaws, swapping the utilitarian transportation appliance drivetrain with a S2000-based RWD setup. I’d love to see someone try to Tetris that together in the real world.

Regardless of the practical feasibility of it, the swap transforms the car into a competent and responsive corner carver. It’ll do exactly what you ask of it; nothing more, nothing less. It’s very confidence-inspiring, and will allow you to push it progressively harder and harder without punishing you for overstepping your ability.

Shift point is around 8,500, and you’d better nail it. Shift early and you’ll be left wrangling a screaming 100 horsepower until the VTEC KICKS IN, YO!, and the fuel cut is at about 8,700. I’m not a big fan of the engine, but it’s the only option available given the build goals.

== v2.0 Notes ==

Not a huge change from v1.0 to v2.0, but the build’s different enough it needs a new version number. Reduced the tire width to 215 F/R and redid the motor build to match. Setup was redone from scratch, but ended up more-or-less in the same place v1.0 was. Handling and behavior are similar, but not exact. V1 is a little more precise, while v2 is livelier and a little quicker.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

MHH v1.0 initial release.
MHH v2.0 initial release.

1 Like

== Birth of Grand Prix ==

  • R/A BoGP v1.0
  • PD: 4.5%
  • Character: Enjoyably loose.

Watch your braking technique in this one. The lack of adjustable brake bias means the braking force is heavily front biased, so if you’re not careful the car will instaswitch from understeer while braking to doing donuts as soon as you let off the brake. Coupled with the 8CTF’s inherent oversteeryness, it can make for some wild ‘n’ wooly corner entry.

Once you come to terms with that, though, the 8CTF’s a pretty fun ride. Throttle control plays a big role, and you’ll need to strike a balance between steering angle, acceleration, and yaw (which it loves, by the way).

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

BoGP v1.0 initial release.

== A700 ==

  • R/A 4.5V8 v1.1
  • PD: 6.1%
  • Character: Goes like stink. Stops like garbage.

Out of all the open top '50s GT cars, I gravitate to the DBR1. Not exactly sure why, but looking like a sports car rather than a catfish on an acid trip (-cough-Jaguar-cough-) might have something to do with it.

The build for this one is not ideal at all. Fitting the 4.5L V8 in under the A700 PI limit means sticking with the stock tire compound, and even with a conservative right foot the car can and will get away from you if you’re not careful. It also makes the car a lot faster than its brakes can handle. You’ll need to brake way earlier than you think to avoid plowing the car straight off the corner. Metagame-wise it’s not quite a power-only missile, but it’s a close thing.

Once you get used to those quirks, though, it’s a riot to drive. You can chuck it pretty hard at turn in and, if you’re quick enough, find a good balance between steering input and throttle and just ride the corner to track out.

Shift point’s right at redline, and you’ll want to keep it above 8k RPM if at all possible.

== Vintage GT Racing ==

  • R/A VGTR v1.0
  • PD: 5.2%
  • Character: Better-behaved than its gonzo V8 brother.

Main difference between this and and the V8 version is in its power delivery. The stock mill’s a lot less violent, and combined with the lower power output makes for a much more controllable and consistent ride. It doesn’t outrun its brakes, either, though it’s a close thing.

The car makes peak power between 6.5-7k RPM, but pulls pretty hard anywhere above 5k or so. The shift point’s optimally at 7.3k (just before the fuel cut), but given the broad powerband you can jockey gearshifts around to meet the needs of the track.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

A700 v1.0: Initial release.
A700 v1.1: Slight update to rebound to increase forward weight transfer under braking.
Added VGTR v1.0

Rolled into above post.

== Elite Factory Racers/R900 ==

  • R/A EFR v1.0
  • PD (EFR): 6.3%
  • PD (R900): 7.4%
  • Character: Astonishingly polite, given its heritage.

Of all the car manufacturers in the world, TVR is (was?) far and away the most likely to attempt to build a doomsday weapon (followed closely by Tesla. Go figure). There’s a hint of mad scientist in everything they’ve ever made, but the Speed 12 went above and beyond in that regard.

Somehow the version we get in Forza is not at all megalomaniacal or morally depraved. Must be a modelling error.

The car’s pretty neutral at lower speeds, but the faster you get it moving the more care you need to take at turn-in. If you overstress the fronts at entry it’ll continue to plow through the entire corner, and there’s not much you can do besides back off the throttle and try again next lap. As long as you can keep the fronts from slipping, you can dig into the corners hard. The car’s tenacious and precise, and responds very well to throttle input.

Shift point is at 8,300 RPM, but the powerband is so wide and so flat you can effectively shift whenever you want. It makes good power from around 6k RPM all the way to the 9.8k fuel cut. Gotta love V12s.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

EFR v1.0 initial release.

== Vintage Sport Coupe ==

  • R/A VSCp v1.0
  • PD: 3.4%
  • Character: More yaw. ARE YOU DEAF, MAN?!? MORE YAW!

Jaguar has a long history of making some of the best-looking cars around, and none of their designs capture the concept of “stodgy English grandfather” quite as well as the Mark 2. It just oozes “old person”.

If you drive it like an old person, that’s exactly what you’ll get, too. The car’s kind of staid until you start pushing it hard, but once you cross that threshold it comes alive. It takes a bit to get used to the knife-edge duality of it, but once you learn to catch it at just the right angle it’ll power around corners like nobody’s business. Brush up on your countersteering skills. You’ll need 'em.

Shift point’s right at the fuel cut, and you effectively need to keep it above 5k RPM at all times. Any lower than that and power drops off a cliff. I’m not a fan of the motor, but it’s the only option available for the Division.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

VSCp v1.0: Initial release.

1 Like

== Vintage Sport Coupe ==

  • R/A VSCp v1.0
  • PD: 4.1%
  • Character: Trailing throttle eagerness and on-throttle recalcitrance in equal measure.

Like my B-class 930 (above), the Carrera exhibits classic Porsche driving dynamics. Unlike the 930, this one’s polite about it, and is fairly forgiving (for a RR) if you overstep its limits. Just ease off the gas, point yourself at track out, and mat the accelerator. The car’ll handle the rest. As a nice bonus, it’s also reasonably fast. That 4.1% PD may not look impressive, but Spa favors power over finesse and this build’s very much a finesse build. It could stand a bit less tire and a bit more power, but we take what we can get.

Shift point’s at 7,300 RPM, and there’s two handy identifiers to help you hit it: The red mark on the tach (shift just as the needle lines up with the bottom edge of it) and the gear indicator turning orange. Fuel cut’s somewhere in the 8k ballpark, but power drops off fast after the shift point. Better to short shift a bit than run it up too high.

== D400 ==

  • R/A D400 v1.0
  • PD: 6.5%

Essentially the same setup as the VSCp version with Stock compound tires and better-looking wheels. Driving character is virtually unchanged.

== C500 ==

  • R/A C500 v1.0
  • PD: 7.0%

Added a bit of power and made some gearing and differential adjustments to compensate. I didn’t get the best lap in while testing, so the PD should probably be around 6.5% or so.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

VSCp v1.0 initial release.
Added D400 v1.0.
Added C500 v1.0.

== D400 ==

  • R/A D400 v1.0
  • PD: 4.4%
  • Character: Sharp and aggressive.

The E-type is pretty widely regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever made, and while I wouldn’t go quite that far it’s certainly up there.

Out of the box its handling isn’t quite on the same level as its appearance, and it took a fair bit of fiddling to find a balance I was happy with. Unlike some of the other difficult-to-tune cars (-cough-356-cough-), the E-type turned out better than I expected. A lot better. It turns in with a vengeance, and the harder you get on the gas the harder it’ll dig in. It will keep on rotating into an outright drift if you’re too aggressive on the throttle, but it’s a gradual transition and pretty easy to correct when you start crossing the line.

Shift point is right at the rev limiter, and the powerband is pretty narrow so you’ll need to be careful about gear selection. By rights the car should probably have a six speed, but that seems a little too anachronistic to me.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

D400 v1.0 initial release.

1 Like

== Vintage GT Racing ==

  • R/A VGTR v1.0
  • PD: 5.4%
  • Character: PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWER! …itty-bitty living space…

Carroll Shelby is the patron saint of “Just stuff a bigger engine in it”, and the 427 Cobra was the car that got him canonized.

True to its real life reputation, it’s a handful to drive in-game. It’s not that it handles poorly, per se, it’s just… Volatile. Get on the gas too hard and you’re sideways before you can blink. Get on the gas at the wrong time and you’re sideways before you can blink. Learning where, when, and how hard to push it is the key to getting the most out of the car. Power overload aside, the Cobra is well-balanced and displays a tenacious amount of high-speed grip for a car with no aero. You can get really aggressive through corners and it’ll just hunker down and go.

Shift point is at 6.8k RPM. The motor starts making good power around 4k, but drops off a cliff pretty quickly after the shift point. If you have to choose between two gears, you’re almost always better off in the higher one.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

VGTR v1.0 initial release.

1 Like

== Formula Mazda Spec (default build) ==

  • R/A FMStk H v1.0 (high aero)
  • R/A FMStk L v1.0 (low aero)
  • PD: 2.7% (low aero version)
  • Character: World’s best go-kart.

These two setups use the default homologation build. If you buy a Formula Mazda brand new and choose to install homlogation parts, this is what you’ll get. Given that the car has its own spec series, I felt starting off with the game’s default build made the most sense.

The only major difference between the two is one has near maximum downforce, the other near minimum. The low downforce variant can get a little loose when cornering hard and tops out around 157. The high downforce variant’s a lot crisper and more laser-like in its precsion, but tops out at 142. Both versions are very well-balanced and controllable, and fairly forgiving (for a race car) if you push them past their limits.

The shift point is around 7,300 RPM, but be aware: The graphical “RPM arc” on the in-car dash display is off by about 500 RPM. If you’re going by the RPM arc, you’ll need to shift at around 6,800 RPM. All the other displays (numerical RPM counter on the in-car dash display, both game HUD tachometers, and telemetry) are correct, and if going by any of those you’ll want to target 7,300.

>> Back to Index <<

… Version History …

FMStk H & L v1.0 initial release.