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by: K-Man S

Description: Well here we are, the long awaited Clear Engine Cover comparison article. As far as I know, I'm the only person with all 3 production units and thus "somewhat" qualified to make this comparison. A brief history is in order. Within months of receiving my Cayman I wanted some sort of clear engine cover, even knowing that the stock Cayman engine isn't the prettiest on the planet. I set out to design one myself and checked with several plastics manufacturers and the cost was going to be prohibitive for doing a one-off. Luckily Allan at MotorDrive in the UK had some other sources and he set about designing and creating the first production unit as a replacement for the aluminum cover that comes on the Cayman.This is actually an interesting point of note, but when I asked members if they wanted a clear engine cover the responses I received were all over the map in terms of design. Some wanted a replacement lid, others wanted a replacement for carpet and foam, some wanted glass some wanted plastic some wanted thick some wanted thin, etc. so it really doesn't surprise me that today we have 3 different clear engine covers. This isn't a one size fits all solution, but rather which solution do YOU want for YOUR car, or if you are like me, you might want them all to swap around as your mood suits you!Shortly after MotorDrive began selling their unit, StrutKing announced theirs and I ran a prototype of the StrutKing unit on my car for many months, even out to Porsche parade in North Carolina last year. I've logged several thousand miles with the StrutKing cover and almost as many with the Motordrive cover. More recently HIP Design announced their clear engine cover which I recently recieved and included in this comparison "Shoot Out" article. Since I know people would rather look at facts rather than have me ramble, I'm inserting the following table to show the differences between the currently available clear engine covers:
As you can see there are differences in price, weight, materials, and even how much sound each cover allows to be transmitted. Let's start with sound for a moment.SOUNDWhile the decibel readings are not terribly different between the various covers and from the stock readings, there are tonal differences between each cover. I tried recording to my portable digital recorder but the microphone just wasn't good enough to pick up the differences that my ears were hearing. Here is what I would suggest doing as a comparison for sound.If you take your factory carpet and foam off and leave just the aluminum cover the tone will be "similar" to both the Motordrive and HIP Design covers. You will hear more higher pitched or higher frequency sounds, think of it as hearing more treble from your engine. One thing I noticed from just the aluminum cover was a bit of "ring" to the tone, perhaps from the cover itself vibrating. I did not sense that from either the HIP Design or Motordrive covers. So what about StrutKing? Ok now go get your carpet cover and lay it on top of the aluminum cover. Don't tuck it all the way in, but lay it up there to deaden the sound. That's pretty close to what the StrutKing cover sounds like, it really isn't much different from stock. The higher pitched tones are more muted as the thick aluminum surround and safety glass prevent them from reaching your ears. Another difference is with the MotorDrive or HIP Design covers on I can hear the air whoosing in the intake, with the StrutKing or stock cover I cannot.I did NOT find any of the sounds coming from any of the covers as displeasing, only that you were more aware of your engine and what it was doing with the Motordrive or HIP Design covers. If you want a cover that sounds almost identical to the stock setup then StrutKing is your best match, or you could place the carpet cover back over the Motordrive cover and achieve a nearly stock sound level as well, in fact the Motordrive cover is the only cover to allow you some flexibility in what you hear.HEATAll 3 of the covers will be warmer than the carpet and foam stock solution, but none of the covers I tested posed any heat related problems. In fact in my audio testing I drove around with the windows up on an 82 degree day while taking readings and although it started to get a little stuffy, I was not baking. I suspect that any temperature difference and additional heat in the cabin would be minor and easily overcome by the A/C unit. I have even run the Motordrive unit on my car at the track and sitting in the paddock in 90+ degree heat, albeit with the windows down, still did not present any problems or noticeable difference from stock.I would caution that some of the parts can get hot, for example the metal risers on the HIP Design unit, so you might want to let your car cool down a bit before taking the cover off. This is, of course, true of the stock aluminum cover which gets very hot to the touch. In summary, not heat concerns throughout my extensive testing and use for over a year.VIEWABLE AREAOne of the differences between the covers is the amount of viewable area. This is a double edged sword, however, as Porsche did not finish the plastic pieces in the interior that are normally hidden by the carpet to be shown as a finished exterior piece. While the Motordrive cover shows the maximum amount of viewable space as a direct replacement for the aluminum cover, it also exposes all of your interior plastic bits, which depending upon color, may or may not be of concern to the buyer. The HIP Design cover shows the next most amount of viewable area and has a nice blacked out area around the perimeter to reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the viewing of the interior plastic and metal bits surrounding the engine opening. Finally, the StrutKing cover has the smallest viewable area (although still plenty of the engine can be seen) but its custom designed surround and associated carpet cover present only a completely finished look to the viewer.Unless or until Porsche redesigns the hatch area in the Cayman, showing more of the engine area will also result in showing more unfinished bits.A point of note here, after receiving the current StrutKing cover I chose to have my own surround made in place of the carpet piece provided by StrutKing which has a tendency to bunch up. StrutKing s aware of this problem and is working on a new solution, or you can do as I did an commission a custom piece.OPTIONSAt the present time the only cover offering an additional option is the StrutKing cover that offers additional LED lighting for the engine compartment. The Motordrive cover does offer the user the ability to reinstall the factory carpet piece at any time.FIT / FINISH / QUALITYEach of the 3 units are well designed and well made and each uses a different approach to solving the problem of viewing the engine. The Motordrive cover is a single piece polycarbonate that is coated and hardened with the outer area blacked out and it uses the same factory seal as the factory aluminum cover. The StrutKing unit is made of a custom aluminum surround, a form fitted foam insert and a carpet piece that velcros to the top. Aside from the carpet piece the rest of the unit is top notch and shows a lot of engineering and planning work to make it all come together. The HIP Design piece is perhaps the most simplistic from a design perspective, a piece of 1/2" thick cell cast acrylic supported by 2 risers and tightened down by 2 cap pieces by hand. Although the acrylic fills the entire space occupied by the carpet, it does have a black surround painted on one side to help hide the unfinished interior hatch pieces.I had no problems with the fit or finish of any of the pieces. The Motordrive and Strutking pieces that use the factory seal did need some extra force to push down and compress that seal when trying to thread the 5 torx screws, but that was really a minor inconvenience as installs go. I did receive a question about attaching the Motordrive cover first with the HIP Design over the top and while it is possible, the thickness of the Motordrive cover raises the metal risers on one end about 1/4" higher and creates a slight angle, some custom grinding of the Motordrive cover would be needed to get the metal riser to fit flush. Owners may want a perfectly flat solution at the same height as the stock HIP Design cover, but the visual difference might not be worth the cost and effort to achieve.DIRT - CLEANINGInvariably the covers are going to get dirty at some point. If you drive in rain or dusty conditions you will end up having to clean the inside of the clear cover more often. I have had both the Motordrive and StrutKing covers on my car for months and the amount of dirt buildup was very small, nothing a quick wipe with a rag and some cleaner couldn't take care of. Additionally, from a care standpoint the HIP Design cover can be removed quicker (provided you have the suction cups handy) and thus more easily cleaned and returned to operation. Both the StrutKing and Motordrive covers require a tool to remove the 5 torx screws. There is, however, less to clean on the StrutKing cover, so overall I don't think there are significant care differences between the three covers.SUMMARYVariety is the spice of life and I think it is a "good" thing that Cayman owners now have 3 viable options for installing a clear engine cover. I don't think any one cover is clearly superior to the rest, but rather each has its strengths and weaknesses and prospective owners should review this article and the stats in the chart above and choose the clear engine cover that best meets their needs.

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