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How radar stealthy are our cars?

11254 Views 59 Replies 36 Participants Last post by  TimMullen
Oh boy, do I have a good one for you guys!

I was driving my 94 S4 today in Pasadena, after letting it sit out under a tree that shed tons of leaves. So....... I decide to go down into town, but all the leaves stuck in my wiper area are totally bugging me. "Hmm....." I think to myself, " Maybe if I accelerate real fast, just for a second, and get to a higher speed, the leaves will blow off"

Well, on Lake Avenue, going downhill, it literally was just a few seconds before I passed 70mph..... so I decide to go ahead and slow down, as the leaves are all stuck, and not coming off anyway. Then, on the next block, what do I see parked in a store driveway but a Pasadena PD Bike Officer, with, you guessed it, his radar gun pointing directly at me as I get nearer.... By this time, I've slowed down (relatively) to about 55 mph and by the time I pass him, I'm down to a reasonable 45 mph. (the speed limit there is 35 or 40 mph).

So, I'm thinking "It's a fair cop"(to all you non English types that means, "Yup, I deserve this ticket"). Sure enough, he obviously gets all excited, because in my rear view mirror, here he comes with his lights on after me.... I immediately pull over, and wait for the bad news........

He comes up to me and asks "Where's my license plates?" (I have personlaised plates coming from the DMV, which has now taken over 10 months to arrive, but that's another story) I tell him I'm waiting for them to arrive so I can put them on.

He then tells me that he pulled me over for speed, but for some reason, the radar speed read 43 mph from way down the next block. There was only one other car that I had passed at that time, with no other traffic on the road. He says "I saw you speeding, but for some reason got a fix on another car than yours, because I know you were going faster than 43 miles per hour."

Before my brain can put the brakes on my big mouth, I blurt out "Yeah, everybody thinks my Lotus is faster than I really drive because the car looks so fast"

The Cop looks at me, silent for about 5 seconds, while I'm mentally slapping myself. He then asks, "do you have some kind of stealth paint or something?"
I'm surprised by the question, but I say "No, I don't think so." He smiles, and says, "well, I can't take this to court, because I have to write down the speed indicated on my gun......... And, you're the first guy I ever heard to use that line on me. You're car looks like it's going 60 just sitting here, so just be careful, and keep it down in the future, ok?

I say "Yes sir, I always drive at what feels like a safe speed" (Uh, oh, why can't I keep my big mouth shut????)
He says, (Dude, this officer is so cool) "Yeah, it may be safe in our Lotus, but if everyone else sees you going fast, they all will want to want to do the same..... Just keep it down ok?"

He never even asks me for my registration, Drivers license, or anything... and with no plates, he has no clue who I am..... He then says, "Man, when did you get the car?" I say, "I got it about 6 years ago off another Lotus club member who crashed it coming down the mountains, and I fixed it all up, painted it, and my wike and a friend sewed and put a new interior in."

He waves, and says "enjoy the car, I've always wanted one of those too..."

WOW, I got out of a potentially huge ticket......

but the question arising form this long story is: Has anyone figured out jst how stealthy our cars are to radar if there is no front plate?

I'm also dying to hear all your stories as well!

Paul Wendling
85 TE
94 S4
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He then asks, "do you have some kind of stealth paint or something?"
I say, "I got it about 6 years ago off another Lotus club member who crashed it coming down the mountains, and I fixed it all up, painted it, and my wife and a friend sewed and put a new interior in."
Soooo.... what paint did you use?
Paint used:

I used PPG Deltron paints with a PPG clearcoat.

On the windshield I also put the RAIN-X polymer on.... don't know if there is any stealth qualities in that :)
In terms of stealth - not very. the plastic may help but at the end of the day you've got a big lump of metal behind you that works perfectly well as a reflector of radar waves.

The modern guns use a small doppler radar which is usually very accurate - they take a before and after picture of the area around and including the object and anything that has changed is deemed to be "moving".

The only thing I can think of is that the low height of the car makes it difficult for the officer to use properly. The biggest problem is that the guns operate on a very limited horizontal scan and really need to be mounted flat and level. The fact you said you were coming down hill suggests the officer would have to be tracking you coming down the hill which makes it more inaccurate coupled with the fact the gun will assume everything is level(ish) so you get a cosine effect. IE: the car is travelling down the hill or hypotenuse of a right angles triangle but at the bottom end is a radar gun that assume the car is on the shorter bottom of the triangle thus it underestimates the speed . Depending on how steep the hill this error can be really large (and this is before the error you may get from the operator trying to track a car downhill).

Quick table below has the accuracy depending on hill steepness.

99.6 5
98.5 10
96.6 15
94 20
90.6 25
86.6 30
81.9 35
76.6 40
70.7 45

Some of the ultra modern guns have this built in but the training manuals still state that the gun should be trained on a flat level car. Sounds like he was too near the base of the hill.

Count yourself lucky and go buy a lottery ticket :)
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I think this is one of those that Myth Busters should cover once and for all.

Over the years, I've heard of MR2, Fiat X 1/9, Pontiac Fiero, Corvette, and now Lotus (Elise and Esprit) owners all recount stories where they believe that their cars were invisible/less visible to radar.

The Fiero owner was me, and I did not personally experience it, BUT when visiting a friend near Richmond, he had two of his friends over, and both happened to be Henrico County cops. At the time I owned a Fiero, and when seeing the car they both said that they can't pick them up on radar. Go figure.

If our cars were invisible to radar, then the Stealth Fighters out to all have looked like small, two seat sports cars. Would've saved the gov't a ton of money in R & D!
If our cars were stealthy then they wouldn't get picked up on fixed speed cameras either but they most certainly do. The biggest factor is user error and the smaller, low profile cars are harder for the operator to get right. However if they do they you will most certainly get picked up.
I was on a freeway with light traffic doing 80 mph. There was a slight bend and an overpass after the bend with a motorcycle cop sitting on it with a radar gun. I got a ticket for 80 mph, so my "stealth" paint didn't work. And no front license plate.
I fully believe that laser is highly ineffective against our cars - there's really no flat surface for the beam to bounce off it.

Three years ago I was on the highway all alone coming around a long right sweeper going about 120mph (late for work). At the end of the curve on the median was a cop resting his laser on his door pointing it right at me.

I started braking immediately and continued to do so as I passed him. He started shaking his gun and hitting the top of it as if to say "what's the matter you damn thing?!"

Never got pulled over.
Sounds like user malfunction.
Lasers are a nightmare to use properly. Even when they are they are *too* accurate and generate some odd results. For example, you could airm the laser and have it hit the top windscreen surround and then (as the car is moving and you're trying to track it) the laser points at the front grill. The laser picks up the change in distnace and factors that into the speed calculations.

Many cases where speeding have been based on laser evidence has been thrown out. For example, the first case the defending lawer picked up the unit and aimed it at a wall and it read "5mph". In the UK whole police forces have been told to stop using them pending a "review and training" as they are getting wacky results.

With the elise the car has quite a few swoops and grills not like the normal everyday car. this causes the laser to be confused as it will see the reading jump around errectically and the modern ones need several consistent readings before they register a speed (To take account of the problems above). This is why lasers almost always have to be used a long straight stretches of road with good visibility - trying to track a car with any movement other than straight towards you is incredibly difficult.
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I drive past a radar speed sign regularly. My Elise triggers it closer than my other cars, but not by much. However I always think about how radar can be used to measure the speed of a baseball from a fair distance, and wonder if the small cross section really makes any difference. Incidentally the speed sign is inaccurate - it reads about 2-3 mph over at 35 mph.
Here's the Welsh Police trying to get a lock on my car (allegedly) with limited success!

YouTube - Lotus Esprit
I know for a fact, when you pass a cop on the highway, in the same direction, they pull you over. .... but didnt tell me how fast i was going, or give me a ticket. Just " i thought you had to be intoxicated to pass me like you just did. Please slow it down Mr Fowler. " :coolnana:
I got nailed at well over the PSL in my 72 Corvette convertible. He couldn't get a lock on me, but he pulled me to tell me to slow the hell down. The "rumor" is that it's the angle of the radiator causes the radar to bounce up rather than back. I don't know what it was, but I was a very happy camper that day!
its the leaves,, cover your car in them.

We need to know what <b>kind</b> of leaves! Presumably pine needles won't do...
radar definatley worked on my car but she did say that all i seen was it spike to 95 and never did get a full lock i was probably going about that maybe a little faster i was passing a car on a two lane hwy and the car thought it was going to try to race me i got lucky with this one because she seen the whole thing good thing is she a liked the car as well plus i had my helmet in the front seat as i was on my way back home for a time trial session i explained to here i was in race mode lol she let me go with a 5mph over she wrote me at 50 in a 45
I drive past a radar speed sign regularly. My Elise triggers it closer than my other cars, but not by much.
I drive past one of these as well, with a much greater difference between my vehicles. My Exige nearly passes the sign before the speed registers for just a second before turning off. My truck (Nissan still smallish) registers from a long way off and the sign tracks my speed until I pass (including changes in speed). YMMV...:D
Lotus Elise? Not stealthy to radar.

That cop picked me up on his radar gun like I was driving an 18-wheeler. :eek:
My Elise is not stealthy at all. I got a speeding ticket back in November. Motorcycle cop on the side of the road with the radar gun. I saw him at the last second, but as I started to slow down he hits the lights and pulls out damn near in front of me. I had to slam on the brakes and pull over, and he hops behind me. No getting out of it for me. But luckily, I was able to do traffic school.
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