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This is a discussion on My STX Project / Build thread (56k warning!) within the Motorsports Talk forums, part of the Community - Meet other Enthusiasts category; This isn't maintained here anymore! The real, official, up to date one is on NASIOC. Go there instead project:BDR 2003 ...

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    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    My STX Project / Build thread (56k warning!)

    This isn't maintained here anymore!

    The real, official, up to date one is on NASIOC. Go there instead
    project:BDR 2003 WRX: STX autox build thread (sponsored by Andrewtech) - NASIOC



    Hi, my name is John and I'm pretty addicted to autocross.

    Hi, John!

    This is my story / log / build thread. Take it for what it's worth - not much I am by no means a suspension expert. I will explain my choices to the best of my ability/knowledge, but I'm just one guy who has read a couple of books and a bunch of forum posts. I am getting better at making my car do what I want it to do but I may not always be able to explain why it does what it does In other words, my generalizations should not be accepted blindly as absolute truth. Suspension tuning is freakin' hard, and I can only put so many caveats in here!

    Here is a great quote from Lee Grimes at Koni that applies to this thread, but also applies to most everything:
    Quote Originally Posted by CRX Lee
    As with about anything in life, I am a firm believer that one should keep your eyes and ears open to any info that you are interested in and see what you can learn. If it works for you, great. Keep it and use it in your model, practices, etc. If it doesn't work for you, don't follow it but it wouldn't hurt to file it off in the background just in case later info might help clarify for you. If it just flat doesn't work for you then discard it. Don't put any one person on a mountaintop as the "all knowing" because the one thing you know for sure is that he doesn't know it all. He who proclaims the loudest to know it all is the likely one you should be concerned about or at least what his agenda might be. I prefer to think of it a ladder scenario. Learn from those above you on the ladder of knowledge of a topic and help those on a rung or two below you. If you feel or claim that you are on the very top rung you are likely misguided and may have reached a dead end.

    In late 2003 some friends and I decided to form a motorsports team, project:BDR (project: BDR). Nowadays, it's more like a drinking team with an autocross problem It's not a big formal thing, just a group of friends who all like autocross. So, obligatory shoutout - couldn't ask for a better group of friends.

    I would also like to take a quick second to thank the companies that have sponsored and supported my efforts:

    -Andrewtech Automotive: Ever since Andrew was a Subaru tech at Hillmuth he has had a reputation for being an excellent mechanic and an amazingly nice guy. When Andrew left Hillmuth in 2005 to start its own shop it was great news for the entire Subaru community. Every time I've needed something, even last minute, they have gotten me back on the road so that I could compete. And they care. And if they screw up, they admit it and fix it. They have the best Subaru techs of any shops in the area, IMHO and their work shows it. Plus, Jake and Dan are out autocrossing their WRX-swapped Street Mod car at a ton of events every year. It's not just a job for them. Other than fixing anything that goes wrong, they also do all my alignments/cornerbalancing - and as you know, that can happen a lot in a given year. They have always nailed my specs perfectly. I couldn't ask for anything more.

    -Discount Tire Direct: They have, IMHO, the most comprehensive set of ST* wheels and tires of any company out there: the AD07's, the Direzzas and the Falkens, plus the Enkeis (including the RPF1) and the 5Zigen FN01R-C's. They price match and they have free shipping. For more information, click here.

    -Hyperco: Suspension tuning is a big deal and that often means swapping spring rates. The three companies most people think of are Eibach, Hyperco and Swift. In late 2007, Hyperco announced a new line of springs - the Optimum Body Diameter (OBD) springs. They have the travel of the Swifts, but the pricetag of the Eibachs - definitely the best bang for buck on the market. More on this later, but that's the overview.

    -StopTech: Their customer service has been nothing short of outstanding. They put a lot of thought into their products and they offer great brake tech on their website. I bought my StopTechs used - the previous owner did track events on them for four years - and they are still going strong after all that abuse. Eric has been great to work with.

    Onto the build!
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 03-16-2009 at 05:54 PM.

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    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    The first few posts are a backlog from 2007 - give me a chance to get em together

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    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    2007 installment #1: introduction

    I picked up my WRX in January 2003. It was stock. Here's proof!

    It had its first autocross two months later at Fedex Field. I was hooked immediately. I ran about 10-15 events on the stock RE92's in SCCA's "D Stock" class. Then the STi RA (aka "dealer") suspension went on sale and I moved into Street Touring X(treme!). I didn't autox much in 2004, but came back in 2005 with a set of custom-valved JIC's from SELGP. 2005 was also the year that local hotshoe Greg Olsen started running STX in an E36 325i. Greg is seriously fast and nationally competitive so he was a great benchmark. In 2005 the closest I came to Greg was 2.7 seconds on a 60 second course, and that was a "power" course where my WRX could really stretch its legs. I was usually 3+ seconds behind.

    2006 was a little better. At one event I got to within 1.5 seconds of Greg, and I was driving more consistently in general. I attribute a decent part of this to me leaving my car setup pretty much untouched. It's a lot easier to focus on your driving when you completely eliminate setup from the equation. I attended my first national event - the DC ProSolo in June - and didn't totally embarrass myself, finishing 10th in STX, less than a second behind Billy Brooks (and IIRC, 5th-fastest on Sunday in the rain). Not enough to get me very far in Topeka, but not terrible either.

    So for 2007, my plan was to try to keep things basically the same. I wanted to get the coilovers rebuilt so that they would be working as well as they could. Run a different alignment, buy some fresh tires, and most importantly, focus on driving instead of suspension tuning. Yes, this was the plan.
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-03-2008 at 09:14 PM.

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    2007 installment #2: the rebuild strikes back

    The plan did not last long.

    In August 2006, or thereabouts, I negotiated a sponsorship with JIC USA. I would advertise for them on the car, on event registrations, etc and they would do a free rebuild on my suspension and throw in their helper springs. (As much as I *hate* the ride quality and emphatically state that they should never be used on a daily driven car, I was happy with them performance wise.)

    I shipped my JIC's to JIC for a rebuild in December. I figured this would take a month or two, maybe three since they were doing it for free. I threw my stock struts back on for the winter. This is a good idea for three reasons:
    1) Less wear on the "race" suspension so it should last longer.
    2) Keeps the "race" suspension from seeing salt - not good for shock pistons, etc.
    3) The stock stuff is more comfy, good for long snowboarding trips.
    4) Good opportunity to switch back to a "normal" alignment (less wear on wheel bearings, CV joints and the like)

    [image - picture of prodrives]

    The first event was March 25th. It became clear early on that I was not going to get my shocks on time. More on that later. At the first SCCA event of the year, I co-drove in a friend's Evo since I had helped install a set of Espelir springs on it. A fun car, but it wasn't my car. Fortunately, March wasn't a "points" event - just a test and tune. So I still had another 3-4 weeks to get my shocks back for the first real event of the year.

    Then came April. Still no JIC's. I drove on my stock alignment, stock struts, 27mm Whiteline front bar and 17mm rear bar with Prodrive springs. (I never got the car aligned to anything other than stock, figuring my suspension would be in any day now.) I sucked - finishing 9th in class.

    Then May. Still no JIC's. I did better at this event, finishing 6th out of 12, but as one might suspect, the car wasn't much fun to drive.

    Look at that blubber fly! 27mm front bar, 17mm rear bar, Prodrive springs, stock struts, stock alignment

    With no reason to believe that JIC was ever going to ship me my suspension, I decided I was going to pull the trigger on a new suspension.
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-12-2008 at 04:42 PM.

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    2007 installment #3: decisions, decisions

    I evaluated a lot of options when deciding what to go with next. I needed new shocks, new springs and new camber plates. My criteria:

    1. I wanted to run springs somewhere in the 400-600 lb/in range. One of the reasons to upgrade suspension components is to limit body roll, so that you are not driving on the sidewalls of the tires. There are a few ways to accomplish this:

    a. Stiff swaybars, softer springs. Because swaybars have very little ride quality penalty, this is a good route for someone with a daily driven car. But by going with large swaybars, you can limit suspension independence and lift the rear inside tire, ending up with a lot of wheelspin at corner exit.

    b. Soft swaybars, stiffer springs. The ride quality will likely be worse on the same set of shocks with the stiffer springs, but the car should be less likely to snap oversteer and be more likely to keep the tires on the ground.

    c. Stiff swaybars, stiff springs. If you don't care about ride quality *and* you are comfortable driving a very loose car this may be faster.

    You really have to resolve this question before you go anywhere, as it affects everything else. I went with "b". My car is not daily driven (except when the MR2 is down) so I was willing to take a ride quality penalty, but I also wanted to keep the car from being too stiff where it would be difficult to throttle steer. I'm not good enough yet to manage a really loose car. I do find myself slowly loosening it as the years go by, though.

    This choice also means that I need to make sure whatever shocks I buy are valved appropriately for higher spring rates.

    2. Height adjustibility. This is so I could cornerbalance the car if necessary. Most of the options on the market support this anyway, so this isn't too big a filter.

    3. Ride quality that isn't despicable. Although it's not daily driven, I do have to drive the car to work sometimes, and occasionally have to drive it long distances to get to events. I didn't want to get a headache driving to events. It's not good for results

    4. Adjustable shocks. This is also a pretty easy thing to find. And by "adjustable" I mean "adjustable to something between overdamped and underdamped". The JIC's were "adjustable" but your choices were pretty much nausea from setting them on soft and headaches from setting them to something else. Not much fun. If you're sufficiently hardcore, this is not a problem, but I'm past those days (didn't take long). Get off my lawn.

    For more reading, go here: - it's an interesting article regardless of how you feel about all its conclusions.

    And here:
    (bring a calculator!)

    5. Ease of rebuildability. If you do send your suspension out for a rebuild, you don't want to be trapped waiting for someone to ship something from Japan while your competitors pass you in the standings. This means buying from a reputable company, and buying something that can be serviced in the US.

    The options I ran through:

    -Cheap: STi struts, with Ground Controls and some sort of camber plates. The downside would be the inevitable clunking struts (which can be greased - check the STi Strut FAQ), the lack of adjustability, and the upper limit on spring rates (probably can't go past about 350 lb/in or so?). This would have been an okay interim solution, if I had wanted my JIC's back - should have been good enough to get me to a point where I could be reasonably successful if I could drive well. But I decided that I didn't want an interim solution.

    -Less Cheap: Tein Flex. They can be had pretty cheaply - something like $1400. Branden Burkhart won STU on them at Nationals, so they are certainly capable *enough*. I ruled this out mostly because I thought that for a little more money I could get something that would provide similar performance and give me better ride quality.

    -Cheap: Konis in stock struts with Ground Control coilovers and Ground Control camber/caster plates. This is also a fairly cheap option overall. The shocks are like $600, donor struts are cheap ($100 or less), the Ground Controls coilovers are $400 and the plates are another $400. Koni makes a great off the shelf shock - it meets my "adjustable" criteria above, it's rebuildable at three different locations and can be revalved if necessary. Also, you can pick your spring rates. I really have no idea why more people don't do this.

    I was about to go with the Koni/GC setup until I found this thread:
    It was perfect. It met all my criteria. For an extra $600, I didn't have to find a set of struts to hack up, and I get the benefit of a nicer Koni shock than the off the shelf 8610's.

    Quote Originally Posted by stretch View Post
    These are definately unlike the WRX Koni's. I see no model number on either the unit nor the invoice, but they're much shorter and under gas pressure (they WRX units are pure hydrolic). It looks like these will provide between one and two inches of bump travel (depending on ride height) prior to hitting these new, softer bump stops with total bump travel being over double that of the stock struts. Total suspension travel (as I could compress them with my hands) is 5.5 inches.

    Stolen from stretch... a picture of the fronts

    I also considered going with the double-adjustable Koni 8611's, which are capable of handling higher rates. This would give me similar capabilities and the same shocks as the pricey ZZYZX setup but about $1000 cheaper. But a) I didn't want to run much higher than the 1198's anyway and b) I didn't want to have too many knobs to turn. You have to draw the line somewhere.

    Some other points about the Koni setup:

    -On single-adjustable Konis, compression ("bump") is fixed, and the shock is rebound-adjustable only. Basically, you're trusting whoever valved your shock to do a good enough job that you won't miss having the adjustment. And I trust them to do that A lot of the coilover systems on the market (Tein, JIC etc) have a single adjustment, but it controls both compression AND rebound so you can end up sorta chasing your tail trying to get the car set up right.

    -The standard Ground Control coilover setup has a limitation - you cannot change ride height independent of preload. Most of the Tein/JIC/whatever stuff has this capability. This means that you have to put thought into what spring lengths you buy because if your spring is too long, you may not be able to get the car as low as you want it (and conversely if your springs are too short the car will be too low). You can either find this out the hard way or ask someone who has a similar setup what ride heights and spring lengths they're running. I'm not sure what the other tradeoffs are here but would be interested to hear from people smarter than me.

    When all was said and done, I placed the order with Ground Control. (If you want the housings, you have to go to Ground Control - they fabricate them themselves.) Since the housings are made-to-order, it took about two weeks for the suspension to arrive. IIRC, you can actually tell them to powdercoat them a color other than red (I think black would be particularly sharp looking; ah well)

    Rear tophats: This is one thing I haven't really discussed yet. In the rear, autocross rules allow me to only have one method of camber adjustment: plates, bolts, or adjustable arms. I already have bolts, and those do the job just fine, so I ordered STi Grp N rear tops. They're stiffer rubber than stock and they get the job done. If I had it to do over again I might buy the GC rear plates as well, since they're not much more expensive than the combination of Grp N's and camber bolts.

    I called up Ground Control to discuss things with Mark. Mark has a 2004 STi (as well as an MKI MR2) and he was heavily involved in the development of the Subaru products. He runs them on his own car - even does track events. Much like Myles and the TiC guys he knows his stuff in and out and isn't some guy schlepping stuff straight from the brochure. We talked about springrates, shocks, alignment and general car setup for about forty-five minutes. And when he says he's going to do things - he does them. (Coming from my "other" suspension experience, this was quite refreshing.)

    So, the final specs on what I ordered:
    Koni single-adjustable 1198 shocks, custom valved for Ground Control
    Ground Control lowering camber/caster plates
    Ground Control coilovers with 400 lb/in Eibach ERS springs

    Koni single-adjustable 1198 shocks, custom valved for Ground Control
    STi Grp N rear tophats (from Rallispec)
    Ground Control coilovers with 450 lb/in Eibach ERS springs

    [insert pic of setup]
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-12-2008 at 04:43 PM.

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    2007 installment #4: installation

    About two weeks after I had placed the order with Ground Control, everything was ready and shipped out. Since they make them to order:
    Quote Originally Posted by !4KORNRZ!
    The reason you're not seeing this Ground Control system elswhere, is due to the fact that they are hand built, one by one, customized to your specifications.

    ...and continuing customer support.

    I don't think you will find that kind of service anywhere else when it comes to an affordable, custom taylored product.
    it does take longer. Rallispec got me the Grp N tops quite quickly as well.

    My first attempt at installation didn't go well. In the rear, Rallispec had shipped me the 93-01 Grp N mounts rather than the GD mounts. In the front, the under-rings on the Ground Control camber plates didn't fit. (This is one of the wonderful things about having a reliable daily driver. You can leave your car in the garage on jackstands for a couple weeks when you have to!).

    Now - a lot of folks on here would have instantly clicked the "new thread" button and told the universe how Rallispec/Ground Control were evil and didn't care and should :diaf:. I chose a different route. I called them the next day, said "whoops, I got the wrong mounts" and "whoops, the rings don't fit". Rallispec overnighted me the proper mounts, and told me I could send the incorrect ones back at my convenience. Ground Control whipped up a new set of under-rings, Mark tested them on his personal car for fitment, and then they overnighted those, too. That, folks, is customer service - and it's sad to say that it's becoming harder and harder to find. Everyone screws up sometimes, but they both exceeded expectations when it came to correcting them. This == happy John.

    The camber plates come in two pieces: the under-ring and the top plate. The under-ring is a metal ring with three studs that poke through the three holes in the strut tower. The top plate sandwiches the strut tower and the three studs go through the three slots (the ones that provide caster adjustment). The shock actually attaches via hex screws to the top plate. Camber adjustment is achieved by loosening the hex screws and sliding the strut in or out. Caster adjustment is provided by loosening the three studs and pushing the strut forward and back. As always, you don't want to overtorque the three nuts.

    The plates also provide for an additional three mounting holes. According to Mark, this is for people who want to bang curbing on race tires at high speeds. The plates have survived intact in serious frontend collisions with the normal three-stud setup, and Mark runs them that way on his own car, but it's there if you want it. (I did not realize this, but it is in fact legal to do this in Street Touring. However, I had no desire to drill holes in my strut tower!)

    The rear Grp N mounts install the same way as the stock stuff - nothing special there.

    When attaching the main center strut top nut, it's important that you not spin the shaft excessively. I used a pair of vice grips on top of a rubber strap wrench on top of the shaft, and tightened the nut with a conventional wrench. If you spin the shock shaft too much (say, with an impact wrench) you run the risk of rendering the shock non-adjustable.

    The front brake lines attach fine using the stock bolts. In the rear, I used a pair of zip-ties as the stock bracket didn't quite work with the Ground Control bracket. This held up just fine.

    Other than that, it's pretty much a normal suspension install. Oh, except for the bling-bling Ground Control stickers. Gotta represent!

    I had two noises that I had to cure. One was a sort of creaking noise caused by having the wheel at full lock to the right. Mark from Ground Control knew instantly from my description that I just needed to grease the spring perch:

    > One random question - when I turn right, sometimes I get kind of a
    > "sproing" noise from the front-right of the car. Sort of like a person
    > jumping off of a metal diving board in a cartoon. I can't describe it
    > much better than that unfortunately. Only happens when I turn right,
    > usually at low speeds. Any ideas?

    The noise you are hearing is the
    cup washer(the concave piece with the flat roller bearing below.) It's a
    simple fix. Jack the car up, lower the gold adjuster all the way off of
    the red sleeve,that will allow you to access the perches bearing assembly
    without removing the strut. Put a small amount of waterproof grease on the
    mating surfaces between the cup washer and the sliders convex surface.
    While you're there, it would be a good idea to separate the cup washer
    from the perch and put some more grease in the bearing assembly also.

    That cured the noise instantly.

    The second noise was the rear springs rubbing on the rear perches.

    This is something that can happen on the Ground Control setup if your spring is not fully seated at all times. Whenever the car goes to full droop the spring can unseat slightly and then settle in such a way that it's contacting the upper part of the spring perches. For me it only happens in the rear (my front springs are always seated). The temporary fix is to jack the car up, pull the spring away from the perch and settle the car slowly, but if your car goes to full droop it can be un-done. The permanent fix is to add a helper spring and a coupler so that the spring never comes unseated.

    (For more on helper springs and tender springs, check this out: Tender Springs vs. Helper Springs)

    What I don't know is if I still have the problem now that I have a stiffer rear swaybar. That may limit droop enough that it's no longer an issue (i.e. the bar is limiting roll enough that the spring never comes unseated).
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-15-2008 at 10:49 PM. Reason: Adding rubbing pic

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    2007 installment #5: initial setup

    So - alignment is really, really damned important. Maybe #2 after tires. If you are spending $$ on suspension parts and tires, and you're not bettering your alignment, you are missing out.

    It's been said a few times on NASIOC: "get as much grip as you can in the front, and tune the rear to match". How do you get grip?

    The gimme is that you need good tires. No way around that. Because I had to drop $2000 on a new suspension, my tire budget for the year was kinda blown, so I was planning to run my summer-not-autox RE070's. They had about 10K miles on them, but they're still pretty fast. They're just not in the same tier as the AD07's, the Azenis or the RE01R. Two reasons: width (they don't come wider than 225) and gearing (they don't come in 235/40-17 or 245/40-17, both of which give the 2.0L WRX a nice gearing advantage).

    Now after you get tires you need to start controlling body roll, and minimizing its effects. With 400 lb/in springs in the front, and my trusty 27mm Whiteline front bar, the frontend was going to be pretty stiff. But it's still a 3000 lb car, and it's still going to have body roll, so you need to dial in some static negative camber so that when there is body roll, you won't be driving on your sidewalls. I chose to run 3.5 degrees of negative camber. I could have gotten four degrees negative with the Ground Control plates, but at some point you hit diminishing returns and you are sacrificing your ability to brake and your ability to put the power down. If I knew *exactly* what that point was, I'd have gone with that, but this seemed like a reasonable guess based on past experience.

    [insert G-tech post about braking and accelerating]

    In the rear, I definitely felt like I could change things to get more rotation out of the car. My old setup:
    -JIC FLTA2-RS: 9k front, 10k rear
    --3.7 camber front, -2.1 rear, 0 toe
    -27mm front bar
    -17mm rear bar (I downsized from a Cusco 22/23/24 bar because the car felt too loose. In reality I probably just wasn't used to it.)

    The turn in was pretty good, which was a little deceiving. It felt okay, but never had that "whee my car is rotating properly" feel to it (you'll know it if you get it) - it definitely tended to understeer. At the time I thought it was reasonably neutral, because I knew that it would never be a Miata and just figured that this was going to be as good as it got. But after a lot of reading I wanted to try running less camber in the rear. Since I was running a skinny bar in the rear I figured I'd go for very little rear camber at first, and if that wasn't enough I could upsize the rear swaybar. I ended up going with -.8 in the rear.

    Since I drive the car on the street about 6K miles a year (mostly long highway trips), and I am too lazy to change my alignment at the events, I decided to go with zero toe.

    I initially set the ride height to something like 13.75" front, 13.75" rear. In an attempt to alleviate the rubbing issue described in the last installment I raised up the rear of the car to 14.25". I forgot to lower it back before I got aligned, so I just went with it. At the time, I thought of ride height as something that changed your CG and something that affected your shock travel - but it never consciously occurred to me that changing the car's rake would have a profound impact on how it handled.
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-03-2008 at 09:15 PM.

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    2007 installment #6: a new hope

    I took the car to Andrewtech and they had no problems hitting my specs (-3.5, -.8, 0 toe). Jake (KONKILR) commented on how good the turn-in was on his test drive. Needless to say I was amped to get the car to its first event.

    June 10th was the unveiling. It was a test and tune event at Harry Grove Stadium run by the Capital Driving Club. Harry Grove is a pretty small lot where you can see the entire course all at once.
    [insert scoobysport video]
    There was a short launch followed by a hard 120-degree left turn. I was immediately amazed at how good the turn-in was. I could keep turning the wheel and the car would just keep turning - no understeer. Because it was a slower course that was pretty much only sweepers I couldn't totally get a feel for it, but I suddenly realized that yes, you can make a Subaru turn. I had the fastest street tire time of the day (despite what you may have read on certain websites ) with a 39.05.

    June 15th, project:BDR (my autox team) had an autocross school at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD. I got to do a slalom drill first and the car was dead on. Lift, turn, gas, lift, turn, gas and the car rotated perfectly. It had some of the fastest section times on the various elements and in Greg Olsen's hands I think it had the fastest time on course. (Greg, again, is much better than I am.) The rear end did get light but only at the end of a very fast slalom where Greg and I looped the car on consecutive laps.

    June 17th was the fourth DC Region SCCA event at Fedex Field. Having driven the first one in an Evo and the next two in an understeering pig I was looking forward to an event where I would have a car with a chance of doing well. At the last minute I picked up a co-driver - Eric (SkToBe) from NASIOC. He hasn't autocrossed a lot lately but he usually won STS in the DC region when he did run. Eric, me and Brandon (rex n effect) ended up finishing 1-2-3 in STX, with Eric beating me by three tenths. Eric had the 5th best ST* PAX (out of 40) and I had the 7th best ST* PAX. Things were looking promising - the car was definitely fast.

    The last event in June was the DC ProSolo. A ProSolo is an autocross event with a drag start, including a full Christmas tree with reaction times and 60 foot times. It rewards hard and accurate launches. For a quick sample, check this video out:

    These events bring out the heavy hitters since you can actually win contingency money with a good finish. There were a lot of fast people in STX at this event. I ended up in 7th place, after coning away 5th place on my last run (by hitting the last cone on the course). 5th was the last trophy spot. Disappointing for sure, but nice to know that the raw times were there.

    * .499 redlight
    * coning away the last trophy
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-04-2008 at 05:24 AM.

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    2007 installment #7: the alignment strikes back

    So, most smart people would see this and be compelled to leave the car the hell alone. Not me. (I'm not real bright - it's kind of a repeating pattern.)

    You hear a lot about the "ideal" ride heights: 14" front, 13.5" rear. Those heights are targeted at making sure people are low but not too low. Well, I was at what I thought were "wrong" heights.

    So, I went into the garage and changed my heights to the recommended ones. I was near the bottom of the perch on the rears, not much room to go lower even if I wanted to. As what I thought would be the finishing touch, I took the car to Andrewtech to get it cornerbalanced and re-aligned with the new heights.

    The car weighed in at 3024 without me in it. Exactly 1512 on each side - symmetrical AWD indeed! This was still quite a bit heavier than most of the STX cars I knew about, so I resolved to drop 50+ lbs off the car by the 2008 season. More on this weight loss plan later. (Full weight breakdown here:

    Because the rear was lower, and because I don't have independent height and preload adjustment, we couldn't get the -.8 rear camber like before - it went up to -1.2. Theoretically this should increase understeer.

    In addition, I found out before my next event that my camber/caster plates had slipped. My passenger side was at minimum caster (ended up being something like +1.0) and my driver's side was at max available caster (something like +3.1). Bummer. I noticed it but I was pretty sure that I had taken it to the shop that way (and never told anyone that the plates were caster adjustable) so I figured best to keep it in the wrong position and have bad caster but known toe, than to "fix" it and have less cross caster and unknown toe.

    So... the July DC Region event didn't go well. The car got squirrelly in the first slalom. Video:

    Second run was less squirrelly because I backed off, but it was slow, and the car was definitely understeering.

    I sucked at this event - it may have single handedly cost me the STX championship for DC. Unfortunately, I had two variables for this bad result: the cross caster, and the ride height change. In order to know which one was the culprit I would have to fix them independently.
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-03-2008 at 09:30 PM.

  13. #11
    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    2007 installment #8: return of the understeer

    After a reasonably long thread on NASIOC about my issues I decided to fix both issues at once. Not very scientific but it was based on the best data available (opinions of people smarter than me): 2 degrees of cross caster is bad, AND that the car appeared to be understeering.

    Fixing the cross caster was an easy decision. But what about the understeer? I had two options:
    -Go back to the old ride height - better rake setup, plus it would allow me to run very little negative camber in the rear
    -Leave the heights alone and find another mechanism to make the car rotate.

    For better or for worse I went with the latter. At the time I was thinking, well, these are the *right* ride heights, so I should find a way to make them work. In retrospect, the scientific thing would have been "go back to the way where it worked" rather than "try something new and see if it works out".

    What can I say, sometimes I like taking the hard way, even if it gets bumpy sometimes. You definitely learn more this way if you are patient enough to go through all the bad experiments. To quote Edison, "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

    My solution to the understeer issue was to pick up a rear swaybar. I had been running a 17mm bar, smaller than the OE bar on my sedan. The Cobb bar is 25mm but hollow, so you have to do some math (or wait for RCE to do some math) to figure out how big it effectively is:
    Quote Originally Posted by RaceComp Engineering
    I did do the's about 23.5mm solid in the front, and the rear is around 22.x, 23.x, and 24.x in the rear. I forget exactly and I have the exact numbers at home.
    - andrew
    Since it was adjustable, I figured I could get the right balance at one of the settings since 22mm wasn't much more than an OE 20mm.

    I started the bar out on full soft. If you ever go to install new rear swaybar mounts on a car that doesn't have them, look up the trick for moving that hard line:

    I went to the August DC event and won STX. I thought that I had won the class by eight tenths on a 44 second course, but my best two runs had cones, so I sat on a 44.0 and won by less than two tenths. The cones were not announced and I didn't feel them from the car so I had no idea until the results were posted that it was so close.

    The car felt good, but not as good as it felt in June. It was pretty neutral, just not as easy to drive fast as before, and not quite the same amount of "natural rotation" - maybe 70% of it. It was right about now that I realized how big a deal rake was. Going back to Lee's quote above, I had found something that worked for me (raking the car forward) and added it to my list of setup tools. At this point I didn't want to make any substantive changes anymore, just tweaks, but I was starting to think about 2008.

    (NASIOC rake thread here:

    I set the rear bar to full stiff to see if it would help with the rotation.

    I went to the Subaru Challenge in September. As is Mid-Atlantic Challenge tradition, it was pouring and I was running in the morning. Seriously, this has happened to me three times (2004, 2006 and 2007). It came down to the fourth run. I had a run that I felt pretty good about, but my teammate Brandon had a very strong time on his fourth run - a raw that was good enough for first, but with a cone. I won STX and had top PAX in the heat. Unlike previous years they did not equalize the representation by heats so I *barely* made the Challenge, PAXing 15th (top 16 advance). In the Challenge round I finished either 6th or 7th, depending on whether you used the 2007 PAX or the 2006 PAX (the event used 2006).

    Two DC events left, and I pretty much needed to sweep them to finish first in STX for the season. I couldn't get together a good run at the September event and I finished 2nd, 4 tenths out of first. I was now in a pretty deep hole points-wise. At the October event, I finished 2nd and Josh finished 4th - not enough.

    At that last October event, the car's balance was great. But I was losing time spinning the tires on corner exit. This didn't manifest itself as much at Ripken (mostly flat) but with all the natural camber of the lot at Fedex it was a lot more apparent. I attributed this to the now-full-stiff rear swaybar since it hadn't happened in August or September when the bar was on full soft.

    I finished 2nd overall in STX in DC on the season. Not what I wanted, but more than I expected when the year started, for sure.

    Naturally, I started planning for 2008
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-04-2008 at 05:27 AM.

  14. #12
    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    2007 installment #9: plans for 2008

    The basic jist of my plan for 2008:

    -Dust off my Enkei ES-Tarmacs and buy some Neovas for them (and shave them)
    -Pick up a new set of RPF-1's and buy some tires good enough to be fast in the dry, but use them as wet and summer tires (sometimes I am too lazy to change tires at some local events)

    -More spring, less bar.

    -Figure out an ST* exhaust solution.

    -Lose weight.

    As the 2008 season gets closer, the particulars will be fleshed out more.

    Non-STX build news: Our team picked up a sponsorship with Discount Tire Direct. This was great news, for reasons stated above (great ST* tire/wheel choice, great pricing already). Woohoo!
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-03-2008 at 10:31 PM.

  15. #13
    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    Alexandria, VA

    2007 installment #10: 2008 plans in more detail

    Initial thoughts about these categories:

    ST clarifications: It seems like, based on data available, that a two-cat solution is the easiest way to keep the O2 sensor happy. With the right two cats, it shouldn't be too big a difference in power. TurboXS is local and they do some amazing fabrication, plus they have obviously built several WRX downpipes before.

    Less bar more spring: Setting the rear bar to full stiff got me the balance I wanted, but at the cost of a lot of wheelspin.

    For a good "bar vs spring" debate, check out this thread:
    - good example of perfectly smart people that can't agree on something. I re-read this thread every once in a while and it makes more sense all the time. Post #100 actually discusses rake a little bit and it starts to make a lot more sense why I saw the results that I saw.

    So - I wanted to pick up a smaller front bar. With my weight goals, I am pretty sure I'm getting the Cobb bar since it will drop about 8 lbs off the front of the car while still being a noticeable upgrade over stock.

    Springs: With the effectively-smaller swaybar I decided to bump the spring rates 50 lbs/in per corner to 450/500. From what I have read, losing 3.5mm of effective swaybar diameter is more of a difference at the wheels than adding 50 lb/in of spring so it may be that I go stiffer in the future. Or, it may be that I decide I am at a good level of roll stiffness and that I should use alignment to change balance from here.

    Wheels: I had my old 17x8 Enkei ES-Tarmacs in white sitting around (I didn't really use them in 2007, opting to put the RE070's on my 17x7.5 Ver7 wheels) and they were the max width for the class and light so those would be the race wheels.

    For my summer/rain set I was torn between the RPF1's and the Team Dynamics Pro Race 1's. The PR1's are amazingly hot, very "tarmac rally" style, but they are 4 lbs/corner heavier and a lot harder to find. Plus, brake clearance with my Stoptechs was an unknown since so few people run them. The Enkei RC-T4's were a good balance of looks and weight but more expensive.

    Enkei RC-T4 photochop, swoon.

    Since Discount Tire Direct sells the RPF1's I decided to go that way.

    Tires: I knew I wanted the AD07's - just haven't seen any data yet that makes it not the fastest tire. DTD sells these as well. The 235/40-17 is not on their website but they can get them if you call. And if you do decide to go this route let me know so I can get you the right phone number

    For summer/rain tires I was torn between the Z1's and the RE01R's. Dunlop made this decision easy when the Z1's dried up completely so I picked up some RE01R's. And then Dunlop kicked me in the butt and started selling the Star Spec. Ah well. The two tires should be pretty close so I am not that concerned about it.

    Weight loss: With my sedan weighing in at 3024 (without me) and knowing I would be competing against cars with a lot less weight (some of the STX cars at the Pro were in the high 2800's) I vowed to find at least 50 lbs to get off the car for next season.
    -Gas: I had 1/3 of a tank when I was cornerbalanced but I usually run with more like 1/8th. So there was probably at least 15-20 lbs of extra gas in the car.
    -Wheels/tires: My Ver7 wheels (19lbs possibly higher) and RE070's (27#?) were pretty heavy for a wheel and tire combo. The 17x8 Enkeis (15.5ish) and either shaved Neovas (approx 25 #) or RE01R's (25.1) should save me 6-7 pounds a corner, total of about 25 lbs.
    -Swaybars: The downsize of the front bar from the big-ass Whiteline (13#) to the hollow Cobb (5#) would save 8 lbs.
    -Me: I was about 165 last year and my goal was to get to 155 by this year. Not quite there yet (160), but that's 5 lbs at least
    -Wingectomy: I swapped my beloved RB5 replica wing for a regular WRX spoiler and then swapped that for a wingless trunklid. This one was hard to measure but I'm guessing at least 10# and possibly more.

    So - WAG is about 55 lbs less this year. We'll see when I get the car weighed.
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-04-2008 at 01:10 PM.

  16. #14
    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    2008 #1: prep begins

    Woot! Time to get this bucket of bolts together.


    First thing I had to take care of was the brakes. One thing that has amazed me about the StopTechs is how streetable they are. Mine are approaching six years old, and are still going strong. They are a bit faded and it's a little hard to see the StopTech logo but performance wise they have held up perfectly.

    BHP ( was having a fire sale on their XPS pads for the ST40 calipers ($50 for a set!! I doubt you can get Ultimates for that much). Having heard great things about these pads from Brad (Scooby921 on NASIOC) I picked up two sets, $100 total.

    My rotors were close to their minimum thickness and had had a rough life (the previous owner tracked them, plus I put them through several snowboarding trips, mmm salt). As a bonus it turns out that one of my caliper brackets had been stripped by the combination of antiseize and overzealousness So after exchanging a few PM's with Eric from StopTech about part numbers I had all the hardware I needed. I followed all the instructions that came with the new rings:
    -Washing with soap and water to get the anti-rust coating off.
    -Following up with Brakleen
    -Tightening up all the bolts on the hat and adding a dab of green threadlocker (included with the kit)

    I did two bed-in cycles (ten stops of 60 mph -> 10 mph, ten minutes of driving without touching the brakes, then another ten stops, then another ten minutes of driving) and may do a third.

    The XPS pads have a max temp higher than the Ultimates (they were built to be dual use pads for cars on street tires) and so far are just as streetable. In stop and go traffic (i.e. cold brakes) they squealed a little bit but they have been mostly silent. Jury is still out on dust because I have switched wheels so many times already. The bite is very nice - definitely an upgrade from the HPS's.


    Because of the "clarifications" to the Street Touring rules in 2007, I had to find an exhaust that would, without cheating (antifouler, CEL deletes), not throw a check engine light. I had visions of this being really expensive because you need an exhaust, with probably two cats, and you need a re-tune when you are done. I really, really didn't want to get rid of my Scoobysport axleback because of how stock it looks and sounds around town. (It growls really nicely at WOT though!)

    There is a great thread on NASIOC about the various exhaust setups that have been tried:

    I budgeted about $1000 for this plus $500 for tuning.

    I called up Mark at TurboXS to talk about options. TurboXS does more than tuning/engine management stuff - they also are killer fabricators. Brandon is a whiz with a welder. Based on the available data (mostly Chris Fenter's exhaust) I guessed that two cats would be necessary, since several folks on NASIOC were having mixed results with only one cat. I explained the "clarification" to Mark for context. Mark thought that they could build something that would let me keep my axleback - less pipe, less work, less $$. This was attractive to me, naturally. I picked it up shortly after:

    Quote Originally Posted by ButtDyno View Post
    Picked up my exhaust from TurboXS on Friday.

    It weighs about 8-8.5 pounds according to my super accurate bathroom scale measurements. It has two metal cats, and they are actually stamped:

    According to Andy Hollis's STS/2 "legal" cat thread:

    It looks like they are Magnaflow cats (because of the CE). I didn't actually tell TurboXS that I needed EPA legal cats, just that I was trying not to throw a CEL, but it's a nice bonus that they are stamped (in case I move to CA or something, I guess!).
    I haven't installed it yet and will post up when I do.


    Other than swapping the coilovers on, and putting the new springs on, the only other thing I had to do was swap out my Whiteline 27mm bar for the Cobb 25mm (functionally 23.5mm) bar. This went smoothly, probably because those bolts have been out so many times (the Cobb bar is my 4th front bar, counting OE). The instructions I followed can be found on scoobymods. I also had an eBay copy of the shop manual for torque specs. For whatever reason, this bar was a lot easier to line up the endlinks on than the Whiteline bar.


    So, I had two sets to set up:
    -Dedicated autox (dry): The Neova seems to be the fast tire that best suits my driving style, from some posts I have read in the NASIOC motorsports forum (notably JSortor/buzz313th). So I bought a set of 235/40-17 Neovas. The tread width on a 235 Neova is quite a bit wider than that of a 235 RE-01R:
    Quote Originally Posted by BIGSKYWRX View Post
    john-I've noticed the actual tread width is quite a bit wider w/ the Advans- section width not so much

    from the tire rack section width 235/40 AD07 9.6, tread width 9.1, RE01R 9.5, tread width 8.5
    (both on 8.5" rims)

    I took the tires to Radial Tire for shaving as they are a great local shop that really takes care of us race folks (they sponsor the local SCCA series at Fedex).

    -Summer / wet autox / too lazy to put Neovas on: I do some events where I don't feel like swapping tires and still want to have something fast. Plus, for wet autoxes, shaved tires may not be the ticket. So having a good full tread summer tire on hand is never a bad idea. There were a bunch of options here: Azenis, RE01R, Dunlop Z1, Toyo R1R, or another set of Neovas at full tread.

    First I had to pick a size. I went with 235/40-17, since that should be good *enough* for local events and also will resist hydroplaning a bit more than a 245. Plus, it has that 1% gearing advantage over the 245/40-17. Max Hayter posted on NASIOC that he felt the gearing advantage was more important, and since I wasn't looking for all out lateral grip (that's what the Neovas are for) this made sense to me.

    My intention was to get the Z1's from Discount Tire Direct. But with the Z1 not available in 235/40-17 or 245/40-17 - with no production date in sight. The Azenis isn't as fast as the other tires. The R1R got sketchy reviews at the Dixie Tour, so either they suck, or people are holding out on us The Neovas are expensive, plus I wouldn't get any new data, since I was going to run them anyway.

    So I decided to go with the RE-01R's. Shortly thereafter, Discount Tire Direct started carrying the Z1 Star Spec. This was a downer (I like trying new tires) but I will try them eventually, maybe next year.

    If I had a do-over I may have gone with a full tread set of Neovas, for potential contingency reasons (if it rains, I would have to switch brands), but I'm not fast enough to worry about that stuff yet.

    I had these mounted at a local shop that I trusted not to scratch my shiny new gold Enkeis

    Here's a pic of the car before its first event:
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-10-2008 at 01:36 PM.

  17. #15
    Registered User ButtDyno's Avatar
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    So the last piece of the puzzle not covered is the install of my suspension.

    Post 5 covered the reasons why I take my nice(r) suspension off in the winter - less wear, normal alignment, no salt, etc. The PITA that goes with this is, I have to put it back on before the season starts I knew I wanted stiffer spring rates, but I had to choose what springs.

    First a little background, independent height and preload adjustment

    Most "coilover" setups out there fall into one of two categories:

    -Height adjustable: You can change the height at each corner by adjusting the lower spring perch. You have no mechanism of preloading the spring. If your springs are too long, your ride height will be too high.

    Here's an example:

    My setup, with no tophats, or springs. You can see that the lower perch (gold) is the only mechanism for changing height.

    -Height adjustable independent of preload: This is what most "full coilover" setups have. You adjust preload using the lower perch, and adjust ride height by moving the lower mount up and down the threaded portion.

    My old JIC's

    My setup does not have independent height/preload adjustment, so I do have to think a little more about buying springs - making sure they have adequate travel but still aren't too tall.

    Choosing new springs

    The Ground Control suspension I bought came with Eibach ERS springs. They are perfectly good springs, and come with pretty much all Ground Control coilover products. However, last year stretch found out that his springs were coilbinding:
    He was running softer springs than me, but I still wanted to make sure that this would not be an issue for me. Travel is good!

    I was researching the various options. Eibach and Swift both post their springs' specs on their respective websites. I had heard good things about Hyperco springs (the company is called Hyperco, the springs are called Hypercoils... I use them interchangeably) and wanted to get some numbers for them, as well. They had material on their website about their new line of "OBD" springs (Optimum Body Diameter). I couldn't find specs on the website, so I sent them an email (approximately November 2007).

    We do offer these 450# and 500# rates in 8" and 10" free lengths....the
    specs. on these are as follows:

    8" X 2 1/2" X 450#: Travel 5.01", Solid 2.99"
    8" X 2 12" X 500#: Travel 4.933", Solid 3.067"

    10" X 2 1/2" X 450#: Travel 6.144", Solid 3.856"
    10" X 2 1/2" X 500#: Travel 5.992", Soild 4.008"
    A quick comparison table based on the data available on Swift's website and Eibach's website:
    Spring			Hyper	Swift	ERS
    8"-2.5"ID-450		5.01	5.0	4.57
    8"-2.5"ID-500		4.93	5.0	4.55
    10"-2.5"ID-450		6.14	6.3	5.84
    10"-2.5"ID-500		5.99	6.1	5.55
    Here's the cool part - the Hypercos are a good bit cheaper than the Swifts. I've seen the Swifts going for $100 a spring! The price sheet on Hyperco's website lists their springs at $75 each. You can probably get both cheaper than those prices - but that's a significant delta.

    I sent my springs off to Brad (Scooby921) to have them measured on his rig. He has a thread about it here:
    My springs measured within less than a % of their rated rate, good stuff I put the *slightly* stiffer ones on the driver's side, but it was only a difference of 1-2 lb/in.

    Springs after being measured

    The scary thing is - stretch was seeing some coil binding on his setup, with pretty trusty Eibach ERS springs. We have no data about Tein, JIC, etc etc as far as travel goes. Perhaps this is an area where those setups cut corners, and that's why a "full coilover kit" can be cheaper than piecing it together yourself. I would love to see a BC Racing, Megan, Tein, JIC, etc spring get measured just so we would have some idea what ballpark they were in.

    So - with the spring choice out of the way, I ordered some from RE Suspension in NC (they do a lot of circle track stuff, and the "R" in RE is Kurt Roehrig - you may have heard of his shock dynos ). I mentioned the Swifts, and Jason gave me a thorough explanation of why they don't use them - something about them losing their rate if they are pushed too hard. I don't know how much it applies to us regular folks doing autocross but it was quite interesting. The explanation is obviously much longer and it involves the actual process by which the springs are made. It's one of those things where there was a tradeoff made - Swift's springs are lighter and have less coils, but may have issues under serious loads. I will try to get him to write it up sometime

    One funny thing about the Hypercos - unlike the Eibachs, they don't have the spring rate, height, etc listed on the spring. I asked Jason about this and in his words "Hyperco would never do what Eibach does". Apparently the circle racer types are really secretive about their setups and would never want to have the spring rate visible on the outside of the spring. They do engrave the rate into the top of the spring, so you can easily see it off the car.

    No labels to clutter the nice deep blue springs. What spring rates is John running? OooooOOooo the mystery...

    The install

    Travis (newest member of project:BDR and all around nice guy) came over to help with the install. Unsurprisingly he is much better with a wrench than I am.

    The install wasn't too much different than most suspension installs. One tip that was useful, is that the top of the Koni shocks (right below the adjuster) are 11mm hex (it's probably SAE but I don't have those wrenches) so that you can easily break the top nut without having to use an impact, or using a rubber strap wrench on the shock piston, or whatever. This made my life a ton easier.

    In the rear, I couldn't use that trick because I was on the STi Grp N rear mounts. The nuts that shipped with my Konis are 22mm (again probably SAE) and there is barely enough room to get a 22mm deep socket in there because of the shape of the tophats. You can't use an impact socket because its walls are too thick - it won't fit in the top hole of the tophat.

    Since the 11mm hex area at the top is encased in the tophat, we actually had to use an impact on the top nut. So we put a rubber strap wrench on the piston, and put vise grips around the strap wrench to hold it in place. This worked perfectly - no spinning, no muss.

    In 2007 I had had some creaking issues in the rear because the spring was not 100% snug at full droop. It was limited, but it could move around a little bit and rub the high parts of the spring perch. Noisy, annoying, but not too big a deal.

    [pic of rubbed perch threads]

    I wanted to quiet it down for this year so in addition to the Hyperco OBD main springs, I picked up some Hyperco 2.5" ID helper springs. They are about 4" at full height, but collapse down to about 1/2" under load.

    Unfortunately, the total height did not work out in my favor. With an 8" main spring, the coupler, and approximately 1/2" of helper, my ride height was too tall in the rear. I couldn't get it much below 14.75", fender lip to center of hub. That's a lot higher than I wanted to run. So I removed the helpers and re-installed the suspension, which got me back about 3/4" and took me to about 14". So this is an outstanding issue - I have to figure out how I can shorten that stack so that I can run the helpers, because those puppies are loud back there without them.


    We slammed the camber plates all the way in during the install, because I was curious what peak camber would be with the Ground Control sandwich-mount plates. Turns out it's pretty nice: -4.7 on one side, and -4.3 on the other. That is more than I need

    Caster on the other hand was a bit goofy. Jake and Jamie from Andrewtech installed my KCA375 offset bushings first, in the "max caster" position. I had never been able to get much caster out of my setup (last year I barely had stock caster) so I was hoping these would help.

    After the bushings were in, we made sure they were facing the right way, and everything was tightened, I had +3.0 on the driver's side and +3.8 on the passenger side. Doh! They asked what I wanted to do. Having run two degrees of cross caster last year and not liking it, I figured we should aim for being closer than that. Fortunately the Ground Control plates are caster adjustable, so it was a matter of sliding the plate forward a little bit until they were closer. I think we settled on +3.0/+3.5. This is a bummer. My car was born without caster

    As for alignment specs, I still don't want to run any toe (tire wear). We ended up with:

    -3.5 camber
    0 toe
    13.9" ish ride height

    -1.5 camber
    0 toe
    14.0"ish ride height

    The camber in the rear may be high (I know Hoppe would think so) - this was a conservative guess because I am running a taller ride height and stiffer springs than I was last year on the same rear swaybar. I figure that it's better to set it up a little bit conservatively and be able to adjust the rear bar if necessary. Once I can get some feedback on this setup in the dry, I will start adjusting, but we haven't had a dry event yet!
    Last edited by ButtDyno; 04-12-2008 at 04:36 PM.

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