Sick, not fully sick!
I now understand the term ‘fully sick’ because my car was a little ‘sick’ itself. It’s true, driving down any boulevard I would hear and see young men mouthing the word ‘sick’ constantly while looking at my really low 180SX.
I wasn’t sure why but I kind of thought it must be the way my car no longer enjoys driving around corners and moans every time it is faced with driving over a speed hump in my local Westfield Shopping centre. In the last year I installed some cheaper, no-name coil-over suspension on my 180SX. I always knew it was too low and to be shamefully honest I enjoyed the look of my belly scraping beast. When the thrill of looking at my ‘fully sick dumped on its guts’ 180SX wore off I started to wonder where the good times went.
My car was no longer fun to drive, the handling was really bad and being very low made it impractical and not too mention damaging parts of my under carriage and body kit. I did save some money by purchasing second hand coil over suspension but it really didn’t live up to my needs or expectations. When Fulcrum Suspensions announced it was doing Research and Development with TEIN Inc to bring the TEIN Super Street coil over suspension to Australia my interest was nonetheless peaked.
Obviously via internet retailers and Japanese wrecking yards you could already get TEIN suspension for your car in Australia but the difference is it isn’t developed specifically for Australian conditions which differ greatly from the Japanese superhighways and smooth roads they were built for nor do receive a locally backed warranty. TEIN have supplied Fulcrum Suspensions with their number one R&D manager Mr. Ippei Sugano who is based in California at their TEIN USA offices, to conduct test on a wide variety of Japanese grey imports, Australian delivered Japanese cars and even some Aussie built performance sedans like the BA XR Falcons and SS Commodore.
The car looked more aggressive while it was scrapingly low but it came at the detriment of the ride and the handling. It was practically riding on the bump stops and therefore bouncing through corners rather than allowing the suspension to work as it should by keeping the tyres in contact with the road.
The rear sat slightly lower than the front. The ideal centre wheel to guard measurement should be about 330mm; the measurement on my car was 295mm. Effectively I robbed myself of 35mm suspension travel, changed the geometry on the rear control arms and created too much negative camber.
The new pillow mounts, look sexy and they offer control of the camber settings. The previous coil-overs had too much camber which quickly destroyed the insides of several tyres. The small dial in the centre is your Damper Force Control dial. There are sixteen settings, one is the firmest and in an anti-clockwise fashion you will find each click gets a little softer until you reach sixteen. I have found that a setting of about eight is the best balance for good spirited driving on most roads.
While it no longer registers as a ‘fully sick’ ride height it still sits quite low and retains an aggressive stance. The best part is that it is now high enough to comply with local vehicle ride height regulations.
Often overlooked when raising or lowering a car is the wheel alignment. Quite simply it is a must, you have to ensure that all the wheels are going in the same direction - if you don’t you will wear out tyres very quickly and perhaps you won’t get the most of your suspension upgrades.
The new suspension has made my car a lot more useable not to mention very enjoyable. With the Damper adjustments I can dial in over-steer or make the car very neutral through the bends. The car feels very balanced through any sort of corner and I feel confident in being able to carry more speed into, through and exiting the apex. It also allows me to soften up the rear suspension for occasional excursions to the drag strip. The softer rear suspension allows more weight to be transferred over the rear wheels increasing grip and hopefully it will help me launch like a pro. Overall however it has given me a lot more control and comfort while driving and really who can ask for more than that?
Mr. Yasushi Furuyabashi, Manager of Sales Planning Section for TEIN Inc, AKA “Mr Bob” gets busy measuring the lowest part of the car, which generally speaking in an S13 is the exhaust. The ride height tape measure indicates 58 mm. The legal limit is 100mm in Australia.
The standard routine when doing this type of R&D is to measure and test all OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) parts but as mine were so far from standard, Ippei could only look at them and shrug. You can also see in this picture where the tyre was rubbing on the inside of the guard.
Ippei is testing and measuring the travel with the TEIN’s installed. This test is performed with out the springs in place, otherwise full compression using a trolley jack would be almost impossible to achieve with the car on a hoist.
Data collection is absolutely crucial for R&D. Ippei is writing down the maximum suspension travel and maximum drop.
Drop is measured from the centre of the hub to the top of the inner guard.
The previous coil-over suspension sitting way to far down the thread! The higher on the thread the coil sits the higher the car will be. When they are set this low usually the bump stops are the first thing to disintegrate and quite often they will be your only method of dampening.
Whilst it is not evident in this photograph the undercarriage will take the brunt of a really low car. The exhaust was partially crushed in two places, the front bar was damaged and the side skirts show several scrapes from becoming too intimate with the shopping centre speed humps.
Ippei measures the offset on the RAYS Engineering rims. The TEIN suspension has given me more offset than the previous coil-over set up, allowing for more freedom in aftermarket rim choice.
Looking like diamonds in a pile of coal in my 180SX’s dirty wheel arch, the TEIN suspension is fitted with springs for the final installation on the car.
Ippei tightens up all attaching bolts of the suspension. Putting the suspension in is quite simple but for safety reason you want to make sure all nuts and bolts are on firmly.
Ippei uses a simple method to check the bonnet clearance. This is particularly important with the TEIN suspension if you are planning to upgrade to the TEIN EDFC (Electronic Damper Force Controller) as the small motors sit on top of the struts and allow you to control the damper settings from a small module located inside the cabin.
Story and Photos: Chris Gentle