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We hit the track with Flyin' Miata's latest power adder.
So I’m trying to plan out my winter agenda for the 84 VW GTI that I bought this summer, and the main focus I have is a suspension overhaul. I want to do bushings, tie rod ends, ball joints, strut mounts, and ST coilovers (rebranded KW V1s with lesser finish specs). It’s currently BONE STOCK from the previous owners so I’m dealing with a blank canvas here. If I had to describe my intended usage of the car it would be infrequent autocrossing and weekend driving. I'm looking to autocross it purely for fun, I won't be trying to compete regionally. I have STS or FSP targeted as my likely class.
It won’t be a daily. I can handle a bit of a rough, somewhat noisy suspension but I’d rather not rattle out my teeth on a long drive. I want to lower it, albeit partially for cosmetic reasons, but most it will NOT be “hella flush slammed and poked”. I want a functional ride height that I can dial in for autocross too. That will probably mean that I’ll be at a reasonable drop most of the time and I will “show drop it” if I feel the desire to.
So I’ve ready plenty about how awful the late front strut mounts are, and based upon that I’m thinking about early rebuildable mounts or a 1.5" to 2" raised strut tower setup with better, rebuildable components.
What intrigues me about the raised mounts is that some people mentioned that you can obviously lower the car, but for a coilover suspension also maintain the suspension travel at the same time. For autocross this sounds like a great advantage.
I have a few questions about that though:
1) If I am going say 1.5” to 2” lower via this method, will the car be handling “better” without as much compression of the struts and springs as I would have if I were simply lowering it with the collars like normal? Is the handling and comfort going to be “better” because of that? I ask this because I’ve read enough accounts of people with coilovers (although mostly the cheap Raceland variety) claiming that when fully raised the car handles worse and has poorer ride quality then when lowered (stiffer of course).
2) And likewise, if the front is at near full travel capacity because of the raised strut mounts but the back is being dropped that same distance to level it am I going to create an imbalance where the rear is more compressed and stiffer then the front? If this assertion is true could it make the handling worse? Am I going to really amplify the 3 wheeling tendency around corners?
3) Given the above concerns does this sound like a bad idea for what I want to use the car for?
I can't honestly say that I have looked into putting together my own custom length strut and coilover sleeve combo but if this was actually a logical and useful mod for autocross I could see trying to figure out how to use this to my advantage to get more suspension travel.
The consensus in the VW world is that stock height, or even higher, handles better. Just make sure the lower control arms never go past being parallel with the ground.
I loved my MKIIs on Shine suspension, which was basically stock height.
I know you've said you're not worried about competitiveness in autocross, but this would put you into Prepared class. You cannot move suspension pickup points in STS or FSP. I'm not 100% certain you can raise the strut towers in Prepared, so it might even chuck you into Modified, but I think Prepared (not Street Prepared) is where you'd be.
I may be misunderstanding, but in 2 (and possibly 1) above, it sounds like you may have some misconceptions about lowering and what's done to achieve it and/or what happens as a result of it. If I lower a car by replacing a 300 lb/in spring with a slightly shorter 300 lb/in spring, it will be lower, but no stiffer. Same thing if I do it by raising the spring perch and using the same spring. It's not like you're taking tie-downs and pre-compressing the spring to lower the car. (That, in turn, opens the can of worms of rate vs preload with regard to "stiffness", but we don't need to get into that; cars shouldn't be running around topped out on their dampers)
Don't know, but it's quite possible depending on the shock you're using.
Again, quite possibly depending on the shocks.
If your shocks have any bypass valves/internal cutouts or any kind of non-linear rate you can get all kinds of different behavior at different points of travel.
I think because of the risk of that, you should stick to stock-height mounts all-around. You're not getting that much more travel with raised mounts, remember there are other things that can bottom out before your shock travel does. And it's a street/track car on harder springs, not a rally car, you don't need that much travel.
Next, don't get your heart set on lowering. It's very easy to screw up your suspension geometry badly when lowering, ESPECIALLY with macstruts like your Golf has. As Cone_Junkie says, never go past the control arms being parallel to the ground, below that is crappy handling city.
The only reason to raise the strut towers on a mk1 is for mad lows son.
As others have noted, you end up well past parallel on the control arm orientation with even very mild lowering.
If you want to stance and hard park, yes raising the towers will net you ~2" of drop before you even starting lowering the suspension itself. If you want to remain in a non-hardcore autocross class and just learn to drive an improved car, leave the mounting points alone.
Also, if you really have a minty fresh mk1 GTI, I wouldn't hack the towers regardless. It's getting really hard to find a clean stock GTI.
In reply to Cone_Junkie:
Probably camber curve related.
Didn't the GRM A3 Golf project show that the car got faster as they lowered it more? That is what I remember at least but it has been a few years.
If you do raise your strut towers I have a suggestion. When I did it I just lopped off the top 2" of the tower, moved it up 2", welded it in place and then welded in a filler strip. It was quick and ugly but I did it in an afternoon without pulling the motor and it fixed the limited suspension travel issues I was having.
My suggestion is to eschew the impossible to find early strut mounts and the prothane inserts and cut donor strut towers out of an A2/A3 car and use them with the VR6 inserts.
It has been a quite a while since I had my last rabbit but at that time I was selling used early strut mount sets for over $100. They have to be even harder to find now.
I would replace all the worn bushings and throw on a good cup kit if you want static lowering. That alone would improve the ride 100 fold and look good too. Rather then the STs, I'd look at generic sleeves, add 7" Eibach springs and combine with Konis or Bilsteins (basically a diy Ground Control kit). The big problem with budget coilovers is the one-rate-fits-all aspect of the springs and dampers. For racing applications, you actually want the rear as low as you can giving the car a reverse rake, but it helps with weight distribution and turn in. A VW is supposed to lift its inside rear tire, its the nature of the rear axle - nothing you can really do to change it without going full custom "Berg Cup" set up. I had 350f/450r springs with Koni/Bilstein on my autox-only 87 Golf and it was STIFF, I'd stay in the 300-350 lb range for a weekend warrior, less for a DD. The Mk1 has more chassis flex than the Mk2 so look at strut tower and bottom braces. Remove the front roll bar and add a rear roll bar to get it to rotate. These cars have been raced since they were introduced so there are proven set ups out there. No need to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Lowering will keep you in ST or FSP whereas moving mounting points puts you in Prepared or Modified.
Chrispy has it right. Everyone will have a slightly different setup but what he posts is a good starting point. One that I started with but as a track only race car I have progressed a bit further but within the SCCA IT rule set.
I road race a MK I chassis based Scirroco Series II 16V. I think I have a pretty good set up. Using what others have learned racing the MK I chassis and what I have learned racing both a Ford Fiesta and a Fox Mustang before this car. The only thing holding the car back at this point is lack of room for bigger tires. I'm running 205/50X15 and what I really need to do is make room for some 225/45X15 tires. I think I can do this over the winter and I will work to see if it is possible.
If you want to discuss ideas further contact me off list.
I think based on the fact that the raised strut towers would probably push me into Prepared or SM then that's grounds enough to abandon this idea. I don't care if I'm placing regionally, but I'm definitely NOT interested in being put in a class for purpose built, battled tested cars with much more work done to them.
One of the main reasons I thought about doing this was to get away from the late strut mount design, which I'm sure you guys know is terrible for durability. I've heard of people going through 2 or 3 sets of them in a summer! Especially for the "hella slammed" guys with trimmed bump stops, etc.
The nice thing about doing the raised towers would have been fabricating my own and putting in more durable longer lasting MK4 or Audi 90 mounts and bearings like some people are using. But I'm not going to go that route if it puts me in Prepared or SM.
I appreciate all of the info and feedback too, especially from a VW savy crowd!
ransom wrote: I know you've said you're not worried about competitiveness in autocross, but this would put you into Prepared class. You cannot move suspension pickup points in STS or FSP. I'm not 100% certain you can raise the strut towers in Prepared, so it might even chuck you into Modified, but I *think* Prepared (not Street Prepared) is where you'd be.
That alone is probably a deal breaker right there. I really don't want to push myself into a class where I have "a snow ball's chance in hell" of winning. I was afraid of this and it's definitely one of the reasons I wanted to ask about doing this on here.
xflowgolf wrote: The only reason to raise the strut towers on a mk1 is for mad lows son. As others have noted, you end up well past parallel on the control arm orientation with even very mild lowering. If you want to stance and hard park, yes raising the towers will net you ~2" of drop before you even starting lowering the suspension itself. If you want to remain in a non-hardcore autocross class and just learn to drive an improved car, leave the mounting points alone. Also, if you really have a minty fresh mk1 GTI, I wouldn't hack the towers regardless. It's getting really hard to find a clean stock GTI.
I'm thinking about doing a tie rod flip kit and USRT ball joint extenders to try and keep my control arms parallel.
Mad lows would be nice, but I don't want to do that at the sacrifice of performance. Nothing makes me shake my head more then friends of mine who own "stanced" cars that are so slammed statically that they start rubbing if they put a full tank of gas in the car!
I don't intend to do anything to hack up the strut towers either. I really don't want to ruin this one. She's a keeper and she is in too nice of shape to hack it up.
I appreciate the setup advice too Chrispy and jimbbski. I may pick your brain a bit more in the upcoming weeks.
I do plan on doing upper and lower front bracing and a rear strut bar as well.
There's a 2 point lower brace I can grab from the vortex for pretty cheap right now.
Is 2 points enough or am I better off buying the triangulated 4 point Eurosport brace in the front?
Would a 4 point brace be legal for ST and FSP?
The Sub Frame Connector rules are pretty specific. The 2-point brace shouldn't be a problem. I'd have to see the 4-point brace to estimate legality and I don't see anything on the Eurosport Tuning website. What's allowed in ST classes and SP classes can be drastically different. I don't believe any 4-pt brace is allowed in ST (which believe me, I think sucks as there's a really good 4-pt under brace for MINIs).
Have you downloaded the rulebook PDF from the SCCA site? I know it's popular to poo on some of the vagueness, but it's that way for a reason. If you read it with a bit of a "legal-eze" mindset as well as with the idea of "if it doesn't say you can, then you can't" then I don't think it's hard to follow.
Contradiction wrote: I'm thinking about doing a tie rod flip kit and USRT ball joint extenders to try and keep my control arms parallel.
Honestly.... for autocross forget about it. The fastest rabbits around here are always the ones with 450-700 spring rates, as much negative camber as their plates will give them, sitting very low with the control arms pointing up, Big front sway bars and MONSTER rears on 13X8 wheels sticking 3 inches out of the fenders wrapped in whatever slick is fastest that year.
People like to get hung up on the theory part of roll centers, spend lots of money to that purpose and forget that it isn't always the fastest way around a course. Dropping a half a grand on roll center fixes that might not gain you any time isn't where I would start.
Someone that used to work at GRM wrote a book on the subject of VW suspensions...
What was his name?
Volkswagen Sport Tuning: For Street and Competition by Per Schroeder BENTLEY ROBERT publishers
Your requirements and intent sound like my last Scirocco. It was a blast. Bilstein HD shocks and struts, Nuespeed "red" race springs, new mounts and poly bushings all around. No front bar, big rear bar, home made front lower chassis connector and homemade rear upper shock mount connecter with four point roll bar. Tom Fowler suggested this set up and said not to worry about the front upper stiffener as most of the flex is in the chassis horns pointing forward down below.
Keep the front control arms to seven degrees or less from horizontal.
Since you want to keep it streetable DO NOT drop it more than an inch or two. If you were gonna do prepared or modified maybe but then it's borderline undriveable on the street.
noddaz wrote: Someone that used to work at GRM wrote a book on the subject of VW suspensions... What was his name? Volkswagen Sport Tuning: For Street and Competition by Per Schroeder BENTLEY ROBERT publishers
Haven't read that yet but I ordered it off of Amazon earlier this week!
I don't quite get why people keep recommending the Billy HD's instead of the sports when the car has been lowered at all. The internal bump stop design and the A1 chassis limited suspension travel causes problems at anything over 20mm drop. That is why I ended up raising the strut towers on my Caddy.
Replacing the HD's with the shorter stiffer Sports (which I had on many other A1's) would have fixed the problem instantly.
Sports still work at stock height as well.
From the pictures you sent me don't it that one up; plenty of competitive cars with bilstein sports and neuspeed/shine/autotech/h&r springs out there. Beyond that using ground control sleeves and heavier springs with a monster 13" setup will set you up. You remember that cabby from Columbus that mopped up on everyone in the CVO, the recipe is the same.
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