Stance

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before

stance-after-wide-480

after

The “stance” of a car is a subtle but very important part of the overall look.  Show cars absolutely have to nail this to do well; if you don’t get the overall rake of the car right, nothing else will look right either.

My car is not a show car; it is more like the Mickey Rourke of the local vehicles.  The stance was wrong, though, and it was bothering me.  There are a few other reasons to get this right.  Weight distribution obviously depends on the angle of the car, there are aerodynamic benefits (sometimes)*, and you can muck up the rest of the suspension geometry if you do it really wrong.

Ordinarily, you should adjust this as per your factory service manual, which was of course the first thing you bought when you got your car.  However… as with everything else on my car, the history matters.  The suspension was shot when I got the car, so I had the shocks, springs, and torsion bars replaced over the last few years as money allowed.  I had the rear done first, as it looked to be worse off than the front.  Replacement of the sagging leaf springs with 1″ lift heavy duty springs promptly turned the car into an (even) more exciting drive, since the combination of a) stiff rear springs, b) soft, old front suspension, c) rear wheel drive, and d) torque resulted in a pronounced tendency toward oversteer.  The rear wheels wanted to hook better than the front.  Oversteer is when the back of the car wants to come around when cornering hot.  It is rare in passenger cars since they are tuned decisively toward understeer; this is why your car wants to go straight when you come into a corner going too fast.  Understeer is the safer of the two dynamics since it is more predictable and less potentially catastrophic.  This situation was remedied this year by the fitment of new front shocks and heavier .890″ torsion bars.  Unfortunately, I didn’t communicate my desires correctly to my mechanic, and he levelled the suspension at the higher 1″ level demanded by the rear springs.  This wasn’t a big deal, but bothered me a bit, since I wanted the front to be a bit lower.  Doing a bit of reading indicated that minor adjustments of the suspension would not require other suspension adjustments, which is good since I lack an alighnment jig and a garage to put it in.

Fortunately, front torsion bars are the easiest suspension to adjust height on.  Frankly, I think the only reason that they aren’t used much now is because they impinge more on the engine compartment, which is a problem for front- and all- wheel drive vehicles, and likely also a problem when trying to make smaller vehicles.  The are adjustable, provide a lower center of gravity and a lower polar moment of inertia, and may reduce weight due to needing less superstructure.  All you need to do is turn an adjusting bolt.  The bolt is easy to get to, uses a standard size socket, and does not require an enormous amount of  force.  You may ask, what could possibly go wrong?

stance-wrong

Don't do this.

Don’t go the wrong way.  I used the wrong plane of reference and turned the bolts clockwise instead of counterclockwise.  Oops.  Shades of the “High and Mighty“, but my car is a driver, not a drag car (anymore – the previous owner had other ideas).

In any event, make sure you adjust both sides by the same amount, and don’t go crazy with this.  Go too far and you can get bump steer and other unwholesome maladies.  Get an alignment if you’re not sure or if the car starts handling oddly.  Don’t forget to adjust your headlights, too, since they won’t be pointing the right way.  This lesson brought to you by a large buck standing on a local country road.  In the middle of an inconvenient corner.  At night.  In the rain.

I think the car looks a little more businesslike.

* If you have a vehicle with significant downforce considerations, lowering the nose (or mounting an air dam) can create a partial vacuum as the air rushes through the resulting venturi, thus giving front downforce.

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