Someday I want to buy a shifter kart and race it. I find the cornering gs from the tiny slicks intoxicating and physically challenging. Unfortunately, getting married and moving into a new home doesn't mean the green flag is being waved to start a new hobby (though my new house is just a few miles away from a kart-spec track; honest, sweetie, it's just a coincidence).
What do I do until then? How do I tame my craving for high-g cornering? Well, after spending a few weeks in Project Street MINI once it had received a new Eibach suspension, I'll be able to hold off from buying that go-kart a little bit longer.
When I got through modifying Project M3, I thought I'd made the car feel like it has that "go-kart" feel. Yeah, right. Driving Project MINI now makes the M3 feel like I'm driving Les Bidrawn's minivan. Okay, I'm exaggerating, of course, and sure, with its 1.5-ft-longer wheelbase the M3 feels more stable at high speeds. But the MINI is absolutely remarkable in its cornering at saner speeds, and if I were an autocross racer, this vehicle would top my wish list. Shorter wheelbase, flat torque curve, second and third gears close together-aside from rear-wheel drive, what more could a stock-class autocross driver want?
With the Eibach springs installed, Project Street S MINI's handling prowess boasts precision, nimbleness and ribcage-smashing g loads under heavy cornering. Hard acceleration runs are helped by a reduction of rear squat, and when the massive Stoptech calipers clamp the pads, the MINI's nose stays on an even level. Additionally, it's a comfortable ride, and it screams to be shifted into sixth gear and driven cross-country-it's the neatest balance between looks, performance and comfort.
Eibach's program is to slightly lower the stance with its Eibach Pro-kit springs, which were designed to work with the factory dampers. Many would consider it a no-no to put aftermarket springs on a car without the use of matching dampers, and I would have to agree...most of the time. There are always exceptions to the rule.
The springs alone make the car feel like it sports a complete suspension kit. A kit like this takes copious amounts of research and development to get it right, and the manufacturer must have the resources and must be willing to test thoroughly. Not only does Eibach track test everything (it seems as if I find these guys with a test car at every track event I go to), it designs kits specifically for cars sold stateside.
"The problem with some suspension companies is they take suspension upgrades that were tested on European-spec cars and market them here without compensating for the changes made to U.S.-spec cars," said Eibach's James Hickerson. "At Eibach here in the U.S., we have our own kits designed specifically for our U.S.-spec cars, which are slightly different than the ones designed for the European market."