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."
What sometimes happens is a suspension company will stiffen a street car so much that the tires won't handle the stiffness, and overall handling performance becomes compromised. Eibach designed an anti-roll bar kit, comprised of both front and rear bars, to work with its spring kit to maximize lateral grip, using street tires as well as R-compounds. The anti-roll bar kit is comprised of a front and rear bar, designed to limit the amount of body roll the car exhibits under high-performance cornering. Slightly thicker than factory units and with adjustment capability for both the front and rear bars, drivers can fine-tune the car's handling characteristics. A series of different mounting holes go from stiff to stiffer to stiffest. The stiffer the front, the less body roll is experienced and more understeer is provoked. The reverse effect happens in the rear-mount it on the inside holes, and you'll eliminate some understeer. Soft settings up front and maximum at the rear produce the least amount of understeer, but be prepared for that back end; it may want to come around more easily.
If you foresee using slicks for the track, Eibach's ERS Spring line provides a plethora of spring rates for your racing needs. In this case, however, special dampers or coilovers would be in order. Now that Project MINI's handling has been kicked up a few notches, it's time to let loose some of the stabled ponies from under the hood. Stay tuned.
Eibach's New Facility
As of the latter part of 2002, Eibach's suspension kits have been manufactured out of its new facility in Corona, Calif. It features state-of-the-art equipment for R&D, engineering and manufacturing. More than 600 tons of wire is stored for manufacturing of the springs, plus the massive new warehouse contains countless spring kits for nearly all makes and models, ensuring timely and precise product shipment to its distributors.
Eibach manufactures spring and suspension kits specifically for U.S.-spec cars. This is especially important when designing progressive-rate springs. Although European-spec springs may fit a U.S.-spec car, varying vehicle loads can compromise handling and safety. The kits are then tested both on the street and the racetrack. Well known for its ride quality and balance in its spring kits, Eibach contends that no other suspension company puts in the same levels of time and effort into each kit as it does to achieve those ends.
According to Eibach, all its springs are created from the highest quality alloy wire, made specifically for Eibach to meet its exact specifications. The firm's exclusive "Eibach" wire is then cold wound on its precision CNC equipment, heat tempered, end ground (depending on application), shot-peened and then pre-set for fatigue resistance. The springs are then tested by Eibach's stringent quality assurance department-a requirement for QS9000-then phosphate-treated and epoxy powder-coated for corrosion resistance. Eibach springs are ISO9001-certified as well.