It's time to say goodbye to my most extensive project yet. I pushed the envelope in some areas and definitely learned from a few wrong turns. But that's all part of the experience. In the end, I can say this was a success, as anyone who's ridden in it can attest.
I tried tons of parts and finished with a track-worthy monster. All that was left was to make this car more enjoyable on the street, which would be done with suspension changes. The Advance Design setup worked well on the track, but required aggressive race tires to get the most from. With such stiff shocks, the car felt over-damped and under-sprung, way too stiff for everyday use. Had I considered turning Project E36 M3 into a track-only car I would probably have kept the system and swapped in stiffer springs, but I'm not taking that route. I called ICS Performance.
ICS is a fun group. Even if you're after a new set of springs, they somehow manage to get you thinking about 800-hp possibilities for your BMW. The firm now offers TC Kline suspensions to suit any 3 Series. I wanted something that would primarily be used on the street, so ordered its TC Kline Smart Design Double Adjustable coilover suspension system.
I opted for street-friendly spring rates-400 pounds up front, 500 pounds in the rear-which would maintain a mild understeer (only felt when pushing at the limit). The kit came complete, except for a set of instructions. Nevertheless, installation was fairly straightforward and the few questions were answered with a call to TC Kline.
The Smart DA setup features specially valved Koni shocks with racing internals. Ride height adjustment can vary up to two inches and can be changed in minutes with the supplied wrenches. The shocks are adjustable for both bump and rebound. Bump has three different settings for street or track. Rebound has 12 different settings for extra fine tuning.
The kit uses Vogtland VVS alloy springs. Thanks to a costly manufacturing process, the metals used are so strong that the wire can be made thinner without fatiguing. This allows the spring to have the desired rate but with more travel, which reduces coil bind. Additionally, all spring rates offered (varying between 300 and 650 pounds) are designed to have the same static length, which means different-rate springs can be used without having to adjust the ride height.
To make the most out of the new rear shocks, it was important to address the shock mounts. Those available through ICS are TC Kline monoball or Buna rubber units. I went with the latter and now there is no noise transference.
With a suspension install, an alignment is essential. Using the camber and caster plates, I set the caster at full for maximum high-speed stability. The camber was left at negative 1.5 degrees in the front with one degree in the rear. I can also dial in an extra two degrees negative camber if serious race rubber goes on. Toe was set to zero for the rear and 1/16-inch toe-out for the front, to improve turn-in response without increasing tire wear by much.