Anti-Roll Bars
H&R has pursued new product lines aggressively in the last few years, and its anti-roll bar program is proving to be highly successful. H&R seriously began the undertaking in January of 2002, and started production one year later. It began by designing and building its own machines, which was necessary because there simply weren't bending machines available that could meet H&R's requirements: bending high-strength, 55Cr3 material up to 40mm in diameter.

With production underway, H&R maintains an engineer dedicated solely to the anti-roll bar program. Because H&R designed its own machinery and had it custom-built, its processes include several innovations for efficiency that are a competitive advantage, so it is naturally rather protective of the information. In general, though, an anti-roll bar is a spring, and is processed similarly to other springs.

H&R will make the anti-roll bars adjustable whenever possible, providing another value-added feature with which to compete. The most unique quality of H&R bars is their mounting bushings, which are molded from Purim and PTFE-lined so they never require liquid lubrication. The lining is quiet and durable. Each bushing is engineered for the specific car it fits, rather than selected from a range of "universal" bushings. This makes them four times as expensive as the polyurethane bushings supplied with most anti-roll bars, but H&R likes to use the bushings as an example of finding an industry standard and doing better.

When I toured the factory, H&R was building a series of approximately 150 samples of anti-roll bars in various specifications for prototypes of the new Mercedes-Benz M Class. After testing settles the final specification, production parts will be sourced from a U.S.-based supplier for the Alabama assembly plant. H&R had the flexibility to fill the low-volume order with the quality Mercedes needed for its engineering evaluation.

H&R states that demand is exploding. H&R tried to start the program gradually, but already wishes it had a second bending machine and plans to have one built soon. Always looking ahead, it is investigating hollow anti-roll bars and hopes to have some applications available by mid-2004. Also on the list of want-to-do programs are anti-roll bar end links. They would use special bearings to be stronger than production with no wear or noise. They would also be shorter than production links to allow extreme lowering with a coilover suspension.

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