As some may remember, I posted a bit about the suspension I had made for my car by LowTech Germany back in October. Since then I’ve had more than a few opportunities to take that suspension to the limits. Unfortunately for what I had been expecting, those limits were rather low. The ride was more firm than stock, and the stance was fairly low, just not enough for my taste. However this is a great suspension for those who are looking for a high quality, direct replacement spring/strut kit that offers better performance than stock while maintaining that luxury car ride.
Soon after I bought the fore mentioned suspension kit, a new coilover system for BMW E34’s started showing up on the market. A company called NEX, who has been making suspension kits for Japanese cars for quite some time, started putting products on the market for German cars. Very little information is out there on the company’s products for E34 applications, but the components matched my needs better than LowTech and I took a chance. I’m glad I did.
The coilovers arrived last friday so after work I got started tearing down the LowTech front struts. These front NEX units use the OEM lower strut housing, and has a threaded sleeve which locks into place. In order to utilize the lowest setting in the front, the factory spring perch must be removed or trimmed down enough to clear the new, height adjustable spring perch with enough room to use the wrenches supplied. I chose not to completely remove the spring perch for a number of reasons. One aspect of this suspension kit that was in question is whether or not the front would be able to go as low as I was hoping. If not I would need to take measures to make it so. One of my options would be to install a longer threaded section for the lower spring perch from a company like Coleman Racing, for example. These sleeves can either be welded into place or shrunken with heat. I would choose to weld or course but having left a portion of the factory spring perch on the housing, the newer sleeve would have a rigid base to rest it’s weight on, instead of just one weld at the top and bottom. Another option for a lower stance in the front would be to go with a camber/caster adjustable upper mount. Most mounts like this will incorporate an upper spring “seat” into the unit, doing away with the current part, lowering the front of the car about another inch. At which point camber and caster angles would need to be addressed anyway.
The NEX front springs are about half the free length of the LowTech springs, and about an inch smaller in overall diameter, allowing for a more compact package. The spring rate is also almost double the Lowtech’s 255lbs rate at 450lbs. The rear springs are also up from a modest 255lbs to 335lbs. Another feature of these coilovers is the threaded lower mount in the rear units. This allows the user to lower the shock separate from the spring, maintaining full shock travel. As the car sits right now, the front is adjusted to the lowest setting, and the rears are about in the middle, with the shocks in the lowest position. Still being brand new I need to let the springs, particularly the fronts, settle a bit before I make any decision to modify them further.
Now how does it perform? For starters it is a night and day difference in comparison to the LowTech springs and shocks. These coilovers are much more responsive and really control body roll. With my old setup the only hope I would of had for this much control would have been a serious set of sway bars. Now I can comfortably carry higher speeds into corners. Where the car would have otherwise leaned hard in corner, the front merely nods now and I barrel on through the turn. Once I put a few hundred miles on this suspension I’ll asses the ride height and make the necessary modifications in order to achieve the ride height I desire. The rear still has plenty of adjustment left, but the front needs to be lower. We’ll see how it turns out. Stiffer sub-frame and control arm bushings will follow soon after.
My BMW wasn’t the only thing in the Imagine Auto shop this weekend. We also brought in my Dad’s Mini for a bit of work. During it’s transportation to the states, the front left steel-braided brake line was severed. First thing we did was address that issue and install a new line. With that done we flushed the system out, which was a good decision because the old fluid was in pretty nasty and the system was pretty dirty. We also put a new battery in, new cables, oil, and “modified” the intake manifold a bit. These are fun little cars, they really put things into perspective. A small displacement motor can go a long way in the right chassis.