Now that you know what you can do from the last post, maybe you’re thinking “Oh my lawd Jesus that’s a lot of crap I have to put on my car. Ain’t nobody got time for dat!” Well don’t you worry, you can go get yourself a cold pop (whatever that is) and I’ll help you make the right choices.
Step 1: Get your car into good shape
Absolutely the first thing you should do is make sure the car is in good running condition. One of the biggest things to check is the bushings – make sure they’re in good shape. If any are bad, replace. Also check the tie rods and ball joints. Pry at the arms around them lightly with a pry bar to make sure there’s no play and make sure the boots aren’t ripped. Tug on everything in your suspension and make sure it doesn’t move in ways it’s not supposed to.
That all sounds obvious but problems like bushings and ball joints can cause some really insidious handling problems that are inconsistent and hard to diagnose. This is absolutely the most important thing you can do before you spend money on mods.
Step 2: Get some more grip and balance the car
Alright, car’s in good working order, so what do we spend money on? The first things you need in my opinion are:
- Nonstaggered 9″ wide wheels
- 245 or 255 width, 200 treadwear tires for those wheels
- Beefy front sway bar
- Aggressive alignment
- (optional) Play with rear sway bar for balance
The nonstaggered wheels and tires will give you more grip all around, but even more grip relatively in the front since from the factory it’s staggered. To make up for this imbalanced addition of grip and also to stiffen up the car some you want to get a beefy front sway bar otherwise the car will be super tail happy.
For the alignment, a good starting point without a camber kit in the front will be as follows:
- Front Camber: Maximize it (will end up at 1.5-2 degrees most likely)
- Front Caster: Make equal side to side in the 6.x or 7.x degree range
- Front Toe: 0 degrees
- Rear Camber: 2 degrees (could try 2.5 if you want a little more rear lateral grip)
- Rear Toe: 1/8″ total toe in
As for the rear sway bar, depending on your driving style you may need to leave the stock one in, disconnect the stock one, or go for a smaller one. As a general rule, if the car is too tail happy soften the rear bar or stiffen the front. The front bar from a NC Miata actually fits really well as a rear bar and is a nice middle ground – softer than stock but stiffer than nothing. And it’s super cheap from salvage yards and the like, I think I paid $50 for mine.
Step 3: Win
Bam! Just like that, you have a really fast car. With just this I’m confident a good driver could win STR in most regions. Then you can start saving up for the next steps in making a nationally competitive car.
I’ll post in more detail about exactly what to do with each of these in later installments.