For all that we’ve done to prepare the car for race duties, the one area that’s received no attention has been the suspension. We raced all last year with springs and dampers that were pretty much as they left the factory over 25 years ago.
Without a decent replacement alternative, we just lopped a coil off the springs and re-gassed the original dampers to bring them back to spec. Of course, this isn’t ideal if the car spends all its time at a racetrack.
Time for an upgrade
As in many instances, MX-5 upgrade parts are not as easy to come by as they are for say, a Golf, RunX or Civic. We looked around locally and could not find any suitable suspension components for the first-generation roadster.
Late last year we made contact with L&T Suspension, which is a Japanese firm that specialises in performance suspension set-ups for Japanese cars. The newly launched L&T SA agency confirmed that they could supply a full set of coilovers for Project MX-5 – score!
Incidentally, L&T SA also supplies dampers and other suspension parts for off-road applications, including high-lift kits, long lift arms, sway-bar end links and bump stops, among others. For more info contact them on: [email protected]
High quality and fully adjustable
As you can see from the images above, the coilover kit is fully adjustable, allowing ride height to be set independently of preload and damping, which incidentally features 32-way adjustability.
The spring rates are markedly higher than the old items, and the coils themselves are cold-moulded from SAE9254 quality spring steel. The assembly features aluminium brackets and polyurethane bushes.
Parts in hand
With the parts delivered a few weeks ago we made plans to fit all the new goodies. Monty Ford, owner of M&E Auto, was kind enough to loan us use of a hoist in his workshop.
A little help from my friends
Regular MX-5 technician and owner, Andre du Plessis, was quick to roll up his sleeves to co-ordinate the fitment of the new parts. With the help of JJ van der Bergh and the hoist, which no doubt helped reduce the work time, it took just a couple of hours to install all the parts.
With all the new pieces firmly bolted up we set the ride height and a few days later when all had settled we corner-weighted the car. Corner weighting is essential to the dynamic balance of the car. We managed to obtain a balance that is near-perfect thanks to the adjustable nature of the suspension.
Set-up and lap times
We had planned to practice at Killarney Raceway this past weekend to get a feel for the car with its new hardware, but our plans were scuppered thanks to a leaky gearbox seal. The seal will be replaced this week and I’ll be able to gauge the difference the new suspension makes to my lap times when I turn a few laps in free practice on Friday.
Project MX-5 will again be competing in the Fine Cars category that forms part of the regional Power Series, which kicks off on February 18. If you have a car that pre-dates December 1989 and have always wanted to try your hand at circuit racing then this class is definitely worth checking out.
As usual, all comments and suggestions are welcome. I look forward to hearing from you. For intermediate updates feel free to follow the Project MX-5 facebook page