Fiat 124 Spider Forum banner

Should I try the softer 275/150 lbf/in springs on my MeisterR coilovers?

1 - 20 of 26 Posts

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
EDITED SEPT 7, 2021. THIS IS AN ONGOING EXPERIMENT AT THIS TIME

A couple months ago I asked for advise on this forum about getting a bit more suspension performance from my 2018 Abarth while still keeping a reasonably comfortable street ride. The most frequent response I got from my question was "I like Bilsteins and Eibach Pro Kit springs". A few owners suggested that Ohlins are the best street/performance suspension, but with a list price around $3,200 for their street system with remote adjusters, that's WAY beyond what I can invest. This post explores more affordable options for most of us with more limited budgets.

The past few months I've done a TON of research, bought lots of parts, and tested them on my ride. I've copied a few of my posts from other threads and put it all together here where it might be easily found by owners looking for some real world experience of the suspension options available for our cars.

I tend to ramble on, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea if you choose) while you read. Lots of good stuff here.

I bought my car used in June 2020. Test rides on reasonably smooth streets around the dealerships were great, I drove used Classicas, Lussos, and Abarths. After I bought my Abarth I found that Bilsteins and factory springs were quite jarring over rough roads. I disliked the ride so much I even considered selling the car. My quick research in this forum and in the Goodwin web site found that 1. Bilsteins were considered over damped for the OEM springs . 2. Many owners chose lowering springs to improve the look and the ride. 3. Some of the lowering spring rates seemed awfully high compared to OEM and some of the lowering seemed excessive and that worried me. This was my car on all OEM suspension, wheels and tires.
Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Hood


With this limited information at the time, I decided to replace the "over damped" Bilsteins with OEM Tokicos I found from two low mileage wrecks and paired them with Eibach Pro Kit springs to get about 1” lowering which I liked.

I was pleased with the improvement in the ride. I would certainly recommend the Eibach Pro Kit to any Classica or Lusso owner looking to lower their car a little bit and maintain ride comfort without spending a lot of money.

I happily drove my car like that for about a year. I even did two fun autocrosses with that setup. But then I got to thinking that I still had my Bilsteins in the garage and wondering if I could get flatter cornering with the Bilsteins and some aftermarket springs without bringing back the jarring ride I had with the factory springs. Or should I even consider Koni adjustable shocks with aftermarket springs? A non-jarring ride was still quite important to me.

Thus my journey into suspension began:

This is how my car looked with the original wheels and tires, Tokico shocks, Eibach Pro springs, and OEM bumpstops. It shows about a 1" drop.
Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Hood


While I considered the different responses to my original post and gathered info about shocks and springs I stumbled upon and learned a lot about MeisterR ZetaCRD street coilovers, a brand that has been popular in Europe for more than a decade and is now sold by both Goodwin Racing and the USA MeisterR HQ in Texas. I emailed and talked at length with Jerrick at MeisterR. Swayed by the data and the rave customer reviews I bought the ZetaCRDs to try them in my quest for my best suspension. Adjustable shocks for an occasional fun autocross would be a nice bonus.

I can’t do this kind of work myself anymore because of age and health so I struck a deal with my go-to mechanic for the labor that would be involved in multiple suspension swaps.

The Tokico/Eibach Pro combo that I had on the car for about 13 months gave me a comfortable ride and reduced body roll compared to OEM but the ride height that seemed OK with the OEM wheels/tires (F/R 12.75/13") didn’t look right any more with the wider 8" wheels and wider/taller 225/45 tires I’d put on the car.
Tire Wheel Shoe Automotive tire Synthetic rubber

This is how the larger tires looked with the Tokicos and Eibach lowering springs:
Wheel Tire Vehicle Car Hood


I had the MeisterRs installed and rode them about a week. First impression was that I'd made a horrible mistake. They were quite jarring, a lot like the original Bilsteins and OEM springs I didn’t like when I bought the car. There is a ten-mile stretch of rough country road nearby I use to test suspension. MeisterRs were NOT comfortable at all on that road. Lots of jarring that definitely came from the rear suspension. I drove that stretch of road back and forth a half dozen times trying all sorts of shock tuning adjustments, from full soft to full hard and everything in between, and never was pleased. Another negative was that the much stiffer rear springs compared to the front enhanced the cars tendency to oversteer. I had removed that oversteer with my selection of sway bar rates; these springs overwhelmed those bars. Positive points for the coilovers are that acceleration squat and brake dive I had with the Tokico/Eibachs were gone!! Ride was stiffer overall but might be OK if the jarring could be eliminated. I was able to set the ride height to 13.25" front and rear, and with coilovers I'd be able to corner balance the car if I wanted to later on.
Tire Wheel Car Vehicle Automotive parking light


During that week of testing the MeisterRs I took the Eibach springs off my Tokico shocks and installed them on my Bilstein shocks; this time using Goodwin’s short bump stop kit. The Bilstein shock bodies are obviously bigger than the Tokicos.
Coil spring Gas Shock absorber Camera accessory Auto part


My go-to shop swapped the MeisterRs out and the Bilsteins in. I REALLY LIKED THIS COMBINATION. Members who suggested this to me were spot on. Ride is firmer than stock, but not at all jarring. Squat and dive are greatly improved over my Tokico/Eibachs. Ride height is a bit taller than with the Tokicos because of firmer shock rate and the car looks better with my wider wheels and tires (F/R 13.25/13.5"). Those that wrote a year and a half ago that OEM Abarth suspension is over-damped would have done me a better service if they had said it was under-sprung. I got the wrong message and tried to fix the suspension with shocks instead of springs. An Abarth owner can buy the Eibach Pro Kit and the Goodwin bump stops for less than $350. I could be quite happy long term with this setup. This photo is with the Bilsteins and Eibach Pro Kit lowering springs.
Wheel Car Tire Vehicle Land vehicle


I next surfed the internet to learn a lot more about coilovers. My first lesson was that most reference charts measure coilover spring rates in metric kgf/mm instead of lbf/inch and that the conversion is a factor of 56. Next I learned the spring rates of 10 of the most popular coilover brands. The softest spring rates of 5.0 to 6.0 front and 3.0 to 3.5 rear are found on the brands BC Racing, RSR, Tien, and Cusco. A little stiffer springs are found on Bilstein and MeisterR. Even more stiffness in the base offerings come from Ohlins and Fox. The stiffest basic coilovers I found were from Feal and Skunk. Finally, I learned that you can’t just put OEM or soft aftermarket lowering spring rates on coilovers. If I were to put 162/97 lb F/R OEM spring rates on my coilovers the suspension would bottom out as soon as the car was lowered to the ground. That’s because there is practically no preload on coilovers; just 4mm to keep the spring on the perches if a wheel leaves the ground. OEM style suspension has gobs of preload which is why we need hefty spring compressors and lots of care when changing them. (However, once installed with the proper preloads we can directly compare the two configurations. One inch travel on the loaded suspensions is one inch travel. 200 lbf/inch is twice 100 lbf/inch) It’s a bit complicated but not rocket science.

I found a lot more suspension discussion in the miata.net forum. I read everything I could find, but even so, everything we read, including what I’m writing here, is subject to the experiences and needs of the authors, which will likely NOT be the same as your own needs. With that in mind, I decided to try lowering the spring rates on my MeisterRs before giving up on them altogether.

The MeisterR front springs are 6.0 kg /336 pounds. I found Eibach coilover springs at Summit Racing and selected 300 pound replacements. The MeisterR rear springs are 4.5 kg /251 pounds. I selected 175 pound replacements. These replacements are close to the front rates from BC Racing and to the rear rates from both BC Racing and RSR. I did a lot of calculations to ensure I’d be keeping the front to rear spring rate ratio close as possible to the OEM and to the Eibach Pro ratios that engineers calculated to work well for our Spiders; those ratios are 60% and 55%. 5.4,/300 lb front and 3.1,/175 lb rear Eibach coilover springs gave me a ratio of 58%, very close to OEM and Eibach Pro springs, and much better than the 75% ratio MeisterRs have as they come from the factory. I also looked at how much stiffer my selection would be F/R compared to the OEM and to the Eibach Pro kit. Calculated F/R my selections are 90%/80% stiffer than OEM and 60%/70% stiffer than the Eibach Pro I liked on the car. The springs supplied on the MeisterRs were 110%/160% stiffer than the OEM, and that heavy rear spring rate appeared to be the cause of my jarring ride.

After a couple more weeks riding with the Bilstein/Eibach Pro Kit combo, I still think that’s a nice setup and should please many owners with its ride and handling improvements. I’m keeping my Bilsteins setup in the garage in case I ever tire of the coilovers that I reinstalled.

I swapped the MeisterR springs in my living room for softer 300/175 lbf/in Eibach coilover springs I bought from Summit Racing, These were 10” springs with 2 ½” ID. I had a problem with my first selection of an 8” spring for the fronts. The MeisterR front springs were 220mm long (8.7”) so 8” Eibachs seemed the right choice, but required running the preload adjuster up so far that I almost ran out of thread on the shock body. I was concerned any settling of the new springs might make it impossible to readjust for my 4mm preload. Summit exchanged the 8” springs for the longer ones. I looked forward to a much better street ride experience with these changes.
.
Food Tin Tin can Gas Metal



My go-to shop owner re-installed the coilovers for me and set the ride height to 13 ¼” all around.
Tire Wheel Land vehicle Car Vehicle



For my initial test ride I set the shocks to soft position 1 of the 32 stage damping adjustment (Compression and Rebound Combined). At position 1 the ride was loose and a bit bouncy when riding over dips in the highway. There was a lot of squat and dive on acceleration and braking. I turned the 4 adjusters up to position 5, then 10, then 15, then 20. Finally at 20 there was control of the springs. Dive and squat were negligible. The ride was firm but acceptable on my rough country road. An imaginary slalom run in an empty parking lot had little body roll. Ride is firmer than the Bilstein/Eibach combo, but not jarring as it was with the 252 lbf/in rear springs on those same adjustable shock bodies. I have a 2017 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The ride with the coilovers and 300/175 lbf springs is stiffer than the SUV, but much better controlled.

I took the car to another empty parking lot, turned the adjusters full stiff at position 32, and ran my imaginary slalom run again. Surprisingly, the ride did not seem a lot firmer than the position 20 setting. I even drove my city streets at position 32 with no problem of a jarring ride. I won’t be able to push the car really hard until my next autoX when I’ll see if stiffer shock settings helps or hurts performance in the competition.

I’m pleased that these coilovers with softer springs could work for me. They are not yet MY perfect ride balancing between comfort and performance, but they're getting there. I’ll try some fine tuning of the street ride around adjuster position 20, but don’t expect to notice much on such small movements. I put the trunk panels back in place and the rear adjustment extensions are perfect, requiring no cutting of the panels.
Vehicle Hood Motor vehicle Automotive lighting Car


I added up the costs so far of experimenting with the Abarth’s suspension. Since I’m too old and don’t have a place to do all the work myself, my labor costs have been $950. Cost of the Tokico shocks, Eibach Pro Kit, Goodwin bump stops, MeisterR coilovers, and Eibach coilover springs has been $2,055. Total $2,955. “You’re welcome”

What else have I learned? Flyin Miata lowering springs 300/175 lbf/in have the same rates as I’m now running on my coilovers (total coincidence). On OEM Bilstein B8s they should give an acceptable ride with handling improvements like I’ve experienced, but ride height will be whatever you get. Putting those springs on adjustable Konis will give further handling improvements for occasional autoX or track day. Goodwin’s 300/200 lbf/in Roadster Sport springs should be almost as good. Those spring rates are NOT too stiff for the street as long as shocks are stiff enough to handle them. I didn't understand this a year and a half ago; at that time the thought of 300 pound spring rates for the street scared me.

BUT DO NOT TRY ANYTHING STIFFER THAN EIBACH PRO KIT, H&R, OR PROGRESS TECHNOLOGY SPRINGS ON THE OEM TOKICO SHOCKS.

If you want to try MeisterR ZetaCRD coilovers with the 300/175 softer springs without changing the springs yourself, you might call the USA or UK office and ask if they can be supplied with 5.5 and 3.0 kgf/mm springs instead of the 6.0 and 4.5 normally sold.

HOW ABOUT GOING EVEN SOFTER? Some of my training from decades ago, confirmed with recent research, suggests that best overall performance can be achieved with the softest suspension that will resist dive, squat, and roll as needed for the intended use of the car. At the same time. softer suspension provides a more comfortable ride.

My calculations show that I could have installed even lighter Eibach coilover spring rates of 275/150 lbf/in. 275/150 are 50% stiffer than the Eibach Pro Kit lowering springs and they also meet the ratio goals I calculated so they would be consistent with OEM and Eibach Pro Kit front/rear ratios.

Reviewing my research data, I had read that it’s desirable to have 25-35% spring compression at static ride height. I measured the static spring heights of the 300/175 coilovers currently on my car and found the compression is exactly 25% both front and rear.

That makes it even more compelling to try some 275/150 springs on my coilovers. Doing some more calculations; I confirmed these softer rates will require lengthening the shock bodies F/R 0.2 inch and 0.375 inch, and will result in static ride height compression on the springs of F/R 27% and 29%.

If 275/150 spring rates would meet my criteria, so long as I'm talking about going softer. what about 250/125 spring rates? Well. guess what? 250/125 are exactly 25% stiffer than Eibach Pro Kit front and rear. The rear spring rate as percent of front rate is 50.0%, close to the 54.8% of the 188/103 Pro Kit lowering springs that work well. Static spring compression would be F/R 29.2%//32.4%, right in the middle of the 25-35% target. Dive, squat, and roll were controlled well enough for performance street driving with the Pro Kit/Bilsteins combo, so 25% stiffer springs on adjustable coilovers might just work.

And I already have 250 pound springs. They came on the rear coilovers from the factory.
I'd have to lengthen my shock bodies F/R 0.4 inch and 0.75 inch to maintain my 13.25" ride height.

A more important problem with going softer than the 300/175 currently on the car will be with the shock's compression travel. Right now the front and rear shocks have 3 3/4" total travel before hitting the bumpstops, 1 1/4" compression and 2 1/2" rebound travel before hitting the bump stops. I'd like to see more compression travel, but everything works ok as it is. Further reducing spring rates will compress the springs and the shocks more at static ride height. The 275/150 rate option will leave me with only F/R 1.04"/0.88" compression travel. The 250/125 option will leave me with a minuscule 0.83"/0.51" compression travel. The fix would be to preload the springs at least the same distance that I lose from the softer spring rates, and maybe more. Now this is indeed starting to be more like rocket science. Stay tuned for my next edit.
 
  • Like
  • Wow
Reactions: wrh3 and Magoffin

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,071 Posts
Loved it Julia.........Fantastic and Well Written experiment...my only problem was.....I drink Tea !
Very happy still with my Tokico / EibachPro-Fit set up, I gave my front, sides front and rear measurements in another recent thread measuring floor to sill on my modified Classica...just measured to wheel centers on my 17" x 8" alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 4 215/45 R 17 Y XL, all 4 are at 11.5 ".
I don't expect to change out the Tokico's for some years yet but Bilstein's would be my go to choice too.....though the Tokico shocks work well on our little Sports cars. Great Write up,, Thank You X
Cheers
ron
 

·
Registered
2018 Abarth 124 Spider, Mare Blue / Nero Abarth Leather, Brembo's, Record Monza, Automatic
Joined
·
593 Posts
Excellent! Thank You! s.
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Loved it Julia.........Fantastic and Well Written experiment...my only problem was.....I drink Tea !
Very happy still with my Tokico / EibachPro-Fit set up, I gave my front, sides front and rear measurements in another recent thread measuring floor to sill on my modified Classica...just measured to wheel centers on my 17" x 8" alloys wearing Michelin Pilot Sport 4 215/45 R 17 Y XL, all 4 are at 11.5 ".
I don't expect to change out the Tokico's for some years yet but Bilstein's would be my go to choice too.....though the Tokico shocks work well on our little Sports cars. Great Write up,, Thank You X
Cheers
ron
Ron, Thanks for the compliment. When I drink tea, I usually drink Chamomile. But generally, we Yanks rejected tea way back in 1773. lol Your 11.5" measurement to wheel center must be one of the lowest around. I expect your tires are nicely tucked up in the fender wells. I cannot go that low because my underbody bracing robs me of some ground clearance.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Magoffin

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,071 Posts
Ron, Thanks for the compliment. When I drink tea, I usually drink Chamomile. But generally, we Yanks rejected tea way back in 1773. lol Your 11.5" measurement to wheel center must be one of the lowest around. I expect your tires are nicely tucked up in the fender wells. I cannot go that low because my underbody bracing robs me of some ground clearance.
Hi again Julia.....I have 10 mm to top wheel arch, when I measured considering 225's it would have been 5 mm to top wheel arch so getting a little close for me, especially as the 215's sit nice and have a recommended 8 J anyway, so inertia, grip, cornering all good. Looking at your photos above, your set up "looks" to be wearing 225's, yep, just reread it...so are closer than my own. Photos attached for comparison........
Funny thing is....I took the Spider out yesterday and on joining the main "A" road it started slight bumping up and down rapidly...I quickly returned home to check the wheel nut torques, all fine...set off again and realised that the road surface was faulty in that section of road, today I gets a letter saying that the road surface is faulty and they are coming to "sort it", telepathy ! Can't think what happened in 1773, tea shortages maybe ? ;)Cheers
ron

Wheel Automotive parking light Car Tire Vehicle Font Material property Parallel Paper Handwriting
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Can't think what happened in 1773, tea shortages maybe ? ;)Cheers
ron

View attachment 87600 View attachment 87601
Boston Tea Party, We didn't like the English Parliament's taxes without our representation there.Things got out of hand and resulted in the American Revolution of 1776. We were an unruly lot.

As for that letter, you Brits are bloody considerate with personal letters to the homeowners. Here in the States, road crews come around and tear up the city streets, often without a hint of notice. On the big Highway projects, they post billboards describing the project, then work on it a little at a time over the next several years until it"s done. The archery range I attend has had the highway in front torn up more than 3 years now, causing them to lose some business due to difficult access.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Magoffin

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,071 Posts
Boston Tea Party, We didn't like the English Parliament's taxes without our representation there.Things got out of hand and resulted in the American Revolution of 1776. We were an unruly lot.

As for that letter, you Brits are bloody considerate with personal letters to the homeowners. Here in the States, road crews come around and tear up the city streets, often without a hint of notice. On the big Highway projects, they post billboards describing the project, then work on it a little at a time over the next several years until it"s done. The archery range I attend has had the highway in front torn up more than 3 years now, causing them to lose some business due to difficult access.
Now...if you had not have been "an unruly lot" think what you may have been able to look forward to....Tea, and an organised, considerate road crew..........:p
 

·
Registered
2018 Abarth 124 Spider, Mare Blue / Nero Abarth Leather, Brembo's, Record Monza, Automatic
Joined
·
593 Posts
I want to thank you again, Julia. That was superb. I have been pondering going with the Eibach Pro Kit springs on my stock Bilsteins. Also want to get Michelin Pilot Sport 4s's - haven't decided whether I want 215/45/ZR17 or 225/45/ZR17, (on stock Abarth rims) although Ron has almost got me convinced to go with the 215's. All that having been said, have you had any tire rub issues with the Eibach springs on stock Bilsteins and the 225 tires? Best, s
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
have you had any tire rub issues with the Eibach springs on stock Bilsteins and the 225 tires? Best, s
No rub at all and my 8" wheels have 1/2" more width than the factory wheels both inside and outside.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SteveP.

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,071 Posts
I want to thank you again, Julia. That was superb. I have been pondering going with the Eibach Pro Kit springs on my stock Bilsteins. Also want to get Michelin Pilot Sport 4s's - haven't decided whether I want 215/45/ZR17 or 225/45/ZR17, (on stock Abarth rims) although Ron has almost got me convinced to go with the 215's. All that having been said, have you had any tire rub issues with the Eibach springs on stock Bilsteins and the 225 tires? Best, s
Hi Steve....When I was "hovering" betwixt the two 215 v 225 I was also calculating using the guides
"TYRE SIZE CALCULATOR" & " Wheel-Size.com" , all recorded in thread "My Spider Just Went All Retro On Me".
"FOR ME"...it was not about rubbing as the clearances with 225's still work it was more about that extra tyre width...slightly less handling ability, fuel consumption and false speedo readings, it was just "On Balance" (no pun) I decided that 215 (which worked so well on my Lusso Alloys) felt good so why change again. I kept the Lusso alloys / Michelins and will now swap out winter to summer each year.
The ride has NOT altered one little bit, the Spider just looks better me thinks....Cheers
ron
 

·
Registered
2018 Abarth 124 Spider, Mare Blue / Nero Abarth Leather, Brembo's, Record Monza, Automatic
Joined
·
593 Posts
Hi Ron, I agree with everything you said above, and familiar with the tire size calculator. And, your car looks great! My concerns with 225's are the speedometer/odometer calibration, rubbing (Now I know - no concern here now, even with the Eibachs) and increased risk of hydroplaning (although I don't drive the car when it's raining, unless I get caught out and the weatherman was wrong ...). The benefits I see is filling the wheel well better than the 215's, and better protection of the wheels due to higher sidewall height. As Julia stated above, our roads are often terrible, with big chunks of pavement missing, road construction going on all summer and lasting for years. Guys on the public payroll y'know, what's the hurry? 😃 Bent wheels are common. But, all that having been said Ron, still leaning toward the 215's in Michelin PS 4s's with no other mod than the Eibach springs - trying to get all the info I can and have time. Still alot of tread on the original RE050's but I hate them so probably swap in the spring when the car comes out of winter storage again. Best, s.
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Why not reach out and get Shaikh at fat cat Motorsport to set you up with something?
Fat Cat custom builds shocks for clients to use with their chosen springs. They sound like they really know their stuff. Initial phone consultation is a couple hundred dollars. It is unclear how much the custom shocks cost. I'm guessing way more than $1,000. I'm of the opinion that their focus is mostly track performance. My focus is touring on country roads. I don't yet know what spring rates I want. I'm enjoying the learning process I'm going through. If I had no time to do this, Fat Cat might be the right way to go.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,374 Posts
@Julia DeGrace mad respect to you for this intrepid (and costly) investigation. Your technical acumen and technical writing skills are first-rate. It's fantastic that you push the boundaries and keep seeking suspension nirvana.

I personally know very little about automotive suspension, but as a motorcycle rider I have picked up a few learnings FWIW.

With motorcycles, there are two things that aid the goal of performance + comfort. 1) progressive springs (increasingly stiff the more they are compressed) and 2) adjustable compression and rebound damping. In terms of ride comfort, rebound is the thing that is so often overlooked. While you may want the suspension to resist compression for better cornering on a smooth surface, that same suspension will resist compression for a bump. That's actually OK for comfort. The vehicle will react and be "thrown" upward. Upward G-forces are fairly tolerable.

However, a quick rebound will allow the spring to slam the tire back down on the other side of the bump. When the vehicle then settles due to gravity, it encounters stiff compression resistance. It's like slamming into a wall. I think this is where ride harshness becomes very apparent. I found that a slower rebound smooths out the bumps. On a good, smooth road or track, rebound is largely immaterial. You have the stiff suspension needed for sharp handling. But on a bumpy road, a slower rebound will reduce the perception of jarring. The slower rebound stretches the energy impulse over time, softening it. Will a slow rebound cause the tire to possibly "float" after a bump? Well, yes. Do you care? Not really. If it's a curvy, bumpy road you are probably not blasting around on it. If it's a straight bumpy road you're simply enduring, what do you care that the tire is getting a little air time?
 
  • Like
Reactions: SteveP.

·
Registered
Joined
·
329 Posts
Actually, FCM focuses on whatever you want. I learned a lot from him about producing a comfortable yet performant setup. I’ll read through the thread again and see if I can provide some pointers.
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Actually, FCM focuses on whatever you want. I learned a lot from him about producing a comfortable yet performant setup. I’ll read through the thread again and see if I can provide some pointers.
I would appreciate anything you can add. I think most readers would also like to know how much FCM's service and coilovers will cost. Info not easily found on their website.. I've just finished installing still softer springs on my MeisterR shocks. I'm happy with the new street ride comfort level. Might have a chance to autocross the car this weekend. I'm writing an update to my post with my impressions of the softer springs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: doverosx

·
Registered
Joined
·
329 Posts
@Julia DeGrace mad respect to you for this intrepid (and costly) investigation. Your technical acumen and technical writing skills are first-rate. It's fantastic that you push the boundaries and keep seeking suspension nirvana.

I personally know very little about automotive suspension, but as a motorcycle rider I have picked up a few learnings FWIW.

With motorcycles, there are two things that aid the goal of performance + comfort. 1) progressive springs (increasingly stiff the more they are compressed) and 2) adjustable compression and rebound damping. In terms of ride comfort, rebound is the thing that is so often overlooked. While you may want the suspension to resist compression for better cornering on a smooth surface, that same suspension will resist compression for a bump. That's actually OK for comfort. The vehicle will react and be "thrown" upward. Upward G-forces are fairly tolerable.

However, a quick rebound will allow the spring to slam the tire back down on the other side of the bump. When the vehicle then settles due to gravity, it encounters stiff compression resistance. It's like slamming into a wall. I think this is where ride harshness becomes very apparent. I found that a slower rebound smooths out the bumps. On a good, smooth road or track, rebound is largely immaterial. You have the stiff suspension needed for sharp handling. But on a bumpy road, a slower rebound will reduce the perception of jarring. The slower rebound stretches the energy impulse over time, softening it. Will a slow rebound cause the tire to possibly "float" after a bump? Well, yes. Do you care? Not really. If it's a curvy, bumpy road you are probably not blasting around on it. If it's a straight bumpy road you're simply enduring, what do you care that the tire is getting a little air time?
sorry, but this isn’t how you compare spring rates for a car. You must incorporate the notion ratios and compare the wheel rates instead. I have a spreadsheet template, I can set you up with once I find the motion ratios for the ND.
 

·
Premium Member
2018 124 Abarth
Joined
·
279 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
sorry, but this isn’t how you compare spring rates for a car.
doverosx, Sounds to me like you may know a lot more about suspension than most of us here in the forum. Any info you can provide will be appreciated by many. I'm doing my experiments partly because I'm bored and need something useful to occupy my time. I'm learning through experimentation. Also, I wanted to provide solid info about lowering, comfort, and performance for owners who have limited funds and have so many off-the-shelf options to choose from. IMO the average owner will buy from the Fiat/Mazda aftermarket specialists before they will think about contacting FCM for a custom solution.
 
  • Like
Reactions: SteveP.

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,084 Posts
EDITED SEPT 7, 2021. THIS IS AN ONGOING EXPERIMENT AT THIS TIME

A couple months ago I asked for advise on this forum about getting a bit more suspension performance from my 2018 Abarth while still keeping a reasonably comfortable street ride. The most frequent response I got from my question was "I like Bilsteins and Eibach Pro Kit springs".

The past few months I've done a TON of research, bought lots of parts, and tested them on my ride. I've copied a few of my posts from other threads and put it all together here where it might be easily found by owners looking for some real world experience of the suspension options available for our cars.

I tend to ramble on, so grab a cup of coffee (or tea if you choose) while you read. Lots of good stuff here.

I bought my car used in June 2020. Test rides on reasonably smooth streets around the dealerships were great, I drove used Classicas, Lussos, and Abarths. After I bought my Abarth I found that Bilsteins and factory springs were quite jarring over rough roads. I disliked the ride so much I even considered selling the car. My quick research in this forum and in the Goodwin web site found that 1. Bilsteins were considered over damped for the OEM springs . 2. Many owners chose lowering springs to improve the look and the ride. 3. Some of the lowering spring rates seemed awfully high compared to OEM and some of the lowering seemed excessive and that worried me. This was my car on all OEM suspension, wheels and tires.
View attachment 87687

With this limited information at the time, I decided to replace the "over damped" Bilsteins with OEM Tokicos I found from two low mileage wrecks and paired them with Eibach Pro Kit springs to get about 1” lowering which I liked.

I was pleased with the improvement in the ride. I would certainly recommend the Eibach Pro Kit to any Classica or Lusso owner looking to lower their car a little bit and maintain ride comfort without spending a lot of money.

I happily drove my car like that for about a year. I even did two fun autocrosses with that setup. But then I got to thinking that I still had my Bilsteins in the garage and wondering if I could get flatter cornering with the Bilsteins and some aftermarket springs without bringing back the jarring ride I had with the factory springs. Or should I even consider Koni adjustable shocks with aftermarket springs? A non-jarring ride was still quite important to me.

Thus my journey into suspension began:

This is how my car looked with the original wheels and tires, Tokico shocks, Eibach Pro springs, and OEM bumpstops. It shows about a 1" drop.
View attachment 87688

While I considered the different responses to my original post and gathered info about shocks and springs I stumbled upon and learned a lot about MeisterR ZetaCRD street coilovers, a brand that has been popular in Europe for more than a decade and is now sold by both Goodwin Racing and the USA MeisterR HQ in Texas. I emailed and talked at length with Jerrick at MeisterR. Swayed by the data and the rave customer reviews I bought the ZetaCRDs to try them in my quest for my best suspension. Adjustable shocks for an occasional fun autocross would be a nice bonus.

I can’t do this kind of work myself anymore because of age and health so I struck a deal with my go-to mechanic for the labor that would be involved in multiple suspension swaps.

The Tokico/Eibach Pro combo that I had on the car for about 13 months gave me a comfortable ride and reduced body roll compared to OEM but the ride height that seemed OK with the OEM wheels/tires (F/R 12.75/13") didn’t look right any more with the wider 8" wheels and wider/taller 225/45 tires I’d put on the car.
View attachment 87689
This is how the larger tires looked with the Tokicos and Eibach lowering springs:
View attachment 87691

I had the MeisterRs installed and rode them about a week. First impression was that I'd made a horrible mistake. They were quite jarring, a lot like the original Bilsteins and OEM springs I didn’t like when I bought the car. There is a ten-mile stretch of rough country road nearby I use to test suspension. MeisterRs were NOT comfortable at all on that road. Lots of jarring that definitely came from the rear suspension. I drove that stretch of road back and forth a half dozen times trying all sorts of shock tuning adjustments, from full soft to full hard and everything in between, and never was pleased. Another negative was that the much stiffer rear springs compared to the front enhanced the cars tendency to oversteer. I had removed that oversteer with my selection of sway bar rates; these springs overwhelmed those bars. Positive points for the coilovers are that acceleration squat and brake dive I had with the Tokico/Eibachs were gone!! Ride was stiffer overall but might be OK if the jarring could be eliminated. I was able to set the ride height to 13.25" front and rear, and with coilovers I'd be able to corner balance the car if I wanted to later on.
View attachment 87692

During that week of testing the MeisterRs I took the Eibach springs off my Tokico shocks and installed them on my Bilstein shocks; this time using Goodwin’s short bump stop kit. The Bilstein shock bodies are obviously bigger than the Tokicos.
View attachment 87693

My go-to shop swapped the MeisterRs out and the Bilsteins in. I REALLY LIKED THIS COMBINATION. Members who suggested this to me were spot on. Ride is firmer than stock, but not at all jarring. Squat and dive are greatly improved over my Tokico/Eibachs. Ride height is a bit taller than with the Tokicos because of firmer shock rate and the car looks better with my wider wheels and tires (F/R 13.25/13.5"). Those that wrote a year and a half ago that OEM Abarth suspension is over-damped would have done me a better service if they had said it was under-sprung. I got the wrong message and tried to fix the suspension with shocks instead of springs. An Abarth owner can buy the Eibach Pro Kit and the Goodwin bump stops for less than $350. I could be quite happy long term with this setup. This photo is with the Bilsteins and Eibach Pro Kit lowering springs.
View attachment 87694

I next surfed the internet to learn a lot more about coilovers. My first lesson was that most reference charts measure coilover spring rates in metric kgf/mm instead of lbf/inch and that the conversion is a factor of 56. Next I learned the spring rates of 10 of the most popular coilover brands. The softest spring rates of 5.0 to 6.0 front and 3.0 to 3.5 rear are found on the brands BC Racing, RSR, Tien, and Cusco. A little stiffer springs are found on Bilstein and MeisterR. Even more stiffness in the base offerings come from Ohlins and Fox. The stiffest basic coilovers I found were from Feal and Skunk. Finally, I learned that you can’t just put OEM or soft aftermarket lowering spring rates on coilovers. If I were to put 162/97 lb F/R OEM spring rates on my coilovers the suspension would bottom out as soon as the car was lowered to the ground. That’s because there is practically no preload on coilovers; just 4mm to keep the spring on the perches if a wheel leaves the ground. OEM style suspension has gobs of preload which is why we need hefty spring compressors and lots of care when changing them. (However, once installed with the proper preloads we can directly compare the two configurations. One inch travel on the loaded suspensions is one inch travel. 200 lbf/inch is twice 100 lbf/inch) It’s a bit complicated but not rocket science.

I found a lot more suspension discussion in the miata.net forum. I read everything I could find, but even so, everything we read, including what I’m writing here, is subject to the experiences and needs of the authors, which will NOT be the same as your own needs. With that in mind, I decided to try lowering the spring rates on my MeisterRs before giving up on them altogether.

The MeisterR front springs are 6.0 kg /336 pounds. I found Eibach coilover springs at Summit Racing and selected 300 pound replacements. The MeisterR rear springs are 4.5 kg /251 pounds. I selected 175 pound replacements. These replacements are close to the front rates from BC Racing and to the rear rates from both BC Racing and RSR. I did a lot of calculations to ensure I’d be keeping the front to rear spring rate ratio close as possible to the OEM and to the Eibach Pro ratios that engineers calculated to work well for our Spiders; those ratios are 60% and 55%. 5.4,/300 lb front and 3.1,/175 lb rear Eibach coilover springs gave me a ratio of 58%, very close to OEM, and much better than the 75% ratio MeisterRs have as they come from the factory. I also looked at how much stiffer my selection would be F/R compared to the OEM and to the Eibach Pro kit. Calculated F/R my selections are 90%/80% stiffer than OEM and 60%/70% stiffer than the Eibach Pro I liked on the car. The springs supplied on the MeisterRs were 110%/160% stiffer than the OEM, and that heavy rear spring rate appeared to be the cause of my jarring ride.

After a couple more weeks riding with the Bilstein/Eibach Pro Kit combo, I still think that’s a nice setup and should please many owners with its ride and handling improvements. I’m keeping my Bilsteins setup in the garage in case I ever tire of the coilovers that I reinstalled.

I swapped the MeisterR springs in my living room for softer 300/175 lbf/in Eibach coilover springs I bought from Summit Racing, These were 10” springs with 2 ½” ID. I had a problem with my first selection of an 8” spring for the fronts. The MeisterR front springs were 220mm long (8.7”) so 8” Eibachs seemed the right choice, but required running the preload adjuster up so far that I almost ran out of thread on the shock body. I was concerned any settling of the new springs might make it impossible to readjust for my 4mm preload. Summit exchanged the 8” springs for the longer ones. I looked forward to a much better street ride experience with these changes.
. View attachment 87695


My go-to shop owner re-installed the coilovers for me and set the ride height to 13 ¼” all around.
View attachment 87696


For my initial test ride I set the shocks to soft position 1 of the 32 stage damping adjustment (Compression and Rebound Combined). At position 1 the ride was loose and a bit bouncy when riding over dips in the highway. There was a lot of squat and dive on acceleration and braking. I turned the 4 adjusters up to position 5, then 10, then 15, then 20. Finally at 20 there was control of the springs. Dive and squat were negligible. The ride was firm but acceptable on my rough country road. An imaginary slalom run in an empty parking lot had little body roll. Ride is firmer than the Bilstein/Eibach combo, but not jarring as it was with the 252 lbf/in rear springs on those same adjustable shock bodies. I have a 2017 Toyota RAV4 SUV. The ride with the coilovers and 300/175 lbf springs is stiffer than the SUV, but much better controlled.

I took the car to another empty parking lot, turned the adjusters full stiff at position 32, and ran my imaginary slalom run again. Surprisingly, the ride did not seem a lot firmer than the position 20 setting. I even drove my city streets at position 32 with no problem of a jarring ride. I won’t be able to push the car really hard until the next autoX scheduled for September 25 when I’ll see if stiffer shock settings helps or hurts performance in the competition.

I’m pleased that these coilovers with softer springs could work for me. They are not yet MY perfect ride balancing between comfort and performance, but they're getting there. I’ll try some fine tuning of the street ride around adjuster position 20, but don’t expect to notice much on such small movements. I put the trunk panels back in place and the rear adjustment extensions are perfect, requiring no cutting of the panels.
View attachment 87697

I added up the costs so far of experimenting with the Abarth’s suspension. Since I’m too old and don’t have a place to do all the work myself, my labor costs have been $950. Cost of the Tokico shocks, Eibach Pro Kit, Goodwin bump stops, MeisterR coilovers, and Eibach coilover springs has been $2,055. Total $2,955. “You’re welcome”

What else have I learned? Flyin Miata lowering springs 300/175 lbf/in have the same rates as I’m now running on my coilovers (total coincidence). On OEM Bilstein B8s they should give an acceptable ride with handling improvements like I’ve experienced, but ride height will be whatever you get. Putting those springs on adjustable Konis will give further handling improvements for occasional autoX or track day. Goodwin’s 300/200 lbf/in Roadster Sport springs should be almost as good. Those spring rates are NOT too stiff for the street as long as shocks are stiff enough to handle them. I didn't understand this a year and a half ago; at that time the thought of 300 pound spring rates for the street scared me.

BUT DO NOT TRY ANYTHING STIFFER THAN EIBACH PRO KIT, H&R, OR PROGRESS TECHNOLOGY SPRINGS ON THE OEM TOKICO SHOCKS.

If you want to try MeisterR ZetaCRD coilovers with the 300/175 softer springs without changing the springs yourself, you might call the USA or UK office and ask if they can be supplied with 5.5 and 3.0 kgf/mm springs instead of the 6.0 and 4.5 normally sold.

HOW ABOUT GOING EVEN SOFTER? Some of my training from decades ago, confirmed with recent research, suggests that best overall performance can be achieved with the softest suspension that will resist dive, squat, and roll as needed for the intended use of the car. At the same time. softer suspension provides a more comfortable ride.

My calculations show that I could have installed even lighter Eibach coilover spring rates of 275/150 lbf/in. 275/150 are 50% stiffer than the Eibach Pro Kit lowering springs and they also meet the ratio goals I calculated so they would be consistent with OEM and Eibach Pro Kit front/rear ratios.

Reviewing my research data, I had read that it’s desirable to have 25-35% spring compression at static ride height. I measured the static spring heights of the 300/175 coilovers currently on my car and found the compression is exactly 25% both front and rear.

That makes it even more compelling to try some 275/150 springs on my coilovers. Doing some more calculations; I confirmed these softer rates will require lengthening the shock bodies F/R 0.2 inch and 0.375 inch, and will result in static ride height compression on the springs of F/R 27% and 29%.

If 275/150 spring rates would meet my criteria, so long as I'm talking about going softer. what about 250/125 spring rates? Well. guess what? 250/125 are exactly 25% stiffer than Eibach Pro Kit front and rear. The rear spring rate as percent of front rate is 50.0%, close to the 54.8% of the 188/103 Pro Kit lowering springs that work well. Static spring compression would be F/R 29.2%//32.4%, right in the middle of the 25-35% target. Dive, squat, and roll were controlled well enough for performance street driving with the Pro Kit/Bilsteins combo, so 25% stiffer springs on adjustable coilovers might just work.

And I already have 250 pound springs. They came on the rear coilovers from the factory.
I'd have to lengthen my shock bodies F/R 0.4 inch and 0.75 inch to maintain my 13.25" ride height. I could set the ride height to 13" if the the shocks cannot lengthen that much.

THE PROBLEM WITH GOING SOFTER THAN THE 300/175 CURRENTLY ON THE CAR WILL BE IN THE SHOCK'S COMPRESSION TRAVEL. RIGHT NOW THE FRONT AND REAR SHOCKS HAVE 3 3/4" TOTAL TRAVEL BEFORE HITTING THE BUMPSTOPS, 1.25" COMPRESSION TRAVEL BEFORE HITTING THE BUMP STOPS. EVERYTHING WORKS OK AS IT IS. FURTHER REDUCING SPRING RATES WILL COMPRESS THE SPRINGS AND THE SHOCKS MORE AT STATIC RIDE HEIGHT. THE 275/150 RATE OPTION WILL LEAVE ME WITH ONLY 1.04"/0.88" COMPRESSION TRAVEL. THE 250/125 OPTION WILL LEAVE ME WITH A MINUSCULE 0.83"/0.51" COMPRESSION TRAVEL. THE FIX WOULD BE TO PRELOAD THE SPRINGS AT LEAST THE SAME DISTANCE THAT I LOSE FROM THE SOFTER SPRING RATES, AND MAYBE MORE. NOW THIS IS INDEED STARTING TO SEEM MORE LIKE ROCKET SCIENCE. Stay tuned for my next edit.
Late to the party on this post. Thank you for a very thought out, if rather verbose 😁, assessment of suspension mods. I appreciate your concerns of performance vs comfort. This was my concern as well, when I opted for an Öhlins upgrade. I chose the street spring rate and couldn’t be happier. I have the performance I wanted and my butt has the comfort it wanted. With so many spring/shock combinations and coilover options available in the aftermarket to us, it always good to here informed evaluations of those mods. I thank you for the time, effort and $s you put intothis thread.

Dan
 
1 - 20 of 26 Posts
Top