Hot Rod Front Suspension - Upgrade to coilovers

Published on 31 May 2023 at 11:06

I got lucky last year a t an auto  jumble when I found a complete front suspension set up for a Triumph Spitfire - it came with disc brakes, calipers etc and had never been on the road. It had been given to a college back in the 60's as a training aid for the students and therefore all the bits were old but essentially  unused. While everything seemed mighty splendid there was a  bit of an issue in the spring department. The car was sitting cock eyed and I couldn't see why until I realised that the  two springs were slightly different in that one was 10.6mm thick wire, the other was 11.4. Both were a little light for the weight of the v8 engine and box, something had to be done. I looked at just changing the springs but to get the correct ones was proving to be difficult. I found the specs for the originals but to get ones custom made was going to be 120 quid and there was no guarantee the ride height  and ride quality was going to be what I wanted. I concluded that my best option was to get some adjustable coil overs so I could adjust both ride height and damping to make things  splendid. 

I measured up the length that I needed and started searching the web for a spring / shock combination that would do the job -- they are expensive things. I therefore decided that as time was on  my side that next time I went to an auto jumble I would have a look  and see what I  could find. I struck gold at the Stickney event when a pair of Spax shocks presented themselves - the springs were clearly way too light, one top cap and one bushing were missing but for 25 quid I just knew I had to have them.  A further  piece of extremely good luck came two rows later when I found a pair of 325lb 10.5 inch long springs that looked a bit grubby but were unused - a deal was done at just 15 quid for the pair - bargain.



When I got home I started work by jacking up the front, bunging an axle stand under the chassis rail and removing the wheel so I could access the suspension turret. The old shock came  out in a matter of minutes -- 3 small bolts at the top and one large bolt at the  bottom. I could now compare the length of the new and  old properly - spot on with the adjustable spring seat up about 1 inch from the bottom, this meant I would have loads of adjustment to get  the car to the  height I needed. I fitted one shock  first as a  suck it and see kind of  exercise -- it was obvious the lighter springs were way too  light so I tried the heavier ones. When I let the car down this time the track rod end was almost exactly level - right where I wanted it. 

The top of the turret had  to be modified so I could get  the shock in, it was  just a wee bit too long to fit even with the suspension at full droop. I just cut a slot so the unit would just slide in, which worked perfectly. 

I made sure that everything fits and that nothing hits anything at full lock either way, it was all good. I also checked I  could access the little knob that allows the rebound rate to be adjusted - all  good.

This really has worked out perfectly, they are scruffy, they need a clean up and repaint but they feel great, there is no sign of leaking and I am certain they will work well. I need to find or make an upper cap to replace the missing one - rather annoyingly I had seen one earlier in he day at t he  jumble but didn't pick it up because it was  just the odd one, when I went back to get it somebody else had snaffled it. I should be able to  make one on my lathe in less than an hour so it's no big deal, although I would prefer an original item if I can find one.

Sometimes I wish I had the funds to just pick up a catalogue and buy everything I need mail order and get the job done with all nice new shiney bits. Most of the time though I really enjoy hunting the bits, making things work and adapting where necessary. It gives me quite a buzz when things work out.


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