After owning my FTO for about six months, it was becoming clear that the original Japanese dampers were no longer in reasonable condition. The vehicle had lost its "nailed to the road" feel. There was also the typical FTO problem of worn rear droplink bushes, with frequent knocking sounds coming from the rear. Some suspension work was in order!
I discussed my options with Malcolm Crockenberg, who brought to the project a wealth of experience in setting up performance vehicles. His preference was always function over form, performance over looks - a result of years of professional rally involvement, no doubt! I was not going to end up with a vehicle too low to get up a driveway, or one with such a hard ride that my wife would leave me.
New front and rear dampers were ordered from Checkerflag in Japan... 5-way rebound-adjustable "Edusa" shock absorbers well-suited to the FTO.
The stock springs were removed from the vehicle and sent to King Springworks in Queensland for coil rating tests. With the standard spring rates and installed ride heights, it was possible to determine the front and rear ride height with uprated springs. It was decided to use 30% uprated springs, with the front dropped by just 25mm. This would finally level the car, as the stock front springs rode an inch higher at the front than at the rear.
When replacing worn bushes, standard Mitsubishi rubbers were used. We were not keen on introducing unnecessary harshness with such things as urethane bushes (not unless there was hard evidence they were required). There were also real benefits to keeping the stock bushes in some areas... The FTO utilises a passive rear-wheel steering system thanks to some very pliable bush material that allows a few degrees of toe movement when cornering.
A few other extras such as a front strut brace and a camber/caster adjustment kit would help keep the geometry settings optimal.
What was arguably the most important part of the handling equation was still to be addressed - the tyres! After all, that's what would have to connect all the fancy new kit to the road. A set of Pirelli P7000 rubber finished off the package very nicely.
Crockenberg Motors put everything together, tuned the damper rebound rate to correctly control the springs and made some tweaks to the standard wheel alignment specs. The result?
Terrific! The car felt far more stable on any road surface. The ride was not at all harsh, turn-in was sharper and the whole car felt beautifully balanced. Also, the ride height had indeed dropped by an inch at the front, bringing it level with the rear.
The Pirellis do a great job, as long as the tyre pressure is raised up to around 41psi front, 38psi rear. I see no need to move to larger rims and lower profile tyres at this stage, as the sidewall deflection when cornering is not excessive at those pressures. It should be noted that Pirelli specifically stated to me that these P7000 tyres should run at a minimum 35psi at all times. I was rather dubious at the time, but can now say for sure that pressure around the 40psi mark is A Good Thing.
Was it worth it? Most definitely! This material was written 15 months after the above work was completed, and I haven't had a single problem with it. Quite the opposite - it's given me a great deal of driving enjoyment, and has made the car a very capable weekend track day runabout.
The following may be of assistance to other FTO owners. While I have endeavoured to ensure the accuracy of all information here, I take no responsibility for consequences of using it.
Installed Spring Height
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