If you’ve been following along on Project CrossTime, you know it’s come a long way in a year. We’ve made some significant changes to take the $1,000 Miata from a street car to a dedicated track car. We put on stickier tires, changed to PFC Brakes pads and DBA Rotors, then sidestepped away from performance to concentrate on safety with RaceQuip. In the off-season, we made some big changes by swapping in a Torsen rearend, then replaced the blown out clutch with a SPEC Stage 4 racing clutch. We had one major change left to make, and it was a doozy — shocks and anti-sway bars.
All you have to do is look at the pictures of CrossTime throughout the past year to know suspension was high on the list of changes needed — and fast! In some of these photos, CrossTime looks like a Monster Truck lining up to jump a pile of cars. Shots of the car in a corner, look like it is trying to unwind itself. I pushed the stock stuff to the limit (sometimes beyond), and it’s time to give it the stance and handling it needs. Now, with the help of Pedders and Eibach, I’m going to show you how we fixed the cornering woes.
Challenging The Bull
We’ve done a couple of install articles with Pedders on some S550 Mustangs and, most recently, a Ford Focus RS. Pedders is the number 1 brake, steering, and suspension specialist in Australia since 1950. Pedders USA is relatively new to the U.S., but it has worked with huge names in the industry like Lingenfelter, Petty, and Saleen. Do I have your attention yet?
As Pedders USA solidifies it’s footprint here, it’s been focusing its efforts on high-volume, newer-generation street cars with enthusiast drivers behind the wheel who want a little more performance out of their machines — Camaros, Mustangs, Challengers, GTOs, BRZ, Golf, etc. As it caters to enthusiasts of all genres, its offerings will continue to expand to relevant models in the U.S. market. Just to name a few, it introduced some new hot rod shocks and an eXtreme Brake kit for Ford Ranger trucks at the SEMA Show.
It’s no secret that Pedders advertises on TURNology (there’s probably an ad somewhere on this page), but we’ve had the opportunity to test out its products, and they’ve performed very well in our tests. Pedders outrightly says it doesn’t build parts for race cars; it “builds parts for enthusiast drivers who just so happen to do extremely well on the racecourse.” I wanted to really put Pedders to the test and see how much of a difference it could make on a race car — even if it is “just a Miata.”
It was time to issue the challenge. Last year on a trip to California, I paid a visit to Pedders USA, where I spoke with Marketing Manager Daniel Tong. Daniel showed me around the facility, and we got to talking about projects. Of course, the conversation turned to racing, and I asked if he thought its suspension could improve Project CrossTime.
“I have no doubt! Our coilover kits are made for the weekend track day racer,” Daniel said. “You’ll be able to lower the car and fine-tune your suspension. Although we don’t have a kit for the Miata here in the U.S. at the moment, we can definitely have them sent over from Australia. Pedders Australia has hundreds of thousands of products, but not all of them are relevant to our market. We are taking our time to carefully curate the products we bring over to make sure they are the right products.”
Daniel called Australia to order the Pedders eXtreme XA Adjustable Coilover Kit 160066 to be sent over on the next ship (now available in the U.S. from this link). The eXtreme XA is the flagship product of its SportsRyder high-performance line of products. It comes fully assembled and ready to install. The SportRyder shock is a gas-pressurized, fully threaded, monotube body with alloy-steel springs. For the Miata coilover kit, the spring rates are 8kg front and 6kg rear. The ride quality can be fine-tuned with its 30-position compression and rebound damping. It certainly sounded a lot better than the stock suspension. All that was left to do was install it, then beat on it!
No Bull Installation
In October, Daniel informed me the shipment had arrived, and once it cleared customs, my new suspension would be on its way. I received the package in November just after my last event of the season, so I had two months to get them installed before my first event of 2019. When I opened the box, I was thrilled to see that I didn’t have to put them together. Pedders prides itself on providing a complete ready-to-install kit, and that was no joke — the springs were already on the shocks, and the top hats were secured. This was going to be easy!
Before I started on the teardown, I took some height measurements to compare against the final result. The ride-height was measured at the center of the wheelwell above the center of the spindle. The front sat at 25 inches, slightly lower than the rear at 25 3/4 inches. I put a call into my buddy Chris to come over and help with the install.
We got the car onto jackstands, removed the wheels, and commenced the removal of the old shocks. Really, this was super easy — there are three steps: 1) remove the two bolts at the top of the shock tower holding the top hats on, 2) disconnect the sway bar, so it wouldn’t hold up the A-arm and, 3) remove the bottom bolt that goes through the A-arm. The fronts needed a little coaxing, but we were able to get them out without having to disconnect anything else.
Once the old shocks were out, we had the opportunity to put the new shocks side-by-side with the old ones. The quality difference was unmistakable, as was the height difference. The height is adjustable on the Pedders shocks, and we were looking for the lowest center of gravity we could get, so we bottomed the threads out on the monotube body and locked down the jam nut. The beauty of this is it still allows full suspension travel of the shock without affecting the spring pre-load.
While we were under the car, we also took the time to change out the sway bars, both front and rear, with a much beefier option. Eibach’s Anti-Roll-Kit (P/N: 5515.320) is predicated on performance-tuned handling, which practically guarantees a reduction in body roll — something the Miata desperately needed. The sway bars are a direct replacement for the OE bars except solid, more substantial, and adjustable. The front sway bar is 24mm and has two adjustment holes, while the rear is 15mm and has three.
The installation was simple. Remove the four mounting bolts and one bolt on each end-link, and the old one is out, then replace the stock rubber bushings with the supplied urethane bushings making sure to use the provided grease so it won’t squeak. There is no instruction as to which adjustment hole is a good starting point, but take our advice and start with them in the outside hole — this is the softest setting — it will keep you out of trouble. We kept the stock, non-adjustable end-links for the time being, but changed to adjustable Heim-joints later.
The next step with the coilovers was to reverse what we had just done by installing the new SportsRyders into the lower shock mount, then pushing the shock up into the upper mount and securing the two bolts on top and one in the lower A-arm. Once all four were in place, we reconnected the sway bar end-links and put the car on the ground to see the difference.
Translation To The Track
Just as a reminder, there were quite a few changes on this car in the off-season, including the Pedders Suspension, Eibach sway bars, SPEC clutch, and a Torsen LSD. Before I hit the track, I purchased some adjustable end-links for the Eibach sway bars at East Street Auto Parts, then took the car to a professional to corner weigh and set up the car for proper track duty. Mike Hoover is a friend of mine who has been setting up Spec Miata’s for years. The maximum camber he could achieve in the front was 2.4-degrees with 2.9-degrees in the rear. Then, he balanced the car to 50.2-percent front and 46.9-percent rear, resulting in a cross-weight of 48.8-percent, which is perfect for a right-turn predominate track. The car weighed 2315 with me in it. All that was left to do was drive it!
I returned to my home track, Memphis International Raceway, to get some comparative lap times during the NASA Mid-South Summer in February event. Previously, I was running Toyo RR slicks, but the track was wet to begin, so I ran autocross-friendly Bridgestone Potenza RE71s. They aren’t quite as sticky but would provide a good foundation. Right from the start, the difference in setup was noticeable. The car sat lower, was more stable, and body roll was improved drastically.
Once the track dried, I was able to turn some laps in anger, and the car responded beautifully. With the heavier-duty Eibach sway bars, it no longer hikes up the inside rear wheel on tight turns. The billet SPEC clutch and flywheel make the car jump off the corner while the LSD puts the power down to the pavement as soon as I go to the throttle. The Pedders suspension ties it all together. I was impressed at how the Pedders eXtreme coilovers worked over bumps and how much better the car took a set in the corners.
I haven’t even had a need to adjust the compression and rebound on the shocks from the initial factory setting of 12 clicks from soft. Being a street performance kit, I thought I would need to crank them all the way to 30, but so far, they have handled every bump thrown at them, and body roll is minimal. I will experiment in the future, but I’ve been very impressed with how well a “street” shock is performing on the track. On that note, I have to say the eXtreme coilovers aren’t harsh either; I could totally see these providing daily-driving comfort.
I’ve gained more confidence in the entire setup. The car is so much more settled than it was before. It doesn’t dive and wiggle on hard braking, it predictably takes a set in the corners after minimal compression of the springs, and it drives off the corners like it has 50-more horsepower. All of this equated into some incredible lap-time improvements — as much as 4-second decrease. I ran a best lap of 1:22.21, which was only 3-seconds off of a Spec Miata I timed that day — and he was running slicks!
I am thoroughly impressed with how well it does on the track against much more expensive setups. If you have a street car that sees spirited driving, autocross, or track day events and are looking to upgrade your suspension to enthusiast-level, I have no doubt the Pedders eXtreme Coilover Kit along with Eibach sway bars will give you the best of both worlds. A quality, adjustable, race-able, and economical street suspension that is easy to install and handles potholes as easily as heavy-duty cornering.