One of the easiest bolt-on performance upgrades for a vehicle is a set of new dampers. Often referred to as shocks or struts, or even “the things that keep your car from bouncing up and down,” dampers come in all shapes, sizes, and adjustability. Motion Control Suspension (MCS) makes high-end performance dampers designed for racing. MCS recently released a two-way adjustable remote reservoir kit for the 2014-2019 Ford Fiesta ST.
Since FordMuscle has been building a Ford Fiesta ST project car as part of its The Way of the FiST series, we decided to bolt on a set of these fancy struts to see what all of this two-way adjustable, remote reservoir stuff was all about.
The Motion Control Suspension dampers have the ability to separately adjust rebound and compression. This is important because rebound and compression are two completely separate things a shock or strut functionally do. To fine-tune the handling on a vehicle, it is crucial to be able to adjust one or the other (or both).
Motion Control Suspension’s Trever Degioanni explained the importance of being able to adjust compression and rebound separately. “Most adjustable shocks on the market have a single adjustable knob that, when you turn it, changes both the rebound and the compression. You may not want both changed at the same time to fix a handling problem. Our dampers have 18 separate adjustments for rebound, and 18 separate adjustments for compression. If you want the car to squat down in a corner and not rise up quickly before corner exit, then you add more rebound.”
We decided to tackle the front installation on our Fiesta project car first. The good news was the Motion Control Suspension piece was built to bolt directly into the Ford Fiesta ST, replacing the OEM strut. The remote reservoir provides a lighter unsprung weight unit to replace the stock strut.
The MCS fronts are coilover, so you can raise or lower the vehicle’s ride height by simply raising or lowering the lower spring perch. We chose to start with the vehicle at the stock ride height, so we carefully measured the height of the spring perch, from the top of the knuckle to the bottom of the OEM spring perch and then matched that distance on the MCS unit. Once we had our ride height correct for both sides, we used the easy-to-use MCS green handles and tightened down the lock rings.
A handy spring compressor made quick (and safe) work of taking the OEM spring off the stock strut and placing it on the MCS unit. Springs under tension are not something to be played around with. We highly recommend using the proper spring compressor tool to safely perform this portion of the installation.
Besides the three nuts in the engine compartment holding the top of the strut in place at the inner fender, just two bolts hold the strut to the knuckle, and one bolt attaches the stabilizer bar to the strut. Once the MCS strut was bolted into place, we routed the remote reservoir into the engine compartment for ease of access to make adjustments.
To make adjustments to the front MCS dampers, all we have to do is pop the hood on the Fiesta and turn the remote reservoir for compression adjustments, or turn the knob at the top of the strut for rebound adjustments. We set our struts to the recommended initial settings of six clicks of compression and eight clicks of rebound. The dampers come from MCS with 175 pounds of nitrogen gas compression. If we want a stiffer shock, we can always add more nitrogen (up to 265 psi) by using the Schrader valve on the remote reservoir. You can lower the nitrogen psi down to 100 if you want a softer setup.
Once we had the front set installed with ease, it was time to tackle the rear shocks. The main difference between the front and rear installations was the importance of holding up the rear axle beam because the lower shock bolts are the only things keeping the beam from falling down.
With our Fiesta ST up on a two-post rack, we used a separate stand to hold the axle in place as we sourced an impact wrench to remove the lower shock bolts. The upper portion of the rear shock is held in place by two 10-millimeter bolts that can be accessed from under the wheel well. Just three bolts and the shock is out. Simple.
The Motion Control Suspension rear shocks bolted in with ease once we made one small modification to the vehicle chassis. The rebound adjustment portion at the top of the rear shock would not fit through the OEM hole at the top of the fender well. We used a stepping drill bit to slightly enlarge the hole so the top of the shock would fit through the Ford’s body work. It was a simple modification that only took a few seconds of drilling.
Once we had the shock in place, we realized we could not access the top of the shock to make rebound adjustments from the interior of the vehicle. We used a box cutter to simply slice an access port on the interior panels in the rear cargo area of the Fiesta, so we could make quick adjustments at the track.
We chose to mount our rear shock remote reservoirs to the rear axle beam for ease of access for adjustment, as well as ease of installation. We considered routing the oil line for the remote reservoir into the interior, but we were afraid of the suspension travel causing damage to the line. By mounting the remote reservoir to the axle beam, it simplified the installation and ensured we would not kink the line with suspension travel.
Once our rear shocks were installed, we set the rear shocks to the same baseline recommended settings from Motion Control Suspension: six clicks of compression and eight clicks of rebound. The installation was extremely easy. After we had all four shocks installed, we checked our alignment using Smart Strings and we were ready to roll out of the garage.
The Motion Control Suspension 2W kit was easy to install. The only modifications we had to make to the FiST was the clearance and access to the rear rebound adjuster. Once the dampers were on and the car was realigned, it was time to find out if the MCS dampers made the car handle any better. Best place to do that? An autocross.
Right away on the track, the car felt better. The MCS dampers made the vehicle more predictable and kept it from “porpoising” (which is common with OEM struts/shocks allowing the car to bounce up and down in corners). We dialed in some more rebound to the rear shocks, and it really helped the car turn in. The Fiesta had less push and a more neutral feel. Where the shocks really came into play was keeping the car flat through the corners. By dialing more and more compression in both the front and rear shocks, we were able to keep the car flat on the ground.
With this increased performance thanks to the MCS dampers, we were able to accelerate harder out of the corners (because the front tires stayed flat on the ground allowing for better power out). With 18 different adjustments for both rebound and compression, and the ability to stiffen the shock with more nitrogen pressure, I think with more testing we will be able to squeeze even more performance out of the little Fiesta.
What were the final results of the autocross while testing the new MCS dampers? First place in the SCCA H Street class! Thank you Motion Control Suspension!