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Thread: The Definitive Suspension Guide for your E36 M3

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    The Definitive Suspension Guide for your E36 M3

    UPDATE: Aug 24, 2010 - Added some more "driving techniques" at the bottom (late apex early, and turn the wheel less)

    Caveat #1: This guide is geared towards helping the novice/intermediate driver chose a suspension that will help them participate [and be competitive] in autox and track events, while still remaining streetable, for the lowest price. But just because it is geared towards a novice/intermediate audience, doesn't mean that a competent driver can not be very competitive on this suspension.

    Caveat #2: This setup is recommended for street tires, it is not optimal for race tires. If the car is to only be driven on race tires (Dot R comps or slicks) then stiffer spring rates are required, which will likely require different dampers. Also, sway bar tuning will be different as well. This setup is for someone who still wants a comfortable DD that can also be used competitively at autox, and competently at the track.

    Caveat #3: This guide is mostly tailored towards a good SCCA STU autox setup, but this setup is also terrific on track and for DD. While on the track, you can run any setup and learn, if you are going to autox you might as well get the proper setup to be competitive. This is not the ultimate STU setup however, but for the money, and for the compatibility with street/track use, it is probably the best value choice.

    Before we get started:

    Here is a link to a very comprehensive guide on the E36 suspension design, and overhauling of your OEM components. This should be addressed before or as you upgrade your suspension.
    Suspension Overhaul FAQ by Evil Spoonman
    Here is a link to a thorough guide on "how a coilover suspension works"
    The Coilover Bible

    My "Budget" E36 Suspension Recipe:
    Koni/GC Kit - $999
    Ground Control coilovers 525f/550r spring rates
    Koni SA front strut inserts and rear shocks
    Vorshlag Camber Plates - $439
    UUC 27mm front sway bar - $174.99
    Stock rear sway bar
    Total=$1613 + shipping

    Alignment:
    For more information on alignments:
    The Definitive Alignment Guide for E36 [M3]

    Street
    Front
    -2.5 deg camber
    0.05 deg toe in
    Rear
    -1.5 deg camber
    0.10 deg toe in

    AutoX
    Front
    -3.5 deg camber
    0 toe
    Rear
    -2.5 deg camber
    0.10 deg toe in

    Track
    Front
    -3.5 deg camber
    0 toe
    Rear
    -2.5 deg camber
    0 toe

    *NOTE* Camber and Toe #s are for each side (not total)

    Wheels:
    Budget: 17x8.5” Koseis
    Preferred: 17x9” SSR Comp H, D-Force, Apex ARC-8,

    Tires:
    Sizes(always same all 4 corners)
    255/40/17 (for 17x9 wheels)
    245/40/17 (for 17x8.5 wheels)
    Brand/Model(All tires are true street tires - 140 treadwear or higher)
    Dunlop Direzza Star Spec Z1 (my favorite choice for grip, value, and wet road safety)
    Kumho XS (very close second for grip and value)
    Hankook RS3 (solid third for grip, same value)
    Bridgestone Potenza RE11 (no better than Z1 or XS IMHO, but more expensive)
    Yokohama Advan Neova AD08 (debatably marginally better than Z1, XS, RE11, but very pricey)


    Q. Is this setup good for street/autox/track?
    A. Yes, this setup is perfect for street/autox (STU)/track. I've used this suspension for 4 years doing all 3 and it gives up no compromises at any of them. I'd say an autox setup is the most demanding, as you will eventually want to maximize your setup to be as competitive as possible. This is a terrific setup for SCCA's STU class (other organizations will have similar classes). I enjoyed a lot of success with this setup in STU (and I'd still be doing it if my engine swap didn't make my car illegal for the class. )

    Q. What if it is street only?
    A. If you never intend to sign up for an autox or turn a lap at a track, this system is really not necessary. If you are just going to slam your car, then racelands are for you. If you want a "tighter handling car" then the same konis with your choice of springs will work just fine.

    Q. What if I want to DD and track the car, but not autox?
    A. First I'd say you are missing out (). Then I'd say that you don't need everything right away, as you are not "competing" as you are in autox. There are many track instructors who keep their M3s stock or just use springs/konis. Thats fine. But in autox, you are going to get bit by the competition bug and will want to get the most out of your car (so you can stop making excuses, hehe )

    Q. What is the STU class in autox?
    A. STU stands for Street Touring Ultra in SCCA Solo2 competition. While this class is now dominated by AWD boost buggies (EVOs and STis), there was a time when the M3 was a serious contender. This was a great time. I competed for 3 years against a multiple STU national trophy winner. Eventually, he ran about the same setup as I was running (525f/450r) and by the third year, we were virtually equal, even when he sold his M3 to drive an EVO (traitor! ) it was neck and neck.

    Although you are not likely to win a national championship in an STU prepped M3 these days, if you are reading this guide, you are probably not ready for that level of competition anyway. And I guarantee an STU M3 can win any regional event with a good driver (and no trophy winners around). IMHO STU is really the best class for an M3 owner who wants to autox, and have a great street car without spending a lot of $$. And you don't need to buy expensive race tires, or have to change tires at the autox.

    Only my last year of STU did I try to buy wheels/tires for autox only. Still drove on the street and track quite a bit though!


    Q. Why not a different suspension (AST 4100s, Bilstein PSS9s, TRM, TCKline, etc)?
    A. Simple answer….because the Koni/GC kit is the lowest price of the quality suspensions. AST is probably king of those listed, can handle high spring rates and still feel good on the street, but is more expensive. However, with the new prices on AST 4100s, I would seriously consider these if they are within your budget. They are the best suspension at that price (maybe at any price?) for the street/track/autox. PSS9s are good for higher spring rates, but are a little stiffer on the street, and still also more expensive. I believe the Koni/GC kit will get you 95% performance of the “better” setups.

    Q. What makes the “better” suspensions better?
    A. I am going to give my own opinion here, take it for what its worth, but I’m sure people are wondering this. Aside from the quality, etc, etc….it really comes down to feel. The best suspensions feel like they are not even there. The car just does what its told. Therefore the car is easier to drive. An inferior suspension will not be able to settle quickly after transitions, or will roll too quickly and then bounce back. An inferior suspension may crash into bumpstops, or feel unnecessarily stiff. An inferior suspension may not soak up bumps, or may lose traction over rough, irregular surfaces, or even on tight turns. A quality suspension will just let you drive the car without interference, basically.

    Q. Why 525# in the front?
    A. I feel that this is really the magic number for the front spring rate on street tires. In the front you want to maximize grip, period. Softer springs allow the front end to roll too much, and to nose dive under braking. Stiffer springs are just not necessary (until you go to wider/stickier tires). You will also need to have a stiff front sway bar as well to really maximize front grip and turn-in response without using stiffer springs.

    Q. What is the optimal rear spring rate on street tires?
    A. This is more personal preference and also desired tendency required. Here is my take on it:

    450# rear – this will maximize rear grip. I ran this for my STU autox days and I was able to put power down out of a turn earlier than my competition. Also, slaloms and transitions were very stable. Basically I was able to go full throttle most often with this softer spring rate (coupled with good negative camber and a little toe in rear). However, this spring rate made steady state sweepers a little understeery. You can not rotate the car via the throttle. Very noticeable on tracks.

    550# rear – this is the optimal setup for all around. I currently run this spring rate in the rear (coupled with 0 toe rear and -2.5deg camber rear) and it has been my favorite all around. It is much easier to rotate the car via trailbraking, lift throttle, and under power. But it is very progressive and does not result in snap oversteer. This spring rate makes tight courses a little easier to get through, making the car a little more neutral. And at my local track (Summit Pt Shenandoah) I can now enjoy the tracks many long sweepers and can rotate the car with throttle or brakes.

    650# rear – this will give the car a tendancy to be loose, and rotate easily. This is used by a lot of track guys, I only ran it once with R comps at an autox. Completely overwhelmed my rear Konis, so the car handled terribly. I did drive a car with Ohlins and 400/650# rates, the rear springs felt pretty good (fronts were way too soft). I’d say 650#s are really more for R-comp territory, or if you really like a loose car. Since the M3 has such a long wheelbase, it is pretty easy to keep under control even when loose, but I don’t think it is the fastest way to go. YMMV.

    Q. So if I buy this suspension, will the car be setup out-of-the-box?
    A. Not just yet. If you got the proper spring rates that is the biggest influence. Then they proper front sway bar. Next the alignment will be very important. Finally, the rebound adjustment will be the last variable you’ll need to tune as you spend time autoxing or tracking the car.

    Q. Where do I set my rebound?
    A. At first you are going to have to make a “best guess” and tune from there. If you just want to set them and forget em, I could suggest running the fronts and rears near full stiff for autox and track duty, based on experience. The fronts I would change +/- turn depending on conditions.
    A better option is to start with the shocks at full soft all around, and stiffen them up until the car starts to skip (lose grip) over bumps, then back it down to the previous setting. This is a very basic suggestion, shock tuning is well documented and more information can be found elsewhere.

    Q. In what order do I need to buy things?
    A. If you have to, start with the Koni/GCs first, and figure out what you are going to do about front camber (shims, swapped hats, or camber plates). Then get an alignment (must do!).

    Q. How do I cut my front struts for the Koni inserts?
    A. Follow this write up on Bimmerforums: Koni Yellow Strut Insert DIY
    or watch this video:
    [ame]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzNZCnUYtzo&feature=player_embedded[/ame]

    Q. How wide a tire can I fit on my M3?
    A. 245/40/17s should fit without fender rolling, 255/40/17s will require a roll.

    Front: No rolling required. But with coilovers, the lower spring perch may come in contact with the tire. Usually it is a good idea to run 10mm-15mm spacers to avoid this.

    Rear: Depending on wheel offset, you can usually fit 245/40/17s without a roll. With 255/40/17s (especially Neovas, they run like 265s!) you will likely need to roll the rear fender lip. It is best to use an Eastwood fender roller or something that bolts to the wheel hub. You may also need to take a deadblow hammer and beat the inner fender sheetmetal until it touches the outer (painted) fender sheetmetal. There is no cosmetic change here, and it gives you a lot more clearance for when the rear suspension is compressed. And for 275/40/17s, you will need to slightly flare the fenders, and may need a small spacer to clear the chassis.

    Q. What if I want to start running race tires?
    A. IMHO, it is better to start out and become a competent driver on street tires. Therefore, once you have really learned the car on street tires you can move up to R-comps. Of course, not everyone will do this, some will want to start out on race tires, but more often than not these people have a longer learning curve. So my point is, once you are ready to move up to R comps, your knowledge of suspension setups should go beyond this guide and you will know what spring rates, dampers, sway bars, and alignment settings will work.


    ***


    Part II: Driving

    Q. What are the most important driving tips?
    A. IMHO, they are:
    - Looking ahead
    - Being slow in a hurry (be smooth but not late)
    *NEW* - Late apex as early as possible (especially for autox)
    - Listen to the car
    *NEW* - Advanced technique - turning less

    Looking ahead
    This is the most important technique for autox and track. Its the first thing I want my students to learn. If you can master this, you are way ahead of the game. Honestly, its the only thing I think about when I autox. Looking ahead forces you to prepare for whats ahead, and take the necessary actions before its too late. It allows you to keep the proper rhythm, find the right line, and get through each section as fast and smooth as possible.

    When you look ahead, that means while you are in a turn, you are looking at the next turn, and how to prepare for it. If you wait until you get to the turn before you "set-up" for it, you will have blown it. You'll either take it too fast, too slow, be too far left or right, your car will be all out of shape, and your timing will be all wrong. If you are looking ahead for the next turn, you'll know if you need to stay on throttle, or if you need to breath off throttle. If you need to setup wider or not as wide, where you need to position the car. Looking ahead will tell you everything you need to know.

    So you've been looking ahead and you get to the turn that you saw when you were "looking ahead". Now you are looking ahead to the next turn, and you only see the present turn in your peripherals. As you get good, you can see or "sense" that you are only inches from a cone next to your fender, as you are looking ahead to the next turn. How far ahead is looking ahead? I have no idea the distance, and I think its irrelevant. You are looking ahead to the next turn so you know what changes to make in your speed, and direction, and even the car's balance. But looking ahead is never looking at a fixed position, it is constantly scanning ahead, it is dynamic. And if you master this, you are already a good driver. (In fact, I taught my girlfriend to look ahead on the street, and it has already saved her from several accidents, or coming close to an accident.)

    Late Apex as Early as Possible
    In autox, they call this "get on the backside of the cone". Imagine a slalom. As you pass a slalom cone, are you still turning to get around that cone you are now passing, or are you done turning and are you already setup for the next cone? If you have done the latter, and if you were to hit the cone as you are passing it, you will hit the back side of it (with the rear of your car). This situation demonstrates a late apex executed as early as possible. As you pass a "gate" you want to be working on setting up for the next gate, not trying to complete the current gate. (This technique dovetails with looking ahead----looking ahead provides the input, late apexing early is the execution).

    This technique allows you to turn the exit of a corner into a straight as soon as possible. It also lets you "stay ahead" of the course, allowing you to flow through it. The alternative is to "get behind" where you are forced to continue negotiating a turn until you finally exit the turn, leaving you unprepared for the next turn. This can happen when not looking ahead.

    Being slow in a hurry
    This means that all of your body movements (inputs to the car) must be slow or "not jerky". Ok, so that is comparing velocity to acceleration, sorry. Slow movements means giving steering, gas, brake, and shifting motions in a non rushed, slow, and constant speed. Think of slow movements as having every input damped like a shock absorber. When you turn the wheel, don't jerk it, turn it smoothly and not too fast. Don't slam the throttle, roll into the throttle. Don't slam the brakes, squeeze the brakes. Why? Because, if you are driving at or near the limits of the car's mechanical grip (before the tires slide) any large input will upset the car and cause a loss of traction. Therefore, every move must be slow and deliberate, so as not to upset the car. Smooth is fast!

    The second part to this is slow but in a hurry. This does not mean rushed! Since you are making moves slow and deliberate, this does not leave time to "catch up" so to speak. A car can only do so much in a given time. You can't go as fast as you want like typing on a key board. Your movements must be timed perfectly, and without delay. Sometimes this means starting your inputs earlier than you think you should. How can you possibly do this since things are already happening so fast? (hint: go back and read "Looking Ahead")

    In a hurry means don't delay. Not even for a split second. Imagine a track or an autox course where you have a right hand turn, then a short straight, then a left hand turn. If you drove through this section turning right, then going straight, then turn left, you probably didn't go as fast as you could. If you looked ahead, and were slow in a hurry, as you exit the right hander and unwind the wheel, in the same motion you want to slowly keep moving the wheel left keeping the steering wheel speed constant (rather than quick right, pause, quick left).

    Another way to think about this is to imagine the driver compartment is filled with molasses. How fast can you move in molasses? Not fast. So you must improve your timing (by looking ahead) to compensate for your slow movements. Why slow movements? Because the car can't handle fast inputs if it is at the limit.

    Listen to the car
    So how do you know you are looking ahead and you are slow in a hurry? Your car will give you feedback. Did you over cook the turn and try to crank the wheel desperately trying to turn the car? Your M3 will laugh (or cry) at you by squealing its front tires and continuing in a straight line until you scrub enough speed to turn. Are you listening to the car?

    The M3 is a long wheelbase car. It resists changes in direction by nature. This makes the car extremely stable at high speeds, and in transitions (slaloms). So to take turns, you must really listen to the car, and feel how much grip you have, and how much steering input you can give.

    Advanced Techniques

    Turn the Wheel Less
    Ok, so this one is a little more advanced. Someone (Jackie Stewart?) said something like "whoever turns the wheel the least, wins". This is true. Anytime you are turning the wheel you are taking away grip that could be used for going forward. Ok, that makes sense, but how do you get through turns? The answer is get the car turned as soon and as quick as possible so you can lengthen the "straights".

    So how do you do this? How do you turn less? You still have to rotate the car a given amount, ie: change the direction of the car by a given angle. Answer: spend less time with the wheel turned.

    Imagine two scenarios when you enter a single 90 degree turn. Scenario 1 you enter the turn, begin your turn in with a nice gradual ramp up of cornering force until the peak slip angle/grip level is reached, and carry a steady steering wheel angle through the turn untill you unwind the wheel for "track out". How do you steer less than this? Scenario 2 as you enter the turn, you initiate a sharper turn in by mildly upsetting the car via oversteer (in a controlled way) and get more turning done (angle of car changes much quicker) in that moment, to allow you to start opening the wheel sooner.

    Somewhere I saw a comparison of a G-force curve in a turn, between Road and Track editors and Jackie Stewart. The R&T guys followed Scenario 1, where you ramp up cornering force, reach a max force that is maintained through most of the turn, and then ramp down cornering force as throttle is applied on turn exit. Jackie Stewart followed Scenario 2, where he ramped up cornering force immediately, went above traction limits in the rear to initiate slight oversteer, and then began his ramp down much earlier. This might seem counter intuitive, but Jackie was able to get on the power much sooner, while the other guys were still turning the wheel!

    So hopefully you can picture this Scenario 2. How is it possible? You have to exceed the limits of grip at the rear tires. The KEY is that this is very subtle. I always say that the fastest autoxer is usually in a constant drift of about 6" (0" being the trajectory centerline). This is because a 6" drift is enough to rotate the car yet keep it moving forward at max velocity all while being in complete control of the car.

    How do you do it? One way is by trailbraking into the corner. Weighting the front tires under braking enough to where the rear grip is exceeded and can now be used to rotate the car. You'll notice that when trailbraking the steering wheel has to be turned very little, and usually to countersteer. But we are talking very very small amounts. The key to success is in initiating and controlling such a small drift. Another way to do it is simply by tossing the car into the corner. You toss the car to get it to rotate, and then almost immediately you are working to regain composure. Again, there is a narrow window of execution to get this right. Its like riding a wheelie, not enough throttle and the wheel doesn't stay in the air, too much throttle and you flip over. This technique is all about sensitivity (and requires being able to feel the car). The other key to this is timing. You can not wait for feedback, the entire execution is based on anticipation of what the car will do (based on experience) and not based on immediate feedback. The reason is because by the time we get the feedback, and try to execute, it is too late.

    This need only be mastered once you instinctively are looking ahead, and late apexing early.

    Go forth and kick ass. Just don't start beating me too badly!

    What other questions do you want answered?
    Last edited by joenationwide; 03-22-2011 at 03:35 PM.

  2. #2
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    Great post!
    3" Conforti CAI // M50 Intake // ASC Delete // Clutch Fan Delete // Sharked // BC Coilovers w/ Swift springs // H&R Front/Rear Sway Bar // B&B Tri-Flo // Poly Bushings // S54 Oil Pan/Pump/Cooler/Radiator // Z3 Rack // SPC Rear Lower Control Arms // VDO Gauges

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    Very informative and condensed from your alignment thread!


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    No NT01s or RA1's or other R-comps?

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    very helpful! great organization!

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    techno550 is offline Senior Member Supporting Vendor
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    Great thread/post. Though there are a few things I don't agree with.
    First is the front rate. 525 is ok. More can help too though. You noted the dive reaction. More rate means less dive and faster transitional response too. Anywhere from 600-1000 in the front tends to work well. I suggest starting "low", and by low I mean 650ish. (670 in the case of the TRM coilovers.)
    I also recommend starting with the stock front bar. I see the purpose of sway bars, but think they have limited use on the E36 specifically. A big front bar can help up to the point it hurts, i.e. when you start to pick up that inside front tire. I also recommend no rear bar. The load transfer they are responsible for is generally more harmful than helpful.
    The rear rates I see as being way out of whack being so low. I ran 1000 lb/in rear springs and was able to get the power down sooner than most others on track, and was making a lot more torque than everyone else too. I ran no rear bar though. 900+ lb/in springs are a good baseline.
    If you make the comparison front to rear as wheel rate instead of spring rate, it becomes more obvious as to why one may want to run such "high" rates.

    The camber and toe recommendations above are spot on as a starting point. Adjustments after that for track or autox use should only be based on what the tire wants. Keeping the tire happy is the #1 goal.

    With suspension, it should probably be noted that the springs control how far the car moves (dives/rolls), the dampers control how the car moves.
    Michael McCoy TRM

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    Agreed with Mike. I wouldn't say this is definitive as well as there are other options that work as well if not better. Just my 2 cents.

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    Just out of curiosity, what are the stock e36 spring rates front and rear?


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    Quote Originally Posted by techno550 View Post
    Great thread/post. Though there are a few things I don't agree with.
    First is the front rate. 525 is ok. More can help too though. You noted the dive reaction. More rate means less dive and faster transitional response too. Anywhere from 600-1000 in the front tends to work well. I suggest starting "low", and by low I mean 650ish. (670 in the case of the TRM coilovers.)
    I also recommend starting with the stock front bar. I see the purpose of sway bars, but think they have limited use on the E36 specifically. A big front bar can help up to the point it hurts, i.e. when you start to pick up that inside front tire. I also recommend no rear bar. The load transfer they are responsible for is generally more harmful than helpful.
    The rear rates I see as being way out of whack being so low. I ran 1000 lb/in rear springs and was able to get the power down sooner than most others on track, and was making a lot more torque than everyone else too. I ran no rear bar though. 900+ lb/in springs are a good baseline.
    If you make the comparison front to rear as wheel rate instead of spring rate, it becomes more obvious as to why one may want to run such "high" rates.

    The camber and toe recommendations above are spot on as a starting point. Adjustments after that for track or autox use should only be based on what the tire wants. Keeping the tire happy is the #1 goal.

    With suspension, it should probably be noted that the springs control how far the car moves (dives/rolls), the dampers control how the car moves.
    I currently have Tein coilovers with 500f/540r rates. I've been considering selling these to go with your coilovers. I would like a coilover setup that 'absorbs' bumps and handles harshness a bit better.

    Maybe I should just go back to stock
    TRM Coilovers 670F/895R | BBS LM | Corsa RSC36

  10. #10
    joenationwide's Avatar
    joenationwide is offline Makes Cars Dance BMW E36 M3 Expert
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    Quote Originally Posted by techno550 View Post
    Great thread/post. Though there are a few things I don't agree with.
    First is the front rate. 525 is ok. More can help too though. You noted the dive reaction. More rate means less dive and faster transitional response too. Anywhere from 600-1000 in the front tends to work well. I suggest starting "low", and by low I mean 650ish. (670 in the case of the TRM coilovers.)
    I also recommend starting with the stock front bar. I see the purpose of sway bars, but think they have limited use on the E36 specifically. A big front bar can help up to the point it hurts, i.e. when you start to pick up that inside front tire. I also recommend no rear bar. The load transfer they are responsible for is generally more harmful than helpful.
    The rear rates I see as being way out of whack being so low. I ran 1000 lb/in rear springs and was able to get the power down sooner than most others on track, and was making a lot more torque than everyone else too. I ran no rear bar though. 900+ lb/in springs are a good baseline.
    If you make the comparison front to rear as wheel rate instead of spring rate, it becomes more obvious as to why one may want to run such "high" rates.

    The camber and toe recommendations above are spot on as a starting point. Adjustments after that for track or autox use should only be based on what the tire wants. Keeping the tire happy is the #1 goal.

    With suspension, it should probably be noted that the springs control how far the car moves (dives/rolls), the dampers control how the car moves.
    I completely agree with you. I did call the thread "definitive guide" but its really a starting point for people to make the transition from a stock street M3 to a track/autox setup on street tires that can also be comfortable enough for DDing.

    The setup I am recommending is definitely not "definitive" for Club Racing, autoxing in BSP or SM, or even tracking on R comps.

    I'll make this a little more clear in the first post. Thanks for the input! And by the way, I encourage all input. Not everyone will say this setup is best, but this setup will definitely get someone well on their way to stepping into autox and track events.

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    My question is why would you not want to run any toe out back when tracking? I'm wondering what alignment would be best for my car which I DD but it routinely sees an autox once a month with a couple of track days thrown in for some extra fun.


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    I am running nearly the exact setup that Joenationwide is running (thanks again for all of your help!!! You are the man!!) 500f/550r on koni SA inserts, bimmerworld shims, and my car handles and drives amazingly. Cant wait for the summer time to hit up some track time!
    "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
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    Joe, you left out the most important factor. The driver. Every one of them is different, and the all want something else. What may feel good to one, and allows him to go fast, may scare the crap out of someone else, and they will be slow...

    The great drivers will tell you what they want in a car, and the stopwatch, and data tell if they are lying...lol ("No really!, I'm holding it flat for that corner")..lol Data don't lie...

    Really great drivers can make a turd go fast...
    No matter where you go, there you are...

  14. #14
    Join Date
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    Any pointers on ride height?
    '95 E36 318tdS:
    Bilstein Sport shocks; x-brace; H&R front sway bar; camber shims; M3 offset LCABs; Meyle HD LCAs; Z3 RSM reinforcement plates; ZHP shift knob.

    '02 E46 320d:
    Front camber tweak; M3 OEM front sway bar.


  15. #15
    joenationwide's Avatar
    joenationwide is offline Makes Cars Dance BMW E36 M3 Expert
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    Quote Originally Posted by Relax View Post
    My question is why would you not want to run any toe out back when tracking? I'm wondering what alignment would be best for my car which I DD but it routinely sees an autox once a month with a couple of track days thrown in for some extra fun.
    Check out the alignment settings I posted. If you want to set it and forget it, then up to -2.75 deg camber up front (and 0 or slight toe in) should give you decent front tire life. -1.75 deg camber rear and 0.10 toe in per side should work well for your needs.

    I rarely see people running toe out in any event. IIRC, the E36 chassis will gain rear toe out under heavy braking as the rear extends. Toe out is generally unstable, so this would likely be dangerous on track. I have seen AWD vehicles run some toe out rear at an autox to help with understeer. In my experience I wouldn't recommend toe out in rear. 0 toe rear would be as far as I would go.

    Quote Originally Posted by Hova View Post
    I am running nearly the exact setup that Joenationwide is running (thanks again for all of your help!!! You are the man!!) 500f/550r on koni SA inserts, bimmerworld shims, and my car handles and drives amazingly. Cant wait for the summer time to hit up some track time!
    Thanks man! Glad I could help. I guess I wanted to reiterate a lot of the information I gave you to help everyone get started.

    Quote Originally Posted by RRSperry View Post
    Joe, you left out the most important factor. The driver. Every one of them is different, and the all want something else. What may feel good to one, and allows him to go fast, may scare the crap out of someone else, and they will be slow...

    The great drivers will tell you what they want in a car, and the stopwatch, and data tell if they are lying...lol ("No really!, I'm holding it flat for that corner")..lol Data don't lie...

    Really great drivers can make a turd go fast...
    Absolutely correct. I'm not sure how to address the driver portion. By far a great driver in a stock M3 will wreck an intermediate driver in a modded M3.

    The setup I recommend is the most improvement (to the car) you can get for the money, and is really geared towards autox setup, specifically SCCA STU (Street Touring Ultra). You could be the best M3 driver ever, but with a stock setup, you'll get crushed in STU. On track, you can drive anything from a stock M3, to Konis/springs, to this setup, and beyond. So basically I want to show people how to get their car in shape, and they'll need to do the rest to learn to drive. Practice, practice, practice!

    Quote Originally Posted by metale View Post
    Any pointers on ride height?
    Yeah, I'll put something on here. I actually don't know off hand the proper heights (but I know its been posted on bf.c). I've just gotten to a ride height from adjusting through "testing and tuning". The biggest thing I learned was that too low in the front will wreck your handling. It looks cool, but performs terribly. Even if you solve the issue of hitting bumpstops, the camber curve in the low ride height region (once LCAs go beyond parallel) is really bad.
    My rule of thumb is that you need to be able to fit your thumb in between the front fender and tire gap.

    In the rear, there is no "danger zone" I would say, I run it a little tucked. It can vary though. I'll try to recommend a good starting point.
    Last edited by joenationwide; 02-07-2010 at 12:48 PM.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by joenationwide View Post
    Absolutely correct. I'm not sure how to address the driver portion.
    Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
    "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson
    Suspension Overhaul FAQ

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evil Spoonman View Post
    Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
    that's my damn motto
    "Torque is like cowbell... you can never have too much." - Michael Cervi


  18. #18
    joenationwide's Avatar
    joenationwide is offline Makes Cars Dance BMW E36 M3 Expert
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    Quote Originally Posted by Evil Spoonman View Post
    Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
    Hehe, well said. I like to say "slow in a hurry". Or as a fellow instructor says "imagine the driver's compartment is filled with molasses". haha.

    I'll try to put some info on driving techniques as well.

    Also, added your suspension guide to the top! I knew I forgot something.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by joenationwide View Post
    Hehe, well said. I like to say "slow in a hurry". Or as a fellow instructor says "imagine the driver's compartment is filled with molasses". haha.
    One of the best teaching aids ever is doing a few laps with horrible and narrow tires on the car. I did that a few times, if you don't drive like you're in molasses the walls keep jumping in front of you - it's actually a lot of fun.

    I'll try to put some info on driving techniques as well.
    I suggest some emphasis on neutral throttle and smooth turn in. Most of the corner is dealt with in the beginning (appropriate entry speed, steering angle, and smooth weight transfer at the end of the braking zone). Knowing how and when to put your foot into it is a lot easier than settling and balancing the car at that critical transition point where steering input begins.

    Also, added your suspension guide to the top! I knew I forgot something.
    Cheers! Linked this in my guide as well.
    "I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me." - Hunter S. Thompson
    Suspension Overhaul FAQ

  20. #20
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    Great guide! I have followed your alignment guide to setup my suspension and it is the most rewarding upgrade I have made.

    I have a couple quick questions:

    -Do you have any particular brand preference for the Front sway bar? I've hear Ground Control makes an excellent one, although a bit pricey.

    -How do you feel that front/rear strut bars fit into the list of things to do? I guess this would be considered more of a chassis mod rather than suspension?

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Relax View Post
    My question is why would you not want to run any toe out back when tracking? I'm wondering what alignment would be best for my car which I DD but it routinely sees an autox once a month with a couple of track days thrown in for some extra fun.
    If you auto-x, the secret is often to run a little negative rear toe......

  22. #22
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    Very nice guide. Are larger diameter sway bars for both front and rear worth it?
    Last edited by RabidChimp; 02-08-2010 at 08:27 PM.


  23. #23
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    I'm pretty much in agreement with the first post. I've setup several STU M3's (including the one that trophied at Nats this year.) The spring rates mentioned are right in the ballpark.

    My favorite setup on my car (and the one that I think was the fastest all around) was:

    AST 4200's
    625F/700R Rates
    H&R 28mm F/21mm R Swaybars (Front on soft, rear on stiff)
    -3.6 F and -2.1 R Camber
    -0.30 Deg Toe F and 0.40 Deg Toe R (Total Toe)
    18x9 ET45 F&R w/ 265/35-18 Dunlops
    15mm spacer Front / 5mm Spacer Rear
    12.8" Front / 12.2" Rear Ride Height

    I really liked how the car worked with this setup. The gearing favored a slightly higher speed course design with the 265s. The 17x9/255 setup is much cheaper and IMO a better bang for the buck, but in a fast and sweeper intensive course the 265s will be faster.

    I never had good luck trying to run my car with no rear swaybar for autocrossing, but I never worked very hard to tune for it either... I liked the way the car drove with the stock 20mm rear bar and the H&R 21mm (non-M) bar the best. The 21mm bar on the soft setting is only maybe 15% stiffer than the stock bar, so it was a very easy tuning tool to use for changing the rear grip/rotation on the fly.
    Chris
    97 M3
    94 325is
    12 Jeep SRT8

  24. #24
    techno550 is offline Senior Member Supporting Vendor
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    Quote Originally Posted by fsmtnbiker View Post
    I'm pretty much in agreement with the first post. I've setup several STU M3's (including the one that trophied at Nats this year.) The spring rates mentioned are right in the ballpark.

    My favorite setup on my car (and the one that I think was the fastest all around) was:

    AST 4200's
    625F/700R Rates
    H&R 28mm F/21mm R Swaybars (Front on soft, rear on stiff)
    -3.6 F and -2.1 R Camber
    -0.30 Deg Toe F and 0.40 Deg Toe R (Total Toe)
    18x9 ET45 F&R w/ 265/35-18 Dunlops
    15mm spacer Front / 5mm Spacer Rear
    12.8" Front / 12.2" Rear Ride Height

    I really liked how the car worked with this setup. The gearing favored a slightly higher speed course design with the 265s. The 17x9/255 setup is much cheaper and IMO a better bang for the buck, but in a fast and sweeper intensive course the 265s will be faster.

    I never had good luck trying to run my car with no rear swaybar for autocrossing, but I never worked very hard to tune for it either... I liked the way the car drove with the stock 20mm rear bar and the H&R 21mm (non-M) bar the best. The 21mm bar on the soft setting is only maybe 15% stiffer than the stock bar, so it was a very easy tuning tool to use for changing the rear grip/rotation on the fly.
    Sounds like you are in the ball park. I prefer more spring and less bar in general. A quick check of the rear rates and the rear bar might show why going from that to no bar without a corresponding increase in rear spring rate would make the car unhappy.


    equalizing the roll rates in the rear (bar vs no bar) can get you the same roll stiffness, same roll rate, less inside front tire load, more inside rear tire load (and better chance of keeping it on the ground), less squat (and better camber control) yet a greater ability to put down power early coming out of a turn. you also get better/easier damping control of the tires.
    Michael McCoy TRM

  25. #25
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    put this thread in my sig. it's nice to see this stuff consolidated.

    my next move is springs and camber plates but everything else s exactly how I envisioned it.

    No need to buy a BW shim kit....why pay that much money for washers? Go to a hardware store (Fastenal, for example) with a caliper and measure out how much washer thickness you need and get longer bolts if needed.

    I made sure to get at least grade 10.9 stuff (8.8 won t cut it in suspension)
    -Rich-


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