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Click the image above for a high-res pic.

With the 2ZZ motor in its new home, the additional 29 pounds of mass behind our heads was causing an excessive amount of understeer. That, coupled with the hard life our stock suspension has had to endure over the last 60,000 miles, made a new set of coilovers a necessity.

There are plenty of options available to MR2 enthusiasts in the suspension department, but many have decided to swap out their JIC and Cusco setups for a new system produced by BC Racing. BC has been around since 1999, and in addition to providing coilovers for practically every manufacturer under the sun, they're pricing is well within our reach. While coilover setups from the big aftermarket suppliers regularly crest the $2,000 mark, the BC setup, complete with 6 kg (336 lbs./in) front and 8 kg (448 lbs./in.) rear springs, was just $1k.

Click to enlarge.

What does a cool 'G' get you? A monotube design with a 46mm piston and 53mm body, 30-way adjustable damping (bound and rebound), aluminum anodized locking perches and seats, pillowball upper mounts and front camber plates. The build quality is the same as other high-dollar manufacturers, something that the Chinese have been excelling at over the last few years.

Available spring combinations ranged from 4 kg to 8 kg in front, and 6 kg to 10 kg in the rear. We went with the middle of the road 6/8 setup, with an extra pair of 4 kg springs just in case our chiropractor decided to hike up his adjustment rates.

We're trying something new with our Project Garage galleries, adding the descriptions below the appropriate photo in the gallery. You can view the full install by clicking here.

  • BC Racing coilovers with 6kg springs (front) and 8 kg springs (rear). The additional set on the left are 4 kg -- just in case.
  • Beginning with the rear...
  • Start by disconnecting the brake line on the left side. Grab a 12mm wrench and go to town.
  • Disconnected and moved aside.
  • Remove the bolt connecting the rear sway bar. 14mm socket and wrench required.
  • Grab your shop monkey and a 19mm wrench and socket to remove the two spindel bolts.
  • Pull the brake assembly down and out. Then unscrew the three bolts (14mm) from the top of the strut and remove the tired suspension.
  • Old and new, side-by-side. Remove the swaybar end links from the stock strut and...
  • ... install onto the coilover.
  • Install the new coilover, beginning with the three bolts at the top of the strut (14mm).
  • You'll need to jack up the control arm to line up the spindel holes so you can insert the bolts.
  • With a good bit of force, jiggling and prayers, the bolts should go though with minimal fuss. Tighten them up with a 19mm socket and wrench.
  • Reinstall the endlinks to the sway bar (14mm).
  • Everything looks good so far, the only rub is getting the brake line bracket to fit flush.
  • Unfortunately, no matter how much cajoling, we couldn't get rid of the gap. Bending it wouldn't work and we were averse to putting stack of bolts in there because of the angle.
  • Solution: zip ties. It's not perfect, but we'll be fitting stainless steel lines later, so we're less than worried. On to the fronts...
  • Ready for removal.
  • Again, we removed the brake line and ABS line. The brake line is attached by a 10 mm bolt, while the ABS line can be removed with an allen. The two lower spindle bolts were removed (19mm), along with the three 14mm nuts holding the strut in up top.
  • The old unit removed. You can see the ABS line on the left and the brake line on the right.
  • Awaiting insertion.
  • New vs. Old. No contest which is prettier, but will it stick better?
  • Inserted the strut and tightened down the three, 14mm bolts.
  • Line the spindle up with the new coilover setup.
  • Then jack it up to reinstall the spindle bolts (19 mm). Putting the bolts in proved a bit more difficult than in the rear, as the holes weren't drilled exactly to spec. No need to grind, just a little bit of wiggling and brute force was enough to get them into their new home. We reinstalled the brake lines (no issues) and the ABS line. Everything was torqued down to spec and so began the hemming and hawing over ride height.
  • Stock ride height.
  • Dropped 1-1/4 inches in the front and 1-1/8 inch in the rear.

The coilovers allow ride height to be set as high as stock and as low as 2-1/2 inches. We wanted something that would still afford us a modicum of daily drivability, so we took it down about 1-1/4 inches in the front and 1-1/8 inch in the rear. While we're still rolling on the stock wheels, we know that when we do decide to upgrade, we'll be purchasing 15x6.5 or 15x7 inch rollers, with about a 38mm offset. New tires are likely to be in the 205-50/45 range and we've been assured there will be minimal, if any, rubbing issues.

As for the alignment, the camber is only adjustable via the play in the lower two bracket bolts, so we've gone with about –2 degrees of camber on both sides in the rear and about 1/8-inch of total toe in. With the fronts, we set it at –2 degrees of camber as well, and will bring it out to about –3 degrees when we head to the track; the plates up front make for easy adjustability on the fly. We're at about 1/8" of total toe in the front.

Heading out to the nearest set of twisties gave us the opportunity to sample our newfound firmness, and while the stock ride was never buttery smooth, the new setup is even less so -- but it's perfectly compliant. Ruts and depressions in the road are sent directly to the butt and after a week of toying with the damping settings we're pretty happy with the 7-clicks up front and 9-clicks in the rear from the softest setting (it amazes us that every aftermarket supplier isn't allowing the damping adjustability to be changed via tactile clicks on the knob).

Once we arrived at our de facto testing road, with smooth ribbons of asphalt accompanied by a series of off-camber twists and elevation changes, Project MR2 truly came into its own. Although initial input into the wheel is still a bit vague (something we're going to be addressing soon), after a 1/4-inch of turning, the response is immediate and direct. "Telepathic" is a played-out description, but in this case, it fits. The back end is much more compliant, with the rear wheels breaking progressively away on smooth throttle application, while lift-off mid-corner allowed for plenty of sideways thrills – best avoided when running on local roads, especially with that amount of weight in the rear.

The installation of the coilovers took two pounds of weight off each corner (12.5 lbs. versus the 14.5 lbs. of the stock units), and since we're trying to keep the pounds off, losing the equivalent of a well-loved cat in unsprung mass is more than welcome. The addition of some new, lightweight wheels will help even further.

For the money, we're more than pleased with this newest addition to Project MR2. Next up: bracing. You can see the strut tower bars in the install pictures, which, in addition to the installation of a breastplate, will make it into our next installment. Stay tuned.

Special thanks to Brad over at Shutterflick for snapping the lead photo, Wayne from Waltermotorsports.com, and Jay from Modacar/Forced Fed for helping with the install.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Have fun controlling that car anywhere except for the track. And by track I mean completely smooth ice-like surface. That's a crazy amount of damper lbs rate for anything but.
        • 7 Years Ago
        First, the spring rate isn't the damper rate. Second, those spring rates aren't much higher than street kits for cars in that weight range. My Street Prep Solo Miata has 600/325 springs, big front sway bar, no rear sway bar. With the shocks set for competition, it's not a very smooth ride, but tolerable for 30 miles or so.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Does it have a LSD? Would that LSD work on a Corolla?
        • 7 Years Ago
        No. No LSD. Until we increase power up over 190 WHP, it's a bit unnecessary -- it'd be nice, but we can't justify the expense. As for the Corolla: there are a few aftermarket suppliers that make an LSD for the five-speed manual tranny fitted to the 1ZZ-equipped Corolla. But if you're going to get your hands dirty (and pony up the cash), you might want to upgrade to the GT-S' 6-speed.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Dude, if you can tell the difference in handling that 29 pounds in the middle of the car makes, your butt dyno must be AWESOME!!!!
        • 7 Years Ago
        No. My butt-dyno isn't that well-tuned. :) But the MR2's tendency towards understeer (tuned in by Toyota to save ham-fisted secretaries) was exacerbated by the additional mass. That, coupled with the worn suspension, caused it to push harder than before.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Unfortunately we didn't have access to a corner-weighting system, so it hasn't been performed yet. We will soon, and we'll post our findings.
        • 7 Years Ago
        you did get the car corner weighted after installing the coilovers right???
      • 7 Years Ago
      "With the 2ZZ motor in its new home, the additional 29 pounds of mass behind our heads was causing an excessive amount of understeer."

      ...you mean oversteer right?
        • 7 Years Ago
        No. I mean understeer. The extra weight from the engine was causing a loss of traction in the front. At speed, the front end would begin to get a bit floaty, and the harder it was pushed the worse it would get. More traction more weight in the rear = less pressure, less grip up front.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It might start to push on throttle, like a 911, but it will also oversteer quite badly if you lift, like a 911. Typical rear/mid engine behavior.

        When you align it agressively, it'll mostly oversteer.
        • 7 Years Ago
        "More traction more weight in the rear = less pressure, less grip up front."

        I know that....
        Guess I was imagining things more in line with my driving style..
      • 7 Years Ago
      Now we just gotta see how the MR2 does in the twistys. The Hammy meet is coming up soon.
      • 7 Years Ago
      LSD was an option on the MR2 for the 2003+ vehicles.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The option is certainly available to purchase those 03+ factory parts for retrofit onto a previous year, however. Not saying that you need it, but it's there if you find that you do. My '01 did just fine with the sportivo and a set of sticky tires.
      • 7 Years Ago
      the mr2 is a cool car, and im glad you guys are going with suspension for the first real step (most people really should stop there), but most people can't justify going with coil-overs and instead go with either a cup-kit or shocks/spring upgrades from oem.

      Its kind of like a video game reviewer reviewing a video game with the top of the line system. thats great to know they get 600fps, but the average buyer isn't going to be on a fully sponsored system with tomorrows vid card etc...

      Does that make sense? I'm not trying to troll, and I saw that your coilover kit is pretty darn cheap too (my kyb shocks/fm springs was about the same price).

      kudos still for choosing the mr2 over say, a mustang.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Keep these great upgrade stories coming!

      Even though this MR2 was never sold in Canada, I have wanted one since they were released...
      • 7 Years Ago
      I think its excellent that you're replying to peoples concerns Damon. Keep up the good work!

      so.... when are you putting the 20'' spinners on already?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Thanks. Wish I could do more of this, but time (and finances) aren't always on my side. As for the dubs -- don't count on it. :) We're thinking about finding a cheap set of 15-inch Rotas on Craigslist and throwing on some BFGs KDW2s. We shall see.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Why not Falken Azenis? Or is the lack of staggered sizes? Also, the LSD will make a difference in aggressive cornering on track and in autocross.
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