Autoblog Project Garage: Project MR2 - Part One - Making it stick

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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.

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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.

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, and Jay from Modacar/Forced Fed for helping with the install.

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