PORSCHE PROJECTS

The lat­est from the 911&PW fleet in­clud­ing an Ohlins sus­pen­sion kit for Ben­nett’s 996 and new wheels and ex­haust for Ti­pler’s Boxster

911 Porsche World - - Contents -

Last month I signed off with a tan­ta­lis­ing pic­ture of a Porsche 996 Ohlins sus­pen­sion kit. I know, I'm such a tease, but you didn't think for one mo­ment that I was go­ing to hang about on the fit­ting front did you?

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know that I've ag­o­nised over the sus­pen­sion op­tions for my 996, chasing my tail and pos­si­bly search­ing for a set-up/sys­tem that doesn't re­ally ex­ist. I moaned about the op­tional Porsche M030 kit that the 996 came with, which felt like the dampers had been filled with con­crete. I moaned about the stan­dard Bil­stein/eibach set-up that I re­placed the M030 with. Again it was too stiff for my del­i­cate sen­si­bil­i­ties. I has­ten to add, here, that sus­pen­sion is a very per­sonal thing and one man's un­com­pro­mis­ing ride is an­other man's cush­ioned magic car­pet. And, of course, there is al­ways the stan­dard op­tion. I mean, what's wrong with that? Well, noth­ing, ex­cept that it's al­ways a com­pro­mise, and part of the fun of own­ing a Porsche and tak­ing an in­ter­est in ve­hi­cle dy­nam­ics is the op­por­tu­nity to add in­di­vid­u­al­ity and go your own way on mat­ters of han­dling. Hav­ing said that, clearly 'my own way' wasn't work­ing.

Of course, there's a myr­iad of choices out there and I've al­ready tried a cou­ple of them. I've also tried a few set-ups on other folk’s cars and tuner cars. High­lights that come to mind have been on RPM Tech­nik's CSR 996s and the KW Vari­ant 3 kit fit­ted t o their demo car. And then I re­cently had the chance to try the Ohlins Road & Track

set-up on reader, Richard Beau­mont's amaz­ing light­weight, largely car­bon bod­ied 996. Put sim­ply I was im­pressed, not just with the ride qual­ity, but also the no­tion of fit­ting some­thing as es­o­teric as Ohlins sus­pen­sion to my own 996. I mean, Ohlins has some se­ri­ous pedi­gree in rac­ing cir­cles and it’s clearly good enough to be specced as O/E on Singer’s re-imag­ined 911s to great ac­claim.

The thought kept nag­ging away at me, but hav­ing spent a goodly sum al­ready on my sus­pen­sion and get­ting it wrong, I didn't have a great deal of bud­get left. I'm not ashamed to ad­mit that I went cap in hand to Ohlins and they cut me a very good deal on its R&T POZ M100 coilover kit, which was soon wing­ing its way from Ger­many.

So what is it that ap­peals about the Ohlins kit? Well, apart from the fact that it looks ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic and screams qual­ity, it's ad­justable in both height and bounce and rebound, which means I should be able to fid­dle around to my heart's con­tent and ar­rive at a be­spoke sus­pen­sion so­lu­tion that suits me and me only.

The R&T kit has a num­ber of neat touches that dis­tin­guish it from the com­pe­ti­tion. Firstly, the ride qual­ity that so im­pressed me on Richard's car is partly a re­sult of what Ohlins call DFV (dual-flow valve) tech­nol­ogy, which causes the damper to quickly re­lease pres­sure and so not ef­fec­tively lock-up when strik­ing a sharp bump. This is some­thing that has plagued the rear of my 996 with both of my sus­pen­sion set-ups. Se­condly, the spring pre-load is set when fit­ting. The ride height can then be set with­out af­fect­ing the spring rate or the damper travel. In ef­fect, you can go as low as is prac­ti­cal and still re­tain sen­si­ble ride and han­dling com­fort. Any­thing else? Yes, the dampers are easy to ad­just for bump and rebound with just one ad­juster on each unit ac­cessed from the in­side for the rear dampers and ex­ter­nally for the fronts.

Es­sex based De­sign 911 are the UK dis­trib­u­tors for Ohlins, so it made sense to en­trust them with the fit­ting. I haven't been to its new premises and, usual in­dus­trial es­tate setting aside, it’s an im­pres­sive fa­cil­ity con­tain­ing the hugely pop­u­lar mailorder side of the busi­ness, work­shop and clas­sic Porsche sales all un­der one roof, with fur­ther stor­age and paint shop along­side for restora­tions and a drive in bunker for stor­age. That said, De­sign 911 gu­vnor, Karl Cho­pra, reck­ons they've filled the space al­ready and is on the look out for more.

Guided tour over and it’s time to get stuck in. Chang­ing the en­tire sus­pen­sion in a day is a big job that re­quires every­thing to go smoothly. Tech­ni­cian, Gary O’brien, is con­cerned that the usual 996 is­sues of cor­roded bolts and fit­tings is go­ing to de­lay things, but I as­sure him that the sus­pen­sion on my car is fresh and has been on and off with such reg­u­lar­ity that noth­ing has had a chance to seize. Plus, both Auto Um­bau and RPM Tech­nik who have both tended to the sus­pen­sion are fas­tid­i­ous in their use of anti-seize com­pounds. First, though, we get the shiny Ohlins stuff out of the boxes for a good ogle. Seems a shame that it’s go­ing to be hid­den from view. Of course, Ohlins made its name with mo­torcy­cle sus­pen­sion, which is al­ways on prom­i­nent dis­play. Ohlins re­alised on that ba­sis it would pay for it to look good. The com­bi­na­tion of Ohlins gold sus­pen­sion forks and monoshock rear damper, with yel­low spring, on blood red Du­cati 996s and the like,

cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of en­thu­si­asts and helped to re­ally pro­pel Ohlins’ im­age. Not that it’s a case of style over sub­stance as we will surely find out.

Gary tack­les the easy end first: the rear. He is pleas­antly sur­prised that my as­sur­ances of 'easy to re­move' prove to be ac­cu­rate, as the rear dampers and springs prac­ti­cally fall off the car. To ac­cess the rear top mounts, a sec­tion of trim has to be re­moved from be­hind the rear seats. This has the dou­ble bonus of re­veal­ing a me­tal cover, which is se­cured prop­erly and has been driv­ing me mad with its rat­tling.

The Ohlins units are as­sem­bled on the bench. It's not tricky as such, but care­ful at­ten­tion needs to be paid to the in­struc­tions. The stan­dard sus­pen­sion drop over stan­dard is 20mm and that ef­fec­tively is the de­fault setting us­ing the mea­sure­ments supplied. Of course, with end­lessly ad­justable spring plat­forms, you can go higher or lower, but 20mm seems a good start­ing point. The damper units them­selves are also pre set, but more of that later. So with rel­a­tive ease the rear coilover units go on and the M030 anti-roll bars are con­nected. Half the job done.

The fronts are more time con­sum­ing be­cause the brake calipers, discs and hubs need to be re­moved. Again they come apart with­out any is­sues and the front Ohlins units are as­sem­bled on the bench, ride height is set and they're of­fered up. Sounds easy, but it’s mid-af­ter­noon by the time the last corner goes on. Still, it couldn't have gone any faster or smoother in the great scheme of things. A ge­om­e­try check and set up fol­lows to make sure that every­thing is point­ing in the right di­rec­tion.

Could you do this at home? Yes, cer­tainly, but you might get caught out with

seized fix­tures and fit­tings, but if you've got the equip­ment (heat is use­ful) to deal with such even­tu­al­i­ties, then it’s per­fectly fea­si­ble, with Ohlins’ largely ex­cel­lent in­struc­tions.

As men­tioned, the dampers are al­ready pre set to what I as­sume is a 'safe' setting that is nei­ther too soft or too hard. The rear dampers have 31 dif­fer­ent set­tings, while the fronts have 27. Each damper has a sim­ple ad­juster and each setting can be felt with a pro­nounced 'click' as you turn it. Start­ing with zero, which is ef­fec­tively fully soft, you then start to wind back in. And this is where the fun starts.

Have I ar­rived at the per­fect set up yet? No, I haven't. Have I been try­ing? To a de­gree, but this is be­ing writ­ten just a few days af­ter fit­ting and I haven't re­ally had the op­por­tu­nity to go out and at­tack my favourite roads. Thus far I have both front and rear set up at the 'half-way' point as a ref­er­ence, on the ba­sis that it will be easy to go back­wards and forwards from there and keep a track of the changes. My ul­ti­mate goal is a set up that works well on typ­i­cal Bri­tish B roads, be­cause if it can do that, then it will be fine ev­ery­where else. A sus­pen­sion sys­tem that doesn't work in this en­vi­ron­ment isn't fit for pur­pose.

What is im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent is se­ri­ous body con­trol over un­du­la­tions and supremely sta­ble cor­ner­ing. What I want to dial out, though, is any harsh­ness in the low-speed ride and un­lock Ohlins’ fa­mous 'magic car­pet' ride and maybe con­sult the likes of sus­pen­sion gu­rus Cen­ter Grav­ity on set up path and op­tions. What I'm sure of now is that I have the sus­pen­sion to achieve this. Frus­trat­ing I know, but I'm afraid it's a case of watch this space. I will en­deav­our to have the an­swers next month... PW

Ben­nett’s 996 in the work­shop at De­sign 911. It’s go­ing to be a long day!

De­sign 911’s Gary O’brien on the wheel gun. It’s fair to say that he wasn’t en­tirely look­ing for­ward to this job, such is the av­er­age mod­ern Porsche’s rep­u­ta­tion for seized fix­ings...

...how­ever, with the sus­pen­sion hav­ing been on and off nu­mer­ous times in the last year or so and re­assem­bled with co­pi­ous quan­ti­ties of as­sem­bly paste, it all came apart re­mark­ably eas­ily

Too good to hide away, but hide away they must. Ohlins damper units shout qual­ity. As­sem­bly on bench with ride height set. Note gold ad­juster on top of damper

Left: Ac­cess to the top mounts is un­der trim panel in rear of the car. Above: Rear damper unit comes off with­out a fight

Front damper re­moval and re­place­ment is more in­volved, but again goes smoothly. Fi­nal job is a ge­om­e­try check

Rear damper unit in­stalled with no prob­lems

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