All-new coilovers for the Vectra and a look back at the BTCC Cavalier’s time as a works car.
My last project update focused on how amazing the VXR looks dressed in its 3M 1080 Gloss Flip Deep Space vinyl and MOMO Revenge rims. Unfortunately, the car’s awesome appearance couldn’t prevent a suspension knocking noise from making itself known shortly after the wrap was revealed at PVS. The Interactive Driving System (IDS+) damper warning light soon lit up the dash, a complaint leading to an investigation revealing a leaking nearside front shock absorber. Making matters worse, the neighbouring drop link was past its best. With an MOT test on the horizon, swift action was needed.
As great as they are, IDS+ components are expensive to replace. Given there are a range of advanced suspension solutions available for the Vectra VXR at similar (or less) cost from various respected aftermarket manufacturers, I decided to look at alternative damper options. I know GAZ Shocks produces coilover kits for a wide range of performance Vauxhalls, but after spotting nothing listed for the Vectra VXR, I contacted company boss, Mark Gazzard, and
asked about the possibility of his team developing a new coilover kit specifically for the turbocharged 2.8-litre bruiser. Recognising demand from my fellow V6 owners, he was only too happy to oblige, but the sticking point came when he said he’d need to use my car’s standard shocks as a point of reference when determining new coilover damper body characteristics and when designing fitting hardware.
Unfortunately, I needed to make continued use of the car, but it didn’t take long for donor dampers to materalise thanks to the generosity of Marc Wale, owner of independent big-engined Vauxhakll sales and service specialist, MW Performance. The serial Griffin modifier lent me a set of standard IDS+ shocks to pass on to GAZ. Work to develop the new kit got underway a short while later.
The British firm’s coilover kits feature on many Performance
Vauxhall feature cars, often in GAZ Gold specification, a height adjustable setup designed for tarmac motorsport and track day use. The kits are also listed in GHA guise, a design more suited to modified fastroad cars. Allowing on-vehicle damping adjustment, offering a shortened body and stroke length (providing a user defined ride height drop of between 25mm and 65mm), each corrosion resistant, zinc-plated damper comes complete with a highquality coil spring at a rate and diameter to match the user’s needs. When a coilover is unable to be installed (such as at the rear of the VXR where the spring and damper are independent of one another), a variable spring platform is used to ensure the kit retains full height adjustment. As you can probably guess, GHA coilovers are perfectly suited to the kind of driving my Vectra is subjected to, which is why it’s this kit Mark’s men built for me.
You’ll note the parts pictured don’t include springs for the back of the VXR. This is because I opted to retain the car’s Eibach rear springs. Every other component is brand spankin’ new, complete with new bushes, easy-to-operate bump and rebound controls (twenty-one different settings!) and coilover height adjustment. Tools to achieve the latter are included in the kit, which can now be ordered direct from GAZ at a cost of just £597.02 plus VAT and delivery. That’s astonishingly good value for premium quality
coilovers, especially when compared to the expensive cost of replacing IDS+ dampers with same-spec genuine parts.
Off I travelled to Huntingdonbased Vauxhall fettling firm, SOS Automotive, where head honcho, Seweryn ‘Fuzz’ Sidor, quickly set about removing faulty original suspension equipment in advance of fitting the GAZ parts. He also installed new drop links and KYB top mounts. I was convinced one of the front wheel bearings was on its way out, so both were replaced at the same time. I then dusted off my Tech 2, disabled the car’s IDS+ electronic central nervous system (with assistance from MWP technician, Matt Duffield, who pointed me in the right direction when it came to finding the option buried in Tech 2 software) and Sew began to experiment with the car’s ride height.
Dropping the chassis just enough for the MOMO wheels and their Yokohama black circles to
comfortably fill each wheel arch was what I was looking for, and that’s exactly what I’ve ended up with. I’m over the moon with how great the car looks now the coilovers are in place, but I’m even more pleased with how much better they’ve made the ride. Forget what people tell
you about coilovers being ‘crashy’; if you’ve got a wellbuilt, good quality kit, there’s no reason your experience behind the wheel has to be characterised by body-shaking jolts whenever you hit a bump in the road. As a case in point, my car positively glides on its GHA coilovers, and that’s with rubber bands for tyres wrapped around nineteen-inch wheels. I’m genuinely astounded by how smooth the ride is!
A fresh twelve-month ticket followed the work at Sew’s place, but not before I applied new pressed metal registration plates and carboneffect carriers from official Vauxhall styling partner, Irmscher. I also booked time in the workshop of automotive tuning outfit and Astracampaigning BTCC team, Power Maxed Racing, with a view to resetting the car’s alignment following the appointment of the new suspension equipment. This is one of the most important tasks after changing the setup of a modified motor’s chassis, so who better to carry out the work than a professional motorsport team relying on precision alignment to contribute in the quest for reduced lap times?! Be sure to grab a copy of the next Performance Vauxhall to find out how you can take advantage of the team’s immense experience.