STAFF CARS

Performance Vauxhall - - CONTENTS -

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.

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