Front Suspension

On a drive back from York, the passenger side lever arm damper came a bit loose, resulting in the car being undriveable over 40mph.

We took the arm off the damper (a LOT of effort) and popped some spacers in to stop it wobbling so fearsomely. At the same time, dad’s mini was having adjustable dampers fitted because “it was too hard”, so on a bit of a wing and a prayer, the old mini (telescopic) dampers were bolted to the midget with the lever arms de-valved. This worked really very well, taking some of the load off the top link and resulting in much more controllable damping at the front end.

When the car was off the road for the second rebuild (involving the sills), this was designed by me after a fair amount of time reading about suspension and other stuff, reading Daniel Stapleton’s excellent tuning midgets book, and looking at the items available from Peter May Engineering’s website.

It uses a mini track rod end and part of a steering rack as an extra link to triangulate the top control arm, and a large strong bracket that bolts to the top of the lever arm, and to the inner wing where the telescopic damper bolts through. The lever arm bolts are plenty long enough for this; I’ve kept the spring washers.

If I was doing this again, I would build the plate under the damper, giving a sneaky portion of negative camber. I’m unwilling to put any more spacers in case the bolts don’t have enough thread in the car, as it would be fairly catastrophic if one pulled out. The car is now fitted with adjustable GAZ dampers from a mini, set 3 clicks off the softest setting. Adjusting them up to the top of their 32 point adjustment makes the car very hard, but it goes round corners with absolutely no body roll whatsoever, so perfect for occasional blasts!

The whole front suspension changes have made the car very predictable under braking, it tracks straight and has lost some of the vagueness that was present before, while also reducing the understeer that it suffered from ever so slightly previously. However, these improvements may well be due to the fact that everything is new now: time will tell.

if you want to make your own one, here’s a diagram


The established Frontline Developments front suspension kit was the alternative to this, but due to my budget constraints (I never want to spend money on what I can possibly make), I thought £360 was a bit much. By most accounts the frontline kit is good, I have seen a few horror stories with fitting, but on the whole it is very well received.

The car also now has a pair of Barry King negative camber wishbones on the front.  These are slightly longer than the original ones and give -2.5 degrees camber.  The camber change can also be achieved by offset bushes in the trunnion at the top of the kingpin.  Moving the bottom link outbound with a longer wishbone also means the front track is made wider – this helps with stability.

The car has improved greatly in the corners with these negative camber wishbones, so much I had to fit better seats to keep me in!  Understeer is reduced and the car tracks well.  Some negative camber is a definite good idea.

Across the top of the suspension ‘turrets’ I’ve fitted a strut brace.  I fitted this with the car on the ground – it bolts into the damper plate I made for the triangulation mod above.  With the bolts dropped in, and the car jacked up, I can’t get the bolts out, suggesting that it’s doing something!  The car feels more solid at the front with it fitted.

These cars apparently have a reputation for having the anti roll bar mounts pull out of the legs when a fatter anti roll bar is fitted and the car is driven hard.  To combat this (and to go with the 11/16 anti roll bar) I’ve fitted a big right angled bracket that links the original anti roll bar mounts to the bumper support mounting points, which are very very strong.  This is a bit easier than welding the mounts back in after they tear out!   It also moves the bar forwards a bit, meaning that there is more space for the adjustable ends I’ve also fitted.  These mean I can have an adjustable amount of roll stiffness, from the same as the 11/16 bar back to around the same as the original chrome bumper thin bar.  At some point in the distant past the car has taken a hit to the front, bending the chassis legs in front of the wishbone attachment points. This means that if I have a bumper on the whole car looks twisted. It also means that an anti roll bar acts as the next thickness up; the standard 11/16 bar was far too thick and made the front too solid, hence the adjustment.  Note that the castor setting on the front suspension is set by bending the chassis legs upwards behind the wishbone – DON’T STRAIGHTEN THIS OUT!