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I have KYB shocks front and rear, 3/4" sway bars front and rear, and one set of caster shims.  I run 18 psi front and 28 psi rear in 175/70 Vred. Sprint Classic tires.

I don't drive as aggressively as Stan and some others.  It would be interesting to let him drive it sometime and get his reaction.

I run a similar setup, Michael, except I run 22/30 and had 195/60R15s and Konis. As I've said elsewhere, I'm moving to 16s for better rubber, and I'll run 205/55R16s at that point. I removed the leaves because there will be less sidewall cushion with the 55s than with the 60-series tires.

Sway bars are great for handling as long as you know what they do. A front bar will, along with making the cornering "flatter," with less body lean, make the car understeer.

That is, in a corner, it will want to keep going straight more than it does now. The thicker the bar, the more it'll do this. Understeer is what all OEMs engineer into all road-going vehicles today. They want the car to "push" in turns even though that's not ideal "performance" handling.

Why do this?

Because the alternative is OVERSTEER.

If you put a sway bar on the back of your car (with none or a too-small one on the front), it will tend to oversteer.

That is, in a corner, it will want to turn even more than you do, and the back end will try to beat the front end through the turn. Obviously: not the best.

Manufacturers make cars understeer because it's safer for the kind of unskilled, ham-fisted idiots (i.e.: us) to which they sell cars. If you're in a turn and the car is understeering, your natural, instinctive reaction is to hit the brakes.

This usually solves the problem! GO SLOWER IN THE TURNS.

Whereas, if your car is oversteering in a turn, you also have a tendency to hit the brakes. And this tends to make you crash.

Now, if you want more "bite" in the turns, you want softer tires. Less air is the best initial thing. Softer rubber is going to make it even better. Wider, softer rubber is better yet.

On your car, I'd run a stock Beetle bar (13mm I think?) with maybe stiffer bushings than stock. That will make it corner a little flatter and give it a little understeer, which will inspire confidence.

If I went with the big aftermarket bar I'd use rubber bushings and add the rear bar as well, also rubber bushed, to keep the handling balanced.

What I would NOT do is run the large, aftermarket rear sway bar with a stock, small front one—unless I was trying to make a drift car.

Last edited by edsnova
@Stan Galat posted:

I run a similar setup, Michael, except I run 22/30 and had 195/60R15s and Konis. As I've said elsewhere, I'm moving to 16s for better rubber, and I'll run 205/55R16s at that point. I removed the leaves because there will be less sidewall cushion with the 55s than with the 60-series tires.

   FYI ---- Size: _205/55-16     225/50-16_______  is what I run Stan  

6inch front 7 inch rear width Fuchs if that helps


@Gary B. , I like Stan's summary of the handling dilemma we face with these cars.

We all like sports cars and the way they're supposed to handle (or we wouldn't be here), but we're stuck driving 90-year-old suspensions that don't handle anywhere close to a modern sports car or even a typical modern, econobox sedan.


Adding an (anti)sway bar or tweaking the shocks may make some small difference but still doesn't confront the elephant in the room. Our 'sports' cars simply are not sports cars by today's standards.

Which isn't to say you can't have a lot of fun by learning to get the most out of what their 1930's tech has to offer, but adjusting your expectations is probably more realistic than adjusting your front end.

Spend as much as you want, this ain't never gonna be an M3 or a Cayman.

If you can get past that, though, you may find other worlds opening. Most of the 'fun' roads near me are rural farm or connecting roads laid out in the 1890s, probably paved in the 1930s and maybe only slightly regraded since then. The surface is rough macadam, the grading follows the landscape, and even a modern car is sliding around pretty good by 70 mph. I take these roads 10-15 mph slower in the Speedster and usually end up having fun doing that.

Tell us a little more about what specifically bothers you with how the suspension performs. A 'sway' bar will flatten out the cornering a bit, but won't necessarily give you any more grip. Grip has mostly to do with suspension geometry and how well the tire is allowed to follow the road surface, and like Stan says, that is pretty much baked in the cake unless you give up the front beam altogether.

Our weapons are mainly tire pressure, shock compliance, and springing stiffness. My car does have a front (EMPI) sway bar, and with that feels remarkably flat through the corners, but you can also feel the tires breaking free and sliding across the road surface much more than in any modern car. After a while, you can use that sliding to your advantage a little to tighten your line through a corner up to a point, but it's best worked up to gradually as you acquire the knack.

Watch some vintage racing footage from the 1950s where a photographer has set up on a corner and records a series of cars coming through. Notice how almost all are in two- or four-wheel drifts to a much greater extent than seems apparent in modern racing. And watch the see-sawing of the steering wheels to keep that little dance going.

If you can't drive the one you love, love the one you drive.


Last edited by Sacto Mitch

I hear a Stephen Stills lyric in that comment    

Also the torsion bar suspension still is able to produce quite a flat cornering just think it took GM till the 80's to match a 50's Porsche in cornering.  I just think there is an adjustment period that takes the Illusion, to reality and maybe it deflates your delusion.  In any case it is an acquired taste and hence some leave the hobby and sell the car with low mileage, sometimes & for whatever reason.

“Handling” means different things today than it did back then. We expect our modern cars to pretty much go exactly where we point them. Watch some Goodwood races for 60s-60’s sports cars on skinny tires. The fast times are pretty much 4 wheel drifting through the corners. Kind of impractical on open roads.

Like everyone constantly reminds me about 3 pedal vs 2 pedal driving, the “softness” of the handling is one of the things that endears me to my Spyder. My Smart “handles” way better.

@James posted:

  I have 185/65R15 tires on 4.5" wide rims which is too wide of a tire for that rim (clearance problems in the rear determined this decision).

I agree mostly with this. The minimum recommended width is 5" for that tire size. I have the same on the front of my Spyder. However, I am running the Vredestein Sportrac 5(NLA) tires all around(195/60R15 on 5.5" rear). I'm not of a mind to be overly concerned about the 1/2" difference from the recommended.

I run 22F and 26R in my Spyder(Speedsters require MORE pressure in the rear). I would say the handling is as sharp as could be desired for a 1950s design(actually 1930s, right?). I actually CAN run with or faster than some modern Porsches, both on the street and the track. I attribute this to seat time, I've been Spydering for 18 years and LOTS of miles.

The tires make a WORLD of difference. As do the front shocks. I have NOS Koni adjustable oil shocks (set at full soft) and these two changes have transformed the car.

The Konis are adjustable in rebound only, compression is non-adjustable.

To finish this up, I have a custom-made(by me) font anti-sway bar. It is 16mm(approx. 5/8") and has custom heim end links and levers welded to a shortened stock 911 front bar. I used two urethane sway bar mounting brackets, bolted and welded mounts directly on the beam.

Since my car has a swing axle, there is no rear bar.

The handling is neutral to not-easily-provoked oversteer. But it CAN be provoked with ham-fisted driving and injudicious throttle and brake stabs.

Great luck to you Gary in your search for better handling. It can be had, but likely won't be transformed with one thing. You'll have to work at it a bit to get where you want to be.

An alternative to buying a "real" car is to buy a new Beck.  The Coupe I had has some pretty amazing handling with it's mid-engine and modern suspension.  Even a rear-engine version would probably be pretty incredible.  We'll get to see how Chris Dauerer's Speedster with the new suspension does in the mountains this fall. Maybe I can con him into letting me drive it before then.  I'll go easy @Three Pedals (Chris), I promise.

I have no doubt that a rear-engined Beck with the new coil-over suspension on all 4 corners is the secret sauce. It's got the shape people pine for with the packaging and suspension we've come to expect in the 21st century.

It's not a "modern" car, but it's got modern underpinnings. Great value.

@DannyP - I agree on the 4-1/2s and 185s. I had 4-1/2s on all 4 corners of the JPS and 185s fit nicely enough.

@DannyP and @Stan Galat thanks for the comments on tire vs wheel size.   Danny's comment "...(Speedsters require MORE pressure in the rear)." is what I have found in my testing.  The rear seems to be much more sensitive to the lateral tire flex than the front.  Makes sense because of the extra weight that is being slung around back there.  However I feel that a 5.5" wheel should make the car feel more stable even at lower pressures.  Thanks again, I feel that both you guys have much more experience than I have with these cars.

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