Its too big
Wednesday, April 21st, 1999
Once again, I have taken my car apart to the point of not being able to drive it to work. On Saturday I removed all of the rear suspension to upgrade the rotting trailing arm bushings. That project is going well, but it has encouraged other projects. While looking at my ITR LCAs and my ST sway bar, I envisioned a better way of connecting them. The ST sway bar parts are designed to attach to the stock cast "I" beam LCAs not the stamped ITR LCAs, and the alternative we quickly figured out isn't worth repeating. Where I wanted to attach the sway bar is using the stock ITR mounting hole with its welded on nut. But it is a medium metric thread and the metric endlinks I bought turned out to be a fine metric thread. These endlinks are good quality and cheap from graingers. I bought mine last year to replace the worn out ST parts. There are in good condition, so I wanted to figure out how to use them.
Looking at the ITR LCAs, there is a hole on the opposite side of the sway bar mount, that is just a through hole. Additionally, the right and left LCAs look identical. Setting them side by side, yes, they are exactly the same basic part. The only thing that makes them "Left" and "Right" is where they welded on the nut for the sway bar and shock mount. So I reversed them. I put the left on the right side and the right on the left side. Perfect, and now my sway bar mounts up just like I want it to. And with cheap, easy to find end links too.
Personally I like the ST rear because the adjustment option is important for the way I use my car. When I go to a slow speed track, like an autox or the Streets of Willow, I want the rear to really rotate. A stiff rear bar works wonders. But too stiff and it will rotate too much on the street. A too stiff rear bar will send your car to the salvage yard, just like many of the donor ITRs out there. The ITR rear bar is 22mm versus the GSR 14mm, and that allows the rear to really rotate. Magazines love it. They take it to the track, and turn awesome times. They proclaim it the best handling production FWD car ever made. Enthusiasts buy the ITR, drive it fast on the street and spin them into poles, embankments and guard rails.
Compared to the ITR/GSR comparison, a stock CRX Si uses a 15mm rear, and the ST, with a slightly different geometry, uses a 22.5mm. Its more difficult to compare the ST to the stock civic Si rear bar, because the geometry is different, but in its softest position it is noticeably stiffer than the stock bar. By moving the endlinks from hole to hole, you can fine tune the stiffness of the rear bar. Thanks to Jay at Ground Control, he taught me a little trick: you do not have to use the same holes on the left or the right. You can mis-match the holes to get in between stiffness options . By using different combinations of holes, you can achieve up to 6 stiffness settings. So when I am done at the track, I can move the bar back to a less stiff setting for street driving. On ramps and Angels Crest are a blast, but neither have the kind of run-out area I need to let the rear really rotate. So I like to keep it conservative on the street. Fast road courses, like Big Willow or Button Willow, will require an in between setting. I want it to rotate a little, but I really don't want it to scare me to death in fast corners. That's why I recommend the ST rear bar for 88-91 Civics. (If you have a 92+, call Jay at Ground Control, and tell him the HYBRID page sent you. They just introduced an infinitely adjustable rear bar that is to die for. Its just not available for 88-91s.)
While I love the rear, I must say I do not like the front ST sway bar. The front uses the same geometry as the stock front, so it is easy to compare differences. A stock 91 CRX Si or DX uses a 18mm front. The ST is 22.5mm. That's a big increase. Lets look at the ITR/GSR comparison again. Stock '99 GSR is 24mm front. ITR is 24 also. 98 Spec JDM ITR bumps up to a 25mm (with a 23mm rear). The ITR/GSR front bar is a different design than the 88-91 Civic/CRX, so don't compare 18 to 24mm, just compare the relative change. A stock CRX Si handles damn good with the stock bar set up, but can it benefit from a stiffer front? Trying to decrease the body roll in the front, by increasing the front bar too much has the effect of lifting the inside wheel in slow speed corners.
With the ST front bar, I lift the inside front wheel in most aggressive under 25mph corners. I have more than once lifted the inside front completely off the ground. Its impossible to get power down like this! Press the gas, and the engine goes straight to redline. The risk of doing damage is high when the wheel comes back down going 60mph, and the road only going 25mph. Obviously not good. I have thought out the LSD issue and that is not the solution. I want LSD, but not to solve this problem. In fact, lifting the inside wheel like I just described and dropping it down has been reported to destroy certain LSDs. The answer is a front bar that is softer than the ST. But can it be slightly stiffer than stock? The other ways to reduce body lean, are to lower the car, stiffen the springs, or shocks or any combination of these three.
So what front bar? A while back, I tried the stock front bar with the ST rear bar in the softest setting and I felt that it rotated a bit too much for safe street driving. However, I must admit, I didnít tune it, and since then, I have ditched my tokico/nuespeed setup, and switched to ITR springs and shocks. If the rear is rotating too much, that just means it is not getting enough traction. Softer rear springs, softer rear shocks, and more negative camber will improve the rear traction without changing the front to rear bar balance. The ITR rear setup is significantly different, so I am going to go back to the stock front bar and give it a try.
I also called Brian G at HASport and asked him if there is a 19mm stock 88-91 Civic front bar? Like maybe on the 90-91 EX? First off, Brian thought I was crazy to want a bigger front. For autocrossing and IT events, many racers use the HF front bar, which is 17mm, along with a big rear. Or, like Brian, they run no front bar at all! But LA is a crazy place to drive. Very unpredictable. And the fastest autocross corner is much slower than my fastest on-ramp corner, so I have to play a bit conservative. But like I said, I still have to evaluate how the car handles with the ITR springs and shocks. From experience, we know that the rear tires hardly show wear from the rear, so if I need more rear negative camber, there is little reason not to do it. In addition, my trailing arm bushing upgrade is an unknown until I get the car back on its feet. Perhaps this is all I need to stabilize the rear? We will soon see.
Whatís the moral of my story? Do I need a moral? I guess its the irony of the situation. In my quest to create the perfect balance of daily driver and road racer, my car ends up sitting in the garage up on jack stands. But its all worth it when it comes down, and I have taken another step in the right direction.