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Car: Ford | Fiesta | CX (Mk3) | XR2i | Hatchback
Engine: BUB | 3.2 | V6 | (15º V6) | N/A | Petrol

Bilstein suspension and 15" Esort GTi wheels

Like I said in the 'current project' section, I really do rate the standard spring/damper setup of the later model 'sports' Fiestas. The strengthened bodyshell that was introduced with the revised range in 1994 also helps the handling greatly, but the standard Ford dampers combine ability with comfort.

Spax logo

I know there are lots of aftermarket kits available on the market, but my past expereince with theese has put me off. My friend has an aftermarket setup on his car, albeit one of the cheaper spax kits, and I was very dissapointed with the performance. The car did sit very level in the corners but I thought the 'feel' of the car had been lost and after a few goes in the car I thought that very little extra grip had been offered. The only outcome of the setup was a very harsh ride and a lower stance - which to be fair was the only reason he purchased the kit.

I liked the Ford setup so much that I purchased a set of brand new rear suspension to add to the car as the the rear was being reassembled.

Awaiting photo

It was only after I had had the dampers sprayed and the springs powder coated that I saw an advert in the back of Fast Ford, for some Bilstein susension. It may sound contadictory me thinking about buying some after what I have just said, but the price was right and would actually work out cheaper than me purchasing the rest of the front suspension from Ford! The guy who was selling them, Wes, rallies a Mk3 Fiesta 1.6S and had brought them for this car. He had however never fitted them to the car as he decided (after purchasing them new) that he required adjustables to compensate for both gravel and tarmac stages! He purchased a set of new race-spec Leda adjustables in the end leaving him a spare set of new Bilsteins! I decided to go ahead and buy them.

Bilstein Sprintline

The Bilstein kit is some of the best aftermarket kit that money can buy, before you move on to exotic race-spec coilover suspension. The Bilsteins are not adjustable but employ 'adaptive damping' - increasing rebound/preload depending upon the driving conditions and the springs are also progressively wound which leaves them reasonably 'soft' for normal driving. I hope so anyway!, I'll let you all know what they are like at the end of this section, once the car is on the road!

Fitting the springs/dampers

FRONT

on its wheels

The smaller diameter end of the spring seats in the base of the strut, the spring is held in at the top with a cup. On top of the cup is a further cap seperated from the first by a flat bearing race. At this stage it is worth replacing this bearing if your car has done a high mileage, a part taht is often overlooked! The two cups are held in place by a 19mm nut on the strut itself, standard length Ford springs need compressing but I found the shortend setup could be assembled by hand.

Once strut and spring are together they can be offered up into the wheelarch, the assembly is held to the stut tops with another 19mm bolt. The strut slider is held with an allen key to stop it turning in the turret while the nut is tightened with a spanner.

REAR

The rear springs have different angles at each end, use sight to determine which end fits the stut or spring cup. The Bilsteins had progressively wound springs and the tighter coils go to the base of the strut. The spring is held in at the top by a spring cup incorporating a rubber insulator. Again Ford springs would need compressing, but I found the shortened setup only required light hand pressure. Once together there are two bolts to hold the cups to the rear turrets and a single bolt to hold the base of the struts to the rear beam.

Awaiting photo

Impessions

Lowered

Firstly I was relieved to find they actually ride more SMOOTHLY than standard! This I am very pleased with! however....

After a month or so with them fitted to the car Ive removed the springs and put the standard ones back! (retaining the Bilstein dampers). For road use the springs were just no good, far too hard - on a flat, undulating track they would be fantastic, but for the road you need a bit of softer damping. I can drive the car faster with the standard springs.

Bushes

I have two choices to make here - standard Ford rubber or afermarket polyurethane. Again like the dampers/springs I think for road use the standard items are the best compromise. I have had no direct experience of the aftermarket variety only other peoples opinions. My Dad used to run RS2000 Escorts back when they were released and some of them had rally spec bushes fitted - he said they were a nightmare on the road, every little stone the car went over seemed like a giant rock!

There are several bushes on my Fiesta:

Location Number of bushes Ford part number Price each
Front wishbones * 2 per wishbone 1*1000445 £ 1*1035929 £2.04 £ £5.55
Front anti-roll bar 1 each side 7102392 3.21
Rear anti-roll bar (flat bottom) 2 each side 1659591 1.31
Rear twistbeam to mounting bracket 1 each side 6745350 4.75

* There are two wishbones per car, theese items come complete with all bushes in place

If you are going to invest in some aftermarket bushes the replacement wishbones and rear beam are the ones to go for. I dont think the anti-roll bar bushes will make a great deal of difference to a Fiesta, most of the load is taken up by the front wishbone mounting points and rear struts. I think a better compromise would be to replace the standard bushes/wishbones at 35,000 mile intervals.

Fitting

The anti-roll bar bushes are a simple case of bending open the mounting brackets, sliding the new bushes over the roll bar, then closing the bracket back over the new bushes.

Awaiting photo

The rear beam sperates at the mounting brackets by loosening a large nut and bolt running through the centre of the bush. Once this is sperated the bush can be pressed (or hammered) out of the beam, being careful not to damage any surfaces. Refitting is the reversal of removal, I used a dry film silicone lubricant to aid refitting.

Awaiting photo

Wheels

GTi wheel in primer

I restored the Escort GTI 15£quot; alloy wheels myself The wheels were in a sorry state when I got them but I refused to pay £170 to get them done so I had a go myself.

Right - a wheel in zinc primer ready to be sprayed

I was extremely pleased with the results! Obviously the paint will not be as tough as a powder coated finish but it will be fine me. The wheels can be seen in their completed state in various sections of the site.

© Mark Stewart, Thursday 15th June 2000
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