It’s no secret we believe the stock suspension underneath the Focus ST to be excellent as delivered by Ford. The combination of ride quality and smile-inducing handling agility make for an almost unbeatable package. Notice we said almost unbeatable…
When any major manufacturer designs a mass-produced vehicle – even one as performance-oriented as the Focus ST – certain performance compromises are simply part of the game. Clearing parking curbs and driveways, low NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and even tire life are often production concerns that will ultimately leave a production vehicle just that much less hardcore than some buyers might want. Luckily for the hardcore amongst us, aftermarket companies like Eibach have been ready and willing to come to our rescue. And this isn’t just our opinion, either – Ford Racing chooses Eibach to help them design suspension upgrades to include throughout their iconic performance catalog.
With the obvious exception of the Focus STanced build, we knew we wanted Eibach to play an integral role in the other two Project-ST builds. We contacted Private Label Manager, Ryan Hoegner, and set up a meeting. That’s the other great thing about working with Eibach – they’re pretty much just down the road (freeway) from us, and we’re talking about a full facility that includes design, engineering, R&D, production, and an awesomely cool facility that is all by itself worth a long visit. Originating in Germany in 1951, Eibach claims to have equipped more championship-winning cars than any other suspension manufacturer. Even today, from F1 to NASCAR, Eibach products are an integral part of the overall motorsports scene. Selfishly, we’re just so pleased they chose to open an R&D and manufacturing plant so close to our downtown LA location. Just because we could, we hopped in KB’s Mk2 Focus RS (it was in our possession that week) and headed over to Corona.
Upon meeting with Ryan we all agreed that for the Focus Block STyle we’d begin with a prototype set of the Ford Racing/Eibach R1 adjustable coilovers. Though Ford and Eibach had already agreed on spring and damping rates, Eibach’s vast array of spring and damper options meant we were able to spec a lowering range just a bit more aggressive than what was currently being used in the prototype kit, but still offered the same rate and overall performance and ride quality characteristics. Why build a kit that goes lower? The honest answer here is we figure a certain percentage of Focus ST owners will want their cars to be as low as possible. Our goal, then, was to build a kit that would achieve max-low for those who want that, while still providing at all ride heights the ride quality and performance that both we and Eibach demand.
Eibach’s R1 coilover tech is an excellent compromise for street and track use. Spring rates aren’t radically stiffer than stock, and single damping and rebound adjustment means it’s easy to go from a comfortable freeway ride to a more aggressive track set up. With fully stainless steel strut/shock bodies and hardware, even cold-weather climates will not damage the long term functionality of these components.
After working with Eibach to finalize the specs for the R1-based kit we sent the Focus Block STyle car back to Corona to begin work on prototyping a version of Eibach’s entry-level Pro-Street non-damping adjustable coilover kit. Working with spring and damping rates somewhere in between OE and R1, and still maintaing a wider lowering range, we wound up with a street performance kit we know will appeal to a wide range of Focus ST owners.
In designing the Focus TrackSTer build, we let Ryan know that we were only mildly concerned with a comfortable street ride, and that having total control over our track settings was the main suspension concern. He suggested we step up to an Eibach R2 set-up, as the remote reservoirs and separate rebound and damping adjustment would offer us as much fine-tuning as we could possibly need. Using the spring and damping specs from the Focus ST R1 kit, we worked with Eibach engineers in choosing specs better suited to the TrackSTer’s mission statement. As a starting point we went with spring rates roughly 30% stiffer in the front and 35% in the rear. Dampers with an adjustment range suited to the stiffer springs were built for us in the Eibach R&D room, and a prototype kit was assembled and offered to us for installation. To ensure we had total control of our set-up, Eibach added adjustable camber/caster upper mounts. A quick demo left us with the impression that ride is noticeably stiffer than with the R1-based Focus Block STyle, but the damping rates are so well matched to the stiffer springs that we wouldn’t go so far as to say the TrackSTer’s ride quality is all that much worse, if you get what we’re saying.
In addition to all the engineering discussions regarding our two Focus ST builds, we found time to take a tour of Eibach’s very impressive US facility. To see coil springs start from steel rods and bent into shape via thousands of pounds of force is pretty freaking cool. Check out the video below:
The many different bins holding springs of every conceivable size is also a sight to see. Eibach manufactures springs for all different types of industries – all under the roof of their massive Corona, CA manufacturing facility.
Even the R&D department and its assortment of shock and spring dynos is somewhere you could easily spend an hour or two.
Speaking of R&D, we asked Eibach to explain how they go about developing a kit for a brand new application:
“Below are graphs [click images for better view] of the comparisons between the OE damper and what we provide (open and closed). In all of them, the green line represents OE, the other two show what damping forces can be achieved with adjusting them from completely open to closed in rebound only. The spring rates for the Focus ST are 25% more in the front and 30% more in the rear. The rates are chosen by adding around 20-30% beyond the OE rates for the springs, and the damping forces are chosen by judging the vehicle’s setup, possibly comparing it to a similar car, and basically testing until we come to a great driving vehicle. We do vary the damping between the levels of coilovers with the thought in mind that Pro-Street S is an everyday street kit that a few times a year is brought to the track, Multi-Pro R1 sees more track use but still very comfortable on the street, and Multi-Pro R2 is more for the weekend or even full-time racer, but who still drives their car to the track.”
In a very short amount of time after our initial visit to Eibach we now have three specific coilover kits designed for the Mk3 Focus ST. We were encouraged to play an integral role in choosing spring lengths, rates, and damping scales as well, and the experience has definitely been one of the highlights of the Project-ST campaign as a whole.
Working on three different kits, our two PST coilover cars have been back and forth to Eibach’s Corona facility countless times and it was truly awesome to meet each time with Eibach’s engineers and discuss with them what we did and didn’t like about the current set-ups, until finally, we’ve got three different kits we’re proud to have wearing the fifteen52 name.
Since we began working with Eibach on the Ford Racing prototype kit we’ve learned both Eibach and Ford Racing have decided not to add the Mk3 Focus ST to their coilover application list. Instead, Eibach has chosen to support us (fifteen52) in a private label partnership and as a result we’ll soon have three different coilover kits based on Eibach’s Pro-Street, R1 and R2 technology available for purchase.