STanced: Getting Down To Business
As we’ve already made clear in the intro article, the highlight of the ST STanced build will be the air suspension set-up. We knew from the beginning that air suspension would get us the look we want, and our existing relationship with the main project partner, AccuAir Suspensions, for this build gave us the confidence to believe we could also stay faithful to the performance nature of the Focus ST.
Because the 2013 ST is so new, there are not yet any air spring solutions available to simply bolt-on. This gave AccuAir the opportunity to develop their own front and rear air springs, brackets, and damper solutions from the ground up. AccuAir started the process by using their in-house test equipment to baseline all of the factory ride characteristics of the vehicle including spring rate, ride rate, and damping characteristics. This baseline became the building block necessary to maximize the air suspension dynamics and achieve the aggressive performance requirements that Ken Block and fifteen52 were looking for without straying too far from the factory characteristics of the car. Reno summarized for us: “When Ford suspension engineers get out of this car after a test drive, we want to see a smile on their faces because we didn’t take away from what they spent years fine tuning.”
Because the Focus ST is a McPherson Strut style front suspension system, the struts and upper mount design are slightly more complex to develop than typical double A-arm style front suspensions. In this case, AccuAir came up with a new upper mount / bearing design that includes a camber adjustment plate. After sourcing a high-end adjustable damper, they began to test and tune with multiple air spring configurations until they yielded the desired spring rate. “We faced some packaging challenges in fitting the front air springs because of limited spring pocket clearance,” Reno told us. “Fortunately we were able to land on a final solution that doesn’t require any modification to the factory spring pocket, mounting holes, or sway bar.”
The rear suspension on the focus looked like it was going to allow for a simple coil spring to air spring swap at the beginning. AccuAir quickly realized that the factory lower control arm was simply not going to allow the car to get low enough when the air spring was fully compressed. So AccuAir worked with the guys over at IDF (Innovative Design and Fabrication) to develop a new tubular lower control arm replacement that would optimize suspension travel without adversely altering any of the factory suspension geometry. “We wanted to make sure that this thing sat as low as possible when its parked; we want to show people how good those fifteen52 wheels will look when they are tucked up into those rear fender wells.” Clearly Reno knows how we think.
In the weeks to come, AccuAir will be installing their e-Level Air Management System along with their all new iLevel wireless control app for the ultimate in ease of use and functionality for the Focus. They are planning on a very “stealth” style install in the factory spare tire location for zero impact on interior space. They even plan to include a tire inflation kit with their on-board air tank to demonstrate to the fullest the virtues of air suspension.