Project E36 M3: Part 3 - Suspension Version 1.0: HVT

Project E36 M3: Part 3 - Suspension Version 1.0

by Jonathan Lawson

Now we’re getting into the exciting bits of Project E36 M3.  It’s been a joy to drive in mostly-stock form, but it’s time to get into the real fun: Suspension!

The groundwork for our suspension project began a few months ago when I had a meeting with Brian Hanchey of Hanchey Vehicle Technologies (HVT) while we were at Kansas Speedway’s GRAND AM race weekend.  The prospects of our discussion had me bouncing off the walls with excitement.

Hanchey’s name may be familiar to many, as he was the one who started AST USA and managed to get them into GRAND-AM.  While this project isn’t related in any way to AST, there was a lot learned through the GRAND-AM experience, and that translates to some truly remarkable suspension products. 

E46 325it ASTs on trackHaving purchased a set of ASTs for my last car, the über wagon, I was familiar with their positive attributes as well as their drawbacks.  Knowing that everything which was viewed as a negative had been noted and improved upon for HVT, I was anxious to move forward.

With these being a prototype set of the HVT 6100i dampers for an E36 M3, patience was a virtue.  The time from the beginning of the build to delivery was shockingly good, however, especially considering the other projects HVT was working on in tandem, such as the new BXR Motors car.  

HVT 6100i M3The delivery day was worse than being a 5-year old waiting for Santa Clause on Christmas morning. I’m surprised I didn’t break anything as I tore into the box when it arrived.  As you can see above, you’d never guess them to be prototypes.

The only real clue to them not being a final product was the fact that they don’t have the tabs for ABS and brake line sensors.  I’m the biggest zip-tie fan I know, however, so that didn’t even register on my radar. 

HVT 6100i versus BMW OEM strutAside from just being beautiful to look at, the front struts are impressive in every way. And beefy!  The burly casings are built in-house by HVT, with the internals being provided by Tractive Suspension.  HVT has a lot of experience with testing, and these are by far the strongest struts they’ve ever tested, and they’ll be the basis of construction for everything from lower end models all the way to their 3-way electronic versions.
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Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Thursday, November 07, 2013 4:17 AM
Okay, the stiction numbers there for an inverted monotube are interesting. I wonder what they're doing for guide bushings and how robust it is. Interesting stuff, always good to see another damper seller with what looks like it could well be a good reputation. (only reason I'm qualifying that is the, well, newness)
Thursday, November 07, 2013 7:41 AM
Jeeze, these are amazingly constructed. If this is the quality level coming on the production parts I can guarantee I will be looking heavily at these for my next build.

And watch out, Mike Kojima might come after you with that "tucked" look you are rocking.
Thursday, November 07, 2013 7:55 AM
Yeah, the constructions really is incredible for a prototype. Aside from the brake line tabs being welded on, these could very easily be production models in my opinion.

Yeah, that last photo of the tuck had me thinking the car looked pretty ridiculous. No offense to anyone who's after the ultra-low ride, of course. ;-) It's 1/2" higher now, which is where my previous M3s have been riding, and where it seems to be the best balance of lower CG, favorable suspension geometry and full suspension travel. It may get a separate winter setting if we get some good snow this year. ha!
Thursday, November 07, 2013 9:03 AM
Those Camber/Caster plates look great. Is that also a prototype they are planning on releasing soon? Looks like a 3/4" bearing (possibly larger) instead of the more typical 5/8"?

It doesn't look like it, but thought I would ask. Is there any kind of bearing built into the upper perch to allow radial motion for isolating the spring during steering motion?

I'm very interested in the linear bearings/bushings and seals they used to drop friction.
Brian Hanchey
Brian Hancheylink
Friday, November 08, 2013 8:04 AM
The bearings for the strut casing were derived from taking the team's cumulative experience in road racing, rally, plus motorcycle fork designs in road racing and motocross. A motorcycle fork sees more possibility for stiction than any "strut like" damper because there isn't a control arm to support it. Also, a bad jump can generate over 100 in/s which translates into significant loads we never see in a car's suspension. So taking what we saw in GRAND-AM plus what TracTive knows from fork design, we came up with this casing design. It really is an entire system that makes it stronger with less stiction.

Camber plate has 3/4" bearings and a separate spring perch bearing included.
Dan DeRosia
Dan DeRosialink
Friday, November 08, 2013 2:40 PM
Thanks for that; from some research I've done before, that's actually a pretty interesting clue.
Saturday, November 09, 2013 10:09 AM
Great update, and it looks like these might be aftermarket coilovers I'd actually consider purchasing. My M3 is my daily and one of my pet peeves is a car that cannot handle bumps- my favorite roads are rutted, bumpy messes of broken asphalt through water crossings and over oak roots with very little run-off room.

The bump stops that come with the rear of this set of coilovers look like they'd ramp pretty dramatically, but given the spring rates I'm not sure if it matters much as bottoming these on the street would require some pretty hefty cornering speeds.

Please keep us updated on your thoughts on this suspension as you put more miles on it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013 7:44 AM
Steve, so far they really are impressive. Bump stops certainly are short, but it's looking like there are still a few inches of travel left, even after some harsh bumps. I'll be under the car today and taking a closer look, but I might find a few curbs that could simulate on-track use… at least until real track use when it warms up.

Went out on a test drive yesterday to go over some roads that were not so enjoyable in the previous car and its setup. There are some expansion joints and nasty, weather-induced havoc on some local roads that would make the previous car feel like the front struts could go crashing through the hood at any moment. I could visibly see the roads hadn't been fixed in the past few months, but it almost felt like those same spots no longer existed. No harshness whatsoever, and not an ounce of unsettling.

This is with the dampers set to 1 click from soft in front and 3 from soft in the rear, and no alignment yet, as I still have a couple of items in the rear to replace first. The car is just screaming for some warm weather, sticky tires and a day full-o-testing.
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