Saturday, 28 January 2012

Project Hagane – Shocking!

During the time I was saving for my suspensions, I decided to spend small dollars to change Hagane’s looks and differentiate her from all the gun metal grey Vios I saw on the road everyday (and trust me, there are tons of them!)

 I started by getting a new black sunshade (with a red stroke, for recognition) and a gloss-black roof sticker wrap to go with. I then complemented the looks by adding a few more highlights to Hagane.

Armed with some sand paper and a can of black paint, I sanded down and sprayed the side mirror covers and the front grille. Nothing like a little bit of elbow grease to get closer to your car, so I took my time, and patiently sanded down each part before applying four coats of black paint.

Once the parts sprayed and the paint dry, I purposefully omitted to add a final protective coat of varnish just in case if I want to touch up the paint, and proceeded to put the parts back in place. Instantly, my little grey Vios showed a little bit more character, which was complemented by the upgrade I have waited the longest to get – new suspensions.

It took me a long time to get there, and thanks to my boss and friend, Hong, I was finally able to get a set of STD Standard R3. STD Standard is a Taiwanese brand that produces a selection of street-to-race-ready shocks. The R3 model features damper and height adjustability with front pillow-ball top mount. The front shocks also feature adjustable camber for more dedicated use. Or for looks, as those who never bring their cars on tracks say.

 With that said, it was the first and only time where I was eager to get STDs. Pun intended.

While I unfortunately did not have the time, knowledge and tools to install the coilovers myself, I turned to LTM Performance for the installation. On the same day that I dropped my car off, I went to pick her up and my heart literally skipped a beat when I saw how low and aggressive she looked. Gone was the awful space between the wheels and the fenders, and with the spacers giving her that aggressive stance, Hagane turned from common to a real looker. At least to my eyes.

This is when trouble started. While this version of the STD Standard R3s were made for Toyota Vios, the addition of wide spacers (especially at the rear) was never taken into account by the brand, and even with rolled fenders, the rubbing between the wheels and the fenders was horrible. Horrible to the point where my rear tyres now sport and extra groove.

The next morning, I brought my tortured beloved car back to the workshop, and the good guys at LTM Performance had my rear coilovers sent back to Taiwan for some customisation. The shocks came back with greater height adjustability and everything was set back in place. To make sure the tyre torture would not happen anymore, I also asked for their help to knock the fenders out a bit more at the rear. The process chipped the paint on my rear fenders, and added some grunge to the overall rugged looks of Hagane.

Unfortunately that last part was not done up to my expectations, and the rear now sits still a bit too high to my taste and still rubs occasionally, while the front is just perfect. I will soon follow a friend’s recommendation and go to a shop that provides good fender knocking before finalising the rear suspension’s height to make Hagane at the same height at the front and rear, thus avoiding bringing unnecessary added weight on the front axle.

To finish her looks, I once again picked up the sand paper and spray can and underlined the rear bumper with an added touch of black.

I just love how Hagane looks now, and while the spray job is not perfect, the money it required to do it (under $15) makes it much worth it. Once I fix those rear fenders, I will finally be able to get the perfect height and the exterior/stance works should be done, excluding a nice new paint job.
On a funny note, while I totally love the way Hagane sticks to the asphalt, my dear girlfriend and a few other passengers tend to not enjoy the so called “bumpy” ride that Hagane gives. Too bad, right?