Friday, April 10, 2009

Pedders xA Street II Kit

As I mentioned previously i had ordered the Pedders Street I Bushings and their new xA Coil-Overs, basically making an 'xA Street II Kit'.

After finally receiving all the goods I talked to AutoFX who did an amazing job on my GTS Fenders - They are an official Pedders dealer but for some reason they could not do the bushings at that point in time. I then looked up the second closest (at least an hour away) Pedders dealer which was Norpac Street Performance owned & operated by Rich & Justin Woolley.

I spoke to Justin there a few times and he said they could do everything I needed to get done. After rescheduling a few times on short notice - in which I appreciated their flexibility - we finally picked a date. Time wise we were hoping to get everything done in one day but it would be a VERY tight fit especially with the distance they are away and my limited schedule. Justin had warned me that they were in the middle of nowhere, and he was NOT kidding :) Pasture-land all around and when I asked a local where the nearest 'mall' was they told me "I think Olympia" (30 minutes by freeway at least) ;)

Day 1
So I dropped off my car and since they were out of the way with really no place to go for me Justin was great enough to let me hang out in the office and shop area. He took off the wheels and the rear part of the exhaust first and then started on the Front Radius Rod Bushings (EP6560). He had to use a stand-alone bushing press to get the stock ones out - those things were really in there!

After installing those they moved on to the Rear Cross Member Inserts (EP1169). It was interesting to see the entire rear sub-frame being held in place with 4 bolts. These were definitely the easiest to put in of any of the bushings. Just put one part on top, the other on the bottom , repeat for all 4 bolts and that's it! Then we moved on to the Differential Mount Bushings (EP1167) which is where we ran into a roadblock. Apparently the tool they had was just a bit too small/large where it would not work to get the bushings out - after trying a few things it was decided we'd wait for the correct tool instead of trying to force it. Based on my available time it was just about time to wrap things up and put everything back together. So we definitely did not get as far as I hoped for, but overall had a great experience!

Stock setup

My Car on the lift

Results of Day 1
On the drive back and the following week I definitely noticed two things: The steering felt a little tighter/crisper and the rear end felt a LOT more stable. When doing a quick lane change from a stop the rear end slid just beautifully horizontally across the road vs before where the entire car would rock from left to right. Should've had these bushings in sooner!!

Day 2
After finally finding some more time to get the rest done about a week later I learned that AutoFX in Tacoma now could do the bushings etc. Oh well - I really liked the guys at Norpac and hope to go back there for future work so I went back to them to wrap up the installation. They had received the correct tool from Pedders USA (thanks to Michael White) so the EP1167 bushings were a snap to replace.

Front 2 EP1167 bushings

Rear EP1167 Bushing (with Justin working on it) and you can see part of the EP1169 bushings

Rich taking a look at the install

The Coilovers seemed to be a breeze to install. Before I realized what was going on (I was doing my own project on the side) Justin already had the stock shocks/struts (I never know the difference!) ripped out and was ready to put in the coil-overs.

Stock Front Suspension

Front Coil-over installed

When we lowered the car the initial setting looked really sharp so we called it good! This as it turned out later was a bit of a mistake...

Once installed this is what it looks like under the hood - Very clean!

Then it was on to the rear. It was a bit of a pain to get the rears out (not using a spring compressor) so they decided to remove the arms. Then we had to drill the hole for the adjuster extensions. Not sure how 'practical' it is going to be to reach the rear ones without raising the car, but I'm guessing not very easy at all!

After setting up the rear to a decent height we noticed the front dropped quite a bit more - guess we should've raised it a bit more. It looked REALLY awesome but I was worried about drivability. However since we were already way over time we decided to just go with it and get it all aligned. Justin said that if had any issues I could just come back and they would take care of it for me - once again - great service! So as we're approaching the alignment machine it became painfully obvious that the car was so low we could not even get it on there. We had to go around and collect pieces of wood to drive over so we could get on there - Another indicator it was TOO LOW! But we managed to get it all done and wrapped up and I drove off a happy customer.

Results of Day 2
So how did it all turn out? Well I had the suspension all around set to 15 clicks which supposedly is 'Aggressive Street'. It was a busy day and with the quality of the roads and the more firm suspension my head was NOT happy with all the stiffness the car now had. At one point I pulled into a gas station and upon exiting I bottomed out SEVERAL times on those metal covers they put on the ground where they can refill the station. I had to get out and take a look because it sounded like the entire bottom part of my car just got ripped to shreds!! Luckily everything looked OK so I was on my way. The entire road I felt every single bump in the road and sometimes it felt like the entire car was just bouncing of bumps in the road.. This felt a bit too stiff!

Any other ramps etc I could hear scraping on - not good - and the driveway in front of my house, which has a pretty big bump in it, almost proved to be too much for the car. It sounded like a grenade went off underneath the car! Upon closer inspection it looked the High-Flow Cats took the majority of the hit (since they for some reason are the lowest part underneath the car). The car looked like it maybe had less than 2 inches of clearance underneath the rockerpanel. So Conclusion at the end of day 2 was that it was just TOO LOW and felt TOO stiff!

The Aftermath
I was my own fault for rushing instead of taking the time to get it done right and re-adjusting it until it was right so now I HAD to get it fixed ASAP otherwise I would have no exhaust left in a couple of days! Justin called me the next day to make sure everything was to my liking and I had not ran into any issues so he offered to take care of the problem for me. I unfortunately could not afford the time off work anymore (but once again - top notch customer service from NorPac!) so instead I called the usual suspects like Turbo Tech, and AutoFX. They however were all busy and could not get to it for at least another 4 days at which point I was sure I'd have a Flintstone mobile with a big gaping hole in the bottom!

I then remembered I had talked to Frank @ TnT Tire Factory about doing the suspension install so I gave them a call. They said they could take care of it and could just swing by and drop off the car which I did. I showed Frank the tools, the setup I had and told him the issues and what I was looking for and he said he'd get it done by the end of the day. By about 2 pm though I got the call that they were done. When I pulled up to the car it looked really good - Low, but not too low. Frank did a great job getting it at just the right ride-height which involved a few test drives around the block to make sure there were no rubbing/scrapping issues ;) It sits JUST perfect now.

When I first picked up the car I set the front suspension to around '11 clicks' which to me felt similar to stock (perhaps a smidgen stiffer) , this is great for a very smooth ride with no hassle. I experienced no scraping issues any more on any speed bumps, ramps etc so that was fantastic!

I then decided to try running at 20 clicks and 30 clicks which both are definitely way stiffer, but not uncomfortably so, unlike my previous experience at 16 clicks, which I'm thinking must have been because of the bad roads I was driving on (sounded like traintracks.. clunk,clunk,clunk etc). I haven't touched the rears yet because, as I suspected, these ARE a pain to get to. But at 16 Clicks they seem to be just right no matter what I set the front to.

As far as overal driving goes the steering feel is way crisper than stock; The body roll issue the stock car displayed is virtually gone. As a side effect of this, it seems much harder now to kick the rear end out or spin the tires, which I guess is good because I would do that all the time ;)

So after all this, what's the verdict? While in the beginning (especially on the 'morning after') I was rather annoyed with the scraping etc, once everything was taken care of the car now handles dramatically better! If you don't have the funds for coilovers, at least get the Street 1 bushings in because it WILL make a big difference in how the car feels and drives. Not to mention the looks are killer with it lowered and those big 20" HSV Rims :)

The ONLY two sore-points (and only for some people) are actually with the design/use of the Coil-Overs:
a) The rears are hard to get to, to adjust the hardness
b) To raise/Lower the car you actually have to take the wheels off and possible even more to turn the bottom half of the coilovers - so it's NOT something you can just change by pulling over into a parkinglot for instance.

On the flip-side ; once you have a nice ride height there really isn't a need to change it anymore (which would require a re-alignment anyway) in my mind, and if you pick a decent medium for the rear you should be able to play with the front settings and still get the most out of the kit!

so to the Pedders xA Street II Kit: Big Thumbs up!

The finished look

Many thanks to Justin, Rich and Chris at Norpac! They did a fabulous job and even stayed late to make sure everything would get done. And a big thanks to Frank @ TnT Tire Factory for being able to drop everything and take care of the scraping issues.

As far as my project I was working on while they were working on the suspension:

(and for those paying attention: Yes Clear Tails again - don't ask lol - , GTS Logo and Black Pontiac Logo :) )

In closing I highly recommend Norpac Street Performance! While they may be a little ways out there for most people, they do great work and have shown great customer service and commitment to provide top quality work so give them a call! I will definitely be talking to them again for my future projects!

Norpac Street Performance
112 Brim Road
Onalaska, WA 98570

Phone: (360) 978-4032

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A Special Day

Today is a bit of a special day. It's been exactly 1 year since I bought the G8. It doesn't seem nearly that long ago, especially when looking at the remaining balance on the loan! Looking at the pictures it was practically a sunny summer day while today is just dreary and drab and frickin' Cold! We even had snow last weekend.. What the heck is up with that...

It's strange how over time your perspective on things change though. When I first got the car I thought it had tons of Power, and loved every single thing (well almost) about it. Then the modifications started and now when I see a stock G8, though it's still a rare treat, i'm thinking to myself "blah.. they're stock...". Before the G8 , while I appreciated a few cars I had, I never was 'into' cars so to speak and was perfectly happy rolling around in a pure 'stock' form. Now with the G8 though things just fell into place and clicked as far as being able to give it personal touches.

While a lot of people think of their car as simply a utilitarian vehicle that transports them from Point A to Point B i've come to the point where if i'm going to spend a lot of my time in the car (commuting etc) I might as well make it my own and make it enjoyable!

Looking back at the car options I was considering I would still consider the SRT8 Challenger a worthy alternative, but i have not test driven one yet which could totally change that opinion; I had the 'privilege' of driving it's little brother , the Charger (albeit a V6), and it just confirmed once again that most domestic cars are under powered , floaty suspension wearing pieces of **** without any refinement or any unique touches. The Interior was just as drab, boring and devoid of personality much like the rest of the car.

So one year down and still loving the G8 - but, more mods to come.. more serious ones.. this 400rwhp stuff is just not cutting it ;)

Gotta hand it to those Australians - they know how to make cool cars!