The cure: Switch to a drop spindle to keep the steering geometry correct. Don’t be afraid to supplement this with modest, incremental cutting of the spring coil. Keep in mind that if you’ve got a motion ratio of 2:1, a 1-inch cut to the compressed spring height will produce a 2-inch drop. Mopars can crank down on the torsion bars for free.
When is it OK? If you’re doing a retro thing, or building a real gasser, go for it! You’ll need to stay period correct with the rest of the equipment though.
Violation: frontend too low, rearend too high
The cause: We’ve all seen this look back in the ’70s and ’80s when high-jacker shocks and shackle kits were big. Perhaps in the quest to perpetrate a proper rake, guys just can’t resist that shackle kit or spring spacer blister pack at Pep Boys. In those heady days before Pro Street, guys liked to jack up the rear to emulate the look of the early Pro Stockers and Funny Cars. There was pride in showing off chrome rearend covers, fuel pumps, tube mufflers, air shocks, and anything else that fell off the Super Shops truck. Unfortunately, some of those teenagers grew up and made it big in the contracting business, and are now dropping six figures on custom-built hot rods that look “jess like the one I wrapped around a tree the night of the REO Speedwagon concert back in 1978.”
The cure: Take off that shackle kit, or lower those rear coilovers. If you’ve got a Mopar, crank the torsion bars a tad higher.
When is it OK? This is your whiskey-runnin’ car, and the liquor tank back yonder is empty.
Violation: The entire car sits too high
The cause: Also known as the “four-by-four”—this car sits entirely too high all over, and looks like it’s designed to ford small streams or go off-roading. This is clearly a case of going crazy with the JC Whitney catalog—over-tall Chinese springs, a shackle kit, over-inflated airbags, maybe even some spring spacers get thrown in the mix. And shame on Mopar guys for cranking torsion bars this high. (Chevelle guys actually seem far more predisposed to this look for some reason.) Sometimes, though, guys order springs too tall by accident, or manufacturers make them too tall. (We’ve yet to see a spring that was too short.) In the case of too tall springs, it’s laziness, or the fear of cutting them (an unwarranted obsession with product safety?) prevents folks from going the shorter spring route. Chronic “floodwater” also occurs when low-hanging headers and an ill-fitting exhaust force guys into the multi-way high-jack.
The cure: Get shorter springs, cut the springs, use drop spindles, crank the torsion bars down, remove the shackle kit, or pull those spring spacers out. Fix your exhaust.
When is it OK? If the crick is risin’ and the bridge is out. Also, if you’re going for the look that crazy guy had in Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (the one with chickens in his trunk)—this is your rake!
Violation: Obscenely large and patently unsafe wheels and tires
The cause: Like saggy pants, and ball caps with the tags still on them, the superlarge wheels on a donk have their cultural origins in shoplifted merch. That’s right, they’re supposed to look stolen. The theory is, when you’re swiping stuff, you can’t be picky on the size because time is of the essence (super small wheels on lowriders fit the bill too). Inner-city gangsters “got the tire rolling,” but like many subculture movements before it, donk wheels quickly gained steam in suburbia.
The cure: The mechanical systems of even modern cars are incapable of coping with the inertial juggernaut of supersized wheels (anything over 22 inches). The larger the wheel, the worse the physics nightmare becomes. Excessive rotating inertia makes panic stopping unsafe or impossible, and overall unsprung weight makes handling sluggish and incompliant. Ride quality is also severely impacted as the spring and shock package is overwhelmed by the sheer mass of the wheel and tire. No joke: Downsize your wheels, or risk injury.