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Esprit suspension settings

11958 Views 31 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  MRDANGERUS
I'm just wondering what folks here are using for camber, caster and toe on their esprits.

My '88 needs some adjusting...I can tell that just from looking at front wheel has slightly different camber than the other, same in the rear.

For my sports road cars I've generally gone with something pretty close to (depending on the particular car obviously):

1. Camber. 1 degree negative in front, 1/2 degree negative in rear.
2. Caster. 4-5 degrees caster front
3. Toe. 1/8th toe at the front, no toe at the rear.

The above has worked pretty well for me across f-car, porsche, etc.

I realize there are suspension setting specs in manuals, but what have people found works well? I have the 15 inch OZ wheels so my car is going to be a little less sensitive to camber than folks using bigger/wider wheels/tires.

Related, I've seen an adjustable top link for the rear in a few pictures. Is an adjustable top link the easiest way to adjust camber in the rear?

Thanks in advance.
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Your 88 is only adjustable for front toe easily.

You can adjust rear toe by removing or adding shims at the trailing arm pivot bolt.
You can adjust the front caster by removing or replacing shims on the upper wishbone pivot. Both those adjustments are really not necessary very often.

Later cars after 1994 had the adjustable camber on the rear upper top links and the offset shims on the upper front wishbones.
No need to reinvent alignment settings on a Lotus. The manufacturer was very good at that, the stock settings are good. I doubt you could get that much caster in the adjustment available, but if you could it would not be fun to steer as your 88 does not have power steering. If you haven't aligned an Esprit before, you'll be surprised how small the specification limits are, but the car will respond very well to being set exactly right. Its worth the effort to make it perfect.
I don't actually agree with CarSalesman's post, since the SE's are definitely known to understeer fairly badly. An engineer at Lotus even admits that the SE was setup to understeer too much, and this was later corrected on the S4.

The 88 though is generally regarded to handle well, and I haven't heard of it suffering from the SE's understeer. Personally I think the SE's specification for front toe-in is wrong, I like a little toe-out.

I wouldn't change camber from Lotus' specs unless you like excessive tire wear or drive on the track mostly.
Thanks fellas. I certainly don't want to reinvent the wheel here....and I suspect Lotus did a pretty good job with spec'ing the suspension settings. But, I can see my car has some slight differences side-to-side in the settings, particularly camber, which is visually fairly obvious. At least I'd like the left and right to mirror each other pretty closely. So, if I'm adjusting the suspension to get it similar left-to-right I may as well set it up at the settings that are working well for folks here.

On other good sports cars I own there's definitely some decent adjustability to the settings, and I've had good success with setting up camber, caster, toe, ride height and corner weighting before. Hoping there's some consensus around what are good settings for an '88 esprit.

re-read my post.

You cannot alter most settings on an 88.

Not without replacing the rear upper links and upper front wishbones, with the later model parts that do have adjust-ability.

If your car is visibly off side to side, then you need to check if things are bent.
You can buy a measuring tool from Eastwood to measure castor and camber. If camber is off you probably have something bent. If both wheels on the same side of the car are not correct I would suspect the car bounced off a curb. The rims and tires got replaced but nothing more. You can do a very "quick and dirty" measurement. Get a short piece of wood and a level. Measure both sides on a level driveway. They should be very close. Won't tell you what the camber is but at least you will see if it is the same side-to-side.
David Teitelbaum
you can do the same with some smart phone apps.

The Esprit body is not always straight, so using the body sight lines as a reference for suspension alignment isn't usually helpful for small differences.
With the age of the '88 you may be well-advised to replace your rubber suspension bushings if you really want to tighten things up. No need to go poly BTW...

That said, I have specs for reducing the understeer for the '88. They were provided at the first Lotus Owners Gathering I attended in 1994.

PM me and I'll dig them out.
That said, I have specs for reducing the understeer for the '88. They were provided at the first Lotus Owners Gathering I attended in 1994.
In those days when we were selling these as new cars, Arnie was telling us to just set the front toe to zero. That's probably what he told you at the same time. The S4 front toe setting which is 1.0mm OUT. I can tell you first hand they don't handle well when you mis-read the machine, and set it to 1.0mm *in*! You don't wanna know.

The tolerance for the front toe setting is only 0.5mm. That's so small you can barely breathe on the tie rod to get it right. Its worth the effort. Some alignment systems use degrees instead of millimeters. The corresponding spec is 0.3 degrees toe out, plus/minus 0.15 degrees. Your local tire shop will choke when you give them a tolerance range that small.

The S4 rear suspension is 1.5mm toe IN each side, plus/minus 0.5mm. I don't have the book for the earlier cars handy, so I don't know if its the same or not. Again that's a very tight tolerance especially as its set with shims. Don't let the alignment shop use shims that are smaller than the original Lotus parts. If needed you can copy the original shims. On my own S4s, which was supposedly maintained for years by one of the better Lotus techs out there, had body fender shims in there for the rear toe, which did not have enough bearing surface. They would deflect easily, so you can imagine what it handled like when I got it.

The V8 and non-USA S4s use rear toe-in 1.0mm each side. I now have the larger V8 wheels on my car so that's what I am using.
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where did you guys get them aligned at that (hopefully a chain like Firestone) that has an alignment machine which has Esprit in its settings/memory?
It does not matter what car is in the alignment machine memory. Some kid running the alignment rack told a friend can't do the car its not in memory. I told him to put the guy the on phone and I told him pick any car of your choice then manually enter the Lotus specs. Where do these guys get hired from? I had my former SE suspension custom set for a 170 lbs driver/no passenger by Dave C.
The Hunter laser racks have several Esprit settings in their database. I had a BigO do mine, but I chose my own settings of a mix between SE and V8.
Thank you fellas, very helpful information.

I'm accustomed to a slight toe IN at the front....most of the time I've used 1/8th toe in at the front (f-car, porsche, GT40) which has worked well. I've mostly used zero toe at the rear but that's interesting there seems to be some Lotus specs showing some toe in at the rear. Will research that further for my '88.

I plan on adding the adjustable top link in the rear as I'd like to dial out some of the negative camber currently at the rear. It looks to be roughly 2.0-2.5 degrees negative....too much for my taste. 1.0 negative would be better.

At the front I'd like to get some easy camber adjustability. Shims are fine, don't mind working with that, but an adjustable link would be better if it's available.

Anybody know what the front caster spec is?

Thanks again.
Front Toe-in feels like complete crap on the Esprit, like driving a car with front casters, no centering, no grip. Rear toe-out would cause the rear to be pretty unstable and dangerous at times.

The only way you will be getting front camber adjustment is with new upper wishbones from the 95+ cars, unless you weld parts onto your existing arms and machine out the hole that the bolts go through, and use eccentric washers like the later cars.

Standard 88-94 (early) front wishbone= no camber adjustment.

Later 95+ (and '91 X180-R) camber adjustable front upper wishbones.

Standard rear upper links on the earlier cars 88-94.

Later adjustable camber rear upper links.

I like a little toe out in front (0.1deg per side), which is probably a bit much for some people.

Here was my alignment.
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At the front I'd like to get some easy camber adjustability. Shims are fine, don't mind working with that, but an adjustable link would be better if it's available.

Anybody know what the front caster spec is?
I sent you a PM with a link to all the alignment specs.

Worth noting is the requirement that the suspension settings are intended to be measured at a ride height of 170mm below the chassis front crossmember, and 170 mm below the the rear lower link chassis brackets.
Thanks guys, resurrecting a bit of an old thread here....

I have the adjustable upper rear links (hemi joints) and will be taking the car to my alignment shop later this week. They do a lot of alignment for professional racing as well as vintage stuff like F5000, nascar, even vintage F1. They're pretty good.

Esprit suspension is adjustable in every regard, both front and rear. It may take some shims here or there, and a non-original adjustable link here or there....but it's adjustable. No doubt the Lotus engineers spec'd things very well for a nice handling road car. However, what is compliant and semi-benign for road settings (ie. tire life) is rarely what's optimal for sport or even track work. Usually, a bit more camber is necessary for the latter, for example. I'm wondering what people may have used to success as far as non-original settings for more aggressive driving conditions. Anyone have any first-hand experience? I'm not asking about what somebody may have heard....or thinks it should be...etc....hoping someone here has first hand experience. First hand experience, probably someone who has done some track days with their esprit at a Lotus club event.

If nobody has any such first hand experience I'll just go with my usual.... 1/8th toe in at the front, zero toe rear, 1/2 degree camber rear, 1 degree camber front, and pick a mid-point for caster. These settings have worked well on my ferraris, porsches and GT40.....surprisingly all pretty consistently.

Thanks in advance for any help.
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If you are tracking the car the settings will vary depending on the track and whither it is a left-hander or a right-hander. To do it right you also alter the weight and balance using scales for each wheel. The tire pressure has a large effect also. Generally you start with the factory specs and experiment from there. If the shop gets their scales out BEFORE they try to align it you know you are dealing with professionals who have set up other cars for tracking and racing. Otherwise figure all they know how to do is ordinary street cars. Clearly that is not what you are looking for. As for settings, if the database of the rack doesn't have the specs in it that you want, just about every good, modern machine has a "custom" entry where they can enter settings manually. If you are really into the science of alignment you chart the castor, camber, and toe at several points of the ride height. It changes and depending on what you want it needs to change in the right directions. If not you must change the geometry of the suspension to make it change the way you want. One reason the ride height is so important. For street cars alignment is usually set to get the longest life out of the tires. Not so important for racing.
David Teitelbaum
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Vulcan, thank you, good information. On the rear I have adjustable top links (see pic) so camber can be set pretty well. For the front, i'm fabricating double adjustable top wishbones so that both camber and caster can be relatively easily set.

Other than toe settings, looks like you're in the same range for camber I typically use as well - 0 to 1 degree range front/rear. Have you run your car on the track? If yes, did those setting seem reasonably drivable?

JT, thank you. Yes, agreed on all. Pretty familiar with the process of setting up starting with ride height, settings/adjustments, corner weighting, etc. Was really asking about folk's first hand experience with different camber/toe/caster settings for occasional track fun for a street driven car.


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