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Old 10-25-2006, 04:16 PM   #1
ForceFed4
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Default $1K Coilovers - no minced words

Yes, I know, another coilover thread...

My problem is this: searching for info on the $1K "class" of coilovers (let's be honest here, I'm talking about Meagan Racing and Helix DNA) reveals 2 pretty separate opinons.

A - people buy these, rave about them, seem satisfied, and compare the features and performance to units costing 2X as much. Often these guys disappear though, and don't tell us how they're liking them 3, 6, 12... months later.

B - unspecified, purposefully? vague warnings about "cheap" suspensions, and how they can't possibly be that good.

For better or worse, I'm considering these as options when I have to replace my stock springs/struts (age/mileage). They seem like a good deal given the features advertised, but the lack of long-term reports, along with the posting of "group B's" opinions is making me hesitate. Now, I don't want to step on toes or imply any malicious intent, but I'm frustrated at the lack of straight, hard information from "group B". Either there is something wrong with these coilovers or there isn't. Whenever they're brought up, there always seems to be an undercurrent of things left unsaid by those with a lot of Subaru suspension experience.

Can someone please explain to me what really are the technical shortcomings of the Meagan Racing and Helix DNA coilovers? I need more than innuendo about how low price "must" mean low quality to knock them off my list of consideration.

Heck, if people don't want to wind up in the spotlight for what they say, I'd be more than grateful to hear your opinion by PM, this is just for my own decision making purposes, not to stir up the pot.
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Old 10-25-2006, 04:41 PM   #2
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I am group B.

Most of what I say about cheap being cheap comes from experience. I don't own the Megans or the Helix DNA's...I currently own PIC Performance coilovers. They are a $1200 set. They too fall into the "cheap" category. But by cheap I don't automatically mean poor quality and performance.

For most people there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying and using Helix, Megan, PIC, or (insert cheap brand here) coilovers. They give you independent height and spring preload adjustment, camber plates, decent build quality, and way more rebound adjustment that you could possibly need. The PIC and Helix systems have been tested and developed for more street oriented use.

If your desire is simply a stiff suspension that is height adjustable, then these are great for you. You get decently stiff spring rates that WILL improve the handling of your car. You get the ability to set the ride height where you want it. You can play with camber to your heart's desire. They will do more than enough for a daily driver that sees some spirited driving. With the PIC coilovers my car rides decent and handles quite well around the city streets.

If you want a damper that will handle more abuse, provide a better response, and give you better overall performance on the street, on the track, in the dirt, or on an autocross course you need to shell out a little more cash. See Arnie's post below...the difference is in the type of system and the components used. For every little bit of tighter tolerance, precision manufacturing, quality, and technology used in the build the price goes up.

But that does not automatically mean that a more expensive system is better. Again referring to Arnie...many of the big name manufacturers simply take a damper off the shelf, slap a different lower bracket and topmount on it, and call it a new product. Development is next to nothing, profit margins are huge. Realistic performance is probably a minimal improvement over Megan, Helix, KSport, PIC, etc.

What does it all boil down to? A few simple choices. How much are you willing to spend to get your car to do what you want it to do? How much are you willing to sacrifice to keep the purchase affordable.

Last edited by Scooby921; 10-25-2006 at 08:35 PM.
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Old 10-25-2006, 04:42 PM   #3
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www.stancesus.com great quality and great ride.
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Old 10-25-2006, 04:49 PM   #4
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ive had my megans for about a month now...i have them running VERY soft and they work great..theirs still about 25 more levels of dampening if i wanted to get really spirited. with 1k coilovers its not so much cheap...its just what ur looking for.

ex. if your looking for a turbo that will get you 300whp...you dont go out and buy a 35r because its overkill. In my case the megans are just for street use...and spirited driving which it MORE than does what its made to do. hope this helps.

you get what you pay for. and in my case i got coilovers that dont run track. but thats ok becuase i dont run track!
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Old 10-25-2006, 04:59 PM   #5
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I just got a set of KW Variant 1's from GTWorx/Race Comp for $1290 shipped. Be sure to check them out before you make a decision as I've heard nothing but good things. I should have my Group N tops this week so I might install them this weekend if I get the chance. I'll be sure to post up and let you know how they are.
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Old 10-25-2006, 05:04 PM   #6
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I'm very curious about this as well. I've been looking at Koni Inserts, and Ground control sleeves which brings you into a very similar price bracket.
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Old 10-25-2006, 05:06 PM   #7
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www.stancesus.com great quality and great ride.
How do they work with 5x100mm?
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Old 10-25-2006, 05:31 PM   #8
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Without opening these "cheap" coilovers up, there's no real way to tell what their quality is like and where any shortcuts may have been taken to get to that price point. Most of us in the Group B have little to no experience with the cheapies and are only going off of the assumption that these things have to have some corners cut in order to make that price point. These corners can be a lot of things, material quality, precision in parts manufacturing, etc. From a basic retail viewpoint I think we can roughly estimate that the $1000 cost roughly $3-500 wholesale. Coilovers in the $2-2500 dollar range cost about $1200 wholesale. That's a pretty huge difference. Obviously some costs can be eased by the basic design of the coilover.

Let's look at the fabled independent from ride height "dual" adjustable coilovers. With a simple swap of the lower leg, or main body (these do just screw together) you can apply that same damper cartridge to hundreds of different makes and models. And that is what many of these manufacturers do. They use one or two damper cartridges and install them in different "bodies" and, voila, you have a new coilover application with little to no customization for that application (valving, etc.). With non-independent from ride height adjustable coilovers such as Bilstein, KW, Whiteline, Moton, etc. the strut/shock body has to be custom fabricated for each application. Granted there are some standardizations in tube diamters, etc. but for the most part because you can't simply raise or lower the entire strut body/camper cartridge up and down a threaded collar. the manufacturer actually has to spec, for example, a piston rod length that is appropriate for that application. They have to fill the oil and vary the gas pressure for that size strut. Granted this isn't a debate on which type of coilover style is better, but just be aware that the manufacturers of these independent ride height adjustable coilovers have done a great job of marketing this as a "performance feature" and not as the economical solution that it really is. What you do get with the more expensive solutions is, at the minimum, the ability to have your valving custome tuned for your needs. That's a big deal if you are serious about your equipment. The second is precision manfactured parts. Oftentimes the shim stacks employed by the cheap companies are frankly of inferior quality with inconsistent thicknesses and widths and pliancy compared to high quality spring steels employed by the top brands. When I revalve Group 4's I have to measure each shim to make sure its the proper one. Each shim spec is very exacting and when I've measured a shim that is supposed to measure 30mm x 12mm x.25mm it is that measurement (give or take a 100th). The orifaces on the bleed bolt assemblies are precisely machined, and open and close just as precisely. What do all these ingredients add up to? A more precisely reacting and tuned piece of equipment that will react consistently over a longer period of time.

However, will your average joe be able to tell the differences between the two types, expensive and not so expensive? Maybe. Depends on your sensitivity. Once client went from a Ground Control/AGX setup to the Group 4's and was immediately impressed with how much smoother and suppler the ride was, while still being more controlled and flatter cornering than his previous setup.

Is it worth the extra cost? Definitely not for some. Are you just paying for a name? a little bit. But with those good names comes quality engineering and materials and that is oftentimes in the guts and you can't see that.

there's been a welcome change on NASIOC where people are trying to get noobs to honestly look at what they want vs what they need. the fact that people are accepting that a good strut/spring combo is all they need is great to see. The push from some members to educated new folk to the eccentricities of the Impreza format and what is needed to reach "ultimate performance" is also great to see. Once manned with the information on what it takes to make an Impreza handle the best it can, its then up to the end consumer to decide how much of that "ultimate performance" he really needs and purchase things accordingly. Its been said over and over, suspension tuning is all about compromises, but with the proper info you can decide at what point of that spectrum you want your car to sit.

Last edited by Arnie; 10-25-2006 at 05:37 PM.
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Old 10-25-2006, 05:43 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
Without opening these "cheap" coilovers up, there's no real way to tell what their quality is like and where any shortcuts may have been taken to get to that price point. Most of us in the Group B have little to no experience with the cheapies and are only going off of the assumption that these things have to have some corners cut in order to make that price point. These corners can be a lot of things, material quality, precision in parts manufacturing, etc. From a basic retail viewpoint I think we can roughly estimate that the $1000 cost roughly $3-500 wholesale. Coilovers in the $2-2500 dollar range cost about $1200 wholesale. That's a pretty huge difference. Obviously some costs can be eased by the basic design of the coilover.

Let's look at the fabled independent from ride height "dual" adjustable coilovers. With a simple swap of the lower leg, or main body (these do just screw together) you can apply that same damper cartridge to hundreds of different makes and models. And that is what many of these manufacturers do. They use one or two damper cartridges and install them in different "bodies" and, voila, you have a new coilover application with little to no customization for that application (valving, etc.). With non-independent from ride height adjustable coilovers such as Bilstein, KW, Whiteline, Moton, etc. the strut/shock body has to be custom fabricated for each application. Granted there are some standardizations in tube diamters, etc. but for the most part because you can't simply raise or lower the entire strut body/camper cartridge up and down a threaded collar. the manufacturer actually has to spec, for example, a piston rod length that is appropriate for that application. They have to fill the oil and vary the gas pressure for that size strut. Granted this isn't a debate on which type of coilover style is better, but just be aware that the manufacturers of these independent ride height adjustable coilovers have done a great job of marketing this as a "performance feature" and not as the economical solution that it really is. What you do get with the more expensive solutions is, at the minimum, the ability to have your valving custome tuned for your needs. That's a big deal if you are serious about your equipment. The second is precision manfactured parts. Oftentimes the shim stacks employed by the cheap companies are frankly of inferior quality with inconsistent thicknesses and widths and pliancy compared to high quality spring steels employed by the top brands. When I revalve Group 4's I have to measure each shim to make sure its the proper one. Each shim spec is very exacting and when I've measured a shim that is supposed to measure 30mm x 12mm x.25mm it is that measurement (give or take a 100th). The orifaces on the bleed bolt assemblies are precisely machined, and open and close just as precisely. What do all these ingredients add up to? A more precisely reacting and tuned piece of equipment that will react consistently over a longer period of time.

However, will your average joe be able to tell the differences between the two types, expensive and not so expensive? Maybe. Depends on your sensitivity. Once client went from a Ground Control/AGX setup to the Group 4's and was immediately impressed with how much smoother and suppler the ride was, while still being more controlled and flatter cornering than his previous setup.

Is it worth the extra cost? Definitely not for some. Are you just paying for a name? a little bit. But with those good names comes quality engineering and materials and that is oftentimes in the guts and you can't see that.

there's been a welcome change on NASIOC where people are trying to get noobs to honestly look at what they want vs what they need. the fact that people are accepting that a good strut/spring combo is all they need is great to see. The push from some members to educated new folk to the eccentricities of the Impreza format and what is needed to reach "ultimate performance" is also great to see. Once manned with the information on what it takes to make an Impreza handle the best it can, its then up to the end consumer to decide how much of that "ultimate performance" he really needs and purchase things accordingly. Its been said over and over, suspension tuning is all about compromises, but with the proper info you can decide at what point of that spectrum you want your car to sit.



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Old 10-25-2006, 05:50 PM   #10
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Also known as bla, bla, bla, bla...
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Old 10-25-2006, 06:14 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
Let's look at the fabled independent from ride height "dual" adjustable coilovers. With a simple swap of the lower leg, or main body (these do just screw together) you can apply that same damper cartridge to hundreds of different makes and models. And that is what many of these manufacturers do. They use one or two damper cartridges and install them in different "bodies" and, voila, you have a new coilover application with little to no customization for that application (valving, etc.).
...
Granted this isn't a debate on which type of coilover style is better, but just be aware that the manufacturers of these independent ride height adjustable coilovers have done a great job of marketing this as a "performance feature" and not as the economical solution that it really is.
The independent ride height adjustability is a useful feature though, whether or not it was really designed for performance or to cut costs.

Koni also has damper inserts available with the same valving for multiple applications, and it seems to work well for them. Just providing a counter-example. No argument here against the cost/quality points.
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Old 10-25-2006, 07:20 PM   #12
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I'm glad this has generated some discussion, I didn't want to come off as attacking those who'd recommended against the $1K coilovers, but I was hoping for some further explanation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnie View Post
Most of us in the Group B have little to no experience with the cheapies and are only going off of the assumption that these things have to have some corners cut in order to make that price point... From a basic retail viewpoint I think we can roughly estimate that the $1000 cost roughly $3-500 wholesale. Coilovers in the $2-2500 dollar range cost about $1200 wholesale. That's a pretty huge difference.
No argument here; none of these companies are in business for charity, so the cheaper coilovers must have reduced their costs somehow. How much of that is cheaper labor, less engineering time, cheaper materials and construction are all the sort of things I'm curious about.

Quote:
Let's look at the fabled independent from ride height "dual" adjustable coilovers. With a simple swap of the lower leg, or main body (these do just screw together) you can apply that same damper cartridge to hundreds of different makes and models. And that is what many of these manufacturers do. They use one or two damper cartridges and install them in different "bodies" and, voila, you have a new coilover application with little to no customization for that application (valving, etc.).
Another good point; the question then becomes how much of a disadvantage is this to the end user? I can imagine it might result in things like non-ideal travel limits at the very least. To reinforce another point made above, many (or at least some) of the more expensive coilover setups utilize this same design strategy, so what does that say about them as compared to their cheaper cousins?

Quote:
Once client went from a Ground Control/AGX setup to the Group 4's and was immediately impressed with how much smoother and suppler the ride was, while still being more controlled and flatter cornering than his previous setup.
I must admit, I'm purposefully avoiding the AGX struts as they have a reputation for being harsh in feel. To me, the AGX's seem to have missed the mark, as there are other setups (both comparable in price, as well as more expensive) that are reputed to handle as well or better with a "better" ride quality.
Quote:
Is it worth the extra cost? Definitely not for some. Are you just paying for a name? a little bit. But with those good names comes quality engineering and materials and that is oftentimes in the guts and you can't see that.
I guess the bottom line is that until there are people who've inspected the internals of Helix/Meagan COs as well as "higher end" units that come forward to talk about it, we won't know to what extent the cheaper systems are compromised.

Quote:
there's been a welcome change on NASIOC where people are trying to get noobs to honestly look at what they want vs what they need. the fact that people are accepting that a good strut/spring combo is all they need is great to see.
I agree, and to be honest, I'm probably one of those people who doesn't "need" a coilover setup. OTOH, by the time I put together a combination of 4 quality struts, springs and top hats, I could be well above the price of these entry-level coilovers, and still have to worry about whether I've put together a setup that is well-matched. STi strut/spring combos seem to run anywhere between $1200 - $2000. If I'm going to spend that kind of money, the options get a lot more open. At that price level, a strut/spring combo should be (has to be) engineered perfectly to work with the car, because it's just not as adjustable as the coilovers in the same price range. Maybe the ones available are? Maybe they're not; that's yet another area that isn't particularly clear to me.

Last edited by ForceFed4; 10-26-2006 at 10:23 AM.
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Old 10-25-2006, 07:20 PM   #13
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I agree, Íhlins has a nice independent ride height adjustable but I'd say the majority out there are for cost cutting but marketed as "performance enhancing". Another detail I forgot to mention in regards to the independent ride height adjustability is that its a great way to compensate for the lack of travel that a majority of those setups have. Take a TEIN Flex, man how much bump travel do they have? 1 maybe 2 inches max at full extension? Droop is pretty much nonexistent. They HAVE to use the independent ride height adjustability because any compression of that strut eats into the meager travel.

And koni's inserts, as nice as they are, are just a 600 dollar insert. Its definitely a one size fits all situation there too. but I'd rather do a koni insert than any of the $1000 coilover out there there. Point being, its the guts that matter and I prefer koni's guts over a megan or helix any day. Even sight unseen.

but I do understand the market behind these. The stiffest normal spring rate available is around 350lbs or so or so and some want to go stiffer so there isn't much out there. And there are only a couple of adjustable strut options and some of those have their compromises too. so we are left with the low priced coilover to fill that gap of ride hieght adjustability, a stiffer spring rate and some damping adjustability. so what are you gonna do?

Last edited by Arnie; 10-25-2006 at 07:42 PM.
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Old 10-25-2006, 07:22 PM   #14
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Maybe when i'm rich I'll buy a set of megans and helix's and omni's and tear them open. I'm curious to see what they look like in there.
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Old 10-25-2006, 07:35 PM   #15
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Quote:
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Maybe when i'm rich I'll buy a set of megans and helix's and omni's and tear them open. I'm curious to see what they look like in there.
But, but, but i thought you were rich...

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Old 10-25-2006, 07:37 PM   #16
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jerk, thanks for outing me. guess i have to stop posting on the ferrari boards!
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Old 10-25-2006, 08:37 PM   #17
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I have the Helix DNA's. They are "fine" and I will use them for a while to see what their limits are. I'll probably end up with something like the Ohlins, Motons, or the like.
They have very little droop, and not too much travel. They are Chromed Steel which is okay for the west coast, but a rust disaster if you are anywhere east of the rockies or near salt water.
The install on the rears SUCKS, BTW.
I do not care if my suspension is non-adjustable, as long as the ratio of spring to dampener is dialed. These are NOT perfect, no matter what any vendor says.

peace.
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Old 10-25-2006, 09:10 PM   #18
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I just want to throw this in there. I have been looking at Megan Racing coilovers for my '95 Impreza for a while now, but I've recently been looking at some Tanabe's. I can get them discounted through Keystone Automotive because of where I work. I looked up the Sustec Pro S-S. coilover, orange damper, non helper spring model, which listed for $1400. I am able to get it for roughly $1200, but I just now noticed that they have an even "cheaper" model yet, the Sustec Pro S-OC. It's also a non helper spring model, purple damper for those who know it by the look. The list on that is $1100, so I should be able to get it for just around a grand, shipping included.

Even so, $1100 list isn't bad, and it has a good name behind them. I haven't taken the time to do any research on this board yet, but I'm just about to go do that.
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Old 10-25-2006, 09:11 PM   #19
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search the archive member 85389 said megans were made at the same place apexi exu were made
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Old 10-25-2006, 10:05 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ForceFed4 View Post
OTOH, by the time I put together a combination of 4 quality struts, springs and top hats, I could be well above the price of these entry-level coilovers, and have worries of their own. STi strut/spring combos seem to run anywhere between $1200 - $2000.
Yikes! Keep looking, I picked up complete STi struts and CR springs for $700. For 02/03s you also have the very good option of the Tokicos + a $300 spring that will still be well under $1000.

My main concern with "cheap" coilovers is that a lot of people seem to agree that the basic ride is in no way better than better struts and springs. They seem to fill a price point that is all about either a) slamming the car, or b) decent performance, greater adjustablility, but no real care for ride quality or being the best setup you could buy.

Of course, it's best if you can ride in a few cars to decide, but if you don't have that luxury, consider how often you'll be using that adjustability, and how much of the dampening you really need.
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Old 10-25-2006, 10:42 PM   #21
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I am no expert on coilovers but I would like to mention that there's plenty of "cheap" knockoff parts out there that do the same as an expensive one. The biggest example of this are the EBAY TMICs and FMICs that are $300 and are as good as $1k brand name ones.
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Old 10-25-2006, 10:52 PM   #22
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I think comparing an non load bearing, entirely passive device, comprised of a single material, with no moving pieces; is a bit optimistic.
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Old 10-26-2006, 02:05 AM   #23
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Well, I know I posted some irritating stuff in the other thread about this, but Ill post more here and hopefully it will be more relevant

Anyway, I just went from AGX's with SPT springs and Group-N tophats to Megan Coilovers.

I dont make a lot of money right now, in fact i've never made much money, so spending even $900 on coilovers is a big expenditure for me... The only reason I'm doing it is because I can sell my old suspension.

Why did I go with these rather than the suspension I had?

1) Yes, the KYB/SPT/G-n combo was great, definatly better than many options out there especially for the street, very comfortable and good for anyone really. HOWEVER, my previous Impreza had AGX's with Ground Controls and I prefered the stiff spring rates of that suspension and what they did for the car.
2) Ground controls are expensive new, like $450. Combine those with AGX's, and thats $850-900 right there... Which is what my Megan Coilovers cost. Yes, the AGX + GC combo is good, I once saw a WRX with that setup driven by a great Auto-x driver putting up top 5 times for the day with that, 16" azenis and not many power mods...
3) Camber plates + AGX's + Ground controls = $$$$ Megan coilovers are less expensive, you dont have to build it yourself, AND you get proper height adjusting ability without fubaring the spring/shock dampening ratio. Plus, I know someone with a GC with megans who has had them for ~ a year, and no complaints about them and ALSO was .5 seconds faster than me at auto-x events vs my old suspension (we are comprable drivers, with comprable tires and brakes and power... That was the only major difference, the suspension)
4) Reviews. I havent seen anyone lambasting the Megans other than that they "seem" like too good of a thing... I've seen more complaints about every other brand of coilover than I have megans (exept maybe KW, which I havent ressearched at all... Damn nasioc and no 2 letter searches!!! )
5) While the valving and shock may be in question, the rest of the strut design is not. After buying these and seeing them in person, I cant speak for other brands of cheap coilovers, but these are not sub-par components. My only complaints have been: A) One of the strut top bolts was loose had to tighten it down, but that can happen with any suspension, and B) There were unpainted spots under the welds in the brake line connections, I put some touch up paint in there to prevent rusting, but ive seen worse paint jobs/potential rust problems on $3000 suspensions....

When I bought my AGX's/SPT/Group-N combo last year, the Megan coilovers for GC's did not exist. And the fact there are less options out there for GC's than for newer Imprezas made my options more limited, but if these WERE out then, I would have bought them for sure (and I was upset when the came out like a month or two after I did spend my money )

Are they for everyone?

I have to say no. I dont care about people ridding in my car, cause they dont, but if you do have people in your car constantly for daily driving duty DONT get coilovers anyway, just get a decent Strut/Spring combo with the Group-N tophats and call it a day.

I ALSO dont do many "serious" track events since I cant afford that, and I still dont do much in the way of Auto-xing since all the venues have moved farther away, but If and when I can do those events I want to be able to enjoy myself and my car and I can with what I have now...

Definatly, if you are SERIOUS about track events, or even have an STI (instead of a cheap ass car like mine) I WOULD spend more than $900 on coilovers for that car, and put it something with top notch valving and strut technology that I would trust for such a car.... But I cant, and nor can quite a few other people out there, so this market of innexpensive coilovers does have its place no matter what.
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Old 10-26-2006, 02:23 AM   #24
criscross79
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'02 WRX SRP 4EAT
XPT Stg II

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I am probably the first one on this board (at least publicly) to get the Megan Racing coilovers. I still have them after a year and a half and 35,000+ miles. I still love them, they ride the same as the day I put them on. Periodically I check them out and they still look good, no sagging and they aren't bouncy, and the adjustment from stiff to soft and visa versa still works great. I recommend these coilovers to every WRX owner I meet, and also EVO owners too.


As for why they are cheap, go take a look at Honda performance stuff, there is so much of it being sold that the manufactures of those parts can afford to sell them at low prices, the same applies to the WRX.
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Old 10-26-2006, 02:30 AM   #25
criscross79
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Join Date: Nov 2001
Chapter/Region: TXIC
Location: San Antonio, Tx
Vehicle:
'02 WRX SRP 4EAT
XPT Stg II

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Quote:
Originally Posted by jv01 View Post
search the archive member 85389 said megans were made at the same place apexi exu were made
This is the company (Bor-Chuann Enterprise (BC-racing)) that makes the coilovers that Megan Racing sells. There are also other companies, such as Apexi, that buy coilovers from them too.
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