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Fitting a set of Spax Krypton Gas Shocks
Rob Collier (Woodcote Green 1147) from Lancashire recently bought a set of the new Spax shock absorbers developed for the RV8 and describes fitting them and the pleasure driving an RV8 with much better handling and ride. (Jan 08)

Rob Collier posted a note on the V8BB saying I recently purchased a set of Spax Krypton adjustable shock absorbers from Clive Wheatley which he developed with Spax specifically as "tailor made" replacement units for the RV8. Although I have so far only fitted the front units I thought members would be interested in my findings. The first thing I will say is that although my RV8 has covered only 5,000 miles from new, and despite a recent MOT, the original front Konis were providing no damping at all. Forget trying to adjust 13 year old original shocks, the only place for these is the skip!! There have been four written off RV8s in my local scrap yard as testimony to how the roadholding on RV8s can be compromised by tired shock absorbers.

With the new Spax shocks fitted the transformation was immediate. No more crashing on the bumpstops and shuddering. The car is much tauter, the steering is much improved and I no longer avoid grids and potholes. I have much more confidence in the car's capabilities and am now using the cars performance to the full . . in fact too much so!! In short the new Spax shocks are a MUST, not cheap, but in my opinion the best investment you will make. After all what price is your life?

Richard Wittington posted a query: I was interested to read your note Rob. As a 'new' RV8 owner I have this modification on my list of things to do. Could you guide us as to how difficult it is to do the job yourself? Clive Wheatley is some distance from me and fitting the replacement shock absorbers myself is quite attractive if it is not too taxing on my limited skills. A note on "changing shocks for the under fives" would be useful!

Rob Collier responded: Clive and Steve give a first class fitting service and I would normally advise you to go to them for fitting, but I am in the same position as you and it took me all day to get there and back last time. It took me less than an hour to fit both front shocks. All you need are some car ramps, two 17mm spanners and a 1/2" socket set, a 3" x 3" x 6" block of

wood and a jack. As a new owner, the new shocks would be the FIRST thing on my shopping list!

A day later Rob Collier posted a note following completing the fitting of the rear set of Spax saying: I fitted the rear Spax shocks today and have driven about 60 miles and my findings are as follows.

The ride is very much improved and the handling much tauter. There is a dip on an A road near to me and I no longer take off from the seat and bang my head on the hood rails! I have adjusted the front shocks to 7 and the rear to 9 and this gives a taut ride without being 'jiggly' at low speeds. I may experiment with the settings as the rears can be adjusted with a knurled knob by simply reaching around the rear tyre, whilst the front can be adjusted with a screwdriver when full lock is applied.

The car is noticeably more stable on the motorway and I cruised at speed in windy conditions, something I would not have done before!! Overall I am very impressed and am enjoying driving the car and exploiting its performance much more. I'm glad I waited for the Spax shocks, but would recommend everyone with the standard 12 to 16 year old original Konis to seriously considered buying some Spaxes as soon as possible from a safety viewpoint alone.

Rob Collier added: fitting the Spax shock absorbers is well within the capabilities of anyone who can change a wheel on their car! Fitting shock absorbers is covered in a straightforward way in the RV8 Workshop Manual. Both front and rear shocks can be fitted in under a couple of hours without specialist tools or knowledge. You do need to cut a couple of pieces of 3" x 3" x 6" fence post to support the front suspension arms before jacking up, but that's all.

For the front shocks there is no need to remove the road springs as the shocks simply drop through the bottom of the spring pan. The rears are even easier with just two 19mm nuts to remove top and bottom on the passenger side plus two bolts of the top mounting bracket to remove on the driver's side because of access due to the proximity of the battery compartment. January is the ideal time to fit new shocks so that your car will be ready to use as soon as the better weather arrives.
New bespoke replacement Spax shock absorbers for the RV8
The new replacement Spax shock absorbers on offer from Clive Wheatley are a bespoke set of front and back units developed specifically for the RV8. They are the result of the skilful development work and thorough testing carried out by Spax which was commissioned by Clive. The substantial costs of that work have been funded by Clive who has also provided an RV8 for Spax to work on for a number of weeks. So through his contacts and personal enthusiasm he has now sourced an even better replacement shock absorber – in fact a complete and balanced set of front and rear shock absorbers - which has further improved the ride and handling of the RV8.

I say “further developed” because Clive did a similar resourcing exercise in 2004 and obtained a better quality Koni (the "yellow Koni") which transformed the handling and has pleased many RV8 enthusiasts who have had them fitted since then. So he has now gone a step further and has had an RV8 fitted with a set of the new bespoke Spax and the result is a car which is a real delight to drive and what is more is likely to be a safer car too.

It is important to note these bespoke Spax shock absorbers are not an "off the shelf" unit but one Spax has tailored for use on the RV8. When these new
Spax units were first mentioned on the V8 Bulletin Board, a posting from a member provided information on an alternative source of Spax shock absorbers for the RV8. The posting said "Spax custom-made KSX Krypton gas rear shocks for the RV8" were available from a supplier at £75 each". But whilst they may have appeared a cheaper source they were not the same units. A posting from the managing director of Spax, Franck Michaux, clarified the position:

"Perhaps I can clear up a few points as I am the managing director of SPAX. We were commissioned by Clive Wheatley to design and develop dampers specifically for the RV8 to do a
specific job - improve the ride quality at low speeds and improve the handling throughout the speed range. This involved design, prototype builds, testing, etcetera. After many thousands of pounds worth of costs, the bespoke finished product was launched a few weeks ago. Both Clive Wheatley and I drove the donor car before (on Konis) and after (on SPAX) and I was more than happy to sign the dampers off. I believe the improvements are significant. In my opinion, it is a transformed car on SPAX that is safer and much more enjoyable to drive. There has been some feedback elsewhere on this forum to confirm the improvements. The rear dampers are valved specifically for the car and exhibit quite different and superior characteristics to the KSX range that we offer. The rears also have a bush that was specifically chosen to improve low speed compliance and reduce noise. There are also spacers included that ensure exact fit - not available on the KSX range. The front dampers are entirely bespoke in both construction and damping characteristics and there is therefore no KSX size equivalent. I trust this clears up any questions regarding specification and price."

So simply spotting and broadcasting what may “appear” to be a lower price for a spares item is not necessarily helpful unless checks are first made that the units are the same quality and have the same performance characteristics. Only then can you judge first whether the unit is likely to perform well and then make the value for money judgement. I think we can now see that “Clive’s price was not a bit high” at all but that his bespoke front and rear Spax shockers were priced on the basis of a substantial batch from which he has to recover the development costs. From talking with Clive this afternoon I can tell you he is bubbling with enthusiasm for the new Spax as a better performing unit tailored specifically for the RV8 to achieve another significant improvement in ride and handling. The value for money judgement is one RV8 enthusiasts will need to make once they have driven an RV8 fitted with the new shock absorbers and experienced the delight that Martin Colclough reports. See V8BB thread
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