Through a 20-year journey into the wild, woolly, and endless fascinating realm of automotive suspension design, handling, racing, and ride quality, I’ve discovered a few fundamental principles that apply to the suspension design for a variety of vehicles. I’ve also seen how close or how far many factory suspension come to the ideal of ‘The Perfect Ride.’ As the expression goes, successful people are more motivated by their failures than by their successes and I recognize this truth for myself. The times when I thought I had everything handled was when something would go wrong – and after the smoke cleared and I cleaned myself off, I had new insights that weren’t there before. Another expression – which I never heard while I was in school! – is “Life first gives you the test, then you learn the lesson.”
My own odyssey of discovery has led me to question assumptions of all kinds: those from ‘the internet’, from textbooks, from experienced suspension tuners, even from my own initial discoveries. Every sacred cow has been sacrificed to the altar of Truth; it can be no other way, because sooner or later, the Truth will out! I’ve accepted this as a truism and constantly expect to have my results and ideas challenged, whether through a customer’s feedback, someone who has been farther along this path than I have, or through my own experience.
Because I have been in the trenches, experiencing the whole range of possibility from cheap suspensions on cheap cars to costly electronically-controlled dampers on very expensive cars to all manner of aftermarket option, I stand solidly in my body of knowledge and the conclusions I can draw from this experience. I express my current understanding in every single suspension I design: there is no static ‘fixed’ recipe and never will be. I am testing new ideas and discoveries through every build and can track my process of refinement back for nearly two decades. From all this dedicated effort, with the pain-staking approach of the scientific method that I was trained in and received my B.S. Physics from San Jose State University (with honors) in 1997, I have been applying my physics training and real-world experience in various engineering companies to critique any suspension product I lay my hands on.
Remember, every sacred cow has to be sacrificed to give birth to new understanding.
Through this blog and my Elite Projects shared on Fat Cat Motorsports website, I am calling out manufacturers, demonstrating the pros and cons for each vehicle and suspension I evaluate. Through the years, I’ve realized that this walk-about has been anything but haphazard. I understand there is a continuity and development of my purpose beginning with Fat Cat Motorsports, continuing with creating innovations branded as FCM Elite, and moving to inviting you (yes, you the reader) to participate in our Smooth Ride Campaign as we all can enjoy Ride Harmony no matter what vehicle we are riding in.
My quest for Ride Harmony, leading to creation of the Smooth Ride Campaign, has developed in 3 stages:
First, to connect and collaborate with automotive customers who want to experience a sophisticated, tailor-made suspensions for their specific needs – whatever they wish their vehicle to do. More than 90% of our FCM Elite customers happily use their FCM Elite Projects on the street! As my understanding of suspension tuning has grown, our products have matured, and our educational outreach has expanded while seeing our Elite products become smoother and even more fun to drive!
Second, to develop and demonstrate new methods and technology that refine our products and increase our understanding of suspension optimization. It’s through real-world testing on the street and in racing environments that we and our Elite customers showcase what we’re capable of achieving by harmonizing all elements of a vehicle’s suspension. Without exception, every single vehicle we’ve worked on has been smoother and better-handling than the factory or aftermarket suspension previously on it. We’re doing something right and always improving this craft of Ride Harmony!
Third, to educate car enthusiasts and the public at large about these principles of Ride Harmony, so they can evaluate and determine which vehicles most clearly provide their desired level of Ride Quality. Through educating the consumer with our Smooth Ride Campaign, we also will be influencing manufacturers to realize where they can improve their factory suspensions and rise above the competition. Ultimately, through our intention to share Suspension Truth and the principles of Ride Harmony, we believe all vehicles made everywhere will one day be built with Ride Harmony in mind. This is the highest goal we can hope to achieve, as every safety and performance standard currently in place would be met with a vehicle built by our exacting and detailed FCM Elite standards.
In 2017, you will see a much more active presentation of Smooth Ride Campaign by Fat Cat Motorsports, with events hosted through our partners at Buzzledom.com. We are very excited to bring this awareness of Ride Quality to the world, to use Quality as a tool to eliminate Subjectivity. The days of ‘oh, it’s pretty smooth’ and ‘man, that’s kind of rough’ will give way to ‘My Camry has a ride number of 84, what about your Accord?’ and ‘You may want to avoid that Nissan GT-R if you need smoother ride, it had a ride score of 62. Check out the Chevy Corvette, it was far better at 78 and has better slalom and skidpad numbers too.’
A favorite quote of mine (from ‘Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’ by Robert Pirsig) is ‘Quality Eliminates Subjectivity.’
This is the intention of the Smooth Ride Campaign – to take vague words like ‘sporty’, ‘firm’, or ‘comfortable’ and expand them with useful measurements and underlying concepts. To ask questions like “WHY is it sporty, WHAT makes it firm? HOW can we make it better?”
To ask those questions, and to answer them. I will show you – I AM showing you here! I will quantify the concept of Ride Quality so we can talk about what it is and how to create it. I’ll do this with tools already available on every modern smart phone able to obtain accurate and repeatable measurements of the ride score for every vehicle on the road. Through comparison tests and additional evaluation equipment, I’ll provide information to empower the general driving public in choosing the kind of ride they want to experience.
It seems a very big task and I a under no illusion every party I will discuss will be excited to see these truths come to light. So be it – Hallelujah. It is my intention to empower the people in a new way that, as of late 2016, no one else has done.
There’s no more waiting – I look in the mirror and know what I must do. But I know I’m not alone. I ask you all to join me in this important, loving, and empowering campaign. Your body and soul deserves to be respected by the vehicles you drive, and the people who design those rides. This Truth is the key to everything – a Smooth Ride is available to all, Ride Harmony is possible for all to enjoy at no extra cost!
So I ask you to send you support whether comments, questions, or to Join the Elite, or to follow our Smooth Ride Campaign as it develop. Share what you read and see because SRC is about simple and clear information not technical jargon. It will be reachable by all, because it’s meant for all.
You have my solemn promise – whether or not the world is clamoring for this Campaign, I know it’s needed. I promise to keep focused, keep silly, ‘keep buggering on.’
Churchill’s potent spirit of perseverance and determination is best summed up in one of his own maxims: “We must just KBO.” The initials stood for “Keep Buggering On.”8 Churchill understood the dangers of defeatism and poor morale as a soldier and leader, so he set the example needed to inspire others around him… and he kept “buggering on.”