The Status Quo
I believe that no one is really normal and that each of us bases our own versions of normal on how we perceive ourselves. For instance, I have an unrealistic frost phobia, which I have managed to keep under control enough to still enjoy a visit to Cold Stone for some ice cream (their frost covered marble slabs are the worst), but I do not think that it is normal for someone to get the willies from the mere sight of frost. On the other side of that coin, if I am interested in doing or buying something I will research it and make whatever decision needs to be made based on my findings; this, I feel, is normal behavior and most people presumably do the same thing. With that being said, I have been diligently researching and testing different suspension designs for about 15 years or so and I feel that I have a pretty damn good understanding of what works and what doesn’t, yet no matter how much I learn, I still continue to have unanswered questions. Every time I go to Barnes & Nobel I check the automotive section for new design books, if I see a suspension article in a magazine I read it, or if I’m at a shop and see something that intrigues me I ask what they are doing and how they figured it out. I learn new things everyday by looking at other people’s work and thinking about what made them choose that route.
This brings me to my concern.
When browsing the internet or reading magazines (what few are left), I can’t help but notice that there are only a few people out there who seem to know enough or care enough to set up their suspension correctly. Now I know from experience that it isn’t from lack of available information as I have personally written several suspension design articles for three different truck magazines and on top of that I spent a few years answering questions online; I also know that there are a few really good suspension books out there for around $20 each. So with all of this information available out there for less than the cost of one air bag, why are so many people using the “throw shit on the wall and see what sticks” method of suspension design? And better yet, why are the people that have found an overly simplistic yet very out-of-date design jumping at the chance to tell everyone how awesome their barely acceptable suspension is? I don’t think I have ever heard of anyone going on to a paint/body forum, telling everyone how they are all “haters” because their $20 worth of cherry red rattle-can paint from WalMart looks killer, but it never fails that someone who has obviously not done their research will jump into a 4-link discussion and give their two-cents about how their 2-link or reverse 4-link “rides like a Cadillac” (a phrase that has lost its meaning long ago).
The biggest negative thing that I hear about spending time building a proper suspension is that minitrucks aren’t racecars and while this is a true statement, I can tell you that I have personally designed and built a 4-link that was so scary to drive at 30mph that I thought I was going to roll the truck. That was THE epiphanic moment for me – this meant that there was undoubtedly a wrong way to build a 4-link and that a right way must exist. There was a day when minitruckin’ as an industry was in its infancy, when reverse 4-links and hacked up bodydrops were completely natural steps of progression, but the industry is far past that now… or should be, anyways. I don’t know of any other automotive genre besides serious off-road trucks where custom suspensions are so commonplace, yet for some reason the fundamentals of proper design are ignored almost completely and those that try to learn are met with people telling them that their time is being wasted and how awesome their suspension that is the design equivalent to a rock tied to a stick works.
So I would like to take this moment to applaud those of you who are investing time into educating yourself and not simply accepting the status quo as good enough.