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Write What You Drive

A showcase of independent motoring journalism and automotive travails

JTurn Fleet: New Suspension for MR2 and Puma's Redesignation

A belated Happy New Year from the JTurn fleet; the Puma spent most of the festive period on the M6 due to its unwitting relegation to winter mile-muncher.

I managed to put together a second set of wheels and winter tyres from various sources for £240 all-in. The track-orientated Parada Spec IIs have gone into hibernation in a friend's garage as a year's less tread is unlikely to make them any more useful in the rain/snow than last year.

This investment (Hankook Winter I-Cept at the front, Yoko W-drive at the rear) pretty much paid itself off in one journey up to Glasgow between Christmas and New Year in some of the worst conditions I've ever driven in. Side winds, driving rain and standing water would certainly have made for a buttock-clenching ride as the Paradas aquaplaned their way over the border. As it was, the Hankooks resisted the temptation to aquaplane extremely well and generally inspired confidence in appalling conditions.

They haven't blunted the car's keen handling too much, which I was slightly concerned about, although obviously ultimate grip in the dry is compromised. Road noise has also increased but this is a small price to pay for arriving safely at your destination as opposed to unexpectedly exploring the Scottish countryside backwards at 70mph.

All told, the Puma managed 750 miles over Christmas - averaging about 40 mpg, making it a much cheaper way for 2 people to travel to Scotland than a train or plane.

The same certainly wouldn't have been true in the MR2, where 40 mpg is the stuff of fiction. It sat patiently back at home waiting for its yearly visit to Rogue Motorsport where this year the focus would be the array of noises emanating from the front suspension. I'd known for a while that one of the shock absorbers was leaking and with it even making an appearance on the advisory notices of my MOT certificate it was probably high time for a change. Allied to a few other little niggles and service items, this left me with a stinging bill of numerous pounds.

That said, "stinging" is probably not entirely fair as in return I now have a car that handles properly again and a heater that keeps me warm in slow traffic. As is my usual philosophy, I elected to have some slightly uprated OEM+ Bilstein B6s (aka "Yellow Billies") fitted, along with a full geometry check and adjustment.

I was told the car would feel a lot more "propped up" at the front and this is certainly true. The steering is more responsive; the annoying dead band on initial turn in that had developed all but eradicated now - also helped by adjusting the geometry back to where Toyota intended. It feels much keener, edgier and even faster under acceleration due to the stiffer front.

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Choices choices...arguably better looking before they go on the car

The Yellow Billies are supposed to fall somewhere between the standard items ("Black Billies") and full race/track parts in terms of damping rates and comfort. The beauty of replacing completely knackered standard items is that even with uprated dampers; my car is more comfortable than it was with, effectively, 2 empty tubes performing damping duties.

Further update: All appeared to be going swimmingly from the above fleet summary, with both vehicles performing their respective tasks admirably. That was until the "heater that keeps me warm in slow traffic" persisted with blowing cold air at me on the way home one night until the temperature needle made a break for the red end of the dial.

I managed to pull over and stop the car before it climbed too high (always worth keeping half an eye on the temperature gauge in an MR2) and the RAC man got me home under my own steam (no pun intended).

The exact part at fault is still puzzling me somewhat due to the strange symptoms I have experienced over the last few weeks and especially since the cooling system was pressure tested and bled only a week earlier.

I'm going to start with changing the thermostat; and since I have spent what anybody would consider enough on a 14 year old car for one month, I may even wake my socket set from its winter slumber and attempt the job myself - January is far from the ideal time of year but needs must.

Regular Features
20th January

Just when you think everything is going well...

7th October

Puma passes MOT despite struggle

28th June

MR2 Turbo in France

31st March

Further money "invested"

6th January 2013

'90s reigns as the current JT Fleet is introduced