Whether you hate it or love it, the stance, hellaflush, fitted, whatever-you-want-to-call-it look is here to stay. But if you’re a noob, here are some things you should know before trying it yourself.
The whole subject is so simple, even a caveman could do it! Doesn’t matter if you own a beat-up Honda, baller Nissan GT-R, all-wheel drive Subaru or even a minivan. With a low ride height and a set of wheels that sit flush with your fenders, your piece of art could be the next talk of the Internet.
While the exact history of stance in our scene is a bit grey, most of us agree the styling cue was borrowed from motorsport. Before many of you were even born, race engineers developed cars with a wider track which helped produce less weight transfer, thus offering more cornering grip. Going with wider wheels and tires also increased the contact patch area and made the rubbers stronger against load.
The wide and slammed look carried over to the streets. What many of us fail to realize is that our cars weren’t built the same way as these racers. Alongside their aggressive stance, race engineers developed reinforced hubs, stronger wheel bearings, new aero and stiffer suspension with redesigned geometry—all designed for heavy abuse and a wider track. These modifications made a super-low ride height and crazy wide wheels helpful and safe in competition environments.
So before you go for the ultimate stance, ask yourself if you’re willing to give up some performance in exchange for the look. Here are three things to consider:
1. There’s a limit of how low you can go before the shock is fully compressed and bottoms out. When you go too low, the lack of suspension travel will result in poor ride quality and handling.
There’s also the issue of suspension geometry. When a car leaves the assembly plant, it’s designed with the optimum geometry to give you responsive and stable steering under any condition. So by aggressively lowering your car, you will mess with this happy balance and create more body roll and slower steering. There are also the obvious problems getting in and out of driveways and over speed bumps as well.
2. The second issue pertains with wheels. When you push a wheel out further from the hub by altering the offset, the wheel center is moved away from the center where the contact patch was designed to be. This change in offset alters the scrub radius, which could potentially create a less responsive steering feel and make the car more vulnerable to road shock, tramlining and become less stable in a straight line.
Also remember with wheels that are too pushed out, clearance becomes an issue. When the wheel lips and tires sit beyond the fender edge, it’s more susceptible to rubbing which can cause damage to the tire’s sidewall or your fenders.
3. Lastly, there’s a danger with tire stretching. You can still have a “hellaflush ride” with a proper tire fitment but 95% of the stance crowd stretch. This is when a narrower profile tire is mounted around a wide wheel, thus stretching the sidewalls outward to reach the wheel lip. While it isn’t guaranteed to happen, the tire is more at risk to a blowout or de-beading. The contact patch is also smaller than the wheel’s recommended size, meaning less traction.
Now we’re not saying with all these consequences you shouldn’t try this at home. But you are compromising some handling performance and safety measures your mama wouldn’t approve of. So if you still fancy the style and don’t mind the sacrifices, stance on!
Proper stance consists of the right suspension and wheel components so being low is critical. You can’t have stance with inches of gap between your tires and fender. Duh! So you’re going to want to get your hands on some quality suspension components to get you slammed.
The most cost-effective thing to do is to replace your springs and dampers. Suspension tuners offer different levels of lowering springs with variations of ride height and spring rates. It’s important to run a spring with a higher spring rate. Since you’re going to be much lower to the ground than a stock or even a conservative lowering spring, a higher spring rate will prevent excessive travel in the spring while still holding up the weight of the vehicle.
Then there’s the question of dampers. Please don’t rock a super-low spring setup with stock shocks. You’ll blow out your dampers in no time and your car will bounce up and down like a slinky. Performance dampers will absorb the energy released by the spring and help maintain a decent ride comfort. There are tons of options for dampers from single- to four-way adjustable. Just remember you need something that will handle the more intense suspension travel associated lowering springs.
If you have a little more money to spend, then you can step up to coilovers—pre-assembled spring and damper assemblies. Generally, this will work better because the spring and damper are tested to work under a specific lowering range. They also allow the adjustability of ride height so you can fine-tune the suspension till your wheel gap is perfect. Many coilovers are even engineered with adjustable compression and rebound characteristics so you can stiffen them up more if necessary.
While coilovers or a spring/damper setup can get you the slammage you want, nothing will beat the look and adjustability of air-ride. What was typically used for mini-trucks and hot rods is now spreading like wildfire through the stance community. Instead of metal coil springs to support the car, it uses rubber bags full of air. These air springs (aka bags) are made of strong, flexible rubber. The air needs to be at a high pressure to support the car, so it’s generated by a compressor and stored in a tank until needed. Air is then transferred to the bags through tubes controlled by valves. Then, an onboard computer controls the valves by either dumping the air or allowing the bags to be filled. With its instant adjustability, you can deck your car at any show or parking lot, while still having the ability to raise it up for your commute home. It’s cheating, but if you want the lowest stance possible, air is the way to go.
Because every car is different, we recommend consulting a few different air suspension companies to determine if their kits fit your car. You’ve already heard about Air Lift elsewhere in this issue but also check out Air Runner, KSport, RideTech, Universal Air and D2 Racing.
Air is definitely more expensive so if you’re on a budget, don’t be ashamed with a static drop. You’ll just have to learn how to drive a really low car! Companies like H&R, KW, Tein, Buddy Club, Endless, A’PEXi and GReddy have several spring and coilover options.
Also remember when you’re going this aggressive with a suspension setup, it’s good to update your sway bars, endlinks, bushings and even control arms to withstand the added abuse on the chassis.
Once your suspension is installed, you can determine wheel and tire fitment. The great thing about the hellaflush scene is that you can rock any kind of wheel as long as it has good fitment. One-piece cast, three-piece forged, step lip, concave, deep-dish, whatever—the wheels just have to fill the fenders!
One of the best tools to accomplish this is installing a good pair of spacers that push your wheels out and get you flush. By measuring the distance between your wheel lips to the point where you want them to sit below the fender, you can purchase the appropriate sized spacer. The further out you go (more negative offset), the crazier it will look. Companies like H&R, Project Kics, FIC and Parts Shop Max are some good sources to get spacers—but remember you’ll need longer hardware to safely run them.
If you’re going to buy a new set of wheels, you’ll have to determine the correct offsets and wheel widths. There are plenty of calculators online to help you determine these numbers based on your current wheel configuration. But ensure you spec out a wheel that gives you enough clearance for the brakes, suspension components and fenders. The last thing you want is having a wheel that doesn’t physically mount up because it’s too wide or the offset is too low. Unfortunately we can’t go in-depth with numbers because every car and wheel application is going to be different. But if you’re really stuck and have a specific question, send our Tech Support an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to help.
Stretching tires is also a common practice. This allows you to run a much wider wheel than normal but still keep the tire’s contact patch within the fender. The majority of stance fans are doing this because it minimizes rubbing. And the more you stretch, the more you can push the outer edge of the wheel lip beyond the fender. But be aware, because your lips will be showing, it’s more exposed to road debris as well.
Some cars can opt to adjust camber. Increasing negative camber moves the top of the wheel inward giving the stance a more squatted look. Excessive camber can create abnormal tire wear but if it’s the look you’re going for, you’re not going to care too much.
Hopefully, we’ve shed a little light on the subject. Performance purists are still shaking their heads but if you like what you see and don’t care about the compromises, get your stance stance revolution on!