The Road To Race Car Handling
The Quest For Perfection

I guess it comes with the territory, but one question I’m often asked is ‘what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?’

It’s a great question to be asking a guy in my position, and my first reaction is always the self-realization of how ridiculously lucky I am. Not only do I get to sample many of the most exciting new cars that hit the market, but I’m often thrown the keys to modified machines of every type.

Let’s get back to the question at hand though, of which the answer is quite simple. To some of you it might sound like a load of bullsh*t, but the best car I’ve ever driven is the car I’ve owned since 1999, my BNR34 Nissan Skyline GT-R.

You see, aside from the fact that the final RB26DETT-powered GT-R happens to be one of the best platforms to create something very special on, I’ve been very slowly fine tuning mine to my personal taste. Having the car sit in a perennial state of improvement gives it this exciting aura. I get the tingles every time I look at it as I know it’s my baby; it’s so good, feels so special and is constantly being improved. ‘Step by step’ is my motto, feeling all the upgrades as they are fitted and learning how the car reacts.

Which brings me to this update on Project GT-R. The handling.


For quite a while now I’ve been running Nismo S-tune coilovers in my car, which as the name implies is oriented towards fast ‘street’ use more than anything else. It’s a great upgrade if you intend to have the best of both worlds and don’t ask too much of your car. If you want something more focused you will find it a tad unresponsive, as it’s dialed in towards safe understeer and is quite inefficient at controlling body roll, pitch and dive.

That brings me to KW, who I’ve been talking to about my car for years now. I’m a great fan of how much KW has achieved in the motorsports world, and how that knowhow has been translated to the street; the V3 coilovers I run in Project Drop Top are testament to this.

But for the GT-R I wanted more. The guys at KW took that as a challenge. and said, ‘give us a few months and when we are done we’ll send you what we’ve come up with’.


The wait was due to two things; first that KW doesn’t have an off-the-shelf kit for the BNR34, and secondly that they knew I wanted to take full advantage of the available technology but not render the car unusable on the street. I spent the best part of three months wondering how the car would drive with a serious suspension setup, and the day I find out is getting very close now.

First up, however, was the delivery of the finished products, which was brought right to my door step by the efficient guys at FedEx Japan. The delivery guy gave me a weird look when I raced out of the house with a DSLR in my hands, but I told him, “I’m really sorry, I’m very excited about what’s in those boxes, so if you don’t mind.”


He gave me an understanding look, probably thinking ‘damn weird otaku gaijins‘, made me sign for the packages, and then headed off to his next delivery.


The resident mini Speedhunter was just as excited as I was; together we get to test out every improvement on the ‘Gee-Aayaa’, as he calls it.

The Urge To Unbox

I quickly brought boxes inside and cut off the nylon straps that held them tightly packed for shipping.


Talk about Christmas coming early!


You might laugh at me, but I had a little peek at the middle section of the box by lifting the padding and then closed it immediately like I had seen something I shouldn’t have. Then I giggled.


The more I peeled away the packaging, the more was revealed.


What makes these coilovers rather special is that they are custom-built for Project GT-R and are based on KW’s 2-way adjustable Competition dampers yet have Clubsport settings. It’s like having the best of two worlds; they were built by the race department at KW but taking into account the sort of driving I’d be doing: a mix of mountain roads, highway runs and of course the odd track day.

KW researches and develops its dampers on the famed Nürburgring Nordschleife and that means they’re subjected to a vast array of tests, from differing surface changes, imperfections, mid-corner bumps and extreme extensions and compressions. Doesn’t this sound like the sort of stuff you have to deal with on normal city and mountain roads? Bringing race technology to the street means you still have a compliant sort of damping for normal road driving, but one that can be adequately stiffened up when you hit the track. That’s something specific to KW as it’s always been of the opinion that searching for the ultimate mechanical grip requires softer spring rates and outstanding shock technology.

To say I’m rather excited to find out what this translates to on the street, as well as the track, is an understatement!

Built around lightweight aluminum housings (KW lets race teams to choose between aluminum when weight is a concern or steel for the highest structural strength) allows the whole ensemble to shave a little unsprung weight from each corner of the car. Project GT-R’s dampers run twin tube technology with an 18mm diameter rod for strength and compliance with the damper being adjustable in 15 positions on the bump stroke and 18 separate positions on the rebound stroke.

Let’s take a closer look at the front dampers. The aluminum top mount, anodized in KW’s signature purple, is mounted onto the damper via a pillow ball, already something very different to the S-tunes on the car, which run a rubber bush to attenuate vibrations and make things a little more comfortable. But the metal-on-metal link will now not mess around with chassis feedback, be it through the steering or the seat of your pants. This goes for the lower pillow mount too.

The KW hex key that’s included in the kit will slot into the top of the damper and allow me to adjust the rebound setting. The springs are linear race components, measuring 130N/mm (13.2kg/mm), which is just over double the stiffness of the front springs on the S-tunes (58.8N/mm or 6kg/mm), that are mated to helper springs that ensure that the damper performs its best over road imperfections.

Lastly, but of great importance, you might have noticed that each damper runs a billet aluminum cup. These are the lifting units that make up KW’s Height Lifting System (HLS), cups that extend when pressurized hydraulic fluid is pumped through them. With these mounted above the spring perch on each damper, the R34 will be able to rise up 45mm instantly at the press of a button. This will allow me to run an aggressive ride height and accurate geometry without the need to sacrifice my front and rear diffusers. It all fits in beautifully with the main idea to modernize my 17-year-old GT-R and bring it on par with performance cars of the 21st century.

The rears, aside from the obvious difference in shape and length, sport the same characteristics as the fronts. There are rose jointed top mounts, 90N/mm (9.17kg/mm) springs – compared to the 65.7N/mm (6.7kg/mm) rates of the Nismo S-tunes – a helper spring and HLS cup. You can also get a better look at the purple rotary dial which allows you to select through the 12 bump settings on each of the dampers.

HLS To The Rescue

So with the four coilovers neatly presented in their box, you would be correct in assuming that the second box in this special delivery from Germany contains the necessary hardware to make the HLS work.


Let’s have a look inside…


The first thing I pulled out was the neat little KW-branded tool box that contains the two wrenches necessary to adjust the spring perches on the dampers to set the desired static ride height. Also included is the purple hex key I mentioned earlier.


Then we have the largest part of the ensemble, the hydraulic servo pump which pumps pressurized fluid to each of the cups.


The whole system is actually pretty compact compared to say an air suspension solution which employs an air tank. In fact, everything adds less than 5kg to the car which is totally negligible. I just have to figure out where to hide it away; hopefully there is enough space in the rearward sealed section of the trunk where the ATTESA ETS-Pro ECU, battery and other electronic trickery is positioned. We are only talking about a few kilograms here, so not a big impact. I could counteract it by getting off my rear end and losing some weight!


KW includes everything you need for the install, including the appropriate hydraulic fluid, braided lines, wiring, mounting brackets even enough zip-ties to tuck anything away that needs to be.


The system may look daunting in its laid-out-on-the-floor complexity, but once fitted it will simply all be operated by this stainless steel button. Press it once and the HLS unit extends 45mm on both axles and the red backlight will come on. Hit it again and the car will lower. Depending on the application, this 45mm expansion may translate to up to 55mm of actual lift, dependent of course on the damper/wheel ratio and the length of the front and rear ends, and how far things like diffusers hang down from each corner. The HLS will also get connected up to the car’s speed sensor so that at 60km/h it will lower automatically.

Now it’s on to the fitting and set up of both the HLS and the actual dampers. I will first run the dampers as they are and then figure out if I need to add stiffer sway bars. I’m also looking at roll center adjusters as well as adjustable links, but those additions will all come later on.

Project GT-R continues to evolve, slowly but surely and forever improving along the way.

Dino Dalle Carbonare
Instagram: speedhunters_dino



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I am utterly jealous :)
I will definitely have a look at this kind of setup for my car...
By the way, where do you go usually for track days?


Always exciting to get new parts!


ANOTHER K&W; promo article brought to you by Speedhunters.


90nissanS13@my350z Can't argue with their quality though


mind sending me your promo code? I'd love to buy some KW's but they're expensiveeeeeeeee


I'm using it now and it's awesome! I've signed up for my account and have been bringing in fat paychecks. For real, 
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D1RGE 90nissanS13@my350z There are better options for the same money or cheaper if you know where to look.


Damn Dino! Congrats!!
I was just as excited when I got my KWv3's for my Supra! :D
Yours look to be an advanced design though and you got HLS! So jealous :(


At least it's not AirLift (-8


Sick upgrade Dino. KW is a legit damper, esp with HLS !!! Hope you enjoy!


i23sonny I run V3s on Project Drop Top and they have really impressed so I have high expectations for these. Setting them up will probably be the toughest job.


ThomasGateau Usually Fuji & Tsukuba and I've done Honjo, Motegi & Sodegaura once. Lots of other tracks but not with my cars haha

Gianluca FairladyZ

Very nice! The addition of the HLS is the pinnacle of it. KW also offers it as a universal solution. If you have a standard KW coilover and have minimum rest screw thread of about 5-7 cm they can make it for you. But daamn that was expensive.

Have fun Dino! Very nice upgrade


The HLS is brilliant !

If I have one of these set of coilovers arrive , I would be unable to sleep until I get it installed . XD


My Uncle Wyatt got a nearly new green smart car just by part time work from a home pc... 


I am so jealous! They look amazing Dino! Pure suspension porn. I currently have KW pricing me a set of custom Coilovers for my Fiesta RS Turbo (as they dont do them in their range). I know its going to be more than a few quid but I dont care. I just love the attention to detail and the fact that so much of them are made from a mix of Stainless Steel and CNC billet. Just awesome.

Enjoy dude, I look forward to seeing an article on the fitting of them


Superjelly. I wish KW would have something for the BNR32, especially with that HLS sexyness. Although, iirc the HLS system itself is rather pricy.

Regardless, can't wait to see it on the 34 - please make some videos of it working.


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Haha great writing could feel that special moment when it arrives :)
But how did KW did that for Skylines where did they took the measurements ect ? a bit background info about that process would be interesting ;)
Nice Setup you chosen. Looking forward to see some moving footage on track ;) 
Have fun on the installment of that piece of art


Honestly the KW colorway is the best part about their coilovers.




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Ford used to run similar lift system in the Focus RS WRC 03. Quite useful in a rally car. Though it turned out not be a match for Citroën's hydraulic interconnected system. Cool tech nonetheless

It's N/mm by the way :)


JH4DC321 D1RGE 90nissanS13@my350z Yes because putting cheaper lower quality parts on a performance car is a very sound idea...

Buy once, cry once.


I love well-packaged products. They say, "We care."


**stands up in cube clapping, thinking "it's not f*c*n air!!!!"**

all jokes aside though - why twin tube and not monotube? I've tried to understand why KW only uses twin tube - and having used monotube dampers on my car for a year, I'm starting to see why I might want to return to twin tube - mono is a bit bouncy bouncy - but alas, my next car will have magnetic dampers - we will see how that goes - and if I can actually throw some lowering springs on there without any hiccups


Floodo1 90nissanS13@my350z You're both regular readers, so I'm curious as to where you think the money comes from to run Speedhunters so you can read everything for free? If there was no KW or Air Lift Performance support, this whole thing just wouldn't work.


Floodo1 I'll let you know soon enough!


RDS I'm in that boat now. I look at them a lot, and stroke them haha  Nah but seriously, should all be fitted next week, fingers crossed!


TurboHippie Will do, thanks! And yeah their build quality is industry leading. Enjoy yours when you get them!


AlexGut They can always make what they can't have. That's what they did with my kit


CristianDimcescu They had all the necessary measurements :)


Vittorio Jano Interesting, wasn't aware that was similar. But that did Citroen's system do?


Mook Genius JH4DC321 D1RGE 90nissanS13@my350z Very well said Mook Genius. Do you really think I waited this long to replace the S-tunes with something of inferior quality? It's performance I wanted, mated to quality, and in my eyes KW comes up with some pretty amazing products and solutions. Sure they are our partners here, but just look at the successes they've had in motorsport. Fact of the matter is they have come this far in a relatively short amount of time because they dump a lot of effort in to R&D; and the results in racing speak for themselves. I've been running the V3 kit in Project Drop Top and I've have literally everyone that's ridden in the car how well damped it is. I'll let you know how the GT-R performs once it's all fitted and set up


speedhunters_dino i23sonny Toughest job perhaps but oh so satisfying. Look forward to your results follow-up :)


Now you can say you have a juiced R34 GTR


Very cool. Great to see an aftermarket company doing a hydraulic lift system. Looks way better than the air operated ones I have seen.


sbradley237 LOL, I guess I can!


andrewhake Different applications. The HLS was actually developed for an owner of a Porsche 959 and then they realized how so many sports car users out there could benefit from it!


update us as soon as possible ! :P


Paddy McGrath

Hmm, that comment didn't come across right. Normally I complain about how much certain advertisers get featured and how stale those articles can be. That doesn't apply here though and I'm really stoked to see a staff member put such quality parts on their long time ride! (see my other comment).

As for reading for free, I'd actually prefer to pay and get some perks like maybe being able to toggle the body of the article off leaving just one great photo right after the other. Because seriously, SH has some of the best photography around (along with some sweet access to make use of it).   I think that makes me feel like the support maybe buys a little too much and they end up getting played out. Feature them, a lot, just don't let them play themselves out heh (-8

But fair enough, a few features I don't like in exchange for the photos alone is surely worth it !


Floodo1 Hit that presentation button in the top left corner and watch your wildest dreams come true!


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I don't think that is an option with the mobile layout is it?


JH4DC321 What brands? Bilstein PSS10 (B16) or Ohlins DFV? They are same price or more expensive. Bilstein is slightly lower. Ohlins DFV have less adjustability, but sometimes less is more. Sachs clubsport is also same price or more expensive. You can also go big with the Moton, Penske or other custom valves, etc for twice the price. :)


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Pretty much the same system that McLaren uses in their road cars. "Active" heave and roll control achieved by hydraulic valving.


ya bro!


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CristianDimcescu  they have some damn pretty stuff there to simulate things :)
only with german audio, but ffwding  through the video shows some background on their tech


When I got my Evo 8 suspension I couldn't for the weekend to install it so ended up doing all night :).  Handles awesome now
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