emBracing my Viggen II

Mama! Now I need tyres!!

I got the Abbott Racing steering rack clamp and brace fitted today. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s spending money on something to maintain the current state it’s in. If I’m spending money on something then I want it to improve – and did I ever get my money’s worth today!

I picked the car up just after 5pm. Steve E (Saab tech) was just finishing up and his first words were “the instruction sheet said it’d only take an hour!” Not a cause for alarm, mind you, but it hadn’t dawned on me that this could well be the first time one of these has been fitted here in Tassie. Anyway, after any job Steve takes the car for a test run and this was no different except for the fact that I tagged along.

Peak hour in our little city isn’t too much to worry about, but it’s fair to say that even here in Hobart, 5pm isn’t the best time to go for a test drive from downtown when you want to check out the torque steer in your car. We cleared the traffic in quick time. I was a little worried that Steve wouldn’t give it a thorough workout so I mentioned he should drive it as if I wasn’t sitting there next to him.

Which he did up the next hill.

Now, I’m no mechanic and I know that a part like a steering rack clamp and brace doesn’t increase your power. But doing a before and after drive just today, I’m convinced that it not only helps your steering track a bit better and reduce torque steer, but it also helps you get your power down to the ground. Everything’s just that bit stiffer.

It’s hard for me to explain as I don’t have the mechanical understanding of everything that’s going on, but before everything felt a little sloppier. It’s like everything has been tightened up and whatever was slopping around before is just transferring straight through and feeding back to me behind the wheel.

And the wheelspin!

As I said, things felt sloppier before and both Steve and I had the wheels spinning in second gear without really even trying. Just a short squirt on the throttle and away they go! It seems that now I’ve got the looseness in the steering sorted there’s a lack of grip to handle the oomph at the wheels.

Seriously, I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but what it boils down to is that torque steer has been greatly reduced, steering and feedback feel like they’ve improved and the car just feels brilliant. I wish I’d had enough money at the time to get the whole kit, but this has been a great start.

I’d recommend this bit of kit to anyone with a hi-po 900/9-3 who wants to get a little better feel out of it. Just brilliant!

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I also had the car serviced today, too.

It got a clean bill of health. Total cost for the installation and the service – $250.

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11 Comments

  1. Man, Swade, if there’s one thing I’m jealous of besides your location, it’s definitely your Viggen. Haha, ah well.

  2. Swade —

    I did similar to you with my base-level 1999 9-3 vert … the steering rack brace first, then the rear anti-roll (sway) bar. My impression after the steering rack was that handling was much more compact and nimble (you move the wheel, and the car responded — immediately). I did also seem to feel it reduced the torque/understeer in most “everyday” driving conditions … but when I really decided to have some fun and THROW my car into a turn, well, it really pushed back, and HARD. It probably is that the rack suddenly made the weakest part of the steering system the area between the wheel and the seat … but just be warned that it can still rise up and getcha!

    That said, the “push back” wasn’t enough for me to lose control, or even cause the car to do much more than just wiggle a little in the turn … but because I had kinda let my guard down, it did surprise me.

    A few weeks ago, I added the ARB to the back … and I haven’t been able to get her to push back at all, and I have been trying. It makes a huge difference, and the front tires stay firmly planted on the ground.

    Just as a note, I have added Saab’s Fondmetal 17″ 5-spoke turbine wheels (look like Porsche wheels) … so I’m not bouncing around on the stock 15″ with lots of sloppy rubber, so the results I am seeing should translate similarly to the Viggen … well, except the big difference in power! 🙂

  3. Swade, I did this install with a similar knockoff kit on my Viggen and the rubber donut that was in place of the billet aluminum clamp (stamped with a big “GM”) was a joke and reveals why the clamp makes such a difference.

  4. Funny… I had my 9-3 Aero in for a service yesterday too!

    Along with the service, I had some Abbott Racing polyeurethane control arm bushes installed… damn nice feel driving it home! Feels much tighter! I should get the rack kit too.

    Oh, also put in a new SID (that I supplied) and had to get new front rotors and pads… grrr!

    total cost = $690. Not bad considering all the work and hard parts added! A big shout out to David at Wantirna Automotive for doing teh work

    Steve (who scurries off to investigate the rack kit further)

  5. SAB,

    Did you get the control arm bushes from Dean? If so, how much? I got the rack through a contact in the UK as it’s hard on Dean to separate it from the full rescue kit and it was convenient for me to pick it up whilst in Sweden, but any Abbott stuff I get in the future will be through Dean.

  6. Actually got them from Terry S here in Melbourne… he had some spare (Abbott sent him two lots for his NG900). So I bought them off him fora very very good price. They make a nice difference and I feel tightens up the road feel a lot. Doesn’t feel like the steering wanders much or the car tram lines too much (like it used to when using the loud pedal).
    Of course I am running the koni springs and adjustable shocks too… which help!
    sab

  7. Why the clamp may help to transmit power:

    In a front-driver, the power is applied through wheels that inherently must move (steer) for the car to operate.

    Torque steer is one of the symptoms of this close relationship — torque applied to the axle/wheel combination creates movement that is NOT in the intended direction due to unequal forces at each wheel. This could be due to unequal axle shaft lengths (many transverse engines have this issue), unequal friction at the tires, etc. The steering mechanism helps to control torque steer by holding the wheels on the line that you’ve selected. Finally, torque steer robs the car of energy that could be applied in a straight line, but is instead applied off-line and thus wasted.

    If the steering mechanism allows less movement, there is less torque steer fighting the straight-line motion.

    There are other wheel movements/geometries which hurt low-end performance: wrong camber & caster, wheel hop, etc. These basically rob the tires of strong longitudinal grip during acceleration. With the steering upgrade, I’m guessing that the wheels are more firmly held in the correct geometry for acceleration. Since he was modifying the steering, perhaps a new alignment helped here, too?

  8. Thanks Eggs. That’s all the stuff I wanted to say but didn’t know would make sense. I need to become more knowledgeable on these things but I hardly have a mechanical bone in my body.

  9. We installed at least 5 steering rack brace and clamp in our club but no alignment needed… It doesn’t change the suspension and steering geometry, it just helps to keep it firmly on place.
    I have used it in my 9-3 SE HOT, and now in my Viggen, too. I have also Powerflex polyurethan bushes from Elkparts, they are also useful upgrades.

  10. So, Eggs’ post makes me think that maybe the fact my car is a convertible is why my brace didn’t completely eliminate the torque steer (with more body flex, I’d be a little more likely to have “unequal friction at the tires.”)

    What it apparently did do was eliminate it under lower-g conditions, but only until the body flexed to the point that grip is compromised — which would explain why when it did come back, it hit sudden and hard. (Pulling harder, higher-g turn etc.)

    The ARB has tightened up the back end, and probably raised the threshold at which I might experience a loss of traction to the point that it really isn’t even a factor right now … and it also seems to have reduced the flex somewhat.

    Someday I’ll probably add a subframe brace, which should finally kill the flex issue for good … and with it I’d imagine the torque steer gremlin would also be really most sincerely dead. 🙂

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