Note: Installing spring plates is a very dangerous task and should never be attempted by an amateur or without using the proper installation tools. If you are not a competent mechanic - DO NOT ATTEMPT TO INSTALL!!!
In any modern performance car it is necessary that the camber and alignment be adjustable. This is usually so the car can be dialed in for optimum handling and performance. But in a swing axle Volkswagen, there is an even greater need for the camber and alignment to be adjustable. This is because any time the ride height is altered, be it lower or higher, the camber changes drastically – so much that performance, ride quality, and tire wear can be severely affected. The alignment too changes slightly, adding negatively to the road handling ability. In the past nothing could be done to correct this, and so swing axle Volkswagens were generally viewed as inferior performers to IRS (independent rear suspension). IRS’s do not change camber as drastically when ride height is altered. If a person wanted a lowered or raised performance VW they were required to completely convert their car over to IRS. This involved hacking an old suspension from a car with IRS (destroying its value), and re-welding it to the other car with a gutted suspension. This usually required a jig to make sure everything was straight, and a professional welder to do the work. In the end the car still had an old, fatigued, and corroded suspension. In addition, the value of a car with this kind of conversion was decreased since it was no longer original.
However, swing axles have there own advantages over IRS. For one thing IRS is a bit weaker, having three major weak points. According to Keith Seume in his “VW Beetle Performance Handbook” the output shafts on the differential are usually the first to break under high horsepower. Next to break are the CV joints, especially if the lubrication runs dry. Finally the axles may fail, although this requires a lot of horsepower to do so. These types of transmissions are also more costly to strengthen. Swing axles are all around stronger and ultimately they are capable of delivering higher horsepower to the pavement without burning a big hole through a person’s wallet like IRS does. In addition they are easy to obtain since numerous were manufactured from the late 40s to the late 60s.
There is another factor to consider that causes decreased performance on both swing axle suspensions and IRS when ride height is changed. When a VW is raised or lowered the shock will either be stretched or compressed accordingly, and tow in (swing axles), alignment, and camber will be changed. This will cause it to operate outside of its optimum performance range, and thus affect the performance of the vehicle negatively.
There is now a new product that will make a swing axle suspension perform better than was ever though possible. It is called “The Adjustable Camber and Alignment Unit for Swing axle Suspensions”, or ACU for short. It is the purpose of this report to define its function.
The Adjustable Camber and Alignment Unit
The ACU is intended to replace the stock axles in swing-axle Volkswagens without hacking or welding of any kind. It is a fixed joint located in between the transaxle and the wheel, which will make the camber and alignment fully adjustable – something that was never before possible on swing axle Volkswagens. It is designed so that it can be adjusted once, tightened, and then be left alone to operate as designed by the factory – that is to say that the suspension geometry will not change whether the car is raised or lowered. The invention allows for incremental adjustment, up to twenty degrees (ten degrees in each direction), of both the camber and alignment of the Volkswagen swing-axle suspension. It gives 2.9 inches of ride height adjustment in any direction (a total of 5.8 inches), while still retaining no camber. It uses the gear oil from the transaxle just as the original axle does.
Advantages over Independent Rear Suspensions
The first advantage of this invention is that it is a genuine Atomwerk product and therefore fits many of our suspension products that are now available, or soon to be. Since it is an Atomwerk product the quality is impeccable.
Another advantage of this unit is that the original transaxle can now be pushed far beyond its old performance levels. Volkswagens with this unit may have more powerful engines, and the owners will not have to worry about axle breakage, because the unit is far stronger than the stock swing-axle.
Of course the single handed biggest advantage is its adjustability. The following is adjustable in this unit:
2. Toe In
4. Shock compression range
Did you notice that absolutely none of these factors can be adjusted in stock IRS?
What does all of this adjustment mean?
The bottom line is that more adjustment means that your suspension will be tunable and ultimately your car may have higher performance. Is it so absurd that a swing axle can be high performance? Not at all. Early Porsches pulled off great suspension performance using swing axles that had no adjustment, and these cars are still competitive in their classes. With our unit a full tire contact patch is possible, whether if the car is raised or lowered. This has the benefit of better tire tread wear, which in turn extends the life of the tire. Racing and high performance vehicles with this unit, that are either raised or lowered, will experience quicker acceleration and better handling due to a full tire contact patch.
When used in conjunction with our Drop/Raise spring plates and the Adjustable Hub the vehicles cornering ability will be like nothing that you have experienced in a swing axle VW. It is safe to say that this level of adjustment and intelligence that is built within is like no other! Prepare to surprise the competition.
There is the ease of adjustment. The operator will be able to dial in his or her camber and alignment on a standard alignment rack with just the turn of a bolt. In addition, special offsets can be made to accommodate any tire and wheel combination. It will not ruin the value of the vehicle, and it does not take a professional fabricator to install. The ACU may prove to be the cheapest way to turn a swing axle into a high performer, without ruining the value of the vehicle.
The ACU also has the ability to recirculate the gear oil. Internally there are three pumps per ACU unit. These pumps not only lubricate the bearings far better that a stock suspension but more importantly is its ability to return the oil to the transaxle. This allows for a cooling option if a common oil cooler is place in between. Can you do that with an IRS?
While the ACU has been designed and our prototypes have been tested, we must humbly admit that we are still “The little guys”. That being said, we don’t share the destructive corporate mentality that “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit”. This mentality has left people feeling like they are on their own. Atomwerk is here for you and that’s not something that we intend to change.
We are a small company still, yet we have a vision and a plan. If you are interested in what you have just read or you know someone who might be, we need your help. Keep in mind that many of our suspension components can be used on their own and a person can purchase it piece by piece, much like a high quality tool set. Anyone who chooses to purchase from us will get a whole lot in return. Thank you for taking the time to read this.