The Furybird I had some rather nice Nitron dampers on it, so I wanted to re-use these. However, I'd cocked up when I ordered them originally. I'd got the closed and open damper lengths from Mark Fisher for the Spax units he used as standard (I think they now use ProTech dampers as standard) and got the Nitron dampers made to those specs. However, Spax closed lengths are measured when the top of the damper hits the large bump-stop - there's still quite a lot of travel left. Nitron don't quote their closed lengths that way... The net result was that the dampers were a bit short on travel and due to the way they were made were actually rather too long.

The other problem was that in a rare moment of economisation, I'd ordered the dampers with metalastic bushes - given that the whole of the suspension is going to be rose-jointed, it makes no sense to have spongy damper bushes.

The length issue I'm hoping to resolve by ordering a lowered chassis but keeping the damper mounts standard - this should allow me to use the extra damper length at the front of the car, although I'll have to change the damper mounts at the back of the car by raising them a fair bit.

As for the bushes, I measured the OD of the metalastic bushes and it seemed to be 1 1/8". I found some spherical bearings with an OD of 1 1/8", ordered 8 of them, and started getting the metalastic bushes out of the dampers. This is, of course, a total pig of a job. I find the easiest (sic) way to do it is to drill lots of holes in the rubber centre until it and the inner metal tube fall out, put a hacksaw through the resulting hole and very very careful saw the outer part of the bush into two pieces. Takes hours, smells a lot, and is bloody hard work.

Once the metalastic bush is removed you're left with this -

Then it's just a question of using a suitably sized socket to press the spherical bearing in using the vice, with plenty of bearing lock fluid just in case. The spherical bearings have a 1/2" internal bore, the same as the metalastic ones, and the same as the existing mounts on the chassis and suspension parts. The bearings are held very firmly in place once they've been pressed in and it's certainly cheaper than getting them converted professionally.

The bearings I used were National Bearings YSSB8s from
Autosport Bearings - they're stainless steel with PTFE liners and are rated at maximum static radial load of 26,100 lbs - should be just about enough...

However, after I'd done half of the dampers and converted them to spherical bearings, I decided that these Nitron NTX dampers could go on the FuryRacer. And I'd buy a maxi-bling set of new Nitron NTRs for the Furybird II. As ever, things didn't quite work out that way, because on of the NTX dampers broke.
  I think it's fairly obvious what the problem is - the weld (pretty but not much penetration) has failed where the mount has been welded to the body of the shock. It may be fixable - and then again it may not - apparently if I try rewelding it there's a 50% chance it'll trash the shock.

Also, there's the other 3 shocks to consider - if there's a 50% chance that each of them will fail to survive welding, what's the chance of all 4 coming through unscathed, or do I just leave the others and wait for them to fail in this way mid-race? Hardly an appetising prospect.

So, I got in touch with Guy Evans at Nitron. This is the tale of woe which arose as a result -

I sent an e-mail to Guy Evans, head honcho at Nitron, asking if they'd be able to fix the bust damper. He wrote back saying that they didn't support these dampers any more, and there was nothing they could do. He suggested I weld it back together again, saying that the damper would have a 50% chance of working if I did...

Now, I don't think I'm a particularly stroppy person but the dampers are only 5 years old, cost about 800 quid when I bought them, and were sold as being factory servicable. I don't think that 5 years is outside the normal working lifespan of a set of dampers, and as such I was a bit miffed that Nitron's aftersales support seemed to amount to shrugged shoulders. So I sent a rather terse e-mail back to Guy Evans suggesting, in entirely non-insulting language, that I didn't think this was particularly stellar customer service and suggesting that I might be buying a couple of sets of ProTech shocks in the near future rather than the Nitron NTRs I'd been planning to get for the FurybirdII.

Guy Evans, in his reply, said that he found my e-mail 'annoying' and 'offensive', which I found surprising since it was merely commenting (justifiably I'd say) on his firm's customer service. He said that the NTXs (the dampers I had) were a product they'd stopped supporting 2 years ago (only a year after they stopped selling them) and that they were a product they were 'glad to have left behind'. Apparently they decided stop servicing them because the tools required to service them were 'taking up space in the workshop'. Yup, you couldn't make it up.

So after explaining how crap the product he used to sell was, clarifying that customer service depends on whether they've got enough spare workshop space and complaining about my insolence in criticising his firm, Mr. Evans said he 'always' offered a discount on a new set of dampers in a situation like this (news to me, he hadn't mentioned it in his earlier e-mail).

I replied in a carefully worded e-mail so as to not bruise Mr. Evans' tender feelings or upset him again, asking what sort of discount was on the table, and he replied saying 30%. Now I was going to get a pair of NTRs for the Furybird anyway, so I wrote back saying that was fine and asking for a total figure including P&P, VAT and the cost of the little mounting top-hat pieces. And never heard anything more.

So, congratulations to Nitron for continuing the great tradition of British industry. Great product, reasonable prices, and a quite
appalling level of customer service. We'll put Nitron's dampers in the same pile as Hi-Spec Motorsport's brakes and Barmby Engineering's wheels.

The one ray of sunshine was that Guy Evans let slip that the ProTechs were designed by him, and are internally the same as the NTX dampers I already had. Now I've always been very happy with the performance of the NTXs, and Guy even admitted that they'd probably be fine on a car as light as a BEC racer. So, 2 sets of ProTechs it is. And I have to say that so far ProTech have been absolutely fantastic on the old customer service front - let's see if that continues...

So, at the moment, I'm waiting for a set of ProTech dampers to arrive

Current status:
Waiting for ProTechs to arrive. Then I've got to start thinking about spring rates.