Summer 2020 update.
THIS DIDN'T WORK OUT.
Leaving this post here for reference in case it is of interest to people looking to lower their vanagon, especially if they are going for a bigger tire.
In reality, the ride was too harsh and I changed it up with 16" wheels and 16" BFGs at stock height.
Thanks Audi A6 wheels.. but I'm moving on. It's me, not you.
It all started when I was looking around the interwebs for some ideas on going more "rugged" looking and found this photo and just about drooled.
I like this a lot. Looks pretty beefy, and took me a while to track down because I had a hard time believing they were the early bus wheels that I'd already seen, but they were.. so I picked up a set from Jbugs.
Now. Tires. A friend with a Vanagon was in the process of upgrading to 16s for big brakes, so I snapped up his 5 set of 215/75 15 BFGs on steel wheels that he was letting go of.
I'd already made the decision to learn how to mount and balance tires, so buying these used from a trusted source was a no brainer. I won't go into too much details on the tire mounting (as I made a video here anyway) but I highly recommend adding it to your skill set.
New Stance Version 1
Now. I love the wheel design. Love the tires. Love the look.. from the side.. which is mostly how I photographed it.
I hadn't thought things through really. I was going from 7.5 wide A6 alloys, to these bus wheels which are only 5.5" wide, and although that's stock and not unusual it just bugged me when I saw it from behind.
At the same time, I switched out to Koni Red shocks, to discover that my previous rears were gas compressed and were compensating for some rear end sag, so now the ass end looked a bit saggy too. With Koni Reds, going up higher isn't a good option, and spending a bunch of money to go stock height, which doesn't look great with these wheels and tires, I decided to lower the van.
Yes. Lowered.. with all terrain tires is a bit of a confused strategy, but keep reading.
There's a whole lot of info out there on vanagon wheels, spring and shocks, but finding specific "This wheel, with this tire with this shock with this spring turns out like this" data is tough. I just had to make a decision and hope for the best.
It was between Weitec springs (from BusDepot) or Carat reproductions (from Vancafe) and I went with the Weitecs fearing that the Carats would make little to no difference based on some of the ride height info I found in forums.
Changing out the springs wasn't too bad. The only time I used a spring compressor was to remove the stock front springs. After that I could man handle everything in there with a bit of effort.
New Stance Version 2
The result was problematic. I instantly experienced problems with front fender rubbing while turning and hitting a bump. Ugh. It was soooooooooper low. This isn't an offset problem, it's a turning problem. Looking at it, the nose is a bit lower. The back clearance is fine, and in fact I've since added a 1/4" spacer because the wheels were binding a little from a tight center bore.
What to do!
Well I decided I wanted to try and save this setup. I had money tied up in the wheel / tire combo, and money tied up in Koni Reds + Weitecs so I decided to play with spacers, and add an aggressive bump stop height to protect the worst case scenario.
I did a WHOLE bunch of reading on vanagon spacers. Geometry, and spacer options and when it actually comes to options there aren't many. I found a guy who had cast some out of aluminum, and a bunch of rear spacer info made out of cutting boards, but the rear is a simple doughnut. The front is not.
I decided that a 3/4" spacer would be a good place to start to balance out the ride height. I bought a 1" thick High Density Polypropylene cutting board, because HDPP turned up as a choice for custom spacers in similar applications. After that I just made it happen with what I had. The desire was to make a 3/4" spacer, and leave a 1/4" lip to seat inside the rubber cup that holds the top of the spring in place.
I ended up using a hole cutter for the basic shape, and a middle step where I used a polisher as a make shift lathe ending up with something very similar to the aluminum version I'd seen online.
New Stance Version 3.
Does it work? Well it sure works for me. The level is good, and no rubbing! I also fitted a brand new set of uncut bump stops from Go Westy, expecting to have to trim them - but in fact haven't! I've twice hit the bump stops, and it wasn't fun, but a lot more fun than ripping the fenders off.
The ride is firm, in a way that any ride is firm when you're making a handling decision to firm it up. Right now it's a bit "springy" because the Konis are set too soft.. I just don't have the energy to pull things apart yet one more time to fix that, but probably will before winter hits for real.
Possibly a strange decision to lower a vehicle having put all terrain tires on it it, but
- I really like the look, and with the recent tint it's become a real head turner
- It handles like it's on rails
- I'm going to be on road 99% of the time. This is a daily driver in bad weather and when it's not too hot.
- This is my winter daily driver, and this setup should handle well in the moderate snow we get here in Denver.
New Stance Version 4?
It's not out of the question. I love these rims, except for their width. If you search for wheel widening services in hot rod and custom forums all paths lead to one manufacturer who you can bet your life on (which you are). Seriously considering widening up the rears and maybe all 4. He's got q 4 week waiting list so the plan would be to ship him 2 new rims, have them widened. Switch out them out to the rears, then either send the rears for widening or just call it quits. I like the idea of running these wheels on my trailer too so no big deal to end up with 6.