By on July 2, 2015

Stanced car. Shutterstock user PavelKant

Casey writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I had a coworker who had an older Acura NSX that was lowered. He complained about having to buy new tires because they were worn on the inside edge (down to the belts!). He had, what I thought to be, extreme negative camber due to an improper lowering. He said it was supposed to be like that. I have seen other cars running the negative camber and I’ve seen cars that were lowered without. So question, is there a reason to run extreme negative camber or is this just a bad lowering job? 

Sajeev answers:

I agree with your assessment. Very few, if any, performance cars come from the factory aligned aggressively enough to wear tires that unevenly. I reckon that NSX was lowered, tweaked to reflect well upon the Stancenation. To live the Hellaflush lifestyle! To embrace the image of performance, without necessarily improving actual performance.

No seriously, facades are awesome like that. Because I’d be a hypocrite if I said otherwise.

New Cadillacs and Lincolns = Cooler in Houston

Now to make inferences, and foolishly justify them.

There’s always a reason for this: a subtle lowering can improve performance and stance at the same time. On an NSX? Probably not, since it isn’t a buffalo-butted, blunt nosed family sedan jacked up to the sky by the factory. I reckon the fastest NSX on a less-than-perfect track has the factory ride height with a slightly more aggressive wheel alignment. A hellaflush NSX will lose…if that was the point.

It’s totally not the point. We all have a need to look cool, even those who claim otherwise in the comments section below. To wit, I put 1.5″ front lowering springs (factory spring rate) from these guys on my Fox Cougar to both look cool with my 17×8.5″ reproduction Cobra wheels and retain factory-like ride/handling traits. The rears have a small (1/8″) spacer because of the mishmash between wheel offset and new axles from a rear disc brake conversion. All this effort for a modest lowering job is important on a suspension as half-baked as a Fox body Ford.

I avoided the “improper” or “bad lowering job” you mentioned. Well, at least I think so.

Some folks think more aggressive suspension and wheel/tire modifications add extra cool factor to their lives. Perhaps I might be one of them, even if I bristle at the sight of most Hellaflush rides. But Hellaflush riders certainly don’t give a shit about what you or I think.

So let your coworker buddy enjoy his cool looking NSX. If you can’t resist the urge to twist the knife, take him to a track day and let serious racers give him an education that he might deserve. Or not.

UPDATE: TTAC commentator “Sketch” corrected me about the NSX’s factory tire wear issues, sadly my Google-fu failed us all. My apologies. 

[Lead image: Shutterstock user PavelKant]

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61 Comments on “Piston Slap: What’s so Hellabad about Hellaflush?...”

  • avatar
    John R

    damn shame what they did to that NSX…

    When I was younger I saw this trend on the horizon. I was praying to God that this fad wouldn’t dig in. Fell on deaf ears.

    Another reason I’m Agnostic teetering on Atheist

    • 0 avatar

      While I was getting new tires on my truck and getting it aligned I saw a lowered old G-body Regal coupe a brand new set of tiny white walls and an alignment. I wonder how they pulled off an alignment on a car that looked like it had just had the good old fashioned coil cutting to achieve the right stance.

      Yeah I don’t mind when it gets done to a car that was produced by the thousands upon thousands but something that might have value irritates me.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s right, all I see in that photo is a COMPLETELY ruined NSX.

  • avatar

    A suspension without any travel isn’t a suspension anymore.
    This trend is as stupid as the backward offset wheels back in the 90s.

    • 0 avatar

      Lowering a car is a trend that goes back about 3/4 of a century. Then as now, it usually diminished the handling quite a bit. Still, how else could one make a ’49 Mercury cool?

      • 0 avatar

        Sometimes lowering the suspension a bit will improve handling. Carol Shelby lowered the original Cobra Mustang by an inch or so. He also braced the shock towers, put in fat sway bars, stiffer bushings, stiffer springs/shocks, and added traction bars to the back. It resulted in a substantial improvement over the stock Mustang’s lumbering Falcon handling qualities. Unfortunately too many kids are not interested in the science/engineering aspects of car mods, and are only interested in the ‘cool’ factor. That’s why you see aluminum park bench ‘spoilers’ bolted to the back of Civics.

        • 0 avatar

          Not just sometimes! Properly lowering the suspension on a street car will almost always improve handling on smooth roads or at the track. As you suggest, most who do it on purely street-driven vehicles are simply misguided, and should probably be looking to rally cars rather than DTM or Super GT touring cars for inspiration on what actually works for public roads.

          That said, even those extreme purpose-built smooth-track race cars have bigger fender gaps, less camber, more sidewall, and more suspension travel than the most ridiculous modified street cars. So maybe the primary purpose really is to cripple the vehicle in order to demonstrate that the owner has so much money that he can just waste it on flamboyant ruination, just as RideHeight suggested.

      • 0 avatar

        “how else could one make a ’49 Mercury cool?”

        Buy a Lincoln, like a proper American!

  • avatar

    “A suspension without any travel isn’t a suspension anymore.
    ” -DRIVER8

    In places with excellent roads, this might be fun.

    A car lowered this much wouldn’t last 10 minutes here.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The whole super negative camber thing is a result of running much-wider-than-stock wheels and tires. The camber is done to tuck the top of the tire inside the fender lip (which is usually cut and rolled too). This is strictly an appearance thing- the car handles worse and wears the insides of the tire out quickly. The double-wishbone-era Hondas are easy to adjust camber on, so they are the most common fashion victims with VWs a close second.

    • 0 avatar

      This. The extreme negative camber is needed to fit the tires under the fender. I can’t imagine how much the tires rub on the inside of the fender during hard turns.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        If you look up close the fender lips are kinked and wrinkly, even after being rolled and shaved. Super-stiff springs and shocks are also common on stanced cars, to minimize the suspension travel.

  • avatar

    Im OK with Hellaflush, just not on high performance cars. Thankfully at least the damage is reversible. But I would prefer it if folks kept that crap to Volkswagens and Buicks.

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry, but the term R.I.C.E. (Racing Inspired Cosmetic Enhancement) will forever refer to the Hondas/Toyotas/Nissans of the world – as those marques are the originators of the “style”.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure your coworker really gets to complain – I mean, live and let live about those sort of modifications, but he’s made his choice, and should live with the tire-wearing ramifications.

  • avatar

    The slammed or stanced look is the bell-bottom pants of our era. It looks cool on the right body if the fit is right, but they are a moment frozen in time and will look very dated within a few years. In the case of this poor NSX, it’s neither the right body nor the right fit.

  • avatar

    Sajeev is wrong about the NSX on this one. It does indeed come from the factory with an alignment that wears down the inside significantly faster than the outside, particularly on the front. My 91 NSX is stock down to the alignment, and the outside of the front tires still look like they have >50% of their tread when the inside is completely flat.

    For a less anecdotal answer:
    “The front tires tend to wear out first on the inside. Turn the steering wheel all the way to one side to inspect the full width of the tread. This wear is caused by both the toe-out and negative camber of the front end.”

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks for putting me in check, you get mentioned in the update at the bottom.

      This is a great link I shoulda found:

      • 0 avatar

        Honda did the same factory alignment thing to [at least the early] S2000’s, the rear tires on my ’03 never made it past 10k w/o them being slicks (or belts) on the inside.

    • 0 avatar

      350Zs and to a lesser degree G35 coupes had a propensity for rapid uneven tire wear for much of the same reason. Good for handling, bad for tire wear.

      The hellaflush stupidstance is a whole ‘nother story. Basically taking what a suspension and tire is supposed to do, and retarding it past a point that is dangerous for handling and stability.

      • 0 avatar

        Yep on the 350Z the fronts are very sensitive to alignment adjustments, especially toe I’ve noticed. The camber is not adjustable from the factory and is set in such a way that is clearly not ideal.

        If your car is so low, with such wide tires, that you have throw the camber that far off your doing it “wrong”. A slight drop, with stiffer springs and proper tires is the right way. And personally I think that looks a million times better then the insane drops people are pulling off these days. It’s especially puke inducing on performance cars that are already pretty optimized in stock form. Clearly a NSX doesn’t need a drop, it handles (from all indications) perfectly as is.

    • 0 avatar

      Seconded. I haven’t noticed it so much on the front, but the inside of the rears on my 95 look practically new on the outside and almost like race slicks on the inside. The ride height of the one in the article looks lowered, but the camber doesn’t look that far off from stock.

    • 0 avatar

      Tell us more about your NSX! Would also like photos!

    • 0 avatar

      The factory alignment specs for the Mercury Marauder also cause excessive tire wear on the inside due to the increased camber and toe out.

      Increasing camber means that more of the tread is on the road under hard cornering, thus improving grip. Take a car with a more pedestrian camber setting corner it hard on a regular basis and the outside of the tires will wear quickly. Add some camber and the tire will wear flat. Back in the day I usually had the alignment specs changed on my cars to add an extra 1/2-1 degree of camber to make the tires wear flat.

      So the problem with the NSX, Marauder and other cars that have performance oriented alignment specs from the factory is not the factory settings it is the driver who doesn’t drive the car as intended.

      Now regarding the toe out, that is done to achieve quicker turn in at the cost of quicker inside tire wear and driving the car hard doesn’t do as much to combat that wear.

      Combine toe out and even semi aggressive camber settings and you have a recipe for inside tire wear for the average driver that does not take advantage of their car’s abilities on a regular consistent basis.

      • 0 avatar

        No disagreement on what you’re saying, but I’ll just point out that the aforementioned toe-out on the NSX is actually on the front wheels, so it’s used to slow the steering response. The rear tires have a lot of toe-in for stability. They started with 6 mm the first couple years of production, but later changed it to 3 mm after owners complained of excessive tire wear.

        I see that the rear camber spec isn’t even severe, at -1.5 degrees +/- 0.5 degrees. That’s less camber than even a lot of front-heavy street cars. Rear toe spec is 3 mm +/- 1 mm. I’d start within spec at -1.0 degrees camber and 2 mm of toe and go from there.

    • 0 avatar

      I remember the NSX being known for tire wear. I always figured it was a combination of soft rubber (better grip) and alignment specs to make it a little harder to crash the car (especially for weekend warriors out to have fun with their rides).

      Seemed like a good business decision to me. It’s bad for your company rep if too many of your customers crash their sports cars (auto journalist melodrama about the 911’s oversteer notwithstanding).

    • 0 avatar

      Regardless of the factory alignment settings, the car simply needs to be set up to suit the driving style of the user. If it’s wearing out the inside of the tire because the driver doesn’t corner aggressively enough or track it often enough for such aggressive settings, then reduce the camber and/or toe toward that of a more typical street car.

      This will have dramatic effects on the tire wear and may significantly alter on-track handling, but not street handling, where the surfaces and tire temperatures are inconsistent and a far more measured driving style is necessary to account for those variables. If someone is pushing the limits of their ability to control such a car too far on public roads, then a bit of extra camber or toe is not going to help them in the end.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Modifying an NSX will result in summary execution when I’m king of the world.

    Other things punishable by death will include sending more than 3 emails a day, scheduling meetings at 4:30pm on Friday in the summer, and leaving lengthy voicemails.

    • 0 avatar

      Knock that Friday meeting rule back to 3:00 and I’m on board.

    • 0 avatar

      Please add scheduling meetings at lunchtime, unless you are buying lunch! And first thing in the morning for that matter. Luckily, I work for a very meeting averse company. Yes, such a thing actually exists, but I still have to deal with meetings with clients (some of whom seem to just relish them).

      There is very little done in a multi-person meeting that can’t be more efficiently done with an e-mail or a quick telephone conversation.

      As for “hella-flush”, just say hella-no.

    • 0 avatar

      Except with clients, I tend to call back anyone who leaves a voicemail without actually listening to the voicemail. I almost never lose anything that way.

  • avatar


    Beyond the poor grammar typical of modern it’s-not-just-a-hobby-it’s-a-lifestyle subcultures, it looks like something heavy fell on the car and broke all the suspension’s pickup points.

    How the hell does slamming a car like this make it better? A 1.5″ drop is one thing – this is just stupid.

    The guy who does Regular Car Reviews did an episode on a stanced E36 M3 with great lines like “bottom out over a Pop Tart” and “Bro, my car’s so low I can’t use it!”

    Bottom line?

    “Thou shalt not hellaflush thine NSX, so sayeth the Lord thy God. It is abomination.”

  • avatar

    I’d expect this to be huge in China.

    The Mandarins used to like crippling their women with foot-binding and themselves with finger nails grown so long they couldn’t even dress themselves.

    They’d love crippling perfectly good cars, too.

  • avatar

    There’s nothing wrong with Hellaflush per se. Let’s face it, they’re car enthusiasts just like us, and they’ve put just as much work into their cars’ wheel/tire/suspension fitment as a lot of us who have built race cars.

    The problem (with some of them) is safety. If your car modifications make the car a danger to you or others on the road, then there’s a problem.

  • avatar

    There are two hellaflush cars which drive round here.

    1) A mid 80’s 240 Estate (quad headlamps), in navy blue with bowling ball tires like shown, and gold rims. A young black hipster type drives it, which surprised me.

    2) A circa 2008 Jetta, in dark metallic red pearl (nice color) with gold Enkei wheels and stickers all over it. Mexicans drive it, which did not surprise me.

    • 0 avatar

      I thought about getting the quad headlamps on mine, but money is better spent on other things.

      • 0 avatar

        I think I like the flush lamps better on those. They look so ancient with the quads. This also goes for Bertone models, of which I sort of desire.

        But I fear trim and parts availability, and finding someone old enough to service it.

        • 0 avatar

          Around my place its just one or two 90’s Nissans, even then the chambers not all drunk. Though, our roads are a mess, PERFECT for bodykits and HARD low rides!

          Near my Fathers (where the roads are worse) someone has a new Civic sedan all “Flushed”, never gets driven though.

          Fyi I prefer the simple “TV screen” headlights on 240s. You guys should see the oddjob front ends some Volvo guys fabricate.

  • avatar

    Also that pic of the XTS and MKS may be the most ghetto @ss thing I’ve seen all year.

  • avatar

    Are the scythed chariot wheels on the Caddy and Lincoln street legal? Looks like if you drive close enough to a sidewalk you’d mow everyone down.

  • avatar

    How does that NSX get over speed bumps?

  • avatar

    For autocross my Miata is both lowered and has increased camber. Actually, not enough camber… I need to go get offset bushings so I can get some more. Once I do I’ll be sitting around -2.5 front and probably -2.2 rear

  • avatar

    If you live where roads are perfect I understand a subtle lowering job, messing with chambers just dumb if you ain’t racing yo Honda.

  • avatar

    I’m surprised no tire manufacturer has bought in with an inner angled section of tread that would ride flat on these rolling abortions.

    • 0 avatar

      Hehe I was thinking about the pic you are using as your avatar the other day. I don’t see it used much any more, which is a pity.

      Faded memes, passing away with time like sands through the glass. Never to be rewound, or regathered.

  • avatar

    I think some commenters here are missing the fact that the pictured car is a stock photo, and not necessarily representative of the car in question. It’s hard to come up with a theory without seeing what the original poster considers to be extreme negative camber.

    Unless you’ve got ridiculous camber, as in the stock photo, toe causes much more inside tire edge wear than camber. Factory 911s are known for this, I believe, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the NSX is similar. Inside (positive) toe has a stabilizing effect on the axle that’s toed-in, and that’s often important on mid- and rear-engined cars which can act like pendelums in hard cornering. Toe-out on the front makes the steering more responsive, but causes the same wear issues.

    I run a little more negative camber than stock on my lightly-lowered car (for grip/handling purposes), very modest toe, and my tires wear perfectly evenly.

  • avatar

    It just means he needs to drive harder to wear down the outsides.

    Older Hondas on double wishbones didn’t do too badly when lowered a lot. The roll center didn’t drop as much as it would on cars with McPherson struts, so you had to get really low before handling started to degrade. So don’t worry too much about those slammed Civics.

  • avatar

    I miss the days when big wheels meant 14″ “Plus 1” wheels on my ’83 Rabbit GTI. The whole “Stance Nation” thing makes me double-facepalm.

  • avatar

    As an experiment because I had the parts I ran about 4-5 degrees camber on an autocross, on a 175 section tyre at least an inch of the tread was not touching the road static. Turn-in was incredibly aggressive, but I was getting oversteer everywhere because the back couldn’t keep up (no surprise). With some rear end mods and dialled back a bit it would be interesting for a track setup, the 1-1.5° or so I normally run is spot on for the road.

    People do stupid stuff though, I remember 30 years ago a car running 2″ wider wheels and lowered so that it would now be called tucking tyre, and on every corner that wasn’t billiard table smooth (ie nearly all) it would scrape the tyre on the wheel arch and I would cringe each time.

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