I recently came across an issue with my Whiteline Top Hats rubbing the upper spring perch on the MIN Camber setting. I thought the noise was my broken spring isolator since the spring was popping in low speed situations. However, when I went to replace the isolator I found this… Sigh.
I’m not a huge fan of WL anymore, so after I found this issue, I’m decided to make my car – Whiteline free. However, since there are a few options out there for top hats, I thought I would make a list and go over the pros and cons of each. And just to quickly recap my setup, I basically have a 2005 STi suspension with RCE yellow springs on my Bugeye. Here are few options I am considering.
Whiteline Com C Top Hats [front]
These top hats are designed like OEM, with high durometer rubber and an offset bearing for caster/camber adjustment. I was drawn to these for their simplicity. However, WL has had quality control issues so some of the order sets may still be out here. If you order these, make sure they are the twin-shielded bearings or they will make noise almost immediately. The first set I received was the open bearing design and they made loud popping noises as soon as I put the car on the ground. I’ll see if I can dig up some old pics later.
Now I have the issue mentioned at the beginning of this post. While they seemed to have rectified most of their Q/C issues, I’m done taking any more chances with them. I just want a low maintenance car that I can drive consistently, week in, week out.
STi Group-N Top Hats – [front/rear]
These are basically stock 05 STi top hats. In fact, my 2005 STi had what seemed to be Group-N parts everywhere. I wasted a few dollars before I figured that out. These are low maintenance as they get, however, no caster or camber adjustments are available. They are the cheapest option up front at $170. The rears cost around $270.
Racecomp Engineering Camber Plates [front/rear]
I love the adjustment design on these. They add 0.8 degrees of caster as well. However, since they are camber plates they probably raise my ride height, although these are supposed to minimize that. They also make a set for the rears as well. I don’t think anyone else makes a set of camber plates for the rear struts. Even though these are called “Street” camber plates, some maintenance should be expected.
The main downside to these is the cost. However, they are within the range of most camber plates at $420.
Ground Control Caster/Camber Plates [front/rear]
Back in the day, when I drove fox-chassis Thunderbirds, a company called Maximum Motorsports made caster/camber plates for those cars. I loved the adjustability and how the car drove afterward. I never understood why aftermarket Subies plates didn’t use a similar design.
Ground Control makes a similar style caster/camber plate that is freely adjustable in both caster and camber settings. This gives you greater control over your alignment settings. Even though I usually just maxed out the caster setting. These plates are the only ones I could find that are designed to not raise ride height. I found the following post from user GC_Adam on the FT86club forums:
No, Our camberplates do not raise the car. They actually give back some of the bump travel lost when you lower these cars.
In the pic the green line represents the fender…Now see how we’ve moved the upper spring seat and strut mounting point further up effectively giving back bump travel lost when lowering your car.
With other mass-produced off shore camberplates that mount flat from the bottom you end up losing valuable stack height and bump travel.
I have had my eye on these plates for some time. However, they are the most spendy at $440. And while I don’t have a strut tower brace, I was thinking about getting one. I doubt these plates would allow for one. That isn’t enough to be a dealbreaker.
EDIT: Just realized these only work with coilover springs.
MSI Camber Plates (Street) [front]
These terrify me. Haha.
The quality looks great, it is just the thought of trying to align those holes up to set your camber. I’d be afraid that I would eventually strip or cross-thread one that wasn’t perfectly aligned. It’s probably easier than it looks, especially with some load off of the suspension, but from personal experience lining up suspension parts seem to never go as planned. But, with these plates, you don’t have to worry about camber settings changing due to slippage. It also looks like you can adjust caster by rotating the placement of the studs. There’s quite a bit of adjustability there for pretty simple design.
As with most camber plates, I think these will raise the front end since I’m on OEM struts. The price is on the low end of most camber plates at $300.
Used OEM Top Hats
I would only go with used OEMs as a time bridge to one of the options above.
There are some other top hats/camber plates out there as well, but most of them are designed for coilovers. I have run coilovers in the past and I plan on sticking with fixed perch struts for my own well being. When I had coilovers, I could not stop tweaking them. I would pull over to the side of the road and make adjustments. I could not stop myself.