Video: A Look at the Unique Suspension Used on Modern Formula 1 Cars (Torsion Bars, Really?)

https://www.youtube.com/embed/FNepYY7KxaA

Formula 1 may be at the cutting edge of automotive performance, but multiple constraints like weight, packaging and—believe it or not—cost force teams to create unique ways to get the maximum amount of performance out of its cars.

Take, for instance, the front suspension on this Formula 1 car. Instead of coil springs, cars use torsion bars. How does that seemingly old-school technology translate? Watch and learn. 

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Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/25/20 9:32 a.m.

Aren't torsion bars really just coil springs that aren't wound up into a coil?

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
11/25/20 9:50 a.m.

Or is it like an infinite number of infinitely small coils in one piece?

Dead_Sled
Dead_Sled HalfDork
11/25/20 10:07 a.m.

Coil springs are really just long torsion bars packaged differently.  The majority of the "spring" in a coil spring comes from the twisting of the coil rather than bending.

I've always thought a torsion bar front suspension would be cool for a challenge car.  Weight down low, more room under hood for engine swaps.  

Mr_Asa
Mr_Asa SuperDork
11/25/20 10:08 a.m.

Without watching, I'd bet part of it is to get the CG down as low as possible.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/25/20 10:35 a.m.
buzzboy said:

Or is it like an infinite number of infinitely small coils in one piece?

Duuuuude. What if we're all just made of springs all the way down? 

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/25/20 10:36 a.m.
Dead_Sled said:

I've always thought a torsion bar front suspension would be cool for a challenge car.  Weight down low, more room under hood for engine swaps.  

There have already been Challenge cars with torsion suspension, because my CRX has them in the front and I know they've been to the Challenge.

It's one of the few things a Toyota truck and a 1st gen CRX share, when I think about it.

slantvaliant (Forum Supporter)
slantvaliant (Forum Supporter) UltraDork
11/25/20 12:26 p.m.
Dead_Sled said:

I've always thought a torsion bar front suspension would be cool for a challenge car.  Weight down low, more room under hood for engine swaps.  

Longitudinal torsion bars up front sometimes limit header placement in front-engine cars.  That's one reason there are coil conversions for classic Mopars.  

Me? I like my T-bars.  

buzzboy
buzzboy Dork
11/25/20 5:34 p.m.

My first car(standard beetle) had torsion springs all around. I proceeded to do stupid and regretable things to them.

adam525i (Forum Supporter)
adam525i (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
11/25/20 5:43 p.m.

Ferdinand Porsche, still cutting edge 90 years later.

AaronT
AaronT Reader
11/26/20 11:16 a.m.
Keith Tanner said:
buzzboy said:

Or is it like an infinite number of infinitely small coils in one piece?

Duuuuude. What if we're all just made of springs all the way down? 

I did not expect to see psychedelics sprinkled on my GRM this morning.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/26/20 11:42 a.m.
Dead_Sled said:

Coil springs are really just long torsion bars packaged differently.  The majority of the "spring" in a coil spring comes from the twisting of the coil rather than bending.

I've always thought a torsion bar front suspension would be cool for a challenge car.  Weight down low, more room under hood for engine swaps.  

And shaft rockers.  What cars had torsion bars and shaft rockers from the factory?

Streetwiseguy
Streetwiseguy MegaDork
11/26/20 12:16 p.m.
Pete. (l33t FS) said:
Dead_Sled said:

Coil springs are really just long torsion bars packaged differently.  The majority of the "spring" in a coil spring comes from the twisting of the coil rather than bending.

I've always thought a torsion bar front suspension would be cool for a challenge car.  Weight down low, more room under hood for engine swaps.  

And shaft rockers.  What cars had torsion bars and shaft rockers from the factory?

Memories of Mother Mopar...

Cedricn
Cedricn New Reader
11/27/20 2:54 a.m.

Torsion bars, coil springs, leaf springs, its just a spring, they all do the same thing more or less. Chose the one that fits the packaging best and dont get hung up on the historical parts of it :)

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
11/27/20 8:39 a.m.

Leaf springs have the feature of internal friction if there's more than one leaf, so they're a little different. Coils and torsion are - to my understanding - identical in how they function and really only differ in packaging. 

Vigo (Forum Supporter)
Vigo (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/27/20 8:42 a.m.

And shaft rockers.  What cars had torsion bars and shaft rockers from the factory?

My 1980 Chrysler Lebaron. Race inspired? Shhhheeeit, how about inspired the racing am i right?! 

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/27/20 9:23 a.m.

In reply to Keith Tanner :

Don't forget quarter elliptical leaves.

 

I had a funky idea for a VW Z-bar that used pushrods pushing on the ends of quarter ellipticals mounted back to back, with the springs mounted on a pivot.  Fortunately for the world, I never have acquired a swing axle VW to play with.

Robbie (Forum Supporter)
Robbie (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
11/27/20 4:45 p.m.

I was hoping to see better how they damped it? Just a linear damper off the bell crank maybe?

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
11/27/20 5:53 p.m.

In reply to Robbie (Forum Supporter) :

Don't they have rotary dampers in the bellcrank's pivot?  Or was I imagining that?

BA5
BA5 Reader
11/28/20 9:28 p.m.
Keith Tanner said:

Leaf springs have the feature of internal friction if there's more than one leaf, so they're a little different. Coils and torsion are - to my understanding - identical in how they function and really only differ in packaging. 

Technically torsion bars are slightly better in that coil springs also wind up around their long axis, and if you don't have a compensating mechanism you introduce some undesirable spring/damping effects.  But it's slight, and one of those things you don't get too hung up about unless you're at the very pointy end of racing (like running an F1 team!).

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
12/5/20 8:22 p.m.

In reply to Pete. (l33t FS) :

I think this car is too early for the rotary dampers which became popular in F1, although that's only a guess.

Brian_13
Brian_13 New Reader
12/5/20 8:38 p.m.

It's too bad they didn't hold a torsion bar beside a coil, and explain that the coil is essentially just a torsion bar wound into a spiral.

The most important difference between torsion and coil springs is how they mount. Coils are great because they easily mount between a moving suspension component and a fixed point, trivially mount on the shock (great for packaging) and in a competition vehicle the shock mount is easily made as a threaded collar for adjustment with minimal additional hardware. With a coil, all of the spring load is transmitted simply into the mounting point, but with a torsion bar a substantial anchoring system is needed. In the ususal production setup (not race car with pushrod and rocker) the lower control arm is the lever arm, and all of the vertical load is carried through the lower control arm bushings, compromising their design as locating components.

Some people get hung up on the torsion bar having the advantage of being sprung weight, but that's nonsense because it still half moves with suspension travel (so for the dynamics it's unsprung) and it forces a heavier control arm or an additional pushrod and cranks and anchoring hardware. While the packaging can be better in some cases (the front of the example Benetton, for instance), it's unlikely that any torsion bar setup is lighter than the corresponding coil setup. Torsion setups can be lousy to work on, too... that early 1980's Civic/CRX torsion-sprung modified MacPherson strut is a pain compared to a simple coil-on-strut or coil-on-lower-arm modified MacPherson strut.

Pete. (l33t FS)
Pete. (l33t FS) MegaDork
12/6/20 8:25 p.m.

In reply to Brian_13 :

 

Honda had the torsion bar setup to get the beltline lower.  No need to package a spring above the tire.

This is also why they went to SLA type suspension, the spring (and shock) could be mounted further inboard than the steering axis, so they could get the nice super low beltline that they wanted.

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