DAVE'S BRAVA MODIFICATIONS: by David V. Voss
After I bought my first Brava I began to modify the suspension to improve the overall handling. Over time I learned which modifications helped and which ones hurt, depending on the way the car was driven on a variety of roads. The changes that I have made are not that drastic and tend to add to the predictability of the car rather than change the already great handling properties. With over 150,000 miles of driving experience behind the wheel of my Brava(s) together with the modifications that I have made, I can regularly run with (or simply out-run) many sportscars that would seem to easily out-perform a four door sedan. My Brava can't always match the acceleration of other cars, but when speed can be kept through a turn acceleration isn't always needed. I had the fortunate opprotunity to spend a session on Sears Point International Raceway with other Fiats (mostly 124 Spiders and X1/9s) and Alfa Romeos (Spiders and GTVs) and was very happy with my Brava's performance. I'd bet that I was more comfortable in my four door sedan than many in their less spacious convertibles. If I seem conceited about my car, I'm really not...just very proud that the car I love so much can perform the way I want it to. I love the feel of lateral acceleration and quick transitions on a curvy, narrow road. I also like to impress upon others that the term sport sedan means exactly that. FIAT never used it, but I think that they should have. Here is what I have done to my Brava...
Anti-roll Bar: Second tandem bar added as outlined in the 131/Brava Modifications article. Urethane bushings used to support tandem bar at center support. All caster shims at the anti-roll bar ends removed except those required for suspension symmetry.
Brakes: Brake pads changed to Repco Metal Master for reduced fade during spirited driving. Replace pads and rotors as a set when using these pads, as both will wear together.
Steering Wheel: Replaced with Abarth Monte Carlo (black 3-spoke with leather grip) as used on 131 Abarth Racing models and in rally competition.
Sturts: Changed to KYB GR-2 and drilled for camber correction as outlined in the 131/Brava Modifications article. Net camber setting is zero degrees on both sides. Top strut bushings replaced with redesigned part (current OEM) for better shock control.
Brakes: Drum brakes removed and replaced with rear disc brakes from 1979-81 124 Spider. All parts are interchangable except hand brake cable. Use 131/Brava cable with minor modification. Rear brake compensator removed from circuit. Lower ride height and reduced tendancy for discs to lock-up eliminate the need for this device. Repco Metal Master pads used for increased rear braking and fade control.
Lower Control Arms: Doubled control arms on both sides for increased rear axle support and reduced rear body roll as outlined in the 131/Brava Modifications article.
Shocks: Changed to KYB-GR2 for increased control and long life.
Springs: Cut one and a half coils from bottom of spring on each side for increased stiffness and level rear ride height.
Wheels and Tires
Wheels: Although my choice of wheels changes depending on the projected use of my car, best performance is achieved using Maserati Bi-Turbo wheels (6x14 with 15mm offset). Remove stock wheel spacers for proper positioning.
Tires: I use 195/60 HR14 tires. I have tried many brands with Dunlop and Yokohama providing the best performance per dollar.
Engine and Driveline
Engine: Bosch fuel injected 2 liter with the following changes. Crankshaft and connecting rods: Balanced to 10,000 rpm. Pistons: 84.6mm, 9.8 to 1. Camshafts: Intake, 30-62. Exhaust, 70-22. Ignition timing: 10 degrees static, 33 degrees full advance. Horsepower is marginally better while torque is substantially increased.
Rear Axle: Ratio changed from stock 3.58 to 4.1 (from earlier 131) for improved acceleration.
Transmission: Abarth 131 Sport shifter and console for tight, quick shift pattern.
Instrumentation: Stock instrument cluster replaced with Veglia gauges from 124 Spider and late model 850 Spider: 140 mph speedometer; 8000 rpm (6800 redline) tachometer; water temperature, oil pressure, and fuel level gauges; voltmeter fabricated to match others from disected Lancia Beta instrument cluster and Spider water temperature gauge.
Lighting: Headlights: Outer pair changed to Hella H4 type with 55/60 watt bulbs. Inner pair changed to Cibie H1 type "pencil beams" with 55 watt bulbs. All headlights mounted in series 3 grill with relayed circuits to prevent stock wiring from burning up (mandatory with FIATs). Rear fog lights (using type 1156 bulb) installed in vacant red housing in rear light cluster.
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