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Old 02-08-2024, 08:33 AM   #1
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Going off-road (but only a little bit)

Hey guys, I'm continuing to do things with my Boxster it was never intended to do but I'm trying to figure out the best way to do it. Let me explain.

One of the things my partner and I enjoy doing each year is at least one big road trip. We live in the Denver area and often head west into the mountains. Often these trips take a day or two to get to our final destination and we will camp out on some public land along the way instead of getting a hotel. This saves money and lets us enjoy more of the great outdoors. Access to public land usually means getting off the pavement and onto a dirt road filled with bumps, ruts, potholes, and other obstacles.

In previous years we have driven my 2014 Ford Focus with the transmission that will explode if you look at it wrong, or a 2004 Ford Freestyle we borrowed from her parents while the Focus's transmission was being un-grenaded. Neither of these cars have had any trouble with the unmaintained, dirt roads we tend to find ourselves on when doing these adventures, though conditions can vary a lot depending on where we decide to park.

We really want to take the Boxster on the next road trip, and I may have promised that I could lift the car for greater ground clearance for just this purpose, but now that I've owned the car for a while I am hesitant to give it a permanent 2 inch lift when 95% of the driving is on the street and 4% is at autocross events.

Here are the solutions I have thought of so far:

Option 1: Keep it stock and walk to camp.
This option is the least expensive and easiest to do on a mechanical level, but comes with some concerns. The shocks need to be refreshed anyway and a full set of Bilstein B4's will come in at around $1,116 before taxes and shipping. When it comes to getting to camp we can just park on the side of the road as best we can and hike to an appropriate camping site. The hiking isn't an issue, but there is no good way of knowing if there is even an appropriate space for the car to sit overnight. This option assumes the lowest cost and moderate risk.

Option 2: Stock + permanent 2 inch lift
This is the option I originally floated to buy the car in the first place. This route still includes the full set of Bilstein B4's, but adds a Eurowise lift kit to the car, adding a constant 2 inch lift to the car. This will give the car greatly improved off-road clearance, but at the cost of looking like a monster truck 100% of the time, assuming I continue to run the stock wheel and tire combo. This option will cost about $2,021 before taxes and shipping

Option 3: Stock + Air Cups
Now we are getting into the creative solutions. This option I am not sure if it will work, as I still need to do the measurements, but we will keep it here assuming it is an option for now. Again, we start with B4's, but instead of adding a permanent 2 inch lift we install air cups from Stanceparts. These air cups can be as cheap as $760 for just the front wheels and no air compressor to as much as $1,100 for all four corners and an air compressor. This option will allow me to keep a stock-ish ride height most of the time but will give me the option to air up by 2 inches whenever I need to. This solution may need to include the additional purchase of lowering springs because they add 30mm of height by being installed so if I want to keep a stock-ish height lowering springs will be needed. This solution runs anywhere between $1,876 to $2,516 before tax.

Option 4: Coilovers + Air Cups
As I mentioned earlier, the car does get a little bit of autocross time and even if it didn't, carving corners in the mountains sounds like it could be even more fun with a set of coilovers on the car. Obviously, coilovers can vary in cost dramatically depending on what option you go with, and I know nothing about what would be a good option for my purposes, but if I went this route I would then tack on the Air Cups to ensure the flexibility we are looking for on these trips. Plus, I could slam the car in the time before and after a trip when it's just being driven on normal roads and enjoy a lower look. This sounds like a fun option, and probably my preferred option if money were no object, but unfortunately money is a very real object so we are starting to get to the price range where I'm not sure how I would justify it to the Minister of Finance. The counterpoint to this is that the price difference between something like the BC Racing BR Series coilovers and a full set of Bilstein B4's is only about $300 and if the performance difference there is really dramatic then perhaps that extra $300 is actually really worth it. Plus the fact that I can adjust the firmness of the ride depending on what kind of driving I'll be doing is a nice touch. This option starts at $2,170 for just the front air cups and gets up to $2,510 for all four corners.

Full air suspension is not an option as I cannot find any solutions that offer an actual lift over stock height.

I've been doing research for each option as I've written this post, and through that I feel like the option I like the most is the Coilovers + Air Cups as it offers good flexibility and performance. The downside is obviously the price, especially considering I only paid $5,000 for the car. That being said, I have a feeling that I will probably keep this car for a very, VERY long time so perhaps springing for the more expensive option is the better solution.

Any feedback, insight, or criticisms are welcome. Let me know what you think and how you would handle this particular situation.

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Old 02-08-2024, 09:45 AM   #2
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16" wheels (for a base model) with tall tires. I used heavier springs, but it's pretty much what you can get from coilovers. I cut and rolled a lot of the fender to put 31" tires on, you don't want to go there.



Pay attention to the driveshafts and rear support structure. It's a weak point and I stopped where I did to keep from stressing it more. On the Frog, Woody had tig welded bracing added.



I cracked a sump plate going over a loose rock in Rallycross. I now have a piece of stainless sheet under the engine - not to support the weight of the car, but a good deflector to absorb much of an impact. My underbody plastics are reinforced with vinyl floor tiles riveted to them.

If you want to go with air, I have a compressor and manifold that I cut out of an '04 VW Touareg with air ride. If it may be useful I can send it to you for a low-low price.

Edit: Forgot to mention that both of the cars pictured have the corner radiators removed and a large radiator in the frunk. If you do increase the front tire size, make sure that it will not hit the radiator frames. The next time I build one of these I plan to keep the stock radiators while adjusting them as needed for clearance.
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Last edited by 78F350; 02-08-2024 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 02-09-2024, 03:42 AM   #3
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It’s up to you to decide just how bad these roads are, and how far you typically drive on them. By 03 base w/ 17” wheels has been on any number of these roads in BSA camps in the NJ/NY/PA area. Take your time and steer around the worst of it.

Food for thought.
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Old 02-09-2024, 05:18 AM   #4
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Its up to you to decide just how bad these roads are, and how far you typically drive on them. By 03 base w/ 17 wheels has been on any number of these roads in BSA camps in the NJ/NY/PA area. Take your time and steer around the worst of it.

Food for thought.
That's the approach I've taken with the other cars I've gone off road with. I guess I just care exponentially more about my Boxster.
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Old 02-11-2024, 04:37 PM   #5
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I thought of this thread a little over the weekend as I did a 'Gambler 500' event. I agree with tcora that a stock 986 can be okay if you are careful and choose you line well and if the roads are somewhat maintained. With or without mods, know where your critical points of the undercarriage are and put the car where they will not be impacted. If impact is inevitable make it as slow and controlled as possible.

Wheels and tires - small wheels, tall tires with pressure as appropriate for terrain. This Mercedes was driven carefully, but debeaded tires twice on Saturday.


The Volvo had old street tires and lowered the pressure on the rears for traction. Eventually the exhaust had to be cut to keep from dragging. The fan shroud had to be trimmed after the core support was impacted enough that the fan was striking the shroud. The transmission cooling line was a low point and was damaged enough for a moderate leak. By the end of the day, the Suburban was towing it.


My Boxster is still loaned out, so I took my Prius. It has a 40mm (1.6") lift, spacers, and tires that are far beyond the recommended size. It was awesome, but still would have been awesome with the maximum recommended size (all terrain) tires.




If you want a car that two people can sleep in with HVAC running, search YouTube for "Prius camper". and keep the 986 for street.
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Old 02-14-2024, 06:55 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by 78F350 View Post

.
I'm so in love with this.
I mean really.

SO.
Freaking.
Cool.

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