SHOCK SHOOTOUT!
KONI vs SPAX vs AVO vs GAZ
by Lorne Goldman

In General

There is a lot of confusion about shocks..perhaps more so in our community because of the ...er...slower development of Morgan suspension dynamics. Perhaps I was blessed. I began my Morgan tenure over 25 years ago, never having experienced one before my purchase. I live in an area (Quebec) the size of Western Europe that was Morganless and the internet was in its infancy. My only prior knowledge of mechanics was snowmobiles and their suspensions.

My wife loved the Morgan at first sight. But after her first drive, got angrily from the car with the comment "fix it!" Yes, we were both appalled by the suspension. So knowing nothing, I began to address the suspension, front and back...mostly back. After a year, my wife enjoyed the ride and we began traveling (mogging) for weeks, then months, at a time. I kept refining my work at the rear..always staying within the Morgan parameters I found in books..but just making sure they worked together as it seem, to me at least, they should. I negan to meet other moggers...some very well known. After a drive, they would all jump out the car and demand that the rear compartment deck be removed to see what I had done!  (At first, not understanding that, I was worried that I might have done something wrong in "fixing" the car!)  But no..they were all interested in what had been "changed" to make the car so comfortable and handle so well. 

Frankly, I can tell you that there is nothing wrong with Morgans and their suspensions. That seems amazing as they are so simple! But simple or not, they must be understood, sorted and then maintained (a bit). Once done, they are downright sensuous. But each Morgan, with their flexing chassis, is different from every other. The secret is tweaking them until the reflect their owner. One size does NOT fit all. But between tyre choices and suspension tweaks, you can transform any Morgan classic. 

As I note in the main page of the GoMoG Manual; "  If somone tells you, "They all do that." Run in the other direction FAST!!!" I

Adjustable Shocks

Firstly, why adjustable shocks? Springs and tyres are the first line of defense against road impacts. Shocks aren't. If you are trying to use shocks to cure suspension problems or stop you from bottoming out forget it. However, shocks can make driving a far more comfortable experience. Shocks are first and foremost harmonic balancers. Their goal is the change the harsh oscillations of a road impact to something we find pleasant..even fun.

Like any instrument, each car model will react and resonate differently as a function of its structural dynamics, springs and tyres. Each car model, depending on its shock angling, will operate well with only few shocks unless it is one of the more widely produced mid-range set-ups. Morgans are not widely produced. Neither are they even close to a standard set-up. There are others like Morgan. In such a case, an adjustable shock becomes wise option for a shock manufacturer can have one type can suit many cars. Adjustable shocks also allow suppliers to mitigate inventory costs.

However, adjustable shocks can lead to owner silliness. Manufacturers, (especially the Morgan specialists) will have tried and true recommendations for the setting. They have determined is best for your car in road conditions. The shocks will normally arrive in this setting. On a Morgan, be very reluctant to change it at the rear. Th eprblme with mist shocks is that therir ability to adjusts disappears after the shocks bottom out the first time or over  a short period. Get the wrong setting and you are stuck with it.
 
WATCHPOINT: Front Shocks After 5 sets of shock/damper types tried in the front of my Morgans and the same in back, I have come to a conclusion. The right choice has far more of an effect at the rear (the cabin comfort key point) than the front (front end behaviour and handling). Once you have the right length shock with the right travel areas and dampening, different front choices don't make much difference in my opinion. However, the wrong or aged shocks can have a great negative effect for the front. 

Rutherford AVOs (First Prize)

RECOMMENDED SETTING REAR = SOFTEST SETTING Do not change this. If you do, buy other shocks.

RECOMMENDED SETTING FRONT = Whatever you think gives you the least steering wheel feedback.

In both the case of Spax and Koni, the shocks offered are stock items, not specially made and adjusted to the needs of a Morgan. In contrast to this, in 2002/2003, the Morgan aftermarket suspension guru, David Rutherford, spent some time with AVO, a small but well-respected shock maker to come up with a better "fit". It worked!

Firstly, the range of extension and compression has been adjusted to meet a Morgan's needs. A rubber stop has been internally incorporated to deal with the impact that CAN happen. The same stop protects the innards of the shock, unlike Koni where the adjustment mechanism is broken forever the first time you bottom out. But please understand that this internal stop is NOT adjustable. If you adjust the shocks to be firmer in hope of preventing bottoming, you simply make your ride less compliant and comfortable.

You can adjust the dampening rate. This is done with a round dial on the shock body, easy to turn by hand without a tool. The shock has 10 dampening levels. HOWEVER, the lowest dampening rate was made the KONI's low dampering rate.which the decades have shown is the most comfortable for the Morgan rear. The shocks, if properly sourced, will arrive at this setting. The finish and dust cover is superior to Koni and Spax and the bumpers are neoprene rather than their rubber (which dries out and cracks).  The included fittings are of a better quality than Spax and Koni. Three types have been made for the rear (get the right one) and one for the front that fits all Morgans.

The dampening goes from as soft as Koni up to harder than Spax's highest level (ugh). The shocks arrive in the recommended setting for Morgans, which is the softestt and matches KONI at the back. NO OTHER SETTING should be used unless you are racing with them.   (I use the softest setting on the rear and level 3 on the front). N.B. Please note that the adjustment must be regularly changed to keep it functioning. On the other hand, if you lose the adjustment ability in the correct setting, who cares?

These are the very best of the three and happily the cheapest...(at the time of this writing.) They can be purchased through New Elms or Heart of England Morgans
 
WATCHPOINT There are another two AVO shocks designed for Morgans.  One was sold by MogSport and the other directly from AVO. The Mogsportt AVOs are very popular with racers. However, the shock bought directly from AVO has had consistent sad reports. 

KONI
 

RECOMMENDED SETTING REAR = SOFTEST Do not change this. If you do, buy other shocks.

RECOMMENDED SETTING FRONT = SOFTEST

Assuming you are buying their 80-series (their mid-range product), it is a great shock and to my mind, better than the Spax for most of us. It has great "internals" and they can be rebuilt by Koni on request. They are adjustable to 3-4 positions by turning the shock body (which means one end must be detached from its post) WHILE THE SHOCK IS FULLY COMPRESSED. In my discussions with Koni, they cannot see how a Morgan would require anything more for road use than their SOFTEST setting....always. And their softest setting is softer than the Spax softest setting (therein lies their most important advantage over Spax.

Generally speaking, there are two types of adjustment possible. Rebound and compression. The Koni 80-series adjustment is only for rebound and not for compression. The compression rate is fixed at the factory. Though they do not advertise it, you can ask for Koni shocks to be altered to have a compression adjuster added as well..either before or after purchase (and paying more).

According to the Koni, when rebound is the only thing that can be adjusted, the only thing that will happen if you make the Koni's firmer (feeling that this will help you carry rear luggage) is that you will have an uncomfortable trip. With a adjustable rebound only..don't touch it after you have found your happy spot...unless you are one of the .1 %.. a racer. In that case, at the track, adjust the shocks increase the softness to keep the wheels on the track (and if you have a compression adjuster as well, make it as SOFT as possible.)

Please remember that your ability to adjust your Konis is destroyed after the first bottoming or topping out. There are little teeth that engage the adjustment mechanism in the shock and these bend when the shock goes beyond its extremes. The shock will continue to function perfectly but will remain in the last setting before the teeth were mangled...for then on or until the shock is rebuilt. Frankly, in view of the above and if it is in the right setting, who cares? Many of us will keep fiddling anyway not knowing that we are adjusting nothing.
Adjustment Procedure for KONI  80 Series (For Morgans)

Rebound Adjustment Procedures

Remove the shock absorber from the vehicle and  hold it vertically with the lower eye or pin attached in a vise. Use clamp plates to prevent damage.

Fully collapse the shock absorber, at the same  time turning the dust cap or piston rod slowly to the left (counterclockwise), until it is felt that the cams of the adjustment nut engage in the recesses of the foot valve assembly.

Some shock absorbers include a bump rubber concealed under the dust cover and it must be removed prior to adjusting.

The damper may have already been adjusted. Therefore check whether the shock absorber is in the adjustment position or not by keeping it collapsed and gently turning it further to the left counting at the same time the half turns until a stop is felt. Stop turning then and do not use force.

Keeping the shock absorber collapsed, make 1 half turn (180 degrees) to the right (clockwise). In case of prior adjustment add the number of half the turns previously found. The total range is about 5 half turns.

Pull the shock absorber out vertically without turning for at least 1 cm to disengage the adjusting mechanism. The dust cap or piston rod may now be turned freely.

 
 

ADJUSTING DIRECTION
Clockwise = Firmer

Counter Clockwise = Softer

Here are instructions on adjusting the newer Konis.

SPAX

RECOMMENDED SETTING REAR = SOFTEST Do not change this. If you do, buy other shocks.

RECOMMENDED SETTING FRONT = Whatever you think gives you the least feedback at the setting wheel.

Spax has gone through a number of hands..and insolvencies. Servicing is nowhere near Konis. On the other hand, their gas shock series are the top of their line and gas is great shock technology, so we are comparing the top of one line to the mid-range in the other.

The adjustment for Spax (14 rear and 5 front) is simply a turn of a screw on the shock body and a feel for the clicks (or simply go to the end and count turns to the other end and adjust accordingly.) The screw adjusts rebound as well...so much for "firming it for luggage". (I used to do that years ago before each trip and then found myself adjust right back to where I started on the first day's drive showing me my backside was a better judge than my brains). Sadly. the adjustment at the rears is made difficult by the MMC setup as the adjustment knob faces away from easy access.

There was a comment that too many adjustments on Spax was unnecessarily confusing. It isn't..but more importantly when the shock begins to go you have 14 adjustments to keep the shock a that rebound rate you like. That alone will give you another 10,000 miles on a fading Spax without a sacrifice of any ride quality. In that case, you are adjusting the shock to keep it at the SAME firmness.

Spax adjustment is not destroyed by bottoming or topping out. The ideal setting in the rear for Morgans is the most soft to two from the most soft. In front, it is the softest or the one next to it. The only time a change from that is warranted is when I am at the race track.

It is relatively easy to adjust Spax yourself. Find a stretch of familiar road with familiar bumps and that will be your laboratory. Go up and down and adjust the rear shocks (first) until you go over a bump and react with 1.5 bounces (1.5 bounces is the ticket for any shock and normal driving). Then put on the front Spax and set them to softest and see how it feels, then try one up and do the same..then choose the better one. Koni is even easier..for road driving always the softest both ends. Sounds sensible to me and Koni swears by it. N.B. Spax, even at their softest setting, is hard than Koni and Spax at the rear.
    
GAZ SHOCKS

RECOMMENDED SETTING REAR = SOFTEST Do not change this. If you do, buy other shocks.

RECOMMENDED SETTING FRONT = Whatever you think gives you the least feedback at the setting wheel.

GAZ shocks are offered by the Morgan Motor Company as a suspension upgrade. They have a similiar appearance and adjustment method as the AVO shocks. I have no personal experience of them but I will rectify that on my next trip to the UK. Those who have purchased or tried them declare that they are an improvement over the MMC stock shocks but not as good as any of the options above.

Update June 23, 2011. I tried them! All 4 corners. They are indeed better than the regular MMC fare. Up there at the SPAX level but cheaper and as easy to adjust as the AVOs.
 

P.S. GoMoG has no interest in and has been offered no inducement by any of these companies.