Photos by Raymund Flores, Jeffrey Liu & Paul Nguyen
What was that?” you may say as they pass you on the streets. You may double take because it really caught your attention, or you might double take because you think their car is broken. You may also think that someone tried to build their own hovering DeLorean from Back to the Future Part II, had a wheel folding malfunction, and now has to drive it to a shop of bewildered mechanics. Whatever your reaction, the car got your attention and that is the main goal of the aggressive fitment movement known as stance.
Stance is a term that defines an umbrella of different wheel, tire and suspension setups. The aggressive fitment movement got its kickstart among the Japanese domestic scene. It makes sense, as anything wild and head-turning can usually sourced back to the crazy fun factory known as Japan. But before the Japanese had their hand at pushing the limits, another group had been doing this for years before: race car engineers.
In motorsports, lower and wider is key on the track. A lower center of gravity paired with a wide track means better handling. This state of mind has been adopted in many sports cars for the ultimate driving experience. This has further trickled down from motorsports and performance vehicles to the average Joe. Lowering your vehicle and widening its footprint can improve handling and give excellent cornering feel, but the idea of stance, which has evolved from this mindset, has thrown out the race car ideals and adopted the new mantra of “form over function.”
Some stanced cars are lowered and modified to the point that driving them is a challenge, and they become more of a show car that turns up to meets than a daily driver or trackable ride. This is where the term “hard-parked” comes in. While I’m sure that the car is hard to park in situations, the label actually means that the car is mostly parked at shows rather than being used for regular or performance driving.
Aggressive fitment refers to the extremity of which the wheel is fit to the car and its fitting in relation to the car’s fenders. In the stance scene, the more extreme, the better. Enthusiasts lower the car as far as they can while running wide wheels with negative offsets. Stance is all about pushing the limits of fitment, so negative camber paired with stretched tires are used to fit the wheels as close to (or right up into) the car’s fender.
Once your tire is stretched over your wide wheels, you have to decide where that rim lip is going. Are you going for a tuck look and want it hiding in the fender or are you going for poke, where the rim lip is poking just outside? Since there is no such thing as a stance car with inches of gap, the clearance is little to none.
While a stanced car is definitely a looker, there are some problems with the fitment phenomenon. Cars that are sold to regular consumers are not race cars. To make the car handle at its best, engineers lower and widen the race car’s stance and reinforce the hubs and bearings, while completely redesigning the geometry of the suspension to compensate. Maxing out your coil-overs and over-cambering is upsetting the factory suspension geometry that the manufacturer feels will provide the best steering response. Messing with the factory setup to such an extreme degree can leave you with less responsive and less stable steering, while at the same time increasing body roll. While your deep-dish wheels with polished lips might look sweet, you have to worry about all that rubbing without any of that clearance. Depending on the size of the bump or hole you just drove over, your wheels and tires are more susceptible to damage. Damage to your rim, fender and tire sidewall all become causes for concern. Plus your stretched tires mean you can say hello to an increased chance of de-beading, or even blowing your tires. Oh, you’re rocking the camber look? The decreased contact your tire has with the road means less traction. Just some things to think about before you dive in.
Of course, the aforementioned issues don’t apply to everyone. To be recognized in the stance crowd, you don’t need to be cambered or run stretched tires on three-piece forged, concave wheels. That’s the fantastic thing about stance; there are no specific boxes to check to fit in with the movement. You don’t have to be Euro or JDM or use a specific brand name or OEM parts. You can slap on any kind of wheel so long as it fills that fender. If you’re low, flush or fitted and snapping necks, you’re good to go. Just be prepared to travel a little slower and deal with the traffic you’ll hold up when you take three years to get over that concrete lip at your favorite drive-thru.
If you’re in love with your OEM rims and want to get that illustrious wheel fitment, spacers are a must. If a set of beauty aftermarket wheels are already in your life - depending on the offset you ordered them with - you can use spacers to fine tune the fitment. Wheel spacers and longer mounting hardware push your wheels out to get that nice flush look. While the wheel is mounted, you can measure from the rim lip to the fender and then grab the necessary spacers and extended wheel studs to compensate. Spacers and longer hardware have been known to be unreliable and even cause damage to the hub if you cheap out, so open those wallets to be safe.
From there it’s your choice whether you want to go wild and measure outside the fender or keep it clean. Just remember that in some states it is illegal to have your wheel pushed past your fender, so either extend those bad boys or keep it flush.
If you think your new look deserves new wheels, do some homework first. Calculating the correct offsets and wheel widths you need are important to make sure your new purchase isn’t too wide or too offset for your setup. Shaving your calipers and bits of your suspension is not advised, so make sure you compensate for those when you’re shopping for your new kicks. If you use that magical Google machine, I’m sure you’ll be able to find a calculator to suit your needs. Now that we have your wheels ready, we need to get them up to that fender. There are a few ways to lower your car onto those wheels you’ve spaced out, it just depends on how much coin you’ve got. The first and most cost effective is lowering springs. Lowering springs will get you to a set height, but you’re now stuck at that height, which is called static. Getting some sport dampers is a smart buy as well. Stock shocks can’t handle a lower spring they weren’t built for in the first place, and before you know it you’ll be riding on blown suspension.
Coil-overs are the next step up and cost a little more, but the gains are well worth it. You get the damper and spring in one, but you’re not limited to just one height. You are still static, but only until you can jack up your car and adjust the height to whatever craziness you desire. This is the most popular choice amongst the stance crowd and not a ton more expensive. It’s worth the wait. The final option – for all you money bags out there – is an air suspension system. Your springs and shocks are replaced with air bags that are fed the appropriate amount of air pressure needed for your desired height, courtesy of an air management system mounted in the rear of your car. Most air systems are programmable, meaning you can preset ride heights for different scenarios and change them on the fly. Be the envy of all your friends by being able to go over speed bumps and get back into your driveway without using a pair of 2x4s.
If you need to go lower, you can decide to camber. Negative camber will move the tops of your wheels inward, allowing them to be tucked inside the fenders. Excessive camber can cause abnormal tire wear and even suspension problems, so make sure you check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Stance enthusiasts have learned to drive lower and slower to express their creativity and individuality in tuning. Not many stanced cars are attacking corners or clipping apexes; instead they’re cruising to meets. Stance is all about standing out and getting reactions. Rides can look fitted and track ready, or wild, low and squatted. They can also look tasteful or just plain ridiculous, but that’s the beauty of the stance community; anyone can do it and everyone is respected. You can think that this is just a silly trend that will soon pass, but as I see it, stance has always been here and just like the cars, it’s not going anytime soon.