December 1, 2006

Tokico is a long standing component supplier to Ford, often called to the front when special needs emerge. For example, Tokico supplied the specially-tuned front struts and rear shocks for the Bullitt and Mach I special edition Mustangs. They also provide the original equipment dampers for the current S197 Mustang platform. The company has been manufacturing shock absorbers, brake parts and other hydraulic components for over 50 years. When Bud Bulmer, the Senior Sales Manager for Tokico Performance Shocks was looking for a car to demonstrate the capability of Tokico's line of high performance replacement shocks and struts, the new Mustang was an obvious choice. Given the car's already capable handling characteristics, the task of improving it fell to the company's D-Spec product line, as well as Technosquare Inc., of Torrance, CA.

Production car design is constrained by many real world factors. These can include cost, ease of assembly and knowledge that some portion of drivers seldom change their oil, never mind damper settings. As a result, factory installed components can represent a compromise to the performance enthusiast. Not that company and supplier engineers don't work to find the best possible solutions - far from it. Still, out of all the Mustangs produced in a single year, only a very small percentage of those cars are going to see open lapping, autocross or drift usage. One of the cars that is intended for such duties, though, is the one that you see on these very pages.

Run Like A Champion
Building a memorable demonstration platform is an integral part of correctly impressing new or potential customers. Given that struts and shock absorbers are a bit hard to see, building up the rest of the car is mandatory. Helping to make this particular car memorable started with a visit to Ford Performance Solutions in Anaheim, CA. When we asked Bud, "What moment would you like best to forget?", he told us it was the "Call from the Dyno shop before we had the Ross pistons and Scat rods installed. We cleaned up the floor and ordered the parts!" The bottom end of the three-valve mill was updated with a set of flat-topped Ross forged aluminum pistons, hooked into Scat's best H-beam, forged connecting rods. This enabled the rest of the intended additions to be put in place with full confidence that the company wouldn't be embarrassed by a massive failure sometime in the future.

Front and center when you pop the hood is a polished Vortec V-2 supercharger, complete with intercooler. JBA's long tube headers and full exhaust system look after the chore of scavenging combustion gasses from the cylinders, while the Centerforce clutch sends the motive force on its way. The combination provides all the power that's usable for open lapping or drift course work and enough for reasonable 1320 performance. See, it's really the combination that this car is all about. Having the suspension managed by a full set of Tokico's D-Spec struts and shocks, means that their adjustability allows the car to be comfortably driven to the track - whichever one - and then set up for optimum performance by adjusting the dampers.

Having a vehicle like this for your company car can present some difficulties. We asked Bud about them and he told us, "The only difficulty really was the break-in period. Keeping off the throttle required medication." Still patience has its rewards. "Mile 501 ... finally time to hit the gears. Ceramic clutch like a light switch, RPM so quick you can't blink, perfectly good rubber up in smoke, pegging the speedo then down through the gears, cornering like it was a slot car - this new platform is awesome!" That's gotta give you a smile wide enough to split your face, but don't think for a minute that senior people at Tokico are easily impressed. "I've owned and driven a few pretty cool Mustangs. I worked for Peter Revson in the late '60s to early '70s and he drove a pretty quick Pony." (Revson, an heir to the Revlon Cosmetics fortune, drove for Carroll Shelby in his 1969 Trans Am team. He died in a racing accident at Watkins Glen, NY, in 1974.)

Rolling stock for this Pony includes 19-inch Hyper 5ZR alloy rims from 5Zigen USA for light weight, shod with BF Goodrich g-Force KDW II tires of the 285/35-19 flavor in front, with 295/30-19's out back. Keeping those righteous pieces in contact with Terra Firma is the primary responsibility of the adjustable dampers. When the Go needs some Whoa, that job is entrusted to a big brake kit from Baer Brake Systems. The 6-piston front calipers deliver more than enough clamping force on the drilled and slotted rotors to look after any situation, whether on the street or the track of your choice.

Flip Side
Mind you, at home it's a different story according to Bud. "One month I'm driving a 2004 Mach 1, then I pull in my driveway with this low, loud, fully-caged 2005. It's like an old western on my block... when they hear the Mustang coming, the women and children run from the streets."

The duties expected of this car demand high performance and good handling, but it also needs to be memorable and treat guests right. Inside, a pair of leather upholstered, carbon fiber shelled seats from Cobra provide the needed creature comforts while 4-point restraints from OMP backup the 6-point roll cage that was installed by Technosquare. Caging a street car could easily make for a less enjoyable ride, but that's not the case for this Pony. "The work on the cage ... I can't say enough about the work that Richie and the guys at Technosquare did. Sit in the car and you barely even notice the full cage -and everything has plenty of clearance for street driving (without a helmet). Amazingly clean work!"

A few tasteful interior accents from Steeda's billet collection are also included. On the outside, the level of distinction reaches higher. Tokico corporate colors were applied to the car by Auto Explosion, of Gardena, CA, after a Steeda cowl induction hood and Classic Design Concepts rear duck tail spoiler were installed. It's nice to see a well put-together project vehicle, but let's not forget that this is a working car. Bud explained, "we have been fortunate to be the OEM supplier for so many great Ford Mustangs - the Bullitt, Mach 1 and now the 05, plus we've done the Saleen and Foose cars. We engineer our own high performance product and our D-Spec/HTS Adjustables. Our engineer has used this car to design and test the TOKICO HP, specially valved non-adjustables for both Steeda and Granatelli, plus it is being used for working on threaded coil-overs and other private brand projects."

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Ahead To The Past
As for the future of this car, Bud mentioned that they've done some drifting practice and some autocross participation. Due to insurance requirements, using this car for wheel-to-wheel competition isn't in the cards, but some Time Attack events could be upcoming. As well, he told us that "This year's SEMA show has an American Muscle theme. The car is getting a Nostalgia make-over. When you next see it, you'll swear it's a famous old Trans Am car." We can't wait to see that. Perhaps Peter Revson will be making a return visit.

Interior / Exterior
2005 Tokico Mustang

Exterior
Custom carbon fiber splitter; Classic Design Concepts' duck tail spoiler; Steeda cowl induction hood; Paint by Auto Explosion

Interior
OMP steering wheel, 5-point restraints; 6-point roll cage; Steeda billet accessories; Cobra racing seats with carbon fiber shell, leather covered

Suspension
Tokico D-Spec front struts and rear shock absorbers

Chassis
Steeda strut tower brace; Baer 6-piston brake kit, drilled & slotted rotors

Wheels And Tires
5Zigen 19 x 7" alloy wheels, with BF Goodrich g-Force KDW tires, 275/35-19 front and 285/30-19 rear

Specifications
2005 Tokico Mustang

Engine
Ford 4.6-liter, 3-valve V8

Engine Modifications
Ross forged flat top pistons; Scat forged H-beam connecting rods; Vortec V-2 supercharger, polished; DiabloSport Mafia MAF-extender; JBA long tube headers and exhaust; Centerforce Competition kit, including ceramic clutch disc

Shocking: The Inside Story
Tokico developed the twin-tube low-pressure gas shock absorber. The company began working on this technology in the mid 1970's. The first US-built vehicle using twin-lube low-pressure gas shock absorbers was the 1982 Lincoln Continental. Those shocks and struts were designed and supplied by Tokico.

Springs, suspension components and pivot bushings allow suspension movement, but something is needed to eliminate excess movement. Without proper control, suspension motion will become excessive and, potentially, even violent. That control function falls to the 'dampers.' They use hydraulic friction to damp out, or resist, rapid suspension movement. The key point in shock absorbing is that resistance is triggered by the speed of movement - the faster the motion, the higher the resistance.

Gas-pressurized dampers have been available for over 30 years and like non-pressurized ones, they use oil as the damping medium. In a gas-pressurized design, the oil inside the shock body is pressurized to minimize the negative effects of foaming. The oil naturally has some air in solution. When the shock's piston moves through the oil, a pressure drop is created behind the piston. That permits air to come out of solution, so foaming occurs. By maintaining pressure on the oil, foaming is reduced.

There are two types of gas-pressurized shocks, monotube high-pressure and twin-tube low-pressure. According to Tokico, the twin-tube low-pressure shock provides a better ride for a given level of control, when compared to a monotube high-pressure style. Shocks work in two directions. Compression (or closing) direction works with the spring to reduce bottoming and help keep the tire in contact with the road surface. Rebound (or extension) controls the release of spring energy as it returns to its normal height, so the vehicle doesn't bounce or float. Excessive shock control delivers a harsh ride and reduced traction, while too little control allows the chassis and tires too much movement.