Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
January 1, 2013
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

One of the biggest expenses for an aftermarket performance parts company is the purchase of a demo car to design, test fit, install, and finally test and evaluate new products before they are built in quantity and sold to the public. It's often easier when building parts for modern muscle cars, as these companies will usually just buy new cars right off the dealer lot (it is after all a business expense on their taxes). Harder to find, though, is a solid vintage car when you're looking to build some trick new suspension parts like Kyle and Stacy Tucker of Detroit Speed (DSE) had planned to do.

Often a 45-year-old vintage car will have succumbed to the ravages of time, accidents, rust, and other pratfalls, requiring great expense to make the car solid before the first pencil can be sharpened to design new suspension pieces for said car. Fortunately for the Tuckers, Stacy's father, Ron Lyon, had a '66 Mustang fastback sitting back home in his garage in Florida. Ron tossed the keys to his son-in-law and the DSE crew went to work, culminating in the retro-rocket you see here.

Ron purchased the fastback about six months prior, knowing Kyle and Stacy would be starting on a line of Mustang suspension and handling upgrades later in the year. Kyle and Stacy are both ex-GM engineers, where as Ron is a bit of a Ford fan, so they relied on Ron to find a solid Mustang—one that didn't need the typical rust and accident repairs before they could start their design work on a vastly new suspension. The car came from a history of museum ownership where the car was never driven.

"It had a Holley on it and it just didn't drive right," Ron explained. Ron was told the car had a "fresh 289" but upon digging into the engine in an effort to make it run better, Ron found out it was actually a 302 with 289 heads on it. Nonetheless, Ron tuned it up, dropped a new Edelbrock carburetor on it, and enjoyed taking it to cruise nights and car shows, even taking home a couple of nice awards at a big AACA show. Eventually, Kyle and Stacy came a calling, and the Mustang headed north to the Tucker's shop in North Carolina.

Once at DSE, the Mustang was taken to the track for some baseline numbers and then the Mustang's drivetrain was removed and the complete shell stripped of anything that could be unbolted. DSE's engineers evaluated the Mustang chassis to determine the best course of action. DSE's previous suspension offerings (for early Camaro) feature hydro-formed steel framerails, but that option was quickly shelved for the Mustang.

"We studied all of the potential suspension options for the Mustang and with our GM past, we really had to learn the Ford world," Stacy explained. "We found Mustang people aren't as willing to cut into their cars as the Camaro owners for example. Besides, cutting the front framerails out would require building a fixture for the new rails," Stacy continued. The goals set by DSE for its new suspensions would be increased structural rigidity, high strength, and the ability to fit wider tires like a modern Mustang.

With five engineers on staff, DSE was able to design and test multiple suspension setups on the front and rear at the same time while still collaborating with each other so the front and rear suspensions wouldn't fight each other. For the front, DSE finally settled on a cast aluminum cradle they call the Aluma-Frame. Similar to the hydro-formed framerails used in DSE's other products, the cast-aluminum cradle is not only another first in the aftermarket suspension world, but relies heavily on OE design implementation (remember, Kyle and Stacy engineered this stuff for production cars for years at GM).

Being a cast part, the front cradle has vast amounts of strength built into it and the part's casting means from unit to unit the results will be repeatable, unlike a welded crossmember that can have variances from welding/assembly. The cradle easily sandwiches the stock front framerails. DSE offers bolt-in engine mount kits to fit small- and big-block Fords, modular Ford engines, and if you dare, even GM's LS small-block V-8.