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.
You won't find a brand-X engine under the hood of this fastback, however. Instead, the Tuckers opted for Ford's latest and greatest modular sensation, the '11-'13 Mustang's 5.0L "Coyote" 32-valve, all-aluminum V-8.
This isn't just a production engine from a wrecked Mustang though. You might have jumped ahead, though, looked at the pictures already, and noticed the Roush Yates logos. The folks at Roush Yates are neighbors of DSE (they are in the hotbed of NASCAR country after all) and actually knocked on their door one day looking for help to get into the hotrod engine market. Kyle and Stacy just happened to have a Mustang in the shop with an empty engine bay, and the result is what you see here. The Coyote uses the Boss 302 Mustang intake and special Motec engine management for the Tuckers to get the most out of the engine. However, Roush Yates will be selling the 5.0L modular with a Ford-based engine management similar to Ford Racing's Control Pack system for ease of installation for the masses.
For the rear suspension DSE engineers started with the same QuadraLink product used in other DSE rear suspension packages, revising the architecture to fit the Mustang. A three-link setup was considered, and even track tested (DSE builds a test car for every suspension platform they manufacture). During testing, the DSE Mustang was run with a three-link design, then brought in to swap to the QuadraLink (which took all of 11 minutes!) and hit the track with a fresh set of tires.
"We were within tenths of a second of the three-link and it was easier to drive at the edge," Stacy explained. She should know, as both she and Kyle are capable and experienced drivers (Stacy campaigns an FR500S Mustang in the NASA American Iron series). DSE says the QuadraLink also rides better than the typical three-link setups on the market.
The Mustang also helped DSE design subframe connectors, Deep Tubs mini-tub kit to allow wider rear tires, stainless fuel tanks, a two-speed windshield wiper system, and more. Even the custom hood they designed for the Mustang might end up in the catalog, Stacy tells us, as they are currently considering having the hood made as a new stamping.
With 7,000 miles on the Mustang since February 2012, the Mustang has been driven to almost every event it has attended except for those too far away for Kyle and Stacy to be out of the office that long on a road trip (someone has to sign the paychecks right?). Plus the Mustang ate up plenty of track time and autocross laps at each of those events as well without a single failure.
What's next for DSE? Stacy tells us they're looking at adapting their front and rear suspensions to the Falcon and Fairlane chassis, so stay tuned for details if/when that happens.
Oh, and when we asked Ron—a member of the Daytona Mustang Club—if he was going to get his '66 fastback back, he chuckled and said that Kyle offered him a '67 Mustang that they used in the shop to validate fitment of the Mustang front and rear suspensions (their products work on '65-'70 Mustangs). The '67 is currently getting the full DSE catalog thrown at it, while back home in Florida, Ron rebuilt the 302 with Edelbrock aluminum heads and a Comp roller cam. He also bolted up an AOD four-speed automatic to the small-block in anticipation of the '67 coming home to Florida soon.
It looks like Kyle and Stacy aren't the only ones that'll be enjoying a Mustang test mule chock-full of DSE hardware.
Ron and Claudia Lyon
1966 Mustang fastback
- 5.0L Boss 302 "Coyote" modular
- 3.63-inch bore
- 3.65-inch stroke
- Aluminum block
- Cross bolted main caps
- Forged steel crankshaft
- Forged connecting rods
- Forged aluminum pistons
- 11.0:1 compression ratio
- Aluminum cylinder heads, CNC-machined ports and chambers
- Double overhead cams with variable cam timing (locked out on this application)
- 80mm throttle body
- Composite short runner intake manifold
- Motec EFI management
- DSE cold air induction tube with K&N air filter
- Rockland Standard Gear Built Tremec T-56 six-speed manual
- 10-spline input shaft
- 31-spline output shaft
- Steel shift forks
- Carbon-fiber synchro rings
- Custom-made shifter handle
- Roush Yates fire retardant shift boot
- 9-inch Ford housing
- Eaton Tru-Trac differential
- C&R 4.56 gears
- 31-spline axles
- Roush Yates/DSE custom headers
- 3-inch merge collector
- MagnaFlow mufflers
- 3-inch aluminized dual exhaust
- Front: Detroit Speed Aluma-Frame, tubular upper and lower control arms, JRi double adjustable coilover shocks with remote reservoirs, splined antisway bar, forged spindles with sealed bearing hubs, rack-and-pinion power steering
- Rear: Detroit Speed QuadraLink four-link, Swivel-Link ends, JRi double adjustable coilover shocks with remote reservoirs, 1-inch antisway bar, Panhard bar, DSE through-floor weld on subframe connectors
- Front: Baer disc, 14-inch slotted two-piece rotors, 6R six-piston calipers
- Rear: Baer disc, 13-inch slotted two-piece rotors, T4 four-piston calipers
- Front: Formula 43 RAD S5, black anodized center, polished lip, 18x10
- Rear: Formula 43 RAD S5, black anodized center, polished lip, 18x11
- Front: Michelin Pilot Super Sport, P275/35R18
- Rear: Michelin Pilot Super Sport, P315/30R18
Black-coated floor and custom metal door covers, rear seat deleted, Sparco Evo racing seats, Sparco R383 competition steering wheel, Impact Racing six-point harnesses, Vintage Air A/C system, driver-adjustable front and rear brake bias control, ididit tilt column with DSE-designed quick-release steering wheel hub, Auto Meter Elite electric full sweep gauges, six-point rollbar with bolt-in cross brace
Wimbledon White with blue Le Mans stripes; stock sheetmetal, emblems, and chrome trim; DSE Deep Tubs to clear wide rear tires; DSE-built front spoiler; DSE designed steel hoodscoop grafted to stock hood