5.0 Mustang & Super FordsHow To Chassis Suspension
Ford Mustang - S197 Chassis - Flight ’Line
The latest Mustang flies past the cones with Whiteline gear, AmercianMuscle.com Wheels, and Nitto tires
Horse Sense: GTR High Performance's punishment for doing such a great job assisting us with tech stories is to help us with more tech stories. Gonzolo and Ricardo Topete at GTR did especially yeoman-like work on this Whiteline story, helping find the test car and test venue, and turning the wrenches. Thanks, guys.
We'll admit it. We spend too much time working ourselves into a lather over what's under our Mustang's hood—especially when it's a Coyote—than we do rejoicing over the immense improvements Ford has made in the Mustang's wheelwells with the S197 chassis since its debut in 2005. Today we're here to make some of that right as we take a new '13 Mustang to the autocross, and better yet, pump it up with Whiteline USA suspension bits and a set of sticky Nitto track tires.
Whiteline is a longtime suspension specialist from Australia, where the company caters to Ford and Holden enthusiasts. Making a bid for the U.S. market in recent years, Whiteline is offering a full range of bolt-on suspension components for '05-and-up Mustangs.
The company specializes in suspension geometry parts such as control arms, sway bars, Watt's links, and so on. It specifically stays out of the spring and shock market figuring such parts are somewhat specialized and there are already plenty of good examples on the market. For our introduction to Whiteline gear, we're starting simple, sampling an affordable mix of adjustable control arms and sway bars. Besides the usual look-see at the hardware and hitting the installation highlights, we're also sampling the goods at their handling limit on a Speed Ventures autocross.
To ensure we get all the bite the Whiteline equipment can deliver to the ground, we also added a set of Nitto NT01 track tires to our mix. Extensive previous experience with this impressive tire has shown it to offer great grip and iron-like wear. Perhaps even more important for this suspension test, it's an easy tire to drive without an overly peaky limit. That makes it reasonably repeatable while still sticking like glue.
To save the hardly worn OE Pirelli all-season PZeros, we mounted the Nittos on a handsome set of charcoal AMR wheels from AmericanMuscle.com. Stretching for a set of dedicated track wheels and tires like this is admittedly pricey initially, but in the long run dedicated street and track tires get the most mileage and performance from both fitments.
Our track experiences are detailed in the sidebar, but for those wanting to know the bottom line, we found the Nitto tires even more impressive than we remembered, and the Whiteline gear was as useful in its adjustability so we could balance the front and rear axle grip to our preferences. Together they hacked about 12 percent off our autocrossing lap times—a major improvement for sure, but one that put more grip into the driver's fun center than the numbers alone show.
Biggest of the tangible improvements from the Whiteline gear was the ability to independently adjust the swaybar stiffness, something the stock suspension doesn't allow. Our test did not employ every suspension improvement Whiteline offers—notably we did not have time to install its Watt's link—but even our simple swaybar installation gave us useful adjustablility and increased roll resistance.
Furthermore, these swaybar adjustments are easy enough to perform track side. If desired, a daily driver Mustang could be tightened up for a track event, then softened back for the street. However, we bet you end up leaving the sway bars tight all the time. Either way the ride remains near-stock, though bumpy roads, and especially wet roads, are best traveled with soft-as-possible swaybar adjustments.
All told, the combination of track-oriented Nittos and Whiteline suspenders did wonders to transform our Mustang GT at the autocross. Tossed at the cones in stock trim, the GT was on the edge of sloppy handling. "It was like driving in the rain," said Ricardo Topete of GTR Performance.
With the tires and suspension, both total grip and chassis precision were unmistakably improved, taking our autocross experience from just OK to a charging good time. That's exactly what we were looking for, so keep reading to see how we got there.
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Bravely stepping up with his new '13 Mustang GT was Gus Figueroa, a regular customer at GTR High Performance. Gus was already interested in handling improvements, having made a couple of suspension bolt-on changes to his car prior to this test. Those bolt-ons were replaced by their stock counterparts so we could get a showroom-stock baseline for our test.
Other changes to Gus's car were minor and typical of an enthusiast's daily driver Mustang. A set of Steeda sport springs gave an approximately 1-inch lower ride height and minimally increased spring rate. The shocks were stock. Underhood a C&L intake, 85mm BBK throttle body, SCT tune, and a Flowmaster American Thunder after-cat were on-hand. Rear gearing was the stock 3:31 with a manual transmission.
The stock tires are Pirelli P-Zero Nero all-season rollers measuring 235/50ZR-18 all-around. They have a treadwear rating of 400, so they are not particularly sticky but offer good all-weather traction and wear well. Tire pressure was set at 34/32 psi front and rear respectively.