Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Chassis Suspension
1998 Ford Mustang Cobra Suspension Upgrade - Snake Handler
Our corner-carving ’98 Cobra rips, grips, and pulls.
Let's get down to business. If you're a Mustang owner, you either daily-drive your Stang, or use it as a weekend cruiser or racer. No matter the situation, you're probably looking for tighter handling, increased stopping power, and of course, better acceleration. As performance enthusiasts, we're on the hunt for all of the above and we've been slowly improving those attributes on our daily driven '98 Cobra.
Like most Stangs, it has been a blast to drive over the past year, as we've visited dragstrips and road courses all over the state of Florida. With every visit we became more acquainted with how the car performed. We noted where it did well, and where it could use improvements. After attending an event at the world-famous Sebring International Raceway this past May, we decided to pursue a more aggressive approach to road-course driving. Our Cobra featured only a set of aftermarket springs, leaving everything else stock.
Not wanting to take away too much ride quality, we needed a street-friendly but track capable combination. Having over 25 years of experience in this department, we knew Steeda Autosports would have a solution. Glen Vitale, vice president of operations, recommended a package, including Steeda's Sport springs, caster camber plates, Koni Sport Yellow shocks and struts, rear upper and lower control arms, and sway bars.
"We recommended these products based on what we have seen work on our race cars," Vitale told us. "The Koni Yellow Sport dampeners' valve adjustability does not exceed the limits of our Sport springs, and makes it a great combination for both the street and on track. Our higher-spring-rate springs will allow you to push your car harder on the track than what is supplied by Ford originally, but still keep you comfortable.
"These springs are designed specifically for performance. This includes adjusting stress levels to provide durability and dependability. We fret over making sure the spring rates are linear, the rate intervals are exact, the ‘load at height' is spot on, deflection is uniform with minimal bowing, and ‘side-loading' is minimized," he explained.
"The factory sway bars are tuned specifically to allow the car to understeer when going through a corner. This is done for safety reasons. Our sway bars provide a more neutral cornering capability, and because of the adjustability built into them, you can dial in more oversteer to allow better turn-in and faster cornering," he added.
With our parts selected, we headed to Pompano Beach, Florida, for Steeda to handle the install. But before turning any wrenches, we wanted to baseline our trusty Serpent. On our way, we visited Palm Beach International Raceway and its 2.034-mile, 11-turn road course.
D.J. Randall, associate editor of our sister magazine, GM High-Tech Performance, would be handling our Snake, while your author was behind the lens. D.J. is a licensed Grand-Am driver and has been racing for over seven years.
"When I first hopped into the Cobra in stock trim, I was pleasantly surprised," Randall said. "For an essentially stock setup, minus the aftermarket lowering springs, the Cobra felt very capable, and was fun to drive. My only gripes were with the somewhat sluggish turn-in and nose-diving under heavy braking. The stock suspension setup was in need of a more aggressive spring and shock combination, to help eliminate both understeer and body roll.
"With the new Steeda suspension, I immediately noticed a difference. The Cobra was well-behaved on turn-in, and the car's initial body roll was limited. The stiffer-than-stock setup allowed for quick and easy directional changes for turns such as 2 and 7. The car's low-speed cornering behavior, like around turns 4 and 10, was rich with understeer previously, limiting corner speed. However, this time around, the car would transition from very little understeer into more of a neutral or slight-oversteer situation, thanks to the stiffer setup. For a street car, the Cobra handled surprisingly well, even on street tires."
Using our AiM Sports MyChron Light TG lap timer, we set out to baseline our Cobra. Out of three consistent runs before installing the parts, we managed to average a 1:42.82 lap time. After the installation, we revisited PBIR for a comparison. With the new suspension, we improved our lap time by 2.11 seconds, averaging 1:40.71.
Since testing, our Snake has been a thrill on the street. High-mph turn-ins onto the freeway on-ramps are a blast, as our Snake now noses in and hugs the road. Ride quality is still smooth, but stiffer than before. For a daily driver with the perks of precise handling, we've got the best of both worlds.