Kristian Grimsland
Associate Editor, Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
January 11, 2014

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.

Wanting more bite for our ’98 Cobra, we installed Koni Sport Yellow dampeners, and Steeda Autosports Sport Springs, sway bars, upper and lower control arms, and caster camber plates.

"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.

1. Starting with the rear suspension, technician Steve Chichisola began by removing the original shocks, followed by the upper control arms.
2. Steve drilled out the rearend housing bushings. He informed us by drilling counter-clock wise initially, followed by drilling clock wise, that it is potentially easier to remove the bushings. This was the case for the passenger side, but not so much for the driver’s side.
2b. Steve drilled out the rearend housing bushings. He informed us by drilling counter-clock wise initially, followed by drilling clock wise, that it is potentially easier to remove the bushings. This was the case for the passenger side, but not so much for the driver’s side.
3. Included with Steeda’s adjustable upper control arms (PN 555-4100, $209.95) are new polyurethane rearend housing bushings. Before installing, Steve greased the bushings, and then hammered them into place.
3b. Included with Steeda’s adjustable upper control arms (PN 555-4100, $209.95) are new polyurethane rearend housing bushings. Before installing, Steve greased the bushings, and then hammered them into place.
4. Steeda recommends setting the center-to-center bolts on the control arm to 91/16-inches as a starting point when installing new upper control arms for ’97-’98 models. It may be necessary to shorten or lengthen the arms to set proper pinion angle.
5. Here’s a look at them installed.
6. Steve then removed the factory lower control arms, and attached the new solid-aluminum lower control arms (PN 555-4501, $293.95) to the chassis.
6b. Steve then removed the factory lower control arms, and attached the new solid-aluminum lower control arms (PN 555-4501, $293.95) to the chassis.
7. Steeda’s Sport springs offer a higher (stiffer) spring rate than factory and will allow you to push your car harder on track.
8. Here, Steve installed both the Sport springs and aluminum lower control arms into place.
9. We wanted a shock and strut that would offer us adjustability when out on the road course, as well as something that was comfortable on the street. Per Glen Vitale’s suggestion, we opted for Koni Sport Yellow dampeners (PN 279-8741-1402, $221.89).
10. Before installing, Steve drilled out the rear trunk pieces to make way for the new shocks, and enough room to adjust them while out on track. He then installed the shocks.
10b. Before installing, Steve drilled out the rear trunk pieces to make way for the new shocks, and enough room to adjust them while out on track. He then installed the shocks.
11. Here’s a look at our suspension after the install.
12. Making our way up front, Steve began by removing the wheels, followed by the front brakes and rotors, and then the springs.
13. Using a ball-joint press, Steve removed both factory ball joints and replaced them with Steeda’s X2 ball joints (PN 555-8101).
13b. Using a ball-joint press, Steve removed both factory ball joints and replaced them with Steeda’s X2 ball joints (PN 555-8101).
14. He then installed the new Sport springs.
15. Steeda supplied us with a set of its polished four-bolt caster camber plates (PN 555-8095, $262.45). When installing, it’s required to drill a 3/8-inch hole for the fourth stud on the plates. Here they are installed.
15b. Steeda supplied us with a set of its polished four-bolt caster camber plates (PN 555-8095, $262.45). When installing, it’s required to drill a 3/8-inch hole for the fourth stud on the plates. Here they are installed.
16. Steve inserted the strut mount bushing onto our new front struts, and then installed them.
16b. Steve inserted the strut mount bushing onto our new front struts, and then installed them.
17. Changing the ride height of your Mustang can cause bumpsteer. In order to correct this, we added Steeda’s bumpsteer kit (PN 555-8104). This will allow us to alter the height of the outer tie-ride relative to the steering rack.
18. Steve then installed the new sway bar. Notice the difference in size in comparison to the factory piece. Steeda’s sway bars have billet ends to increase strength.
19. Steve then double-checked the pinion angle to make sure it was to spec of negative 2 degrees.

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