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Affordable Street-Oriented Coilover Install on a Fox-Body Mustang
Teaching a street-driven, show-quality Fox-body new tricks with Raceland coilovers.
Not all quality components have to break the bank. Need proof? Take a gander: The standard Raceland coilover kit for the '79-'93 Fox-body Mustang retails for $469 and comes with everything needed to drop your Fox, improve ride quality, and even boost handling. No, that's not a typo; these coilovers really cost less than some adjustable shocks, but don't call them cheap. "We've been making coilovers for over 15 years in Europe and nearly a decade in the U.S.," said Davin Clarke of Raceland, "so we understand the recipe for making quality components at a price point."
This recipe, as it turns out, is quite a clever one. Clarke said, "We don't have a dealer network, so we sell directly to our customers, cutting out the middle man and saving the enthusiasts a lot of money. In regards to the coilover design, we manufacturer everything, even the shocks, and we try to retain as many of the factory components as possible while preserving the desired performance levels."
For those wondering, these performance levels aren't Laguna Seca ready; they weren't designed for that. After all, most people don't want a buckboard ride from track-ready coilovers with stiff shock valve damping and sky-high spring rates. "Track oriented coilovers have their place," said Clarke, "but we designed these for street-driven Mustangs with performance and price in mind. In general, most owners drive their cars to work daily and either attend car shows, drive in the canyons, or attend local autocross and drag strips on the weekends, so finding the right compromise between performance and ride quality was our goal."
Ride quality is surprisingly good thanks to spring rates that check in at 220 pounds in the front and 250 in the rear. The nonadjustable shocks with standard-sized shafts offer just enough damping control that the ride is never bouncy or harsh, yet suspension action is well controlled in all circumstances save for high-speed, at-the-limit situations on bumpy surfaces—again, not a scenario most street-driven Mustangs ever see.
The front setup is a coilover in every sense of the word since, unlike the stock divorced setup with a spring and a shock operating independently, the two are combined to create a true coilover for improved performance and reduced weight. Like most Fox-body coilover kits, the rear remains a divorced setup, but the unique upper spring perches feature adjustable ride height.
Raceland isn't pulling any punches with its coilovers and even backs the products with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee and a two-year warranty. That's right. If you don't like them, return them. If that's not impressive enough, Raceland takes pride in serving the older platforms like the Fox-body up through the present S197 with coilover kits that drop your Pony 1 to 3 inches.
As we can attest, our show-quality Fox-body was the perfect candidate for the coilovers. The LX hatch wasn't pretending to be a track rat with its shaved bay, lack of front sway bar, flawless paint, and extraordinary True Forged wheels, but that didn't mean it couldn't benefit from the right set of coilovers.To some, it might seem like an oxymoron to install coilovers on anything less than a track car, but Raceland has shown us that sometimes enthusiasts want a coilover for different reasons than Ricky Racer.
"Preserving ride quality, giving enthusiasts full control over their ride heights, and improving performance all top the list for most street-driven Mustang owners, and we designed our coilovers accordingly," Clarke said.
So if you own a street-driven Mustang and don't intend on hitting open track events on a regular basis but still want full control over your ride height without sacrificing ride quality or performance, you're in luck. Follow along as we install the coilovers on a ridiculously clean LX hatch that was just begging for a serious drop.
01. Here is a close-up of the front coilovers, which coincidentally are considered to be the real deal since they move the spring and shock together into one plane (unlike the OEM setup, which has the shock and spring mounted in different locations).
02. The Raceland coilovers don’t have sky-high spring rates and adjustable, oversized shaft shocks because they’re designed as a street-oriented alternative to shock and spring packages that will give drivers the ability to easily change their ride heights. Here’s a look at the upper front mounts, which feature integrated bearings for a smooth ride on less-than-perfect road surfaces.
03. We opted for the optional adjustable caster/camber plates so we could dial in the perfect amount of camber not only for turn-in and feel from the driver’s seat but also so that we could achieve that slammed stance without hitting the front fenders.
04. Here’s a peek at the rear setup. It comes with everything needed to bring the back down to the ground, improve ride quality, and add some performance in the process.
05. The rear upper spring perch is adjustable so ride height changes are a cinch. This unique design sandwiches the body for a secure fit.
06. The street-cruiser Fox listed like a barge in our slalom test thanks to blown-out old suspension components and a lack of front sway bar thanks to a shaved bay. Since the Raceland coilovers are street oriented, we decided to use a clean street Fox as the test vehicle despite its missing front sway bar.
07. Here’s another shot of the baseline slalom test from behind. The old suspension and lack of a front sway bar made for an interesting mix of body lean, understeer, and even oversteer when provoked. The beautifully painted Fox looked like a wallowing whale.
08. Brake dive was also laughable with the old suspension setup. We could achieve a stinkbug stance with little pedal pressure, which immediately induced rear-wheel lockup and near loss of control.
09. Here’s the old, blown-out, no-name coilover that was removed. Out with the old, in with the new.
10. We started with the Raceland caster/camber plates. Take your time and be methodical; if you have to, call Raceland and ask questions since directions aren’t included. However, there are installation videos for just the coilover install on Raceland’s website, and we hear that a caster/camber plate installation video is in the works.
11. Here the caster/camber plates are installed but left loose to aide in the coilover installation. Once everything is in place we can tighten ’er up and have ’er aligned.
12. Ah yes, time for the Raceland coilover to join its new home inside our Fox-body. Note the small helper spring above the main coilover spring; this is to improve small bump absorption and ride. For reference, the spring rates are 220 pounds front, 250 pounds rear. Moving the spring onto the shock like a true coilovers allows for less aggressive spring rates than a typical stock-style setup. Leverage . . . it’s a wondrous thing.
13. Without instructions it took us several minutes to sort everything out, but Greg Wallace from AED quickly realized how the upper bearing worked with the coilover and the caster/camber plates.
14. The front coilovers mount to the OEM spindles much like the stock setup does, with the old bolts being recycled for the job.
15. Don’t forget the included shims for a glove-tight fit.
16. We used an impact drill to expedite tightening and then torqued them to factory specs.
17. I’ve never seen this before: This Fox-body still had the stock rear shocks, which means the factory insulation hadn’t been tampered with. How cool is that? Then again, maybe that’s part of the reason it handled and rode so poorly.
18. Speaking of handling and riding poorly, the stock rear shocks and been used for well over two decades, and they lacked all damping abilities.
19. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Part of the reason Raceland can keep the price of the coilover kits so competitive is by making use of factory components. By reusing as many stock parts as possible, it keeps the cost down and reliability high. Here’s a look at the upper rear shock mount.
20. Feed the Raceland coilover into the upper rear shock mount on the body, and secure the upper bolt.
21. Next up, tighten the lower shock mount on the rearend and tighten the upper one inside the hatch as well.
22. Here’s the unique upper spring perch that mounts to the body with its unique design. The upper perch is adjustable, so tweaking ride height is just a few handtools away.
23. The Raceland lower spring perch is offset for the downward slope of the control arms for even pring pressure.
24. With the upper and lower mounts in place, it’s time to install the rear spring and adjust the ride height.
25. Ride quality was much improved with the Raceland coilovers, as was performance through the slalom cones. The lack of a front sway bar on our show Fox made body roll inevitable, but the stiffer spring rates and more aggressive shock damping helped even her out without remaining harsh over bumps. We kept the slalom course tight so speeds would remain in check, but the Raceland coilovers increased our speed through the cones by 3.9 mph.
26. Brake dive was also better with the coilovers, although it was still present since the Raceland coilovers are more street oriented. Race-ready coilovers could dial in stiffer shock settings, but at the expense of ride quality and increased NVH.
27. The beauty of the Raceland coilovers is their adjustable height, which allowed us to bring our fancy Fox down on the deck for the town’s Friday-night car show. After looking great on Friday, we raised the ride height back up so come Monday, driving to work wasn’t a chore.
28. We won’t pretend that the Raceland coilovers increased handling like a race coilover would, but we can attest that they did improve performance and, more appropriately for this test, bettered the ride quality and allowed us full control over our ride height without breaking the bank.