Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Chassis Suspension
Maximizing Front Grip with Maximum Motorsports
There’s two main avenues when it comes to building an S197’s suspension – grip or drag. For the latter, optimum weight savings is typically paramount. For those that like to take turns weight is less of a concern and improved geometry takes precedence. For our 2013 BOSS 302 we wanted a front suspension setup that increased rigidity and handling since tackling twisties was on the horizon. We hooked up with Maximum Motorsports for an entire front suspension makeover.
Our BOSS 302 project was a salvage title rebuild car. With minor passenger side sheet metal damage and no motor, it made a perfect candidate for a budget street/track beater. With the engine out of the car it served as the best time to update the front suspension and we spent no time ticking all the options available from Maximum Motorsports.
The Parts List
Tubular Front K-member - PN Mm5KM-7
Radiator Core Support – PN Mm5KM-8
Reinforcing Arms with Front Sway Bar Mounts - PN Mm5FSB-22
Front Sway Bar – PN Mm5FSB-10
Sway Bar Endlinks – PN 12M-75
Bumpsteer Kit - PN Mm5TR-2
Bumpsteer Gauge Kit – PN MMT-4
Front Control Arm Bushings - 6-220-BL
Removing the Stock Suspension
While removing the front suspension from an S197 is pretty easy with the engine out, it’s not terribly difficult with it in place. MM sells a trick engine support brace (PN MMT-11) that mounts to the shock tower bolts and supports the engine mount brackets with two ratchet straps.
Maximum Motorsports provides very detailed instructions on installing all their parts, so we will hit the highlights. The first course of action was removing the suspension components. A 15mm bolt and nut secures the lower control arm to the spindle and an 18mm for the tie rod ends. The control arm bushing comes out fairly easy, but we needed a ball joint separator for the tie rod end. We weren’t concerned about ripping the dust boot since the tie rod end was being replaced by a MM bumpsteer kit.
With the steering shaft bolt removed it was four, 19mm bolts and nuts on each side of the cross member to drop it down. Use a jack to hold the cross member in place and to drop it to the floor. Life is easier with someone helping hold an end while it drops. The electric rack will still be attached at this point. Four more nuts on the radiator support and that is out of the way as well. There’s no need to remove the radiator. Time to get installing our shiny, new parts!
Maximum Motorsports Tubular K-member
The heart of our install is MM’s K-member, which is like no other cross member on the market. It features a unique, two-piece design that allows the engine mounts to remain bolted to the frame, allowing for an easier removal of the main structure. Also mounting the engine this way puts the load of the engine onto the Mustang’s frame and not onto the front suspension.
“We wanted the ability to allow the use of stock engine mounts, for the least NVH possible,” explains Maximum Motorsports’ CEO Chuck Schwynoch. “The modular design also allowed us to make the K-member stiffer, while simplifying manufacturing at the same time. Having adequate stiffness is the most important design goal in our suspension products. Proper stiffness results in better handling.”
The billet mounting blocks also have pre-tapped holes for those looking to install a short-long arm (SLA) type front suspension. “Also, we wanted to make engine maintenance easier,” said Schwynoch. “With the engine mounts bolted to the K-member mounting blocks, it’s very simple to drop the entire K-member out without having to support the engine. This makes it very easy to pull the oil pan, change headers, etc.”
MM’s K-member weighs close to the factory variant but is designed for increased stiffness and improved handling. The front control arm pickup points are raised to keep the front roll center from dropping excessively on a lowered car. This improves handling without using extended length ball joints. The MM K-member design is about 30% stiffer than stock when subjected to cornering and braking loads.
Just ahead is MM’s radiator core support. This is a direct replacement to the factory core support and is swapped out with only four nuts. It’s designed to offer a minimalistic design and comes standard without provisions for the front sway bar. The Reinforcing Arms with integrated sway bar mount affixes to the core support with four bolts to side and then ties into the front of the cross member.
“The braces between the radiator core support and K-member are there to increase the bending stiffness of the very front section of the chassis,” explained Schwynoch. “This will reduce NVH and resonances in the car. It also provides a small improvement in steering precision.”
A Maximum Motorsports’ 36mm front sway bar fills the mounting points of the Reinforcing Arms and comes with new bushings and end caps. Three mounting holes on the end of the sway bars allows for a stiffer, neutral or looser sway bar setup. MM’s adjustable Sway Bar Endlinks provide the connection between the sway bar and our KW Clubsport coilovers.
“To get the handling balanced on any given car requires the correct ratio of front to rear suspension roll stiffness,” says Schwynoch. “The easiest way to do this is through adjustable sway bars or having a wide selection of fixed size sway bars. With the S197 chassis, the factory has a wide range of rear sway bars available, so we only had to develop one front sway bar for most applications.” Moving outward we come to the front control arms. Bushings are never fun to replace but the rear control arm upgrade from Maximum Motorsports is worth the time. The rear bushing is the biggest area of concern and the Prothane upgrade offered by MM isn’t all that difficult to swap out. Simply cut way the outer shell and then the inner, making sure not to cut into the metal collar. The Prothane bushing will easily slide on and mount in the factory location.
When it came to early model S197s, Schwynoch offered some advice, “If the customer has a 2005-09 Mustang and will be using the car for hard cornering or braking, we suggest upgrading to the 2010-14 front control arms and spindles. These parts use a larger diameter ball joint that’s more durable. In addition, the spindle is stronger than the 2005-09 design.”
Last but not least it Maximum Motorsports’ Bumpsteer Kit. This kit is designed to replace the tie rod end and ball joint with an adjustable spherical unit. The swap takes about five minutes if it’s done during the installation of their complete front suspension. There’s a variety of spacers that are stored on the bottom of the tapered stud that allows road racers to setup their Mustangs with an optimal bumpsteer curve.
We asked Schwynoch how much tuning is required to get the bumpsteer correct. “If installed according to the installation instructions, the resulting bumpsteer curve will be fairly close to optimum. This assumes that no other parts have been installed which alter the front suspension or steering geometry. It also assumes that nothing in the suspension is bent, or otherwise out of spec.”
Maximum Motorsports also offers a Bumpsteer Gauge Kit (PN MMT-4) to better tune in the bumpsteer curve. “Measuring and adjusting bumpsteer on a car is a great check to see if both sides of the suspension and steering are exactly the same,” explains Schwynoch. “By contrast, the bumpsteer on a 1979-2004 Mustang must be measured on every car due to large variations in the many different part combinations and factory tolerances. For example, the factory S197 K-member has locating pins on the frame rail to align it. The Fox and SN95 chassis have very large slots in the K-member to allow it to move around on the frame rails, by about half-inch. While the more precise build of the S197 chassis reduces the need to measure bumpsteer on every car, it is one of those fine-tuning things one should do on a Mustang used in competition.”
We are eager to get our Coyote back in place and test out Maximum Motorsports’ complete front suspension solutions!
1. Our salvage title BOSS 302 made an unscheduled off roading trip that destroyed the radiator and condenser. Luckily all the suspension was square.
2. The lower ball joint comes out fairly easy. There’s an Allen key opening on top of the ball joint that will allow you to free it up, allowing it to separate easier from the spindle. The tapered tie rod end is another story and required the use of a ball joint separator.
3. Make sure to support the cross member from the bottom before removing the four nuts and bolts on each side. Having someone balancing it on one side while dropping it is recommended as well.
4. Bye bye stamped steel parts! Now it’s time to prep our Maximum Motorsports K-member.
5. The modular design of the Maximum Motorsports K-member is really unique. This billet aluminum block mounts to the frame and holds the engine mounts. This means the lower portion of the cross member can be removed without supporting the engine. This design also allows the engine to be supported by the frame and rely less on the cross member.
6. MM’s K-member weighs close to the factory variant but keep in mind that this was never intended for weight savings; it’s designed for increased stiffness and improved handling. The front control arm pickup points are raised to keep the front roll center from dropping excessively on a lowered car.
7. A locating dowel helps provide a proper alignment of the mounting blocks. Maximum Motorsport prefers using the stock engine mounts to reduce NVH.
8. The mounting blocks will first attach to the frame and then the cross member will mount to the billet blocks. The rear cross member bolts and location are reused.
9. To remove the front control arm rear bushings we enlisted the help of a cut off saw. The metal outer shell will come off as its own piece then the thin metal and rubber bushing. This is a lot faster than dealing with a mechanical press.
10. The upgraded bushings will need to be lubed with the supplied grease and will push on by hand.
11. The Maximum Motorsports versus the stock core support. MM’s version weighs about 3.2 pounds more with the Reinforcing Arms attached but help stiffen the core support and cross member.
12. Maximum Motorsports supplies adjustable sway bar end links that bridge the gap between the strut and sway bar. Three position holes on Maximum Motorsports’ 36mm front sway bar allow for a neutral, lose, or tighter sway bar setting. The end links are set to the shortest overall length to remove preload to the sway bar. Preloading the bar will change a neutral-balanced car to understeer when cornering in one direction and oversteer when cornering in the other direction.
13. The bumpsteer kit installs in place of the factory tie rod and uses the factory retaining bolt. MM says that this setup will get the bumpsteer curve very close but the additional washers on the bottom will allow for a fine tune adjustment with MM’s Bumpsteer Gauge Kit.
14. All in, this is what everything looks like. As you can see, the core support is now braced to the cross member while the upgraded sway bar and rear control arm bushing will provide precise handling. We cannot wait to get our Coyote installed and get our BOSS 302 to the track!