Mustang MonthlyHow To Chassis Suspension
How To Get Better Handling Through Bolt-On Coilovers
Don’t be intimidated by the word coilover, as this kit from Street or Track is truly an easy install in your garage
We’ve said it before and we’re still saying it today: We’re excited to see so many first-generation Mustang owners taking to the streets with their Mustangs and driving them. Enjoying your car on some great American backroads is a precious, rare feat that too few get to enjoy today, and we salute those that make an effort to get their Mustangs out for a fun Sunday afternoon drive, a Saturday morning trip to their local Cars & Coffee, or just for a trip to the local ice cream stand to hang out.
Now, while you can certainly enjoy said drives with a stock suspension under your sheetmetal, for the majority of us that like a windy road the stock bits certainly leave us wanting more; especially if you’re running modern low-profile rubber on larger-diameter aluminum wheels too. Upgrading your suspension not only offers a firmer and more precise ride, a properly set up performance suspension will actually help with braking and traction as well.
Of course the suspension options out there literally are from mild to wild for the first-generation Mustang chassis, often with a mind-blowing price tag and fabrication or welding skills that are outside the realm of the average DIY Mustang owner. Even some of the better bolt-on kits require cutting/grinding or other modifications for proper fitment. However, the Street or Track coilover system is a true bolt-in coilover suspension system that, if for some reason you ever wanted to, allows you to return your front suspension back to 100 percent stock. All you need are some basic hand tools, solid reading comprehension for the installation instructions, and a desire to have a great-handling car.
Shaun Burgess launched Street or Track back in 2003 and has been designing, building, testing, and selling his proven suspension pieces for first-generation Mustangs ever since he hung his sign out. If you hit a major Ford event, like the Carlisle Ford Nationals, there’s a good chance you’ll spot Shaun in the vendor area with his products. Even better is an event where he can put a few laps on one of his test vehicles. That’s right, every product he develops is fully tested on the rigors of a road course, so you know it’ll last, be it street cruising or your own track day fun. Best of all, Street or Track really supports its customers and will go the extra mile.
1. The Street or Track Bilstein Coilover System includes the hardware you see here—tubular upper and lower control arms, adjustable strut rods, 1-inch drop template for upper control arms, assembled coilover shocks, and upper and lower shock mounts. Also shown are the optional Bilstein bolt-in rear shocks and the lower control arm camber adjustment kit, which is highly recommended. The shocks are available in three rates: street, sport, or race valving. This owner chose the sport option.
2. The installation requires removal of the complete front suspension from the car, but the steering pieces stay put and there’s no real need to disconnect the caliper fluid lines. After safely wiring the caliper out of the way, the steering tie-rod end is removed by way of a couple of precise hits from a hammer on the spindle steering arm “eye.” The castle nut is on, but loose, which will allow us to see when the tie-rod end becomes free without the steering arm dropping to the ground.
3. Moving on to the spindle assembly, both the upper and lower ball joints need to be separated for spindle removal. After cutting free the upper and lower cotter pins the ball joint retaining nuts are backed off.
4. Before moving further we opted to remove the antisway bar end links and the strut rod mounting bolts at the lower control arm. This will allow the lower arm to move easier for spindle removal/access to the ball joints.
5. With the lower arm free to move the lower ball joint was separated via the hammer/spindle eye method and the arm removed from the chassis. Then, the upper ball joint was separated in the same fashion and the spindle set aside for reinstallation later.
6. Next up, the stock strut rod assembly is removed from the chassis.
7. The shock absorber and upper shock mount can be extricated once the lower shock retaining nuts are removed from under the spring saddle.
8. Now comes the scary part (for most anyway). The compression of the stock coil spring is nothing to be feared, provided you use a quality spring compressor. Fix your spring compressor according to the instructions that come with it (if you don’t have one you can rent them from most auto parts stores). You’ll need to compress the spring enough to remove the upper control arm from the shock tower.
9. With the spring compressed remove the upper control arm retaining nuts in the engine bay and pull the control arm free. Don’t worry about the existing alignment shims; you will not need those with the new Street or Track control arms. Release the spring compressor slowly (hand ratchet, no power tools!) and extricate the spring and upper spring isolator from the shock tower as well.
10. All the old is out on the right side, so now we’ll move over to the driver side and pull the same bits off on that side as well.
11. You may have noticed in our removal photos that the owner of this ’65 hardtop had already performed the Arning/Shelby drop on his stock upper control arms. The Street or Track Bilstein coilover kit is designed to work with said drop, and as such includes this nifty steel template to mark the drill hole locations. We simply mocked it up here for photo purposes.
12. Once the relocated upper arm holes have been drilled the upper control arms can be installed. Street or Track makes it easy by marking everything with side-specific stickers. We left all the stickers in place until finishing the installation in case we had to pull a part back off.
13. On the shock towers the three carriage bolt-hole slots need to be opened up just a hair for proper fitment of the coilover mounting plate and its three bolts. We assembled the top plate/bolts and test-fit it, grinding as needed, until the plates fit flat without any binding.
14. The upper brackets will sit on top of the shock tower opening and the three retaining bolts will pass through your typical export brace or tubular bracing system, as shown here.
15. Some coilover conversions require you to remove the spot-welded coil spring upper seat at the top of the shock tower. Drilling the spot welds and prying the seat out is a pain, plus if you decide to go back to an OE-style spring-on-upper-arm setup you can’t easily. So Street or Track provides these trick billet upper spring mount adapters. These allow the upper spring mount to easily bolt in without any cutting/grinding/modifications.
16. After placing the billet adapters up into the shock tower over the three retaining bolts, the upper coilover shock mounts are placed next and the washers and locknuts are installed to secure the assemblies. Note the upper coilover retaining bolt is pre-installed through one bolt hole for each side, as once the brackets are in place the bolts would not be able to be installed due to clearances.
17. The lower control arms, lower coilover shock mounts, and adjustable strut rod brackets need to be assembled on the bench before moving further. Leave the two bolts loose, as it will aid installation having the shock mount and strut rod bracket able to wiggle some. Left-hand side shown here obviously.
18. Fit the loosely assembled lower control arms to the chassis using the new bolts provided. The owner of this ’65 hardtop opted for Street or Track’s trick Lower Camber Kit. The Lower Camber Kit mimics the ’67-and-up camber adjustment ability at the inboard lower control arm mounting point, but uses offset insert plates versus the camber bolt Ford had. The brackets you see tack-welded to the lower arm mount are part of said kit. We’ll finish welding them once the arms are installed.
19. The adjustable strut rod system, which Street or Track offers separately, is part of the Bilstein coilover kit. Thread the strut rod assemblies onto the brackets affixed to the lower control arms and then install the pivot end into the Mustang’s strut rod mounting holes. Use a prybar to prevent rotation of the brackets while tightening the retaining nuts.
20. With the control arms and strut rod assemblies in place we can finally install the coilover shock assemblies. The upper mounting bolts are already in place, so it is simply a matter of slipping one spacer over each bolt, then the coilover shock upper eye mounts, followed by the remaining spacer on each side so the bolts can be lined up and pushed through the bracket ears and secured by the included locknuts.
21. For the lower coilover spring mounts the assembly mimics the upper mounts, though you may find it easier to use a tapered punch/lineup bar to align the shock eyes and spacers before passing the bolts through.
22. Once the coilover assemblies are secured to the upper mounts and lower control arms/mounts, the spindle can be returned to the car and installed on the new upper/lower ball joints. Follow the included instructions on the included spacers/washers if your particular setup requires them. Install the castle nut and torque to the listed specs and secure with the included cotter pin as shown.
23. The upper and lower control arms feature grease-able ball joints. Install the grease fittings provided and fill with your favorite grease. Once complete, remove the fittings and install the Allen head screw plugs. These prevent grease leakage and are low-profile so you won’t have issues breaking a grease fitting off by accident.
24. Street or Track provides suggested alignment settings for street and track use in its instructions. While the owner of this Mustang has the alignment tools to do a proper DIY alignment in the garage, if you decide to drive your Mustang to an alignment shop for them to handle, ensure all new fasteners are torqued to specs provided, ride height is where you want it, and that your toe setting is at zero or slightly toe-in to be able to safely drive to the alignment shop. Otherwise, have it towed there on a rollback-style tow truck.
25. While the owner is sticking with his leaf spring setup out back for the foreseeable future, he did opt to install Street or Track’s Bilstein rear shocks to complement the equipment up front. They are a direct replacement and bolt right into the body and spring plates with no fuss.