Tom Wilson
November 21, 2006
Photos By: Steve Turner

Dario Orlando's South Florida Mustang emporium, Steeda Autosports, has been around since the fuel-injected 5.0 was a pup. And from modest beginnings, the Steeda brand name has grown immensely, not to mention the now college-town Steeda campus of engineering, manufacturing, and sales buildings in Pompano Beach, Florida.

One thing that has remained the same all these years, however, has been Steeda's ability to deliver upgraded Mustang suspensions that rode nicely in the real world, yet provided a good boost in handling performance. Back when the typical bolt-on Mustang tuner was fitting railroad car springs and jackhammer shock valving, Steeda knew well enough to allow some give in the Mustang suspension. Not only did this deliver a humane ride, but it also allowed the tires to follow the pavement better, with a corresponding increase in grip.

Installing rear springs on S197 Mustangs is easy once the axle has been freed-up by disconnecting the shock and sway bar. The old spring can then be popped out and the new, shorter Steeda spring will slip right into position.

Now the new Mustang is well on the scene, and Steeda developed an extensive line of chassis reinforcement and suspension-upgrade pieces for it before it was even released. In time, these parts will be marketed in kits-with Steeda Mustang suspension parts for earlier cars, for example-but for now they appear in the company's catalog and Web site as a series of parts. To get a better idea of what was available, we visited Steeda to talk with Dario and to fit a good selection of Steeda parts to an '05 Mustang GT.

Of course, Steeda has springs, shocks, and sway bars covered. The springs and shocks, especially, are designed to work together, although many people install just the springs to get started because they lower the car for that all-important cool look.

Steeda also offers an adjustable Panhard bar for the rear, plus rear lower control arms (trailing arms), an adjustable upper (third) link for the rear, upgraded sway-bar end links, a bumpsteer kit, along with various bushing, spring-seat, camber-adjuster, and bracing kits.

S197 Mustang rear sway bars hang from unique brackets behind the rear axle, and changing the sway bar is another easy nut-and-bolt job. Because we're changing the sway bar and support brackets, the stock sway bar was disconnected at the chassis end of the support bracket...

Because Steeda has worked at it for so long, it has a close relationship with Ford through the SEMA Technology Transfer program. This hasn't hurt, of course. The Steeda springs, for example, are properly constructed with the correct clocking of the ends so they fit the Mustangs spring seats-amazingly, some other manufacturers' springs do not. And those mainstays of earlier Mustang chassis work, the subframe connectors, aren't needed on the new car and thus are not offered by Steeda.

Steeda offers three sets of springs: Sport, Ultra-Lite, and Competition. Easily the most popular are the Sport springs, which are daily driver friendly with a 1-inch drop. The Ultra-Lites are the same spring rate as the Sports, but give an 11/48- to 31/48-inch extra drop and weigh 15 percent less than the Sports. The Competition springs are for just that: autocrossing and open track driving.

Steeda says the optimum drop in ride height is 19 mm. With the springs dropping the car 25 mm or so, there is a gain in lowered center of gravity (and spring rate), but the roll center moves out of its best range. To correct the roll-center situation with the lowering springs, Steeda has tried two fixes-a taller ball joint as used in earlier Mustang Steeda kits and moving the A-arm slightly. After the taller ball joint proved unsuitable for late-models, relocating the A-arm became the Steeda fix.

...and the axle end of the sway bar. If you're changing multiple suspension parts, getting the sway bar out of the way first, then reinstalling the new sway bar as the last job will provide maximum axle movement and working room.

The resulting A-arm relocation kit moves the inner A-arm bolt hole in the K-member upward one inch. It fits a small spacer to the inner end of the A-arm, and its installation does not change any bushings, but it does require drilling a couple of holes. If you have a welder in the shop, a quick arc to tack the kit into the arm provides added security. The kit is inexpensive, but the installation is around four hours.

Part of that cushy stock driving experience in the new Mustang comes from more sophisticated isolators. Notable among these are the engine mounts and the front lower-control-arm bushings, which are hydro-elastic units featuring a liquid cushion. This cushion can be too soft and allow too much movement in performance-enhanced Mustangs, so Steeda offers more rigid mounts and bushings. While the engine mounts sound a bit aggressive to us-good for race cars, but not on the street-the urethane control-arm bushing replacements apparently aren't quite so rambunctious. You'll feel more road grain and probably get a hair of noise out of them, but the chassis precision will go up too. Actually, the Steeda front control-arm-bushing kit comes with hard and soft urethane bushings, so you can decide which one you want. We'd go for the softer bushing for any street car.

Steeda enjoys a lengthy association with Tokico, and for the late-models the company understandably recommends the Tokico D-Specs (late availability). These premium shocks offer a huge range of adjustability, with the ability to cover everything from open tracking to plush take-her-out-to-dinner valving. Steeda also offers Tokico's standard dampers for late-models if the D-Specs prove too pricey.

Using the usual solid, bent-steel construction, Steeda's sway bars are higher rate than stock and are matched to its springs. The rear bar offers a single rate, while the front bar has three adjustment holes.

Panhard bars consist of two parts: the actual bar running between the axle and chassis, and a tubular brace that supports the Panhard-bar brackets. Both are replaced with the Steeda parts, with the job starting with the removal of the Panhard bar at the chassis end.

To get the most from the bars, Steeda also offers seriously beefed sway-bar mounts front and rear. These stiffer brackets deflect less than the stockers, thus increasing sway-bar effectiveness. The combination is good for an approximate 25 percent increase in roll stiffness, according to Steeda. In addition to the sway bars themselves, Steeda offers sway-bar end-links. The stock links are nicely lightweight with tie-rod-end-like fittings for adequate precision, but the Steeda replacements are beefier, sport no-slop ball-end bearings, and are length-adjustable for setting the sway bar preload. Initially, Steeda offered bars with all-metal Heim-joint ends, but has moved to a superior ball-end joint that eliminates the noise that marred the Heim-joint installations within days of their fitment.

For rear trailing arms, Steeda offers three options. Its standard is a $219 tubular-steel, adjustable arm with urethane bushings at each end. It's stiffer than stock, and Steeda recommends it for both street and drag-racing use. A step up for street cars at $399 are Steeda's billet-aluminum trailing arms. Their main attraction is reduced weight while remaining quite rigid, and Dario says they are quieter than the steel arms. They can be had with either urethane bushings or rod-end bearings. Racers will want the extra-beefy tube-steel trailing arms with rod ends at each end, but street cars won't because the double rod ends are simply too noisy for street use. All of the urethane bushings used in Steeda trailing arms are of a patented design. Stiffer than stock, Dario says they eliminate any axle hop.

Here's a shot of the tubular Panhard-bar brace. Like the bar itself, it is a simple nut-and-bolt job to remove and replace it.

Panhard bars for '05 and later Mustangs are just too easy. Ford provides a Panhard bar as stock, so the Steeda bar is simply stronger and adjustable, with urethane ends. It's an easy upgrade, as the bar is all that's needed. The rest of the Panhard-bar assembly-mounts, braces, and such-is already in place from Ford. In case you have the urge, the Steeda Panhard bar is approved for Grand Am racing, so you can use them on your FR500C.

In addition to a bit firmer mounting thanks to its urethane bushing, Steeda's third link-"or adjustable upper link," as they call it-bolts in place of the stock third link atop the rear axle. Steeda's is length-adjustable, which allows adjustment of the rear-axle pinion angle. This can be a traction aid on drag cars or a fine-tuning adjustment on lowered, open-track cars.

Getting the Panhard-bar length correct is the only critical part of changing the bar. The simple way to adjust bar length is to adjust it to match the stock bar length. With left- and right-hand threads at opposite ends of the bar, the Panhard bar is actually a large turnbuckle, and therefore easily adjusts for length.

Bumpsteer is another concern, which is aggravated by lowering. Simply spacing the tie-rod end-link downward below the spindle is the cure, and the job of a bumpsteer kit. Steeda's kit uses rod-end bearings for maximum steering precision and offers a wide range of adjustment so the tie rods end up parallel with the lower control arms.

One thing we lost with the new Mustang front end is camber adjustability. While not a meaningful problem for casual street cars, camber adjustability is nice when optimizing the front end, especially after moving other factors around, crash damage, or when trying to perfect alignment left to right on track cars. To allow camber adjustment, Steeda offers a billet camber adjuster. It's an aluminum plate that bolts to the front strut at the same point the spindle does. The plate has a recess that accepts hardened steel inserts that space the spindle outward. Up to 3 degrees of negative camber are possible with the kit.

While the camber adjusters may seem a bit awkward, the large coil spring of the new car precludes camber adjustment by moving the top of the strut because it hits the chassis.

The new Steeda Panhard bar fits into the stock attach brackets. A coating of grease helps the otherwise sticky urethane bushings slide into place.

Finally, Steeda offers two upper strut-tower braces (one showy, the other less expensive), a g-load brace for the lower framerail area, and a rear shock-tower brace. All aid rigidity, but with the new Mustang supposedly 95 percent stiffer than the previous car, they aren't as vital. Steeda offers them as final touches for the otherwise completely updated late-model chassis.

In all, the Steeda gear delivers the same pliable handling that results in a great-driving car on the street and one that leans a bit then digs in and delivers traction on the road courses. It's good to know that as the Mustang changes, the aftermarket can still deliver.

Horse Sense: Steeda has a long history of either participating or sponsoring Mustang road racing. This year, look for a renewed effort by Steeda to support a large and growing number of late-model Mustangs in grassroots road racing.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery