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.