Eric English
June 22, 2006
Here'a a majority of the goods we sourced from Kenny Brown, including the company's K-member, control arms, sway bar, and Koni double-adjustable struts. Also pictured are the 500-in-lb H&R springs, Baer Tracker tie-rod ends, and D&D coilover conversion hardware.

Horse Sense: Unfortunately, while we were putting this story together, Kenny Brown Performance went on a bit of a hiatus due to main man Kenny Brown suffering some rather severe health problems. The company hopes to have production of its parts back up and running this summer, but we decided to run our story because it leads up to the Fox IRS swap we'll be running in an upcoming issue.

Based on repetitive observation, we find that transforming a stock Mustang into something worthy of road-course accolades usually happens in stages. This article is specifically about the front suspension, so you know the routine. Typical first steps might involve stiffer springs and a strut-tower brace, while a follow-up would do well to include upgraded struts, caster/camber plates, a bumpsteer kit, and control-arm bushings (particularly on a high-mile chassis) when budget allows. Of course, there's still more front-end hardware to be had when your goal is serious corner carving, but the point is that a car rarely goes from zero to hero in one fell swoop. Yet that's exactly what we observed recently as we surveyed a complete Kenny Brown front suspension being installed on Brian Holsten's '92 LX. Brian's Mustang already sported a Cobra brake upgrade, but the suspension was unaltered save for a set of replacement struts. All that changed in relatively short order, with the results being as dramatic as night and day.

Right up front, Kenny Brown's instructions direct you to have a shop manual handy for the numerous torque specs and disassembly procedures. Likewise, we won't give you a blow-by-blow for removing the old components, but we will show you a few helpful hints.

Now if you've been mulling over how to improve the cosmetic profile of your ride by dropping it in the weeds, this setup isn't the right one for you. Kenny Brown certainly offers such simple spring/strut/shock setups for the mild enthusiast, but the installation we watched at Brad's Custom Auto in Seattle is clearly for serious track hounds or extreme street rides. In this case, our parts list consists of nearly everything in the Kenny Brown book, some of which are standalone pieces and others that can be used only in concert with companion items.

For example, both the tubular K-member and control arms require the use of coilover assemblies, as neither has the pockets to support traditional coil springs. Likewise, you need to run the Kenny Brown control arms with the company's K-member, though you can use the control arms on a stock K-member if you're on a multi-step budget. Beyond the Kenny Brown branded pieces mentioned in this story, Brian assembled a smattering of complementary items to complete the front-end makeover, including Koni Sport double-adjustable struts, H&R coilover springs, and Baer Tracker adjustable tie-rod ends-many of which are stocked at Kenny Brown's Indianapolis digs.

Before raising the car on the rack, Brian and fellow tech Scott Hicks ready the engine for the absence of the K-member. An empty engine bay would make this install a piece of cake, but rigging the engine cradle is a no-brainer as well. Hey, guys-don't forget to disconnect the battery before the car goes up in the air.

The virtues of this system are many, including weight savings, improved suspension geometry, extra clearance for items such as big-tube headers, and precise ride-height adjustment. But understand that this isn't a cheap fix-either in quality or cost-yet the dollars spent will pay vast dividends next time you hit the track. That's the plan for Brian, one of Brad's Custom Auto's experienced technicians, whose car is undergoing transformation from a street to street-legal track car, with the intent of regular participation in club track days and SCCA Time Trials (Solo 1) in the Pacific Northwest. Now sporting a sophisticated front suspension, Brian's car will eventually see power from a 408-inch powerplant and will be the subject of a new rear suspension we're working on for an upcoming issue. In the meantime, let's begin up front.

Single vs. Double

Disassembly begins with removal of the braking system. Standard practice involves leaving the brake hydraulics intact by hanging the caliper with coat-hanger stock. Here, the factory front coils are nearly ready to be forever freed from duty, but be aware of the tremendous energy potential of the compressed springs. This is one area of the job where you could maim yourself if you're aimlessly bustin' bolts. We can't stress this enough-follow the shop manual or enlist the help of an experienced hand.

Koni is a name that needs little introduction to the Mustang world, having been associated with our beloved ponycar since its shocks were fitted as standard equipment on the '65 Shelby GT350. The company continues to be a leader in the world of high-performance dampers and, of course, offers a wide variety for late-model Mustangs, including Koni Specials (reds), Koni Sport single-adjustables (yellows), and Koni Sport double-adjustables. All of these Konis are adjustable for rebound, with the DAs being adjustable for both compression and rebound. As a part of this installation, Brian knew his particular application could take advantage of the top-of-the-line Koni DA, which immediately brought to mind the following question: Just when is this type of serious equipment truly desirable?

We broached the subject with the folks at Kenny Brown, and they explained the need or desirability of a DA is wholly determined by the application and mindset of the owner. Brian is clearly the right guy for the DA, as he's experienced, hands-on, and has a near dedicated track car. Conversely, the guy who doesn't turn a wrench, hits the track just once or twice a year, and wants to simply get in and drive is completely at the other end of the spectrum-even a good candidate for a high-quality nonadjustable. It's hard to nail down the in-between enthusiast, whose desire to tune the suspension dictates at least a single-adjustable. Those in the gray area would do well to discuss the issue with a shop or suspension company they might have bought parts from in the past-which would include a company such as Kenny Brown.

Price is clearly a factor as well, as the front Koni Sport DAs retail for $200-$300/pair more than Koni Sport single-adjustables. Kenny Brown is obviously in business to sell parts, but within this is a desire to sell a customer the parts that are of greatest benefit to his or her situation, which may not include the DAs even when budget allows. If Kenny Brown deems the customer doesn't have the driving experience, frequency of use, willingness to really dial in the chassis, or the parts necessary to complement the pinnacle Konis, they may well encourage the customer to go with a less exotic damper and step up to other parts that could provide more benefit: "Sir, have you ever considered our tubular control arms?"