KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
December 5, 2006
Photos By: KJ Jones, Rick Kurtz

Horse Sense: Outlaw Mustangs with stock suspensions and true 10.5-inch tires were covering the quarter-mile in 9.4 seconds in 1999, with more cubic inches, ported high-port heads, automatic transmissions, and foggers full of nitrous. Today, NMRA's Real Street Mustangs cover the distance in nearly the same amount of time-with no more than 311 cubes, unported (except for stock) non-raised-port heads, stock camshafts, stick transmissions, 26x10-inch slicks, and a host of other variables that are quite limiting by comparison. Ya just gotta love the evolution of the game.

Wheels-up launches, low-10-second and, in a few cases, high-9-second passes are the name of the game in 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Real Street-the entry-level, power-adder, heads-up category of the National Mustang Racers Association and the brainchild of our editor, Steve Turner.

Despite the presence of newer 'Stangs, such as the SN-95 and S197, in the class, the essence of Real Street has always been to keep things as mechanically simple as possible. That's similar to how things were back in the day, when the norm was flogging mostly stock, Fox Mustangs with five-speed trannys, a shot of nitrous, or a simple supercharger kit on the dragstrip. When asked about his vision for the class, Steve said, "I wanted to create a class that fit between Pure Street and EFI Renegade and more closely resembled the types of power-adder cars our readers build. I believed that limitations such as unported heads, short-tube headers, and five-speed transmissions would ultimately lead the aftermarket to develop racing products that would appeal to our readers building power-adder street cars."

The aftermarket offers racing-inspired products that can be applied to both dedicated Real Street efforts and daily driven street cars. Here at 5.0, new stuff for 'Stangs gets us hyped, and Racecraft's antiroll bar is revolutionary when it comes to parts that are accepted under the NMRA's and other sanctions' stock-style, rear-suspension rules. We couldn't pass up the opportunity to have a look at it during a recent trip to the Windy City.

Racecraft has been one of the premier builders of heads-up Mustangs for a long time. Mark Wilkinson, the company's co-owner and main man with the welding torch, is the fabricator who started the trend of cutting-edge Pro 5.0 cars with his development of Les Baer's '95 Mustang GT that attacked the gray area of rules more than 10 years ago. Many other NMRA and Fun Ford Weekend Pro, Outlaw, and Renegade 'Stangs have followed. The Real Street '05 Mustang of our friend Uncle Robin Lawrence is a Racecraft creation that's dear to us because it's the first S197 that was purchased and built for the sole purpose of competing in our class. Through Robin's series of articles in 2005 that chronicle the car's build, we watched Mark develop several brand-new, bolt-on suspension parts for '05 and '06 Mustangs, which is what Real Street is all about.

In addition to the race Mustangs it's famous for building, Racecraft is also known for K-members, A-arms, spindles, and other parts that help bring perfect front-suspension geometry to '79-'06 'Stangs. While the market is well stocked with Mustang suspension pieces [check out our Suspension Guide in the Aug. '06 issue, p. 136], Mark and Racecraft co-owner, Matt JaBaay, have recently expanded their product line to include a complete, rules-compliant, rear-suspension system for Fox cars. The line includes chrome-moly upper and lower control arms, rod-ends and spherical bearings throughout, and the aforementioned removable antiroll bar, which is an industry first for late-model Mustangs of any year.

Bruce Hemminger's '86 coupe is probably the only 'Stang in the game that has competed and won in both a true 10.5-tire category in FFW's Street Outlaw in 1999 and in NMRA's Real Street, as it finished number two in points in 2002. Real Street is the car's current home, and despite Bruce's commitment to drive JPC's nitrous-injected coupe in 2006, he's been testing and sorting out engine and chassis issues in his trusty '86 on a regular basis. He hopes to have it back in competition at some point during the '06 season with a hired gun at the controls.

Taming the car's wild, wheels-up launches and lowering its 60-foot e.t.'s have been Bruce's main areas of concern, so he was more than happy to offer us use of his ride to install and test Racecraft's front and rear suspension systems. The car has been sitting on an assortment of heavy, mismatched front and rear suspension parts for a long time. By adding Racecraft's lighter, chrome-moly tubing in the front and the rear, different springs, a new steering setup and frontend geometry, and the new antiroll bar, we wanted to see what, if any, differences the changes would make in the coupe's launch and overall handling performance on the dragstrip.

Keep reading for details on the parts and the results of our dragstrip testing.

Mark Wilkinson, Matt JaBaay, and Nate Wallace hoist Racecraft's Fox Mustang front suspension into place under Bruce Hemminger's high-flying '86 Real Street coupe. Racecraft completely revamped the car's front and rear suspension setup, for better launch (lower wheelstands) and 60-foot performance, as well as high-speed stability.

Old and plenty worn out, this frontend has been on Bruce's coupe since its Street Outlaw days, and in some cases, beyond that. Note the modified factory spindles for mounting both the V-8 struts and drag-brake brackets, and the upper spring perch on the K-member. This car was done long before the days of purpose-built race cars.

Mark and Nate haul the old frontend to the shop's scale. This mild-steel apparatus weighs 75 pounds.

We put Racecraft's chrome-moly front suspension on the scale immediately after weighing the original pieces. It included the K-member (PN 3273500015PR; $479), 12-inch-long A-arms (PN 3212TA00; $299), spindles (PN 300102; $495), bumpsteer kit (PN 333202; $109), and Racecraft's manual Pinto steering rack assembly (PN 333100; $189) with billet rack clamp (PN 333107; $24). To nobody's surprise, the new frontend registers a svelte-by comparison-58 pounds. The K-member used for this project has more than 24 inches of overall clearance, including a 1.5-inch drop for the rack, which allows plenty of room for big-tube headers and painless, in-car removal of the oil pan when necessary. The lightweight tubular A-arms are set up for coilovers and feature adjustable rod ends and standard ball joints. At 12 inches, Racecraft's A-arms are 1 inch shorter than stock, which is the typical length for drag-race applications.