August 1, 2007

Horse Sense: While TRZ Motorsports keeps the same name, only one of the players remains from Tommy Zdancewicz's original crew. Mike Braasch, who now co-owns the company with his brother, Todd, is the lone OG member of the outfit that brought us the first antiroll bar system for drag-race Fox 'Stangs in the mid '90s.

A good, straight launch and a quick 60-foot e.t. can arguably be considered the most important elements of a dragstrip pass. Some quarter-mile aficionados feel that the outcome of many races are determined in the first 60 feet of the track, so setting up a 'Stang to cover the distance as quickly as possible is a big deal.

We've all seen hard-leaving 'Stangs that erupt into corkscrewed wheelstands when they leave the starting line. These twisted takeoffs are prime examples of torque's affect on a Mustang's unibody underpinnings. While subframe connectors alleviate some of the energy-wasting-and performance-robbing-contortionist antics, a 'Stang's rear suspension system assumes most of the responsibility for an even distribution of power across the back of the car. When a '79-'07 Mustang flexes under dead-stop-to-matted-throttle acceleration-trust us, they all flex, but the S197s less so-a large percentage of load is absorbed by the passenger-side rear axle and wheel when the body rolls over in that direction. This disorder emphasizes the importance of having your ride's rear control arms (upper and lower) and pinion angle properly dialed in, as proper rear-suspension geometry ensures the car has the best opportunity to firmly plant both tires at the release of the clutch, footbrake, or transbrake.

One of the things we've learned as we followed the evolution of Mustang suspension technology through the Fox and New Edge platforms is adding a drag-race single or double antiroll bar to the mix plays a huge role in maximizing the efficiency of a 'Stang's rear suspension for better 60-foot times. The antiroll bar is a straight, frame-mounted, free-rotating tube that runs either above or below and parallel with the rearend housing. Pivoting arms at each end of the antiroll bar are linked to the axle tubes through adjustable rod-end struts. These struts can be shortened or lengthened to increase or decrease suspension preload accordingly and transfer force evenly between both sides of the rear. The passenger side usually gets the adjustment, thus eliminating body roll and improving traction for quicker forward progress.

One of the cool things about attending the annual Performance Racing Industry trade show each December is that there's a good number of new and cutting-edge high-performance and racing components for late-model Mustangs. Included in this group is a new rear suspension kit from TRZ Motorsports.

TRZ's new kit for S197s includes fully TIG-welded, chrome-moly, tubular lower control arms (PN S197-200; $200) and a double-adjustable third link (PN S197-201; $125). Also featured is the first drag-race, antiroll bar and Panhard bar combination (PN S197-203; $495), allowing retention of the stock sway bar and exhaust system for '05-and-up 'Stangs. The control arms and antiroll bar with a sway bar are the brainchild of the Braasch brothers, Mike and Todd. They're avid 'Stangbangers-they own and have raced their '00 Cobra R in NMRA True Street competition-who have spent the last few years resuscitating TRZ Motorsports since acquiring the company and relocating it from Chicago to a spacious facility in warm and sunny Kissimmee, Florida.

As evidenced by the number of S197s in the Modular Muscle class at the NMRA's season opener in Bradenton, more and more Mustang racers are either making the switch to, or joining the ranks of, those who campaign the newest 'Stangs in NMRA competition. It's cool to see that affordable, bolt-on, drag-race-specific parts are now being developed for the new platform.

Through the magic of the Internet, TRZ found a 'Stang racer who agreed to provide his car for a test of the company's new S197 rear suspension pieces. The plan was to do the project during the week between the Fun Ford Weekend and the NMRA events in Florida, since your tech editor would be in the Sunshine State at that time. We were going to take advantage of our access to the dragstrip at Bradenton Motorsports Park, solely for the purpose of evaluating hard-core 'Stang parts on the track. Chris Matters, riding the high of a win in FFW's Ultra 'Stang category, stepped up and loaned us his daily driven, supercharged '06 Saleen for the project. The car's blown Three-Valve, five-speed engine and trans combination puts approximately 448 hp and 457 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, usually taking Chris to the other side of the track in 11.80 seconds. For this exercise, our main interest is in how quickly the first 60 feet are covered.

With a best short time of 1.659-recorded at the FFW event the previous weekend-to refer to as our baseline, Mike and Todd installed TRZ's lower arms, third link, and new antiroll bar in about three hours at their shop. We all went to Bradenton a day later to see how the parts level the 'Stang's body during the launch. We also tested to see if it clipped a significant amount of time-if any at all-off the 60-foot figure.

The photos and captions cover each step, so read on and see how this street-compatible, bolt-on rear suspension system can help your S197 on the dragstrip.

At The Track

When we arrived at Bradenton Motorsports Park with Chris Matters' '06 Saleen 'Stang wearing TRZ Motorsports' complete S197 rear suspension system, our plan of evaluation was to make a few hits with the links for the antiroll bar disconnected.

A few days prior to our test, Chris recorded the Saleen's best 60-foot time (1.659) at Orlando Speed World, so we're using that short-time as our target. We made three runs with the car in basically the same configuration that it was in when we began the project, with the exception of TRZ's new lower control arms and third link. At the end of our three-pass test, there was minimal change in the 60-foot with the car in this trim-the 'Stang ran 1.656 and a best of 1.647. We allowed the engine, and more importantly a dying clutch, cool for 30 to 45 minutes between passes.

When Mike and Todd Braasch of TRZ Motorsports finished removing the stock sway bar and attaching the antiroll bar links, Chris set out to make three additional passes to determine how well the setup performs. The car's clutch consistency became hit and miss by this point, as reflected in the steady loss of mile-an-hour at top end. Regardless, Chris was able to blast off to a best-ever 1.603 60-foot time during the attempts with the antiroll bar. The car launched as straight as an arrow without any sign of twist or flex.

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