Tom Wilson
January 1, 2009
Photos By: E. John Thawley III
Maximum Motorsports' camber plates for S197 Mustangs provide necessary bearing durability and alignment accuracy. Their main job is to correct camber specifications on lowered Mustangs. The rubber band is typical Maximum practicality; it's an effective, low-cost way of holding the plate together during installation.

Horse Sense: Only teenagers are a more efficient way of wasting tire tread than lowering a car. Every suspension is designed to work in a certain range: Lower the car and the suspension is sure to be out of its range. It's a truism we've verified on everything from Mustangs to Taurii. When dropping into the weeds, be prepared to sort out the suspension geometry or buy a lot of tires.

For almost two decades, Mustang fans have been adding camber plates to the front shock towers of their Ponies. The goal has been negative camber, the supposed Holy Grail of handling parameters.

In reality, what Fox tuners have been doing is fitting caster/camber plates to correct suspension geometry that was inherently limited when it was designed. It was further fouled up when 'Stangs were modified with lowering springs.

SN-95 owners found they didn't need as much correction-either negative camber or caster-as the Fox guys, but they did need some. People were fitting lowering springs faster than ever, so they needed the plates to maintain correct suspension geometry.

All-steel construction highlights Maximum's caster/camber plates. All parts are painted or powdercoated, and a high-quality bearing is used. Here, a complete plate assembly at the top is surrounded by its component parts. The black plate is the bearing retainer, and the silver plate allows for separate camber adjustment.

Today we're enjoying the best Mustang chassis ever, the S197, introduced in 2005. Its suspension is far superior to earlier cars. From the factory, the latest Mustang's front suspension delivers the desired static negative camber, a lot more camber gain when the suspension is compressed, and plenty of caster. However, we still need camber plates because people are still fitting lowering springs.

The odd part is, the job of the S197's camber plate isn't to gain more negative camber: It's to reduce it. That's because the stock geometry has enough static negative camber and camber gain built into it. When we lower the car with shorter springs, the front suspension compresses into an area where negative camber is rapidly rising, so we need to reduce the static negative camber to present the tires flat to the road. If negative camber isn't reduced in a lowered S197 Mustang, the front tires rapidly wear their inside edge. That, and the tire will not be as flat to the ground so cornering power is reduced.

Additionally, the latest Mustang has plenty of caster, so there's no need to add or reduce caster with a caster/camber plate. Caster isn't materially affected by lowering springs.

Put all this together and Mustang suspension specialist Maximum Motorsports set out to develop a camber plate for S197 Mustangs that give the needed camber adjustment, plus a touch of caster adjustment to fine-tune any of Ford's production-line tolerances.

Edge-on, the Maximum camber plate shows how it allows the bearing retainer to slide independently. Camber can be adjusted 1.6 degrees, enough to correct for a radical 2.5-inch lowering job. Caster adjusts a scant 0.7 degree: That's sufficient to fine-tune Ford's factory tolerances, which is all that's needed.

You have to think the Maximum engineers felt pressure when designing the new plate, as the company has a strong reputation built around its existing Fox and SN-95 caster/camber plates. Delivering a quick-and-dirty part just to make S197 sales wasn't in the plans.

The resulting S197 plate is, if anything, more elegant than previous Maximum designs. Using a minimum of parts, as well as the existing holes in the S197 shock tower, Maximum's new plate gives the necessary camber and caster adjustments with only five studs. It preserves Maximum's ability to adjust caster or camber independently of each other.

What's different about the current plate is who's buying it. Traditionally, DIY Mustang owners purchased caster/camber plates. Such Fox and SN-95 owners were looking for a performance gain from increased negative camber and weren't necessarily aware of tire wear. S197 owners have no real opportunity for a performance gain from a camber plate with the car at stock ride height, and many new owners are unaware of either previous Mustang practice or the alignment ramifications of lowering their cars. Thus, Maximum reports the large majority of camber plate sales are to tuning or front-end shops that install lowering springs.

The retail price for the pair is $331. If your 'Stang is going to get down, you'll need them.