5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
S197 Mustang Suspension Upgrades - Balancing Act
Whiteline's New Anti-Dive System And Sway Bars Keep Lowered S197s On An Even Keel
If you approach the Mustang hobby from the same perspective that we do, horsepower undoubtedly reigns supreme as the most important characteristic for modified 'Stangs. Of course, that's not saying we don't recognize, understand or appreciate the other traits, as we know they're also important attributes of a Pony's overall performance in some way, shape, or form. However, where making big steam (at the rear wheels) is the top-tier quality for a 'Stang of any year, having a chassis and suspension that helps make driving a wild Pony easier is horsepower's closest ally. This is especially true of cars that are driven daily, and more-than-occasionally in a spirited manner. A mega-boosted or nitrous-gulping Mustang isn't worth a darn if it drives like a high-powered plow wagon.
Mustangs are cursed by Ford with a ridiculously high stance, apparently to allow installation of snow chains (like those are really necessary here in Southern California). As such, enthusiasts usually waste little time installing springs and hardware to bring their 'Stangs down to earth. They also improve the handling qualities by enhancing areas of the chassis that are prone to the flexing, rolling, or diving that is generated under aggressive turning and braking conditions.
While lowering a 'Stang is ultimately done for looks and handling, the suspension gurus at Whiteline-an Australian company that's better known for its hard-core chassis parts for imports-believe there is quite a bit to consider before you drop an S197 Pony.
According to Whiteline's engineers, lowering an '05-'09 Mustang's center-of-gravity actually increases body roll and bumpsteer when cornering, as the car's front roll center (the point where the amount of lateral force applied at the tires' point-of-contact with the road is transformed into vertical force) falls below ground level.
Other than the aforementioned aesthetic improvements, the true goal in lowering a Pony is to find a way to make the car's roll center and center-of-gravity peacefully co-exist while improving the 'Stang's handling performance. However, while successfully achieving such harmony promotes a lot less body roll, doing so without affecting the suspension's original geometry has been one of the main challenges to striking this balance.
In an effort to further improve the maneuverability of a freshly lowered S197, we decided to bolt Whiteline's new anti-dive kit (PN KCA305) and front (PN BFF24Z) and rear (PN BFR65Z) adjustable sway bars on Sean Roberts' '08 Shelby GT500. Whiteline's roll center kit, PN KCA306 is also recommended for lowered '05-'09 Mustangs.
With the work complete and Sean once again driving his car, he reports there has been a marked improvement in the GT500's overall cornering and braking performance. "The really strange thing about '05-'09 Shelbys is that despite their higher cost, their suspension is basically the same as stock Mustang GT's when it comes to suspension pieces," Sean says. "It's much better now. The car handles better and feels tighter since we lowered it and put the Metco arms in the rear, but switching out both sway bars and swapping the stock control-arm bushings for the Whiteline anti-dive pieces up front really tightened things a lot more. Now I can drive the car a lot harder and it doesn't feel like the back is going to swing around on me."
Up front, this project will be a pretty big challenge for anyone who tries to give it a go at home in the driveway. While the lowering process and sway-bar swap are doable using a jack and jackstands to sufficiently raise a 'Stang, installing Whiteline's anti-dive kit really calls for a twin-post hoist, a pole jack, and several other heavy-duty tools that are not common in most DIY home-shop setups.
The following photos and captions show how Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez of Extreme Automotive in Canoga Park, California, went about performing the mods on Sean's 'Stang.