KJ Jones
Brand Manager, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
August 18, 2010
Photos By: KJ Jones

Although Ron Cooper didn't win the '09 Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge, we're sure he'll be quick to tell you that participating in the inaugural event was a great experience. Last year, Ron and his supercharged '94 Cobra were 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords' entry in the annual, mid-summer performance shootout.

For us, the first event was more than just a great time-it was a real eye opener. We learned that despite our unconditional loyalty to the Blue Oval, our competition-a collection of vehicles (and owners) representing Source Interlink Media's European and Asian-import-themed magazines-shouldn't be taken lightly.

Yes, the pocket rockets and high-dollar luxo missiles showed us a thing or two in 2009, but we're confident things are going to be different at the 2010 event. Chassis-dyno results and road-course lap times weigh heavily in the scoring for this high-stakes, high-performance contest. We've learned that to be a player, a 'Stang must bring big steam to the table; its handling characteristics also must be well above average.

With these criteria in mind, we knew that selecting an S197-more specifically, a Shelby GT500-would serve us well in the competition. Shelbys easily make well over 500 rwhp with minor mods. Plus, they're outfitted from the factory with more-than-generous brakes to perform well under the thrashing an entry endures during the braking test and all-important hot laps around the big course at Buttonwillow Raceway.

As a result, Carlos Cortez and his '07 Shelby GT500 are our '10 Top Car Challenge representatives. As we detailed in our Sept. '10 issue ("Dangerous Drop Top," p. 76), the GT500 rocks the dyno with well over 600 horses on a pump-gas tune. Confident that we have sufficient power, we're now focusing attention on the Shelby's chassis and suspension by making a few changes in those important areas. Key amongst these mods is swapping its current lowering gear for Eibach's Multi-Pro R2 coilover system and antirollbars, and installing a variety of S197 chassis and suspension pieces (including several new products) from Maximum Motorsports.

To further ensure that Carlos's GT500 will ride on rails, we asked Maximum's owner and suspension guru, Chuck Schwynoch (an accomplished road racer himself), and Engineering Manager Luka Dugandzic to help us with the 'Stang's all-important "setup." The following photos detail highlights from our day at Maximum Motorsports' headquarters, where Luka, Engineer/Tech Support Specialist Jack Hidley, and Maximum Motorsports' "new guy" Brian Anton performed the suspension makeover.

As a bonus, Production Manager Ben Poole fabricated a slick, new rollbar for S197 convertibles during our visit, which should be added to Maximum's catalog by the time you read this.

Weight and Alignment
Ultimately, our goal is to present a Mustang with tight, precise handling that will be suitable for street-driving, and, of course, the open-track evaluation in the Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge.

While this medium definitely is achievable with Maximum Motorsports' suspension parts and the Eibach Multi-Pro R2 system and sway bars we installed, spring rates and alignment settings for our 2007 Shelby GT500 are biased more toward open tracking than for daily driving.

For a more street-oriented setup, a simple swap to softer springs and matching damper adjustments will improve ride quality, and a less-aggressive alignment will improve tire life.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Safety First
Great minds do indeed think alike. After considering the massive horsepower Carlos Cortez's '07 Shelby GT500 throws on the ground-and its convertible-top-the decision to install a rollbar in the 'Stang was unanimous (even Carlos's wife, Cheryl, thought it was a good idea).

Taking into account Carlos' and your tech editor's concerns about maintaining the "street" persona for the Pony's interior, Maximum Motorsports Production Manager Ben Poole fabricated the company's first bolt-in, four-point rollbar for rag-top S197s, which you see here.

"This rollbar is a brand-new part for us, so there's no part number yet," says Maximum's CEO, Chuck Schwynoch. "It's a prototype for the S197 convertible, but the main hoop and its mounting brackets are the same as the tubes that are currently available in our six-point hardtop bar, which 5.0&sSF also covered first ("Maximum Security," Feb. '09)."

As we stated earlier, production rollbars for S197 'verts should be available by the time you read this.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery