April 22, 2011

Horse Sense: Thanks to heads-up drag racing, such as the Pacific Street Car Association and West Coast Hot Rod Association, each year we’re able to conduct drag tests with our SoCal-based project Mustangs on several well-prepped West Coast tracks (Auto Club Speedways in Fontana and Bakersfield, California, and at The Strip in Las Vegas). This July 8-10, the NMRA (along with its NMCA brother) returns to the West Coast after a 9-year absence for the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout at Fontana. We know many Western-based ’Stangbangers have hoped for something like this for many years. Well, your wish is finally being granted.

If you’re a veteran reader of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords, you probably noticed long ago that we try to provide as many critical details as possible in all of our reports about Mustang parts and new technology. Seriouslyour tech editor and Associate Editor Mike Johnson honestly believe that details, good or bad, have to be near the top of Editor Steve Turner’s favorite-things-in-life list. This is so engrained that your tech editor goes to sleep with Steve’s don’t leave a shop without getting all the data mantra running through his mind.

Yes, the boss is a stickler for details, but we certainly don’t fault him for that endearing quality.

This latest experiment with our project ’02 Mustang GT was an exercise in the type of detailed data collection we typically don’t have the opportunity to pursue. It involved several days in the shop and at the track (including some eleventh-hour parts breakage and overnight-rush shipments), which usually are impossible to smoothly synch with a magazine’s production schedule.

For this effort, your tech editor, along with Chuck Schwynoch, Jack Hidley, and Luka Dugandzic of Maximum Motorsports, thought it would be interesting to take a closer, more-scientific-than-usual look at a ’99-’04 Mustang’s dragstrip launch. We wanted to examine how critical suspension components and weight-reduction are to street/strip ’Stangs.

In most tests like this, front and rear suspension parts are bolted on, and changes in a Pony’s 60-foot and other incremental times throughout the quarter-mile are used for validating or rebuking the parts’ effectiveness. While this data is fine from a general standpoint, there’s a lot more behind the way ’Stangs react when the clutch or transbrake are released. One thing that’s widely overlooked is the fact that control arms, shocks, struts, wheels, and tires not only have to work together during the hard-acceleration segments of a Mustang’s life, they also have to collaborate with the surface of the street or race track.

Over the course of two PSCA race events in late 2010, KJ and the engineering braintrust at Maximum Motorsports joined forces to evaluate the way our ’02 test-mule leaves the line. We started in street/road-race trim, outfitted with Maximum’s full suite of grip-for-twists-and-turns hardware, heavy 17-inch FR500 wheels, and Nitto NT05 tires. Then we transformed it into a street/strip persona, featuring the company’s new developmental drag-race pieces and some trick, lightweight running gear from Race Star Industries.

Using chassis scales to measure weight and a Motec ADL3 datalogger to record hard-core statistics for each run, we were able to learn exactly what the ’Stang’s various movements and speeds are from the moment the clutch is released. Of course, we also had the objective of getting our Mustang to cover 1,320 feet as quickly and consistently as possible. While we confess there were difficulties with that effort, we’re quite pleased with the improvements that resulted from changes that were made, as the data shows our ’Stang’s elapsed time would have been greatly improved over its baseline numbers.

The accompanying photos, data graphs, and captions offer a small synopsis of our research, and are an example of how important data collection is to companies such as Maximum Motorsports, as it’s real-world experience and information that helps them produce parts that many of you consider for making your Mustangs better.

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Tough Gig

In most cases, e.t. and speed are the primary focus when we perform tests taking Mustangs from Points A to B on the dragstrip. However, for this project, we decided to put those two criteria on the back burner and center our research on collecting quantitative data (using a Motec ADL3 datalogger) to see the differences in our Mustang’s launch characteristics when the car is outfitted with street/road-race suspension gear and street/strip hardware.

Maximum Motorsport’s owner, Chuck Schwynoch, and his team (Engineering Manager Luka Dugandzic and Tech Specialist Jack Hidley) have been most helpful when it comes to recording data and tuning a ’Stang’s suspension based on that info. Team Maximum provided outstanding trackside assistance for our entry in the 2010 Castrol Syntec Top Car Challenge. Their collective knowledge and suspension calls helped us secure a Fourth Place finish in the competition.

After outfitting our ’Stang with the datalogger and making runs over the course of two test sessions, the data (results) showed us areas of inefficiency when stiff, road-race-specific components were on the car, and how the same launch variables improved when changes were made. The important thing we learned from this project is that setup is critical to various Mustang-performance applications. Simply bolting suspension parts on your Pony is one thing. However, when parts are designed for a specific use, their optimum performance will only come through testing and collection/analysis of data (using timeslips or a datalogger).

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