KJ Jones
January 23, 2012
Photos By: KJ Jones

Given the broad range of Mustang platforms that 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords covers each month, it only makes sense that members of our team have at least one Pony from each genre that occasionally can be called on for use as test subjects in our reports. We once again call on our in-house '02 GT for installation and review of a seriously cool suspension upgrade from QA1 Precision Products.

The QA1 Wireless Remote Adjustment System (PN RA401) is a slick new unit that enables drivers to make changes to shock and strut compression/rebound settings via a handheld, wireless controller (from the cockpit of a 'Stang, or as far as 3-5 feet away). Why is this relevant, you ask? As you know, Mustangs typically see action on the street, as well as in various forms of motorsports. Over the years, we've learned there are certain suspension settings that allow us to push 'Stangs to their limit in all of these disciplines, and those settings are attained by using springs of specific pressure ratings, as well as shocks and struts that feature varying amounts of compression/rebound valving.

To quickly differentiate for you, a Mustang's springs (standard coil springs or coilovers) basically absorb the wheels' vibrations and control the amount of weight transfer (front to back and side to side) required for optimum road handling. The springs also determine a Pony's all-important ride height by supporting the body at pre-set levels or at variable heights that can be dialed in by adjusting the coilover systems up or down.

A Mustang's rear shock absorbers and front struts, collectively known as dampers, isolate road shock from the 'Stang's cockpit by turning the springs' kinetic energy into heat energy, which, in turn, dissipates through hydraulic fluid in the dampers. Think of dampers as twin-tube spring controllers that feature single piston/rod combinations which are placed inside fluid-filled pressure tubes. Secondary outside tubes store excess fluid. In a nutshell, the fluid actually controls/slows the shocks' piston speed, which ultimately controls the speed at which weight is transferred after you've driven over a bumpy surface. Depending on the shocks' valving (a calibrated rate for the amount of fluid that passes through the pistons), this speed control results in a soft or firm ride. Up front, struts function in similar fashion as rear shocks. However, they also perform like springs because they actually support a 'Stang's weight, too.

You'll note we mentioned that QA1's new suspension deal makes compression/rebound adjustments possible via wireless technology. Before we get deeper into that, it's important for us to explain these two suspension inputs. Compression is the piston's downward movement, which is when hydraulic fluid is compressed into the chamber below the piston. Conversely, rebound happens when the piston reaches the top of the pressure tube and pushes fluid into the chamber above the piston. Shocks and struts typically have greater resistance during the rebound cycle. So it's compression that typically is the critical setting on a Mustang's rear suspension, while rebound is most important at the front end.

QA1's adjustable shocks and struts for late-model Mustangs are highlighted by knobs that are manually clicked clockwise or counterclockwise to achieve valving changes. Single-adjustable pieces have one knob, and compression and rebound change are made simultaneously (based on results of tests made by QA1's engineers that determined what optimal damping is for drag racing, a nice ride, smooth handling, and so on). Double-adjustable dampers have two knobs, which control compression and rebound individually, allowing a near-infinite amount of fine-tuning for various driving styles and disciplines.

Making manual shock-setting changes is a somewhat labor-intensive process that involves (in some cases) crawling underneath a Mustang in order to reach the adjustment hardware. The actual act of putting clicks in or taking clicks out of QA1 shocks isn't difficult, but when you have to do it several times in an effort to achieve the optimum ride, it's a safe bet that making changes can become a mundane job.

QA1 has now simplified this process (and actually made it sort of fun) with its all-new Remote Adjustment System, available for two-channel (one-knob) and four-channel (two-knob) shocks and struts. The Remote Adjustment System gives enthusiasts 18 levels of adjustment per channel, which ultimately equates to thousands and thousands (100,000, according to QA) of valving calibrations that all can be made from the driver seat!

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So are you wondering how in the world this is possible? Well, the trick in this deal is fairly simple. Damper adjustments are accomplished with commands transmitted by a handheld wireless remote to the system's trunk-mounted, air-management processor and air pump. It's all out of sight, relatively quiet, and cool.

As you can imagine, after hearing about a setup like this, we definitely were hot to get our hands on one and bolt it on our test Pony. Everything finally came together in the summer of 2011 at the Source Interlink Media Tech Center in El Segundo, California, where the shop's stalwart foreman, Grant Peterson, installed all the QA1 gear on our trusty '02. Our install includes the double-adjustable/four-channel damper system, coilovers up front, and caster/camber plates.

Take a look at the included photos, which highlight some of the details on this new shock technology from QA1 Precision Products. All of the hardware, as well as the Remote Adjustment System itself, is available for '79-to-present Mustangs. They definitely bring a new dynamic to the concept of adjusting a 'Stang's suspension for maximum performance for any given use or driving condition. 5.0

Horse Sense: The '02 Mustang GT in your tech editor's vast collection of vehicles (it's actually KJ's wife's car) has hosted a few different drivetrain variations, and served as a test bed for suspension and brake combinations, too. Consistently using this Mustang for such tests has allowed us to build a good database of various products' installation characteristics, overall performance, similarities and differences, and so on, when they're applied to the same car. Of course, we understand the concept that no two Mustangs are the same must be taken into account. However, for the most part, using Crystal Jones' "Black Beauty" has provided other New Edge owners and 'Stangbangers in general with an ongoing project they can identify with.

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Dial-a-Ride
While installing QA1 Precision Products' suspension pieces and Remote Adjustment System is a relatively simple effort, using the wireless-remote device to change damper settings (with air) is even easier, as the updates can be made any time the system is powered up.

The wireless-remote system allows drivers to command an air compressor to add and remove compression/rebound in each damper (channel A/channel B for front; channel C/channel D for rear). The unit is pre-programmed with six baseline valving calibrations for several popular driving styles and conditions, but one of the features we really like about the setup is that it allows drivers to edit the templates on the fly, and change a Mustang's ride quality in an instant.

We enjoyed having a great opportunity to play with the system on our '02 Mustang GT, prior to its actual release. Hopefully, this newness from QA1 is available now. If it is and suspension performance is one of your main interests in this hobby, the kit definitely is a cool upgrade to think about for your Pony.

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