5.0 Mustang & Super FordsHow To Chassis Suspension
S197 Suspension Upgrade - Four On The Floor
AGS 4.0 Club Sport Suspension Upgrade
Kenny Brown has a long history of Mustang chassis-building. Perhaps Kenny staked his claim in the '80s when the Saleen race team dominated the Escort Endurance Series championships. Those Mustangs were built by Kenny and proved unstoppable in the hands of Parnelli Jones, George Follmer, and, of course, Steve Saleen, among others. Kenny went on to build many Mustangs and Fords, including a signature line of Mustangs, and he was a player in the suspension-parts field for decades. Fame and the business grew for years, but as Kenny put it, he tried working himself to death and came down with a nasty series of pulmonary infections that derailed him for years. The good news is Kenny Brown has beat the bugs and is back in the Mustang chassis market.
Much newer is Stang-Aholics, a Terra Bella, California-based parts house. Proprietor Ryan Peter recently signed with Kenny Brown as one of his suspension dealers, and so the die was cast for us to follow along as Stang-Aholics installed the latest GT-4 Kenny Brown suspension and took it to the road racing track at Buttonwillow Raceway Park to see what they had wrought. What's more, Kenny Brown made the trip West for the track day so we'd have expert advice on dialing in the new S197 chassis kit.
That kit for the current Mustang is actually the fourth generation of Kenny's suspension (see sidebar), but like the three generations before it, the suspension hardware is designed to "fix the geometry," according to Kenny. Once the foundation of Kenny Brown suspension arms and chassis reinforcements is installed, the owner can then select springs, shock absorbers, and sway bars to suit his or her needs. As Kenny is quick to point out, his suspension system is modular, meaning the control arms and braces are a foundation the owner builds upon. As the owner gains familiarity and confidence, the same Kenny Brown suspension parts can be paired with increasingly aggressive spring, shock, and bar packages to take the car from an everyday commuter to track-only specialist.
To help customers sort their options, Brown offers the Street Sport kit. This is a street-friendly set of the GT-4 suspension, Eibach springs, H&R shocks, and sway bars that comes pre-set and ready to run once installed. It's the right option for first time suspension buyers and many casual open-track pilots who mainly daily drive their Mustangs. The other option is the Track Sport series. This group uses the same suspension bits, but with more aggressive springs and shocks. Hardcore drivers might accept this level on the street, but it's not recommended for daily drivers. It features single-adjustable shocks (one knob changes both compression and rebound) and the spring rate is in the 600–in-lb range. Typically Kenny sets up these customers with the recommended spring, plus one rate higher and one lower in case tuning helps.
If you're building anything more aggressive, say a dedicated open-track toy or a true competition car, Kenny prefers you call him so the two of you can arrive at a custom-tuned spring-shock-bar combination. But, as always, the suspension arms will be the same parts. Kenny notes that at this level he uses JRZ shocks built around those his son, Paul Brown, developed for his championship-winning World Challenge Boss 302S Mustang.
Kenny is candid about keeping his life and running his business, and not the other way around. To that end he has Heidts, a popular muscle-car and hot rod suspension maker, build his suspension parts. Kenny plans to build signature series, post-title Mustangs again. When those turnkey Kenny Brown cars arrive they'll--of course--use the same suspension components Stang-Aholics bolted onto its test car as shown in our photos. The install falls north of what the average bolt-on enthusiast can handle, but south of a complete re-engineering of the chassis. There are some holes to drill, tough nuts to chisel, and quality time with a welder, so it's a shop job for us civilians.