John Hedenburg
March 1, 2001

Picture this: You're laying on the floor of your garage, trying to wrestle that new set of rear springs into your favorite 5-liter Mustang. Your friend is cranking on the jack handle while you're busy trying to get that stubborn spring into position with a prybar. You finally finish the job and fly on down to the race track to see if all that hard work will help your Mustang hook up on the starting line any better. Sadly, it doesn't, and the first thing that crosses your mind is how much of a hassle it was just to change those rear coil springs.

The pursuit of high performance and low elapsed times is often fruitful, sometimes seemingly fruitless. Once you've exhausted the usual bolt-ons and you've got crazy horsepower, you then have to look hard to find significant improvements in performance. Usually, this is in the chassis. Hard-core drag cars can have pretty elaborate (and expensive) setups to help them hook, but you don't have to spend a fortune to get your car to work. Case in point: Central Coast Mustangs, in Tehachapi, Calif., has introduced a kit that will convert your stock springs and shocks to user-friendly, coil-overs, and the best part about this conversion kit is that it bolts right in-no welding required. Sound easy? It is.

Most racers know that making rear suspension changes or adjustments can sometimes be a real hassle. Having a chassis shop install coil-overs to replace the factory shocks and springs will surely help, but it can be expensive and time consuming because of all the welding and setup work that's involved. Central Coast Mustangs' new coil-over conversion kit bolts into '79-present Mustangs with no serious modifications needed.

What is a coil-over shock you ask? As most are aware, on the rear suspension of a factory Mustang, the coil spring and the shock are two separate units. A coil-over is a shock that has the spring slipped over the top of it, making it a one-piece design. The spring can be adjusted up or down by simply turning the threaded collar on the bottom of the spring, which will adjust the ride height and spring tension of the setup.

Shock and spring adjustments or changes can now be made without having to remove the lower control arms to fish out the spring. A factory rear spring has no adjustment, so once it's mounted, that's it. Picture changing over to a different spring rate, or just altering the ride height in a matter of minutes. Best of all, these coil-over shocks don't require any fabrication or welding to install. For a road racer or a serious drag racer that might be making a suspension adjustment more often than the average person, this kit can be a real time (and ET) saver.

"It gives the user ride/height adjustability, an infinite variety of spring rates for drag or road racing, plus more desirable geometry because of the leverage ratio at that point," said CCM proprietor Dennis Hilliard. "A guy can corner-weight the car much easier, especially if he is using coil-overs up front. It offers a lot of versatility, and overall, I believe a slight weight savings."

Disadvantages? The kit won't work with every rear shock out there, though CCM is working on making it compatible with more of them. Best of all, it can be tailored for both road or drag racing, not to mention everyday street driving. Nor does it cost a fortune: Suggested retail is $299 (without the shocks). "The [coil over] kit is functional and we're very proud of it," said Hilliard.

Ride quality is not upset whatsoever and because of the coil-over design, it allows you to lighten spring load considerably (though he does recommend stiffer springs if you are running a torque arm).

As if this new coil-over kit isn't cool enough, Central Coast Mustangs also offers its Ground Pounder series of adjustable lower control arms to complement its coil-over shocks. These lower control arms have three advantages over stock. First, they have an adjustable heim joint on the front mounting point of the control arm.

You can adjust the pinion angle (the angle of the driveshaft in relation to the pinion gear in the rear end), to tailor your car for optimum traction and handling by simply turning the nut to lengthen or shorten the control arm mounting points. Second, they are much stronger than the factory arms (a race car never seems to be strong enough), and last but not least, they are a little lighter than the stock arms.

According to Hilliard, you don't have to use the CCM Ground Pounder control arms with the coil-overs, but because of their weight advantage (they are tubular) he does recommend them.

After doing some snooping around, we were able to find the perfect car to install this kit into. If you remember our "Mustangs vs. The World" shootout in our January '01 issue, you'll recall the gorgeous Reef Blue '93 Mustang LX that belongs to Dave Salardino of Edison, N.J. Dave's '93 LX runs very well and was utilizing an aluminum lower control arm setup with a factory coil spring arrangement. The rear shocks were a set of adjustable, aluminum units that worked quite well, but the combination was not as consistent as Dave would have liked.

On 28-inch Mickey Thompson slicks, Dave's car ran a 10.35 at 134.50 mph and had a 1.48 60-ft. time. With BFG Drag Radials, the green LX could muster an 11.19 at 129.74 mph. The 60-ft. time wasn't as good as with the slicks, as the car would spin a little and he would wind up with a 1.65 60-ft. time. Dave (and I) both figured that we could improve the car's 60-ft. times on both slicks and street tires with the kind of fine tuning the coil-over set up provides.

With the CCM kit in the trunk, we headed over to LaRocca's Performance in Old Bridge, N.J., for our installation. Mustang specialist Jim Chahalis would be performing the installation on Dave's killer street car (Jim is no stranger to this LX, as he installed the Vortech supercharger and countless other items on the bad '93 a few years back).

He began the conversion by first removing the rear anti-sway bar from the lower control arms. He then removed the two bolts that hold the lower control arms onto the rear. Jim used a support jack to take some weight off of the control arm so he could slide the bolt out of the rear (the pressure of the spring will make the bolt very hard to remove).

After the rear bolt was gone, Jim slowly lowered the jack so that the pressure from the spring would be relieved. After the rear coil springs were on the floor, Jim loosened the two front bolts and pulled the control arms out from the torque boxes. Now that the old control arms were off of the car, it was time for Jimmy to start installing the new goodies.

He began the installation by first installing the two CCM GP control arms into the torque boxes and bolting them down. Before installing the back of the control arms into the rear, Jim applied some grease onto the bushings to help eliminate squeaks and add life to the bushings. He slid them into the mounting points on the rear and tightened them up. Jimmy set the pinion angle to the same spec as before we started. He got the measurement close and then fine-tuned it after the job was finished.

Next, Jim unbolted the two shocks to make room for the CCM coil-over units. To assemble them, simply slide the spring over the shock and rest it on the bracket on the bottom. Slide the top bracket over the spring and than feed the top of the threads on the shock through the hole in the trunk where the factory shock came out of.

Before you can bolt the new shock into position, you have to drill a second hole in the rear end bracket. The shock bracket on the rear has two holes in it. The bottom one measures 1/2-inch, but the top hole is much smaller and needs to be drilled to 1/2-inch as well. After Jimmy enlarged it, he slid the coil over into its new home.

After going over all of the bolts, Jim reinstalled the sway bar and bolted the two tires back onto the car. There were only two steps left. The first was to set the car's ride height. Jim lowered the car onto the ground and noted how it was sitting. Dave requested that the car be raised a little higher in the back and Chahalis agreed.

Superwrench jumped under the LX with a pair of pliers and turned the spring sleeve on the bottom of the spring perch. This allowed the spring to be raised up on the shock and actually lift up the back of the car. After Dave and Jim agreed on the proper ride height, they performed the last step of the day-setting the pinion angle.

The pinion angle is the relation between the driveshaft and the angle of the rear end. Most racers will usually set the pinion angle to approximately 3 of positive pinion angle. You have to have an adjustable upper or lower control arm to adjust the pinion angle on your car.

The CCM lower arms are fully adjustable and can be adjusted by simply turning the threaded collar, which allows the rear to change its angle by lengthening or shortening the arm itself. Jimmy installed an angle-guage onto the rear and set the pinion angle to 3.

Now for the fun part, a track test. Dave wanted to hop in his car and head on down to Atco Raceway in scenic Atco, N.J., to satisfy our eagerness. As noted earlier, with the old setup and slicks, the car was very violent off the starting line and could only muster a best 1.42, 60-ft.time. A low ET of 10.38 at 132 mph was what the scoreboard read with the old setup.

After the Ground Pounder setup was installed, the 60-ft. time improved to a 1.38 and ET dropped to 10.29 at 133 mph. That's a serious improvement.

Dave loves the car with the new coil-overs and says that his Mustang is much more stable going down the track. With a new, more powerful engine coming in Dave's future, we're sure he will take all of the traction he can get.