Steve Temple
October 13, 2006
Contributers: Matt Carlson

Editor's note: As much as we like going to car shows, it's rare to see anything more than a static display of either new or customized vehicles. But what if you could see Ford's latest ponycar being transformed into a muscle Mustang right on the show floor? Would that be cool, or what? Not only that, imagine if the mods were being handled by principals of the aftermarket companies involved, so you could ask them questions while the install was taking place right before your eyes.

That's exactly what happened at the San Diego Auto Show over the New Year's weekend. So while partygoers ushered in 2006 (or nursed a hangover), Mustang enthusiasts witnessed firsthand how to transform a stock vehicle with the latest products to enhance the engine, suspension, brakes, body panels, entertainment system, and more. Surprisingly, this is the first time such an extensive buildup has ever been done on a Mustang at a car show-probably on any car, for that matter. Larry Weiner of Performance West Group orchestrated the entire project.

For the first installment, we decided to kick things off with Control Freak's front suspension conversion from a strut to tubular A-arms. (Regular readers might recall a previous article on installing Control Freak's independent rear suspension in an '05 Mustang in the May '06 issue.)

Later articles in this series will show installing a Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharger, Stainless Steel Brakes, RKSport's body mods, Sherwin-Williams custom paint, a Sony Xplod audio system, Katzkin leather upholstery, and many other upgrades seen here for the first time. So stay tuned, because this party's just getting started!

A properly optioned Mustang comes off the showroom floor as a pretty hot piece of automotive equipment. Plenty of power, stellar looks, and good-handling characteristics have made the Mustang a favorite for generations.

But if you've ever spent time looking at a purpose-built race car, then you know how much they differ in almost all aspects from the car that takes you to work. Transforming a car from street driver to a full race machine can be a long and difficult road.

Even with all of the upgrades available for a Mustang to make it an even better performer than it already is, in the end the car is still riding around on its original MacPherson strut front suspension.

Is this bad? Not really. The MacPherson strut is tried-and-true, lightweight, and simple. But when it comes to real race tuning, the strut lacks adjustability and overall strength. A professionally built racing car will typically have a tubular A-arm suspension, attached directly to a welded tubular steel frame.

Therein lies the problem. There is nowhere to attach this kind of suspension to the front end of the Mustang. It has a unit body made of sheetmetal, and attempting to weld in tubular steel-frame members is just not practical or cost effective.

Enter Control Freak Suspensions. This company has produced a number of independent suspension conversion kits that can transform your everyday driver into a real racetrack star without losing its street driveability. Kits are available for the new Mustang front and rear suspensions, as well as a number of other early-and late-model Ford products.

To simplify the conversion, the SLA suspension comes with a new sub-frame section that replaces the stock subframe and motor mounts. The tubular control arms simply attach directly to this new frame piece.

The beauty of such a system is that a capable street car can have its suspension retuned to a full race setup within a few minutes. Spring preload can be adjusted with no more involve-ment than removing the tires and turning the adjuster nuts, and the shock absorber settings are made with a simple turn of a knob on the side of the shock.

In keeping with race-car quality, all attachment points for the new control arms and spindles are made with Heim joints (spherical rod ends), each adjustable on their own. This allows for a full range of camber, caster, and toe adjustments that is simply not possible with a MacPherson strut.

The addition of the new cross-member frame section also gives the suspension a more solid attachment point than just the sheetmetal unibody. This setup provides more precision in adjustment and overall handling performance.

0608mmfp_02z Independent_thinker Larry_weiner
Larry Weiner of Performance West Group orchestrated the entire buildup of the Mustang right on the show floor, on a Quality Tool lift.
0608mmfp_01z Ford_mustang_convertible Overhead_view
This Mustang went from stocker to shocker over the course of a day.
0608mmfp_03z Ford_mustang_convertible Front_view_hood_open
Components of Control Freak's tubular A-arm front suspension, with Stainless Steel Brakes included.
0608mmfp_04z Independent_thinker Front_suspension_components0608mmfp_05z Independent_thinker Al_kahmi
Al Kamhi of Control Freak explained the details of his IFS to the showgoers.
0608mmfp_07z Independent_thinker Engine_view
Since the engine mounts are attached to the subframe, and the subframe is going to be changed, then something is going to have to hold up the engine while this occurs. One of the best ways is to put a support in the engine compartment over the engine and suspend the engine with a chain. Make sure your access to the upper strut bolts and shock mounts are unobstructed since these will be removed later.

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