May 1, 2007

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
Mmfp_0705_01_z Bar Nitrous
Achieving quick quarter-mile times starts with going straight down the track, so we're installing Steeda's Hardcore rear suspension components to put this Pony on a string.
Mmfp_0705_03_z Bar Heavy_duty_control_arms
Steeda's Hardcore drag-racing Mustang suspension starts with its antiroll bar and heavy-duty control arms. We'll also use Tokico's adjustable drag struts to fine-tune the front end's lift characteristics.
Mmfp_0705_04_z Bar Adjustable_struts
The adjustable nature of Tokico's drag struts allows us to control the rise rate of the front end at launch. We can also tighten it up so we have a safe and supple ride on the street, which is important since our test vehicle's owner drives this Stang quite regularly on the road. Using conventional, non-adjustable drag struts on the street can lead to poor handling, especially at highway speeds where the front end can bounce or float.
Mmfp_0705_05_z Bar Swapped_shot_stockers
While we were going to swap the majority of the suspension components at the track, we did take some liberties with regard to the upper control arms, the axlehousing bushings, and the mounting of the antiroll bar itself. Swapping out the axlehousing bushings is rather difficult without certain items such as an air chisel and torch, so the HP Performance crew swapped out the shot stockers for Steeda's spherical bearing pieces. Since the Southside upper control arms are of the stock control-arm length, the Steeda heavy-duty adjustable upper control arms were installed at the stock length.
Mmfp_0705_06_z Bar Pinion_angle
The previous upper control arms were a fixed design equipped with heavy-duty bushings. An adjustable piece like the Steeda upper control arm will allow us to dial in the pinion angle, and the spherical rod ends will allow the axle to pivot and move without binding.
Mmfp_0705_07_z Bar Install_steeda_antiroll_bar
It made sense to install the Steeda antiroll bar at the shop since we didn't have a welder at the track. We left it disconnected until it was time to get down to business. HP's Tony Gonyon notes that the ridge (arrow) in the Mustang's floor makes for a good reference point when you need to make sure that the bar is mounted in a level position relative to the chassis.

There comes a day in most every Mustang owner's life when it's time to upgrade. For some it's right after they pull out of the dealership. For others, it's right after they ask more of their equipment than what it was intended to do.

Eclipsing the quarter-mile in under 10 seconds is no easy task, and considering that the vehicle doing so needs to be traveling at triple-digit speeds to accomplish this, there are numerous components that should be modified or replaced to not only help your ride get to the stripe in the requested amount of time, but to do so safely.

Such was the case with the '93 Mustang coupe you see here. It has seen the high side of 9-second quarter-mile times thanks to its potent, nitrous-fed, small-block Ford engine, but its antiquated suspension was better suited for its 12-second daily driver days of the past. Utilizing a set of aftermarket lift bars in the back and drag springs combined with worn-out 90/10 drag struts, the car's setup was good but not optimal.

On lower-horsepower street cars, the antisquat bars work great as they plant the tires hard. With a higher-horsepower car such as our test subject, the extra power combined with the antisquat lift action shocks the tires too hard, which can cause a loss of traction. We want zero antisquat and zero body roll. This makes the drivetrain more efficient, which should produce lower elapsed times in a safer manner.

To accomplish this, we called Steeda and ordered its Hardcore parts for this Pony. Just like Steeda's handling and suspension parts, its Hardcore line is battle-tested-on the drag-strip, of course. To that end, we started with the competition aluminum lower drag arms (PN 555-4400), which fit '79-'98 Mustangs and retail for $239.95. They've been tested on cars with e.t.'s in the mid-to-low-eight-second range and are CNC-machined from aluminum alloy and TIG-welded. Each complete arm weighs less than 311/42 pounds. Compare that to your steel control arms.

Also going beneath the Mustang are Steeda's spherical upper control-arm housing bushings (PN 555-4103; $109). The track-only, adjustable upper control arms with spherical rod ends (PN 555-4101) are heavy-duty pieces that fit '79-'04 Mustangs and sell for $219.95.

Certainly the key to making this Mustang launch hard and straight is the Hardcore antiroll bar (PN 555-8102). This competition piece keeps the car straight on launch and transfers energy wasted on twisting to forward motion. Currently, it does not fit with tailpipes, though a unit that does is in the works. You'll need to pony up $299.95 for the antiroll bar, but the resultant behavior on track will make it worth it.

Since this Mustang is still driven on the street quite a bit, we decided it was a good idea to remove the non-adjustable struts and replace them with something a bit more modern. In that respect, Tokico's five-way adjustable drag struts for '79-'93 Mustangs (PN 578-RB3026) are just that, offering the ability to adjust it for maximum performance at the track or on the street. Set them on Position 1 through 4 and you have a tunable drag strut that helps the front end rise for maximum weight transfer and traction. Put them on Position 5 and they perform like a normal street shock. That performance edge does come at a price of $189.95 each.

While we could have easily installed this stuff at a shop, taken pictures, and showed them to you, we opted for the trackside suspension swap to liven things up a bit. For that, we needed a suitable vehicle and some gearheads to wrench on it. It's hard for us to wrench and take pictures, especially when we have a limited amount of time at the track.

Having done several stories with the HP Performance crew in Orange Park, Florida, we had come across part-time employee Jason Wells, whose '93 notchback was hurtling itself down the quarter-mile in the high-nines, and doing it with some old parts and some that weren't even designed for that type of abuse. Jason and HP Performance proprietor Tony Gonyon were game for our trackside test, so we packed up the Pony and headed to Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, home of the NHRA Gatornationals. While the Pro Stockers were making preseason test-and-tune runs, so would we.

Our mundane-looking notchback regularly runs 9.8s at over 130 mph and it 60-foots in the high-1.4s. Problem is, it's a bit scary. "The car works OK, but at the speeds it reaches now, it tends to skate around a little bit too much," says Wells. After installing the Steeda Hardcore parts, we didn't see so much of an improvement in elapsed time as we did in the way it accomplished the same feat.

The Mustang left straight and even, and was stable down track. Wells noted that the stock, worn-out shocks in the back weren't stiff enough to handle the newly acquired weight transfer, and after viewing video of the runs, he determined that the car was hitting the tires and then rebounding back and breaking traction. That should easily be solved with an adjustable shock (time to give Tokico another ring). Wells expects that with the new suspension, his 60-foot times should drop into the 1.30s.

Unfortunately for us, Gainesville Raceway's staff closed the staging lanes for the day, but there's no doubt this Pony is hooking better, both at the track and on the street.

HP Performance also welded on the axle tabs for the antiroll bar's adjustment links, and they tacked the axle tubes to prevent them from spinning.

The first pass of the day, a non-nitrous run with the Southside Machine upper and lower control arms, saw a 1.44 60-foot time, followed by a 4.34 330-foot time, a 6.75 eighth-mile, and finally the finish line in 10.65 seconds at 125 mph.

After that, it was back to the pits for the control-arm swap. The rear of the car was secured with jackstands and the lower control arm was supported so we could remove it and the coil spring.

In order to facilitate the control-arm swap, Jason Wells had cut some of the welds on the relocation bracket. This weakened the joint enough to where it broke on launch, however. Despite that, the elapsed time was still indicative of what the Pony normally runs.

With the lower control arm out, Wells finishes removing the relocation plates with the "Ford tool."

Steeda's aluminum lower control arms are significantly lighter than the steel pieces they replace.

The Steeda lower control arms have a stiff, greaseable bushing, which we lubed up prior to installation.

The front of the control arm was installed, followed by the coil spring. We then jacked up the control arm until it was in position.

We adjusted the upper control arms until the pinion angle was at -2 degrees. With stock bushings, negative 3-4 degrees is a better choice since they tend to flex and move more.

Wells wanted to loosen the front struts, which was easily accomplished by turning the adjustment screw at the top of the strut.

Without the antisquat of the Southside bars, the rearend dipped down quite a bit. You can see how the body rolled over to the passenger-side as well. Run number two was with the struts set on full loose, and the result was a 1.48 60-foot time, a 4.39 330-foot, a 6.83 eighth-mile, and a 10.75 quarter-mile at 124 mph. Not only did the car suffer excessive body roll, but it spent more energy than was needed in transferring weight due to the loose strut setting.

Back at the pits, the struts were reset to the medium setting, and the antiroll bar links were fastened.

Adjusting the antiroll bar links involves centering the rear axle, and then adjusting the links so they twist easily with the car on its wheels and the driver in the hot seat to preload the suspension.

It was immediately apparent on launch that the antiroll bar was doing just as its name implies. The Mustang left straight and level (side-to-side). For the third run, the car responded to the changes with a 1.45 60-foot time, a 4.38 330-foot, a 6.82-second eighth-mile, and the stripe in 10.74 seconds at 124 mph.

For the last pass of the day, Wells hooked up the nitrous oxide bottle and let it rip. The short time flashed by in 1.45 seconds, and at the 330 mark, the Mustang improved to a 4.06. The eighth-mile lights were tripped at 6.26 seconds into the run, and the quarter-mile was complete in 9.81 seconds at 137 mph.

The Makings of a nine-Second, Streetable MustangOur test subject started off as a virgin, fuel-injected 5.0L Mustang owned and operated by young Jason Wells of Orange Park, Florida. When he wanted to go fast for cheap, he heaved the EFI and 302 and dropped in cubes and a carb. Victor Spires of Revenge Power in Hollywood, Florida, assembled the 400-plus-cubic-inch Windsor-based motor, and its 10.5:1 compression ratio allows it to run on pump gas.

To make sure it survives weekly track duty, an Eagle crank and rods were fitted to JE pistons, while a solid roller cam actuates the valves in a set of AFR 225 heads. Combine that with a Victor Jr. Intake manifold and a Holley HP950 carburetor, and you have a healthy, 10-second powerplant.

Wells calls upon a Wilson Manifolds nitrous-oxide-plate kit to bump him in the nines. Thanks to the notchback's inherent lightweight and a C4 automatic, the coupe has become adept at quarter-mile combat.

As good as the combination is, our 20-year-old pilot has had a lot of help from the people around him, including the crew at HP Performance and his dad, Mike, who owns a fairly fast, ahem, Bow Tie of the vintage

F-body flavor. When Dad wasn't turning on the nitrous bottle in his son's car this day, he was off making his own passes and even got to run against his son once. Unfortunately, our horse got caught sleeping. At least it's incentive to go faster.

E.T.-wise, the results were not awe-inspiring this day, but we think there is a tenth or so in using an adjust-able shock out back. As you can tell from the picture, though, Wells was pretty excited about the new sus-pension setup. "The car feels a whole lot different with this suspension on it," he said. "I can't believe I waited two years to do it."