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1999 Mustang GT Suspension Upgrade - A Hotchkis(S) Hello - Tech
We Welcome Our Newest Project Car To The Stable With A Hotchkis Suspension Install.
These days it really doesn't take much to get a Mustang to rip down the quarter-mile with blindingly quick elapsed times and mind-boggling speeds. One needs to look no further than a Terminator Cobra or a Shelby GT500 with a couple of bolt-ons installed.
The thing is, while going fast in a straight line is great, there are some who not only want killer straight-line power, but matching performance when it comes to turning left and right. With performance driving schools, track days, and autocrossing becoming more and more popular, another arena in which to exercise your Pony's legs has presented itself. Just like those who are interested in the dragstrip, there are those who want the best affordable performance they can get out of their Mustang's suspension system when it comes to slinging through corners. With that in mind, we enter our latest project car, Silver Stealth Stang, owned by our own Yo Ken. Our first installment-a Hotchkis adjustable suspension system, front and rear sway bars, and a set of the company's caster/camber plates was installed by Chris Winter and the crew at Crazy Horse Racing in South Amboy, New Jersey.
Our new project car is a silver '99 Mustang GT. The Pony serves as Ken Miele's daily driver, and the plan for the car is simple. Make it an all-around performance vehicle without detracting from the car's drivability and road manners. As is the case with most of our other project cars, we approached this Mustang like we would if we were building a house. You can't furnish the inside if the foundation is weak and the roof leaks. With that in mind, we set out to shore up the underpinnings of the car before we start throwing power at it.
We would have loved to have given you some before and after road course numbers, but our test facility, the road course at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, was undergoing some renovations. Regardless, we performed the install of the new Hotchkis components, and the results were fantastic. Since we are getting a bit ahead of ourselves, let's take a step back and check out just exactly what we installed.
As previously stated, we replaced the Mustang's stock suspension components with those included in Hotchkis' adjustable suspension package. The package contains adjustable upper and lower trailing arms, along with Grade 8 hardware and polyurethane bushings. We also installed Hotchkis' caster/camber plates, as well as their Sport sway bars.
"The suspension components, when compared to the stock items, will improve traction, stability, handling, and suspension adjustability, all while reducing body roll," explains John Hotchkis of Hotchkis Peformance. "Our product was designed for improved street and track performance on mildly built cars. The system itself is designed to improve handling performance, not necessarily dragstrip performance."
The upper and lower trailing arms are fabricated from 0.120-inch steel tubing, and feature Hotchkis' exclusive CNC-machined spring perch. "The adjustable upper trailing arms allow for pinion angle changes to improve launches, while the lowers reduce flex and improve handling and traction," Hotchkis explains. This is done through the construction of the arms themselves, which is much sturdier than the factory items.
Complementing the suspension package was the sport sway bars we installed both front and rear. Replacing the stock bars, the new pieces are hollow, and measure 1 3/8 inches front and 1-inch rear. "The sway bars on any car are there to reduce body roll and improve handling," Hotchkis says. "Our Sport bars are engineered through roll couple distribution to improve cornering balance, along with mid-corner and corner exit speed. The rear bar is uniquely designed using endlinks that attach to the frame. This allows for better suspension articulation, making them less prone to sway bar breakage as in the factory design. Also, our sway bars feature our perfected hollow sway bar technology for increased bar twist resistance with minimum weight."
While the adjustable suspension package and the sway bars were the meat and potatoes of what we installed, we also put in a set of Hotchkis caster/camber plates as well. "The caster/camber plates increase alignment range, which allows for aggressive street and track alignments," Hotchkis comments. "The name of the game in handling improvement is maximizing the tire contact patch, or basically using the most tire for maximum grip. Our caster/camber plates allow for nearly three degrees of static negative camber, so during hard cornering the outside of the tire stays flat to the road surface. Without negative camber options over the stock setup, the tire surface would roll over on the sidewall, creating less cornering grip. Most importantly though, with our caster/camber plates, the caster can be adjusted in the positive direction, which dramatically improves high speed stability."
While all of these suspension components are great, we wanted to take full advantage of what they could offer Project Yo Ken. With that in mind, we dialed Down's Ford in Toms River, New Jersey, who happily sent us a set of Ford Racing Performance Parts B-spec springs, as well as a set of 3.73 gears so we could get up and off of the corner much quicker. In addition to installing the gears, we had SCT send out an XCalibrator2 programmer so we could accommodate for the rear gear change within the ECM's parameters. LPW Racing supplied us a rearend girdle that not only fits the '99-'04 cars, but the new S197's as well. Rounding out the package is the wheel and tire combination.
After all, what would be the point of putting on these quality suspension pieces to improve the handling characteristics if the car was still riding around on its stock five-spoke 17-inch GT wheels and accommodating shoes. To remedy that problem, we gave American Muscle a call for a set of its deep-dish Bullitt-style rims. Wanting a staggered look, we chose a pair of 18x9 rims for the front, and a pair of 18x10s for the rear. We were also looking for a good all-around tire that would perform well not only on the street in normal driving conditions, but under duress at the track as well. We enlisted Nitto Tires, who supplied us a set of Nitto 555s, sized 275/40/18 fore and 285/40/18 aft. We decided to go with the 40-series tire for a bit more sidewall and less harsh of a ride to and from our destinations.
As we said before, Chris Winter and Crazy Horse Racing handled the installation of the suspension components, gears, and such. The install itself was fairly painless, minus the cracked rearend differential that needed to be replaced. The only major hang-up revolved around the rear sway bar, which required Winter to lower the gas tank slightly and reroute the fuel line, as it would be mighty close to the passenger-side rear sway bar endlink. Other than that, the install went as smooth as could be.
Once completed, MM&FF's own Evan Smith took the car around the Raceway Park road course for a few hot laps, and reported the balance of the car being much improved, as well as its turn in characteristics being better. He even liked the wheel and tire combination, which gives this car a great look.
The only regrets we had with this install was the fact that we didn't install a set of shocks and struts along with the springs and suspension components. In calling the Hotchkis tech line, the recommendation was to throw in a set of Bilstein shocks, which, according to Winter, would further enhance handling. "I think the Bilsteins are the best shock when it comes to a handling application, and if we had the chance to put them in, you would really feel the difference between the stock stuff and the new components," he says. In addition, Hotchkis says that the only other components that he would have added to the car would have been "upgraded steering and braking systems." We might just have to do that soon. In the meantime, we show you how we installed the Hotchkis suspension system on Project Yo Ken, and stay tuned. We might just have to throw some power at this Pony to really test the suspension's limits.