Frank H. Cicerale
December 1, 2008
Photos By: courtesy of Crazy Horse Racing
Knowing That we would be throwing some power at the Two-Valve mod motor later on, as well as wanting to accelerate off the corner quicker, we had Down's kick over a set of FRPP's 3.73 gears for the 8.8-inch rear. We also picked up a bottle of Motorcraft friction modifier, as well as an LPW Racing rearend girdle for added support on the rearend's main caps.

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."

Here You can see the difference between the stock sway bar (top) and the new Hotchkis rear sway bar (bottom). The Hotchkis bar's design and hollow construction lends itself to be stronger than the stock bar. This results in less body roll and improved stability under hard cornering.

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.