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Mustang GT 5.0L Value-Spec Suspension Upgrade
MM&FF Dives Into Summit Racing's Value Pack Mustang Suspension
It's always nice to be recognized for some great achievement. Whether it's a breakthrough in astrophysics or winning a hotdog-eating contest, it feels good to be noticed. The late-model Mustang has been noticed too, from the buying public to the aftermarket performance sector. Summit Racing Equipment in Tallmadge, Ohio, has been supplying hotrodders with go-fast parts since 1968, so they know a hot item when they see it. That's why Summit has a section in its monthly catalog dedicated to late-model 5.0/4.6L Mustangs for several years now.
With the economy on a downswing, coming up with cold cash for speed parts may prove to be difficult, but thankfully Summit Racing has put together value packs just for the Mustang enthusiast to help get them the best bang for their buck.
Our project Recession Special has been a big hit with MM&FF readers, so when it came time to upgrade the suspension, Summit's Value Pack suspension system caught our eye. With 170,000-miles on the clock, our '90 notchback's suspension was hurting in a bad way. The rear shocks were completely blown out, and we had stuffed in some used front struts when we started driving it, because one of the stock struts had locked up and the other was blown out like the rear shocks.
While our project serves as daily transportation, it is also a magazine project car, which means it will see some track and dyno testing throughout the course of its build. With that in mind, we really wanted a suspension setup that would give us both a comfortable daily ride, as well as tuneability for the dragstrip and autocross. Summit Racing's Value Pack Suspension system fit the bill perfectly, as it offers great coil springs combined with an adjustable shock/strut combo and a set of caster/camber plates to make sure the car goes down the road straight.
Breaking down this convenient combo, one will find Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) coil springs, Strange Engineering adjustable struts and shocks, along with Hotchkis Sport Suspension caster/camber plates. The FRPP performance coil springs have been around since the mid-'80s, but they work great and continue to be a popular item with enthusiasts today.
The standard FRPP hardware that comes with the combo is the M-5300-C coil spring, which features a 600 lb/in specific rate front spring, coupled with a variable 200-300 lb/in rear spring. This is the hot setup if you want your car to handle like it's on rails. We wanted something a bit more compliant and talked Summit Racing into swapping out the spring set for the M-5300-B springs. Both the C and B spring kits will lower your car about 7/8-inch in the front, and 1/2-inch in the back, however the B springs are a bit softer as they use a variable rate 425-530 lb/in front spring coupled with the same rear coils. As we went to print, our source at Summit Racing said they were considering offering the B springs as an option to the kit, so you may want to check with them before ordering.
Hotchkis Sport Suspension has been fine-tuning some of our finest muscle cars for years, and the late-model Mustang is no exception. The Fox-body Mustang is extremely limited when it comes to caster and camber adjustment at the front end, so aftermarket companies like Hotchkis have solved that problem with better caster/camber plates. The Hotchkis units in our kit are CNC-machined and TIG-welded from 6061 aluminum and offer up to 3 degrees of overall camber and 5 degrees of caster movement. That adjustability is even more important when you've lowered your Mustang.
The third part of Summit Racing's Value Pack is the Strange Engineering externally adjustable struts and shocks. Twist the black knob at the bottom of the damper, and you have 10 different settings to help you fine-tune the compression and rebound at each corner of the vehicle. On the front struts, settings 2 and 3 are for drag racing, when you need the weight of the vehicle to transfer rearward. Settings 4 and 5 are for street driving, and 7 and 8 tighten things up for road course or autocross duty. With the rear shocks, Strange recommends position 5 or lower for drag racing. Should you experience wheel hop, you'll want to turn it up to firm up the shocks. Every vehicle is different, so you'll want to take it to the track to see what settings offer the optimum traction for the given task.
For our install, we dropped by HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida. If you've been following our Recession Special build, then you know we used HP Performance to dyno test our budget-built 302, as well as install the B&G Custom Turbo system. Swapping struts, shocks, and springs is pretty easy work for most shops these days, and our installation went very smoothly. If you're doing the swap yourself, figure about four to five hours, and don't forget to have the car aligned at an alignment shop before you hit the road.
We were able to sample the Strange Engineering adjustable struts and shocks in another Fox Mustang prior to this install, so we knew they could provide the tuning we needed for daily driving, dragstrip burning, and corner turning. Whether you choose the FRPP B or C springs, you'll get that lowered, aggressive stance that all Mustang enthusiasts love to look at. We found the B springs provided a comfortable ride, and cranking the dampers one way or the other helped fine tune our filly for whatever we needed it to do. We'll be sure to give the suspension a workout in some of our upcoming tech stories. If you're looking for a tunable suspension for your Fox Mustang that won't break the bank, look no further than the Summit Racing's Value Pack.