Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
Why Subframe Connectors Benefit Your Mustang - Connecting The Dots
Putting Numbers To The Benefit Of Subframe Connectors.
We racers are driven by numbers. How much quicker are the e.t.'s? What's the horsepower improvement? How many g's does it pull? In today's world, no one trusts the 'ol seat-of-the-pants feel or "butt dyno." We want hard facts.
For those who grew up with Fox-body and SN-95 Mustangs, we've learned that adding subframe connectors improves chassis integrity and provides a solid foundation for further performance enhancements. Subframe connectors were often the first or second thing any Mustang owner did, especially if you planned to use sticky tires or make many modifications. After all, subframe connectors make the car "feel" stiffer than before, and they're necessary on those flexible-flyer Foxes.
Being the fact-driven racers/editors that we are, we wanted numbers. We wanted to quantify the rigidity improvements subframe connectors offer, so we designed a testing plan, found a test car, and sourced one of the best subframe connector kits available.
Subframe connectors stiffen the chassis two ways: They join the front and rear subframes with a solid tube, and they support the floorpan at the rear seat mounts. Tying the subframes together supposedly reduces overall chassis flex, and supporting the floorpan reduces seat-mount wobble, which is a big problem in high-mileage Fox Mustangs. The idea being that you should get the connecters in there before the stress takes its toll. Thus, our test consisted of stressing a Mustang chassis three ways-bending the chassis, twisting the chassis, and flexing the floorpan-all to see if the connectors could quell the flex.
How exactly can we measure chassis flex? Since we don't have expensive equipment such as a multi-post shaker to simulate driving conditions (it's used by the manufacturers and many NASCAR teams), we had to improvise.
Ever notice when you raise a Mustang with a floor jack that the doors don't open or close well? It's because the chassis flexes when it's not supported at each corner. After installing subframe connectors (especially on Fox Mustangs), the doors often open and close much better-and it's even better when a quality rollbar or cage is installed. With this observation in mind, we decided to compare the change in door misalignment before and after installing subframe connectors, while bending and twisting the chassis. To measure floorpan flex, we would measure the change in distance between the seat headrests while jacking up on the rear seat mount.
Some of you may be wondering why the chassis flexes. This occurs during many circumstances, such as when the vehicle hits bumps or imperfections in the road, when the engine applies torque to the wheels (and subsequently the suspension), and during cornering, to name a few instances.
With a testing plan finalized, we identified a test subject. Instead of selecting a notoriously flexible subject (such as a Fox convertible), we chose one of the stiffest platforms: an '03 Cobra coupe. Our rationale was that if we found any improvements on the newer, low-mileage SN-95, there would definitely be improvements on older, more flexible Mustangs.
We then selected a Maximum Motorsports subframe connector kit. Never ones to leave well enough alone, the folks at Maximum Motorsports updated its full-length subframe connectors a few years ago for more weld area and rigidity.