Pete Epple Technical Editor
January 26, 2010

When we started project Shake 'N Bake, we wanted to take a reasonably priced, used '03 Mach 1 and make it a great all-around performer-something that would serve as reliable daily transportation, perform well at the dragstrip, and hold its own at an autocross or open-track event. Now that Shake 'N Bake is consistently in the 12-second zone in the quarter-mile, and we can drive it to and from the track with no issues, its time to step up the handling.

There were a few aftermarket suspension mods already in place when we took delivery of our Mach. Lowering springs, caster/camber plates, and mismatched replacement shocks and struts raised our level of handling to slightly better than stock-but slightly better than stock is nowhere near good enough. To make a significant change in the handling and driving characteristics, we headed to Pompano Beach, Florida, where the crew at Steeda Autosports went to work adding the needed components to greatly improve our lap times as well as increase our consistency on track.

Our suspension upgrades are centered around Steeda's new lightweight K-member for the SN-95 (PN 555-5078). The K-member is designed to replace the stock unit while reusing the factory lower control arms. It can be used with traditional coil springs or with a coilover setup. A mix of chrome-moly and low alloy steels helps reduce nose weight, with a 16-pound reduction when using stock-type coil springs and a 19-pound reduction when coilovers are in place.

The K-member is designed so the control arms can be mounted in one of two positions to fine-tune roll center geometry. The lower position is for cars that are stock height to 1-inch lower than stock, and the upper position is for Mustangs lowered 1 1/2 inch or more.

"When lowering the front end, the inboard end of the control arm gets closer to the ground," explains Aric Pogel, engineer for Steeda Autosports. "This has an effect on the roll center height. If lowered excessively, the roll center can go below the ground. With our K-member and coilovers, the control arms can be mounted to the upper set of holes to restore proper front-view geometry."

The steering rack bolts into the stock location and has the added benefit of adjustments to change the Ackerman geometry. Ackerman geometry allows the inside wheel to turn to a greater angle than the outside wheel in a cornering situation. This permits the inside wheel to have a tighter radius than the outside wheel, and is also referred to as dynamic toe. Under cornering, the inside wheel will toe-out, allowing the car to rotate freely around a corner.

With Shake 'N Bake on the lift at Steeda, Steve Chichisola went to work on our front suspension. After our wheels, brakes, spindles, and control arms were removed, it was time for the stock K-member to come out. With the help of Matt Bouyea, the Four-Valve power plant was secured and the stock K-member was removed. This is also a great time to take advantage of the open space and inspect/replace motor mounts, or make any other needed repairs or desired mods in this hard-to-reach area.

After the new K-member was bolted into place, Chichisola reinstalled the front control arms and steering rack. Once the front struts were removed, the caster/camber plates were removed in favor of the Steeda billet four-bolt caster/camber plates. Steeda's caster/camber plates are designed to spread the load across the entire strut tower, and provide a wide range of adjustment for street and racing applications.

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