Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsHow To Chassis Suspension
2007 Ford Mustang GT - Steeda Suspension Install
Lowering an S197 Mustang GT for the proper look and performance on the street and strip.
Image is everything and achieving the right stance with your Mustang is important. Sure there are performance advantages with lowering a vehicle's center of gravity, but getting the right look goes a long way, too. And when you can achieve both, it's a win-win.
But how low do you go? Of course, the choice is yours and the aftermarket has plenty of options to meet the most extreme needs to the mildest desires. This month, we take an '07 Mustang GT and lower it on the milder side to give it a better stance, and hopefully a little better performance.
We are aiming for a mild stance adjustment because this S197 is a daily driver, and we don't want to diminish the ride quality. Like everything else, there are compromises, and slamming your Stang on the ground can certainly affect ride quality negatively due to a reduction in suspension travel and the super-stiff springs. Normally, the shorter springs used to lower the car tend to be stiffer, thus making the ride harder, but with a properly matched set of dampers and alignment to match, you'll still be rolling with an appropriate ride quality.
The big advantage comes when you are putting the car through turns and/or hard braking, as it keeps the body more level and offers better cornering performance. Our test car isn't used for road racing or autocross events, but more street performance with some drag racing thrown in the mix. The biggest challenge for us was to find a set of springs that offered a lowered stance, but could also handle the pothole-ridden streets of New York, where your author resides. We turned to Steeda Autosports for direction in navigating through its suspension packages.
Scott Boda of Steeda was armed with our intentions of a better look, without a reduction in ride quality. He recommended Steeda Sport Springs, designed to lower the car approximately 1 inch in the front and 1.25 inches in the rear. We did inform Boda of our intentions to do some drag racing, and noted that we wanted to add rear trailing arms (otherwise known as control arms) and a stiffer Panhard bar. He cautioned that if we were serious about drag racing, then he would stick with the softer stock springs. The vehicle's ability to transfer weight to the back tires when on the dragstrip would be hampered with stiffer-than-stock-springs and a lower ride height.
This Mustang is more of a time-trial hero than drag-racing legend, so we made the decision to go for the better look with the lowering springs. In fact, most S197 Stangs (especially ones with an automatic transmission) can hook really well with just good tires, so lowering the car should have no affect on strip performance.
The S197 features a three-link suspension with a single upper arm and two lower control arms. A Panhard bar helps prevent lateral movement of the housing. Adding stronger control arms with stiffer bushings helps rigidity in the suspension department, and thus better performance on the street and strip.
Steeda has nearly a dozen options when it comes to rear trailing arms and Panhard bars. It offers arms made of mild steel, chromoly, and even billet-aluminum, and then you can add in adjustable and non- adjustable options, along with bushing and solid mounts. As a quick overview of the choices—bushing-style control arms will offer the best ride since the bushing helps negate the road noise and feel rather than transferring it through the car like a solid-mounted (Heim-joint) set of arms. Adjustable control arms allows for pinion angle/instant center adjustments for optimum traction.
Steeda made it easy for us to select the proper suspension parts because it has pre-arranged bundles. We chose the Stage 1 Drag Pak that is designed for '05-'10 Mustangs and retails for approximately $579.95. The package includes adjustable upper and lower control arms, along with an adjustable street Panhard bar.
The control arms feature bushings rather than the extreme Heim-joints like on the racier options. That will keep a nice ride quality, but still offer better performance due to the stiffer-than-stock bushing.
The adjustable Panhard bar (in length) is required because when you lower the car, the rear end shifts left. We used the four-post lift at JPC to adjust the Panhard bar and get the rear housing perfectly centered once the installation was finished.
“Lowering the car also effects the pinion angle,“ says Justin Burcham of JPC Racing, who handled the installation of the Steeda Sport Springs and Drag Pak on our S197 Mustang. He continues, “The rear end stays fixed when you lower the car, but the pinion moves upward, which effectively takes pinion angle out of the car—not a lot of angle, but it does move.“ The adjustable upper control is generally shortened to drop the nose of the housing and retain proper pinion angle.
Not included in the Steeda drag racing package are relocation brackets, and Burcham wanted to add a set during our installation. “The relocation brackets change the angle of the rear lower control arms, which changes the instant center of the car and affects how hard the tire plants into the track. The chassis is basically like a balance beam, and the relocation brackets allow you to change the pivot point—or lift point—of the rear suspension,“ he says.
The installation took approximately one day and having a lift definitely made it easier. One element that makes this installation harder for the average enthusiast is the Steeda relocation brackets—each one must be welded into place. Outside of that, the springs install without drama, and the control arms and Panhard bar are what you'd expect. The JPC technicians took many measurements to ensure the control arms were equal in length to the factory control arms, and the rear end was centered in the car, along with the wheels sitting center in the wheel openings.
On the street, we are very happy to report the ride quality is just as Boda and Steeda explained to us. We're not going to say it's exactly like stock because that would be bending the truth. But in our opinion, the car drives and handles exceptionally well for being lowered.
The stiffer control arms and stronger bushings do transmit some vehicle noise, but nothing that is terrible and certainly within acceptable limits. Trust us, we've driven it all on these streets—from full-on drag race cars to many modified street Mustangs, including Fox-body models. Overall we'd say the Sport Springs and Stage 1 Drag Pak pass our stringent standards for use in the New York metropolitan area, especially when compared to other suspension components out there.
On the dragstrip, our car regularly runs 11.20s at 123 mph, and 60-foot times average in the 1.55 to 1.57 range. We didn't better our best time of 11.23 or our quickest 60-foot clocking of 1.54. Like all dragstrip testing, track conditions and weather has to be factored in to results, and we feel that is what affected the results this time around.
The car's best times have always come later in the season, when the air is optimal. We tested these modifications at Atco Raceway in early September. The oppressive summer heat was gone, but the temperatures were still in the mid-80s. Last year we ran our best times with this car when the temps were in the low 70s. That said, this Mustang is deadly consistent as it ran—with the Steeda modifications—11.27 at 122 mph with a 1.56 60-foot time in the hotter weather conditions.
On track the car was flying, and we were enjoying the lowered look but there was something missing—new wheels! We added Shelby GT500 wheels four years ago, when we changed to the Ford Racing GT500 Brembo brake package, and it was time for a fresh appearance.
There actually wasn't too much thinking in the matter as the author instantly gravitated towards AmericanMuscle.com AMR wheels. The charcoal AMRs seem to be a crowd favorite for the '11-present Mustang, but we haven't seen any on earlier S197 models ('05-'09).
AmericanMuscle's online ordering is easy and we clicked away at the order form. The company shipped staggered fitment AMR 19-inch wheels wrapped in General G-Max tires. Up front, the tires are 245/45R19 and are mounted on 19x8.5 inch AMR wheels. In the rear, the G-Max tires are 275/40R19 and the wheels are 19x9.5 inches.
AmericanMuscle makes it super easy to swap tires with complementary mounting and balancing, tire pressure sensors, and a DVD on how to calibrate the new sensors to your car's PCM. We didn't change the overall height of the tire size, so we didn't need to recalibrate the speedometer.
After one day's worth of work, a trip to the track, hundreds of street miles logged, and hours of staring at the car, we are confident in saying our '07 Mustang GT sits just right, drives smoothly, and continues to mow down the competition.