Tom Wilson
February 11, 2006

Horse Sense: Maximum Motorsports says it first tried KRC's "Ford" version of the power-steering pump, but found it doesn't fit Mustangs. So Maximum makes its own mounting system for this kit.

Slightly numb, over-boosted power steering has been an issue with 5.0 Mustangs since Adam taught Eve to drive. It's not enough to bother with on street cars, but is more serious on drag cars with skinny front tires and an irritant to road racers' delicate sensibilities. The hobby has been ready for a better way to take the effort out of pointing 5.0 liters for years, and now it seems Maximum Motorsports has delivered a convenient answer.

Maximum says the power steering system-prototyped on Jack Hidley's open-track car and durability tested on this car, Maximum's American Iron racer-has proven precise and durable. Drivers report considerably more precision just offcenter, where the stock steering sticks, then jumps free before settling down. Here driver Dave Royce and engineer Austin Dowdy test new rear suspension pieces in the Maximum race at Buttonwillow.

Taking an old road racer's trick-going to the circle track parts store because the combat-proven roundy-round stuff is usually good, durable, and as affordable as the largest racing market in the world can make it-Maximum has packaged KRC's circle track pump for 5.0 Mustang engines. While not quite a pure bolt-on, Maximum's kit includes the pump, reservoir, cooler, brackets, hoses, hose ends, and clamps. The only thing you'll need to fab is an attachment bracket for the cooler. Every one mounts in a different spot, so each bracket is custom and can't be reasonably pre-produced. Also keep in mind that this kit does not work with air conditioning, so a drive belt is included. Each kit seems to use a different length anyway, and the system uses power-steering fluid only, not ATF. Assist at parking-lot speeds can be minimal with this racing-oriented system, but the constant flow design means you can't "beat" the power steering with rapid wheel movements. When fitted to '94-'95 Mustangs, the serpentine idler belt is removed and the coil is relocated.

Advantages cited by Maximum include less horsepower required to drive the KRC pump and the ability to happily rev all day at 7,000 pump rpm. Maximum advises to flush the new system with mineral spirits and add about 2 quarts of power-steering fluid to fill the system.

Cost is a mental stumbling block at $699.95, which seems steep. But when you price the pump, bracket, cooler, and plumbing, consider the benefit of having it all show up on your doorstep in one box. Having a more responsive, linear, and adjustable-effort power steering system makes the investment more palatable.

As with all American Iron racers, the Maximum car is limited to 9 pounds per horsepower, which typically works out to about 330 hp. There's no limit on engine weight reduction, so the lighter Maximum power steering system does its part to promote better front-end grip.

Besides the photos of the kit, we shot a finished installation on Maximum Motorsports' in-house American Iron race car. The yellow hatch was undergoing suspension testing at Buttonwillow Raceway Park under the skilled guidance of Eibach Suspension Development Manager and noted hot-shoe Dave Royce. While we were there, Dave unofficially reset the AI lap record and had nice things to say about the steering.

We also interviewed our former OTC teammate and Maximum associate Jack Hidley, as he developed the kit with Maximum for use on his own Fox track car. Jack had valuable information about the power steering kit's adjustability, which is one of its desirable features. This is the holy grail for many folks, as they want a way to dial the assist up or down, and the KRC pump has that capability.

KRC varies assist with a precision orifice built into the pump's outlet fitting. A range of nine such flow-restrictor valves are offered by KRC/Maximum, and Jack reports they give a hugely wide adjustment bandwidth. In fact, he found the middle ground-and the flow-restrictor valve that comes stock with the pump-worked best.

This angle shows how the Maximum pump uses three standoffs to mount the pump away from the front of the left cylinder head. On this early system, the mounting plate and standoffs are not anodized as are production kits.

This adjustability feature seems aimed at matching the assist to a large combination of track sizes (super speedways, bullrings, and so on), tire sizes, alignment settings, front weights, and driver preferences rather than providing a micrometer-like precision. But at the same time, it seems there is enough precision available to satisfy even picky drivers (is there any other kind?). The flow restrictors are available individually or in a kit of eight (the one sold in the pump makes nine).

Maximum's power-steering-pump kit is in stock, so there's no waiting if you're in the market. A kit for modular-powered cars might be available someday. The mod-motored Mustangs use Hydraboost brakes that tie into the steering, so that's a new twist yet to be addressed. In the meantime, don't pester Maximum Motorsports with the "when modular cars" question. Maximum principle Chuck Schwynoch would just as soon not have to field a hundred phone calls on the subject as such a system is uncertain, so for now, this is a benefit of sticking with the good old 5.0. Enjoy.

Just fitting Maximum's power steering kit will help with steering feel, precision, and linearity, but to get it all, the steering rack, tie rods and their end links must also be addressed.

It's beyond the scope of this article to dig all the dirt in the steering arena, but the '00 Mustang Cobra R steering rack is the acknowledged bra-buster in the great rack department. It has the all-important correct "T-bar" for precision handling applications.

Numerous companies, including Maximum Motorsports, offer tie rods and bumpsteer kits, which provide all-metal rod ends to link the tie rods to the spindle on lowered cars. You'll want and need these for track duty.