Tom Wilson
March 17, 2010

Horse Sense:
Maximum is now offering a K-member specifically for '96-'04 Mustangs wearing Hellion turbochargers. The usual Maximum geometry, strength, and reduced weight are retained while making room for the Hellion machinery. See more at 50mustangandsuperfords.com

While having our '96 Track Car at Maximum Motorsports headquarters for a bit of sprucing up, we were able to catch up on the latest from Maximum. As we've come to expect, that's a rather long list of new parts for Fox to present 'Stangs.

Like every other business, Maximum has seen reduced sales thanks to the economic downturn, but unlike many aftermarket firms, Maximum has been able to press forward. That's a good trick these days, especially for an outfit headquartered in expensive California.

How do they do it? Our observation is Maximum sticks close to their core chassis business, doggedly refining and developing stuff that works. Business distractions are ignored and money isn't squandered. It's not glamorous, it's not empire building, but it delivers the goods to an appreciative market, keeping a full staff and the lights on in San Luis Obispo.

Thus Maximum owner Chuck Schwynoch was able to parade a long line of newly developed hardware in front of our camera. He emphasized Maximum is continuously working on parts for all Mustangs from the Foxes on up. And while the current economy has forced Maximum to temporarily park its own American Iron race car except as a testbed, Chuck notes Maximum customers have been representing the company well at the races. And that means more time available back at the shop developing new parts.

Here's a run-down on the latest goods.

Peel the carpet back behind the front seats on an S197 and you'll find Ford uses an unusual junction where the main floor crossmember meets the B-pillar. This makes designing a rollbar considerably more difficult, and further investigation shows all six of the rollbar attachment points mate with curved surfaces. Maximum's new NHRA-legal bar uses a complex stamped replacement and spot-welded Ford piece at the cross member (shown) and stamped curves at the other four points. The remainder of the bar is conventional, with removable door bars. Retail is $597, the new bar is available now, and Maximum says they're selling like ice water at Maple Grove in summer.

Looking deceptively simple but representing extra effort to make it right and fit easily, the Mm5TR-1 bumpsteer kit for S197 Mustangs reduces understeer and is adjustable. The issue is '05-and-later Mustangs are biased to understeer. If turning to the right, for example, Ford has the left front tire slightly bumped to toe-out under compression. This gives less steering angle on the outer tire, promoting understeer (The driver needs to steer more to get the same tire angle). The Maximum kit raises the outer tie rod, reducing the toe-out during suspension compression, reducing understeer. To do this a shorter-than-normal threaded section is used on the spherical rod end bearing. This ensures there is enough room for in the tie rod bushing to get the toe properly adjusted. And that tapered stud is no off-the-shelf-item, either. Maximum finally found a supplier willing to roll threads for quantities less than 10,000 units. This allows a machined taper and rolled threads, the whole being heat treated and plated to the specific steel alloy used. And by the way, the "Mm" rather than "MM" in the part number signifies S197-specific in Maximum-speak.

Cheap enough (at $13.95) for the home mechanic and a godsend to small install shops, this humble tool eases the installation of aftermarket lowering springs on Fox and SN-95 Mustangs. Forming a hook in the front lower control arm's center hole, the tool keeps the spring from popping out of its pocket in the A-arm during installation. No spring compressor is needed, rather the A-arm is lowered as far as possible, the new spring captured by the MMT-8 hook and the A-arm jacked back into position. After installation the tool simply unbolts and is ready for re-use. The MMT-8 is used on the front springs only; rear springs typically pop into place unaided by special tools. Maximum cautions that the MMT-8 works with all aftermarket lowering springs because they are short, but the tool nor the A-arm jacking procedure will install a stock Ford spring. They are taller than any lowering spring and require a through-the-A-arm compressor.

It's unfortunate, says Maximum, that way back when the aftermarket sold customers on the idea of offset steering rack bushings. They simply aren't needed, even on lowered cars. What is needed are rack bushings firmer than the stock rubber parts, but allowing compliance for the endless variations built into the stock K-member where the rack bolts to. Ford slaps the K-members together, relying on their soft rubber rack bushings to accommodate the resulting irregularities. Maximum's new MMST-7 kit is for stock-K-member cars. It places the blue-anodized aluminum bushings at the front of the rack with the stock crush sleeves reused behind them. The rear bushing are two-piece units made from the shiny aluminum female cone "washer" and the black male semi-spherical washer nested in it. This allows some assembly compliance, but after that the rack is rigidly mounted to the K-member by the resulting all-metal sandwich. This is more precise than urethane bushings, easier to install and doesn't seem to transmit any road noise to the cockpit.

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OK, this family of IRS brake kits has been out for a year, but this is our first look at it. Developed on Maximum's American Iron race car (as driven by Dave Royce in 2008), the kit represents the culmination of many iterations to arrive at a rear IRS brake with the rigidity, thermal capacity and hydraulic sizing required. The -15 version uses a fixed rotor at $1,297; the -16 substitutes a floating brake rotor at $1,597. The advantage of the floating rotor is reduced pad kick-back and acceptance of minor misalignments in the installation. Wilwood supplies the four-piston caliper and Maximum the stuff to get it on the IRS spindle. It's a rigid racing caliper with improved thermal capacity and no parking brake. Made from aluminum, it's not any lighter than the stock, cast-iron piece, which gives an idea to its beef. The stock caliper is a sliding bridge design, too, so the fixed Wilwood is inherently stiffer as well. The same massive better-cooling, 12.75-inch, vented Wilwood rotor is used in both kits, the difference being if Maximum modifies the hat to float or not. This rotor easily exceeds the stock Cobra part in cooling/thermal capacity and is about an inch larger in diameter. Maximum says any wheel that clears a Brembo, StopTech or Baer kit will clear this caliper. Piston sizes have been selected to work with the big aftermarket front calipers and not the stock Ford stuff. "And as with any racing brake system, an adjustable brake proportioning valve is recommended," according to Maximum staff.

Cobra IRS differentials are suspended in their subframe by three bushings, and there are benefits from changing these rubber parts with urethane replacements. The trick is the stock rubber bushing needs to have its center rubber removed while leaving the steel outer bushing, a difficult trick. The new MMT-5 tool easily does the job by pushing the rubber section out, tearing it from the steel bushing which is left undisturbed. Maximum notes they sell the rear bushing alone, or all three bushings as a kit, but not just the two front bushings. That's because it's best to change all three bushings at once, but some customers already have the two front bushings sourced from another shop.

If hogging out the differential-to-subframe bushings is a chore without a special tool, the IRS subframe-to-unibody bushings are even worse. There are four of these, and they too are best replaced with urethane bushings. The procedure is the same-push out the rubber center with the MMT-6 while leaving the steel outer shell intact-and is made more important because Ford welds these outer steel shells in place, leaving them slightly out of round. This simple MMT-6 press tool works like a charm, far better than trying to drill out the rubber. Interestingly, Ford has used two slightly different sized bushings here. Previously this caused some problems, but now it's carefully redesigned to fit in either Ford bushing shell Maximum's current urethane replacement mean you don't have to worry about it.

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