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1972 Mustang Mach 1 - Equestrian Competition, Part 3
Finding Better, Safer Handling in a ’72 Mach 1
It's been a couple of issues since we last saw our '72 Mach 1 project on these pages, and this month, we're back to report on the culmination of our efforts to bring some speed back to the Mach 1 through the addition of new suspension components and a modern wheel and tire package.
Back in the March '11 issue, we started modifying a '72 Mustang Mach 1 ("Equestrian Competition," pg 28) after running it on the road course at Gainesville Raceway and coming to the conclusion that this ponycar had all of the handling characteristics of a sailboat navigating through high swells. With the non-supportive factory bucket seats already hampering our efforts to remain seated in one position, the Mach's body rolled like a blue whale waving to boaters, which prevented us from viewing the apex of any turn on the course. The inside front corner would just rise up and block the entire view, so cutting the corners properly was purely an educated guess.
That's just not a safe way to drive under any circumstance, whether you're in the grocery store parking lot or at your local track, so we called up the restomod specialists at Mustangs Plus, who guided us to one of the company's Super Starter kits.
The Mustangs Plus Super Starter kit is available for all '65-'73 Mustangs and while each kit contains basically the same parts, Mustangs Plus custom tailors the selection to each vehicle and owner's needs. The Super Starter combines three subsystems into one big package. Included are a spring and handling package, a suspension rebuild package, and a steering upgrade package. Prices start at $799.95 for the Super Starter kit, and every component is backed by a lifetime guarantee. The list of included parts is long, and features new coil springs, leaf springs, shocks, an antiroll bar, endlinks, upper and lower control arms, inner and outer tie rods, adjustment sleeves, and strut rod bushings, just to name a few.
Since the Super Starter kit is, when it comes right down to it, re-engineered factory parts, everything bolts in easily and there are no surprises during installation. This being the case though, one might not think that such a vast improvement could be made but this wasn't the case.
With the Mach 1's suspension suitably upgraded, we turned toward the stock steel 15-inch wheel and tire package. While the Magnum 500s look period correct, and complement the Mach 1's styling cues well, they're heavy, limit brake upgrades, and were shod with a set of very old tires. While a new set of rubber on the 15s would have made for a more accurate comparison, we had no intention of running the 15s in the near future and went straight to a modern wheel and tire combination.
Catering to the musclecar crowd is La Mirada, California-based Vintage Wheel Works, which offers several modern aluminum versions of classic performance wheels that offer modern construction with a vintage look. Truthfully, any of the company's wheels would have looked great on our Mach 1, but in the end, the car's owners, Robin and Rob Cardinal, chose the V45 model.
The Vintage 45 is available in sizes from 15x4 through 18x9.5, and for our ride, we chose the 17x8 size for all four corners. This would allow us to rotate the tires as needed, and ensured that we would have no rubbing issues. The V45 is a two-piece wheel with five curved spokes that have a rounded "D" shape. They come with a media-blasted center and spoke area, and polished outer barrel. According to Vintage Wheel Works, the center disc is manufactured from virgin 356 aluminum ingots and heat-treated to a T6 factor. The outer barrel or hoop is made from spun 6061 sheet aluminum and has a fully polished front surface.
The V45 comes with a standard 4-1/2-inch backspace (0 offset) or 4-3/4-inch backspace (+6mm offset), and it's available with custom back spacing ranging from 3-3/4 inches to 4-3/4 inches. Vintage Wheel Works can build the V45 with a backspacing outside this range, but says it will alter the appearance of the wheel. Bolt patterns include Ford's 5-on-41/2, or optional 5-on-4-3/4 and 5-on-5 bolt patterns.