Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
June 27, 2011
Photos By: Marc Christ

With the wheels chosen, we rang up Summit Racing Equipment in Tallmadge, Ohio, to order a set of tires. Known mostly for it's vast array of performance parts, Summit Racing also carries a line of stock replacement parts, tools, and, of course, tires.

To stick our Mach 1 to the pavement, we picked out Riken's Raptor ZR ultra-high-performance radial tire. The Raptor ZR tires feature an aggressive directional tread pattern for serious grip in both wet and dry conditions. The Raptor's tread compound, along with a high-modulus composition sidewall, is designed to provide quick response during cornering and maximize handling, which is just what we were looking for. The Raptors also have built-in rim protectors that help keep you from curbing your wheels. Going by Mustangs Plus' recommendation, we opted for the P235/45R17 size, which offers a 25.40-inch tire diameter, and a 9.30-inch section width.

The difference in ride quality with just the suspension mods was immediately apparent to the Mach's owners during the ride to and from the alignment shop. The ride was noticeably flat with minimal body roll, but was also still comfortable and not at all harsh or bone jarring. After getting the Mach 1 back on the road course at Gainesville Raceway (Gainesville, Florida), we concurred with their assessment. The ride had a much tighter feel to it, similar to what you find in a newer vehicle. For the relatively minimal investment, the ride quality was confidence inspiring, and allowed us to more accurately point the car around the course without having to compensate for the sailboat antics of days past.

Our baseline road course times featured best runs of 1:22.05, 1:19.82, and 1:19.42 seconds. With the Mustangs Plus suspension modifications, we were able to trim those times to 1:21:12, 1:18.84, and 1:18.78. Following those laps, we pitted the Mach 1 and swapped the Vintage Wheel Works V45s on.

With the low-profile tires on, steering wheel feedback was much more informative. We could now feel exactly when the car turned in and when it lost traction. We found that brake dive was minimal and didn't upset the handling of the car at all. We also found it interesting that we could feel the front end squirm under heavy braking, which was something that wasn't present, or at least not felt through the wheel with the 15-inch tires on. We should be able to correct that, however, with another trip to the alignment shop.

Sporting the V45 wheels and Riken Raptor rubber, the Mach 1 took to the Gainesville circuit and knocked down a 1:16.17 and a 1:16.70. With a bit more track time, we probably could have whittled the time down into the 1:15s, but we were already impressed and more than satisfied with the improvements thus made.

Lap times do show an improvement of sorts, but the real story lies in the way the Mach 1 drives now. Given that most of us regularly drive cars that were made after 1982, we've largely grown accustomed to the handling characteristics of modern cars. When you climb behind the wheel of an unmodified classic, they simply feel sloppy and slow when compared to even the most mundane modern commuter. Current vehicle handling has improved greatly, and has needed to in order to make cars safer. We now have faster speed limits, more traffic, and more distracted drivers to deal with, so having a car that reacts slowly and rolls over to the point where you can't see where you're going is simply not safe, or enjoyable. With the performance upgrades that we've made to this Mach 1, we've made the Mustang a safer, and a more enjoyable car to drive, while maintaining a smooth and comfortable ride.

When we started modifying this Mach 1, we noted that we would be improving the driving experience, and we've now come a long way in accomplishing that. In an upcoming issue, we'll be making some engine upgrades to the 351 Cleveland powerplant to bring the power level to current Mustang standards as well. Stay tuned.

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