February 27, 2006

Big Brakes

Here's a look at PPI's complete (front and rear) Mustang Bullitt brakekits prior to installation on our '02 Mustang GT.

Stopping is actually more important than going, and the upgrade tobigger brakes will complement what we've done with the wheels and tires.Performance Parts helped us carry on the Bullitt theme by sending us aset of front and rear Mustang Bullitt brakes. Performance Parts' Bullittbrake kits ($395.99) feature new, OEM Ford parts that are the same asthe standard equipment on the '01 Mustang Bullitt. Thirteen-inch Brembonondirectional front rotors and red, galloping-horse calipers are thehighlight of this setup. The rear rotors are upgraded to 12 inches indiameter. Performance brake pads are included with each kit, as are allmounting brackets, front hoses and banjo bolts, and washers. Nomodifications are required for this brake upgrade on '99-'04 Mustangs.

Installing the new rear brakes requires pulling the axles so the newcaliper brackets can be set in place. After swapping the old for thenew, Mase resealed the rearend and refilled the differential with RoyalPurple 75W140 synthetic gear oil. After an hour or so, the resealed diffcover was ready to rock.

Bolting on the bigger binders gives us a ton more stopping power than wehad with the stock equipment. And, the bright-red color of the calipersreally pops coming through the spokes of the black Bullitt wheels.

Performance Parts also offers complete Bullitt suspension kits ($399.99)that include 3/4-inch lowering springs and the same re-valved Tokicoshocks and struts that handled the bumps on the real-deal 'Stangs. Frontand rear Bullitt sway bars are also available ($39.99/pair whenpurchased with struts, shocks, and springs).

Wheel Alignment

We decided to use Maximum Motorsports' new four-bolt caster/camberplates (PN MMCC9994, black; $199.95] as part of our transformation. Forthose who want bling, the same plates are available in triple-platedChrome (PN MMCC9994-C; $249.95). When a car is lowered, the factorycamber adjustment slots usually can't provide enough range of motion forreducing negative camber to a point where the tires will wear evenly.These stronger plates provide the ability to set the camber to stockspecifications regardless of ride height...

Whenever you step up to wheels and tires that are considerably largerthan the factory equipment, it's critical that the new setup is properlyaligned. Marlon Mitchell, owner of Marlo's Frame and Alignment inChatsworth, California, is "The Man" when it comes to making all of thecritical adjustments necessary for perfect front-end geometry onMustangs of all years. Our car only needs to have the front wheels linedup, as it has a solid rear axle. However, Mustangs with IRS wouldrequire a four-wheel alignment. Keep this in mind when you make yourmove to the big-wheel setup.

Caster, camber, and toe are the three main ingredients of a good wheelalignment, and Marlon sets it all the old-school way, with spot-onaccuracy. Caster on our GT is the positioning of the front struts inrelationship to the front or rear of the car when looking down from thetop of the struts, and imagining a line straight down through the balljoints. A strut can be moved rearward to achieve a positive casteradjustment, or frontward for a negative adjustment. "Camber" is theangle of the tires in relationship to the ground, when viewed from thefront of the car. "Toe" is the point between the tips of the front ofthe tire and the tips of the rear of the tire, when looking at the car.Toe should be "in" 1/16 or 1/8 of an inch. The car will pull to theleft or right over bumps if the toe setting is too far out.

...They also provide a means ofadjusting caster in order to keep things straight on our 'Stang's frontend. Maximum's new plates carry a lifetime warranty against bearingfailure. We think they'll work great with our lowered GT and its newrubber. Mase starts the installation by using the OEM camber plate as atemplate for marking the spot where a 1/2-inch hole must be drilled inthe shock tower, for the new caster/camper plate's fourth bolt. Afterdrilling the holes, each of the new plates is carefully assembled andsecured in its position on the shock towers.

Marlon made a positive caster adjustment (the top of the struts weretilted as far as possible to the rear of the car) in order to achieveoptimum tracking and high-speed stability. Steering response alsoimproved, and front-end dive under hard braking was reduced. There is nofactory provision for adjusting caster on Mustangs, so installing theplates is almost mandatory if you upgrade to bigger rubber, as theyallow you to make adjustments that eliminate excessive tire wear. Sinceour new BFG hides will see a fair amount of time on the switchback,canyon roads, Marlon also dialed in additional negative camber (movedthe shocks closer to the engine) to help improve cornering, and set thetoe at 1/8 inch.


Before installing the big brakes, we took out the stock Mustang andmeasured the amount of braking distance needed to get from 60 mph to afull stop. Measurements were taken starting at the first transition linebetween the blacktop and concrete. Our 'Stang came to a halt inapproximately 132 feet in each of the three test runs we made. Weallowed the brakes to cool for 15 minutes between each test run, buthave to note the brake pads were original and worn, and the brake-fluidlevel was low.

We returned to our secret test location (the parking lot of an abandonedoffice complex) a few days after the installation and gave the new brakesystem three more test shots. Stepping up to the bigger brakesdefinitely makes a difference. The two-piston calipers and 13-inch rotordiameter create some serious front brakeforce, and a driver should bemindful of that when decelerating or coming to a stop. If you're notbuckled up, a face full of windshield will be your next stop if thebrakes are jammed on at low speed. Trust us--the Bullitt brakes grab welland, with the ABS our 'Stang is equipped with, the 60-to-zero stoppingwas quite smooth. The 13-inch front and 12-inch rear binders brought theGT to a halt in approximately 120 feet each time.