Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
May 1, 2009
Weeds be warned! Thanks to Steeda, Project Vapor Trail is low enough to cut the lawn, but it carves corners instead. It even does so while maintaining a great ride on the street. You have to admit it looks pretty great doing it, too. Even jaded magazine types can't tell me it needs lowering now.

Horse Sense: If you don't want to go with the fully adjustable coilovers, Steeda offers a non-adjustable solution in the form of its GT500 Handling Pak (PN 555-2373; $1,499.95), which features Tokico D-spec dampeners, Steeda Sport springs, Steeda swaybars, and a Steeda strut-tower brace.

Since the moment I laid eyes on Project Vapor Trail, my '08 Shelby GT500 project car, our ace freelancer, Dale Amy, has been needling me about the car's lofty ride height. It's a tough audience around the 5.0&SF ranks, but I had to agree. We are a jaded bunch to be sure, but there hasn't been a stock Mustang yet that could go for a bit of lowering to sharpen its looks and handling, and the GT500 is no different.

Though a move to larger wheels and tires ("Limited Tradition," March '09, p. 102) went a long way toward improving PVT's looks, it was time to take its looks to the next level while improving the car's handling. If you've ever had the good fortune to pedal a GT500, you'll quickly learn that the car's off-the-showroom-floor handling is a bit compromised. It does well enough getting around the corners, but the weight of the iron 5.4 and the spring rates-spec'd in for 50-year-olds-makes the car plow when pushed.

Here is most of the Steeda gear that transformed PVT's plush, stilted personality into that of a confident, sleek ride. The headliner is the '05-'09 adjustable suspension (PN 555-8127; $1,499.95), but we rounded it out with a bumpsteer kit (PN 555-8106; $159.95), Steeda upper 3rd link (PN 555-4096; $129.95), chrome-moly steel lower control arms (PN 555-4422; $209.95), Steeda lower trailing arm relocation brackets (PN 555-8119; $134.95), a Watt's linkage (PN 555-2525; $999.95), 3-point framerail and torque box braces (PN 555-5551; $239.95), and a Steeda driveshaft safety loop (PN 555-5076; $229.95) and brake upgrade kit for GT500 (PN 555-6015; $899.95).

Having wheeled in the superb GT500KR, I was impressed with its balance of handling and ride quality. Of course, the Ford engineers made a point of equipping the KR with lightweight 18-inch wheels for better performance and handling. Heading for style on the street, PVT is rolling on 20-inch CS69s from the Carroll Shelby Wheel company, so I was in the hunt for a suspension system that would maximize PVT's handling, while minimizing the impact of the larger wheels and lowered ride height on my backside.

After some rigorous research I fancied Steeda's adjustable suspension system for the GT500. Not only does this system allow you to tweak the ride height to your liking, but coilovers, by nature, allow you to cherry-pick your spring rate for its intended use. After chatting it over with Steeda main man Dario Orlando, he assured me that they had just the recipe for my needs. Having had great luck with Steeda's gear on my '98 Cobra, it didn't take much convincing to have me barreling down the Florida Turnpike to Steeda's Pomano Beach campus for a suspension upgrade.

Of course, the parts list was a bit more involved than just the coilovers, but the end result is flat-out astounding. PVT carves corners, the front end feels lighter, the rearend is locked down, and most important of all, it rides better than you could ever imagine for a slammed S197 on 20s.

Unfortunately, the lightweight radiator support wouldn't fit the GT500, but by the time you read this, Steeda will no doubt have a version that does.

Before getting into the thick of things, Steeda shop manager Steve Chichisola measures the ride height and pinion angle of our stock setup. Yes, Dale, it was really that high, leaving a good 2 inches between the fender and the tire. Plenty of room for snow chains, but PVT isn't going to see snow while I own it. With the stock measurements noted, Steve and Steeda tech Matt Bouyea began tearing into PVT's virgin suspension.

Steve started by pulling off the stock brake caliper and rotor. It's not necessary to disconnect the brake hoses to install the suspension gear, but since we are also adding Steeda's brake upgrade kit, Steve removed the brake hose, capped the line, and removed the complete caliper assembly. If you don't disconnect the hose, be sure to securely hang the caliper from the car so you don't damage the hose.

Since the stock front dampers feature a coilover design, it's a simple process to remove the stock parts. Support the bottom of the spindle with a jack; then remove the four bolts atop the strut tower. Slowly release the spring pressure with the jack, and detach the two bolts holding the strut to the spindle. Disconnect the tie-rod end and remove the entire assembly.