Frank H. Cicerale
August 23, 2007
There's a new horse in the MM&FF stable, and its name is Project MILF. The Legend-Lime GT is currently bone stock, carries an automatic behind the 4.6L Three-Valve, and is a dual-purpose butt-whooper and grocery getter. For our introductory installment, we set out to improve the stance and handling of the S197 by bolting on Ford Racing Performance Parts' Handling Pack.

Your right foot is planted to the wood, but the end of the straightaway is coming fast. With your hands poised at the 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock positions on the steering wheel, you roll out of the throttle and drive your foot into the brakes. The action causes weight to transfer forward, thus dropping the nose and slowing your Mustang in preparation for the approaching corner. While under heavy braking, you confidently turn left, roll off the brake pedal, and the Mustang cuts in with authority. At apex, your right foot rolls onto the loud pedal, and your Pony straightens up and accelerates to the next corner. There is no drama, just control.

Everyone with a late-model Mustang wishes the scenario would play out that way, but the truth is, while the new Mustangs handle quite well, there's more left in them in terms of handling. They are fairly pushy from the factory, meaning the front tires tend to push or plow under hard cornering. When run at its limit, an S197 Stang will push quite hard, skidding the front tires instead of them gripping and guiding the car in the desired direction. So, for those looking to improve handling characteristics, improved suspension components are a must.

Enter our new project car, aptly named Project MILF. Now, before you get your shorts in a knot, we actually have an acceptable explanation for the acronym. Instead of thinking of it in American Pie terms, we'll think of it as the "Mustang I'd Like to Flog." Catchy, isn't it? Of course, it could also be "Mommy Is Lightning Fast."

The chosen steed is an '06 Legend-Lime Mustang GT owned by Old Bridge Township Raceway Park's Michael Napp. Well, Michael and his wife, Dee, that is. The Stang is creature-friendly with all the amenities and a 5R55S automatic transmission. Even better, it has a mere 1,800 miles on the odometer, and Napp said we can do whatever we want-as long as Dee can get in and drive it worry-free. Can you imagine someone saying that to the MM&FF staff?

Consider it the perfect canvas on which to create a masterpiece. With that, we've devised a plan. Using simple bolt-on parts, we'll improve all aspects of the Mustang's performance while keeping it streetable enough for anyone to take to the mall.

The first part we mocked up and installed was the strut tower brace. This stylish item adds strength and rigidity to the strut towers and can be installed with basic handtools.

The first edition of this project lies in the installation of the FRPP Handling Pack. Tag along as we show you how easy it is to improve the handling on an S197.

The Handling Pack comes with everything an S197 owner needs to spruce up the cornering ability of his or her ride (see sidebar for the kit's components) while maintaining everyday street-ability. While the kit is extremely easy to install, we wanted to not only show you how to get the job done, but also explain why you would want to in the first place. The Pack comes with lowering springs that drop the front and rearend up to 1-1/2 inches; the new stance lowers the car's center of gravity, which reduces body roll when cornering. In addition, the sway bars are stiffer than the factory items, and the shocks are tuned to the springs.

"The whole kit is stiffer than the factory parts," says FRPP's Jesse Kershaw. "The sway bars are marginally larger in diameter, but the real increase is the springs, which are 60 percent stiffer than stock, manual-transmission-equipped Mustang GT springs. In addition, we tune the dampers [shocks] to work best with those [stiffer] springs." Lowering your Mustang will also increase the negative camber (the angle the front wheels are tilted inward when looking at the car from the front), and this helps the vehicle turn in quicker and reduces the push.