There are a lot of options for vintage Mustang enthusiasts when it comes to upgrading the suspension components on their cars. Everything from mild to wild offers significant improvements over the decades-old hardware that is probably struggling to hold your old horse up now. With our project, Colt of Personality, we were looking for something that could handle the rigors of an open track event, while dealing with the increased grip and twice the power output of the original powerplant. We contacted Total Cost Involved Engineering (TCI) of Ontario, California, and discussed our needs with them at length. What the company recommended was TCI's customized independent front suspension.
Where many of the aftermarket front suspensions for early Mustangs are based off the Mustang II's suspension, TCI's take on it was a clean sheet design that only shares a basic look and nothing more.
"Originally we entertained the Mustang II design," says TCI's Sal Solorzano, "but we found that the coil springs would impede into the framerails. We would have had to cut into the framerails and we didn't want to weaken the structure when people could possibly be using the car in a performance situation such as an autocross or open track session." To that end, TCI engineered its own solution, which uses steel plates to strengthen the framerails where the new crossmember mounts. All of the new pieces work in concert to provide a rigid foundation so that the coilover shock assemblies can efficiently do their job.
TCI's front suspension is designed to lower the stance of the Mustang, which improves handling and looks. It opens up the engine compartment by removing the shock towers--this allows just about any engine combination you can think of, with the exception of the 351C. The suspension system is engineered with the proper amount of camber gain for use in a performance capacity, with more available from a ball joint change. Turning radius is also improved.
For steering clearance reasons, TCI went with Heim joints to connect the antisway bar to the control arms. Combined with the large, greasable urethane frame bushings, the combination offers a good road feel without too much negative feedback. The bushings keep it flexible while the Heims, which utilize a Teflon-lined bearing for long life, keep it from moving too much.
"If you look at the options we have, you can go from plain and standard to polished and chrome with a range of brake packages as well," says Solorzano. "There are a lot of nuances that you just can't get from a Mustang II system, and everything is manufactured in southern California."
We're excited to take this Mustang into a new performance realm, and Solorzano summed it up with, "Because the front suspension from the factory was so bad, it really is a tremendous change."
While an experienced enthusiast with a moderate level of fabrication skills could conceivably perform this installation at home, we'd recommend having a professional shop handle it. We were able to find just the right shop in our own backyard in Gillis Performance Restorations. We had heard a lot of good things tyaabout the work coming out of the Port Richey, Florida-based shop, and were equally impressed after meeting with its proprietor, Rusty Gillis, and his son, Brian, who completes the team.
Rusty is a former NHRA Super Stock racer from back in the day--you may have caught his car feature in the Dec. '07 issue of Mustang & Fords--and when he's not bench racing about the early '70s racing scene, he's busy crafting old muscle cars into the stars of tomorrow's shows. Brian handles much of the fabrication work and we've come to admire his skills behind the torch.
Our fastback looked great on the outside, but as the duo pulled the car apart, an increasing number of rookie mistakes by the previous owners were uncovered. Luckily, we have the car in the hands of the pros who were able to right the wrongs. You'll be seeing more of their handiwork in issues to come, as we'll be covering some of the front-end sheetmetal repairs that were needed next month. The rear suspension installation will come next. For now, check out the captions and photos to see what is involved in installing TCI Engineering's independent front suspension.
1 In its completed, painted, and polished form, the TCI independent front suspension for
2 Stripped down to just the crossmember, this particular piece was designed specifically
3 Before you can install the crossmember, you have to fortify the framerails. TCI provide
4 As mentioned in the text, we began our install without the shock towers in place. We di
5 Next, the edge is ground down and then the two sides of the framerail are welded togeth
6 Here, Gillis mocks the plates up, using the factory hole in the frame to align the plat
7 The inboard plate is also mocked up to check for fitment.
8 The plates are aligned using the factory bolt hole in the framerail, and then clamps ar