There's no denying that the stock Ford suspensions from the '60s and '70s are full of compromises. Budgetary constraints, packaging limitations, and so forth were considerations Ford had to contend with when building vehicles for the masses. Today, owners often attempt Band-Aid fixes while running modern sticky tires, and the end result is a car that doesn't handle, doesn't steer, and doesn't stop. Fixing these issues is entirely possible and one of the best ways to tackle the mediocre handling, steering, and braking of these cars is with a full bolt-on independent front suspension (IFS) upgrade package. An aftermarket IFS kit that addresses these concerns as a systems approach will net you a better handling and safer ride in a weekend of wrenching.
Fatman Fabrications has offered full chassis and Mustang II conversions for the street rod market for nearly three decades, and when the company's engineers first investigated the growing unibody Ford market (Mustang, Falcon, Fairlane, and so on), it was agreed upon that the typical Mustang II crossmember conversion was not the way to go. Instead, Fatman Fabrications devised a trick bolt-in IFS coilover strut suspension cradle that used all Ford parts for ease of servicing. Their reasoning? The Ford unibody design uses the shock towers to support the vehicle and transfer suspension loads to the firewall and cowl. Removing the shock towers means the vehicle's weight is now on the front frame rails exclusively—a weaker proposition by their reasoning.
The popular '94-'04 Mustang spindle and strut assembly was the key part of making the cradle work, and with the enormous late-model Mustang market, the customer would be able to choose from literally dozens of strut and brake options—from stone stock budget parts to trick adjustable struts and multi-piston disc brakes. Buyers can pick and choose their struts, brakes, and other hardware as their budget allows or project needs dictate. They can also purchase everything they'll need including rack-and-pinion, tilt steering column, and more directly from Fatman Fabrications for one-stop-shopping.
The first IFS cradle system from Fatman Fabrications hit the market for first generation Mustangs in 2005 and we were one of the lucky few to actually drive that '68 Mustang with Fatman's IFS system, coming away quite impressed at how the system worked. However, as time marches on, so does a successful company and its innovations and Fatman Fabrications does not sit idle. The company's strut IFS system is now offered for other Ford models, with a full lower cradle and a true A-arm design (previous designs retained the strut rods) that improves the car's handling.
We recently discovered a local installer, Woody Fowler at Pecker Head Racing, had a customer's '66 Fairlane scheduled for an installation of one of Fatman Fabrications' strut IFS systems. Car owner Charlie Brazzeal already has a nicely restored '67 Fairlane GT with a 427 FE and four-speed with a Detroit Locker equipped 9-inch, but a recently acquired 427 FE Tunnel Port engine gave Charlie the itch to go hunting GM muscle at the local dragstrip. Being a Fairlane fan, Charlie scored this '66 Fairlane project "mid-build" with a lot of chassis and interior tin-work already completed. The strut IFS install will free up some room for exhaust headers while allowing quick suspension tuning at the track for ride height, spring rate, and compression/rebound via externally adjustable drag-spec McPherson struts. The Fairlane is currently in mock-up mode, so what you'll see in the following photos will soon be coming back off to finish the chassis work. Charlie's plans call for an R-code look in Wimbledon White with a solid roller cam in the FE, a high-stall C4 in the tunnel, and single 4V induction under the R-code style hood. We can't wait to see this Tunnel Port FE-powered 'Lane hit the track and make some noise!
22. The finished strut/spindle installation is shown here. Note the ample room to quickly