Project MILF 2006 Ford Mustang GT Supension Install - Handle Your Business
Meet Project MILF (Mustang I'd like to flog)
From the June, 2007 issue of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
By Frank H. Cicerale
Photography by Evan J. Smith
There's a new horse in the...
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...
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.
Chris Winter at Crazy Horse...
Chris Winter at Crazy Horse Racing signed on to help us and decided that installing the strut tower brace would be the first order of the day. He was expecting to have to modify things in the engine bay to get it to fit, but that wasn't the case.
The consensus was to start...
The consensus was to start at the front of the car and make our way to the rear. With that in mind, the stock front struts were the first suspension components to go by the wayside. Of interest is the construction of the new struts. The front struts on the Mustang are of the MacPherson type, which means the shock and spring are on the same assembly, unlike the rear in which the shocks and springs are mounted separately. To remove the struts, the wheels had to come off first. Next, the sway bar mounts, brake line mounts, and top spindle nuts were removed. Once all of those items were off, the four bolts on top of the strut (under the hood and on top of the strut tower) were removed and the strut was pulled out from the bottom.
Other than the factory struts...
Other than the factory struts being black and the new ones blue, there is no outward difference. The factory struts are set up for adequate performance and a comfortable ride.
The struts that come in the...
The struts that come in the Handling Pack are tuned specifically for FRPP by Dynamic Suspension, the same company that makes the struts for the Mustang FR500C race car. Additionally, these struts are designed to work with the kits' lowering springs.
The only factory items we...
The only factory items we kept were the stock strut tops and front sway bar mounts. To remove the tops from the stock struts, you will need to remove the front springs. Winter took the struts to a spring remover, and within a matter of moments, had the springs and strut tops off.
With the stock springs removed,...
With the stock springs removed, you can see the difference between the stock ones (right) and the new, blue, lowering springs (left). The new springs are shorter in stature, resulting in the car's 1-1/2-inch lower stance. The lowering springs are progressive pieces.
Before the struts made their...
Before the struts made their way into the car, Winter had to install the springs on the struts. The springs are short enough to slide on the strut, and the top of the stock strut can be bolted on without having to compress the springs. Don't you love it when a plan comes together?
With a stiffer spring, body roll is also reduced. "The object is to keep the tires on the ground," Kershaw says. Also helping are the sway bars. Both bars are stiffer, and the front sway bar has three different settings from which to choose. These settings range from full race, street/strip, to street only. "The softest setting, the hole the furthest inward on the front sway bar, will give you more oversteer and adds to the fun factor," Kershaw says. "A more experienced driver will probably appreciate this on dry twisties. In wet conditions, or for a less experienced driver, a little understeer can be dialed in by using the outer holes." By increasing oversteer, you are reducing understeer, or push, thus allowing you to drive into the corner deeper and harder without fear of washing up the track. In other words, it makes the car more neutral.
Two questions that we wanted answered were, what kind of clearance issues would we run into, both with the ground and with the wheel and tire combination, and what will the kit do in regard to overall feel?
"We were lucky to have learned much about the Mustang suspension via the FR500C program as well as the development of the GT500," Kershaw says. "Ford Racing Performance Parts and SVT were doing track days together to dial-in our kit and the GT500. We tested with 245/50-18 tires on stock 18-inch rims, and we had no issues as to clearance. We've run the kits on GTs with GT500 rims as well as FR500 rims without any difficulty. However, if you want to run a stud girdle on the rearend, you will have interference with the Panhard bar. We redesigned our stud girdle to accommodate this and have given it a new part number [M-4033-G2].
"Overall, the Handling Pack should make the car a little more dynamic feeling. It would be one step closer to a go-kart, but not so much that it rattles your fillings loose. It's very satisfying to whip a Mustang through a turnaround and let the rearend hang out with our Handling and Drag Packs installed."
Once the struts were assembled,...
Once the struts were assembled, they were installed in the car from the bottom up. With the struts in place, we linked the spindles back up, along with the brake line mounts. We didn't hook the sway bar back up, as we were swapping it out for the one that came with the kit. Once everything was buttoned up below, we went back up top and tightened the four mounting bolts along with (finally) the strut tower brace.
Also of note is the strut tower brace. This item was a true bolt-and-go part on this '06 GT. Keep in mind, though, that if you have a V-6, a supercharged GT (think GT500), or a GT with an '07 intake shroud (plastic engine cover), the strut tower brace will not fit without modification to components under the hood. As of press time, FRPP has not developed a brace that would fit the V-6 cars or those with the intake shroud.
"You only run into a problem when you use the brace with the intake shroud or on the V-6, which oddly enough, has a taller intake," Kershaw explains. "You can add a couple of washers to raise [the brace] up a bit, but it will then interfere with the hood insulator a bit. Basically, it's the owner's call as to what gets done to make it fit."
For those of you with a blower, help is on the way. "We are finalizing our '07 Cobra brace and Handling Pack," Kershaw says. "Both should be available soon."
One thing we found out about installing the brace is this: If you are replacing the front struts at the same time as you plan on installing the strut tower brace, leave the brace last; you'll only have to take it back off to swap the struts.
Pack of Parts
We visited the FRPP Web site to get a better idea of what comes in its Handling Pack (PN M-2005-FR3). While each part contained within the kit has its own part number and can be purchased separately, doing it all in one shot with the Handling Pack would be the way to go to ease headaches and installation time. Check out what comes in the kit.
Damper Kit (PN M018000-A)
Mustang GT Lowering Spring Kit (PN M-5300-K)
Mustang GT Antiroll Bar Kit (PN M-5490-A)
Mustang Strut Tower Brace (PN M-20201-S197)
As stated, the factory front...
As stated, the factory front sway bar was going to be replaced by the beefier sway bar that comes with the Handling Pack. As you can see here, the new sway bar (bottom) has a slightly larger diameter than the factory sway bar (top). Also, the sway bar comes with that cool-looking Ford Blue paint job.
In addition to being a beefier...
In addition to being a beefier unit, the FRPP front sway bar has three adjust-ments from which to choose, depending on driving style and usage. The three holes in the sway bar allow you to set it on either a street, street/race, or full race setting. Since Project MILF is a dual-purpose daily driver, we set up the sway bar in the middle bolt hole, which is the street/strip setting.
After we greased the supplied...
After we greased the supplied bushings, we reused the factory sway bar mounts and bolted in the sway bar. Once the sway bar was wrenched down, Glen Knell at Crazy Horse gave the bushings a shot from the grease gun. With this being the last piece of the puzzle in terms of the front suspension, Knell bolted the front wheels back on.
We thought the front end was...
We thought the front end was easy, but the back end was an even bigger piece of cake. For the rear of Project MILF, the factory sway bar, shocks, and springs were to be replaced by the Handling Pack's parts and pieces.
The first item on the agenda...
The first item on the agenda was the removal of the rear shocks. For added insurance, we supported the rear by putting a trans jack under the pumpkin. We first removed the sway bar and took off the wheels. To remove the shocks, we had to get into the trunk first, pull back the carpet, and take out the top shock bolts. We then went under the rear and loosened the final bolts to the shocks and took them out.
The rear shocks are tuned...
The rear shocks are tuned for maximum performance and to work in conjunction with the lowering springs.
Once the shocks are removed,...
Once the shocks are removed, you can remove the springs. Give them a tug and they'll come out easily.
As was the case with the front...
As was the case with the front springs, the rear lowering springs (left) are shorter than the factory springs (right). The springs will lower the rear of the car 1-1/2 inches while keeping the ride smooth.
Installing the lowering springs...
Installing the lowering springs is just as easy as taking out the factory ones. They are not side specific, so all you have to do is pick a spring and slide it in. Make sure the spring sits flush in the cups.
Once the rear springs are...
Once the rear springs are in, you can install the rear shocks from the bottom and in the reverse order as to how you took them out.
As with the front sway bar,...
As with the front sway bar, the rear sway bar is a beefier unit than the stock one. There are no adjustments for the rear sway bar, though, making the rear sway bar installation a simple bolt-in procedure.
The other neat thing about...
The other neat thing about the rear sway bar are the sway bar mounts made by Eibach. These mounts replace the factory ones, which if you recollect, needed to be reused when the new front sway bar was installed.
Before installing the sway...
Before installing the sway bar, grease all of the sway bar bushings and put them on. Then, lift the bar up to the rear and bolt it in. There is one note to remember, however. While FRPP supplies all of the hardware needed to mount the sway bar, we noticed that the factory sway bar bolts were thicker than those supplied with the kit.
Winter wanted to reuse the...
Winter wanted to reuse the factory bolts, so we had to slightly drill open the sway bar mount holes to fit the larger bolts. Once the bar was in, Knell hit the bushings with the grease gun and then bolted the wheels back on.
With FRPP's Handling Pack...
With FRPP's Handling Pack on Project MILF, we expect the handling characteristics to be more predictable and controllable on the road course. Also, as you can see in this photo, the car is noticeably lower and the gap between the top of the tire and the fenderwell has been significantly reduced. While we didn't have time to let Project MILF rip on Raceway Park's road course, we were able to get in some burnout time. Guess we'll need some new wheels and tires soon.