War Pony-Front Lines: Fixing the Front End

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When it comes to front and rear suspension pieces for Fox Mustangs, choice is plentiful. There are many folks building front-end parts like K-members and A-arms for these cars. After weighing all of our options, we chose Racecraft.

Racecraft has a great reputation for fit and finish and incorporates some novel engineering: the steering rack is mounted in the stock location, but Racecraft moved the K-member main hoop in front of the steering rack. By building the cross member this way, it provides room for an oversize oil pan. It also means header clearance issues are minimized. The actual steering mount is engineered to accept a conventional Pinto manual rack. You can order the cross member in chrome-moly or mild steel. For a car that sees street use, Racecraft recommends mild steel hardware.

The motor mount kits for the K-member come in multiple versions, including those for Chevy LS, big-block and small-block engines. The motor mount system for the LS offers 1-inch of front-to-back adjustment. Essentially, you can position the engine where it best fits. This adjustability certainly helps with firewall, header and radiator clearance. The K-member is delivered in gloss black powder coat, which saves a trip to the powder coater.

The other big issue with Mustangs is the A-arm arrangement. Racecraft notes that 1979-93 Mustangs use a 13-inch wide A-arm, and 1994-2004 Mustangs use a 14-inch wide arm. Their custom A-arms are 1-inch shorter than the factory version, allowing the front wheel to be tucked into the wheel well. And you can do it with a standard offset front wheel (no deep offsets). Not only does it look better, it also prevents the front tires from rubbing when the car is lowered.

Racecraft offers these pieces in either mild steel or 4130 chrome-moly. You can choose between Delrin bushings or rod ends (in place of the bushings). We’ve used rod ends on A-arms before and they’re a bit noisy on the street. For this application (street and strip), Delrin is perfect. Our 12-inch A-arms (1-inch shorter than stock) feature CNC-machined bushing tubes and ball joint cups, laser-cut gusset and tab, and the actual tubing is 1 1/8 x .120-inch wall mild steel. They’re fixture-assembled, powder-coated gloss black and come fully assembled with high-end Spicer ball joints.

For steering, we chose a steering rack from Flaming River. This is a common replacement Pinto rack. These racks have aluminum housings and a chrome-plated center tube. Each unit weighs a mere 12 pounds and goes from (steering) lock to lock in 3.75-turns. The rack travel is 5 ¼ inches. Overall length is 45 ½ inches. The Pinto rack incorporates two cast bosses on the driver’s side for mounting, requiring an additional clamp on the passenger side for mounting purposes. Installation is straightforward: bolt the driver’s side to the Racecraft cross member and then use a billet clamp on the passenger side.

So far so good, but you have to figure out how to hook the rack tie rod end to the spindle and consider the geometry. Get it wrong and you’ll have nothing but bumpsteer headaches. The easiest solution was to hook it all up with Racecraft’s tapered pin bumpsteer kit, engineered for use with the short length A-arm and a Pinto manual rack. This kit is designed for use with stock spindles with a tapered tie rod end hole. It includes a tapered billet pin, two high-end FK rod ends, a set of billet adjusters and all necessary hardware. Installation is easy: it all bolts in as designed.

With most of the steering out of the way (we’ll address the steering column hook up later), the front suspension system was next. The heart of our system is a set of double adjustable Strange struts. While the original Fox Mustang is a hybrid setup that works by way of a separate (short) coil spring sandwiched in a pocket within the stock K-member, the Strange/Racecraft setup is a true strut. To make it all work, a set of new caster camber plates are required, again, we used Racecraft hardware. We opted for its bolt-in steel setup. Essentially these caster/camber plates replace the stock rubber strut mount bushings with a spherical bearing, allowing you full control of the suspension geometry. The bearing plate is mounted underneath the top main plate to spread the load throughout the main supporting plate for extra strength. They feature independent caster and camber adjustment as well as replaceable Teflon-lined bearings. Hardware is yellow zinc plated, while the actual plates are powder-coated satin black. The kit includes Grade 8 hardware and comes complete with new strut nuts and strut spacers to achieve desired travel locations (for more or less standard ride height or heavily lowered ride height).

The actual struts came from Strange Engineering. They’re externally adjustable for rebound and compression (see the photos for a look at the easy-to-access adjusters). Each side (rebound and compression) offers 10 settings. There’s more: the lower spring seat allows for easy ride height adjustment. The reason is the body of the strut is essentially the same as a Pro Stock strut or a coil-over shock: it’s threaded and fitted with a spring seat designed to accept a 2.5 x 14-inch spring. Upstairs, Strange provides a collar for the spring. It also includes a spring seat. What spring do you use? Strange Engineering has a full line of Hypercoil springs. The weight of the car determines the spring rate. Here’s a quick list of potential combinations courtesy of Racecraft:

Coil-over Spring Rates

Length    Rate         Car Weight

14″      150#      2,500-2,700 pounds

14″      175#       2,700-2,900 pounds

14″       200#       2,900-3,000 pounds

14″       225#       3,000-3,200 pounds

Aside from every piece listed above being first class in terms of quality, the beauty of this entire setup is that everything bolts right into place. No fab work. No “adjustments.” Nothing. It’s an incredibly well thought out setup that anyone with some mechanical skills can install at home. Another major plus, the reworked front end is immensely cleaner and easier to work with than the stock setup.

Racecraft, Inc.

Strange Engineering

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Here’s a comparison of the original K-member and the Racecraft piece. The tubular cross member has less bulk than the original. Part of it is because the original Ford spring pockets aren’t used. (We’re switching to a coil-over arrangement.)

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The Racecraft K-member is installed. We considered keeping the front anti-roll bar, but with a skinny front wheel (15 x 3.5), we won’t be carving too many corners. The cross member fits perfectly and the design provides maximum clearance for the oil pan and headers.

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The first photo shows a Chevy LS motor mount spool installed on the Racecraft K-member. It attached to the pad on the cross member with four bolts. The second shows the Racecraft LS mount. By varying the billet spacer mix on the mount, it’s possible to move fore and aft by approximately 1-inch total, which is a positive when it comes to oil pan, firewall and header fit.

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The SVO Mustang is a mix of Lincoln suspension and brake parts coupled with a wheel with plenty of backspace. This means a 15 x 4 or 15 x 5 wheel doesn’t fit without sticking out. To compound the problem, the lower ball joint is a size that doesn’t fit a standard Mustang spindle. Racecraft offers these narrowed track A-arms for a standard Fox Mustang. To make them fit, we had to swap to a 1987 and up Mustang spindle.

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Racecraft offers several options with its A-arms, aside from narrowing the track by a couple of inches per side. One is the bushing or bearing type. We picked Delrin because it works equally well on the street and strip (no “stiction”).

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Upstairs, the stock Mustang shock bushing and plate assembly was replaced with Racecraft caster-camber plates. These steel units offer full caster and camber adjustment, use a spherical bearing instead of a bushing to capture the top of the strut and they’re a complete bolt in.

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The OEM power steering rack was swapped with this Pinto unit. It’s a bolt in, provided you incorporate a rack clamp on the passenger side. The clamp is from Racecraft.

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With the rack installed, you still have to hook the rack to the spindles and take steering geometry into consideration. Get it wrong and the car will be bumpsteering bear. The solution is a bumpsteer kit. Racecraft builds a setup incorporating a special tapered pin that fits precisely into the OEM spindle. The rod ends are high-end FK pieces.

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We eliminated the OEM springs, swapping to a simple, easy-to-adjust coil-over strut. The heart of the system is a double adjustable aluminum body strut from Strange Engineering.

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The struts have the extension set here at the top of the strut body. Turn the adjuster fully counter clockwise to full firm. Then turn clockwise three to five clicks (soft). From this point, you can establish the baseline for your car.

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The compression adjustment on the front Strange strut is on the base. There are 13 settings. Fully clockwise when viewed from the bottom is full firm. Fully counter clockwise is full soft. Baseline it on the firm side (three to five clicks toward soft from full firm).

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Springs are from Hypercoil. We installed the Strange Engineering coil-over collars and slid the struts into place at the top side. Our Mustang uses the standard spacer mix on the caster-camber plates. We can raise or lower the car easily with the Strange Engineering struts.

Text and Photos by Wayne Scraba

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