Our StangTV project car, the Wild E. Coyote 2011 Mustang GT, has some ambitious goals set out for it, one of which is the ability to eclipse 1G on the skidpad, while remaining entirely street drivable. Previously, the car has gone through some upgrades, but this is the first set of mods to address the road handling aspects.
It is often said that “racing improves the breed” and the Ford Racing Performance Parts suspension kit for the 2011 Mustang GT is a prime example. Ford returned to road racing activities with a vengeance for the 2005 season, following the introduction of the S197 Mustang and its development into the FR500C Grand Am Cup racer.
Working in conjunction with supplier Multimatic Motorsports, racing activities have continued to evolve, just as the contemporary Mustang has. In fact, a significant portion of the development work that went on for the upcoming Boss 302 Mustang was done in conjunction with Ford Racing and Multimatic. That work has spilled over to this kit.
“For all our FR3 Handling Packs, Multimatic, under their Dynamic Dampers brand, worked with Tokico to provide us dampers that use the OE housing and deliver OE quality, ” explained Ford Racing’s Jesse Kershaw. “The quality control achieved by using original equipment manufacturers helps set us apart and is a big reason we are used on the Shelby up-fit kits.”
Contents of the Ford Racing Adjustable Handling Pack (M-FR3-MGTAA )
The struts and shock absorbers are a joint product of Ford Racing, Dynamic Suspensions and Tokico.
You may not know this, but you’ll find the FR3 contents listed above are the same as installed on a new 2011 Shelby GT350. Ford engineers worked with the Shelby organization to build an integrated package for their car and Ford Racing now makes it available for 2011 Mustang GT owners. In particular, this kit is for the owner that prefers a streetable performance suspension with some adjustability for high performance driving events, such as open lapping, driving schools or autocross.
The adjustable dampers – front struts and rear shock absorbers – are a product of joint development between Ford Racing and Dynamic Suspensions, a division of Multimatic, and manufactured by Tokico for Ford Racing. Dynamic Suspension is the same manufacturer that supplies dampers for the Mustang FR500C race car, as well as other notables like Aston Martin and the Red Bull F1 team.
A supplied tool allows the dampers to be adjusted from full soft to full hard, and stages in between, in seconds. A total of eight turns of continuous adjustment are available. Fully seated in the clockwise direction, the dampers are at their stiffest setting. Care must be taken not to overtighten the adjuster. Unwinding by eight full turns puts the dampers at their softest rates.
The standard lowering springs provided in the kit drop the car by one inch. If you prefer to go lower, and we did, you can use the optional M-5300-K springs for a one and a half inch drop instead. When ordering a kit for yourself, be sure to specify this up front. According to Kershaw, the additional half inch of drop is for looks only. “With the 1″ drop it maintains excellent road manners. We offer a 1.5″ drop also but this offers virtually no improvement in handling but does decrease the ride quality substantially,” he explained.
The front and rear shocks are adjustable from the top of the shocks. FRPP includes an adjustment tool to dial them in as well. No clicks here - you can now dial in the shocks with even partial turns.
Holding Sway at Bay
Also included in the kit are replacement front and rear sway bars, links and bushings. According to Kershaw, “The sway bars in our kits are also used on the Boss 302S turn-key race car we sell. Our kits are a tad stiffer than those on any any current production Mustang including the Boss 302.”
While the bars themselves may not look much different from the originals, it only takes a small change to get a big difference. For example, the solid rear bar has increased from 24 mm to 25 mm diameter. This 1 mm increase actually changes the stiffness by 18 percent. The tubular front bar has increased from 34.6 mm to 36 mm diameter. Heavier mounting hardware, billet rear link bars and urethane bushings throughout improve the consistency of roll resistance through all types of driving.
Adjustability is key to dialing in front versus rear grip, otherwise known as understeer and oversteer.
The GT’s standard upper strut mounts get replaced by the ones used in the 2011 Mustang SVT Track Pack option. The mounts use a harder rubber for less flex and more consistent performance at the limit. Replacement jounce stops are provided to accommodate the lower ride height and keep ride quality reasonable. While the sourcing strategy might sounds like this kit is a bot of a mash-up, nothing could be further from the truth.”We spend hundreds hours on track and thousands of miles on the street developing every FR3 handling pack to ensure the components are balanced and flat out work,” explained Kershaw.
The last component in the FRPP kit is a Ford Racing strut tower brace. This is the same one that is standard on the Shelby GT500KR. While it fits nicely over the engine dress up cover, if you’ve installed a Boss 302 intake manifold or supercharger, you may end up using the brace to decorate your garage or den.
The Redesigned Falken Azenis RT-615K Tires
Getting the suspension work done was important, but taking full advantage of the new capability also required we update the rubber on this project car. For that, we turned to our friends at Falken Tires for a solution in the form of a set of AZENIS RT-615K tires, the modern replacement for their venerable RT-215.
In talking with Jonathan Bradford, Falken Tire Drift Motorsports Supervisor, about the RT-615K, he told us, “The biggest difference in the RT-615K tire is the new advanced compound that translates to more grip in spirited driving. The tires capabilities are limitless as they can perform well in an array of motorsports disciplines.”
Falken's new RT-615K tire is lighter and the new compound has increased heat tolerance for harder driving.
“The RT615K is the third generation of the Azenis RT family and is leaps and bounds better than the original RT-215. They offer a great amount of wet traction due to the three water channels as well as a large outside contact patch for hard cornering. The new compound found in the RT615k is the biggest improvement made as you are able to push harder and longer due to the increased tolerance to heat.”
The modern design leverages this new motorsport grade rubber compound with a new, proprietary casing design to eliminate steel components which results in a tire that is lighter, reducing unsprung weight. A thinner tread (8/32″) helps to provide almost-shaved consistency in adhesion as the tire heats up.
Just as in our case, the Falken tires will need to be capable both on the track, as well as the highway. Bradford concurs with the choice.
“Due to the recent economic times, the 2011 car consumer is forced to shop smart requiring a performance car to pull double duties as a weekend warrior on the race track and a commuter car during the week. The 615k meets these needs as they are sticky enough to challenge your personal bests on track yet capable enough to endure the elements of a daily driver street tire all while maintaining the creature comforts found in the modern muscle car.”
Once these were installed, we were ready to take on some real competition.
… A Word From Editor Mark about his experience with the StangTV 2011 GT
On the Street
As soon as we finished up the install of the suspension kit I immediately took it out for a test drive. With the shocks set on medium, a slightly harsher ride than stock could be felt, but the suspension was still very quiet. During hard braking though, virtually all the horrible nose dive associated with a stock Mustang’s suspension was completely eliminated. When adjusted to the fullest soft setting on the shocks, the Mustang will ride just slightly firmer than stock. There is no additional noise created from the suspension, other than some light bearing squish from the back of the car over speed bumps and driveways, due to the stiffer bushings included with the kit.
At the Track
It has been nearly seven years since I had been on a road course or autocross, though in my heyday, use to be a decent threat in my local SCCA division. When I purchased my 2011 Mustang, my goal was back to get into road racing with it and the Run to the Coast 2 event was going to be my return.
In the grand spectrum of the Run to the Coast event, I knew I was going to be at a disadvantage. Most folks brought their race cars in trailers, equipped with fully built suspensions, a wide set of wheels and tires, 500-1,000 hp, and a set of big brakes. I would load my stock wheels and tires in the trunk and back seat along with a bare set of tools, helmets, wife (she was in the passenger seat, not the trunk), and drove the car to the event. The Mustang still has the temporary tags on it and is simply equipped with a FRPP Adjustable Handling Pack, SVT 18×9.5 wheels wrapped in Falken RT-615K tires, that sat in front of my stock (non-Brembo) brakes. An axle back, Airaid intake and SCT tune would be the extent of my added power.
In addition to the suspension, a set of 18×9.5 SVT wheels were wrapped with Falken’s new RT-615K tires. I have owned many sets of Falken Azenis tires, including their very first design that was released in the early 2000s. They were among some of the meanest tires allowed in the Street Tire-based classes. The biggest beef with the second revision of the Azenis (the original RT-615) is that they worked awesome when they were cool, but would get slippery if they became overheated. I can attest that after five back-to-back laps on the RTTC2 road course with speeds as high as 120mph and as low as 40mph, the new Azenis compound is just as predictable on the first lap as it is on the last lap. When compared to the stock wheel and tire package, the Azenis picked up over two full seconds around the road course.
When it came to the handling felt from the Ford Racing package, there is nothing bad that could be said about the kit. While the sway bars are adjustable in the front, all of the adjustments I needed to get the car to respond the way I wanted were made directly to the shocks. There aren’t any clicks with the FRPP shocks – so you can make partial turn rotations and there is a noticeable difference between one turn to another.
I first started the shocks on six turns on the front and five turns on the rear. I wanted the rear end to be a little softer so the Mustang would rotate slightly. With the front end that tight, I was fighting a bit of understeer, so I adjusted from six turns to four in the front and left the rear settings the same. This allowed for far better weight transfer on the front and allowed the tires to bite harder in the turns. With the rear setting as is, I was able to dial in slight oversteer by just rotating the gas pedal. Both the tires and suspension performed flawlessly and there were no surprises on how the car reacted.
At the end of the day I was very happy how the Mustang and I performed, 8th place on the Detroit Speed Road Course and 4th place in the Baer Speed Stop competition out of 70+ cars. The autocross I finished in the middle of the pack and never got a run that I deemed was decent enough to my standards.
Disassembly starts with removal of the front struts. The car is on a hoist and the wheels have been removed. Large bolts here and on the spindle need to be removed.
It is a good idea to remove and protect the wheel speed sensor.
When you get the bolts out of the spindle, support the brake and hub assembly. You can remove the nuts at the top of the strut and then pull the entire strut as one piece.
You'll appreciate the extra space, so go in and remove the sway bar now.
We're doing one extra step here and that is to install a camber adjustment bolt. This requires that the lower mounting hole become a slot, so its off to work with the grinder.
The offset bolt that gets used in the lower mounting hole provides for some range of camber adjustment.
Now, the strut can be assembled outside the car with the help of a spring compressor.
The original strut is on the left. You can see the difference in overall length, which causes the car to drop.
The blue replacement front sway bar has heavier hardware, brackets and so on. It is the same bar used in the Boss 302R race car.
Be sure to apply the provided lube between the sway bar and its urethane bushings or you are likely to encounter some squeeks.
Now, mount the new sway bar before installing the strut.
Now, the strut can go back in place and you don't need the spring compressor.
Using some high strength threadlocker on the spindle bolts will make sure they don't loosen up by accident or competition use.
The same common sense applies at the top end of the strut.
Next, we fit the strut tower brace.
Then, torque everything down to spec. It will be helpful to have a copy of the shop manual to get the needed torque specs.
There, everything is looking good now. Take a minute and double check tightness on all fasteners as we're done here and heading for the back end now.
Off come the rear wheels, so we can get at the hardware. You'll also have to remove some of the inside trunk trim to get at the top of the shock absorbers.
Everything is pretty accessible here. You'll need to support the axle while the shocks are off. Remove the rear sway bar and loosen the shock absorber bolts.
You can see that the rear sway bar links are much sturdier than the originals. Again, use the provided grease on the urethane bushings to prevent squeaks. Additionally they are shorter to adjust for the lowered stance.
With the axle supported on jack stands, we're using the hoist to position the car for removal of the shock absorbers first. Raising the car now releases the compression on the springs allowing for easy and safe removal.
The FRPP springs slide right in and the bump stops can be replaced easily.
Inside the trunk, you can see the cap that protects the shock's adjuster. The front looks exactly the same. A special tool is provided to make the adjustments.
It's time to button up the sway bar and we're pretty well done.
What a beautiful job. Things are a lot sturdier here and less likely to do anything unexpected. After double checking all fasteners for tightness, it's time to get the wheels back on and go for a road test.