Project Budget 400WHP S197 Mustang Track Car: Part 7 – Springs, Shocks and Bars

Staying true to the ‘budget’ track car theme, we skipped expensive coilovers and upgraded our S197 Mustang with track-capable springs, shocks, and swaybars from Steeda.

In Part 6, we tackled the geometry of the S197 platform.  Now we are finishing up the suspension by finding the least expensive way to make a Mustang handle well and be track-capable without breaking the bank.

Steeda Pro-Action Mustang Supension with Sport Lower SpringsYou don’t need a ‘racecar for the street’ with coilovers and 500lb+ spring rates to make a Mustang handle well on track.  Heck, the new 2020 Shelby GT500 that I worked on (as a development driver) is faster on track than most supercars, and it doesn’t have spring rates anywhere near that stiff.  And that’s a 4,000+lb car with 305 width Cup 2 front tires on it!

But I digress, Steeda’s Pro-Action Mustang Suspension with Sport Lowering Springs package is a complete suspension system that includes springs, swaybars, and shocks for less than the price (often ½ to 1/3 the price) of most coilovers.  This package delivers track-capable performance while maintaining excellent ride quality that you can live with everyday without the suspension beating you up or creaking, squeaking, and clanking over bumps.

The Sport Lowering Springs lower the car 1” in the front and 1.25” in the rear.  The adjustable front swaybar is 27% stiffer than stock with a diameter of 1 3/8” while the rear swaybar is increased to 1.25” in diameter in the rear.  With a lower ride height, slightly stiffer front swaybar, and a raised front roll center from the Steeda Lower Control Arms with X11 Extended Ball Joints (discussed in Part 6), we should have enough front roll resistance to prevent the front of the car from rolling too much and overheating the outer edge of our front tires on track.

S197 Mustang GT front stock suspensionThe stock front springs and shocks had to go.  Only 7 bolts hold the front shocks on the car.  2 at the base of the shock, 4 at the top hat, and 1 swaybar end link.

S197 Mustang Spring CompressorWith the shock removed, we used a spring compressor to remove the top hat.  While the potential energy of the preloaded spring can be dangerous, I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old in the grass for my Spec Miata and I’ve never had any issues.  Using some logic and patience has never made this a scary procedure, and I think the drama surrounding them is overblown and unnecessary if you don’t do stupid things.

S197 Mustang stock front bumpstopOnce the top hat and spring were removed, we removed the stock bumpstop.

S197 Mustang bumpstop cut in halfThis is an important step!  We then cut the bumpstop in half, at the ridge in order to increase the amount of suspension travel in compression before hitting the bumpstop.

Since the replacement Steeda shocks are the same size as stock, they have the same amount of travel as stock.  Our new lowering springs will reduce our compression travel by 1” (because the car will sit 1” lower) so cutting the bumpstop down will ensure we have the same amount of available travel before hitting the bump stop.  This will greatly improve ride quality and grip vs hitting the bumpstop frequently if we don’t cut it down.

Quick Reference:

Page 1 – Front OEM Spring/Shock Removal
Page 2 – Front Steeda Spring/Shock Install
Page 3 – Rear OEM Spring/Shock Removal
Page 4 – Rear Steeda Spring/Shock Install, Steeda Swaybars
Page 5 – Front Swaybar and Radiator Support Brace Removal
Page 6 – Front Steeda Swaybar and Radiator Support Brace Install, Rear Swaybar
Page 7 – Rear Steeda Swaybar Install
Page 8 – Street Review, Bumpsteer Kit, New Steeda Suspension Package

13 comments

  1. COMING FROM AN “IMPORT” BACKGROUND, THIS ENTIRE PROJECT HAS BEEN SO INTERESTING TO READ ABOUT. THANKS FOR ALL YOUR EXPERTISE!!!

  2. Billy Johnson articles are the best. I have had tons of miatas and now I want something with some actual hp and a lot better as a cruiser. I like this bodystyle the best out of the 2005+ Mustangs and following Billy’s blueprint sounds like it would be an amazing street car.

  3. What about just leaving the rear bar off? Or is that only suggested if you are running a Watts Link? Great article, glad to see the S197 the attention it deserves!

    1. It depends on the rest of the suspension setup. As I mentioned in the previous article, most Watts Links raise the rear roll center too much, increasing roll resistance and weight transfer (hurting rear grip). Because of this, removing a rear swaybar is a common solution to the problem of having a high rear roll center. Running too stiff of a rear spring in a WL or PHB rear setup often leads to a loss of rear grip, where removing the rear bar would also be a solution. There are many different ways to make a car turn a fast lap. Some have more strengths than weaknesses but various setups can be made to perform similarly over 1 lap. At Roush, we won a ton of races with a rear swaybar and a panhard bar. This project is focused on how to make a great handling car that doesn’t beat you up on the street for as little money as possible, and we are achieving that. Ditching the rear bar off our setup would not make our car handle better, and this rear bar may not make a car with a Watts Link handle better. That’s part of the development process, which takes testing.

  4. Really enjoying this build!

    What size is the stock sway rear sway bar? Is it viable to use the stock bar in lieu of the 7/8″ Steeda bar?

    1. This is the same size as the stock 05-10 GT rear bar and smaller than the 11-14 rear bar. To make a car have a balanced handling characteristic, the entire suspension system from the springs, shocks, swaybars, tires, differential, and geometry all need to work together. In general, people tend to put too large of rear swaybars on their S197 Mustangs; taking grip away from the rear in attempt to make the car more balanced, rather than working on ADDING grip to the front to make it balanced.

    1. A shorter shock body would have no effect since the suspension travel is limited by the factory AXLE-mounted bumpstop.

  5. Thank you for the write up, looking forward to purchasing that Steeda package when it comes back in stock next month! As for wheels, are those the S550 PP wheels (255/275 if I remember correctly)? Will you be moving to a square setup with this build, or sticking staggered? Thanks again!

  6. Billy,

    I’m curious on when you think we can see an update on the rear bump stop discussed in Page 6: “We unbolted the axle-mounted bumpstop in anticipation for a proper rear bumpstop that I am developing and will be out very shortly (stay tuned!).”

  7. Hi there, I was wondering if you think buying BMR K-member and a BMR A-Arm support brace (since they seem to go hand to hand with each other) is a good choice? Do you have much experience using those parts and how it collaborates with other suspension parts? It seem like a good choice considering you are shaving weight at the front despite spending a couple more hundred dollars.
    And one more question, what are your thoughts on a rear shock tower brace? Is that also worth a buy?

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