A drag racer need only do two things well: accelerate in a straight line and (hopefully) decelerate in a straight line. In contrast, a true street-driven car spends relatively little time in the max straight-line acceleration mode, but lots of time dodging, weaving, turning, cornering, and braking-activities collectively defined as "handling." Fortunately, a car that corners well can, with a few tweaks, also be made to launch reasonably well at the drags (driven a new Z28, Trans Am, Mustang, or Vette lately?). Yet, even Harry Houdini couldn't make a car optimized for drag racing turn corners.
To get our readers handled, Car Craft contacted four recognized drag racing suspension experts for their recommendations on popular chassis. Their integrated packages are listed on the following pages. Keep in mind that most of the companies outlined here have components for many other applications in addition to those called out here. There are also lots of other sources for street handling suspension, and we've listed some in the sidebar "Other Companies, Other Cars."
'64 1/2-'66 Ford Mustang - Drag Racing Suspension
Global West Drag Racing Suspension
Global West's drag racing suspension packages utilize "negative roll," which refers to the tilt of the tire relative to the pavement induced by suspension movement and body roll under cornering conditions. Most production vehicles have a positive camber curve during cornering, which both reduces cornering ability and increases outside tire wear. Far superior for performance-handling applications is a negative camber curve, as it causes the tire to remain flatter on the pavement thereby improving cornering while promoting even tire wear-without the need to move up to King Kong springs. On the early Mustang, Global obtains negative roll via custom upper control arms featuring Del-A-Lum (delrin/aluminum) bushings that provide reduced compliance with minimal wear, squeaks, or harshness increase. Arm installation requires relocation of the shaft mounting holes per the supplied template.
Aircraft-quality spherical bearings are supplied in GW's lower control arms. The upper and lower arms sandwich trick lightweight Pro-Vintage brake assemblies with giant Wilwood Superlight four-piston calipers, up to 13-inch rotors, and big-bearing '69-'73 Mustang disc brake spindles. (Rear disc brake kits are also available.) Rounding out the front end are 540-pound coil springs, heavy-duty tie-rod sleeves, polyurethane strut rod bushings, a 1-inch antisway bar, and Koni adjustable shocks.
GW prefers Cure Ride shocks out back because Konis are too stiff to properly plant the rearend during corner exit. The shocks work with relatively soft rear leaf springs (a 150-pound rate is the most common) that come with Del-A-Lum bushings in the spring-eyes and hangers. A rear antisway bar is generally not required, but the Mustang's unibody chassis may be stiffened with a Monte Carlo bar (shock-tower support) and weld-in subframe connectors. The total cost of all the mods listed in the table is about $4,600.
GW recommends 16x8 wheels with 4 1/2-inch backspacing; run P245/50ZR16 tires out back and P225/50ZR16 tires in front. On the street, dial-in 3/4-degree negative camber and 3/32-inch toe-in. Stagger the caster to compensate for road crown: Use 21/2 degrees positive caster on the passenger side, and 2 degrees positive on the driver side.