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Owner: Doctor DeBo
Year: 1992
Model: Mustang LX
Mods: Heavy
State: GA
Type: Nice Weather
ET Range: Unknown
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Lighten Your Front End!

Author: Dr. Rudy Rouwehya
Title: Feature Editor

Motorheads are always in search of ways for more power or less weight. When it comes to removing weight from your Mustang, taking it off the front end of the car is preferable to removing it from elsewhere. With this in mind, I decided to remove some weight from the front of my 93 LX coupe using a tubular front-end system and switching to manual steering. Of course there were some "snags" encountered along the way but if you follow along with my install, hopefully I can save you some aggravation.

With the popularity of the Fox Mustang being at an all time high, there are many front suspension systems available. But which one should you choose for your car? My decision was based on the purpose of the car, in my case a street/strip fun car, and as Tublular K-Member such I looked at a few different companies before settling on the kit from Unlimited Performance. You should be aware that not all tubular K-members are alike. Some move the control arm mounting points forward as compared to stock which might benefit the road racer. Others move the engine mounting points toward the rear for redistribution of weight while others have no provisions for motor mounts all together as they are intended to be used with a motor plate for securing the engine. And finally, some K-members do not have provisions for stock style front springs since they are to be used only with coilovers. The Unlimited Performance K-member retains all stock mounting locations for springs, steering rack, motor mounts and control arms. It can also be used with coilovers as well as factory or aftermarket control arms. This K-member is constructed of chromemoly tubing which makes it even lighter than comparable units made of mild steel. The finish is a nice black powder coating for durability. The tubular control arms are also of chromemoly construction with the same gloss black powder coated finish. The Unlimited Performance coilovers feature aluminum sleeves and adjustable mounts in a blue anodized finish, springs and a top mount with a Torrington roller bearing. The supplied control arm bushings are urethane and come with chromemoly bushing sleeves. Ride height is fully adjustable by screwing in or out on the spring perch.

For the Steering components, Flaming River's quick ratio manual steering rack and solid steering shaft were selected. I also used Flaming River's outer tie rod ends. Flaming River has different solid steering shafts as well as tie rods depending on whether you are converting a power or manual rack car to begin with. The rack I selected features 3.33 turns lock to lock and a 15:1 ratio. The rack comes with new steering rack bushings; these would not work with the Unlimited Performance K-member however. The K-member utilizes an older style Fox bushing which had to be obtained locally. This style bushing does away with the inner metal sleeve and slides onto the rack mount with one in behind and another in front of the rack. The 93 Mustang stock hardware would also not work and required a trip to the hardware store to secure a couple grade 8, 1/2" coarse thread bolts of about 1" length and corresponding washers. Due to the powder coated K-member a tap was required to clean out the holes before the bolts to the steering rack could go through.

There were a few other items involved in this front-end makeover in order to complete the installation. When such a system is installed it will be required that you use aftermarket caster/camber plates in order to maintain front-end alignment. Maximum Motorsports CC plates were used for this conversion. The coilovers will work with stock style struts as well as Koni or Lakewood struts. The car used for the installation already has Lakewood 70/30 front struts and these were retained. It is important to note that these struts have a dust cover that is spot welded on and must be removed before the coilover sleeves and springs will go on the strut. Care must be exercised when attempting to remove this dust cover, as the spot welds need to be drilled out. The trick is to not go completely through the welds with the drill bit for fear of drilling into the strut itself thereby rendering it useless. I did this during the install and heard an awful "Pssst" sound as I penetrated through the strut. Another trip to the store was required to buy another strut, so be careful when doing this. A tip that may help is to drill part way through the spot weld then use a drift punch and hammer to knock the dust cover loose as you hold the strut in a bench vice. I was able to remove the dust covers without any damage to the strut using this method. This was followed by blowing the top of the strut off with compressed air in order to remove any metal fillings that may have collected around the strut shaft.

Before proceeding with the new parts I elected to purchase new control arm bolts and nuts from the local Ford dealership. These carry part number N804591-S100 and N800237-S427 respectively. After obtaining these bolts it turns out they would not slide through the control arm bushing sleeves as supplied by Unlimited Performance. The inside diameter of these sleeves measured .008" undersize according to my dial calipers. A phone call later to Unlimited Performance Products verified that indeed they had sent out a few undersize sleeves by mistake and new sleeves were on the way. These new sleeves were correctly sized and the bolts slid right through. The ends were a bit rough and a little filling was necessary to clean them up. The dust boots for the greasable ball joints were then installed on the tubular control arms, as were the zerk fittings. This car had previously been changed over to 5-lug front rotors using the Motorsport M2300-C kit. While they were off the car during this front suspension redo, it was thought that the addition of NHRA legal long studs would be a good idea. This brings up yet another minor problem. The Ford studs are 1/2" and feature a .560" knurl while all aftermarket long studs in this size knurl are 7/16". This makes it necessary to open up the holes in the rotor to fit the more common .615" knurl stud. For this purpose a set of Moroso 3" long studs of the correct 1/2" diameter and proper .615" knurl were utilized. The rotor holes were opened up by a local machine shop using a self-centering bit. Also of note is the fact that the holes are not opened all the way to .615" because an interference fit is needed. Getting the holes opened up this way ensures that the holes are centered and eliminates possible wheel balance problems which can happen if you enlarge the holes by hand.

It's now time to get greasy! The engine in my car was removed and this made the job a bit easier. If you still have your engine in the car it will be necessary to lift the motor and its mounts slightly in order to remove the stock K-member. Before proceeding with the K-member removal, you will need to remove the stock struts, spindles, brakes, caster/camber plates, steering rack and control arms. Take care to avoid injury when removing the front springs! They are under tremendous pressure and must be handled carefully and safely. I use a floor jack under the control arm and with the top strut mount loose slowly lower the floor jack. This allows the spring to extend to the maximum and then I use a pry bar to pop it out while standing away from the wheel well area. Disconnect the tie rods and remove the spindles and don't forget the sway bar as well. Now you can remove the K-member bolts (4 per side) and drop the K-member using a floor jack. Again, be careful, as this piece is heavy. I left my stock control arms attached to the K-member since I was switching to the aftermarket units. Using a bathroom scale I found that my stock stamped steel K-member with factory control arms weighed 79.5 lb. The previously removed power steering rack, pump, and lines with fluid accounted for another 38 lb. The Eibach drag launch front springs I removed weighed 10 lb. each. By comparison, the Unlimited Performance tubular front end and Flaming River manual rack weighed 29 lb for the K-member, 6 lb for each control arm, 6 lb for each coilover unit (without strut) and 11 lb for the manual steering rack. This represents weight savings of 73.5 lb (stock components add up to 137.5, aftermarket 64 lb). Incidentally, the stock front sway bar weighed in at 24 lb and will be replaced by a lightweight Steeda unit at 11 lb, which brings my total weight savings to 86.5 lb.

Installation of the tubular K-member was fairly easy. It is so light that I was able to hold the K-member in place with one hand as I installed the bolts with the other hand. At this time its probably not a bad idea to go ahead and check the K-member alignment using a couple of strings as described in the " Mustang Performance Handbook 2 : Chassis and Suspension Modifications for Street, Drag and Road Racing Use." by Mathis. This uses known chassis points as well as two K-member mounting points to take cross measurements. The cross measurements should be within 1/4". Next, the control arm bushings and sleeves were installed into the tubular control arms using grease on the bushings. The control arms took a bit of a struggle to get into the K-member mounts but the bolts were eventually slid through and everything stayed in place. I also recommend using a bit of anti-seize compound on these fasteners as well as the K-member bolts just in case you need to remove them in the future. The coilovers were then assembled on the strut but in order to fit the top mount into the spring, another trip to the machine shop was required. A press was needed to seat the top mount into the spring. The now assembled strut/coilover unit was placed on the bench and attention directed to the caster/camber plates. The Maximum Motorsports CC plates were then installed on the car and the factory strut bumper stop eliminated. The spindle was reattached to the control arm followed by the stut/coilover assembly being loosely bolted into place. At this time it became apparent that the coilover could interfere with the factory brake line mount so this was moved out of the way and will later be relocated.

The Flaming River steering components were up next. When installing the control arms make sure the threaded portion of the bolt faces the inside (away from the steering rack). This keeps the fasteners from rubbing on the steering rack boots as you turn. The manual rack is then slid onto the mounts using the rack bushings and fasteners as previously mentioned. The solid steering shaft has a series of setscrews that require a dimple to be placed prior to final assembly. This will be done later after my motor is in the car so as to insure no rubbing on any exhaust components. The u-joints on the solid steering shaft must be assembled in phase as per the supplied diagram. Make sure you do not turn the steering wheel excessively in any one direction while the steering shaft is out because it can break the factory clock-spring mechanism causing the airbag light to come on later. Once you have everything where you need it with the solid steering shaft hooked up, turn the steering wheel from center to full lock each side and count the turns while a friend counts the turns on the steering shaft u-joint. You should have fairly equal turns and if not then the u-joint needs to be turned accordingly before re-installation on the steering rack.

The final steps involve installation of the rotors. Make sure the wheel bearings are packed with grease and torque the spindle nut as per your shop manual. Don't forget a new cotter pin then reinstall the caliper and relocate the brake hose mount to a location that does not rub anywhere as you check full front suspension travel and during turns. I used stainless steel aliper bushing sleeves in place of the factory rubber bushings, again don't forget the anti-size compound. The car will require a front-end alignment when done. The shaved front-end weight should help improve both ET at the strip as well as handling. In addition, there is more room for headers and enhanced oil pan access. In my case the weight reduction should help offset the added weight of the intended blower as well as the heavier than stock cast iron TFS Street Heat heads. The car will get a newly built blown 302 over the winter therefore driving impressions of the new front end will have to wait a bit longer.

Always remember that there is no such thing as a "simple bolt-on".

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