Top Five Road Racing Mustang Mods
Last Updated: October 5, 2020
For the past fifty years, the Mustang has been hitting road courses all over America, going against some of the most lethal competition, including Chevrolet, Mopar, Porsche, and BMW. Unlike many manufacturers, Ford had different plans for the Mustang initially, debuting as a secretary's car to use for daily commuting. Ford executives like Lee Iacocca had other methods to get this pony to racehorse status. To accomplish this, Lee would consult automotive builder and racer Carroll Shelby. Iacocca knew that to make the Mustang a performance-oriented vehicle, it would need a complete overhaul to be able to attack road courses all around the United States. After the launch of the 1965 Shelby GT350, aftermarket companies throughout the automotive industry helped the Mustang compete at the highest level of road racing. Such as Firestone, Hurst Shifters, Holley, MSD Ignition, and others developed performance parts to aid the Shelby GT350, and Mustang fastback to become the racehorse everyone knows it today.
Moving towards the late 1960s, the Mustang turned into a full-fledge road racing beast, earning multiple championships in the Boss 302 competing in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). Thanks to drivers like Dan Gurney and Parnelli Jones, the Mustang made a massive impact on the race circuit around America. These significant milestones ultimately led to the Mustang launch into the halo performance muscle car in which everyone aspired to own. To this very day, this mindset is what has helped companies like Steeda aid customers, racers, and enthusiasts for over thirty years compete on the road course and autocross.
To aid our fellow enthusiasts, below you will find Steeda's top five Mustang mods for road racing. We consider these mods most impactful to help you stop quicker, turn in harder, gain more confidence, and turn out better lap times on track to conquer the competition!
Your Mustang suspension is vital to ensuring you get the best balance, stability, and traction to the pavement while road racing. Each Mustang generation has improved upon the previous to increase handling capability, turn-in, and body roll. These factors are incredibly important to maximize the ability to put down your Mustang's power when coming out of each corner without causing too much understeer or oversteer. Every track you encounter will determine how you're going to set up your Mustang suspension to get maximum capability and output.
Enthusiasts who track their Mustang demand the ultimate adjustability in their suspension from the following components: shocks, sway bars, toe links, and caster camber plates. Each one of these will allow for the highest ability to dial in optimal suspension adjustability for what you are trying to accomplish at the specific road course you are at. Steeda's thirty-years of experience road racing at the most grueling tracks in the United States has helped us develop suspension components directly from our racehorse to your Mustang.
While the stock Mustang suspension components are great for daily driving and the occasional track day, using them for hardcore track use monthly won't help you take it to the competition. Luckily, Steeda has the proper solutions to get your Mustang dialed in:
Coilovers: Among the entire industry within road racing, coilovers are the most popular suspension component for all 1979-2020 Mustang models. The reason is simple; each piece within a Coilover is engineered to maximize optimal adjustability for ride height, shock dampening, rebound, and wheel alignment. The result is killing two birds with one stone, allowing you to have the ability to customize your suspension to your liking not just for the road course but also if you decide to drive your stallion on the street as well.
Shocks: Among all suspension components, shocks give you the ability to ensure that your Mustang stays planted to the ground when track conditions are not as suitable as you'd like them to be. Road courses, like Sebring International Raceway, are very harsh as there are many bumps, cracks, and different surfaces your pony has to come in contact with Having the correct shock rebound and compression will allow you to maximize lap times and handling.
Sway Bars: To ensure you and your Mustang perform at the head of the pack, we reccomend adding an adjustable sway to your pony. Giving your Mustang the benefit of improving its understeer and oversteer during harsh cornering. A Steeda sway bar, in conjunction with the correct shocks, will allow minimum body roll when entering a hairpin corner, resulting in more confidence to overtake positioning against the competition while pulling down those laps times to an all-time low.
Caster Camber Plates: Unlike a street Mustang, a road racing oriented Mustang needs proper wheel alignment to ensure better turn-in, traction, and stability during high-speed cornering. The way to increase these variables is by adding a set of fully adjustable caster-camber plates to your Mustang. Fortunately, Steeda has been engineering and manufacturing these for thirty-plus years, so you'll be set to get your pony dialed. We highly recommend you get these professionals installed and aligned by someone with a road racing or autocross background.
Mustang Wheels & Tires
We all know that when the rubber meets the road, it is the most critical component within a Mustang along with any vehicle on the American streets today. In road racing and autocross, tires are the difference between winning and losing without question. Different types of rubber compounds give drivers the ability to brake later, turn-in harder, and put down the power better than standard street tires. For more than twenty years, Steeda has worked with Nitto tire to develop road racing tire solutions to meet the demand of racers of all backgrounds.
Unlike road tires, road racing tires are designed to give maximum traction, stability, and confidence when going full tilt when it counts most. Some of the characteristics you have to understand in terms of tires are tread patterns, compound, and treadwear. These are very crucial to understanding what tire you need for the track you are intending on attacking. While on the other hand, without a proper wheel, you cannot perform well on race day; you can't have one without the other. In road racing, having the lightest yet most robust wheel is essential to reducing rotational mass and increasing strength for harsh track conditions. Matching the correct set of tires & wheels is paramount to being lightweight, agile, and confident, to take out the competition.
Wheels: Among all the world's technology, the wheel has been around for thousands of years to make life easier for all aspects. Especially when Henry Ford set out to put the world on wheels and forever changed the globe. Equipping your Mustang with the proper set of wheels is so important in road racing for a few reasons; including reducing rotational mass, increasing rigidity, and gaining a better grip on the race track.
Tires: As the saying goes, "when the rubber meets the road, the road gets going." This philosophy couldn't be more accurate while racing at your local autocross or road course. Gaining the most traction will ensure you have better lap times, confidence, steering input, and will be able to put your Mustang power down as effectively as possible. That is why Steeda trusts our friends over at Nitto Tire for all our road racing needs in their NT01 road racing series of tires. They provide the best traction, lateral grip, and direct feel among any of the competition tires in the market.
Meanwhile, suspension, wheels, and tires are critical to many forms of racing, including road racing and carving up your local autocross. Your Mustang brake components are going to be some of your last-ditch efforts for safety, corner braking, managing through grid traffic, and carving out the best lap times. Throughout the years, Mustang braking from the factory has not been the cream of the crop compared to its European and Japanese rivals. Nowadays, with the help of companies like Steeda and Brembo, enthusiasts now have the choice of upgrading your ponies' brakes without hesitation.
From the Fox Body to the latest addition to the Mustang stable in the S550, racers everywhere have the option of upgrading every piece of their braking system. While the factory Ford braking components are great for daily driving, they won't cut it for the abuse endured during a road race. It is why upgrading to a big brake kit is the way to go if you are serious about getting better lap times while gaining confidence to brake later on crucial corners out on the track.
Big Brake Kits: For well over two decades, Steeda and other industry leaders have aided many enthusiasts with simple solutions such as a big brake kit to make it a one-stop-shop to improve braking performance at every level. Most brake kits include larger calipers, typically six-piston front and four-piston rear, higher temperature brake pads, and drilled/slotted rotors. All combined will aid your Mustang out on track tremendously for a few reasons; including braking later when heading into a corner, reducing rotational mass, brake pedal engagement, and a dramatic increase of stopping power.
Rotors: If you're not an all-out racer who has deep pockets to afford a big brake kit but still wants to improve brake wear during a track day. If not then we suggest to opt for a set of drilled & slotted rotors are going to aid your Mustang drastically in terms of brake bite, pedal engagement, and confidence. Beneficially they won't break the bank for the average enthusiast that wants to improve their braking performance.
Brake Pads: On the other hand, big brake kits and upgraded rotors are great. You can't benefit from the improved braking performance without a better brake pad. Standard daily driven vehicles have the necessary brake pad material to bring your car to a stop within reasonable federal guidelines. Road racing brake pads require a high heat wearing material that can withstand harsh abuse endured during an entire road race. Most performance brake pads will use ceramic or carbon to withstand searing high heat to slow down your pony coming off a back end straightaway.
Mustang Chassis Bracing
For Ford engineers there work on building the stiffest chassis for the Mustang was in their sights for the general population. They weren't always meant to be a full-fledge racecar or weekend track day car at the road course. Unfortunately, for many generations of Mustang, they see more chassis flexing than others, especially the Fox Body, SN95, New Edge, and S197. Each Mustang was engineered with the best chassis engineering when produced, but they fall short when throwing your pony into a hairpin corner on a road course.
To fix this issue, Steeda's thirty years of road racing experience has figured out many areas in which the Mustang can use additional chassis bracing to support additional horsepower, stiffer suspension, and reduce your frame from flexing. Resulting in your 1979-2020 Mustang attaining its full potential on track, which in turn will help with better lap times, quicker turn-in, corner exiting, and entry, while reducing brake dive.
Roll Cage: Adding a roll cage to your Mustang is necessary if you plan to go road racing. It will be required by a sanctioning racing bodies such as SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) depending on what class you enter in. Installing one of these is classified in two areas; it includes safety and rigidity. The safety portion will be in case of a major accident if you flip your Mustang or hit a barrier wall to protect you and will allow you to install your six-point harness. Rigidity will consist of either bolting or welding into specific areas to reduce chassis flex. Your pony will flex in its chassis under hard G-Force cornering, a roll cage will give you the confidence you need to go flat out in a sweeping or hairpin corner.
Frame Stiffening: Many areas of your Mustang can be addressed to fix chassis flexing issues by adding simple modifications such as adding chassis rigidity. These components include front and rear strut tower braces, subframe connectors, and front suspension bracing. All of these will aid your Mustang in reducing chassis flexing while going full throttle at the track. Frame flex is caused by added horsepower, increased suspension performance, and wear & tear on your Mustang over the years.
K-Member: Unlike the competition, the Mustang has used a K-Member as the skeleton to support the engine, suspension, and steering rack to your Mustang. The OEM K-Member is built to withstand all the standard abuses you would find during normal road conditions. Steeda's K-Members are built to withstand the harshest punishment that a road course can throw at it. Using high strength steel, tig welding, and specific engineering processes, we can give enthusiasts better handling, stability, chassis bracing, and a lighter front end. In turn, it will aid in faster laps, harder turn-in, and a more agile Mustang all the way around.
Since the beginning of hot rodding in the 1930s, enthusiasts have sought any way they could become more connected as one with their ride. More often than not, the best way to achieve this is by selecting a manual transmission over an automatic to have full control over their hot rod. When the Mustang debuted, both Lee Iacocca and Gale Halderman knew they had to offer a four-speed manual to give owners the connection to their pony they deserve. Thanks to this, enthusiasts have enjoyed the innovation of companies like Steeda, Hurst, and more of giving them better shifter connection to promote faster shifts, crisper throttle response, and shorter shifter throws. All while enabling racers on the road course to not worry having a loose shifter and boosting more confidence.
Short Throw Shifter: While on a road course, getting your Mustang around the track as quickly as possible is crucial to take out the competition. Other than a driver's skill and ability, getting proper shifting down is existential to obtaining precise cornering, lap times, and speed. The way to do this is by adding a short-throw shifter; by doing so, you will add crisper shifts, shorter throws, better engagement, and more confidence when upshifting or downshifting. All while giving your Mustang better reliability in the long run at the road course.