Steeda and Road Racer Annika Carter Team Up to Dominate On-Track

Georgia native Annika Carter’s first car was a 2014 Mustang. The car was bought by her parents in the summer of 2015 in an effort to convince her to stay in-state while working toward her college degree. Initially, her father was not too keen on the idea of his daughter driving a Mustang, but when the perfect gently-used (like seriously gently — it had only 127 miles on the odometer) V6 came around, Annika was the proud owner of her first Mustang. It didn’t take long before Annika began modifying her new ride (she started with a set of lowering springs) and here we are five years later!

With Annika growing up in the Atlanta area not far from Road Atlanta (and also not far from Steeda’s Valdosta, Georgia, location), it’s no surprise the turn this S197 has taken (pun intended) from its stock days. When Annika installed coilovers on the Mustang, friends of hers who worked as corner marshals at Road Atlanta pressured her to participate in a track day there. In December of 2016, she finally caved, and the rest is history. Recently, Steeda stepped up to supply her with the parts needed for her to succeed on-track and assisted in the transformation.

Annika visited Steeda earlier this year for two days of suspension overhauling. The Steeda parts installed included: a Steeda Stage 3 Competition Coilover Kit, Competition Mustang Adjustable Upper Strut Mounts, S197 Mustang Front Lower Control Arms with X11 Extended Ball Joints,  X11 Mustang Extended Ball Joints, Bumpsteer Kit, Adjustable Mustang Upper Control Arm – Poly End, Mustang Upper Chassis Mount For 3rd Link, Hardcore Race S197 Mustang Adjustable Rear Lower Control Arms, and other odds and ends. The Mustang already had a front sway bar and end links as well as a rear Watts link kit, and is still powered by its original 3.7-liter “Cyclone” Ti-VCT V6 engine. It was originally paired to a 6-speed 6R80 automatic transmission, which has since been replaced by an MT-82 manual transmission with a short-throw shifter.

We went with a lighter spring rate than I had before, giving me more body roll, and I can feel how the increased weight transfer actually helps the car grip up more. – Annika Carter

Steeda Mustang Stage 3 Competition Coilovers 

The Stage 3 Competition Coilover kit installed on Annika’s car included custom-designed adjustable front struts with matched QA1 rear shocks. The included shocks allow for “infinite simultaneous adjustment” of compression and rebound settings. Installation of the kit offers improved handling and ride quality, as well as a lower stance.

While the front coilover system uses Steeda’s upper strut mount kit (eliminating the factory upper spring perch), which provides +/- 1 degree of camber adjustability, the rear half of the system includes ride height adjusters, which accept a coilover style spring or the previously mentioned QA1 shocks.

The kit is offered in two varieties, depending on whether the vehicle in question is already equipped with Steeda’s upper strut mount kit or still has the factory strut mount.

It fits 2005-2014 Mustang GT, Boss, or V6 applications and is built from billet aluminum in-house at Steeda. The parts are anodized for protection against oxidation, and feature roller bearings for easy adjustments. They are fully adjustable for shock valving and ride height down to a full 2-inch lower than stock.

Body Roll Explained

How much body roll is too much body roll? The differences between body roll and weight transfer can be kind of confusing. We asked Steeda’s own Glen “Mayhem” Vitale to explain.

“You want to reduce body roll only to a certain point. Don’t think of it as body roll — think of it as controlling weight transfer.  You need a stiffer spring so all the weight does not transfer to the loaded side, and also so the weight does not transfer too quickly.  However if you go too high with spring rate, then no weight transfer will occur, and just like drag racing, you need to get some weight on the loaded side to help the tires grip better by driving them into the ground.  The science is figuring out how much weight to transfer. In addition, the driver has a direct impact on this as well, but that is a topic for another discussion.  Furthermore, you need to be flexible for changing weather conditions, and too stiff of a spring rate is very slow and hard to control in wet conditions or rough surfaces like curbing when driving through ‘esses.'”

Steeda Competition Mustang Adjustable Upper Strut Mounts

To allow for a wide range of camber adjustment as well as available caster adjustment the team at Steeda knew Annika would need Steeda’s Competition Adjustable Upper Strut Mounts. These were added during the installation. Alignment adjustment is tremendously important in any kind of performance application, and Annika’s Mustang is no different. Our friends at Steeda tell us that they’ve put these mounts through the wringer on some of the harshest racetracks around to deliver durability and performance.

Constructed from billet aluminum and billet steel, the mounts are TIG-welded, nickel-plated, and feature grade 12.9 hardware. They allow for up to -2.3 degrees of negative camber when used in conjunction with stock springs, and up to -3.5 degrees of negative camber when paired to a 2.5-inch coilover spring setup. Caster settings of stock or +.5 degrees are available as well.

Steeda S197 Mustang Front Lower Control Arms with X11 Extended Ball Joints

Anyone who has ever been on a road course understands that excessive body roll can be a real performance killer (see inset above). Steeda’s Lower Control Arms (LCAs) with X11 Extended Ball Joints reduces the dreaded body roll and improves the front tire contact patch without increasing spring or sway bar rates. The front roll center is raised, eliminating issues that come with lowering springs of ¾-inch drop or greater.

The included rubber bushings improve OE level quality, and even a car like Annika’s that is only six years old can benefit from new, firm bushings when it comes to improving handling and steering response. Noise, vibration, and harshness, electronic power assisted steering issues, and steering shutter are all avoided by utilizing rubber over a high-durometer polyurethane version.

Just a note: 18-inch wheels are required for clearance of these LCAs (which wasn’t an issue for Annika’s Mustang).

Steeda Bumpsteer Kit

Nine times out of ten, lowering your vehicle increases bumpsteer, which is a change in the toe caused by the movement of the suspension. While bumpsteer is something that all vehicles encounter, lowering a car can cause excessive amounts of bumpsteer which will in turn introduce unwanted driving characteristics. This kit from Steeda corrects bumpsteer geometry without drilling or modifying the spindle. It allows for a wide range of adjustment. Hint, hint: it also works great as a replacement to worn out and high-mileage outer tie rods, even if you’re not encountering the issue of excessive bumpsteer.

Steeda’s tapered stud design has many advantages including 3130 high-grade steel construction for superior strength. The studs are CNC-machined to the exact taper of the factory spindle (this simplifies installation), machined to exact tolerances, and heat-treated after machining to ensure hardness throughout the stud. The design is superior to the bolt design that requires drilling the spindle hole, with no steps taken to ensure the hardness of the material.

Steeda Adjustable Mustang Upper Control Arms – Poly End

Steeda’s Adjustable Upper Control Arms reduce wheel hop, improve traction, and provide better handling with more stable cornering on S197 Mustangs. While the factory piece enables torque deflection, Steeda’s UCAs eliminate the issue and also allow for the ability to set your pinion angle for optimum traction.

The UCAs utilize Steeda’s urethane three-piece bushing package, which features soft outer bushings with a hard center bushing on the axle end. Together, axle wind-up and wheel hop under acceleration are controlled, and proper articulation is allowed without deflection, resulting in improved handling and cornering stability.

The bushings are quiet too — you won’t increase NVH by installing them, and the UCAs bolt into the factory location making installation simple. The double adjustability allows adjustments to be made without having to remove the arms from the vehicle.

Steeda Mustang Upper Chassis Mount for 3rd Link

We already covered the issue of wheel hop when it comes to performance, but it should be noted that wheel hop also breaks driveline parts. While smooth, consistent traction is best for optimum performance, it is also easier on the driveline. The correct suspension components can avoid these issues completely. Steeda’s Upper Chassis Mount for the third link helps diminish wheel hop during acceleration, and also allows the user to adjust the pinion angle and anti-squat geometry. It features four adjustment positions so that any Mustang can be dialed in to handle perfectly.

Mounting the third link in a progressively higher position will achieve more anti-squat, in turn affecting how quickly weight transfers to the rear tires under acceleration. This is important in road racing and drag racing alike.

While the factory chassis mount is built from thin, stamped steel, this Steeda replacement is made from ¼-inch thick steel, TIG-welded for strength, and powdercoated for durability and of course, good looks. Even better, permanent modification is not required for installation!

Steeda Hardcore Race S197 Mustang Adjustable Rear Lower Control Arms

Built for drag and road racing applications alike, Steeda’s Hardcore Race Adjustable Rear Lower Control Arms eliminate bushing and control arm deflection and reduce wheel hop.

Steeda’s Hardcore Lowers feature a one-piece design and are constructed from billet steel for unmatched strength. The high-articulation steel spacers are fully adjustable and when combined with the Teflon-lined rod ends, are designed to change the way power is transferred to the rear wheels. These LCAs are fully adjustable while on the car, and even come with a lifetime warranty!

Now that Annika’s Mustang is back on all fours, she’s ready to tackle another season of racing. While she hasn’t had a chance to get it on-track to test out her new Steeda components as of yet, she already notices a difference on the street.

“I did notice a huge difference in the new coilover kit when just scrubbing down a small road,” Annika told us. “We went with a lighter spring rate than I had before, giving me more body roll, and I can feel how the increased weight transfer actually helps the car grip up more.”

She told us it’s hard to decide what her favorite thing about the driving experience in her Mustang is. “When compared to my other race car, a Miata, it definitely is nice to have the power. The V6 weight distribution helps maintain good handling in the car as well. I am amazed that the car handles so well, especially with the rear axle, and I have Steeda to thank for that! It goes to show that a Mustang can be much more than a straight line car.”

As of this writing, Annika has visited a wide variety of tracks including Virginia International Raceway, Barber Motorsports Park, Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park, Daytona International Speedway, Carolina Motorsports Park, Roebling Road Raceway, and Gingerman Raceway in Michigan.

While her plans for 2021 include racing in the Gridlife Touring Cup (GLTC) series, those aren’t her only plans. “I do have future plans for the car, all dependent on budget and future series. In a perfect world, I would love to use F-150 twin-turbos to boost the car and use her for time attack and AER (American Endurance Racing)!”

Annika Carter's 2014 Mustang Build Sheet

Suspension Modifications:

Steeda Stage 3 Competition Coilover Kit

Steeda Competition Mustang Adjustable Upper Strut Mounts

Steeda S197 Mustang Front Lower Control Arms with X11 Extended Ball Joints

Steeda X11 Mustang Extended Ball Joints

Steeda Bumpsteer Kit

Steeda Adjustable Mustang Upper Control Arm – Poly End

Steeda Mustang Upper Chassis Mount For 3rd Link

Steeda HARDCORE Race S197 Mustang Adjustable Rear Lower Control Arms

Front Sway Bar & End Links

Rear Watts Link Kit

Brake System:

6-Piston Front Calipers

14-inch Front and Rear Rotors

G-Loc Pads (R16 front, R10 rear)

Brake Cooling Ducts

GT500 Rear Caliper Bracket

Rebuilt Rear Calipers

Stainless Steel Braided Lines

Boss 302S ABS Module

Motul RBF 660 Brake Fluid

Powertrain Modifications:

MT-82 Manual Transmission Swap with Short Shifter

Spec Clutch

Cold Air Intake

BBK 73mm Throttle Body

BBK Long Tube Headers

Custom Single 3-inch Center-Exit Cat-Back Exhaust

Aluminum One-Piece Drive Shaft

Ford Performance 3.73 Gears

Ford Performance Torsen Differential

Custom Dyno Tune

Motul Fluids

Wheel & Tire Modifications:

Stage Knights 18×9.5

Stage Belmonts 18×9.5

Stage Monroes 18×9.5

Toyo RR 275/35/18 (Dry Tires)

Nexen N’Fera Sur4G 275/40/28 (Wet Tires)

Exterior Modifications:

Nine Lives Racing Rear Wing

Nine Lives Racing Splitter

Delta Lights Headlights

Idle Hands Design Livery

Interior Modifications:

Top Garage Fab Custom 8-Point Roll Cage

OMP HTE 400 R Seat

6-Point Harness

About the author

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff got her start in automotive media while attending Rutgers. She worked for Roush Performance for a while, before eventually landing here at Power Automedia. Her Coyote-swapped 1992 Fox-body drag car is her prized possession.
Read My Articles

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