The Fox-Body Ford Mustang is one of the most popular chassis choices in history for drag racing. Light weight – and with a suspension system that leads itself to quickly “HOOK” on the 1320, the Fox is as good as it gets. Heck, as we all know, highly modified Mustangs with stock-type suspension have even eclipsed the 6-second mark at over 200 mph.
That being said, the factory Fox components are flimsy, non-adjustable, and in need of some geometry changes to produce optimum 60-foot times. You’ll remember our Project 666 from the last few months of updates — a 1986 coupe that will do a little dirty work on the street but mainly thrive on the track. It was time to build 666 a suspension system that could easily run low 10s but also give us a foundation to go faster if we choose to. And as we’ve found out – we always choose to.
To give our Fox some hook – we went to one of the top suspension drag doctors in the country: Dave Zimmerman’s Team Z Motorsports. Follow along as we not only install a complete Team Z system front and rear – but also give you some key insider setup times from Dave Z. himself.
Team Z… from A to Z
If you’re a fan of Mustang Drag Racing, you know Team Z. You’ll know that racers know and trust Team Z to help them get the maximum performance on track at their horsepower level. Simply put — these components are not built by a chop shop welding team in China. “Our parts are built for racers, by racers,” explained Zimmerman, Team Z’s founder, and the “Z” in Team Z. “What shows through is more than just the quality of the welds. We’ve tested our designs over and over, and it’s backed by our hands-on experience with some of the fastest NMRA racers and Mustangs in the country, in each class.”
When we talked to Dave Z, we said ‘we need the works’. That means complete Team Z front and rear suspension, caster/camber plates, anti-roll bar…and more. Like a big ball park hot dog, with all of the ‘fixings, Team Z set us with a monster gift box of Drag suspension goodness. We told Dave we had a “strip car” that will see some street driving. We wanted to get a solid suspension system that can rip low 10s with ease, but also provide a foundation to run faster..
Here’s what came in the box:
- Team Z Chrome Moly Tubular K-Member With Ford Motor Mounts; Part Number: TZM-KM-MM
- Team Z Tubular Adjustable Short Front Lower Control Arms; Part Number: ADJ-AARM
- Team Z Tubular Adjustable Rear Upper and Lower Control Arms; Part Numbers: TZM-RS-2
- Team Z Anti Roll Bar; Part Number: TZM-ARB-XT
- Team Z Caster-Camber Plates; Part Number: TZMCC-1
Lets get started with the install – where we will review each component. Skip to the end of the article if you want to read Dave’s Top 10 Stock Suspension Setup Tips!
666 was already residing on the two post lift where it had been under the knife for some time. The engine, transmission and suspension was already removed, so we moved right into the install of the Team Z front suspension.
The main part of the front suspension on the Fox Body Mustangs is the K-Member. Team Z provided us with a light weight Chromoly K-member that is more than 25 lbs lighter than the stock K-Member. It provides additional header and starter clearance, and also features slightly modified geometry to optimum straight line handling, but is also acceptable for “street/strip” use.
Team Z has plenty of options available, and we chose a few:
- Powder Coating – you can order your Team Z K-member powder coated or raw chrome moly. We opted for a nice grey.
- Tow Hooks – Dave can add Tow Hooks to the front of your K-member to make strapping down your Fox a cake job. We did.
- Material – Team Z offers both mild steel and chromoly. We chose the lighter chromoly but it’s slightly more expensive.
- Steering Rack – We chose the stock steering rack system, but you can convert to a Pinto-style rack which can be better for a pure drag car. Team Z can also raise or lower the rack per your direction.
We lifted the K-Member into the bottom of the engine bay and bolted it down with the brand new bolts supplied in the kit. There is nothing to adjust in the K-member as any tweaks or changes you wish to have can be made at the time you order your K-Member. This step was a complete bolt in as the Team Z component retains all of the factory mounting holes, but that doesn’t mean the same dimensions were kept. Team Z lowers the steering rack one inch lower to the ground to improve the steering angle.
Next up was the Team Z lower control arms. We asked Team Z to shorten the length of the control arms one inch which brings in our skinnies the same amount. If you are not looking to change the length of the A-Arm, keep in mind that this is an option and not standard. Standard length A-Arms are available.
In terms of the lower control arm options, you have some similar choices as the K-Member.
- Material: Your choice of chrome moly or mild steel. We chose the CM.
- Rod Ends or Bushings – Team Z offers the control arms with standard “Poly” bushings, or with adjustable rod ends. Even though we were driving our Mustang on the street, we went with the rod ends so we can lay the foundation for future quicker e.t.’s. We were willing to deal with the increase in road noise.
We kept with the Strange adjustable drag struts we had already installed, but added the Team Z coil over springs.
Back under the hood of the car, we installed a set of Team Z’s caster/camber plates. These pieces bolted right in using existing holes on the chassis and the bolts supplied in the kit. They are made from an alloy steel that is zinc plated for long-life. Camber/caster plates are a requirement at this level to get maximum caster for drag racing stability.
The Team Z kit came with a Bumpsteer kit, with new rod-ends for the steering rack. These not only are more precise than the stock ones, but have a greater range of motion, less friction, and best off all, look way the heck better. Can you say RACE CAR LOOK?
If you’ve never installed a bump steer kit, you can easily screw all of these spacers. The purpose of the spacers is so that at ride height you can set the correct height of the steering links to minimize bump steer. See our tips below or call Team Z for specific recommendations.
Here is a nice shot of all of the Team Z goodies installed on the front of the car, ready to go! It really opens up the engine bay. We should have no problem fitting in our big nasty Kooks Headers now along with our 9.5 deck 351.
Team Z Rear Suspension: Getting Busy with It
The rear suspension installation was simple, quick, and easy. That’s the magic three, right. We’ve got upper and lower Team Z control arms, and a Team Z Anti-roll bar. We already welded up the torque boxes, installed subframe connectors, and even installed a torque box reinforcement kit. So we were ready to go…
The Team Z upper controls were the first thing we attacked. Team Z’s control arms are beefy enough to handle 1,500-plus horsepower, so our 666 horsepower was literally a “laughing matter”. These are double adjustable – specifically that there are two rod ends, together with a hex adjuster in the middle. Basically – we can adjust there ON THE CAR without removing them. First, we set up them to stock length (matching the stock arms) and then tightened them down for an initial setup.
Installing the Team Z chrome moly uppers is a bolt-and-go deal. You’ll see in our Moser rear end, we already had a custom spherical bearing installed. Team Z also offers these bearings for stock-type 8.8 and 9-inch housings. For the Moser, we had to get a set made that fit this aftermarket rear end. You’ll see here that we’ve already welded up the torque boxes.
Unlike the Team Z uppers, the lower control arms are only single adjustable. That’s not a big deal because once you set the length correctly, you’ll never touch this adjustment again, as all of your adjustments will come from the upper arms. These are chrome moly with a solid end on one side, and with a rod end up front allowing us to center the wheels in the wheel well.
Here you can see the completed Team Z upper and lower control arms bolted in. You can also see our extensive work on the lower torque boxes. These have been welded and gusseted to take a serious pounding.
The last thing we started was the install of the Team Z Anti-Roll bar. As per Dave’s instructions, we welded this in between the frame rails just in front of the rear end. Essentially – you shove the anti-roll bar as far forward as possible and make sure that’s square and level to the chassis. Then, you weld the anti-roll bar in place, and then drop the end links down to the rear end, and weld the end-link brackets in place between the rear end and the anti-roll bar.
That’s it. Now all was left was setup. Although we’ve been around setting up drag cars for years, it’s always better to have an expert tell you. We spoke to Dave Zimmerman, the owner of Team Z Motorsports, to get the crash course into setting up our Fox Body suspension. But before we go, a special thanks to Team Z and Dave for helping us get 666 rolling with some of the best parts in the business. We’ll keep you in the loop with the next segment, as we get our 351W in the car and get wired up and racing!
TEAM Z: Top Drag Suspension Setup Tips & Tricks
Find the Center line of the Car
According to Dave, “Finding the center-line of the car is very important, so when you are in the shop and find it, mark it somewhere on the car.” This makes any last minute adjustments a snap at the racetrack as you won’t have to spend the time to find this measurement each time you want to play with moving the rear end around in the car. Remember, the only way to find the true center-line is to hang some plumb bobs on the side of the car, and measure halfway between them. That will be your reference point for setting up your rear suspension.
Race Weight: Fully Loaded?
Make all your suspension adjustments at race weight. “Many people are smart enough to make sure someone is sitting in the driver seat, or place some kind of weight in the seat in place of a driver sitting there, but many forget about things such as nitrous bottles, intercooler water and even the fuel cell,” says Zimmerman.
Remember all of those things add not only to your total weight, but your side to side and back to front weight as well. Which is why it is important that all the weight is on board before messing with the suspension. A perfect set up can become the wrong setup with 20 lbs of fuel and two 10 lb nitrous bottles added in after.
Anti-Roll Bar: Neutral is Best
“Many people like to cheat on their setup by doing what is known as pre-loading the suspension. This does nothing but compensate for a poorly setup rear suspension. With no load on the suspension, the anti-roll bar should be neutral,” according to Dave.
Not everyone agrees on this, but Dave Z has some serious credentials to back up his setup tips.
Lay Thy Front Struts Back
If you car is set up with adjustable caster/camber plates, you’ll want to lay those front struts back as far as you can for maximum caster. “By laying the struts back, the car is going to naturally want to go straight and that is a good thing in drag racing,” Dave proclaimed. With a Fox-body, you can go for maximum caster with your alignment, and drive the car all day long there for street and strip duty.
Slamming a Stock-Suspension Drag Fox Car: Playing with Fire
Everyone want to slam the frame down near the ground and tuck the tire under the fender. “The problem with lowering your car, is that is greatly affects your suspension setup,” says Team Z. Remember suspension is all about angles and geometry. When you lower or raise your car you change those factors, including your Instant Center. There are a few ways to get your stock suspension car low, but you should call Team Z to discuss. It requires some serious thought and some modified geometry with the suspension pointing points.
One Adjustment At A Time
“Many times someone will change five or ten things on their car in hopes of making it work better. While it may work, it may not. The problem is they have no clue what adjustment made the most difference, or even if they all helped,” explained Dave. It might be a long process, but if you hope to master the art of suspension setup it is a critical step. One adjustment at a time.
And take notes.