Install photos by: Spenser Murabata
Maximum Motorsports (MM) has developed a full line of late model Ford Mustang suspension components, that in the right hands makes the S197 Mustang handle like a completely different car. These components come as a kit or can be purchased individually. The most recent part from these masters of Mustang suspension is a K-member kit for 2005-2014 Mustangs. We were recently invited to follow along with Michael Heintz and the installation of a new MM K-member kit as well as a host of other parts from the company for improving handling.If Heintz’s name sounds familiar, that’s because we’ve worked with him and his 2012 Boss 302 before. Heintz frequently races the car at autocross and track events. Even though his Boss was the best handling production Mustang ever when it was new, like all Mustangs there was plenty of room for improvement.
We spent some time talking with Chuck Schwynoch, the owner of Maximum Motorsports to get a better understanding of the “why” behind its new K-member design and to glean notes from both Schwynoch and Heintz on the install of several MM upgrades. Heintz took his car to Voss Performance in Placentia, California for this install.
Schwynoch says, “We had heard a lot of complaints about NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) from people using aftermarket S197 K-members, so when we began our design we expended a lot of time and effort to allow the customer to retain stock motor mounts and stock control arm bushings.” According to Schwynoch, MM’s new K-member (PN Mm5KM-7), delivers better overall handling and feel. Schwynoch says stability and precision are improved and more predictable because of the increased stiffness and optimized roll center height. MM built a test fixture so its designers could load up a K-member to simulate cornering and braking loads. The design team also measured deflection of a stock K-member. Roll center height is optimized for a lowered Mustang because of the raised front control arm pick-up points, eliminating the need for using extended-length ball joints.
Heintz says, “Before installing the Maximum Motorsports Tubular K-member and bumpsteer kit on the front of my car, the car would be very rough over bumps and shook the steering wheel violently. The bumpsteer kit cured all of the issues with the steering shaking wheel shaking violently when I went over bumps or any rough road. The tubular K-member stands out because it corrected the geometry.”
Schwynoch says, “Ford always designs in a little bit of bumpsteer in a way that promotes understeer. Our bumpsteer kit allows tuning out that part of the design. There is a widespread myth on the Internet that lowering a Mustang (any model Mustang from 1979 to 2015) causes bumpsteer. Lowering a Mustang does cause the camber to change, becoming more negative. Any change in camber in turn causes the toe setting to change. After lowering, a simple alignment job restores both camber and toe to their proper settings. Lowering has almost no effect on bumpsteer, and what little effect it does have is inconsequential, so small that there is no need to adjust for it. What does effect bumpsteer are changes to suspension geometry, such as moving control arm pick-up points, extended length ball joints, or a large increase in positive caster.”
The MM K-member for the S197 chassis moves the control arm pivot points upward. This makes it so the outer tie rod end has to be moved downward to compensate for that and to eliminate the bumpsteer caused by the relocated control arm inner pivots. MM’s bumpsteer kit (PN MM5TR-2), allows for that.
There is no way to “eyeball” tie-rod end adjustment when installing a bumpsteer kit to compensate for bumpsteer induced by tie-rod end positioning. MM’s Bumpsteer Gauge (MMT-4) is an easy to use and inexpensive way to ensure that you get it right without hours of trial and error. The Bumpsteer Gauge can be added to your cart by checking the check box on the Bumpsteer Kit page.
Engine Support Beam
Prior to this little beauty, swapping out a K-member required having a cherry-picker or a universal support system of some type. Those can be hard to rent and expensive to buy, so the MM team went out and designed the MMT-11 Engine Support Beam. This easy to use crossbeam that, when coupled with two 600-pound (minimum) ratcheting straps (you supply these) eliminates the requirement for the cherry picker. Schwynoch also says it can be quite handy for owners who want to remove their oil pan to inspect engine bearings, and need to drop the k-member to do so.
Caster-Camber Plates: The Final Piece of The Alignment Puzzle
If your author may be allowed to editorialize for a brief moment, when I was turning wrenches on a daily basis for a living, my specialty was suspensions, especially alignments. I’ll tell you here and now, looking at these babies, I would have killed to have them installed on every car I worked on equipped with MacPherson struts. MM invented double-adjustable caster-camber plates in 1993. Since then they’ve had to design new plates for each succeeding generation of Mustang after it hits the market because Ford engineers change something in the strut tower, upper strut mount, or the strut.
MM’s Caster-Camber Plates, (PN MM5CC-6), allow for quick and easy caster and camber adjustment on 2011–2014 Mustangs (except 2007–2014 GT500s which is a different part number). The design of these plates allows adjustments to caster and camber separately, instead of having to adjust both angles together. There are ways to adjust camber on these cars, but without these plates, caster is non-adjustable.
Extreme Duty Rear Lower Control Arms Mm5RLCA-53
Relocation Brackets for RLCA Mm5RLCA-57
The S197 Mustang has far less anti-squat geometry than is desirable, even at the stock ride height. This is exacerbated by lowering the car. MM’s Relocation Brackets (PN RLCA-57) correct this by moving the instant center location, greatly increasing the anti-squat percentage, aiding traction. The Mustang’s traction control is turned off when exiting hard corners in order to save the rear brakes. These relocation brackets compensate and allow for hard acceleration out of corners, whether on the street or on a road course.
Schwynoch says, “That’s why we use steel spacers rather than aluminum, and a relatively large diameter steel tube for the arm itself on MM’s Extreme Duty Rear Lower Control Arms (PN Mm5RLCA-53).” Want big power handling capability? These control arms are rated to 1, 172 lb-ft of torque with the stock 3.55 gears and are excellent for street or strip. They improve traction by eliminating the deflection of stock rubber bushings and the weak stamped steel control arm. Understeer is noticeably reduced because the offset design also greatly improves the rear suspension geometry.
Manual Transmission Cooler Scoop
On the track, keeping things cool is paramount. While many of us think of engine oil and coolant as the two critical areas, the transmission is another that needs special attention. This is especially true in the high RPM environments of road racing and auto-crossing. The 2012-13 Boss Laguna Seca came equipped with an air scoop to direct more air to the transmission from under the car. This is a common upgrade for standard Boss owners looking for lower transmission temperatures, however it’s not compatible with most aftermarket K-members.
MM developed a new air scoop, (PN Mm5KB2-21) similar in design to the OEM part on 2012–2013 Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca models, but has been configured to fit the new MM K-member only. It won’t fit the OEM K-member. It’s designed to fit on all 2005–2014 Mustangs, with the MM K-member. The design redirects air up toward and around the manual transmission to help reduce its temperature and increase its lifespan.
Heintz reports that after the installation his Boss has noticeable improved handling. There’s far less understeer, and the car rotates through corners more precisely and predictably. The front end feels more solid and put together, and the changes to the rear suspension have also eliminated the feeling of the rear of the car being disconnected or delayed in reacting to what the front wheels are doing.