Next, we set our sights on tightening up the suspension a bit to complement our newfound monster grip. The crew of GTR swapped out the stock, dinky sway bars in favor of macho-sized Progress Technology sway bars to help control some of the Mustang's body roll we were experiencing. In a couple of hours, team GTR had outfitted our test mule (no pun intended) with Progress' 35mm adjustable front sway bar (part number 61-0807) and 24mm rear sway bar (part number 62-0807). Although each sway bar is sold individually for about $150 apiece, it is recommended that they only be installed as a matched set. Failure to do so will result in unbalanced handling.
A properly engineered sway bar kit is designed to reduce body roll created under hard cornering. When the body leans excessively, it prevents the suspension and tires from working effectively. As a result, the objective is to keep the car flat around corners, which is a task that the Progress bars excelled at. The larger sway bars provide more driver control and inspire more confidence. The moment the Mustang hit the first turn, the reduction in body lean was apparent. Now the sway bars and wheel/tire combination were working in harmony.
Not surprisingly, our average lap times dipped to 51.46 seconds, which represents an additional 1.18 second drop per lap. There is little doubt that given more track time, quicker lap times could have been achieved simply by tuning the sway bars and playing with tire pressures a bit. Overall, we saw a net reduction of 3.19 seconds per lap with two basic, but highly effective, upgrades.
So which handling upgrade is right for you? Well, it depends. If you are looking for maximum bang for the buck, start with Progress' front and rear sway bar kit. For about $300 and a couple of hours of time, noticeable improvements to your Mustang's handling dynamics can be made.
On the other hand, if you are due for a new set of tires or simply want to freshen up your Mustang's appearance, nothing sets off a car like a set of racy wheels. That being said, if a new set of wheels are in store, why not step up to wider and stickier tires too? As we demonstrated, they can have a profound impact on grip. Consulting an experienced performance shop (like GTR) will help you choose the right tire/wheel that best suits your 'Stang's needs. Class dismissed, now go hit some corners!
Just getting into grip? Got tips for the aspiring autocrosser? Tell us in the forums!