UPR Products has always been known for drag racing. Since 1989, our drag racers have won several dozen championships on UPR Products suspension, and that's where our slogan "The Choice of Champions" originated. But did you know that UPR Products suspension components can be used to make your Mustang handle corners as well?
We recently started putting together an S197 handling package with a reasonable price tag. Thankfully, we had almost everything we needed already sitting in our warehouse. Here is the preliminary setup, along with some test results-
The test vehicle is my 2006 Mustang GT with a manual transmission, but these parts are available for all 2005-2013 S197 Mustangs. Please be forewarned that my '06 is not some super clean, fresh off the lot, manufacturer's demo vehicle. It's just my daily workhorse, and although it's not the prettiest car on the lot, it is a real world daily driver that most people can relate to. It has been a great platform for testing all sorts of UPR upgrades over the past couple of years.
We started out with the rear suspension, which is a huge weakness on these cars. I wish I had a photo of the OEM lower control arms because they are laughable, but we threw them away so quickly, I didn't manage to snap a photo. Suffice it to say, they are flimsy stamped steel arms which utilize HUGE soft rubber bushings to minimize NVH. That's great for comfy cruisin', but they are NOT conducive to high performance driving. We replaced them with these UPR Pro Street LCAs:
These control arms use tubular chrome-moly which is the strongest construction method- stronger than the aluminum and mild steel alternatives. They also feature Energy Suspension bushings custom designed for UPR Products with durability and quiet operation in mind. It should be noted that the rear suspension components on my car are all First Generation components, so they do not feature zerk fittings to allow them to be greased later. We have since added zerk fittings to our control arms and panhard bars, although my first generation components are still perfectly quiet after thousands of street miles.
Installation was a breeze, requiring no special tools.
We replaced the upper control arm with UPR's Pro Street UCA and Heavy Duty UCA Mount:
The UCA features the same heavy duty construction as our LCAs, and the HD UCA mount is much stronger than the factory stamped steel piece, so there is no longer flex in this critical area.
Here is a side by side comparison:
And here are the Pro Street UCA & HD Mount installed. Installation was simple and straightforward, but working space is tight around the UCA.
We upgraded the factory panhard bar with our Pro Street chrome-moly double-adjustable panhard bar and we also replaced the factory panhard brace with our chrome-moly brace.
The Pro Street PHB is on-car adjustable and features polyurethane bushings for reasonably quiet operation. Here they are side-by-side:
Installation was very simple with hand tools. Here they are installed:
^^as you can see in that photo, we previously upgraded the swaybars on my car during a track test at Sebring International Raceway. Stiffer swaybars greatly improve cornering grip. We recommend these Eibach swaybars:
The front bar on Eibach's kit is three way adjustable, and like all UPR products, the Eibach kit carries a Lifetime Guarantee.
For Springs, we also teamed up with Eibach to produce these UPR/Eibach Pro Series lowering springs. They are built to the same specification as Eibach's Pro Kit springs, so they drop the car about an inch and a half.
We are still debating which dampeners to offer with our S197 Handling Package. On my car, we used Koni Sport (Yellow) struts and shocks, which work quite well.
The shocks and springs were an easy install. Here's a closer look:
Moving onto the front end, we installed the previously mentioned Koni Sport struts and UPR/Eibach Pro Series springs with FRPP's M-18183-C GT500 strut mounts, which we carry at UPR. Here is a shot of the strut/spring/mount package prior to installation:
With the strut assemblies installed, we upgraded the occasionally problematic OEM swaybar end links with UPR's billet swaybar end links.
Here they are installed:
While we were up front, we installed these Centric brake rotors and Hawk HPS pads. (the rear was previously upgraded to HPS pads during the Sebring test and the whole system uses Motul RBF600 brake fluid)
Interestingly, we only ran six sessions at Sebring last year, but apparently we baked the tie rod ends. Check this out!
Yikes. We replaced them with some Advanced Auto cheapies just to get the car back on the road, but we'll be using the UPR Extreme Bumpsteer kit with our S197 Handling Package:
Last but most certainly NOT least, we installed our UPR tubular chrome-moly k-member kit to drop some weight off the nose and lower the engine 1/2" for a lower center of gravity.
We took the car to Mustang Performance Racing in Boynton Beach, FL where Tim Eichhorn made quick work of the k-member install. It can be installed on jackstands with hand tools, but we wanted to photograph the car up in the air, so this did the trick.
To wrap things up, we took the car to the local tire shop to zero out the toe. On the UPR/Eibach Pro Series springs and GT500 strut mounts, we ended up with -1.7° camber (shown below), which has given fairly even tire wear with mostly street driving with some hard cornering and autocrossing thrown in.
So how does it handle?!
Well, the difference in cornering grip was unbelievable. I drove around town for a few days hitting my normal corners with enthusiasm just to see how much more cornering grip the UPR S197 Handling Package has to offer. I was able to carry quite a bit more speed on my favorite corners, so much so that I was afraid I'd lose my license before I found the limit on the street. So I did the responsible thing and entered the car in a local Autocross event.
I had modest expectations since everyone in my class was running slicks and I was on relatively narrow Goodyear F1Supercars, but I was pleased to find that I was able to run in the middle of the pack. In fact, I was faster than several exotic cars on slicks with my '06 Mustang on UPR suspension and street tires. Most importantly, the handling was smooth and predictable. There was a surprisingly good amount of grip available, but I could easily rotate the car with the throttle, without any unexpected surprises. It's hard to describe exactly how it felt, so I'll just say that the car is much faster on the UPR S197 Handling Package, but it's also easy to drive at the limit of grip.
Here are some pics of it on the autocross course-
Exiting the box:
Hangin' a left:
So far, I've been very pleased with the setup. As I mentioned, we're debating which dampeners to include with the package. Also, it's looking like we'll offer two Handling Packages- one without the k-member which would be priced in the neighborhood of $1699 and a racier version which would include the k-member and come in at over $2,000. We've had countless requests for tubular front control arms and I'd love to have a set myself, but in lieu of some control arm failures we've seen other manufactures encounter recently, it looks like our best bet may be to upgrade the factory front control arms with an aftermarket bushing kit. That's still being decided on.
In the meantime, all of these parts are available now, and if you contact me or my boss Jeremy directly, we can tailor a package for your specific needs.
There are several track days coming up here in South Florida and we're planning to take the '06 back out to Sebring or maybe even PBIR or Miami-Homestead to conduct further testing- preferably on REAL tires this time. As always, we'll post updates on the forums and at www.facebook.com/TeamUPR