The 2013 Mustang’s suspension benefits from nearly a decade of performance development, as the chassis first debuted in 2004 as a 2005 model. Whether it be dragstrip performance or road racing, the aftermarket has figured out the nuances of what it takes to hustle a Mustang from point A to point B with a minimum of drama and a maximum level of performance.
Our automatic transmission-equipped 2013 Mustang benefits from an Edelbrock E-Force supercharger, which bumps the performance level up from 337 horsepower at the wheels on the stock platform to a whopping 526 ponies and 482 pound-feet of torque to go along with it, and has since been upgraded to over 600 rwhp. We installed the performance parts back in September and were very pleased with the performance level of the new upgrades, but now we need a suspension system to match, and that’s where the team at Competition Engineering comes in.
We found during our initial drag test of the car with the stock control arms a great seven-tenths of a second elapsed time improvement with the supercharger, but launching at any RPM level over 1,500 just sent us spinning and looking for better tires and suspension parts as a result.
As part of the Moroso family of performance companies, Competition Engineering carries over 25 years of innovation into the suspension and chassis construction arena for both street and strip vehicles. Each product is computer-designed and machined to the highest standards and offers the latest in technology advances to the consumer. The accuracy and efficiency provided through the CAD/CAM processes assures the end-user will have a product that works as advertised and won’t break the bank in the process.
Out With The Old, In With The New
The first order of business in any Mustang expected to see the strip is to upgrade the rear control arms — both the single upper and the pair of lowers. To that end, we selected a pair of control arms [Part# C8009, street price $186] that are crafted from 4130 chromoly tubing with .120-inch wall thickness for strength. As these arms are adjustable, the user has the ability to set pre-load, chassis square, and wheelbase.
Factory control arms are made from flimsy stamped steel, and the Competition Engineering parts provide great strength and remove the unwanted flex through the use of the tubular material. There is a high quality 3/4-inch chromoly rod end at the chassis side to aid in adjustability, along with a bushing at the housing end to retain some level of noise and harshness attenuation for the street.
Reduction of wheel-hop is another added benefit of these, especially since the 2005-current chassis can see wheel-hop when a lot of power is applied to the suspension. 12.9 grade hardware is included in the box.
When installing these, the retaining bolts must be tightened to 129 foot-pounds to prevent them from coming loose, and as a starting point, C/E recommends using the length of the factory control arm as a guide. The adjustability provides the option to center the tire in the wheel well if you’re running larger-than-factory meats as well.
We combined the lower arms with one of Competition Engineering’s upper control arm modules [Part# C8018, street price $240]. The kit comes with a new, stamped-and-welded upper control arm mount that offers two different mounting locations – the double-adjustable arm gets mounted to the forward-most location, while the rear hole is not used in this application but is designed for a non-adjustable arm that C/E also offers.
The upper single arm provides adjustability for pre-load and pinion angle, and uses high-strength components to eliminate the flex present in factory-style arms. It is double-adjustable and features a 3/4-inch chromoly rod end at the chassis side to free up the suspension components and remove any potential binding opportunity.
The housing side mount is formed from thick 1/8-inch plate and has a welded, threaded component for the tube adjuster to thread into. The rod end then threads into the adjuster sleeve to provide the double-adjustable mechanism, which allows for changes to be made without removing the arm from the car.
Competition Engineering even saw fit to include a special adjustment wrench to make things easier and a grease fitting for the rod end to ensure everything stays nicely lubricated. It’s recommended to install the upper arm at a 10-inch length to start, which will provide approximately 1.5 degrees of negative pinion angle. Pinion angle must be checked at normal ride height (with the weight of the driver in the seat, preferably on a drive-on rack) to ensure final specifications are correct. This module is designed for a 2005-2009 Mustang but can be used in the 2010-2014 Mustangs as long as you get a new, factory forward control arm mounting bolt that attaches under the back seat from a 2005-2009.
On this chassis, we recommend a pinion angle of around four degrees negative to achieve the best track performance. – Thor Schroeder
“Adjusting the upper control arm will adjust the pinion angle. Lengthening the upper control arm helps to get a more desirable pinion angle for traction and handling,” says Competition Engineering’s Thor Schroeder.
When used in conjunction with the lower arms and adjusted properly, impressive traction improvements along with quicker 60-foot times and quarter-mile times can be achieved thanks to the reduction in flex and unwanted movement. The upper module and lower arms can be installed separately, but in order to gain the best result, it’s recommended that they’re changed as a pair.
In the interest of upgrading the entire underside of our Mustang’s chassis, we dug into the Competition Engineering catalog to select other parts that will assist us in getting down the strip efficiently without breaking the wallet.
Since we now have the adjustable upper and lower arms on the car, we also needed to install one of Competition Engineering’s adjustable Panhard bars [Part# C2138, street price $132] for a number of reasons. Much like the stock upper and lower control arms, the factory Panhard bar uses rubber bushings at both ends, which, although it makes for a nice ride and reduced NVH characteristics, is not ideal in a drag racing application.
Upgrading to a rod-end-mounted Panhard bar like this one is an important step in tuning up our Mustang. In addition, if you’ve altered the ride height, it’s a necessity, as the factory bar will bend when the vehicle’s height is altered from stock, as you don’t have the provisions to adjust for such an occurrence.
“The Panhard bar minimizes the side-to-side movement and helps to keep the rearend centered in the car. When installing an adjustable Panhard bar, it’s important to take cross measurements underneath the car from the rear axle to the chassis/unibody,” says Schroeder.
The Competition Engineering Panhard bar eliminates housing movement within the chassis and has a set of spherical rod ends on both sides to allow for adjusting the rear end side-to-side within the car. The rod ends, like the control arms, are chromoly for strength and provide a vast amount of deflection reduction.
The main tube is also crafted from the same chromoly as the control arms, and its light weight helps to remove some unsprung weight from the car.
Competition Engineering also offers a Panhard bar frame brace, [Part# C2137, street price $66] that has one job – to be stiffer than the factory’s stamped-steel version.
It’s constructed from 1.25-inch-diameter steel tubing to provide a strength increase and reduce unwanted flex in the suspension system.
Making It Stiffer
But we didn’t stop there. While it’s great to have chassis parts that will now perform as advertised instead of the wimpy stock units, we also made sure to take care of chassis stiffness in the process.
Every Mustang since the Fox-body Flexi-Flyer machines hit the pavement way back in 1979 (before some of you reading this were even born) has needed an increase in chassis support thanks to the unibody construction and lack of full framerails.
While the 2005-up Mustang has improved those areas by leaps and bounds, a solid set of subframe connectors is always seen as a worthy upgrade, especially for cars like ours that will see a substantial amount of dragstrip time. After all, nobody wants windows that don’t close tightly against the seals!
The Competition Engineering frame connectors [Part# C3142, street price $296] are a bolt-in design that fits the 2005-up Mustang in both V6 and V8 configurations.
In our application, we welded them in because we’ve got the Power Automedia installation facility at our disposal, but they can be bolted in in your driveway and then welded in later if you choose to do so.
They stiffen the chassis by tying the front and rear subframes together, and offer the added benefit of not only making everything stronger for the strip but also giving your Mustang a more solid feel as it goes down the road. By providing a path for the suspension forces to move front-to-rear under acceleration the subframe connector removes the potential for drivetrain “wind-up” and helps to plant the tires more efficiently.
“Our subframe connectors tie into the Competition Engineering roll bar that we offer [Part# C3132, street price $300]. We like to triangulate and tie into everything we can for stiffness. On the Mustang there is a plug in the body above the rear mount of the subframe connector, and our rollbar’s main hoop will actually fit down through the hole and into the subframe connector to tie everything together. The connectors also tie into the rear control-arm mounting points to stiffen that area of the factory frame-rail,” explains Schroeder.
The last step of our undercar upgrades came in the form of a bolt-in driveshaft loop [Part# C3160, street price $96].
The loop attaches to the transmission mount, making removal of the shaft itself completely unnecessary. The loop is placed in the proper spot to catch the driveshaft should there be a front u-joint failure, preventing you from doing the ol’ pogo across the finish line at speed.
On the Mustang there is a plug in the body above the rear mount of the subframe connector, and our rollbar’s main hoop will actually fit down through the hole and into the subframe connector to tie everything together. – Thor Schroeder
It’s built from mild steel construction and includes new hardware and spacers to use where required.
Installation is simple – there are four new bolts provided that replace the factory transmission mount bolts, you then bolt together the halves of the loop, and that’s it – simple and effective. However we were not able to install this on our automatic 2013 (nor 2011-12) as the transmission offset is different from the previous generation S197s.
All of our chassis pieces are covered in a sweet black powder-coat finish to keep them looking good for a long time, plus keep the rust monster at bay for those of you who live in snow-plagued areas.
On The Track
Enough about the parts – you want to know how they worked once we put them to the test. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. With the new Competition Engineering suspension pieces aboard, the car carried the tires for the first time since we started working on it, and it has since tripped the 60-foot clocks with an outstanding 1.489 at a recent test session at Irwindale Raceway – not exactly the home of killer track prep.
Before we installed the new Competition Engineering pieces, the car had never been in the 1.50 range in sixty-foot clocking, and we bypassed the 1.50’s and went straight to the 1.40’s. Plus all of our runs were done on the completely stock springs and shocks! This car impresses us every single time we take it to the track. The biggest improvement has been its consistency; while the Mustang would vary from low 1.60s to mid 1.50s, the Mustang now stays in the consistent low 1.50 to high 1.40 range, typically within three to four hundredths each run.
With the Competition Engineering suspension pieces, we are able to leave at a higher launch RPM which aided ET’s as well as MPH. One thing to note in all fairness in terms of the overall ET’s. The “before” runs were in mid 80-degree weather while the “after” runs were run in December with 45-48 degree temperatures. That, and the launch RPM, combined to produce increased MPH and better runs. However, the 60-foots alone show a dramatic difference.
We’re satisfied with the gains we’ve seen, and expect to drop the elapsed times a bit further with more seat time in the car, as the car owner is still getting used to the way the car performs with these new pieces. We’re also going to try playing around with some of the adjustments to see if we can improve our performance.