Why use a Mustang II front end: Reasons & Benefits

The Ford Mustang II is a small automobile that has proved to be a favorite for many hot rodders. The Mustang II front suspension can make an excellent choice for a street rod or race car project. This article will list the reasons why you should consider using this front end and some of the benefits it offers.

When thinking about what type of front end to use on your next project, keep in mind that there are several options out there from vintage cars as well as those designed specifically for custom builds. Choosing one over another needs to be done with careful consideration since all have their pros & cons. There is no single best design but rather a series of trade-offs that may or may not work depending on your application & final goal. Your choice may also be limited by local laws and regulations where your car will be driven and/or raced.

Some of the available front ends include:

–         Vintage Ford spindles (Mustang, Cougar, Thunderbird, etc)

–         GM A & G body spindles (Chevelle, Cutlass, Grand Am, etc)

–         Custom fabricated tubular or box beam assemblies (Magnuson’s Tri-5 or Strange S60 for example)

The Ford Mustang II IFS is a strong candidate for any street rod project. The benefits it offers should not be overlooked when building a high-performance resto rod or true pro-touring machine. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the pros and cons as well as reasons why you might want to consider using this IFS.

The Mustang II front end is a compact design that offers many benefits for a street rod or race car project. It was introduced in 1974 by Ford on their all-new 2nd generation “Pony Car” – The Ford Mustang. The II represented a significant departure from the original model with the entire chassis, suspension & body all redesigned from top to bottom. This was done to improve performance and handling while simultaneously cutting costs and weight due to government regulations.

Ford engineers started with their standard A-arm front suspension design then shortened it by 4 inches – but they didn’t stop there. They continued to shorten it by another 7 inches by eliminating the upper control arm and with it, the strut. This ultra-compact design was able to save a tremendous amount of space which allowed for several key changes such as moving the engine forward 4 inches and lowering its position between the frame rails by at least 2 inches. One of the most important changes that allowed room for all of this was switching from an inline-4 or V-8 engine to a mid-mounted 60 degree V6 originally designed by the German manufacturer, Cologne. This permitted a near 50/50 weight distribution with most of its mass closer to the centerline of the car for improved handling & braking performance.

Like anything else in life, there are disadvantages associated with this IFS design but they can be overcome with a little effort. One drawback with the Mustang II IFS is that it has only 2 control arms up front so it isn’t nearly as strong as its GM A-Body or Ford spindle counterparts which have 4. If you plan on drag racing your car, this may be an issue since more suspension strength can often mean faster elapsed times and higher trap speeds. This is not normally an issue for most street rods and mid/rear-engine race cars though.

Another disadvantage is that due to its short length, there is limited caster adjustment built into the upper control arm which gives the caster/camber curves more of a “cloverleaf” shape than what we might expect from other front ends such as GM A-bodies, Ford spindles or tubular designs. This can be somewhat of a challenge to get dialed in just right if you’re not careful and it’s also harder to compensate for changes that may occur over time with castor & camber wear.

Pros:

–         Shortest design out there which helps save space and weight on your build * key benefits for street rods and race cars alike

–         At nearly 50/50 weight distribution front to rear, this IFS is perfect for high-performance street rodding, autocross, and road racing where quick turning response is desired. Also works very well on the dragstrip since most of the weight is closer to the centerline of the vehicle * some tracks even require this to run their “True” index classes.

–         Unlike most other IFS designs, the Mustang II is a semi-float design which allows for better handling in cornering situations * rear suspension is still fully independent with its own set of springs & shocks

* Front suspension is very similar to an upper A-arm spindle design where both right side & left side lower control arms are connected by a single upper arm which greatly limits camber change under load compared to MacPherson strut style suspensions. This semi-float capability will allow you to tune your Mustang II to work great on both the road course as well as the dragstrip or street if you choose. You can even dial it up or down depending on what you’re doing.

–         With easy installation, this IFS is extremely easy to work on since nearly all components are exposed when the front end is removed making it quick and painless to do things like change oil or perform general maintenance * keep in mind though that when working with Mustang II suspension parts, there are some differences between early & late-model years so make sure you know which ones you have before buying anything.

* With upright engines having a higher center of gravity than slanted ones, keeping weight closer to the centerline of the vehicle helps ensure greater stability over bumps, dips & ruts which can sometimes upset your balance, especially during high-speed race conditions or while cornering hard at the track. This semi-float design helps take care of this problem in a very effective way without having to resort to a crazy high spring rate which would negatively affect ride quality.

–         The Mustang II IFS is one of the best suspension designs out there for a street rod, muscle car, or vintage race car if you’re looking for something that will perform better than the original from day one * when used with the right combination of springs, shocks & anti-roll bars, it can deliver exceptional handling performance for nearly any build especially if your goal is to run true index classes at your local track. It’s also worth mentioning that, unlike most other 4 link applications, the Mustang II front end has no issues with “axle wrap” during hard cornering since there is no torque arm or Panhard bar to contend with.

* You can save considerable weight over a GM A-body GM IFS by using the original (small) steel tube for your rear axle housing instead of replacing it with a larger diameter one like most other designs call for. What’s cool about this is that you’ll still be able to use your factory-style drum brakes & Mustang II spindles upfront which will also allow you to run much better pads than what you might expect from other full-size IFS applications where there are bigger rotors. This design provides added room in the center area between the spindle mount brackets too so that many large brake calipers can be installed if desired at all four corners.

–          Most street rods, vintage race cars or modern high performance builds that are planning to use engine swaps, drivetrain conversions, or crate engines will benefit from the added room under the hood & tunnel area since it can sometimes be very difficult (if not impossible) to get certain component combinations to clear using other types of IFS front suspension systems. This is especially true with large displacement V8s where aftermarket headers, oil pans & supercharger/turbo kit components make for some tight fits in many applications.

–         The ease at which Mustang II IFS can handle all sorts of different power levels is one reason why these systems were so popular back in the ’70s and 80’s when they first came out * if you’re looking to build a car that can hang with the big dogs at the strip yet still be streetable enough for local cruise nights, road trips, etc., this IFS is for you.

* There’s no trickery here when it comes to strength & durability either – These designs are plenty stout and overbuilt so they will handle just about anything you can throw at them. Even if running Power Adder combinations like superchargers or turbo kits where 5-10 pounds of boost is standard procedure, these systems don’t break unless something major has gone wrong. With milder setups, there’s no reason why you couldn’t get several seasons out of them without any problems either which means that this suspension system should easily last your car’s entire lifetime.

–         Compared to a short & stubby IFS like a Vega or pre-76 Camaro, the  Mustang II offers a longer wheelbase which can be beneficial in certain driving situations. In other words, when running big rear tires you’ll have more track width to work with so if your car gets loose from being tail-happy, it will tend to slide much less than comparable applications before coming back around during corrective steering input.

–         Rather than having a center cross member that sits low beneath the floor pan where there’s no room for a proper driveshaft tunnel / NVH package, these systems bolt directly into large-diameter steel tubing at the front and rear of the floor area * this provides plenty of room to get the OEM style or aftermarket HD aluminum driveshafts or Chromoly “T” case shifters behind your seats along with a more comfortable ride over road irregularities.

* There’s no power steering rack to contend with either which makes for a much more direct feeling of connection between the front tires, steering wheel & chassis all of which help you feel better connected to the road surface, especially when negotiating turns at speed during spirited driving.

–         Another thing that some people like about this type of suspension system is that it allows you to use stock body parts throughout the entire car even in areas where there are normally clearance issues with IFS systems. While working on my race car project, I found out firsthand just how difficult it can be to get certain parts to fit under a stock hood and inside the engine bay of an IFS-equipped car.

–         For example, when built with a completely new front suspension system like these 4×4 Mustang IIs and driven on local roadways or even offroad, ride quality is typically pleasant enough for daily driving while still providing excellent cornering characteristics which means that you’ll enjoy yourself behind the wheel more often than not.

      Although there are many cases where this type of suspension system won’t work right out of the box (namely rear beam axle cars), if your chassis can accept it without modifications or major hacks then this design is worth considering * in my opinion, they have a lot going for them and I think that they make a ton of sense for cars like these because they allow for much greater flexibility both in terms of power levels and practicality than other types of suspension systems – just be sure to do your homework first if you’re considering one.

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