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CLICK HERE to read about the 2000 Mustang FR500 that earned South Lyon Collision national attention.
ROAD TEST: Ford Mustang FR500 (continued)
ARTICLE BY: John Philips, David Dehurst
February 2000
Sound complicated? Well, it is. And there's more. While you're thumbing through the Ford Racing catalog, you'll also want to stipulate the 170-liter-per-hour fuel pump, the metal-composite driveshaft, the new cats and stainless exhausts, the 51mm hollow half-shafts, and, well, about six carats' worth of eternity ring to keep your housemate off your back.

In fact, to achieve the total FR500 effect, maybe you should just mail your MasterCard to Ford Racing. At least that would get you this vehicle's real conversation piece--- the crossmember that makes possible the clever wheelbase extension. This large steel assembly simply bolts to the frame rails five inches forward of the stock crossmember's location. Sure, it interferes with your Cobra's oil pan; that's why a unique eight-quart version is part of the deal. By happenstance, the elongated wheelbase improves ride and swells the front track by 1.1 inches, but its true purpose in life is to shift weight astern. And, boy, does it ever. On the official C/D scales, the FR500 mule scored a 50/50 weight bias vs. the stock Cobra's 55/45.


Of course, now that your Mustang's front wheels jut forward like cats' paws clawing at the velvet drapes, the vehicle requires a new pair of fenders. No sweat. Grab the catalog again and simply specify the cool carbon-fiber quarter-panels, complete with new wheel-well liners. And while you're in a carbon-fiber frame of mind, you'd better also order the new hood (which saves 23 pounds), plus the new front fascia (which, when tested in the Lockheed Martin wind tunnel, reduced drag from the stock 0.38 to a slightly more respectable 0.36), plus the new C-pillar covers, the new rocker sills, and the kit to eliminate the Mustang's traditional faux scoops just behind the doors. And, hey, if you want to show off your FR500's howling quartet of howitzer-size exhaust tips, you'd better grab the new rear fascia, too. Surprisingly, the new carbon-fiber decklid is adorned neither by wing nor ducktail. Ford's stylists deemed the latter a modern cliche as threadbare as the prefix "cyber," for which they're to be commended.


Mind you, a wheelbase extension alone does not a great-handling car make. If it did, folks would be racing Ford Excursions. To equip this Mustang with Corvette levels of grip, its front strut suspension is replaced with upper and lower A-arms. The upper A-arms are from the rear of a Lincoln LS sedan. And the FR500's trick lower A-arms, fabricated from steel at McLaren, resemble something you might find beneath a Taurus belonging to Rusty Wallace (who, not so accidentally, helped calibrate the spring-and-shock package during a 30-lap tire-shredding session at Road Atlanta). A dazzling set of coil-over shocks then replace the Cobra's front struts, bolting neatly to the stock shock towers. And the front brake rotors are 14.0-inch cross-drilled Brembos, with Brembo four-piston calipers that reliably cause NAPA employees to fall to their knees as if in pious rituals involving lost contact lenses.

  Fewer expensive new pieces inhabit the Mustang's tail: a set of stiffer shocks and springs and a 4.10:1 Torsen differential cooled via a small radiator affixed to the driver's-side floorpan. The rear brake rotors are merely the 13.0-inchers you just unscrewed from the front of your donor Cobra (at last, a little recycling) but gripped by Lincoln LS calipers. And then-- hold on, we're almost done here-- ground clearance sinks an inch; 18-inch two-piece wheels are attached; and presto pesto! this baby is ready for Rusty. Or, in the poor mule's case, for us...
At the Grattan road course near Grand Rapids, Michigan, where most of the FR500's suspension calibrations evolved, the car proved a jewel at speed. It evinced accurate, willing turn-in and tended toward a neutral set, with just enough trailing-throttle oversteer that modest midturn corrections could be effected via the pilot's east loafer. The suspension is undeniably firm ---indeed, the inside front wheel was quick to lift in Grattan's sharpest turns—- yet there's sufficient compliance that the ride is never race-car jarring. In fact, on Michigan's hideous byways, the ride proved as tame as a stock Cobra's, and the steering was rarely affected by truck ruts or potholes.
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