Squealing tires are the signature sound of drifting. Just as you can tell you're getting close to a race track by the sound of screaming engines, long, lurid tire squeals announce the presence of a drifting event well before you can see it. Of course, anyone who has driven a Mustang in rain or snow knows all about drifting, albeit from a white-knuckle perspective. The car has tested at 0.95 g lateral acceleration on a 200-foot-diameter skidpad, along with a 65.5-mph posting through the slalom
You can't pitch a set of stock mufflers into a dumpster without hitting a drifting contest these days. Without a doubt, it's the latest thing. Of course, anyone who has driven a Mustang in rain or snow knows all about drifting, albeit from a white-knuckle perspective where the only one who knows what'll happen next is God. Predictable as earthquakes, tailout Mustang handling is a losing lottery of half-caught lunges and backward entries into the ditch. But that's with the stock suspension.
Progress Group [(714) 575-1193; www.progressauto.com] is in the business of calming things at the handling limit, and given the company's Southern California address, it was inevitable it would prep a Mustang for the drifting scene, as we're seeing here. Luckily for all of us, what makes a drifting Mustang controllable while cooking its rear hides in lap-long slides is also good for keeping the tail end under control on freeway on-ramps. The result is a new, affordable, well-engineered suspension upgrade for street-driven late-models ranging from 1979 to 2004.
It's a welcome addition to the slim center of a three-level Mustang suspension market. As always with Mustangs, there is the least expensive bolt-on option. Typically this means stronger rear lower control arms for increased bite and predictability during acceleration. Any number of companies offer such arms-and plenty of other parts-to suit the piece-at-a-time approach.
At the other end of the cash register are replacement suspensions that eliminate the stock suspenders with a reengineered suspension. Most often these use torque arms or five-link rear-axle arrangements. There is no question such replacement suspensions offer high-zoot handling, but as comprehensive and intensive to install as they are, the systems are inexorably accompanied by a high-zoot price as well.
Progress Group's new offerings are in the middle of these extremes. As a spring, shock, and bar suspension system, it's designed to offer significant increases in handling at prices almost any enthusiast can afford.
Mainly under the direction of Progress Group President Jeff Cheechov, the suspension has been developed into a pleasant-riding, real-world improvement that delivers flatter, higher-grip handling, as well as 1.5 inches or more lowering. It consists of front and rear sway bars, front and rear coil springs, front struts and rear shocks-both from Tokico-and aluminum rear lower control arms. Furthermore, Progress Group is working on rear upper control arms with trick, no-bind bushings. The car featured here was wearing those arms when we drove it, and you'll be able to buy them shortly.
In the meantime, Progress Group has put all its suspension parts and a few supporting bits from the aftermarket on this '02 GT demonstrator and sometimes drift-and drag and open-track-competitor. Naturally, we've given it the drift to lunch and twice-around-the-cloverleaf treatment, and can say we definitely like it, beginning with the looks. Those are Roush Stage III body panels on the front fascia and rear wing, lending to a slight aggressiveness. The composite hood is from Banshee Performance, while the rolling stock consists of ATS two-piece forged 18s. Measuring 8.5 inches wide in front and 10 inches wide in back, these handsome wheels fit impressively sticky and predictable BFGoodrich KD rubber front and rear.