All parts manufacturers build project cars for the same reason--to get their company and its products noticed--but they go about it in different ways. Quite often project cars are over-the-top, look-at-me efforts that dazzle for a month or two, then quickly fade. Others are refreshingly realistic, such as the handsome Eibach (www.eibach.com) demonstrator we examine here.
Sure, there's a bit of 20-inch-tire swagger here, and the project sponsors are duly stickered onto the '11 Mustang GT flanks, but everything that's been bolted on has a real-world purpose. So much so that we took the car to the toughest testing ground we know, the road-racing circuit. We wanted to push this car hard--to find its weaknesses and enjoy its strengths. That's not something we do with many project cars, because frankly, few project cars can survive what a road-race circuit has in store for them. So, as we critically review Eibach's car, take our comments as an honest assessment of a winner.
From a nuts-and-bolts standpoint, Eibach's 2011 demonstrator is a bit of a mix. The aftermarket bolt-ons favor handling and performance, while the Mustang underneath it all carries an automatic transmission. There's nothing inherently wrong with an automatic in a street car, but most handling fans prefer the interaction and efficiency of a manual. That and Ford's automatic--while apparently robust, reasonably quick, smooth shifting, and featuring no less than six ratios--unfortunately does not offer comprehensive manual control. The console shifter provides detents for 1, 2, 3, and D, but there are no paddle overrides as in the Taurus SHO, and no way of holding the transmission in Fourth or Fifth gear.
Good as it was on the track,...
Good as it was on the track, the street is the Eibach's car natural habitat. The suspension was smooth over bumps and Bott's Dots, and given the adjustable ride height and shock tune, could be made as streetable or racy as desired. And yes, you can feel the difference in the shock adjustments. Soft is relatively plush, underdamped, and even, while full-hard is jiggly. Medium, of course, is just right.
At 145 mph, the Eibach car...
At 145 mph, the Eibach car tracked straight and wasn't the least bit nervous. At 145 mph in the turns though, you could feel its weight.
You gotta love that macho...
You gotta love that macho 14-inch and six-piston Brembo package hiding behind the thin-spoke HRE wheel. The open HRE design no doubt aided brake cooling at the track.
So on the road course we had to adapt a bit. Of course, on the street we didn't have to bother with all that shifting in traffic, and the blast away from stop lights was gratifyingly immediate. And should dragstrip performance be desired, the automatic is right at home. Really, the auto is a big plus for many enthusiasts who daily drive their Mustangs in heavy traffic along with hitting the autocross, open track, and dragstrip on the weekends. In that case, the auto helps on the street; works at the autocross, where it's possible to manually shift the lower gears; is a plus on the strip; and still gets around the road-race circuit. We find it ironic that Ford gives the Taurus SHO paddle shifters as something of an executive perk that we're sure doesn't get used all that often, while the more youthful Mustang goes without.
Eibach chose to add its R1-based spring, bar, and shock package. The Multi-Pro-R1 contains single-adjustable shocks with spherical upper bushing mounts and coilover springs. Advantages are numerous, starting with the ability to use any of Eibach's many coilover springs to fine-tune the ride for vehicle weight and driver aggression level. The springs are height-adjustable without much effort; so a choice of in-the-weeds profiling; low-ride height track setup; or high-water street settings for dealing with potholes, curbs, and steep approaches is possible. Corner weights are also adjustable to offset stereo or passenger loads, fine-tune the launch at the strip, or adjust for a certain track.
The gear is all made in the U.S. with quality hardware, Teflon inner and stainless-steel-braid outer hoses, and a one-year warranty. Retail on the Multi-Pro-R1 coilover kit is $2,395. The front and rear sway bar packages are available separately, and retail for $549 or $669 depending on if you want adjustability in the rear sway bar or not (we'd get it even if it's a bit pricey). In either case, the front sway bar is adjustable and tubular to save weight. Our test car had the adjustable rear bar. Finally, Eibach fitted its adjustable aluminum Panhard bar to help tame lateral rear-body motion. This is a $201 part.
If three grand seems a bit rich for suspension mods while you're making payments on that new Coyote-powered Mustang, Eibach also offers its Pro System Plus kit with standard shock mounts, non-adjustable shocks, standard replacement non-coilover springs, and without the Panhard rod, but with the same adjustable sway bars front and rear, for $1,482. This is a fine kit for real-world Mustangs and will certainly entertain most drivers nicely. Its only real drawback is the lack of adjustability for those who want to tinker with their chassis on track days.
At the other end of the scale, Eibach has its R2 double-adjustable, remote- reservoir coilover shocks at $2,895, plus the sway and Panhard bars.
Just as important to the project car's impressive track performance was Brembo's six-piston front brake package. This is world-class braking, with the massive, even squeeze of the huge calipers taken by just as impressively large, 14-inch, two-piece, cross-drilled, and ventilated iron rotors. No one seemed to know exactly which brake pad was installed, but we guessed a performance street pad as cold-stopping was good, the noise level was dead quiet, and dust was surprisingly light. Rear braking was stock, but likely with upgraded pads. Interestingly, the Brembo front brake package has a street price of $3,500 or a touch more, so they are more expensive than the suspension.