Stiffen Your 'Stang! 2015 Mustang Strut Tower Brace R&D, Part 1: Initial Fabrication
Nothing beats taking a tight, responsive vehicle over some curvy roads on a beautiful fall day. The S550 is a nice chassis, track-applicable right out of the box, especially if "Performance Package" is on the build sheet. We've been pleased with our shop car, but we are always seeking improvements. We've completed our product development of cooling components and performance products, and now we are turning our attention to the suspension on this fantastic chassis. To further enhance the stiffness of the suspension and improve response, we decided that an appropriate front strut brace would be a wise addition.
Stock Bracing and Strut Tower
Under the hood of your Mustang you might find (or not) a stock strut brace. For GT and PP EcoBoost owners, a K-shaped brace links both strut towers to the cowl of the vehicle. Below is a look at this stock piece equipped on our shop EcoBoost Mustang.
As you can see, this piece links the strut towers to the cowl. The brackets attach to two points on each tower.
We like the stock brace, but many (including our team) are finding that an additional bar triangulating the strut towers to the cowl enhances stiffness and response significantly. Our goal is to develop a strut bar that will work both with and without this stock brace. This way, base-model EcoBoost owners and V6 owners can take advantage of the benefits of this component as well.
Before we tackle the actual link between the strut towers, we need to create mounting plates that will bolt to the strut towers. We pulled dimensions from the strut towers and created a model in Solidworks. We then printed a template for the mounting plates so we could begin fabrication.
A little grinder work made this large sheet a bit more manageable for our small bracket cutout.
We cut the rest of the templates on our band saw and drilled the necessary holes for the strut bolts.
A bit of light sanding removed burrs from the edges and bolt holes.
Our mounting brackets were complete.
We then bolted our brackets onto each strut tower and laid out our bent tubing to mock up its location.
Our engineers have some interesting ideas rattling around in their brains. After numerous discussions, our team determined that two different prototypes should be constructed and both should be evaluated.
The first prototype is intended to be a simple design. The bar linking both strut towers will be permanently attached to the brackets by a perfect weld. We expect this to be both rigid and effective as a bracing solution.
After lining up the location of the bar, we tack-welded our prototype.
Our second prototype is more involved. For this one, we decided to design a strut bar that could be disassembled. This would help make installation a bit easier and will also provide for a more refined and aesthetic look.
This prototype would be designed as a CNC-machined component to be welded to the bar running across the engine bay. The CNC piece would then bolt onto the mounting bracket. With this design, the brackets could be installed on the strut towers first, and then the bar could be mounted to the brackets.
This prototype started in the 3D-modeling phase to map out a basic design. We then printed our model using our 3D printer and grabbed dimensions for a mock-up prototype.
The image above shows a close-up of the female end CNC-machined to accept the bracing tube. The two vertical bolt holes would be used to mate the bracket to the bracing tube.
To determine the length and angle needed for the brace, we made a second mock-up prototype to ensure that our dimensions were on point.
It might be hard to visualize at this stage what we have intended for this bracket. Below is a look at our 3D-printed components next to our mock-up prototype.
After some precise measuring, tweaking, and welding, our second prototype was complete.
Our next plan is to construct functional prototypes for each design. By doing so we can evaluate the features of both and determine which one will best fit our intentions for these projects.
Stay tuned for more updates!