One set of factory holes at the top and one set of performance holes at the bottom

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A Little History:
The Upper Control Arm, or UCA drop AKA Shelby Drop, or Arning drop, is one of the more beneficial and easily the most cost effective suspension upgrade that can be made to a 1965 to 1970 Mustang (also works for Falcons and Cougars).  This simple act of lowering the mounting point of the upper control arm does more for the way a classic Mustang handles than many expensive aftermarket components, and the best part is, other than the cost of your time, the modification is free, or almost free.  Most refer to this performance upgrade as the Shelby Drop.  This is due to the fact that the only Mustangs that arrived on the showroom floor with this modification were the 1965 and early 1966 Shelby models.  The UCA drop was just one of the many modifications made by Shelby and his crew to these Mustangs.  Even though most refer to this modification as the Shelby drop, in all actuality, if this modification were to be more accurately named we would call it the Arning Drop.  Klaus Arning was a Ford suspension engineer who designed this modification to go with a rear IRS system he had designed for the early Mustang.  Ford decided against the beter camber UCA location on the production line, however Arning was able to pass the info for the UCA relocation on to Shelby, who incorporated it into his cars.

Most likely the reason ford located the UCA where they did was to create a camber curve that lent it self to understeer. Understeer is a situation where due to slight traction loss in the front wheels the car does not corner to a degree of sharpness that the  angle of the tires would suggest. It is common practice among automobile manufacturers to configure production cars deliberately to have a slight  understeer. If a car understeers slightly, it tends to be more stable (with drivers of less ability) if a violent change of direction occurs, thus improving safety. This does not mean the UCA drop is unsafe, it just means if you are going to make the steering more responsive and you need to drive the car with that in mind.

What Does The UCA Drop Do?
Three factors make lowering the UCA an improvement in handling. First, this modification to the suspension lowers the center of gravity on the front of the car; second, body roll is reduced by 7% to 9%; and third, the camber curve is improved.   

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The center of gravity is a geometric property that relates to any shape, but to keep things simple and related to the topic of automobiles, it is basically the internal balancing point from all directions of a car. When you do the UCA drop, you moderately lower the overall height of the front of the car, which in turn lowers the center of gravity.  Easier understanding the application of the center of gravity and how it plays a role in vehicle stability can be illustrated by looking at the stability changes in a canoe based on passenger position.  If you sit down on the floor of a canoe (low center of gravity) then the boat is extremely stable and nearly impossible to overturn.  If you rise up and sit on the seats, the canoe becomes noticeably less stable, but still functional.  Finally, if you stand up in a canoe (high center of gravity), the boat becomes completely unstable and will most likely overturn. In the same way the lower the center of gravity is on a vehicle, the more stable it will be.

Body roll is a major issue in classic Mustangs.  The structure of the Ford Mustang is what is referred to as a unibody design.  This means that rather than a stiff full-length frame, the body is built in such a way that it is self-supporting.  This design is lighter and was more cost effective for Ford, however, during cornering, especially as you first enter and begin to exit a corner, the Mustang body flexes and results in reduced handling accuracy.  When you lower the UCA, you reduce the leverage that the UCA has on the inner fender/shock tower, which in turn reduces the force applied to the body during cornering and thus reduces body roll.

The biggest improvements afforded by the UCA drop come from an improved camber curve.  Camber is the leaning in or out of the tires. The more negative camber you have the more rubber to road contact you have.  If the top of the wheels leans in toward the engine compartment, the wheel has negative camber, whereas if the top of the wheels leans out away from the engine, the wheel has positive camber.  In the same way, during cornering or when encountering inconsistencies in the road, if, due to suspension travel, the top of the wheels leans in toward the engine compartment, the wheel has a negative camber curve, or if the top of the wheels leans out away from the engine, due to suspension travel, then the wheel has a positive camber curve. The stock camber curve of the Mustang is positive so, as you corner or if you hit a bump, the top of the wheels leans out, reducing camber, and thus, reducing rubber to road contact which results in inferior handling.  By relocating the UCA, the Mustang camber curve is changed from positive to negative, which significantly improves handling.  Also, another added benefit of the UCA drop is that the arc of the camber curve is flattened, which results in a much smaller change in camber during full range of suspension motion. So, the camber of the wheels stays closer to the specification it was aligned to during a full range of suspension motion.

Tools Needed:
1.    Sharp 1/8” drill bit
2.    Step drill bit or increasing sizes in normal type bits
3.    17/32” drill bit
4.    1⁄2” deep socket for shock nuts
5.    Bolt-in Spring Compressor
6.    3⁄4” wrench and socket
7.    1⁄2” drill
8.    Floor Jack, jack stands, 6X6 wooden block
9.    UCA Drop template

Spring Compressors 101:

Performing the UCA drop requires compressing the coil springs.  Failure to safely deal with coil springs can result in serious injury or even death.  There are three main ways to remove coil springs: external claw type spring compressor, internal claw type spring compressor, and a bolt-in type spring compressor.

An external claw type spring compressor consists of two separate pieces that clamp onto the outside of the coil spring.  As the nuts on the two pieces are tightened down, the spring is compressed.  There are three main issues with this type of compressor.  First, both sides need to be tightened an equal amount and, since each piece has its own tightening nut, this is easier said than done.  Second, this type of compressor REQUIRES that the two separate pieces be opposite of each other.  Unfortunately, the shock towers of a classic Ford do not allow the two pieces to be positioned completely opposite of each other, which create an unstable compressed spring.  Third, the claws of the compressor are held to the spring by tension from the compressed spring.  If the claws slip, the spring can decompress violently.  Many chose to use this type of compressor because they are inexpensive and can be purchased for less than $30.00.

The second type of claw spring compressor is an internal unit, which has four claws (two at the top and two at the bottom) that grab an upper and a lower coil of the spring.  One tightening nut pulls the two sets of claws closer together and compresses the spring.  This compressor is much better for a Mustang then the above mentioned external claw type, however, it is still not the best option.  There are two main problems with this type of system.  First, often times on a classic Ford, a 3 to 4 inch spacer (usually a piece of pipe) is required to be positioned between the upper claw assembly and the tightening head to keep the compressor from bottoming out in the UCA.  Secondly, as with the external claw type, the tension of the compressed spring is all that holds the compressor in place and, as before, if those claws slip, the spring can decompress violently.  It was this type of compressor that sent me to the emergency room in June of 2005.  After already removing the passenger’s side spring, I was working on the driver’s side assembly and had compressed the spring and was in the process of removing it when the compressor slipped, the spring decompressed and pinned my right hand by the three middle fingers palm side up, between the bottom of the coil spring and the spring perch.  Engaging this type of compressor requires using two hands and, of course, I was alone, the garage door was down, my cell phone was on the passenger’s side fender out of reach and most of my tools, at least any that could have been effective in freeing my hand, were on the floor next to the passenger’s side where I had already pulled the suspension apart.  All I had within arms reach was the 1⁄2” box wrench (no more than 6” long) that I had just used to remove the shock.  I jammed the wrench in between the spring and the perch and was able to pry the spring up enough to get the finger next to my pinkie free.  I then pried on the opposite side and got my index finger free.  To get my middle finger out, I pried again with the wrench and pulled as hard as I could with the trapped arm and got my hand out. To make a long story short, I still have all my fingers and they still work, however, I occasionally feel some stiffness in the middle finger joints.  I was lucky!!!!!  Needless to say, it is my personal mission to convince everyone to use a bolt-in type compressor.

The third type of spring compressor is the previously mentioned bolt-in type compressor.  This compressor bolts to the spring perch and the top of the shock tower, just like a shock.  Once the spring has been compressed, there is no way for it to come loose unless you intentionally decompress the compressor.  The “down side” to this type of compressor is that in order to completely remove the spring, the UCA needs to be removed to get the spring out.  This adds about 15 minutes to the task of changing springs, however, that 15 minutes is well worth the improved safety factor.  See my
spring compressor page for details on how to build one yourself.

Bolt-in spring compressor

Performing the UCA Drop

1.   Remove shocks and Install spring compressor
The first step is to remove the shock and replace it with a bolt-in spring compressor.  Believe it or not, I have found that it is much easier to do much of this part of the job with the car on the ground.  When the car is still on the ground, the UCA is almost parallel with the ground and, with the UCA in this position there is easy removal of the shock nuts and the spring perch nuts.  Also, with the car on the ground, the spring compressor can be just as easily installed and the weight of the car helps to compress the springs, making the tightening of the compressor much easier.

2.    Compress spring, Unbolt spring perch from A-arm
As mentioned above, with the car still on the ground, compress the springs about 1” to 2” lower than normal ride height, then slowly jack up the car.  Since the nuts that hold the spring perch to the UCA have been removed, the spring perch should pull free of the UCA as the car body rises and the suspension drops.  As the suspension drops, make sure that the brake hoses are not supporting the weight of the suspension.

3.   Remove UCA, Support the hub, Save shims, and Inspect UCA

Suspension in stock configuration
Once you have the spring perch free of the UCA, remove the two nuts that hold the UCA to the shock tower.  Before you pull the UCA free of the shock tower, reach behind and remove any shims (cars before 1967) and keep track of what shims went where.  I always wrap mine with masking tape and label them so I know exactly where the suspension settings were prior to the modification.  Also prior to UCA removal, I recommend placing a 6 X 6 block of wood under the Lower Control Arm, LCA, so that, once the UCA is removed, the weight of the spindle and brake assembly is not on the brake hose. Remove the UCA and shift the assembly to the rear of the car, making sure that there is no undue strain put on previously mentioned brake hoses.  There is no need to remove the UCA from the spindle, however, if you have not already done so, this is a good time to rebuild the UCA bushing for improved greaseability and extra positive caster.  At the very least, you need to inspect the UCA to ensure it is in reusable condition, as well as inspect the ball joint and pivot bushing.

4.    Decompress and remove spring
With a bolt-in type compressor, the spring perch is bolted to the compressor and holds the compressed spring in place.  That means one could, in theory, perform the UCA drop without removing the springs, however, I do not recommend this.  Compressed springs can be dangerous to work with and I would much rather take the few extra minutes required to decompress the spring and remove it than to be working in direct contact with a bomb (I mean compressed spring) waiting to go off.  Loosen the spring compressor until all spring tension is eliminated, making sure the spring perch does not catch on the frame rail at the base of the shock tower, and then remove the tightening nut from the compressor so that you can drop the spring perch, spring and compressor out of the shock tower as a unit and set them off to the side.

Original holes no UCA drop holes

Steel template bolted into place

5.    Bolt in template
The physical specifications of the UCA drop for Falcons and Mustangs 1960-1966 are 1” down perpendicular to the centerline of the original UCA mounting holes and 1/8” back along the centerline of the new holes locations. The physical specifications of the UCA drop for Falcons, Cougars and Mustangs 1967-1970 are 1” down perpendicular to the centerline of the original UCA mounting.  A paper template can be used to drill the new holes, however, for ease and accuracy, I recommend making or buying a guide template that can be bolted into place using the original UCA mounting holes, and then used to drill two 1/8” pilot holes. Metal templates can be purchased from my For Sale page. The main advantage of using a metal template rather than a paper template is that you have the opportunity to measure the pilot holes to ensure accuracy prior to drilling in the shock tower.  When using a paper template, said pilot holes are drilled directly into the shock tower and, if their location is off, relocating them can be a challenge.  The only time the pilot holes locations would be different than the above mentioned is if performing an “improved positive caster drop”.  NOTE:  if performing this modification on a car made before 1967 or if you are performing an improved positive caster drop, make sure the new holes are located to the rear of the car.  If you bolt in a steel template backward it will cause you to drill the pilot holes towards the front of the car.  Information on improving caster through the UCA drop is located below.  Once the 1/8” pilot holes have been drilled, the template can be unbolted and used on the other side.

6.    Drill holes 17/32”

The steel used to make the shock towers of these early Ford cars is probably the hardest steel on the vehicle.  Because of this, I recommend drilling out the holes one size at a time, starting with 1/8” and going up no more than 1/16” at a time, but preferably 1/32” at a time.  Using a step drill bit can easily facilitate this.  The final drill bit size needs to be 17/32” and can be purchased on my For Sale page.  It is well worth it to purchase the correct size drill bit rather than worbeling the hole out with a 1⁄2” bit or increasing the size with a file.  The hole needs to be just bigger than 1⁄2” so that the UCA can be easily installed and removed and also, on the pre-1967 cars, so that the UCA can be moved easily when installing alignment shims.  NOTE:  when drilling the holes make sure that you are not drilling into any parts in the engine compartment other than the shock tower.  When I did mine, I placed a piece of 1/8” plate steel between the shock tower and my header tubes to ensure I didn’t puncture them.

7.   Reinstall spring

Pilot holes ready to be enlarged
Once the new holes are drilled, it is time to put everything back together.  Start by taking the spring compressor, spring perch and coil spring assembly and reinstalling them back into the shock tower.  Once the compressor is back in place, install the spring compressor tightening nut and begin to tighten it down.  As you tighten it down, make sure the spring perch stays correctly positioned with the spring stop in the back toward the engine compartment.  The spring compressor will need to be tightened to the point where the A-arm can be installed.

9.    Inspect suspension stop, Install A-arm including shims
Prior to reinstallation of the UCA, it is important to make sure that the rubber stops on the under side of the shock tower are in good shape.  If these stops are damaged or missing, it is possible for the suspension to travel to an unsafe position, which can cause ball joint failure.  Once stops are deemed sufficient, install UCA in the new mounting holes and install the spring perch mounting bolts into the UCA.   You may need to tighten or loosen the spring compressor just a bit to effectively position everything.  Install the spring perch nuts and the UCA nuts, remembering before you tighten the UCA nuts down, take the shims you removed earlier (pre-1967 cars), remove 1/8” to 1⁄4” of them (removing the same amount from all four sets) and install them between the UCA and shock tower in the position they came in.  Tighten down the UCA bolts and spring perch nuts and torque to factory specs.  NOTE:  the rear UCA bolt comes through near a small metal ridge on the shock tower in the engine compartment.  Some people tighten the nut down onto the ridge but I personally choose to grind down one side of a washer and install it between the shock tower and the nut so the nut doesn’t hit on the ridge.

10.    Install wheel, Lower car, Remove spring compressor, and Install Shock
Once you have the UCA and spring perch/spring assembly installed and all nuts and bolts have been torqued to factory specifications, you can install the wheel and lower the car back down to the ground.  As with step 1, removing the bolt-in spring compressor and installing the shock is much easier with the full weight of the car on the ground. 

11.    Modify other side
Once one side has been modified, repeat steps 1-10 on the other side.  After both sides have been modified and are put back together, it is now time for the final step, which is to have the car aligned.

Having the car aligned:
There are several things to keep in mind when having your car aligned.  First, factory Ford settings WILL NOT make for a good handling car.  The original Ford settings were created with tires made in the 1960’s in mind and are not the ideal settings to maximize performance.  Second, make sure you trust the alignment shop.  Aligning an early Ford can be very challenging, especially with a “shim” type alignment because as you change either camber or caster, the other setting is affected.  This makes the process very time consuming and some alignment shops will align the car to settings easy for them, rather than the setting you requested.  NOTE:  for best results, have the alignment shop print out a before and after specification sheet.  Third, aligning a classic Ford, especially a pre-1967 car, is not an exact process and, due to the effects that changing either camber or caster have on each other, the alignment shop will need a set of tolerance specifications to align the car within.  The following is a print out that I take to my alignment shop every time I have my car aligned.

Please align to these specs “1960-1966 Mustang and Falcon Performance Alignment with or without UCA drop”. 

These specifications are in order of importance.

1.  NO more than .25 degrees difference between driver’s side and passenger’s side.

2. +2.0  to +3.5 degrees caster. 
NOTE: for cars with Adjustable strut rods.  Please attain as much caster as possible using the shims (at least 1.5 to 2.0 degrees), and then use the adjustable strut rods  to increase the caster and make the sides the same.  Also, please note that the caster difference between the driver’s side and passenger’s side needs to have no more .25 degrees difference prior to the adjustment of the strut rods.

3.  -.5 to 0 degrees camber.  No positive camber, please.  There is no problem having a slight variation from driver’s side to passenger’s side to account for the crown in the road.

4.    1/16" to 1/8” toe in

If you run into any problems attaining these specs, please call me (your phone number here).

Please align to these specs “1967-1970 Mustang, Falcon & Cougar Performance Alignment with or without UCA drop”. 

These specifications are in order of importance.

1.  NO more than .25 degrees difference between driver’s side and passenger’s side.

2. +2.0  to +3.5 degrees caster.  

3.  -.5 to 0 degrees camber.  No positive camber, please.  There is no problem having a slight variation from driver’s side to passenger’s side to account for the crown in the road.

4.    1/16" to 1/8” toe in

If you run into any problems attaining these specs, please call me (your phone number here).

Once you have the car aligned, it is time to drive, drive, and drive some more.  You should notice an immediate improvement in the way the car handles.  As I have said before, the UCA drop is one of the single biggest ways to improve the way a Mustang handles and it should be obvious the first time you take it for a spin

Other Things To Consider:
Increased caster drop
It is possible to do a UCA drop that improves caster by relocating the UCA further toward the rear of the car.  In the case of both the 1960-1966 drop and the 1967-1970 drop, you should be able to relocate the holes 1/16” to 1/8” toward the rear of the car.  In a 1960-1966 drop, you will be adding the additional distance to existing rearward relocation.  In the case of the 1967-1970 drop, the relocation is similar to the non-improved caster 1960-1966 template.  NOTE:  before you make an improved caster modification, make sure you have enough clearance between the rear zirk and the shock tower wall.  Also, make sure that relocating the UCA holes will not cause the UCA nuts to be in a position where they could not be tightened down.

UCA drop misnomers

“ALL UCA drops, regardless of dropped distance, require the use of a negative wedge kit.”
The negative wedge kit is not required on drops of 1” or less.  The 1” UCA drop causes the upper ball joint to extent to a position near its max tolerance, however, it does not overextend the ball joint.  A negative wedge kit repositions the angle of the ball joint and increases ball joint range.  By increasing ball joint range, a negative wedge kit allows you to lower the UCA up to a full 1 & 3/4” from the stock location, which is the point that creates the most ideal camber curve.  IF YOU LOWER THE UCA MORE THAN 1” YOU MUST USE A NEGATIVE WEDGE KIT!!!  If you do not, the UCA ball joint will be extended past its designed range of motion and separate, which will cause suspension failure and possibly an accident.  Something to consider before investing in a negative wedge kit is that the benefit of UCA drops of more than 1” are minimally more effective than the standard 1” drop.  What I mean to say is that the difference between a 1” drop and a drop of 1 & 3/4” is negligible.  Many people who have purchased the negative wedge kit and lowered the UCA more than 1”point out that the difference between the 1" and 1 & 3/4" drop is too difficult to see on the street and not worth the money, in their opinion, for street cars.  IMHO, the only time the 1 & 3⁄4” drop is worth the time, effort and or cost, is when the car has been built for the circle track.   If you want to purchase a 1 & 3/4" UCA drop templace go to Opentracker Racing Products

“Doing the UCA drop actually lowers the ride height of the car 1 inch.”
Although the upper control arms are lowered one inch, your Mustang's ride height will not sit one inch lower in the front.  I noticed about 1⁄4” drop on both of my Mustangs from this modification after the suspension settled, and ride height changes between 1⁄4” and 5/8” have been reported by others who have done this modification.   The reason this modification does not lower the car a full 1” is that ride height is determined by the spring and shock and the relative height where the spring and shock attach to the UCA.  The ball joint end of the UCA rests at a fixed height to the road and the spring assembly is, of course, positioned in the middle of the UCA between the fixed ball joint end and the lowered end.  Since the height of the UCA relative to the road remains the same on one end and changes on the other, the actual drop of the car is somewhere between the two changes of 0” and 1”.  Thus, the drop is less than 1”.

“Lowering springs add to the total drop, meaning a 1" UCA drop with 1" lowering springs will require a negative wedge kit because the sum total is more than 1". ”
Drop springs will NOT effect the need for a negative wedge kit.  This is a common misconception because people combine the drop of the springs and the UCA and think it is a drop of more than 1" and would require the negative wedge kit.  Relocating the UCA mount changes suspension geometry.  Minor changes to the UCA mount location, 1" or less, do not require you to make adjustments to the ball joint. It is the relocation of more than 1" that  changes the geometry so much that it requires the use of the negative wedge kit.   Drop springs on the other hand have absolutely no effect on suspension geometry, they only affect suspension travel, in fact you can take the springs out and you will still NOT need a negative wedge kit.   Lowering springs do NOT add to the sun total of the drop

“All Shelby model Mustang 1966 and later came with the UCA drop built in from Ford”
Due to cost, Shelby stopped doing the UCA drop in 1966 during mid production year.  There was also a magazine article that appeared in the 1960’s that described the Shelby Mustang as having “performance built in”.  This article, coupled with the lack of a second set of UCA mounting holes in the shock towers, led people to believe the UCA drop had been performed at the Ford factory and, thus, started the rumor that these cars had the modification built in from Ford.  If you have a 1966 or newer Shelby Mustang or any Mustang of any year and you are unsure whether or not your car has already had the UCA drop, simply count the number of holes in the shock tower.  If there are two, then the drop has not been performed, but if there are four holes, then the modification has already been preformed.

“Shelby quit performing the UCA drop on Mustangs 1966 and later because the drop with out relocating the ball joint (negative wedge kit) was breaking ball joints”
This is correct information that has been taken out of context and applied incorrectly. Shelby did the 1" drop on the production cars and the 1.75" drop on the track cars. Sense there was no negative wedge kit available in 1965 the track cars did break upper ball joints. Because of this breakage the 1.75" drop was eliminated from the track cars. Due to cost of performing the modification the 1" drop was eliminated from the Shelby production cars mid year of 1966. Sense then people have taken the information about Shelby no longer doing the 1.75" drop on the track cars due to ball joint failure and the fact that the 1" drop was eliminated in 1966 on the production cars put the two together and started the misnomer that Shelby quit doing the UCA drop on Mustangs 1966 and later because the UCA drop was breaking ball joints” which is simply not true.

Using one simple template makes all the difference in handling.

2013 DazeCars
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