Over the past few years, Dodge has reintroduced the Direct Connection brand with an array of high performance components for modern vehicles. Many of the items in the modern Direct Connection catalog are branded as Direct Connection or Mopar items, such as their crate engines, stage kits, internal engine components, exhaust systems, air intake systems, but for their high performance suspension components, the company turned to the most popular aftermarket suspension company in the modern Mopar community.
AAD Performance has long been the go-to for modern Mopar owners who are looking for suspension components that offer unsurpassed performance capabilities. For drag racers, the AAD billet rear control arms have guided many of the quickest and fastest Dodge Challengers and Chargers down the track while competing brands have issues with their control arms bending on a hard launch. In addition to making those high strength rear control arms, AAD’s other suspension components are popular with Hellcat and SRT Demon racers who want to cut weight around the wheels without compromising strength.
For road racers, AAD offers items like adjustable front and rear upper control arms, allowing Dodge Challenger and Charger owners who want to fine-tune their vehicles’ handling, but those adjustable components are also popular items for owners who are having alignment and tire wear issues. If you are active in any modern Dodge owners’ groups, you have likely seen posts about cars that wear tires without explanation. For those folks, AAD Performance suspension components are the best way to stop destroying tires, making these adjustable, billet items popular well beyond the racing world.
Also, thanks to the attractive billet finish and the varying colors, AAD Performance suspension items are a hot commodity in the car show scene, as there is no better way to spruce up the undercarriage of your late model Dodge Challenger or Charger than bright red aluminum control arms and trailing arms. They offer items in black, red, blue and silver, although some colors are only available as part of limited production runs. Bender explained that he writes some of the CNC toolpaths to create a more aesthetically pleasing product, but he points out that they do focus on performance first.
“We do have a cosmetics policy on our site, our parts are performance parts first, and pretty second, but we realize and recognize that at our price point people also want their parts to be attractive,” said Bender. “We can’t make everyone happy, but we try!”
Based on their performance credentials and their popularity across the modern Mopar community, Dodge tapped AAD Performance to provide suspension components for the Direct Connection catalog. We reached out to the folks at AAD for more information on their company and how they came to be the leader in the world of aftermarket modern Dodge suspension upgrades.
AAD Performance as we know it today was technically founded in 2017 when Parker Bender purchased the intellectual property of All Angles Design from founder Mikah Barnett. Bender has been producing the items for Barnett and AAD since its inception in 2011, but in 2017, Bender bought AAD and began building the brand that we know today.
While AAD Performance is known today for making the best suspension components for the modern Dodge Challenger and Charger, the company actually got started making catch cans, brake calipers for off-road carts and a shifter for the Fiat 500. However, it was their lower tension arms for the LX/LC/LA lineup that they introduced in 2012 that began their growth within the modern Mopar community. Based on the popularity of those items, AAD Performance grew from 16 items in 2017 to more than 200 items today.
Today, AAD Performance is based in Missouri and they design, engineer and produce all of their components in-house, so their products are proudly made in the USA, but they also laser cut their own packaging and print their own labels – so even their packaging is made in the USA.
Next, we asked Bender what makes AAD Performance better than the competition: “Well, actually a few things. The first thing is to look either at a problem to which there is no solution or somewhere where I have strong ideas to make real changes to how something is done. If the only way to do it is the same as someone else, we don’t even start,” said Bender.
“Then there is not really consideration for what a part is going to cost until after an initial design is made. Later in a design we may look to see if we can tweak something to improve it’s cost/benefit ratio, but if a product doesn’t make sense as an all-out money is no object performance part, then it dies on the cutting room floor. Because of this many times we end up with parts more akin to F1 stuff and not shadetree mechanic stuff, but at more acceptable prices.”
He also stated that “we never claim to be the cheapest, but we are the best.” While speaking with Bender, as asked what the company is working on in addition to their tried-and-true suspension components:
“So, we are now working on lightweighting stuff which I am hoping will become a larger part of our business as time goes on. We also offer TRX and Jeep parts (with more to come!) which it seems not many people know about. We do mostly stay in our lane of suspension parts, as there are so many companies making engine parts that there are not a ton of things we could do without copying someone (which goes against our previously stated design intentions), but we may do more braking stuff in the future, I have some cool performance ideas that are somewhat F1 based but nobody is doing them in the mainstream market for cost reasons, I think I might be able to innovate there a bit.
“We have several products that are on the ‘secret menu’ that I think will see the light of day soon. Many of which are due to the previous theme that they were designed as all-out performance parts, and now we are working on making them more affordable to the masses. One that I know will be out in the next month or two is our rear lower control arm, which is specifically designed to work with true coilover springs as it was designed with no spring pocket (well, it has a removable one, but that’s not where the part really shines). We are also hoping to have more TRX and Jeep WK2 parts out this fall to flesh out our current lineup.”
Finally, we asked Bender what Mopars he and Zach Brennan-Muller drive. Bender is currently working on a 2011 Plymouth Prowler with plans of making a Hemi-swap kit while Brennan-Muller drives a Dodge Charger with a 6-speed manual swap.