Jim Smart
August 7, 2005

Do you remember when we used to drive classic Mustangs daily? We cruised during high school in 1967, drove them to college in 1969, came home from Vietnam in 1972 to a new Cobra Jet Mach 1, and spent an endless summer vacation with a new convertible in 1973. We like to remember our Mustangs like they were during our youth.

But, today, owning and driving a classic Mustang presents its own set of challenges. Those hard bucket seats numb the posterior on a long trip. The driver-to-steering-wheel relationship isn't what it used to be, especially if you're sporting a midlife belly or have shoulder problems. Leaking cowl vents or windshields make our shoes (and carpet) soggy when it rains. That clunk in the front end is annoying. Fuel economy isn't what it could be. Forty-year-old brakes aren't as effective as the four-wheel discs on our everyday '02 GT. Wind noise at highway speeds makes it hard to hear the Rolling Stones on that tinny factory radio. And what about safety?

These and other concerns come up whenever we think about driving a classic Mustang daily or as a weekend pleasure vehicle. But driving an old Mustang on the street doesn't have to be unpleasant or unsafe. Our approach has to be laced with plenty of common sense, better technology where possible, and closer attention to driving technique.

Better Brakes
The first thing you should do to a frequently driven vintage Mustang is install better brakes, especially on cars with drum brakes all around. Opt for a set of four-piston Kelsey-Hayes front disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation. Years ago, we suggested the '68-up single-piston front disc brakes, also called Granada disc brakes, because they were more trouble-free than the four-piston Kelsey-Hayes units that were original equipment from 1965 to 1967. The old four-piston Kelsey-Hayes disc brakes suffered from sticking pistons and dragging pads. Today, the four-piston front disc brakes from Stainless Steel Brakes are refined to keep the pistons working smoothly. It's simply a better disc brake than the single-piston unit.

Single-piston front disc brakes deliver braking pressure at a single point. Four-piston calipers deliver brake pressure more uniformly across both pads, making it a more effective disc brake. One advantage of the single-piston caliper is it's free-floating, which isolates the caliper from the spindle. The four-piston caliper mounts directly onto the spindle.

Single-piston front disc brakes were cheaper to manufacture, yet effective for street use.

Double Up With A Dual Braking System
Prior to the '67 model year, all U.S.-made automobiles had a single hydraulic braking system that operated all four brakes. If you lost the master cylinder or had a brake-line rupture, the result was no braking of any kind. The most you could hope for was the parking brake, which didn't offer much consolation when hydraulics were lost.

Beginning in 1967, Ford fitted new Mustangs with a dual-braking system--one master cylinder with two reservoirs, which is basically two master cylinders combined on a single bore. Each master cylinder, both tied to one pushrod, provided braking pressure to the front and rear brakes. The rear reservoir and cylinder provided pressure to the front brakes. The front reservoir and cylinder provided pressure for the rear brakes. If one system failed, the remaining system would provide some stopping power.

Single braking systems are easily converted to dual systems with a dual-reservoir master cylinder and some minor plumbing work. We suggest running the rear brakes directly off the master cylinder's front reservoir with an adjustable proportioning valve within easy reach. The front brakes can be run from the distribution block we see on '65-'66 Mustangs. You can also use the '67 or '68-'70 distribution block with the warning-light switch that advises you of lost braking pressure should either system fail. All you need is a fused power source, wiring, and the switch. When the switch detects a drop in pressure, it grounds the circuit, illuminating the warning light.