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'65-'73 Mustang Street Survival Guide
How to live with (and enjoy) your vintage Mustang on the street
Do You Need Four-Wheel Disc Brakes?
For all the hoopla about four-wheel disc brakes, here are the facts. Disc brakes work more effectively than drum brakes because they resist fading under heavy braking. They also resist lockup and continue to operate well in wet conditions. But, do you need them for your classic Mustang driver? If you want truly effective braking without the drawbacks of rear drum brakes, order a set of rear disc brakes. They will improve braking effectiveness and require very little maintenance except for occasional pad changes.
The parking brake is the downside to rear disc brakes. Because '65-'68 Mustangs employ a dash-mounted hand brake, they don't work well even with the stock drum brakes. If having a functional parking brake is important to you (it should be), consider installing a hand brake between the bucket seats. It offers more leverage, which enables you to set the parking brake. The dash-mounted hand brake with rear disc brakes typically doesn't work well. The foot-operated parking brake on '69-'73 Mustangs provides more leverage to set it. Mustangs from '74 and up have the hand brake between the bucket seats, making light work of setting the brake.
Improve Handling For Safety
The best safety equipment available keeps you out of an accident in the first place. We've addressed braking systems, but what about driving your way out of an accident? Mustangs that handle well are easier to maneuver out of trouble. To get there, you need tires with a larger, wider contact patch. You also need a suspension system that makes the most of that contact patch. Stiffer springs reduce body roll and can also lower the car's center of gravity for greater stability. Sway bars also reduce body roll, but there are two schools of thought with them. Some recommend rear sway bars, and others don't. Rear sway bars generally do a terrific job, but they can be noisy.
Three types of suspension bushings are available: rubber, polyurethane, and urethane. The factory used rubber to begin with, as it has the most "give" and takes up more road shock. Polyurethane is a flexible form of urethane because it consists of several polymers designed to absorb a lot of road shock while keeping suspension components where they belong. Urethane is as hard as a brick. It doesn't give or forgive. Expect extraordinary stiffness, which is wonderful on a road course but annoying during the morning commute.
There are three basic types of shock absorbers: gas shocks, high-performance gas shocks, and super heavy-duty, adjustable gas shocks. Standard gas shocks damp the ride like a stock shock absorber and take up road shock well, but you sacrifice handling. High-performance gas shocks, like KYBs, stiffen the ride and improve handling. Heavy-duty, adjustable gas shocks, like Konis, greatly improve handling, but ride quality suffers. The best street compromise we've seen is 620 coils and five-leafs with either the standard gas shock or the high-performance gas shock. The super-stiff 620s and Koni shocks are wonderful on the track, but will beat the daylights out of you during normal street driving.
The hot shoes will suggest the thickest front sway bar out there, but all you need for the street is a 1-inch front sway bar. Anything thicker will harden the ride and make noise.
More advanced suspension technology is available, like the Fox-body-based suspension system from RRS, which provides both ride and handling. Total Control's front coilover suspension system is also a nice substitute for the Mustang's Falconesque upper-arm setup, which remains antiquated in 2005. The Total Control system isn't cheap, but it improves classic Mustang handling and ride quality.
When you lower your Mustang's center of gravity with lowering springs, you make the car safer by making it a vehicle less likely to roll over during an evasive maneuver. A lower center of gravity keeps the vehicle stable.
Single Wire, One Less Thing
Older Mustangs through the mid-'80s had alternator-charging systems with external voltage regulators, offering reliability that's hit-and-miss with those old mechanical point contacts. Solid-state voltage regulators have improved reliability and charging-system performance. Still, reliability isn't what it could be.
Single-wire alternator charging systems are good for alternator and generator charging systems alike. If you have a '641/2 Mustang, you can replace the generator with a single-wire alternator and eliminate the dated charging system entirely. What's more, you can keep the car's original wiring, which won't be used with the single-wire system. With a single-wire alternator, all you need is a link between the alternator and battery, and a ground wire. By stepping up to a high-tech, high-amp single-wire alternator from Powermaster, you'll have 160 amps of charging power at your disposal, which is great for sound systems, power windows, additional lighting, electronic engine control, and other accessories.