Tom Wilson
January 1, 2005

Horse Sense:
Clutch quadrants are one of those things that sometimes go easily, and sometimes-well-they eventually go. Ours took seemingly forever, but only because the pawl didn't want to come off. When things go right, it's about a two-hour job.

At this point, there isn't much question about the clutch quadrant in old 5.0 Mustangs. Made of hard nylon and brittle from the factory, the stock quadrant and pawl function great, they don't need adjustment, and they don't cost anything since they come with the car. But they don't last, and by now, they've all lasted about as long as you could expect.

Or, at least that's what we told ourselves when the clutch pedal in our '91 LX went stiff and high-effort. The clutch was grabbing right off the floor, and judging from all those grinding shifts, we weren't getting a full clutch release in the first place. Something was amiss, and be it clutch, cable, or quadrant, we needed to fix it. Figuring no matter what, the stock quadrant had done its duty, we opted for Maximum Motorsports nonadjustable quadrant, stock clutch cable, and firewall adjuster for the cure.

So, what's the deal with factory clutch quadrants? It's the brittle nylon teeth on the quadrant and the matching pawl. These teeth allow the mechanism to automatically adjust clutch cable tension, but inevitably they wear and eventually strip. Then you have a ratchety, poorly functioning clutch, if anything. The problem is familiar both to Fox and SN-95 chassis drivers, but age, high-effort aftermarket clutches, and hard driving all conspire to deform or strip the teeth on stock clutch quadrants, so hot-rodded 5.0s are the usual victims.

Typically the clutch cable is changed at the same time as the quadrant. This is expediency on the part of shops. They don't have to take any time to diagnose the cable and quadrant separately, and the thinking is that if one or the other is worn, then both should be changed to avoid a comeback a short time later. Besides, clutch cables stretch and eventually require replacement, and if you are going to disconnect one end of the cable, why not the other end too?

There are many clutch quadrants available for Mustangs. The main feature of Maximum Motorsport's is that it's designed to work with a Ford clutch cable (typically aftermarket quadrants require their own dedicated cables). This allows easy cable replacement, and because the aluminum quadrant won't wear out, the cable is the only part of the system that might ever require replacement in the future-excluding the clutch itself, of course.

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To use the longer Ford cable with a nonadjustable quadrant, Maximum built its system around a firewall adjuster. This is a simple, two-piece, aluminum, threaded collar that fits through the stock hole in the firewall where the cable passes through. The firewall adjuster not only accommodates the now-necessary clutch adjustment to properly tension the cable, but it also allows that adjustment to be done from underhood, rather than crawling under the car and doing it at the bellhousing. Maximum offers several supporting parts and packages as well.

The full Maximum Motorsport quadrant, cable, and associated parts offerings are as follows.

PART NO. DESCRIPTION PRICE*
MMCL-3 Firewall adjuster, $ 39.95
'79-'93
MMCL-4 Firewall adjuster, $ 39.95
'94-'04
MMCL-6 Clutch quadrant $ 34.95
MMCL-7 Pedal height $ 19.95
adjuster for
SN-95 Mustangs
MMCL-11 Universal, $ 59.95
nonadjustable
clutch cable
MMCL-14 Clutch cable $ 7.95
insulator
MMCP-51 Package: cable, $121.36
quadrant, firewall
adjuster
MMCP-52 Package: $ 67.41
quadrant, firewall
adjuster

*All prices Maximum Motorsports list. Dealer prices are typically lower.

Note that the clutch cable is labeled "universal." It's a Ford cable, but it's approximately 10 inches longer than a stock Mustang cable. The extra length is provided on purpose, the better to wind around full-length headers. On stock cars, the longer cable is not an issue, as it simply curves through a larger radius without getting in the way anywhere.

Installing the Maximum clutch quadrant and cable is easier than most, but as always, the worst part is removing the original quadrant and pawl. These parts live atop the pedal assembly under the dashboard, making them difficult to access. It's a good job for the smaller guy in the shop, as large people have difficulty turning on their backs and looking under the dashboard, reaching their big mitts into the tight area atop the pedals, and generally trying to breathe in such a position. For the big guys who must, Maximum highly recommends removing the driver seat-it's only four bolts-which frees up a tremendous amount of room.

The spring-loaded quadrant and pawl pivot on studs and are retained by clevis-type pins and clips. The clips must be pulled in the confines under the dash, then the quadrant and pawl are slid off their pins (which are permanently mounted to the mechanism housing). It sounds easy enough, and indeed, the quadrant typically comes off without too many oaths. As for the pawl, serious leverage and some high-effort Braille work will get it off. Maximum says it's typically easier to simply break the pawl and remove it in pieces. The mousetrap-style spring will slip free on its own as "collateral disassembly" when removing the quadrant, so if that hits you in the forehead during disassembly, don't be alarmed.

Installing the Maximum Motor-sport quadrant is much easier than removing the stocker, although it is still done under the dashboard. There is no spring and no pawl, just the quadrant to slip on.

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Next is the cable, which is disconnected from the clutch release fork under the car and pulled into the engine compartment through the firewall at its upper end. The firewall connection is retained by a single small bolt. With the old cable removed from the car, the firewall adjuster is installed. It slips through the stock clutch cable hole in the firewall and is retained by a single screw. The cable itself is a breeze, as it routes through the firewall adjuster and attaches at the bellhousing in the normal manner.

In all of this, there is a bit of aerobics involved in getting under the car to release and attach the cable at the clutch fork, then going back up underhood to work with the adjuster and cable feed. It's no big deal, but you will need to go upstairs/downstairs several times in the course of this installation, so if you have access to a hoist, great-otherwise you'll definitely want a floor jack, stands, and a creeper.

Adjusting the cable tension couldn't be easier with the Maximum firewall adjuster. There is no locking mechanism other than the friction naturally supplied by the rubber cable housing, so simply rotating the adjuster's knurled collar is all that is necessary. We found the range of adjustment more than adequate, while additional adjustment is possible at the clutch release fork end of the cable.

And in case you're wondering what the problem was with our car, it turned out to be a stretched clutch cable. But our time with Brothers Performance West-who graciously performed our install so we could man the camera-was well spent. We now have a bulletproof clutch quadrant, a fresh clutch cable, and a definitely easier time shifting. We can now scratch "clutch quadrant" off our to-do list. Forever.

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