Michael Galimi
June 6, 2011

These cars certainly made the previous generation owners a little green with its features, but thanks to the aftermarket, the S197 benefits are trickling down to older Mustangs. This month, McLeod Racing is bringing something new to the older Mustangs in the form of a Hydraulic Conversion kit for '79-'04 Mustangs. The lightweight pedal feel is no longer exclusive to '05-and-newer Mustang models as McLeod offers two conversion systems, an internal (PN 14-325) and external (PN 14-326) reservoir setup, and JPC Racing lists each kit for $579. This system is a welcome change for those with a heavier clutch in the bell-housing thanks to a warmed-over engine.

Our test car is a '92 Mustang LX that belongs to Dale and Rita Elkins, and it was the perfect candidate for a hydraulic-assist conversion. The engine is a JPC/RGR 331ci bullet with a set of CNC-ported Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, custom JPC cam, Ford Racing GT40 intake, and a Vortech S-trim supercharger. The Elkins family rows the gears of a G-Force modified T5 transmission and a Centerforce DFX clutch has been enlisted to transfer the power. The car cranks out a respectable 570 rwhp at JPC Racing, and while the clutch pedal isn't terribly heavy, it isn't a lightweight one like an '05-or-newer model.

Justin Burcham of JPC Racing was quick to comment: 'Another benefit to better pedal feel with the McLeod setup is that you don't have to worry about the clutch cable sitting on a long-tube header pipe and burning up. That usually leads to buying a few clutch cables over the years.'

The lighter pedal is a welcome change for daily drivers, and according to McLeod's Lee Kilcoyne and Red Roberts, the pedal effort was reduced quite a bit. The duo used a Tavia Performance valvespring tester to chart the changes. The cable setup consistently read 45 psi of pressure required to engage the clutch pedal. After the installation of the McLeod hydraulic conversion, the Tavia gauge had a range of 19 to 25 psi as the R&D team tested it extensively. The testing method was accomplished using a variety of foot positions and gauge placement to ensure accurate and consistent results.

'I was skeptical when Red Roberts came up with the idea. I wasn't a fan of hydraulic clutches to say the least,' explains Kilcoyne. 'After the team here at McLeod perfected this setup, I am a convert.' Kilcoyne went on to explain he could run any clutch on the street with easeùregardless of clamp loadùand the pedal still feels soft like an import car with a stock clutch. 'As a matter of fact, this kit was installed in our shop car ('89 Mustang GT) and our secretary even drove it in traffic. We have a McLeod 2,950-pound Kevlar clutch in it!'

The hydraulic conversion is a simple concept and works much like hydraulic brakes. You depress the clutch pedal and a plunger in the master cylinder forces the fluid through the slave cylinder (mounted by the bell-housing), which in turn pushes the rod that is attached to the release fork and bearing, and ultimately disengages the clutch. The slave cylinder's rod is pushed back by the pressure plate springs, and the fluid is forced back into the master cylinder. The traditional cable method is a direct mechanical link to the release fork, so your left foot is doing the work. In the hydraulic method, the fluid does the work while the clutch pedal feels the same on the other end of the system.

We selected the external reservoir for ease of installation and it was no harder than installing a clutch cable and quadrant. JPC's Dale Wood tackled the chore in a couple of hours as he stopped every few minutes for photos. The only additional thing we needed was DOT-3 brake fluid for the reservoir. Once we filled the reservoir, Wood bled the system and it was ready for action. Burcham quickly stole the keys and went for the first ride. "I can't believe how different the pedal feels. It is so much lighter then when the car had the cable in there."

Kilcoyne sums it up best: "I have driven all of our clutches from mild to wild in SoCal traffic and my left leg was beginning to look like I squat big weight. The cable setup just wasn't doing it for me. It (the hydraulic kit) makes driving my Mustang fun again and I no longer dread the Friday afternoon traffic. I might even let my wife drive the car thanks to this conversion kit."

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