K.J. Jones
April 1, 2009
WMS provides everything needed (with the exception of aftermarket hood struts, which are required) to install Stealth hoodpins in about 2 1/2 hours (a good portion of that time is spent checking and double-checking to ensure latch/pin and hood alignment are all true), using nothing more than a few simple wrenches and sockets, a Phillips-head screwdriver, and a drill with 3/32- and 5/64-inch bits.

This month we're addressing a quirk that's inherent in most '05-'09 Mustangs-hood shake. That's right, hood shake, which sometimes leads to the hood completely dislodging from its latch assembly. Naturally, such an experience would rank high on anybody's list of things that make you grip the wheel tightly, especially when your Mustang's hood visits the windshield when the spirited part of your cruise down a long, deserted road is getting started.

The problem stems from the S197's hood design. Despite its neo-retro homage to Ford's muscle Pony of the late '60s, which we really do dig, the new Mustang's hood is flexible and offers minimal venting of the pressurized air inside the engine compartment. Fox-era ('79-'93) and SN-95/New Edge ('94-'04) 'Stangs have vents in the cowl areas that serve as required air bleeds. However, since the black cowling at the base of an S197's windshield doesn't have any venting capability, the 'Stang's hood literally shakes (sometimes ever-so-slightly) as speed increases to allow that trapped air to escape.

Installing hoodpins is a tried-and-true method of securing a Mustang's stock or aftermarket hood, to prevent it from shaking, rattling, or potentially flying back into the windshield or completely off the car. Traditional hoodpin sets are simple in their makeup, as they basically consist of two steel pins that bolt to the top of a Mustang's core support, and pass through holes that are bored in the hood. When the hood is closed, heavy-duty clips are inserted into small holes in each pin that intersect with the hood just above its surface, keeping the hood retained.

Again, a regular hoodpin setup is simple and effective, but it's not too appealing, and standard pins certainly take away from any desired sleeper appearance for your S197, which could be packing the fury of a built Three-Valve and twin turbos under its bonnet.

Since we really dig the deceptive approach for radical street performers and because the safety and welfare of our readers and their Mustangs is important to us, we're introducing new-Mustang owners to a new, unique, and very bitchin' set of undercover hoodpins from Western Motorsports of Calgary in Alberta, Canada.

WMS's Stealth hoodpins ($199) answer the prayers of those S197 owners who have experienced "hood shake," and those who may want to keep their 'Stangs' high-output engines under tighter wraps, without having to drill through the hood and detract from a clean appearance. The Stealth setup is a billet, stainless steel, totally underhood pin system that doesn't require drilling holes through a Mustang's hood to install.

The crew at Extreme Automotive had the perfect candidate for this type of upgrade (a Vortech T-Trim-blown '05 Saleen coupe with a hood that shook like the dickens when boost was in double digits), so we stopped in and watched as Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez went about installing the new pins. The following photos and captions offer a good look at what's involved to bolt the kit onto an S197 'Stang.

Saul "The Surgeon" Gutierrez of Extreme Automotive secures the hood-latch assembly on an '05 Saleen 'Stang that now sports Western Motorsports' new Stealth hoodpin system. One of the few complaints about S197 Mustangs has been a nuance known as hood shake. The stock latch holds the center of the hood down but both corners aren't secured, which allows the hood to shake as speed increases. The Stealth pins' cable-operated latches bolt down to both corners of the radiator support, as seen in the foreground of this photo, and are mated with pins attached to the underside of the hood when the hood is closed.

Stealth latches are forged from billet aluminum and feature recesses that fit over the rubber-snubber mounts, which must be removed, and the two ridged channels in a new Mustang's core support to ensure the latches are secured to the support.

As it does so often, curiosity got the best of us during the install, so we popped open one of the Stealth latches to get a look at its inner workings. Each latch is operated by separate cables that are triggered by a 'Stang's OEM hood release. When the hood is closed, Stealth's stainless steel pins pass into each latch housing, and are retained by solid-billet clamps that lock into place and can't be opened without pulling the hood release.

Unlike traditional hoodpins, which protrude through a hood, the Stealth system's pins are secured to the underside of the hood with the supplied hardware. Drilling 5/64-inch holes is necessary for this task, and it's important to use extra care while drilling, so a hole isn't accidentally bored through the hood skin. Our buddy, Marc Rubin, gave us a great suggestion for securing the pin inside the base, once all of the final clearances and alignments have been made. Using a Vernier caliper, measure the distance from pin housings' bases to the tips of each pin. Next, remove the pins and apply green Loctite 609 retaining compound to each one. Once the Loctite is applied, reinstall the pins to the lengths that were measured prior to removing them.

Once the latch assemblies are secured (mounting the latches requires drilling three 3/32-inch holes and using supplied screws) to the core support, the system's stainless steel pin housings are placed in each latch for alignment and fitment with the hood. WMS provides double-stick tape discs that are the same diameter of the pin housings. When the hood is closed, the housings stick to the hood in the position where they should be secured.

The factory hood-latch assembly must be removed in order to install the WMS kit's latch cables and three simple brackets, which bolt directly in place without modifying or altering the latch. A 10mm wrench and socket are required for this step, as is a pair of needle-nose pliers, for reinstalling the OEM release-return springs. It's important to note that the additional cables make pulling the hood-release lever a bit more difficult.

OK, so the sound of its Vortech T-Trim supercharger might be a giveaway to the fact that this Saleen makes pretty big steam on the dyno. However, if one has to guess what's in it based on looks alone, the Pony's brawn definitely isn't announced by the sight of pins piercing through its hood. (Imagine how unsightly it would look if they were.) Now when the hood is closed, its corners stay solidly intact with no shake whatsoever at any speed, thanks to Western Motorsports' new Stealth pins.