K.J. Jones
June 1, 2006
Tired of the time-honored look of five-spoke Pony wheels (the car sported the original "10-Holes" prior to that), Jose Ybarra decided to step up to bigger wheels for his '89 coupe, and he needed an extra lug to get it done.

Take-Off Technology" isn't a new process-not by any stretch-but it's a part of our Mustang world that won't grow old. The process can be both high-tech and, sometimes crudely, low-tech, but it's usually effective either way. It's basically centered on removing-or "passing down," if you will-parts from a newer 'Stang for use as an upgrade on an earlier car. We've all seen this technology in one form or another with performance, appearance, and such. A couple of the more notable examples through the years have been:* Speed Density to Mass Air Conversion* 4.6 Mod-Motor into Fox 'Stang Swap

Upgrading a Fox Mustang's brake system (front discs and rear drums) from four-lugs to five is a do-it-yourself project that's been around a long time. The first iteration of this improvement involved scavenging parts from '83-'92 Ford Rangers and '91-up Lincoln Mark VIIs. Each vehicle had components-such as driver-side axles and five-lug, 9-inch rear drums from the four-banger and 3.0 Ranger, and 11-inch front rotors from the Mark-that made adding a lug simple and relatively inexpensive. The swaps became so popular that Ford Racing Performance Parts (Ford Motorsport at the time) eventually packaged the whole works in two complete systems-front and rear.

After raising the coupe, supporting it on jackstands, disconnecting the negative battery cable, and removing the wheels, Sal starts the job at the back of the car by dropping the diff fluid, then disconnecting the axles' C-clips, removing the pin, and sliding out each axle shaft. We're replacing the four-lug, stock axles with a pair of '94-'98 sticks that our buddies at B&D Racing fortunately had in their "take-off" collection.

Converting to a five-lug setup on a Fox 'Stang has been popular for two reasons. While the percentages of myth and fact on this theory are uncertain, some gearheads say that because of the torque forces generated by high-powered 'Stangs, the additional lug adds strength to the rotors up front and axles in the rear, which is critical in most racing applications. The more popular reason is purely cosmetic. The assortment of available wheels and tires is huge, thanks to the extra lug. The four-lug wheel options are slim for '79-'93 Mustangs. While some aftermarket hoops are OK, the abundance of cool, popular styles is based on the five-lug wheel.

Although our buddy Sal Ybarra (pronounced "Eee-Bar-Rah") is fairly young at 33, he's regarded highly as an "OG"-an authority on all-things Mustang in and around Southern California-and he's one of our valued sources for locating many of the SoCal 'Stangs that are used for our tech articles. Sal also has an uncanny knack for being able to find virgins-that's untouched Fox Mustangs, people!

When we told Sal we needed a Fox that was still rolling on four-luggers for our latest installment of 5.0 Basics, it didn't take him long to find one. The car, which belongs to Sal's brother, Jose, is a clean and totally unmolested '89 coupe. Slapping on a set of five-lug, Bullitt-style wheels was something the brothers had planned to do as an upgrade for the car, so our timing was surprisingly perfect-or so we thought.

Note the difference in length between the stock Fox axleshaft (left) and that of a '94-'98 Mustang (right). The SN-95 axle is slightly longer, and it includes an exciter ring for an ABS sensor.

We initially thought we'd make this swap by using only used parts, but we weren't able to acquire all the pieces we needed in a timely manner. How does an area socked with a supply of Mustang take-off parts for a five-lug conversion completely dry up? We called Baer Racing and explained our idea and situation to Jackie Lyndon and Ben O'Connor, who were awesome with their assistance. They suggested a five-lug, four-wheel-disc-brake system and got it to us in record time.

Apparently, Baer heard the cries long ago of 'Stangbangers who wanted five lugs and developed the 12-inch Sport systems for the front (PN 4261068; $1,172.22) and the rear (PN 4262063; $1,150) of a Fox. The systems make adding that high-demand lug a simple deal. Baer's conversion systems include drilled and slotted front and rear discs, pin-guided calipers, all of the mounting brackets, brake lines, fittings, bolts, and the master cylinder. Bolts are also available separately (PN 6801123; $14.80). An optional proportioning valve (PN 2000035; $72.17) for adjusting rear-brake bias is recommended. But hitting the wrecking yard or a 'Stang shop for a few additional hard parts is still required. The Baer systems are for '87-'93 cars, but they require '94-'95 front spindles and hubs, and five-lug rear axles from a '94-'98 Mustang.

Sal removes the rings from both axles because they aren't necessary for this type of swap, and the clearance between the exciter ring and backing plate for the Baer calipers is closer than we prefer.

Sal, who owns Sal's Speed Shop, of San Fernando, California, knows his way around a Fox, so he performed the swap on his brother's ride in the driveway, without needing a twin-post lift or air tools to get it done. This job is definitely DIY-friendly. The system installed in drama-free short order, and we didn't experience any clearance issues or need to use wheel spacers for proper fitment of the 17-inch, '02 Bullitt rollers that now look downright bitchin' underneath Jose's coupe.

Next up are four new tires and a moderate lowering of the body. No doubt, this is one trunk Mustang that will surely turn heads when it's cruising the streets of the San Fernando Valley. The accompanying photos and captions show you how it's done.

Horse Sense: While technically just a small blip on the overall Mustang-racing radar, Sal's Speed Shop definitely has corralled a large number of Southern California Mustang drag racers. Whenever one of Sal Ybarra's Mustang Drag Days is on the schedule, it isn't uncommon for nearly 100 ponies to arrive at Los Angeles County Raceway. Check out www.salsspeedshop.com for more information and dates for upcoming Mustang Drag Days.

Sal bends the stock brake line downward about 4 inches. It sits behind the new backing plate per Baer's instructions and is connected to the provided braided lines that are secured to the calipers.

With our take-off axles, take-off Bullitt wheels, and Baer 12-inch rear brakes installed, here's how the five-lug upgrade looks on Jose Ybarra's coupe. Once the diff cover has been reinstalled, it's important to fill the rear with a good, synthetic gear oil and one bottle of FRPP friction modifier additive. With this leg of the conversion completed, Sal moves on to the front of the car.

In the front, Sal disassembles the stock front brakes on both sides. The calipers, rotors, struts, tie-rod ends, and ball joints must be disconnected from the spindles.

One interesting difference between the SN-95 (left) and Fox (right) spindles is that the ball-joint stud on a Fox Mustang's spindle is slightly longer than the stud on the SN-95 spindle (see arrows). As Sal tightens down on the spindle's crown nut for the ball-joint stud, the nut seats well below the hole for the cotter pin, which causes an alignment issue for the pin.

We came up with a simple spacer solution for this. We used a couple of 51/48 hardened washers to achieve the necessary height so the ball-joint stud sits perfectly in the SN-95 spindle and the cotter pin is positioned properly. Note that the dust shields from the new spindles are gone. They were hammered, so we took them off by drilling through the rivets that secure the covers to each spindle.

Front spindle and hub assemblies from V-6 or GT model '94-'95 Mustangs can be used for this type of conversion. Ours are from a '94.

Installing a proportioning valve is always recommended when this type of conversion is done.

With the brake system completely installed (the stock master cylinder is also replaced with the unit that's included with the Sport system), Sal adds two pints of Ford Motorcraft DOT 3 brake fluid, then bleeds the brake lines to clear out any air that might have become trapped during the swap.

Now the car is ready for a set of new tires and a wheel alignment, as the take-off Goodyears were pretty far gone. Converting to five-lugs does have its appearance virtues, no doubt. Jose's 'Stang looks great with the '02 Bullitt wheels, and there's no doubt it will look absolutely sinister when the car is lowered an inch or so. There are no rubbing or clearance issues to worry about when the conversion is made with the Baer Racing Sport system for '87-'93 Mustangs, as the wheels and/or tires don't stick out from under the wheelwells. The bigger rotors at all four corners bring about much-improved stopping over the disc/drum setup.

The red-logo'd Baer Sport two-piston caliper and 12-inch slotted/drilled disc peek through the new five-lug 17s up front. A wheel alignment is mandatory after completing this type of conversion. The slight difference between the Fox and SN-95 spindles creates a change in the steering geometry that leaves the front wheels severely toed in, which makes steering difficult.

We decided to use Baer's Sport brake system. The front system, for '87-'93 Mustangs, features one-piece, cast-iron 12-inch rotors. The discs are slotted and drilled, Zinc-plated (to help prevent corrosion), and are stopped by dual-piston, pin-guided calipers. Baer's rear-brake system includes 12-inch rotors with single-piston calipers. The rear brakes also have provisions for reinstalling the parking brakes on a Fox Mustang.

One of the cool things about Baer's five-lug conversion is that everything needed for a smooth swap is included. All the necessary bolts, brake lines, and fittings are there, which saves time and makes the installation easier.

Also shown are the take-off parts necessary for a five-lug conversion for those on a budget. Finding everything you need in a junkyard, 'Stang shop, the Internet, or at swap meets can be hit and miss, and the lines required for the swap aren't available in take-off form. You're taking a big chance when you "build" a five-lug conversion, as the parts you install may have damage that isn't immediately visible, as we found out. Having a good braking system on your Mustang is critical, regardless of how fast it is. For the time and money you'll spend trying to cobble together a conversion kit from take-off parts, you're better off buying a setup such as the one we used from Baer Racing. If you still want to brave the take-off part route, consult http://sn95brakes.cjb.net/ for some valuable info.