Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
January 14, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy the Manufacturers

If you look under the hood of any modern vehicle, you will assuredly find the modern multi-rib drive belt—more commonly known as a serpentine belt—driving the engine's accessories. The classic V-shaped drive belt, common to Mustangs until the Fox era, usually meant that the more accessories your engine had to drive, the more belts that were used on the front of the engine. A fully loaded Mustang could easily come from the factory with three to five different drive belts, often of different thicknesses as well. All of these individual drive belts had to be tensioned separately and were often over-tightened at the hands of installers with giant pry bars—sometimes causing accessory bearing failures and in some cases crankshaft bearing failures.

The modern serpentine belt was designed to prevent these issues. The OE application of the six-rib serpentine belt was first seen on the '79 Mustang, an exclusive design to Ford at the time.The serpentine belt's design allowed for one continuous belt wrap around all accessory drive pulleys, one that was kept at the proper belt tension via a spring-loaded belt tensioner. This prevented over tightening of the belt and also allowed for quick and easy belt changes. Ford eventually expanded the serpentine drive system to everything from front-wheel-drive four cylinder models to the F-series trucks. Today you'd be hard pressed to find anything on four wheels built with an old V-belt.

Upgrading your vintage Mustang with a serpentine drive system not only offers many of the same benefits, but many of the serpentine systems available will allow a more compact accessory drive, offering a cleaner engine bay with more room for cooling components and other sub-systems. Even more critical is the age of stock components and their eventual mismatch as parts are replaced or added over the service life of the car. We've seen cooling problems, charging issues, and poor power steering performance all due to the wrong pulley ratio or drive belt size (or both!). A serpentine belt conversion will solve these issues by utilizing the proper drive ratios.

You can find several serpentine belt drive solutions for your vintage Mustang no matter the engine under the hood. From basic pulley and bracket kits that use the original Ford accessories to full accessory drive conversion solutions that feature high-amp alternators, high-flow water pumps, and tunable power steering pumps, the options are vast. You'll find basic setups for daily drivers for those looking for an “OE” look, as well as systems that are fully polished with all the bling you want for your under-hood real estate.

So if you've been fighting pulley mismatch issues, thrown belts, or maybe you're installing a new crate engine that doesn't include front dress items, check out the available serpentine drive solutions from the following and imagine one of these systems dressing up the front of your engine to solve all your problems.

Billet Specialties

With a name like Billet Specialties, you know this company knows a thing or two about taking ingots of aluminum and whittling them down to pieces of automotive jewelry. Billet Specialties has been making all manner of aluminum accessories since the 1980s but really turned the aftermarket on its ear when it launched its line of Tru Trac serpentine drive systems. The Tru Trac system is an all-inclusive upgrade for small-block, 385-series big-block, or FE big-block Ford engines. The Tru Trac features a polished Powermaster 140-amp one-wire alternator, a Ford Racing reverse rotation or Edelbrock standard rotation water pump, ARP mounting hardware, and a spring-loaded tensioner. Optional A/C and power steering accessories include a Sanden SD-7 compressor and a Maval power steering pump. Everything comes fully polished except for the power steering pump and water pump. The Tru Trac systems are designed for newer four-bolt crankshaft dampers and as such vintage engines will require a damper change. Options include a Premium Tru Trac system with polished power steering pump and a polished billet case alternator as well. Pricing is determined by options, but systems start at $1,650.

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CFR Performance

Over the years we've seen thousands of late-model 5.0L pushrod engines swapped into vintage Mustangs (with and without the OE EFI components). With decent power and 300 lb-ft of torque, the modern small-block is a direct replacement for aging 289s and 302s found in the early Mustang. One problem in the conversion's otherwise bolt-in nature is the accessory drive. The factory setup includes a Thermactor air pump, alternator, A/C, and power steering, along with a myriad of stamped steel and cast aluminum brackets all mounted with specialty bolts (some of which are metric). Often a salvage yard engine or a base-model crate engine will not have any accessories left/mounted as well, causing the owner to have to fend for themselves on finding the right brackets and bolts.

CFR Performance takes the headache out of such swaps with their simple, low-cost serpentine bracket and pulley kit for the late-model small-block. The system features two 6061-T6 billet aluminum mounting brackets, one for the alternator and one for the power steering (A/C is not supported), along with under driven pulleys for the accessories and a full complement of Allen head mounting hardware. Though designed for the '79-'93 5.0L small-block, this kit will work on early small-block engines as long as a four-bolt crankshaft damper and a reverse rotation water pump is utilized. CFR Performance offers their kits in several colors, plus chrome and polished. The underdrive ratio CFR Performance uses will typically give a 11-15 horsepower increase and improve fuel mileage by two to three miles per gallon, they state.

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Concept One

Concept One’s small-block offering is their only serpentine drive system to feature an OE-style spring loaded belt tensioner for a “set it and forget it” belt installation. Shown here in a machined finish, the Concept One system places the A/C on the passenger side at the bottom with the power steering pump at the driver’s side bottom, both making for shorter/cleaner hose runs. The small-block system can be ordered to fit traditional or low-profile timing chain/water pump combos and requires a four-bolt crankshaft damper and reverse rotation water pump.

Concept One may have gotten their start with GM-based serpentine systems, but when it was time to tackle the Blue Oval product line, the Concept One folks took the slow and methodical approach to make sure they figured out all of the Ford engine options/features so they could confidently offer a serpentine drive kit no matter what year engine, type of timing cover/water pump being used, power steering type, and more. What this means is when you order a Concept One serpentine drive system for your Ford engine, you'll be getting a quality billet aluminum serpentine drive system that'll fit right the first time. All Concept One systems can also be configured to run just the accessories you have—alternator only; alternator and power steering; alternator and air conditioning; or alternator, air conditioning, and power steering.

Concept One's serpentine drive systems feature the compact Sanden SD-7 A/C compressor, Powermaster one wire alternators, Delphi power steering pumps with your choice of power steering reservoir, OE-style spring loaded belt tensioner (small-block application only), and Goodyear Gatorback serpentine drive belts. All brackets, pulleys, and pulley covers come standard in a machined finish with fully polished or clear or black anodizing available as an option. Additional options include different power steering pressure and flow rates, 140-amp alternator (105-amp is standard), and chrome finished alternator and/or A/C compressor. Since the Concept One brackets attach directly to the cylinder heads, the stock timing cover and water pump can easily be utilized, meaning you don't have to “crack open” the engine to install your serpentine conversion.

Pricing starts at $775 (alternator only) and can go up from there depending on number of accessories driven and other options, topping out at about $2,200.

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