Classic Ford Mustang Restoration Improvements - Street Survival Guide
Here's How To Live With (And Enjoy) Your Mustang On The Street
Those of us who grew up with classic Mustangs remember them when they weren't collectibles. They were just new Mustangs that quickly became the old Mustangs we snapped up for a couple hundred bucks in the newspaper classifieds. We didn't consider them classics, at least not in the '70s when they were scarcely ten years old. For many of us, Mustangs are like marriage: We take the good with the bad. We're passionate about our Mustangs, but we dread having to deal with the "finer" points of owning them.
The restomod movement has made great contributions to classic Mustangs because it provides improved technology to make our vintage Mustangs safer, more comfortable, and great fun to drive. Many restomod components, like four-wheel disc brakes and brighter LED lighting, make our Mustangs safer and more reliable on the highway.
In this Street Survival Guide, we're aiming to help you enjoy your Mustang on the street.
Front disc brakes are mandatory to shorten stopping distances. If you want to keep your Mustang period-correct in appearance, look to Stainless Steel Brakes for dead-stock, four-piston front disc brakes that won't detract from a factory appearance. Those with six-cylinder Mustangs don't have to do without disc brakes because SSBC has front disc-brake conversion kits for six-poppers as well.
Another terrific idea for six-cylinder Mustangs is upgrading to five-lug wheels and heavy-duty spindles in the interest of safety. Cop a pair of spindles from a '70-'73 Mustang, '70-'77 Maverick or Comet, or '75-'80 Granada or Monarch. Six-cylinder front spindles are weak by nature and can break, especially in hard cornering.
With the five-lug front underpinnings comes the need for an 8-inch rearend and larger rear drum brakes in back to improve safety and reliability. To keep a 711/44-inch integral-carrier rearend, have the axle flanges drilled by a machine shop for a five-lug bolt pattern.
When original front disc brakes aren't enough, there are lots of aftermarket braking systems to choose from. In the interest of sanity, opt for a bolt-on aftermarket system. SSBC's Force 10 system is a good example, as are most of the systems from Baer Brakes. Master Power also has easy-to-install disc-brake conversion kits that get the job done without other modifications.
Convert your '65-'66 Mustang to a dual braking system in the interest of safety. Dual braking systems became federally mandated in 1967. A dual braking system isolates front and rear brake hydraulic systems to ensure braking should one of the systems fail.
Off the assembly line, classic Mustangs didn't handle worth a flip. This was due to soft springs, wimpy dampening, and not enough tire contact patch. The aftermarket industry has brought us all kinds of suspension systems and parts designed to improve handling. The tire and wheel industry has brought us even more. Each is designed to make our lives safer and driving a whole lot more fun
Before your Mustang can handle, it must have solid tire contact patch, or all the heavy-duty suspension in the world won't keep you on course. Tire contact patch can be had with 70-series radial tires, which are available in a variety of sidewall types. Adding tire width, such as 60- or 50-series radial tires on a Mach 1, makes things better. The new Firestone Firehawk radial tire is available for Mach 1 and Boss Mustangs, yielding the same raised-white-letter look we remember from 1970, plus great handling to boot.
Once you have tire selection resolved, your next course of action is the mechanics of handling; springs, shocks, and bushings. Choosing springs and shocks isn't always easy because it involves handling, ride quality, and vehicle height. To get handling, you may have to give up ride quality; to get ride quality, you might have to sacrifice handling. With the right suspension tuning, you can achieve a nice combination of the three.
Shock and spring combinations affect ride quality and handling. Five-leaf mid-eye springs in back give you proper ride height and better handling. Which shock you use greatly affects ride quality. KYB gas shocks, for example, will give you a stiff ride. So will Koni adjustables, depending on the setting. So shock selection is everything when it comes to ride quality. Using regular gas shocks with five-leaf mid-eye springs and 620-pound coils in front will give you a smooth ride as well as better handling.
Ride height affects handling, too. The lower the ride, the lower your Mustang's center of gravity, which improves handling. The important thing to remember about ride height is driving logistics. Can you get over speed bumps? Can you roll through a dip in the road without smashing headers or whacking the valance panel?
The sway bar, as its name implies, reduces body roll in the corners. The 1-inch front sway bar is a terrific handling improvement over the stock spaghetti string. Hand-in-hand with sway bars are bushings. Urethane bushings improve handling dramatically, but there are compromises. Urethane bushings create noise and a stiffer ride. Rubber bushings take up more road shock and absorb noise. We recommend polyurethane bushings for a nice compromise between brick-hard urethane and soft rubber. Total Control and Global West offer articulating ball/socket strut rods, which afford you the best of all worlds: handling and smooth operation. Rear sway bars are rarely necessary for street use. Although they do improve body roll, they get in the way of exhaust system installation. If that doesn't bother you, install a rear sway bar. Some rear sway bars are more user-friendly than others.
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Front-end alignment affects handling and tire wear. When you're out there doing the freeway-warrior bit, front-end alignment is especially critical to tire longevity. For daily driving, you want a minimum amount of negative camber for a nice balance of cornering and good tire wear. Negative camber is key to handling, but too much can be hard on tires. Toe is crucial to how your steering wheel will return to center after a turn. Sluggish return is a sign there's neutral toe or a pinch of toe-out. Aggressive return is a sign of too much toe-in. Your front-end alignment specialist will know what's best for your application. Never accept sluggish performance or a Mustang that wanders all over the road, as both are signs of a bad alignment.
Silence, Please ...
Automobiles have come a long way in terms of cabin noise thanks to sound-deadening materials and aerodynamics. There's not much you can do about aerodynamics in a classic Mustang, but you can make a huge difference by installing sound-deadening materials and fine-tuning the weatherstripping. When you install the right sound-deadening materials, you eliminate much of the road boom. And when you install new weatherstripping and adjust your doors and windows properly, you eliminate wind and road noise.
Stop The Drip
Bendix power steering in '65-'70 Mustangs is notorious for leakage and sloppy performance. It leaks primarily due to misrouted hoses, hoses that are too long or too short, damaged fittings, unserviceable control valves and rams, and distorted pump housings. Many times, power-steering pressure hoses leak because the line fittings aren't tight enough. They also leak due to damaged mating surfaces.
Whenever you are building Bendix power steering-or any other type of power steering-closely examine all fittings and mating surfaces. Small nicks at the mating surfaces can bite you because power-steering fluid pressure reaches 1,800 psi (pounds per square inch). Fittings not tightened properly will leak. Damaged mating surfaces, no matter how minute, will leak. Misrouted hoses can chafe and burst, possibly starting a fire.
Read your Ford Shop Manual and route power-steering hoses properly. Pay close attention to installation of control-valve pressure hoses. Getting them backwards is dangerous because hydraulic pressure will violently yank the steering wheel right out of your hands.
Power-steering pump housings (Ford Thompson pumps only) should be inspected for distortion and potential leakage points. When in doubt, find another housing. Install a new lubricated O-ring, and use power-steering fluid, not automatic-transmission fluid because it has friction modifiers that can harm power-steering system seals.
In the steering gear, sector-shaft adjustment is important to stability and driving comfort. Opt for a new or remanufactured steering gear when play cannot be adjusted out.
Remain Cool And Calm
Daily drivers need cooling system capacity for all kinds of extremes. At the minimum, your Mustang needs a high-capacity, four-row radiator with plenty of fan. We see some with both engine-driven fans and electric fans; this is overkill and unnecessary. All you need is plenty of cooling capacity, a high-flow water pump and fan, and the four-row core radiator just mentioned.
High-flow electric fans get the job done nicely when you have the right one. Getting power to them from the ignition switch isn't hard either. You want an electric fan to be completely automatic: thermostatically controlled and "on" when you turn on the ignition. We suggest the use of a relay and circuit protection via a circuit breaker as well.
If you're going to run an engine fan, opt for a thermostatic clutch fan and shroud for maximum cooling. A thermostatic clutch fan engages only as needed, saving fuel and power. The shroud increases air velocity through the radiator. Fan blade tips should always be halfway out of the shroud for best results. And clean the radiator fins periodically. Bug and dirt buildup reduces cooling capacity.
Speed Of Light
Install Halogen headlights and replace your headlight switch. Halogen headlights illuminate the road better than conventional sealed beams. Once installed, a headlight alignment is recommended.
We suggest headlight-switch replacement every five to seven years because headlight-switch circuit breakers are prone to failure, especially if you drive your Mustang frequently. Dirty and corroded contacts get hot from resistance, causing the circuit breaker to cycle the headlights off and on. A new switch every five to seven years is great prevention.