Jim Smart
June 1, 2009

The classic car hobby is a strange irony. We want the look and feel of a classic Mustang, yet that's not always what we want at all. In the 1980s, we went to great lengths to get the darned things factory original. Then we got bored with that approach due to dated technology and mediocrity, which cultivated the restomod movement that began in the mid-1990s.

Make no mistake--the Mustang restoration boom was vital to history and we had great fun doing it. We're still doing it, in fact. Thanks to the Mustang Club of America's commitment to concours judging rules, we have outstanding examples that enable us to relive the Mustang's most memorable era.

Few things are more breathtaking than a factory original '65-'73 Mustang convertible with the top down. With all that charm bursting at the seams, what makes us want to change what was so appealing about these cars to begin with? Let's look at the grievances about vintage Mustangs:

  • Sloppy steering
  • Lackluster handling
  • Hideous drum brakes
  • Broomstick-in-a-barrel manual shifters
  • Old technology engines
  • Overheating issues
  • Leaky power steering
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Leaking cowl vents
  • Frozen door locks
  • Broken seat backs
  • Inadequate sound systems
  • Insufficient instrumentation
  • Loud cabin noise
  • Inadequate restraint systems
  • Poor exterior lighting

Need we say more? As far back as the 1970s, '65-'73 Mustangs needed improvements to make them safer and more fun to drive. In those days, we were thinking comfort, performance, handling, and braking--not much different than our thinking today. But in those days, there wasn't sufficient aftermarket support. Today, aftermarket support is limitless, yielding the greatest classic Mustang fun cars ever. Let's look at the Ten Best Modern Mods you can make to a classic Mustang.

1 Front Disc Brakes
When we began rebuilding older Mustangs back in the 1970s, one of the first questions was how to improve braking because most were equipped with four-wheel drum brakes. Back then, the answers came from the junkyards and what would ultimately become available from George Jonas and his Stainless Steel Brakes Corporation. Jonas was a Corvette enthusiast who wanted better front disc brake reliability for classic Corvettes. The idea spread quickly across all classic carlines including Mustang. The name was born of the idea--stainless steel brake components that wouldn't seize from corrosion.

Front disc brakes may not be a modern modification, but they have been making classic Mustangs safer since the beginning. For those of you who want to maintain a stock demeanor, Stainless Steel Brakes has complete reproduction braking systems for the classics. You can also step up to the Force 10 system with its good-looking calipers, rotors, and brute stopping power. Selection has never been better.

Baer Brakes is another aftermarket manufacturer with plenty of available choices. Baer's approach is something for everyone. There are factory drop-in replacements that bolt onto your existing spindles all the way up to extra large 13-inch binders for competition use.

Master Power Brakes is another valuable player in the brake aftermarket, focusing more on authentic factory-type braking systems that offer exceptional performance for classic Mustangs. We're talking whole systems complete with master cylinder, power booster, four-piston calipers, and all hardware necessary to do an installation. Power boosters are available designed for both manual and automatic transmission equipped Mustangs. And if you want to step up performance, slotted and cross-drilled rotors are available.

2 Suspension Systems
Few areas have witnessed more progress than vintage Mustang suspension systems. Some are based on the Mustang's original suspension architecture while others are radical departures from what Ford did four decades ago.