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Ford Mustang

Published: 5th May 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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The Mustang has always been a performance classic but five decades after its introduction uprating one with modern parts can really make a difference. Here’s how

Despite being introduced over 50 years ago and having, to date, five successive versions the original Ford Mustang is as popular as ever. It’s one of the most commonly seen American cars in the UK and a great way into American classic car ownership. Their popularity in America is akin to our own MGB; a huge fan base, numerous dedicated clubs and a large number of companies offering just about any original or upgraded part you might require.

It must be said though that the early Mustangs – and for the purposes of this feature by that we mean the first generation cars built from 1964 until 1973 – were not the last word in performance or handling. While being perfectly adequate when new, technology has moved on and today there are a number of ways you can make your Mustang better.

BEFORE YOU START

Most will have been looked after as Mustang engines, be they straight-six or V8, are pretty tough old lumps that use simple technology. The only things that kill them will be extreme abuse or massive neglect.

If you are going to spend thousands of pounds converting a straight-six Mustang into a V8 consider spending a bit more and buying a V8 car to start with. By the way, if the V8 car you’re looking at has four-bolt wheels it started out as a six-cylinder – V8 cars came with five bolts and better brakes. The original six is generally considered underpowered, although small by American standards of the time the 1960’s Mustang is still around the size of a Ford Mondeo and that’s a lot of metal to drag around!

Speaking of metal don’t forget to examine the common rust spots – there’s no sense in any power upgrades if the floor is rotten and the bodyshell weak. Front shock towers can crack, check bulkhead for rust, especially fresh air vents on cowl and behind dashboard, floorpans rust as can door bases, sills (crucial on convertibles), wheelarches, rear wings ahead of wheels, around screens, boot floor rot in corners and around fuel tank.

Most repair patches and panels are available; new sill £110, repro front wing £225, front floor section £45, complete floorpan £700. If you can’t weld you’re potentially looking at big installation costs. If things get desperate a complete new bodyshell is available as 1967, ’68 or ’69 fastbacks costing £26,000 – which is more than most non-performance Mustangs are worth.

HOTTING ONE UP

On its introduction in April 1964 the Mustang came with a choice of 170ci straight-six offering 101bhp, a 164bhp 260ci V8 and a choice of three 289ci V8s of 200, 225 or 271bhp.

The six got more powerful growing to 200ci with 120bhp in 1965 and offered as a further bored out 250ci with 155bhp in 1970. The reason for this history lesson is to explain you need to check your engine’s number to find out exactly what you already have before buying any go-faster parts.
Improve fuel and air distribution with a better manifold, see http://www.summitracing. com, some were now known to have been badly cast from the factory meaning a swap can work wonders. Rebuilding the standard carburettor or bolting a 250ci head onto a smaller block is another simple upgrade.

A Duraspark ignition (as fitted by Ford from the 1970s on) with high output coil should also help, as might a heat shield under the distributor – which is mounted directly above the exhaust.

See http://www.classicinlines.com for a range of induction parts including throttle body fuel injection. Meanwhile, Ford of Australia built 250ci sixes with a crossflow head (from 1976) and variable valve timing for local built cars; so consider going down under for your parts too.

Early Mustang V8s shared bore and stroke dimensions, their differing power came from higher compression ratios and replacing the two-barrel carburettor with a four-barrel, the latter is good for an extra 40bhp on the 390ci according to Ford’s figures. The 390s in 1968 came with 280- and 320bhp and were joined by a 428ci, 335bhp V8. In fact there were nine different engines offered for 1969 and ’70 including 375bhp 429s.

If your engine is beyond economic repair brand new ‘crate’ engines start from around £6000 for a 302ci and up to £20,000 plus for a 650bhp 427ci! Post 1967 Mustangs had increased width between the shock towers to fit physically larger engines – worth remembering if you’re planning to buy one and undertake an engine swap. The V8s are tough engines and there’s value in keeping the original – numbers matching – powerplant that came with the car. You can fit electronic fuel injection from one of the plug-and-play conversion kits that are available or for bolt on performance a period style Paxton supercharger.

A PerTronix Ignitor electronic ignition conversion costs from £120, Flame Thrower high power distributor around £450. Uprated cooling from an aluminium radiator costs around £500. An electric or a clutch fan at £46 gains a couple of bhp. A replacement water pump that’s also uprated is a wise fit, costing from £180, and it’s logical to protect your expensive investment with a complete set of new gaskets, which costs around £170.

Unleaded heads with hardened valves are worthwhile for cars in regular use at high rpm, uprated heads start around £800 per pair. New cranks begin around £180, hydraulic roller performance cam sets at £110 and up. A set of flattop, plus 0.30 pistons for a 302ci are around £900 for eight. A four-barrel performance carburettor (£500 and up) with uprated aluminium intake manifold (from £350) can add 30bhp to a 289ci.

HANDLING THE POWER

Pre-1982 small-block V8s benefit from a one-piece rear main seal upgrade to eliminate oil leaks. New brake calipers cost from £150 each, pads £50 a pair, brake shoes £46, standard master cylinders start around £110. Front disc conversion kits including drilled and slotted rotors from £1000-£2100 depending on specification, (original steel wheels won’t fit over larger discs). Rear disc conversion kits are £1400 and up but frankly it’s unlikely you’ll ever notice the difference during normal driving.

A power brake booster costs around £550, uprated discs start about £180 a pair, Baer Brakes offers bolt-in replacement discs kits up to 13-inch for competition use. Steel brake lines improve braking and pedal feel by up to 20 per cent (according to the manufacturer) for £100 per pair.

V8 Mustangs are always tail happy, that combination of torque and a live rear axle (the 2015 Mustang is the first ever to have independent rear suspension from the factory) means oversteer is never far away. Great fun if that’s what you want, but terrifying if it’s not!

Rebushing a worn front suspension with polyurethane bushes will improve ride and also handling, a set of bushes starts around £25, complete set around £200. A pair of new uprated leaf springs for the rear cost about £200. A kit to rebuild the front suspension that includes new control arms will relieve you of £350.

A number of companies offer aftermarket suspension system for classic Mustangs. Coilover kits are around £1000, while two-inch lowered suspension via dropped spindles and blocks on the rear costs around £500.

Rebuild kits to refurbish the steering (typically £290 for a six (£305 for a V8) is money well spent. A number of outfits offer rack and pinion conversions, many of them bolt straight into any pre-1973 Mustang and you have a choice of manual or powered steering, prices start at £1900. If your car didn’t come with it, power steering comes highly recommended for road cars and available for ’65-’70 Mustangs from £1400.

Adjustable gas shock absorbers are available from a variety of sources – consult specialists to see which suit your car and budget. Larger or otherwise uprated anti- rollbars can be bolted in on front or rear, prices start around £200 each – be sure it works well in conjunction with the stiffness of your new springs mind.

Ring and pinion gears wear as do bearings so a rebuild is worthwhile especially if the axle is noisy. For eight-inch rears those built post 1967 were strengthened and, unless abused, should take 350bhp without problems – although may need narrowing for an earlier car. A replacement Aluin8 eightinch rear from Currie offers the nine’s strength without the extra weight. Mustangs came with eight or nine-inch axles; nine is stronger but heavier. Assuming one wasn’t factory-fitted several companies offer limited slip diffs. You can also buy a kit to bolt in an 8.8 inch from a post 1980’s Mustang that’s as strong as the nine-inch, but lighter and with less internal friction.

A kit to mount the solid rear axle via Watts linkage, with trailing arms replacing the leaf springs, starts around £3000. Some include air springs for adjustable ride height. Traction (or anti-tramp) bars £170 per pair help keep it in check. Independent rear suspension kits are in excess of £9000.

Dropping in a more modern five-speed T5 gearbox lowers engine rpm dramatically plus improves go and mpg. It’s more or less a bolt in swap for pre-1969 cars; used T5s go for around £900 upward, with the conversion kit and necessary parts adding around £650. A kit is also available to swap in an automatic overdrive gearbox (AOD), prices start around £2000 for a complete kit including ’box. An AOD adds a very welcome fourth gear and is highly recommended.

For further infor, advice and parts, there are a number of specialists in the UK such as the Mustang Workshop.

Handling The Power...

BUDGET

  • Re-bush suspension
  • Lowered suspension
  • Uprated brakes linings
  • Anti-roll bars front and rear

FULL THROTTLE

  • High performance tyres
  • Independent rear suspension swap (extreme mod)
  • Front and rear disc brake conversion if desired
  • Roll cage to stiffen shell


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