The two primary goals identified at the start of the project have now been accomplished. The cowl has now been treated with rust converter and closed back up, and a new windshield has been installed. I have also installed:
- new front brakes, with power booster
- new upper/lower control arms
- new steering linkage (center link, pitman arm, tie rods)
- power steering
- new carpeting
- seat belts, front and rear
- glove box liner
When my Mustang left the Ford factory back in 1965, it had a six cylinder engine. Someone along the way replaced that with a 289 cubic inch engine, the standard Ford V8 for that year Mustang. This engine was replaced shortly before I acquired the car with a 302 cu in engine.
Replacing a 6-cylinder engine with a V8 is a common customization for vintage Mustangs. Also common (a virtual requirement in fact, in order to control the weight and power of an eight cylinder engine) for this upgrade is the replacement of the factory-installed drum brakes with disc brakes and a more substantial front suspension.
My Mustang had the necessary parts for the disc brakes and front suspension upgrade, but it still had the steering linkage from a six cylinder car. The center link—a steel rod that connects the front wheels to the steering box— is different, as are the pitman (connects the steering box to the center link) and idler arm (connects the center link to the chassis on the passenger side of the car).
The two different center links are designed to fit the geometry of their respective engines.
In addition, my Mustang had a small, some would say inadequate, sway bar, which helps keep the car manageable during turns at highway speed.
All of these parts (plus the tie rods that connect the center link to the front wheel assemblies) would have to be replaced.
The old battery tray was rusted/corroded to the point of nearly falling off, so it too had to go, which meant cutting away the rusted portion of the fender apron where the tray attached and welding in new sheet metal before installing the new tray.
Well. So. While I'm at it, I think, why not replace all the rubber bushings that prevent all of the metal parts from grinding into each other?
One reason not to is the increased amount of work it would add to the project. The front wheel/brake assemblies and front coil springs would have to be removed.
But then again...time on my hands.
So I decided to go for it. I ordered the Grab-A-Trak front suspension kit from Mustangs Plus, and while waiting for delivery I proceeded to dismantle the brakes and coil springs.
With the engine out and the front end up on jack stands, I removed the old brake assemblies, but when I tried to remove the shock absorbers in order to compress the front coil springs, I encountered a problem. With the weight of the engine gone, the coil springs couldn't be compressed enough to get a wrench into the tiny space allotted for removal of one of the nuts holding the shock absorber in place. The geometry of the perch on which the springs sit in relation to the angle of the nut that I needed to reach was wrong.
I was able to remove this nut on one side of the car, but only because it had never been tightened completely. But I was not able to get a wrench around the other one. I had to stick a Dremel bit into the small space in order to cut through the nut. Carefully. Very carefully so as not to damage the threads on the shock absorber bolt that I will need when it comes time to reassemble. I was able to get it off, and I was then able to compress the coil springs with a spring compressor in order to remove them. (Yes, I know, couldn't compress the spring enough to get the shock off, when I finally get the shock off, I'm able to compress the spring. Sounds illogical, but...it's a car guy thing.)
When the Grab-A-Trak kit arrived, I started matching up parts and...whoops! They didn't fit.
A call to Mustangs Plus shines some light on the mismatch, and it's not pretty. A common path to upgrading vintage Mustang brakes from factory-original drums to discs is to swap parts with their counterparts from a Ford Granada. Not a perfect fit, but close enough that it works and common enough that the Grab-A-Trak parts (and other parts from other suppliers) match up—mostly—where needed for installation.
A less common, though not unheard of, path is to use the parts from a Ford Maverick instead of the Granada. And those parts don't match up with the Grab-A-Trak kit. Apparently, the conversion of my Mustang was done with Maverick, not Granada, parts. Bummer.
So, my choices were:
- return the Grab-A-Trak parts and not do the upgrade
- keep the kit and buy new wheel and brake assemblies that are made to Mustang specifications
Bottom line, I wanted to keep the Grab-A-Trak parts. The reasons for upgrading the suspension were still compelling, and, bonus should I choose to accept it, I could add a power brake booster for an additional $100.
And so...power brakes. The wish list—by now a to do list—had just grown.
The cowl has been opened up, treated for rust prevention, and welded closed once again. A new windshield has been installed. Prime objectives have been achieved. In addition, new seat belts have been installed, front and back, new carpeting installed, a power steering kit and new brakes have been installed.
It's time to start putting the pieces back together again.
Stay tuned. More to come, as the project continues.