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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'll preface my postings purpose abit first since I just joined on here. I started out abit earlier than the law shines on driving myself to school in my fathers old 71 Mustang and that started my love for the pony cars. Not too long after a fellow in a Chevy van decided to end that fun. After dealing with that mess my search for a replacement car came in the form of an older restoration 1966 C-code coupe. That car became the best car I probably owned still to this date. I used and abused the little coupe like a rental and it never left me stranded for years as a daily driver. I drag raced the car a lot but always was in love with the old group 2 SCCA TransAm cars fielded by Shelby. Eventually while in tech school, the Mustangs engine needed some love. I was pretty poor at the time. So poor infact that during senior year I spray painted my carpet back blue because I couldn't afford to buy new carpet. Eventually the car that had been reliable was giving me grief. I was young and in a horrified panic about missing a class, plus I was working part time at the Ford dealer in Mooresville. Had I possessed my current mentality, I would have simply went to my bank and took a small loan out to replace all the needed items. Instead being many miles from home and desperate, I quickly sold that car and used the funds to pick up a Ranger. This remains my biggest regret in life. I had always wanted to turn that car into a track machine

After many years of being Mustangless and dreaming about what could have been at every car show my family goes to, I stumbled upon a car yesterday afternoon browsing marketplace. I made a few messages to the owner and left work a little early after picking up my 8yo. The car looks absolutely awful in the pics which was likely why it hadn't been snagged. The previous owner that traded it to the current guy had began restoring the car. Frame rails, rear torque boxes, and most of the metal seems to be rock solid. New floor pans were installed already, it just needs a couple small sections of the toe board. The guy had the car stripped and picked up another car he wanted more and simply rolled the '66 outside his garage. It sat just long enough to get surface rust on the bare metal and through some of the dollar store primer. Aside from cleaning up the surface rust the only things that stand out really are lower quarters need minor patches, the toe board patches, battery tray area, and a roof skin(vinyl top car). The man wasn't a Ford guy and had taken the car on trade, and wishing it gone from his yard, I got probably one of the best deals I've ever gotten in my life. I now hold the title to this neglected little C-code car, much like my old one. All parts are there except the tranny and this weekend will kick it off.

My plans for the car is a supplementary daily driver to my Super Duty. However being in a better financial place I want to complete my dream I had for my original '66. I want the car to scream group 2 SCCA car and be able to back the look up. I want to make it as absolutely rowdy as I can make it with it still being able to handle a daily drive to work or to the track. So here's where I need input. My original car, I done the poor path of homemade Shelby drop template and modified coils. I want to get the stance right to match the old TransAm cars and get the most out of it I can. I'm inclined to stick to manual steering with a 15" wheel, although if I really need power steering in the opinions of experienced racers I'm open. I plan to do some local SCCA style events and autocross with the car. I'm about to order the shock tower reinforcement, export brace/reinforcements from OpenTracker to start. The car also has 4 lug spindles tossed on the front so I will be getting the larger 70+ spindles to upgrade those. I would like to add front torque boxes(what do you recommend to add to a 65-66?). I want to stick to leaf rear suspension and I'm going to order a Fays2 Watts Link. Koni shocks most likely as well. The front I'm at a loss. I'm debating ordering a manual rack and pinion conversion. Although I was looking at the Open Tracker roller components for the standard box. Which will perform better for my needs? And should I change columns or stick to the factory steering column if I go R&P? Control Arm wise again I'm torn. I want to do the larger Shelby drop but should I go with the gusseted Open Tracker arms, roller perches, or should I go with one of the tubular? I'm not trying to build a car for a specific class as this is mostly just for the fun of beating it on the track. If you recommend tubular which brand? For once in my life, I don't care what the cost is, I'll take as long as I need to get the best components.

I also plan to beef up the car more structurally. I've got a friend who builds rock crawlers and has the bender and 4150 chromoly tubing already. I want to build a cage for the car that still allows back seat usage and factory dash. (I know full cage may be overkill but my totaled '71 involved the van putting me on my roof). I'm planning to tie it into the rear frame rails by the tail light panel and maybe tie a piece of tubing through the torque box into the front frame rail. I'm considering doing the full subframe connector with x brace and driveshaft loop Open Tracker sells. Would anyone recommend this over any other subframe connectors? And can anyone confirm if it would work running 2.5-3" JBA side exit exhaust? Also I'm looking at the Open Tracker Street-Competion crossmemeber kit with jack pad. Aside from tying the cage into the frame are there any other areas you recommend gussets, extra plating, etc?

Im going to try to order or find a replacement 9' unit for the rear as well and do a 4 wheel disc conversion. I want to keep manual brakes though. For now this concludes my round of questions. I apologize for being long winded, but thank you very much for any help you guys can provide.
 

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Dimples
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Howdy and welcome!

Honestly, there are just too many questions here to address, but I love the Trans Am direction. You’ll have to keep us posted on your progress.

It’ll be interesting to see if you can pull off a full cage and retain rear passengers. From a safety standpoint, it seems like it’s one or the other.

Also, we like photos, so you should post some. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Howdy and welcome!

Honestly, there are just too many questions here to address, but I love the Trans Am direction. You’ll have to keep us posted on your progress.

It’ll be interesting to see if you can pull off a full cage and retain rear passengers. From a safety standpoint, it seems like it’s one or the other.

Also, we like photos, so you should post some. :)
Yea the cage will be something to figure out for sure. Hopefully I should have plenty of pics tomorrow once I get it off the trailer and empty all the parts out of it.
 

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Welcome.

I started but couldn’t follow the thought train with the run on sentences and lack of paragraphs.

Start a Build Thread, I’d like to follow.
 

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I believe the first important mods to make are the "driver control" modifications of brakes, steering, and shifter(I prefer manual everything). Steering and brakes give you the confidence as driver to push the car to the limit due to better stopping and road feel. New suspensions are great but if you have sloppy steering with poor feel you won't be able to push the car as hard just due to driver limitations in road feel. Rack and pinion is without a doubt the best in this department. Its the simplest design and eliminates that "dead zone" in the straight ahead position. Yes this is a more modern design but gives you so much more of a direct/responsive road feel which in turn gives you that "raw feel" that everyone loves with old cars. Sloppy old steering design that is subject to quicker wear and has an inherent dead zone is not a "raw feel" however it is classic so its up to you what you desire more. But imho steering is the most overlooked system when people talk about handling upgrades because suspensions are more fun to brag about and everyone likes being able to see sweet looking disc brakes through wheels, whereas steering you can't see and only you experience it(where as with suspensions passengers can experience it). As far as shifter goes, a tighter/less play short throw shifter is always better in everything except the classic long throw feel and is something you will always experience when driving. These three mods are always distinguishable from the placebo affect and greatly improve the driving experience.

Next I would do frame reinforcement via Montecarlo bar, export brace, and sub frame connectors. A stiffer frame responds quicker and is more sensitive to suspension adjustments which is valuable for autocross. Having stiff or tunable suspensions with sticky tires become so limited if the frame is not able to resist and transmit the torques between front and rear of the car. Being able to do this helps you find that balance in terms of handling which again is important for autocross. Furthermore it gives you more "raw feel" again versus having a sloppy weak absorbing non transmitting frame.

Now that you have you have better ability to feel the car at the limit and have a frame that's stronger and stiffer, you are ready for tires and suspension. IMO when it comes to sticky tires and the right stance on 65-66's you have to at least go to a 16 inch wheel. Now you can get some 200 tread wear tires(I like Bridgestone RE71-R's) without having a small overall diameter causing either an ugly wheel well gap or little ground clearance. Reviews say this tire has horrible road noise, but I have found that a nice sounding, loud enough exhaust will block that out. When it comes to suspension, you can actually go a long way in terms of performance gain keeping the old design. Better shocks, stiffer springs(front coil and rear leaf), Shelby drop, front and rear sway bars, and traction bars. The stiffer the suspension, the quicker the car responds. Don't fear the rear sway bar as there are many posts on forums about this causing snap over steer. This is completely car dependent and being that everyone nearly has different setups and tires, this cannot be garunteed. However it could because in theory a rear sway bar will cause a greater proportion of the weight transfer to happen in the rear which will cause more oversteer. Again, it doesn't mean it will, it can still understeer since its dependent on many factors. I would get one that's adjustable though. Traction bars are critical if you plan on hard launching as they keep the tires on the ground. They type that bolt to the front leaf spring is without a doubt the way to go. I explain why in a post a made about a week ago regarding traction bars.

Coilovers and new suspensions? If you stick with the old design as above you will get far but not as far as you can with full new design suspension systems. These allow you to have more adjustability, as well as a softer ride without sacrificing response and performance. Coilovers allow you to adjust ride height without having to buy a different set of leaf springs, or using lowering blocks, or constant assembly and disassembly by cutting off coils and checking ride height. Designs/products/kits that actually change the spring/damper(damper=shock) geometry offer better damping since you get more damper travel for the same amount of wheel travel. This increases the velocity of the damper and damping forces are a function of velocity. Now that you have a more adjustable system with more travel, the more sensitive the damping adjustments become. Through adjustable damping you adjust how quickly the tires build up force and the faster the build up lateral force the quicker the car responds which is again important for autocross.
Suspension Conclusion: You can go a long way with the old design. However it will be more "one or the other" in terms of performance and every day ride quality and comfort. With new designs, you can achieve ride height quicker, have more adjustment, more sensitive adjustment, and better everyday ride quality without sacrificing SCCA performance. Driver practice/seat time is definitely the biggest improvement when starting out so if your new, do you need a super expensive new front and rear coil over system? NO. I wouldn't even say adjustment matters much at all if you are new. Just get seat time and that will be your biggest performance gain(quality seat time with the mods I mentioned before suspension). However you will reach a point where you become limited once you become that driver and if you haven't done any suspension mods yet, an argument can be made to do it right the first time with the coil over system so you don't spend more time and money in the long run.

Limited Slip Differentials: not only does this help with achieving proper two wheel burnouts but this also has a HUGE difference in cornering capabilities. During cornering, limited slips can provide unequal forces to the inner and outer tire, and these unequal forces can help with more oversteer or more understeer(which you get depends on again many factors). Where as open differentials always provide equal inner and outer tire forces and therefore don't have affect in terms of understeer and oversteer like LSD's do.

So there is my brief classic mustang handling setup manifesto. You can build a pretty capable SCCA car especially with a 66. They are usually under 3000lbs and actually have a pretty good weight distribution for a front engine V8 car(my 65 when scaled was 53% front, 47% rear). If you want to get really into it, 50/50 is achievable. Don't mess with battery relocation, keep it up front. If anything just get a lighter optima battery. Even though it seems heavy, its such a small portion of total car weight that it won't do anything significant to weight distribution. To get better weight distribution, consider moving engine back a bit, fiberglass front end, all aluminum engine, and roll hoop with braces extending to the rear frame. But overall 65-66's imho, are the most capable platform given the weight and dimensions.
 

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I edited your original post down to make it more digestible.

Goals
I want the car to scream group 2 SCCA car and be able to back the look up. I want to make it as absolutely rowdy as I can make it with it still being able to handle a daily drive to work or to the track. So here's where I need input. My original car, I done the poor path of homemade Shelby drop template and modified coils. I want to get the stance right to match the old TransAm cars and get the most out of it I can.

Questions
I'm inclined to stick to manual steering with a 15" wheel, although if I really need power steering in the opinions of experienced racers I'm open. The front I'm at a loss. I'm debating ordering a manual rack and pinion conversion. Although I was looking at the Open Tracker roller components for the standard box. Which will perform better for my needs? And should I change columns or stick to the factory steering column if I go R&P?

I would like to add front torque boxes(what do you recommend to add to a 65-66?).

I want to stick to leaf rear suspension and I'm going to order a Fays2 Watts Link. Koni shocks most likely as well.

Control Arm wise again I'm torn. I want to do the larger Shelby drop but should I go with the gusseted Open Tracker arms, roller perches, or should I go with one of the tubular? I

Aside from tying the cage into the frame are there any other areas you recommend gussets, extra plating, etc?
I think the above gets to your actual questions. My thoughts, in order.

Having a car that is capable on the track and occasional drives to work and on the street for fund are not mutually elusive. The two biggest impacts to street comfort vs track performance are spring rates and shocks. If you get a single adjustable quality shock it can help give you the best of both worlds. Everything else you do, Brakes, suspension mods, frame stiffening, alignment etc will help in both places.

15" wheels. Are you going to have a separate set of wheels for tracking and street driving? Do you want to run slicks? If not, you are probably looking at one of the top 200tw tires (RT660, RE71, Rival S, A052). Especially, if you want to run SCCA CAM-T for autocross (the older muscle cars with unlimited suspension mods). The only fast 200tw tire with 245 or larger widths in 15" is the BFG Rival S. It's a good tire but you just eliminated 3/4 of the fast models out there. Good performing non slick tires in 15" sizes has been dieing for a while. Avoid 16 as it's even worse. 17" can do okay but I'd recommend 18" if performance is your true goal for a streetable track tire. If you are willing to run miata sizes aka 225 on a 15" wheel you will be safe from tire obsolescence. At the cost of more tire and grip.

Power steering. You don't "need" it but it's extremely hard to be competitive in autocross without it in a heavy muscle car. On a road course it's less of an issue. I've driven a few manual steer cars on autocross and if its a technical course it's a disadvantage. Several of my friends have recently upgraded and their consistency got so much better. The fastest lap before and after didn't change a lot but they get a lot more of those faster laps in now. Plus power steering is a lot more fun on the street IMO. You can make the stock column work if you want. personal preference and budget will dictate that.

Torque boxes. yes add them. I thought I read that the car came with them?

Leaf springs. I think a watts link is overkill and extra weight here. The expense isn't worth the performance gain especially if you aren't building an all out race car. If you really want something to control lateral movement with the axle I'd definitely recommend a panhard bar as an easier and lighter solution. A few of my firends have had good results with Mike Maier's bar.

Control arms. I'd decide what type of front suspension you want. Personally, I like setups that adapt a coil over to that mounts to the lower control arm. But this is a lot more money than a simple upper control arm swap. Regardless you are going to want to do a version of the Shelby drop. An aftermarket arm isn't going to get you the camber gain you want/need without it. If you want to keep the shock towers then I like the Mike Maier Mod II front setup or the SoT front setup.

Cage design. A cage in a street car is always a compromise. But the more body points you can tie in and the more rectangular planes you can replace with triangles the better. A minimum weight race car with maximum torsional rigidity would tie the rear down pars to the upper shock mount locations. Tie the Main hoop and Front down bars to the body. and also insert at least one diagonal in the rear down bars, the main hoop, and the halo portion of the hoop. You decide which of those things you want to remove for street ability.
 

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I started but couldn’t follow the thought train with the run on sentences and lack of paragraphs.
Or not,.....I’d like to, but I honestly can’t follow the thoughts.
 
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