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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So, as some of you may remember from my previous posts, about a year and a half ago I took a week off work to do a H/C/I (Heads, Cam, and Intake) swap on the 289 in my newly acquired, “fully restored” $38,000 eBay special 1968 Mustang Fastback that I had just purchased from a dirtbag named Bruce Doctor who runs Your Next Tire in Lincoln, Nebraska. That project turned into a 100% mechanical restoration when I discovered the “freshly rebuilt” 289 was really on it’s last leg and had a short block full of mismatched components (no wonder I couldn’t get it to run right).







Anyway, I am excited to say that I took the car for it’s maiden voyage last weekend, and it performed flawlessly! It’s always a little bit nerve-racking to test out a car after completely rebuilding every mechanical system, and I was honestly shaking as I backed out of my driveway, but within the first mile all of the stress and trepidation turned into an ear to ear grin, and grabbing second gear with a loud tire squeal despite still running 2.73:1 gears in the rear axle only made the smile that much bigger.





I went from a bone-stock 289 C-code car to an AFR topped 10:1 balanced and blueprinted roller motor, that specs closer to the venerable K-code than it’s humble ancestor. And all of that is now making power through a fully built T-5, and delivering it to the ground via a completely reworked suspension and reinforced chassis. And as much fun as all the power (and sound) of the “NOW freshly rebuilt” 289 is, the biggest change to this car is in the way that it handles, and so I decided to make this post.









Actually, I mostly wanted to make this post to give a HUGE shoutout to John at Opentracker Racing Products. I’ve received an awful lot of help along my journey from the fine folks here at the VMF, but John (and his wonderful wife Shari) truly went above and beyond. They epitomize the idea of the “family business”, and they are just wonderful folks. I had purchased some of John’s parts for a previous Ford Falcon build that never materialized, and I knew I wanted to use some of his stuff on this Mustang build, but the more I researched the more I started to just really dig John’s approach to making a “street performance” Mustang handle. And I am utterly floored with how this car has transformed. Night and day springs to mind as an oft-used descriptor of two diametrically opposed things; this car handles night and day better than it did before.

John’s whole Mustang handling philosophy seems to revolve around two basic concepts; eliminating suspension bind, while maintaining suspension geometry in as much of a manner as you are comfortable for your particular Mustang’s planned usage. Obviously, the more roller bearing components you add in place of rubber, the greater the potential for increased NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness), but the stock Mustang’s suspension, especially a well worn example, is so funky and clunky that I can honestly say I do not notice ANY negative changes to this car. My Mustang rides drastically smoother, far quieter, and so flat and predictable that it literally boggles my mind.

I am breaking the mods I did on my car down into four separate categories, which I will present in four separate posts: Chassis, Front Suspension, Steering, and Rear Suspension. I will be including a list of the parts I used, and a brief description of the procedure, for each section, and a few pictures too. I basically stripped my car down to a bare tub, and built it back from there, but the beauty of John’s approach to these mods is that they can be performed in a modular fashion if need be. I should also note that as I was performing these modifications I was changing my car from Ford’s lack-luster power-assist steering to a fully manual setup. Also, I believe that with the exception of the Flaming River steering box and Borgesson universal joint, that Opentracker Racing Products can supply 100% of the parts I used in this build up. I acquired everything from a few different sources, but I’m pretty sure you could one-stop-shop it with John, if you do desired.

So, thanks for following along so far and stay tuned for my second post on my Mustang’s chassis modifications.

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
Chapter 1: Chassis Mods

Chassis Mods Parts List:
1xOpentracker ORP-130 - 67-70 1” Shelby Drop Template
1xOpentracker ORP-1059 - Shock Tower Wheel Side Brace Kit (67-70 “Trans Am”)
1xOpentracker ZR67-70CMJP - Z-Ray’s Competition Crossmember with Jack Pad
1xScott Drake C5ZZ-16A052-E - Straight Shock Tower Brace
1xScott Drake C7ZZ-16A052-ARB - Monte Carlo Bar

So, the reason my “bum motor” turned into a full mechanical redux is based on the simple fact that there is no better time to perform chassis reinforcement than when you’ve got the motor out. And if you’re going to perform chassis reinforcement you might as well disassemble the suspension. And if you’re going to disassemble the suspension, you might as well build it back up with quality components, right!?

Staring at an empty engine bay, it was easy to justify welding up the shock towers (a practice Ford did from the factory on big block cars), reinforcing the sway bar mounts, and then performing other mods like the “Trans Am” bracing, “Shelby/Arning Drop”, and reinforcing the firewall/cowl where the Monte Carlo bar would attach. After all, almost everybody paints their engine bay when they’re doing a motor swap, so prepping for welding is only a minor step further.







Everything I did in terms of chassis reinforcement was pretty standard fare, except for the cowl reinforcement for the Monte Carlo Bar. Most people skip this step, and it’s debatable how necessary it is, but one argument that stood out in my mind was that “Ford never spent a penny they didn’t have to”, so I decided I wanted to address this idea. My cowl was freshly painted and I didn’t want to disturb that, so I devised a boxed L-bracket that sandwiches the cowl/firewall seam and the firewall with 3/16” thick doublers and grade 8 hardware. Aside from 6-5/16” diameter holes, the modification is completely reversible, and the bracket is quite strong.





Lastly, I wanted to give a shout out to Zray and his under engine crossmember. This thing is STOUT, and it fit my car like a glove. It also comes with alignment shims which eliminate the factory eccentric bolts. I didn’t even know about Zray’s crossmember until I saw it on Opentracker’s site. You can buy it from either source, and Zray is quick to provide support after the sale either way; top notch! I will say that with a Canton road race pan the crossmember’s jack pad gets awfully close. I have urethane mounts, so nothing is going to move around and contact, but it does make aligning the jack cup with the jack pad a little bit tricky, and I’ve dinged up the edge of my oil pan a tiny bit because of this. Not a big deal, but in hindsight I might have ordered the crossmember sans jack pad had I known it would be so close (the Canton road race pan has a huge sump).

 

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I’ll be following.
 

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Sounds healthy!


Sent from the interwebs
 

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Discussion Starter #7
more info on this ,Homemade ?
The second to last paragraph in the “Chassis Mods” post goes into detail about it, with another pic. I mistakenly referred to the “Shelby Export Brace” as a “Monte Carlo Bar” in the previous post. The “Monte Carlo Bar is the straight bar that goes between the shock towers. Unfortunately VMF doesn’t let you edit your posts after the fact.

And, yes, it is a homemade piece. I just used some thin cardboard to make templates, and transferred them to some 3/16” steel. There’s a plate top and bottom on the pinch weld, and two more on both sides of the firewall, and then the end brackets were bent up to make a “boxed L” for lack of a better description. I used the car as a jig and bolted everything in place before crawling into the engine bay and tacking it all together, and removed it for final welding.

I’m not an engineer, but I think it should spread the loads of the export brace better than the Shelby reinforcement would. Anything else I can tell you about it?

Shelby pic for reference:

 

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I’m not an engineer, but I think it should spread the loads of the export brace better than the Shelby reinforcement would.
Noting Shelby. Both the export brace and the reinforcement plate was developed by Ford and was mounted on all export cars. Or actually only on the early cars, because Ford didn't use export braces on the Mustangs after re-engineering the body and suspension for '67 and later cars.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Noting Shelby. Both the export brace and the reinforcement plate was developed by Ford and was mounted on all export cars. Or actually only on the early cars, because Ford didn't use export braces on the Mustangs after re-engineering the body and suspension for '67 and later cars.
You’re absolutely correct. My apologies for misspeaking.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Chapter 2: Front Suspension Mods

Front Suspension Mods Parts List:
2xBlue Coil 600 lb front springs (1” drop)
2xKoni 821388-SP3 - Koni Adjustable Front Shock Absorber
1xOpentracker ORP-1001 - Single Roller Spring Perches
2xMoog K8142 - Replacement UCA Ball Joint
2xMoog K8053 - Replacement UCA Cross Shafts*
1xOpentracker ORP-1012 - Extended Grease Fittings, UCA Cross Shaft
1xGlobal West ASR-6 - Adjustable Strut Rods*
1xGlobal West SPF-3 - Boxed Lower Control Arms*
1xScott Drake C7ZZ-5482-B - 1-1/8” Sway Bar

John at Opentracker Racing Products exchanged so many emails with me. He took so much time to talk to me about my project, and lay out a planned approach that fit all of my criteria. My suspension combination was an amalgamation of his suspension philosophies and a handful of the parts and pieces I already had on hand, working within my budget, and meeting (exceeding) the needs of my intended usage.

In my opinion, John’s signature product is his roller spring perch. Based on Ford’s original design on the first year Falcon, which was ultimately cut as a cost saving measure, the roller spring perch allows the suspension to articulate without bind, so much so that factory spring rates become insufficient, due to the fact that the amount of bind in the factory system actually dramatically increases the effective spring rate. If you only have budget for one suspension modification on your Mustang, a set of Opentracker‘s roller spring perches should be it (they should be first, anyway).



I wanted to run Koni adjustable shocks due to the fact that the Mustang in the movie Bullitt, which I am trying to emulate, also ran Koni’s. Also I have had Koni’s on a BMW and a Toyota Supra, both of which handled so great after the upgrade. I suppose that it’s debatable if Koni’s are still the best choice for this type of suspension, but I am more than happy with them. I installed the front shocks adjusted 1/3 of the way from full soft, per John’s instruction. My Blue Coil springs are essentially the same as any of the other “620” springs marketed by a variety of manufacturers. A bit stiff with all of the factory rubber bushings in place, they are firm yet compliant once you remove the bind, and they give the car a very subtle drop.



John’s philosophy on the upper control arms is that the stock arms are actually quite effective for a primarily street-driven car, IF you take the time to blueprint them. Blueprinting essentially involves centering the shaft, and stopping short of binding the shaft as you tighten down on the adjuster caps. Then, welding a tab onto the control arm to keep the adjuster caps from backing out on their adjustment completes the procedure (I’m sorry I don’t have a better picture of this, but if you look closely you can see the tabs). While you’re at it, John’s extended grease fittings are a nice addition that will make greasing your control arms bushings MUCH easier. What you are left with are bind-free arms that produce zero deflection for a fraction of the cost of any available aftermarket pieces. I have including part numbers for new Moog parts to rebuild your existing arms at the same time. *Bear in mind that the Moog Shafts will only fit a factory style arm, and some of the cheaper Chinese repops have a different thread pitch on the adjuster caps.



John also sells adjustable strut rods and boxed roller bearing lower control arms, and I feel like a bit of a fool for not going that route with my suspension. I was always going to replace the factory strut rods. In my opinion, next to the spring perches, the factory strut rods are the weak point of the factory suspension design, allowing fore/aft deflection and introducing plenty of bind. Long story short, I had a Summit Racing gift card left over from Christmas, and I liked the perceived stoutness of the Global West strut rods, and they are in fact stout, but using the Global West components with the other stock-based pieces opened the proverbial can o’ worms on my build. The big issue came from the fact that the Global West strut rods use 9/16” hardware where they attach to the ball-joint plate on the lower control arm, and the ball joint plate is tool steel and difficult to drill (factory hardware is only 1/2”). So, I talked to Global West and they advised me to order a set of their lower control arms (which I hadn’t planned to replace), so begrudgingly I did, and I was further disappointed to find out that they use Moog’s R-series arms as their starting point, which are an imported piece. Nothing against Global West; their components are top notch, and they stand behind them, but John’s lower control arms utilize the Made in USA version of the Moog arms as their starting point, and they’re about the same price. Regardless, I ultimately ended up with some very solid components, and eliminated all of the rubber in the front suspension.





The last piece of the front suspension puzzle was a 1-1/8” sway bar. There’s some debate as to whether a 1” bar would have sufficed; I can’t speak to that, but can say that body roll is nil with the 1-1/8” piece. I rounded out my front suspension rebuild with a performance alignment (details in the steering section) and a Kelsey Hayes type disc brake conversion from Dan @CHOCKostang. Dan was extremely helpful and answered the handful of questions that came up for me about the swap almost immediately. I should say that John at Opentracker has these parts as well, and competitively priced, but he only had them with drilled and slotted rotors at the time I placed my order, and I wanted to stay with a stock type rotor. Pads are EBC Yellow Stuff, and I haven’t really gotten them hot enough to comment on their performance, but they’re cold performance is almost like that of a stock pad, which bodes well.



Anyway, thanks for following along. Stay tuned for Chapter Three: Steering Mods!
 

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The second to last paragraph in the “Chassis Mods” post goes into detail about it, with another pic. I mistakenly referred to the “Shelby Export Brace” as a “Monte Carlo Bar” in the previous post. The “Monte Carlo Bar is the straight bar that goes between the shock towers. Unfortunately VMF doesn’t let you edit your posts after the fact.

And, yes, it is a homemade piece. I just used some thin cardboard to make templates, and transferred them to some 3/16” steel. There’s a plate top and bottom on the pinch weld, and two more on both sides of the firewall, and then the end brackets were bent up to make a “boxed L” for lack of a better description. I used the car as a jig and bolted everything in place before crawling into the engine bay and tacking it all together, and removed it for final welding.

I’m not an engineer, but I think it should spread the loads of the export brace better than the Shelby reinforcement would. Anything else I can tell you about it?

Shelby pic for reference:

Thanks , no questions really but a pattern and dimensions would be super cool
 

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My apologies for misspeaking.
No need for apologies. But it seems like a lot of people believes that the reinforcement plate was invented by Shelby. Probably because few americans have seen an original export car. Hey I like you car and that it got upgrades that keep the vintage vibe. :)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Sounds healthy!


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Thank you! I went back and forth on putting enough cam in it to have an idle. I justified it because there was debate as to whether the car in Bullitt had a cam swap during it’s “hop-up” session; supposedly they had the heads off, so...who knows? It sounds pretty lopey in that sequence where he spins out in the dirt on Guadalupe Canyon...

Thanks , no questions really but a pattern and dimensions would be super cool
There’s a chance I kept the pattern. Let me see if I can find it.

No need for apologies. But it seems like a lot of people believes that the reinforcement plate was invented by Shelby. Probably because few americans have seen an original export car. Hey I like you car and that it got upgrades that keep the vintage vibe. :)
Thanks! To me that’s the ultimate compliment. Eventually this car is going to get a 390 FE, and so I took a little bit of liberty with the 289, but I wanted it all to look like something somebody could have done in ‘68. As for the Export Brace, I knew it was a Ford thing, as I made the comment about Ford never spending a cent he didn’t have to, but sometimes the memory banks get cloudy. So, for the Shelby cars, did Ford fit them or did Shelby, I wonder...?
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Chapter 3: Steering Mods (Power to Manual Swap)

Steering Mods (Power to Manual Swap) Parts List:
1xFlaming River FR1498* - 16:1 Ratio Steering Box, 1-1/8” Sector, 67-70
1xBorgesson 013468 - Steering Universal Joint**
VS
0xScott Drake C7OZ-3A525-A - Steering Coupler**
1xOpentracker ORP-1152 - Late 67-68 Manual Steering Pitman Arm, 1-1/8” Sector
1xOpentracker ORP-1034 - 67-70 Roller Idler Arm, Manual Steering
1xScott Drake C7ZZ-3304-CI - Manual Steering Center Link
1xGlobal West ADJ-3 - Tie Rod Sleeves

In my humble opinion, ditching Ford’s awful factory power-assist steering is the best thing you can do to it. For a tight handling application it wouldn’t even be necessary to swap out the steering box, as the power box has a quicker ratio of 16:1 (versus something like 20:1 on the manual specific box). Steering wheel effort is considerable until you get moving, but how often does that matter?

My factory steering box was worn out, so I added the Flaming River box to my shopping list*. There’s not really any difference. I just didn’t want to wait for a rebuild. Initially I installed the Flaming River box with a Scott Drake replacement rag joint**. BEWARE of this part! It is the critical attachment point of your car’s steering to the road surface, and the parts were substandard at best; the bolts stripped just past finger tight, and the rubber of the rag joint tore easily. If this part hadn’t self-destructed in my hands before I even got it fully installed, the results could have been catastrophic! A better option would be to rebuild your factory rag joint with a kit from your local auto parts store’s HELP section, or you can take it a step further and install a Borgesson Universal Joint. The Borgesson joint** provides a positive connection from steering wheel to steering box, and eliminates any remaining steering slop. I would highly recommend the upgrade. Here is a shot of the HELP kit you want if you’re staying with a rag joint:



As for the actual manual steering conversion, the process is quite simple and you have two options to accomplish it. You can simply remove your power steering control valve and replace it with a CVE (control valve eliminator) kit from Rare Parts (P/N: RP27483):



Or for about the same amount of money you can purchase a replacement manual steering specific centerlink, idler, and pitman arm. A nice upgrade would be install Opentracker’s roller idler arm to reduce binding in the steering system, as well as eliminating unwanted steering input from the stock rubber bushed idler’s deflection. I went with the new manual steer components and the Opentracker idler, because my power steering system was in good shape, and I knew I could sell the stock components easily.





I’m not sure that the Global West tie rod sleeves were a worthwhile investment, but they were cheap and they are quite stout. I don’t think you can really go wrong there. After the steering was buttoned up I aligned the car to John’s recommended “street performance” specs of +3.5° caster, -1.5° camber, and 1/8” toe in.
 

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Love the build and how detailed you're going into each component! Your entire build is very similar to what I'm doing with my '68 fastback with the exception of the PS and small block. I had the manual steering with the big block for a while but it was genuinely a pain in the *** to drive at slow speeds, let alone park.

It's funny how many people try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Mustang suspension. At the end of the day, all you need to do is fix some crappy geometry :).
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Love the build and how detailed you're going into each component! Your entire build is very similar to what I'm doing with my '68 fastback with the exception of the PS and small block. I had the manual steering with the big block for a while but it was genuinely a pain in the *** to drive at slow speeds, let alone park.

It's funny how many people try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Mustang suspension. At the end of the day, all you need to do is fix some crappy geometry :).
Thanks Armon! I just caught up with the last couple pages of your build thread (I haven’t been on here much since last winter). I’ve been a fan of your build for a while, and I dig the Terlingua treatment. I agree that we took similar approaches with our modifications.

I’m bummed to hear that the manual steering is a pain with the big block, because I’ve got this boat anchor I’ve been thinking about building up this winter...



I’m guessing that the car in Bullitt was a manual steer car from the factory, and so it probably had that 20:1 ratio steering box in it. Even with the close ratio box, the small block car (with aluminum top end) is easy to drive.

Anyway, I’ve definitely always dreamed of building this car with an FE, but unforeseen circumstances kind of forced my hand with the 289, for the time being. I suppose I’ll build up a big block power train, and then with any luck I can find another car to swap all this small block stuff into somewhere down the road. For now it’s a boatload of fun to drive as-is, and I tell you what, this suspension, with an aluminum headed small block and an ultra-light T5 up front, and this thing handles like it’s on rails! It will be hard to give that up for sure.
 

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Chapter 4: Rear Suspension Mods

Rear Suspension Mods Parts List:
1xGlobal West 105SH - Del-Alum Leaf Spring Bushings
2xScott Drake C5ZZ-5560-4ME - 4-1/2 Leaf Mid-Eye Rear Springs
2xKoni 821389 - Koni Adjustable Rear Shock Absorber

This rear suspension is painfully simple, and brutally effective. To paraphrase John from Opentracker, the Global West Del-Alum bushings are to the rear suspension what his roller perches are to the front. They allow bind free movement of the leaf spring through it’s arc while providing simultaneous positive locating of the axle (side to side) under the car. They eliminate the need for a trac-bar or a sway bar, and they seem to work as advertised.



I believe that Maier Racing was the first to pioneer the 4-1/2 leaf mid-eye rear spring pack for the early Mustang, and the Scott Drake pieces are definitely a copy of those, but they’re a quality spring for less than half the price of the Maier pieces. They effectively control axle wrap while providing a firm yet compliant ride, and if they end up sagging after a couple of years I’m only out a couple hundred bucks, and I can buy the Maier’s.



The hardest part of the whole rear suspension swap was removing the front leaf springs bolts. The bolts had fused themselves to the steel bushing sleeves, and I had to dissect the stock springs with a cut-off wheel to keep from damaging the frame. I later learned that the preferred approach is to use a sawzall between the spring and the spring pocket, but that approach still seemed to leave a high probability for chewing up the spring pocket. Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t working on book time.



As in the front, the rear got Koni adjustable shocks. I removed the modern stickers that come on the Koni’s these days and installed the “Koni Classic” stickers, just in case anybody is ever crawling around under my car. The shocks were installed at 1/4 turn of adjustment, per John’s instruction.





The only thing left to do...in fact the only nuts and bolts I didn’t turn on the whole damn car, are in the rear axle assembly. Being a C4 automatic car from the factory, the rear gearing is something like 2.73-ish to 1, and it’s a one-legger. But I’ve got big block plans in the future, and so I’m on the fence as to whether or not I should build the 8” for now, or just go straight to a 9”. I think something like 3.70:1 and a Truetrac are going to be in the cards, either way.



Anyway, so far everything seems to be working together quite nicely. The whole car is working great, in fact. I’ve got about 100 miles on it so far and the only issue I have had is a faulty voltage regulator (right out of the box). Amazingly it was a NOS Wells made in the USA piece that I’ve had lying around since I was a kid, and I put the Chinese made no-name regulator that was in the car when I bought it back in, and solved the problem...go figure. Anyway, I’m pretty stoked!

Thanks to the few of you who have been reading along, and I hope this post can be helpful and/or informative to some folks here. I’m already planning out my next post...geeking out on “Bullitt” wheels and tires. I’ll probably post it over in the General Discussion area though. And then everybody on VMF will know what a nerd I am. Hahaha!

Thanks again!

Casey
 

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What size tail pipes are you running? Any close up shots of the rear valance? I'm getting ready to order the same valance and have my exhaust routed *correctly* ;).

Also, if you end up building the big block- do yourself a favor and get rid of as much cast iron as possible. FE's are HEAVY!
 
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