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Modern Conversions for Old Mustangs

(Last updated: 26 March 2012)

 

Those of us with the older 64-73 era "vintage" mustangs, and who use them regularly, will know that they whilst they look cool, they can leave something to be desired in terms of handling, braking, steering and general vehicle dynamics by comparison with modern vehicles. This tends to make the older cars less attractive as everyday drivers, and also not quite as safe either.

There is an increasingly popular alternative option involving fitting modern components into older body shells. This is not an attractive option for cars that have enhanced value because they are rare or collectible (Boss, Shelby, etc), but for the more routine models it is becoming a very viable option.  

For example its now possible to fit the entire engine, gearbox, front and rear suspension complete with ABS brakes, from a late 90's Cobra, into a 67-73 Mustang. After conversion the external visual appearance of the car is not changed, and so you need not know the car has been modified until you check under the bonnet or look underneath. There are plenty of other conversion options as well including numerous braking and suspension improvements.

Effectively this means you can have a car with the fabulous looks of a classic mustang, but with the driving dynamics, responsiveness, and improved fuel consumption, of a newer Mustang.

There are an ever growing number of options, and I have listed them as I come across them. However I cant find them all myself, so please DO tell me about any you come across that I haven't listed.
 

1. Steering Conversions.

1.1 Rack and Pinion conversion   (TCP)

Total Control Products make a rack and pinion conversion kit that will bolt into any 64-73 mustang. The rack used is custom built for the job, rather than using mountings for a second hand rack sourced from another model. Its available in manual and powered versions.  I tried this conversion myself, some years ago. Details are here.
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1.2 Rack and Pinion    (Fat Man Fabrications)

Fatmanfab.jpg (55977 bytes)

This commercial conversion involves replacing not only the entire original steering system, but also most of the front suspension. Fatman Fabrications offers a kit to convert early mustangs to Strut type suspension, (using later model Mustang Uprights) and along with that a conversion to rack and pinion steering using a US Escort/Temp type steering rack.  Go here for more information.
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1.3  "Randalls Rack": Rack and Pinion Conversion  .

This conversion uses a powered Chevy rack with custom designed mountings. Looks to be well designed. The Rack and Pinion are already secured to the cross member when you receive the system. After you have removed the old components the new cross member with the rack and pinion is bolted to the frame at 7 points using grade 8 bolts. No modifications required to the car other than to the steering column. Complete kits are offered with all items needed for the conversion including rack, bolts and power steering hoses and instructions. Cross member powder-coated black. www.randallsrack.com

Randallsrack1.gif (99205 bytes) Randallsrack3.gif (80348 bytes) Randallsrack2.gif (60505 bytes)

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1.4 Flaming River Rack and Pinion Conversions 

Top quality conversions with solid mountings to the steering box and idler mounting bolt positions on the chassis rails. Manual and power kits available. Go here 


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1.5 SpeedDirect (Steeroids) Rack and Pinion Conversion 

This is a particularly nice and popular kit and comes only as a powered rack, with full bump steer adjustment (a real bonus), plus it will work just fine with the stock pump. Fits 65 through 70 models. Also available as a lower steering ratio (2.5 turns lock to lock), it also doesn't require the cross brace to be removed.


1. "I put a Steeroids rack (cavileer) on our 67 cougar big block. Although the rack brackets did bolt up, the pan hit the steering bracket. We modified the bracket to clear and made a tie strap to gusset the two inner helm joints together. Also added helm joint seals to keep out the dirt. Steeroids sells their kit with a 2.5 lock to lock rack but I used a 2.8 LTL along with the stock Ford p/s pump --- absolutely wonderful!  The exhaust head pipe was a nightmare. We used 2" exhaust tubing with a 2" bend radius to clear the rack using stock 390 manifolds. Ended up silver soldering together the correct metric fittings to hook the Ford p/s pump to the rack. The stock column was shortened up to as close to the fire wall as possible and we used unisteer pinch bolt type u-joints. Thank you for steering me toward this system. Larry Eckman. (p/s Between the rack conversion and replacing the Ford a/c pump with a Sanden pump the car came up 1/2 inch!!!)

2. My name is Mark Flavin and I want to thank you for all of the referrals from your site to our product site: www.steeroids.com. My company is SpeedDirect.com, the manufacturer of Steeroids rack and pinion conversions. Our Mustang kit covers 1964-70 Mustangs and we have been very successful selling to a worldwide audience. I would be happy to offer your subscribers a discounted price for our kits. Just have them mention that they saw our product on your site and we will extend a 10% discount off of the retail price.
You may also be interested in a new product for those same cars, the SpeedDirect Vector Coil over kit.  (See  below 2.12)

Go to the Speed Direct website for more info  http://www.speeddirect.com/index.aspx?nodeID=75  or http://www.steeroids.com

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1.6 RRS Conversions (Australia)

Revelation Racing Supplies in Australia has beautiful conversion kits.... Left and and Right hand drive...  These kits are also available in the US.. see their website for more details   For more information visit the RRS webpage here


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1.7 Unisteer Rack and Pinion Conversion Kits (new!)

Nice looking kits complete with pump, hoses and tie rod ends, available in powered and manual options. Go here for more


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1.8 Modern Steering Box Conversions

If your old Ford steering system is tired or you want to convert from a manual system to a powered system, one relatively low cost option is to convert over to a Toyota steering box for example the late 70's early 80's Cressida. Other models such as Hilux may also have suitable boxes. Two of the three mounting bolts fit straight through the existing Mustang holes but the third has to be drilled through the chassis rail. The pitman arm needs to be modified by welding half of the Toyota arm to half of the Mustang arm. This is not difficult to do but obviously must be done properly by professional welders.  Other boxes such as units from Mitsubishi and Isuzu models can also be adapted.

A full commercial kit based on the Toyota Box is available from ABS Power Brakes Inc as shown below. It offers a full bolt in conversion with suitable pitman arm, power steering hoses, and all adapters and bolts required.


For more info go to http://abspowerbrake.com/newproducts.html  or http://abspowerbrake.com/maincatalog_frameset.html Go to page 82.

Another excellent converted box option is available from Borgeson, which mounts to the original chassis holes as shown below.

For more info go to http://www.borgeson.com/mustang.html

Caution Note for New Zealanders: The Borgeson steering box conversions do work very nicely, (can even be purchased from NZ Parts suppliers) BUT are apparently made using Japanese boxes that have the mounting section replaced with a three hole mustang mounting pattern plate that is welded to the box. This weld is secure and well made BUT may not pass the LVVC inspectors in NZ. (No welded components allowed in steering systems rule). The only way around this is to a) Replace the steering box housing with a custom made non welded housing (something like $1000 a shot - contact Phil at P G Hydraulics In East Tamaki Auckland), or b) use a Japanese box with unmodified 3 hole mounting (two of the three holes match the Mustang pattern, one is different), and modify the chassis rail to take the extra bolt hole. Note that the new mounting hole must be tubed like the original, to pass inspection. Of course you may still need a special new pitman arm with Japanese pattern spline at the box and Mustang taper at the other end. The Borgeson supplied box (Part# 999020 ) uses the original Mustang pitman arm.

2. Front Suspension

2.1  A complete Mustang II Front suspension (and steering)

Mustang2frontend.jpg (84714 bytes) Mustang2frontendB.jpg (81316 bytes)

This is a major exercise involving removing all the existing front suspension, steering, and much of the shock towers. The Mustang II front sub-frame assembly complete with suspension, brakes and rack and pinion steering is then positioned in the correct location. Uprights are welded on to pick up the existing chassis rails and thus attach it to the car. The two big advantages are the conversion to R&P steering, and the big gain in engine bay space, (by removal of the shock towers) giving more room for headers and making spark plug changes so much easier. Check this link. Easiest way to complete the conversion is to buy one of the aftermarket kits now available such as: Rod & Custom Motorsport.  http://www.rcmotorsports.net/page6.html This is a total Mustang II Front End Kit, with manual or power rack, tubular upper & lower A-arms, Fully adjustable coil-overs and has the small or big block mounts.
"I did the research & Rod & Customs Motorsports makes the best Mustang II kit out there for early Mustangs. The beauty of this kit is that Rod & Customs Motorsports has been around for a long time and will sell you everything individually if should you ever need replacement parts down the road. They have awesome tech support and you'll be talking to the owner of the company when you call. Also, any headers that will work for a 79-93 Fox Mustang will work with this kit. Same goes for the oil pan. ABSOLUTELY NO CUSTOM HEADERS, OILPAN, OR STEERING COLUMN NEEDED WITH THIS KIT---UNLIKE OTHER MUSTANG II FRONT END CONVERSION KITS. This kit even includes the steel patch panels to cover the holes where the shock towers are removed."
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2.2 Late 90's era Cobra Macpherson strut conversion.

mcpstrut.jpg (39848 bytes)

Under development by DVS Restorations. For more information see Section 4 below.
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2.3 TCP Coil-Over and Front Spring Conversion Kits.

                 

This Total Control Products coil-over kit completely replaces the original suspension, but uses the original mounting points. Results in a drastic improvement in front end ride quality and handling. Check it out at the TCP site here 

Total Control also have a more stock looking spring system that replaces the older suspension with a better performing unit of similar design. See second image above. Go here
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2.4 RRS Coil-Over Suspension Conversion (and disc brake upgrade)

Revelation Racing Supplies has a fully developed conversion kit to modify the standard double wishbone 64-73 era Mustang front suspension to Coil Over. The conversion takes only a few hours and is a simple bolt-in fit. Custom built components are used, and no welding, drilling or other permanent modification is made to the car, which can be converted back to stock at any time. Vented disc brake rotors and dual pot calipers complete the conversion. Go here for more information

The conversion is especially good with a rack and pinion steering conversion, so as to improve the turning circle while still retaining 3.5 turns lock to lock. 
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2.5  Fatman Fabrications Strut Front Conversion, disc brake upgrade, and rack and pinion steering conversion.

Fatmanfab.jpg (55977 bytes)

This commercial conversion involves replacing the entire front suspension with using custom made Strut type suspension.  Very similar to the Australian version in 2.4 above, except that later model Mustang Uprights and disc brakes are used to reduce costs.  Go here for more information
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2.6  Fatman Fabrications complete tubular front end! (New!)

The standard Ford front end sheet metal can only be adapted to take so much loading. Perhaps a better way is to replace the entire front end with a new stronger tubular steel assembly designed to take a completed set of modern suspension and steering components, as well as to bolt on your existing bonnet, fenders and front grill headlights etc. Super wide quad cam motors will also fit no problem! Not cheap but.. Awesome! Check this out here
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2.7  Air Ride Technologies

 

This company offers uprated suspension components for mostly GM models but some early Model Mustangs are catered for. Compressed air springs are included in the packages to enable the ride height to be adjusted. Go here..
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2.8  Global West Coil-Over

 

The Global West coil-over is one of the newest systems and uses negative roll geometry. Currently available for 1967-70 Mustangs, it is multi adjustable for ride height and camber and will take a multitude of braking systems. Two systems are available: One for drag racing and street use, and one for road racing and performance applications. No cutting or modifications required to the shock towers, but 6-10 holes have to be drilled to mount the components. Go here for more
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2.9    AJE Racing Front conversion

Another complete front conversion kit. Around $2300 depending on model and options.  Go here for more details.
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2.10    Griggs Racing GR350 Front conversion (Racing)

Another complete from conversion kit for early 64-66 stangs. Includes rear suspension as well. Part for late model stangs too. No good pictures on their website but basic descriptions are there. Go here.
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2.11    Ron Morris "Street Force" Front Coil Over Conversion

A total front coil over conversion including new top and bottom arms, coils, shocks, strut rods, mounting plates bolts etc.  Coil over mounts to bottom arm. Fully adjustable ride height and adjustable shockabsorbers.  Very well made. $2500, but a  top kit!  Go here.
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2.12    SpeedDirect "Vector" Coil Over Conversion Kit (New)

Latest addition to the coil-over conversion market is the SpeedDirect "Vector" conversion kit. Simple and attractive in that the lower arms do not need changing, and no permanent changes to the vehicle are required.

Go here to take a look http://speeddirect.com/index.aspx?nodeid=181

3. Rear Suspension Conversions

3.1 Total Control Rear Suspension Conversions 

        

Total control have a range of conversions for the rear of classic mustangs. The pushrod system as shown in the first image retains the beam axle (hence is not an IRS Unit) but otherwise has numerous nice design features, such as solid transverse location by a Watts linkage, ride height adjustment, and full anti-tramp torque arm for big power takeoffs. Nice, but real expensive at between $5,000! Check out the excellent pictures on the TCP website here.

TCP also have their G bar system in which replaces the leaf springs and locates the axles more securely as shown in the second image above. Big advantage? Cheaper at $2,500  Go here
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3.2 IRS unit built by CTM Engineering (Updated Dec 2010)

This unit is nicely designed.  The latest version uses the Ford 9 inch diff and new wheel hub bearing housings. The complete system costs about US$8,000.  This includes brakes, coil overs, 31 spline - 9 inch aluminum center, aluminum hubs with 35 spline axles, etc etc. Check it out here www.mustangirs.com However the site is less than helpful.. try digging into the "media" section.
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3.3 DVS Cobra IRS Unit  

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The late model Cobra unit installs relatively easily into 67-70 era stangs. DVS Restorations has done this conversion. Apart from mounting brackets, shocks, and a custom drive shaft, the conversion uses new Ford parts that you can order from any US Ford dealer. Ride height adjustable. The conversion kit is priced from $1200 + you have to source a Cobra IRS unit. For more information see section 4 below, or go here

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3.4  Control Freak IRS Unit  

A newer (2006) era IRS conversion built specifically for classic Mustangs. Basically a bolt in fit, but minor notching of the chassis rails is needed. Go here for more info.
http://www.automedia.com/Independent/Rear/Suspension/Install/res20050801ir/1
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3.5  Air Ride Technologies

 

This company offers a serious uprating kit for the rear suspension of some early Model Mustangs. The kit does away with the leaf springs and replaces them with trailing links and compressed air springs to enable the ride height to be adjusted. Go here..
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3.6  Max G Systems: Rear conversion

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This company offers a really exotic chromoly complete chassis system for rear suspension conversion, that is seriously expensive, but seriously good. The entire old suspension is replaced with a new triangulated chassis system. Go here  
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3.7  Evolution Motorsport Rear Conversion

 

The Evolution Motorsport vintage rear kit has the major advantage that it will fit 1971-73 mustangs as well as the earlier models.. Full Watts linkage on its own, or add in a trilink to eliminate the leaf springs altogether. Go here.

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3.8  Heidts PRO G IRS Complete Kit

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A complete bolt in kit for 64-70 Mustangs. Inboard  discs, handles 600 hp. Around US$7000 with diff. Go here for more http://www.heidts.com/1964-1970-mustang-prog-irs.html

 

4. Total Power Train and Running Gear Conversions

4.1 Installation of a Complete 99 Cobra Power Train and Suspension 

cobramtrin67.jpg (39641 bytes)

This conversion involves taking all the running gear from a 99 era Cobra, and fitting it into a 60's Mustang body shell.  Installed are the engine, transmission, front McPherson strut suspension and rack and pinion steering, independent rear suspension and ABS braking system. The company undertaking the conversion is called DVS Restorations, and their web site is here.

Much of the detail of the conversions is in their early newsletters.

The March 05 issue of the Vintage Mod Newsletter can be found here:
www.dvsrestorations.com/mar05.htm

An archive of the past newsletters can be found here:
www.dvsrestorations.com/Archive.htm
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4.2 Installation of a new 5.0-liter, four-valve "Cammer" crate engine into a 1965 Mustang Fastback.

Swapping a high horsepower V-8 engine into a classic 1965 Mustang Fastback is a fairly common occurrence - unless, of course, you're talking about a modern Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) 5.0-liter "Cammer" crate engine.
So that's precisely what Ford Racing Performance Parts (FRPP) engineered to wow show goers at the Nov 03 Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show: a fully restored 1965 Mustang 2+2 powered by a special version of FRPP's hot new 5.0-liter, four-valve "Cammer" crate engine producing 420 horsepower. It's the perfect marriage of Ford's Mustang performance heritage and the very latest in advanced modular V-8 engine technology.
The idea behind the project was to show that an all-new version of Ford's 5.0-liter V-8 can find itself right at home in the engine bay of America's original pony car. It also demonstrates that even something as central to the Ford enthusiast community as the first-generation Mustang can enjoy the performance potential engineered into the long-awaited "Cammer" crate engine offering. A vintage 'Stang was chosen because it is a car that any automotive hobbyist can relate to - and one that many FRPP customers already own, modify and enjoy.
After the introduction of the 5.0L "Cammer" at last year's SEMA show in the FR100 pickup truck, many hot rod enthusiasts were not looking forward to dealing with the modern-day electronic fuel injection system, so Ford Racing engineers took note, and this year's Mustang "Cammer" crate engine features a classic downdraft carburetor setup, with four, two-barrel Webers sitting atop a custom Ford Racing intake. Using the carburetors also necessitated a switch from a fully electronic to an MSD distributor ignition system.
While much of the project's appeal rides in the fact it's all cloaked in classic Mustang sheet metal, Ford Racing custom-crafted a prototype cold-air induction hood to help funnel fresh air to the Webers, as well as to signal that there's some seriously modern technology lurking underneath. The masterfully massaged bodywork is finished in PPG Gloss Black and buffed to a mirror finish. Special "5.0-liter Cammer" badges complete the look.
Inside, all the stock trim was replaced with a complete National Parts Depot Reproduction 1965 Mustang interior. Naturally, no Mustang restoration upgrade would be complete without a set of Rally Pack gauges, as well as a thoroughly modern A/C system supplied by Vintage Air.
The FRPP '65 Mustang fastback serves to illustrate that the ability to blend state-of-the-art powertrain technology into classic Ford sheet metal is realistically within the reach of today's Ford Racing Performance Parts customer.

 

5. Disc Brake Conversions

5.1  Classic Services Restoration Parts

CSRP can supply a complete conversion kit (as shown below, incl new spindles, rotors and master cylinder) for US$545, comprising all new parts based on the popular Granada conversion.  Their web site is here  http://www.discbrakeswap.com/


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5.2  Revelation Racing Supplies

There are many ways to add discs to the REAR of a classic Mustang. Here is an up-market kit from RRS.