My 351w Swapped 1995 Mustang GT

Chris Stephens

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So after solving some of the driveability issues with hotter plugs, I turned back to hard parts. I got the Griffin radiator and Ford Contour dual fan setup installed, new starter put on, etc.

My buddy and I installed the FRPP proportioning valve in the rear line and then gutted the factory prop valve. We went for a drive in a somewhat secluded area. The goal was simple, add rear bias until the rears locked up first, then back off the rear bias until the fronts locked up just before the rears. He stood outside of the car while I gunned it, then slammed on the brakes. We did this a couple of times (locking up the fronts) before I realized it might take a LOT of rear bias to get the rears to lock up and told him to just set the prop valve all the way open (50/50 bias since the factory valve is gutted) and we would work our way back from there. He cranked it open, we tried again aaaaand...it turns out that with 13" 2000 Cobra R Brembo setup in front and the 10.5" GT rears in the back, locking up the rears before the fronts is simply not possible. The stiff suspension probably plays a role in that as well, less weight transfer to the front tires, maybe? I dunno, but I am sure it isn't possible.

Either way, it didn't matter, the car stopped waaaay better than before. Brake modulation was much better, too, since the car wasn't trying to immediately lock the fronts up.
 

Chris Stephens

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So we hit the AutoX course the weekend before last. This was my final opportunity to really test the car out and make any last-minute changes before we took the car to Hallett for the Mid-America Ford and Shelby Nationals meet on June 17-18. I had gone ahead and taken the whole week off just in case anything major broke on us. To my surprise, mostly nothing did...

I did lose a wheel. I still can't fathom how that happened. Both a friend and I had checked them to make sure they were all tight. I put them on finger tight, then ran them down snug with the impact. He put a breaker bar on all of them, then insisted I check them with the breaker bar, which I did.

On Saturday, the car did perfectly, no hint of a wheel about to fall off. We left the car at the airport overnight and then showed up Sunday to run. On my very first run, right through the timing light, I noticed something felt very wrong. It felt like there was something loose in the front right of the car. I slowed down and pulled off to return to the pit. About halfway back, the left rear wheel passed me and the car thudded to the ground. The car landed down on my sway bar and ground it down pretty good in the short time it took me to stop.

All of the lugnuts stayed inside the wheel and it rolled across course. We managed to find all 5, so I threw a couple on and got it out of the way. I went back to the pits, cleaned up the aluminum from my slightly damaged wheel off the threads, then torqued them all back down. I went ahead and checked all the others, which were all at 105 ftlbs or more. The safety stewards cleared me to run in the afternoon, so I got back in it.

The biggest "wins" from the AutoX weekend were power, handling, and cooling. The car felt pretty neutral, braked very nicely, and the temp never went over 205 (not too surprising, since I just had the fans coming on at 200). On Sunday, I turned the fans on at 195, off at 185, and the car never touched 200.

My biggest takeaway from the AutoX was that I need to learn to drive this car now. The brake bias adjustment made it stop like it used to, insanely good, but I wasn't used to it braking that well without locking up a front wheel. I did too much coasting instead of just stabbing the brake and then getting back in the throttle.

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Chris Stephens

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Before we went to Hallett, the day we were set to leave actually, my cousin decided he would feel a lot better about going fast if he had a set of harnesses. After taking a careful look at what we had to work with, we decided the best way to do it was to utilize the factory seatbelt mounting points on the B pillar. So we rounded up some tubing he had leftover from his dirt track days and designed a simple harness bar tube. It worked well and felt very secure, so I will probably leave it in the car until I get the urge to put in an actual roll bar. It's much better than stock belts, especially when coupled with the new seats, and I'm not clinging on to the wheel going around corners anymore. That's always nice!

We did have some issues. First issue was during tech...I had installed the new radiator/fan setup and stupidly forgot to put a new overflow bottle on the car...the old one no longer fit. We taped a powerade bottle in the engine bay and borrowed some hose from the track mechanics.

The first session out on Thursday, everything was fine, the car was great. Then my cousin got in the car to drive and I noticed it was smoking as he was coming down the front stretch. That was my first scare of the weekend, since I have a lot of time and money invested in this new engine. He pitted early, thankfully. We checked it out, and it was just some oil pushing out the breathers. The engine shop had installed both valve covers with breathers toward the rear of the car. At full throttle/high RPM, it was building up a little pressure, and since all the oil in was sloshed to the rear under acceleration, it was pushing. Friday morning, we swapped the valve covers around to where the breathers were at the front, and that pretty much solved the issue.

We also had an idler bolt come loose and push the belt toward the rear of the car. It shredded longways, turning our 6 rib belt into a 3 rib belt. Just took a trip to AutoZone Thursday night for the right torx bit to tighten it, two new belts (one for spare), and some good ole loctite and we were back to running Friday morning.

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The car ran like a champ most of the day Friday. The highest temp I saw was about 212*, not too concerning with how hard we were running it. An oil cooler might help bring that down, as it stayed around 200* until we ran a couple of sessions a little closer together.

At the end of Friday, my cousin was in the car with my brother while I drove my dad's car. I was just cruising around and I pitted before him. About 5 minutes later, I realized I hadn't seen him come around in a while. About 5 minutes after that, I realized he should've been back to the pits by then. About 5 minutes after that I saw a tow truck pull up with my cousin and brother in tow....uh-oh. I could barely walk over there to see what had happened...

Turns out, nothing major. The power steering pump locked up, which killed the engine (and almost put them in the grass). Thankfully, that's an easy fix, and a lot cheaper than a blown engine like I was picturing on the "long" walk from our pit area up to the tow truck.

All in all, Hallett was pretty dang awesome. I ran a 1:30.9 and my much more experienced cousin ran a 1:31.0. I don't think I have ever been that excited over a tenth of a second. He's come up with a few excuses already, but I'm not having it....

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Chris Stephens

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Another cool thing I got to do at Hallett: drive one of my dream cars!

Or rather, what was one of my dream cars. Turns out, these cars are way too small. I've climbed into it before and did fine, when my cousin was working on it, but with a helmet on...fuhgeddaboudit...

I had to slouch down pretty far in the seat. I made it work, but the most I could manage was some Sunday cruising speed. I did get into it on the straights, but up and downshifting was very difficult, so I just took it easy and enjoyed the experience. I wasn't out to blow up or wreck a supercar that's just been repaired either, so the physical limitations helped tone me down a bit, too.

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It turns out that my car is faster than a 2006 Ford GT on the straights, which is pretty dang cool. I wish I'd gotten a video of me pulling my dad down the front stretch...but I didn't, so you folks will just have to take my word that 635hp in an old POS Mustang is still faster than 550hp in an old supercar.

My brother claimed it didn't bother him, but was caught talking about pulley swapping the GT in the pits shortly afterward.
 

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NICE!!! I am hoping that this year aug 5 I get to use my ticket to drive a 2020 gt500 on a track. It was rained out last year.
 

Chris Stephens

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NICE!!! I am hoping that this year aug 5 I get to use my ticket to drive a 2020 gt500 on a track. It was rained out last year.

One of my dad's friends has one and brought it to the track...very capable. My brother drove it, I didn't. But I probably should have.
 

Chris Stephens

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I haven't made a post in a while, mainly because I have been really slacking on the car. I didn't touch it for about a month and a half from Fourth of July weekend when I installed the K Member till last Thursday.

Once I got it all back together and got a rough alignment on it, I took it for a test drive. The car was making a weird..."clatter"? It increased with speed and it only did it while turning left.

It didn't sound too bad, but obviously wasn't right, so I just kept figuring I would get around to it. Well, ended up helping my cousin a few times with his engine rebuild. It finally came up to the Thursday before AutoCross and I needed to get it fixed. The noise was coming from the front right side, so I started there, tore it down and checked everything. I couldn't find anything wrong anywhere.

My cousin finally came over and asked if it could be driveshaft-related. No, of course not, the noise was coming from the front right, only did it when turning left, and I hadn't touched anything back there when I did the K Member.

Well. Of course, he was right. A previous owner had installed a driveshaft safety loop. One of the bolts that held it together was RIGHT near the weld of the driveshaft. It wasn't making any noise just driving straight, but I guess there was enough flex in the chassis to allow it to make contact when turning left.

So that loop came off and I was able to AutoCross on Saturday and Sunday. Different site than our usual place, smaller and on asphalt, but was still pretty fun.

I was fighting a massive shortage of front grip. I will probably need to make some changes to the car. Jack from Maximum Motorsports had told me when I was planning this build that my Steeda 35mm front bar would likely cause some understeer issues. I had not experienced that until this event. I need to go shopping at my dad's little salvage yard and get some bars to test out.

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Chris Stephens

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I had an AutoCross the weekend before last. I drove alone on Saturday. On Sunday, my adopted brother codrove with me. He's a VERY good driver, started off in Karts when he was young and was exposed to racecars his whole life, unlike me. So I had no doubt he could do very well in my car. It's the first time he's driven this one in 5 years, and I have made a LOT of changes since then, but he adapted really quick to it.

That weekend was a special event with folks coming from 4 different states (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennesee). So there were a lot more people signed up than usual. Usually the out-of-state people that attend this event are very serious about AutoX (and tend to be very fast, too), so I usually place a little lower. That was expected. What wasn't entirely expected was just how terrible the car would be.

If you recall from my last post about the August event, I said, "I was fighting a massive shortage of front grip. I will probably need to make some changes to the car. Jack from Maximum Motorsports had told me when I was planning this build that my Steeda 35mm front bar would likely cause some understeer issues. I had not experienced that until this event. I need to go shopping at my dad's little salvage yard and get some bars to test out."

The problem with changing after that event is that, as my cousin pointed out, the course at War Memorial is much tighter than we usually run (it's much smaller, so there's a lot of overlapping sections of course) and it's on asphalt. So making changes to the car based on that one event may not be the right move, since we only run there once a year. But at our normal location, it still had the same issue, like I thought it would. It was really hard to drive around. I tried braking early and just going slower so that I could position the car for the next element and get back on throttle faster. That yielded slow times. I tried staying off throttle all the way, occasionally even lightly on the brakes, in an effort to keep the front end loaded, still not very fast. The car just wouldn't catch any traction up front.

About the only thing that worked and turned decent times was good, old-fashioned gas-mashin. Turn the wheel to get into the turn. As soon as it started to push, hammer down to rotate the car and get it pointed the direction we wanted, then countersteer and back off the throttle so the car would hook. That was faster, but still not fantastic.

I did phone in to Jack at Maximum Motorsports about the issue yesterday. My curiosity was about why the car started exhibiting such bad understeer after I put the K Member and new FCAs on. If it was just too much sway bar in the front, shouldn't I have had the issue at the June events?

I gave a brief explanation about the car, the issues I had, and some questions. His first question was whether I had properly bumpsteered the car when I installed the new 99-04 spindles and K Member. I sheepishly admitted that I hadn't, I had bought the gauge he sells and planned to do it eventually (at the same time I did a corner balance), but for right now I just set them where they looked right and moved on. His thought is that that's the cause of a lot of my understeer on the car.

So my projects for this week/weekend:
  • Pick up a factory 94-98 GT front sway bar.
    • Jack's exact words last year were, "In the front use the stock 1994-98 30mm swaybar along with the 1” rear swaybar. That should only result in a small amount of understeer."
    • I'm gonna go ahead and put the lighter bar on to hopefully gain some grip back up there.
    • If I still have troubles at the next AutoX, I'll take the tools with me to raise the Watts link at lunch time and then try again. If that setup gets me good front traction, I'll lower the Watts link a notch; with as much power as the car has, I need as much rear grip as I can get, but I still need the car to be driveable, not plowing off course with the tiniest amount of turning.
  • Resquare the K Member
    • My first attempt apparently wasn't very good, as I have -3* in each side of the car and both camber plates are maxed out...in the same direction...
  • Ensure that the heights on the front springs are even on either side.
    • When I put the K Member back in and lowered the ride height, I prioritized getting the front control arms perfectly level. Jack indicated that this may lead to some funky corner-jacking that may affect the handling.
  • Lower the rear ride height to where the rear arm mounting locations are even and the spring heights are the same on either side.
    • This should get me an acceptable antiquat percentage for now.
    • Eventually, when I corner balance the car, I will figure out CG numbers and IC location and all that to make sure that I get it around 60-70%.
  • Install Stiffler's transmission crossmember
    • I've had it for a while, just haven't prioritized the install, but I do need to...
  • Check and adjust pinion angle
    • A part of that adjustment is going to be trying to get the tail of the transmission up as high as I can. I have noticed in the past that the pinion angle I should be at gets the driveshaft very close to the emergency brake cable bracket. I am almost to the point in making changes to this car that it may make sense to remove the entire emergency brake assembly anyway. It's not exactly a street car anymore and I rarely street drive it that way. But I would like to be able to street drive it more, so it stays for now and my quest to get all the little bugs worked out so it's reliable continues.
  • Align the front end
  • Check and adjust bumpsteer to get it into the acceptable range of toe change
  • Adjust toe as needed
That's about as much as I will probably be able to get done this week/weekend.

I do have a 94-04 Cobra brake setup and Eaton TruTrac sitting here that needs to get installed. But the need for that isn't as immediate as making the adjustments outlined above.

If you read this far, I'll let you in on the secret that my brother ended up beating me on Sunday by 4/10s of a second.

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