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> Street Fighter 1966 Ford Mustang, Part 14
post Aug 23 2010, 03:53 PM
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Project Street Fighter - Brace Yourself
Project Street Fighter Gets The Engine Bay Squared Up Thanks To Total Control Product's Multi-Link Engine Brace Setup.
From the June, 2010 issue of Popular Hot Rodding
By Liz Miles
Photography by Liz Miles

Unibody cars-such as our Mustang-do not have a separate frame structure. Instead, the body and frame are unified in one piece, called a unibody. Unfortunately, this cost-saving unibody construction results in unwanted chassis flex. The suspension mounting points are directly linked to the body, not on a separate frame. Because the upper spring perch is incorporated into the inner fender on a '66 Mustang, the factory welded brackets to each tower where supports bolt on and extend to the firewall. The supports are made of thin stamped steel and may work well for the Sunday driver, but our Project Street Fighter will be put through much more abuse, and subsequently will need a lot more support.
Most race cars have the entire engine bay supported by a rollcage that extends from the inside of the car through the firewall. Though this is an option for us as well, we wanted something that would be a little less permanent to allow easier servicing of the engine. So far, we've installed a complete front and rear suspension by Total Control Products, so they were the obvious choice for our fender braces.

Total Control offers a brace system-for '65-70 model Mustangs-in three levels. The first replaces the factory inner fender-to-firewall bracing with a much more substantial bracket and rod setup. A step up from that includes a truss that extends from fender to fender, roughly in line with the water pump. The third level includes bracing to connect the first two systems together. We chose to use the complete system.

Like everything else we've put on the car from Total Control, the installation went smoothly. We spent the most time on some metal finishing, enhancing the look of the end result. We haven't put the parts to the test yet, but we're optimistic they will live up to our expectation.

Bracket Prep
More than half of the time on this installation was spent removing the factory bracket to get it ready for the new Total Control one. The instructions supplied with the kit suggest drilling out the spot welds to remove the bracket using a spot-weld drill bit. These bits are specially designed to cut the welded metal but not all the way through the inner fender. We didn't have one of those so instead of drilling all the way through and patching the hole, we decided to cut the bracket off and metal finish it.

Here's the bracket in question. It doesn't fit under the new bracket that will top the plate shown in this photo, so it will need to be removed. At this time you will need to disconnect the upper coilover mount to remove this plate. If you've got a stock-style suspension, you will just need to disconnect the upper shock mount.

With a silver pencil, we drew a line where the bracket was separated from the inner fender. This way we wouldn't cut into the base metal.

A cutoff wheel is the best tool to do this job unless you have a plasma cutter handy.

The cutoff wheel will get you close, but we continued to grind the metal down with a grinder and a 36-grit pad to get the metal as close to level as possible.

The grinding step left a gap between the old bracket metal and the inner fender metal so we MIG-welded the gap together.

One more go with the grinder will produce a smooth finish.

Now you're ready for paint. We used Dupli-Color's Trim Black paint to match the inner fenders.

Now that the prep work is done, you can start the actual installation. It's always a good idea to lay out all of the parts to see what you're working with and make sure nothing is missing. Total Control Products offers our Mustang's system as PN PKG-TWRB-01, for $459. They also offer one for the Comet/Falcon, which is slightly different, and runs $509.

The first thing is to attach all of the brackets. For this one, we used the same hardware that was on the black plate before. You would use the same hardware for the upper shock mount for a stock-style suspension application.

The second bracket we put on was the firewall plate that uses the same holes that the factory braces connect with. We bolted it on temporarily to mark where to drill holes for the lower portion, which has a backing plate. After we marked these holes, we ground off the unsightly seam sealer and reshot it with Dupli-Color's Trim Black paint for the final installation.

The third bracket set goes on the flat sides of the inner fender about 12 inches from the radiator support. The machined aluminum engine side bracket needs a steel plate to reinforce it on the inside as you can see in this photo. After measuring off the radiator support to ensure proper location, we marked the second set of holes off the interior bracket.

Here are all of the brackets installed and ready for the links.

Each link has very specific hardware that is explained in Total Control's instructions, and it helps to pre-assemble each piece with the hardware to make sure you've got everything where it should be.

We bolted the firewall links first. Tuning the length of the rods is very simple. One side is standard thread and the other is lefthand thread, so twisting the rod at the knurled portion changes the length-like a turnbuckle

Here's everything installed! It all went together very smoothly, though the aluminum clamps going over the main truss brace needed a little prying to open wide enough for the bar.

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