For suspensions, there are two main concerns: bushings and wear. If the car was used in a colder climate, corrosion may also come into play. The simplicity of the suspensions used on early Mustangs pretty much limits the major concerns to deteriorated rubber bushings and worn metal components like adjusters. The former are generally the most noticeable because the rubber often can deteriorate to the point of collapse, thus affecting the vehicle’s handling and/or causing clunking or other noises. The latter, are generally more subtle in their effect.
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Tires may wear unevenly, and the steering wheel may pull to one side while driving, for example. So it’s necessary to perform a thorough visual inspection of the front and rear suspensions while they are on the car. At least partially disassemble them in certain areas to make sure the components are healthy. Ball joints and lower control arm bushings in particular can appear to be okay unless they are checked in a specific manner.
Also, replacing many parts while the car is being restored reduces problems and cost later on. Bushings, bearings, and the like are relatively inexpensive and usually pretty simple to install, so replacing them is a form of cheap insurance against unexpected failure. Give shock absorbers similar consideration. If there are no visible leaks or other damage and the damping action is acceptable, it may be possible to retain what you have, especially if they were recently replaced or are the original shocks (in the case of a survivor or show car). In most cases, however, there are significant ride quality and handling improvements if the shocks are upgraded.
In any case, the peace of mind gained from replacing an unqualified item with a new part of known quality is worth the relatively minor cost. And when a part is rebuilt to retain authenticity, using new consumable/wearable components generally does not detract points from scoring in a show setting. Suspension parts should only be reused when they are known to have been very recently replaced by known good components, recently rebuilt, or are being kept in original condition in a survivor car.
The rear suspension is considerably less difficult to evaluate than the front. You’re basically limited to sizing up the bushings in the leaf-spring eyes and the condition of the fasteners like U-bolts and shackles. There is rarely a problem with or damage to the leaf springs themselves. They may need some cosmetic touch up, but if there is a problem with the springs being excessively corroded or having lost their shape, they are generally replaced. Only in a survivor or show car should the possibility of refurbishing and reusing deteriorated leaf springs even be considered. In our case, we went with an upgraded set of springs. In most cases all that likely is needed are new bushings, possibly shackles, and paint. You also need to determine whether or not to upgrade the factory setup for improved performance. This isn’t an option for a show car (authenticity); and, for a daily driver, the cost may not be justified if the benefits are not needed. For our weekend cruiser, however, this is beneficial and cost effective, even though we have elected to only pursue the subtle upgrades.
An example of where the factory design can use some improvement is shock towers in the front suspension. Cracks commonly develop in this area due to normal wear and tear. The more aggressively the car has been used and/or the more inclement weather it has been exposed to, the more likely this problem exists.
Similarly, the basic body structure of early Mustangs was not very rigid, especially by today’s standards. Over time the body structure tends to increasingly flex under load, producing unwanted noise and reduced effectiveness of the suspension, brakes, and steering. For our vehicle we decided to implement a few modifications to minimize body flex. These include additional welding in the shock tower area, installing welded-in subframe connectors, plus the use of an adjustable Monte Carlo bar and an aftermarket export brace.
Written by Frank Bohanan and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc