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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Hard lines, Pedals, Bulkhead Terminals & a Few Other Tips!

Behind, behind, behind!  That has been just about the story of life around here for the past month.  We 40 tons of concrete in the ground BUT we need 40 MORE tons to go before we can start construction.  And every day we wait is a day we waste!  GRRRRR!

This update is basically an account of what has kept me sane over the last month to avoid committing a felony while waiting on concrete contractors.  Car building is therapy to me and that has never been more obvious than in the past few weeks!  The good news is I have been able to get a lot of little things done and collect up a few tips to share along the way.  So let’s get to it!
As many followers of this build blog will recall, there is absolutely nothing in the suspension and braking systems of this car that remain stock.  Far from it in fact, and with that, the brake system hard line plumbing is a fully custom job from front to back.  This is not only driven by simple necessity, but also the fact that I am very particular about brake line visibility, especially in the engine bay.  The bottom line is, I HATE seeing brake lines in the engine bay and Mustangs are notorious for a lot of “in-your-face” brake line plumbing in factory form.  Well…….not this one.
While I did a poor job of photographing all of the intricate details of the new brake hard lines, I did capture some of the more sanitary aspects as well as a few trick bits I use on custom builds that are worth sharing.

The first “tip” I wanted to share was a little known product called “Quick Clips” from TJ Tool out of Rogers, AR.  These nifty (and patented) little hard line clips are just about the most discrete and cost effective means of attaching hard lines ever invented and they cover the widest range of sizes of any I have ever found (from 3/16” to ½”).  As the story goes, Quick Clips were designed by Kenny Davis Hot Rods and shared with the likes of Troy Trepanier (Rad Rides by Troy) and Chip Foose on a few of their spectacular builds and the rest, as they say, is history.  Soon, Quick Clips were being manufactured in bulk and made available to us mere mortals at an absolutely excellent price.  Each clip is located using a 9/32” drilled hole and is simply pushed into the hole and retained with a heavy duty “Christmas tree” barb. Once it’s in place, you simply snap in your line and move on to the next one.  It couldn’t be simpler.

Next up, I often find the need to pass brake lines through frame sections in order to keep the presentation tidy and tightly tucked to the parent surface.  For this job, I like to use stainless steel thru-frame fittings from Stainless Steel Brakes Corp (SSBC) for a couple of key reasons.  First, they offer a size range that works perfectly with a lot of the frame sections I deal with.  Second, they use standard 1/8” NPT female ends that allow maximum fitting configuration flexibility and the ability to keep any associated plumbing a tightly tucked as possible.  And finally, they look great!

On the Boss, I use the SSBC thru-frame fittings to discretely route the lines from the master cylinder to the outboard side of the driver frame rail and again on the passenger side to route the right front caliper line outboard as well.  Since this car is fitted with rack and pinion steering, I simply enlarge the appropriate steering box and idler arm mounting holes to fit the thru-frame fitting O.D. (they just BARELY fit!), and run them through.  Simple and clean.  I like that!

Another Mustang-specific upgrade that is worth one of those “holy sh*t” remarks when completed is a ball bearing clutch pivot conversion.  Now, for the record, there are a number of bearing conversions on the market that are intended to upgrade the Mustang clutch pivot shafts/bushings.  However, most of these are absolute junk or they are not properly engineered for long-term use and reliability.  In simplest terms, if the conversion EVER involves running roller bearing needles directly on the clutch shaft, avoid this design at all costs!  The clutch shaft is not of the proper material or hardness to endure long term use as a bearing race under any circumstances.  In addition, these inferior kits rely on an almost perfect clutch pivot shaft to work or a new shaft will be required, at which point you have to start asking if the repair is likely to be cost effective and reliable over the long haul.

Having said that, there is one solution offered that frankly is head and shoulders above the rest in quality, dependability and repair-ability and that is the conversion kit offered by Steve Wilkes at MustangSteve’s .  The MustangSteve’s ball bearing clutch pedal conversion will require more installation effort as a whole than any other kit out there, but the end result is far and away superior to anything out there and can be used successfully with shafts exhibiting rather heavy wear based on the fact that the ball bearing inner races operate on the outer ends of the pivot shaft and away from the normal wear surfaces that plague the stock pedal pivots to begin with.

The quick and simplified overview of the install involves removing the remains of the original (and likely thrashed) pot metal pivot bushings and welding a pair of spacers to the inner shaft pivot holes in the pedal bracket and following that up with welding on the bearing housings to the outer pedal bracket.  Once the welding is completed, the bearings are simple slide-on operations over the pivot shaft and are retained by the stock Mustang retention hardware.  The end result is an unbelievably smooth clutch pedal operation with far less effort than even the best the factory Mustang mechanism could offer.  This kit is truly one of the best $40 investments you might ever make.

Finally, another modification in support of under hood cleanliness!  Like brake lines, I absolutely loathe the look of batteries no matter where they are.  Hate ‘em.  I don’t care if they are in the trunk, under the chassis or wherever; if I can see it, I hate it.  And, in similar fashion to brake lines, I don’t like the look of battery cables under the hood and I do everything I can to keep them as minimal and out of sight as possible.

To help in this, I like keeping battery cables tucked inside the car until absolutely necessary and then passing them through bulkheads and/or firewalls using a quality terminal bulkhead connector.  There are a number of different styles out there, but the two designs I prefer are the round thru-panel design that are retained by a large jam nut or the bolted design offered by Painless Performance. 
On the Boss project, we opted for the round, thru-panel design for their simplicity and overall better looks.  I find those offered by Jeg’s are of very good quality and are available in both red and black for polarity separation.  These terminals require a 1 ¼” hole to be cut into the panel to fit.  With a thin film of urethane body sealant or silicone gasket maker, these terminals are weather tight and look very clean.  Plus, with a bit of ingenuity, you can trim a pair of alternator charging terminal boots or battery terminal covers to insulate the connections once they are made up for an added measure of protection and cleanliness.

Well, that’s about all for the moment.  Fortunately, these little bits of progress are working well to keep me from killing incessantly unreliable concrete contractors that have conspired to delay our shop project over a month.  I know the work will eventually get done, but until we have a floor, we can’t build squat.  Looks like it’s going to be a busy fall!

Quick Clips from TJ Tool in Rogers, AR are probably the smallest, most effective and easily installed hard line clips anywhere.  I love these things and they work incredibly well!  Cheap too!

A simple 9/32" drilled hole is all that is required to install Quick Clips and the hard line just snaps into them.  Here is a section of 3/16" brake line with a line armor covering retained at the back of the driver side subframe rail.  I use 5/16" Quick Clips to retain this line and the look is very clean and tidy and the line is very secure.

I have been asked a lot about these thru-frame connectors from SSBC lately, so I thought I'd show what I use here.  This is an example of the 3" SSBC thru-frame connector I like to use.  Very clean and tidy and keeps hard lines tucked tightly against the frame for maximum clearance and a tidy appearance.  The far end of the fitting in this picture is the "nut" end which mirrors the fixed end in appearance when fully pulled up tight.

I hate seeing brake lines strung all over the engine bay so I kept the lines in the Boss project as minimal as possible.  At the bottom, you can see how we routed the lines from the master cylinder to the SSBC stainless thru-frame fittings located where the original steering box mounting holes were.  Since this car has been fitted with a power rack and pinion steering system, these holes were available to be re-purposed!

Again, in the interest of keeping brake lines on the minimalist side, the prop valve is mounted close to the booster and the lines are kept short and cleanly routed.  Look closely at this shot:  Can you find the rear brake line from the prop valve?

Here is the scene from the outside of the driver side frame rail.  In another act of re-purposing available features, the right side front and rear brake hard lines pass from the thru-frame fittings through the driver torque box where the original fuel line originally passed.  These are very tricky bends and there is only just enough space to exit the back of the torque box with both lines.

I modified the original brake hose brackets to work with the -3 AN brake line anchors we needed.  This combination bolts to the factory line bracket locations and allowed a very clean hard line routing to the fitting.  Since the brake caliper combination we have chosen is a "trailing" caliper design (e.g., located on the back side of the spindle), the flexible brake hose needs to be oriented toward the back of the car to allow maximum operational clearance with minimum length.

Using an identical SSBC thru-frame fitting on the right side, the brake line and bracket combination is a mirror image of the left.  The brake hose brackets will be powder coated satin black to blend in beautifully with the under body finish.

This is all the brake line visible in the engine bay on the passenger side.  With the engine in place, this line will be virtually invisible and easily shielded if necessary.

Like untold thousands of classic Mustangs on the planet, the Boss clutch pedal pivot bushings were shot.  While there are a number of different repair choices out there, it was decided that a "lifetime" repair was the only way to go!  This is where a brilliant, ball bearing repair kit from MustangSteve's fits the bill.

Using a small chisel to break the retention tabs off of the original heavily worn bushings, I was able to remove the bushings intact with absolutely no damage to the original pedal bracket.

Here is our starting point:  A clean bushing hole that needs a quick pass in the blast cabinet to clean up before the installation of the Mustang Steve's ball bearing clutch pedal conversion kit.

Skipping a few steps ahead, here is the MustangSteve's bearing holder and spacer washer TIG-brazed in place.  One more on the opposite side and we can fit the bearings and pedal back into place!

A perfect fit and a perfect, lifetime repair to a notoriously lackluster feature of a classic Mustang clutch.  The difference in pedal swing accuracy and smoothness is phenomenal!

From the opposite side, you can see how nicely the kit fits the clutch pivot space and once powder coated black, it will be virtually unrecognizable as anything but stock.

Like the sentiment I have for brake lines in the engine bay, I hate batteries and battery cables in the engine bay as well!  These battery cable bulkhead connectors allow me to route battery cables low and out of sight near the passenger frame rail.  One cable to the starter and one to the block and that's it!


  1. Very clean and top shelf work!

  2. Your install of brake lines reminds me of when I plumbed my '29 Ford hot rod. Clean is cool. Mustang Steves is great. I'm going to use the same clutch set up. Looks I usually expect from you. :-)

    1. Thanks Dennis! Not everybody appreciates my disdain for visible brake lines in the engine bay, but it's always a peeve to me on a hot rod or custom. Hope you are doing well!

    2. I forgot to ask you about the brake lines. Did you wire wrap them or do you have a source. I love the look!

    3. Ah! That is 3/16" Tubing Armor / Line Guard. It is essentially a coil spring covering designed to prevent stone damage to lines and eliminates abrasion wear. You can get it from a few of the big brake parts places but Summit Racing offers the same stuff much cheaper under P/N SUM-220262. It has a perfect 5/16" O.D. when installed so there are lots of line clips and anchors available to work.

  3. Been following your blog very closely, congrats on the amazing details. May be blasphemous, but I am using your tips and techniques on a 67 Impala. Question: why no coil protector on your 3/8" fuel lines but must have on every piece of brake hard line? Is it size? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comments! I am truly glad that you found something f value in the information, no matter what kind of car you are working on! Keeps the hobby alive for sure!

      The coil protector was left off of the fuel lines because they become very large in O.D. once you get much past 1/4" line. For example, a 3/8" hard line can be as much as 5/8" in total O.D. with a coil sleeve around it. WAY too big for clean and easy routing in most cases.