Grafting 67/68 Shock Towers To 65/66 Mustang

With the 14' racing season behind me, it's time to start my much anticipated winter project--adapting 67/68' shock towers and front suspension to my 65' Mustang. After this mod I should have gained enough engine compartment room to allow me to install a nice set of raised port racing heads and the desired big tube headers to enhance the power of my street/strip 427w. Once completed I will have gained at least 2" between the shock towers.

One may ask why not go straight to a Mustang II rack and pinion? Its for both cost and appearance. All told I'll have barely a grand in my project, including 100% all new front suspension parts. Can't touch a full on fitted rack and pinion with decent brakes for double that. This mod will also help me maintain some of the factory appearance, which I've tried to adhere to. A side benefit of going to the 67-70' suspension is that caster and camber changes are made with screw type adjustments and no shims will be required at the UCA as this becomes a fixed position.

Here are most of the parts that are needed for this project:



When I ordered parts, I specifically targeted the 68' model. Although the parts can be spec'd from any 67-70' Mustang or Cougar, it is best to avoid the 67' specific model due to some odd 1 year only parts such as the LCA's and strut rods. The 69/70' shock towers are shaped somewhat differently than the 67/68' parts, but are still useable if you have the parts. I do not believe that there is any clearance or fuctionality advantages in either series of shock towers and I chose the 67/68' series because it is somewhat closer in appearance to the 65/66' parts. If it was and available and affordable option, I might have installed the 69/70' Boss 429 shock towers for even more upper tower clearance. They have yet to be inexpensively reproduced and finding used ones in good condition would be next to impossible. An option is to further notch the new towers, which is something I plan to explore before the project is completed.

Very few suspension parts are carry overs when doing this project. Only the outer tie rod ends and its connecting piece could have been reused from my 65'. I orderd them new too as they are inexpensive. The remaining parts MUST come from a 68-70' to make the swap work. Most of the parts pictured above are quality made by Moog and Dynacorn. The hardest part to source was the pitman arm, which is an early 67' 1" V8 manual shaft unit that is needed to adapt the new front suspension to my original 65' steering column. This arm was only available for part of a year until Ford introduced the 2pc rag joint steering box. I sourced the arm new from John's Mustang in Houston Tx.

It may also be possible to install a 68-70' 2 pieced 1 1/8" rag joint steering box, shaft and pitman arm, but for an original look one should use a late 67' 1 piece column with the 65/66' bushing and turn signal.

The coil springs must also to be changed as part of the conversion. Many catalogs list both the 67/68' basic V8 and 6 banger cars as using the same spring. With my Caltrac rear suspension, I wanted to get the softest spring rate I could find to help with weigh transfer, much like the 65/66 6 banger springs I've used. After a little research I discovered a 67/68' specific 6 cylinder spring with a little softer rate than the dual V8/6 combo part:


The only real negative that I have found with doing this project is that it limits the choice of what front wheels that can be used. Most commonly used offset wheels might rub the front fenders, especially when turning. The reason is that the 67/68' Mustang suspension and body is actually 2" wider than the 65/66' Mustang. One might be able to install a modern Mustang wheel with a deep back space, but for my needs I want to use a classic type wheel. Luckily all I had to do was look in my storage garage for a set of original type 14x5" 65' styled steel wheels:


I like them and they will be replacing my old Magnum 500's.

Let's get to the fun part. I began the project by first removing the motor, the full front cap, and virtually every loose part out of the engine compartment. During outer body part removeal, I used lots of masking tape in critical places to prevent scratching the still beautiful paint:




The old suspension also needed to be removed:


This is how I left her the first evening:


Although I already had a generic Monte Carlo bar, I opted to order a Scott Drake reproduction which is said to be the best fitting bar out there (besides an original Ford bar):


Before I started hacking away at the car, I took a few measurements from a never damaged 60K mile 65' convertible. Not surprisingly, I found that the shock towers on the project car had sagged inward (which was also verified by the Monte Carlo bar.) Not having ready access to a port-a-power, I used my engine hoist's ram to shove the towers apart:


Opps, I went a little too far so a come-a-long was utilized to pull the towers a little closer together:


The Scott Drake bar then fit the car like a glove. When bolted in place it will be a valuable guide while aligning the new towers.
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You should be able to fit a 390 ,428 or, should i say it ...a 427:drool: in there as well .:cheers:

Horse sence is absolutely right. Also his behind the scenes help has been invaluable to me in researching this project and it would have been much harder to do without his assistance. :cheers:

I should have also added in my first post that one other big benefit of doing the shock tower and suspension swap is that it allows you to easily install any FE motor of your choice (except the Boss 429) in your 65/66. A 351 Windsor or Cleveland would be right at home too and you would have lots of room to work on it. A more modern Lima 429 or 460 engine will also fit, but as in any of the larger combos it would be best to notch the new shock towers for addition clearance.

All this is possible because the 65-70' Mustangs share the same basic engine compartment dimensions--including the frame. Its those pesky 65/66' shock towers that prevent most of these combos from working
I should have also added in my first post that one other big benefit of doing the shock tower and suspension swap is that it allows you to easily install any FE motor of your choice (except the Boss 429) in your 65/66. A 351 Windsor or Cleveland would be right at home too and you would have lots of room to work on it. A more modern Lima 429 or 460 engine will also fit, but as in any of the larger combos it would be best to notch the new shock towers for addition clearance.

All this is possible because the 65-70' Mustangs share the same basic engine compartment dimensions--including the frame. Its those pesky 65/66' shock towers that prevent most of these combos from working with ease.
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Take note that the shock towers and some other parts of this conversion are an integral part of the vehicle's structure and you should seek the assistance of a properly trained professional before considering undergoing this task. The shock towers/strut rod supports are NOT bolt-in items and they must be properly and permanently welded after the new towers are correctly positioned. One must possess the necessary skills and equipment or have help from a competent professional in order to successfully accomplish this project. If you should try to duplicate the techniques being shown in this thread, you are doing so entirely at your own risk and liability. Remember Safety First!!!

Once the towers were shoved into the proper position, I center punched the middle of each of the factory spot welds around the outer part of the shock tower, including those under the frame. I then drilled an 1/8" hole through the spot welds that did not go into the frame. These holes were redrilled with a 1/4" and finally a 3/8" drill bit which should help to separate the panels:



For spot welds that physically attach to the frame, I used a cheapy $5 spot weld cutter from Harbor Freight. Love these little fellows:



To use the spot weld cutter effectively, I partially drilled the spot welds without breaking through the frame with an 1/8" or so bit. Then I allowed the cutter to center itself in the hole and do its stuff.

There is also some spot welds to be cut on top of the frame (inside the shock tower) and on the under side of the frame:




After all the spot welds had been drilled or cut, I used a saws-all to cut out the vast majority of the shock tower leaving the drilled areas for later:




In the above photo you can see the dents that were previously made to clear the 1 3/4" header tubes.

The edges that remained on the shock tower were carefully removed using vise grips, a couple of prying devices, and a cold chisel:


Since the spot welds were properly punched and drilled, it was easy to remove the above parts without further damage to the aprons.

I used the 2 piece Dynacorn shock towers for my project. Although a 1 piece unit is available, there are reports that the 2 parts have been misaligned from the factory will not fit in place properly around the frame. If this happens, there will be additional work to separate the motor mount bracket from the tower and you'll end up right where I am starting. The 2 piece towers are shown below.



The Dynacorn parts are much sturdier than I expected and are at least as heavy as stock stuff.

The bracket that will hold the motor mount is supported with anti-crush tubes just like the factory piece:


The 67/68' tower practically fits as-is in the old opening of the 65/66' tower. The 67/68' is just slightly narrower in width, but is a little taller necessitating removing about 1/4" of material off the top of the apron. I also trimmed a little off the side of the front apron to get the angles right:


I also needed to loosen and peel back the lower front and rear corners of the aprons to remove parts of the old tower and to install the new in its place:



This is what the final trimmed opening looked like without the tower installed:



The top of the apron does not need to be split like you see above--I am taking care of a shoddy repair that occurred prior to my ownership. Also note that the 67/68' towers are not a perfect fit for the 65/66' aprons. Material will need to be added about mid-height where the towers meet the apron.
We have previously established that the top of the tower can be aligned using the Monte Carlo bar. The 65/66' frames have 2 factory alignment holes on the frame for the old motor bracket:


It so happens that those 2 holes exist in the same location for the same purpose on the 67/68' frame. Using them will help in the alignment of the new motor mount bracket. The 2 UCA holes and the single bolt hole at the top of the frame are punched through the tower and will give yet another reference point for installation. I also used a couple of critical dimensions from a 67/68' Mustang to verify the alignment.

Note the use of the frame alignment holes in the below photo of the motor mount bracket.


Here are a few photos of the shock tower clamped in a test position. I installed 1/2" bolts to hold the motor mount bracket to the tower. Nothing can be welded in place at this time until after the passenger side tower is clamped into its proper position:






This photo shows the physical difference of the 65/66' tower on the left, and the 67/67' on the right:


65/66' close up:


67/68' close up:


The passenger side apron was given the same basic treatment as the driver's side:





To make installation and adjustments easier, I ran a piece of 1/2" all thread between the 2 towers:



Here is all the metal that I've removed from this project so far:

Before I started hacking away at the car, I took a few measurements from a never damaged 60K mile 65' convertible. Not surprisingly, I found that the shock towers on the project car had sagged inward (which was also verified by the Monte Carlo bar.) Not having ready access to a port-a-power, I used my engine hoist's ram to shove the towers apart:

What are the measurements? I am interested to know if my 65 shock towers have sagged inward or not.
Thank You.

IIRC the towers that you are referring to do not use a stock type suspension--one must go coil over since they eliminate the UCA. Not a bad thing but this method ups the expense quite a bit. The towers alone are over $300 per side.

This was my 2nd choice when I was checking things out, but I decided could do my own notch for about $20-including some bends.
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Does the lower engine crossmember stay the same for a 65 or do you have to use a different year?

Right now I would say they remain the same because the frame mount remains untouched and the crossmember still bolts up. Can't be 100% sure without the motor installed but there appears to be no issue.

One thing that came to light that I haven't mentioned, the early 65' 3 piece motor mounts will not work at all and one must convert to the later 2 piece style. If I can remember later I'll post a photo as to why but basically the 65/66 frame mounts location has 3 bolt holes and 2 of them are almost vertical above each other. The later frame mount location sets them at a much more severe angle.
Made a little progress over the last weekend. Spent a few hours punching holes and grinding away paint in prep for welding:






Solved a few issues too.

The first was what to do with the upper apron support "flap" that is found on the 67/68' but not on the 65/66's. The flap is the long flat piece of metal that would be at the top of the tower. It ties the front and rear aprons together and offers additonal support to keep the shock towers from leaning inwards:


It does not match up to the 65/66' aprons, especially in the rear:


The 65/66' Mustangs offer support at the top of the aprons a different way. They have a flange on the top of the outer tower cover which bolts to the top of the apron. The 68' outer tower cover does not have a similar flange.

67/68' cover on top, 65/66' cover on bottom:



The 65/66' piece does not offer that much support, whereas the 67/68' piece does a much better job of tying the aprons together to prevent sag. It was probably required to help support the big block option that was introduced in 67'.

I solved the problem by first straightening the 90* angle so that the flap was parallel with the mounting flanges of the shock tower:


I then cut the flap off so that the tower could fit properly under the aprons:


I left enough of the flap so that it almost touches the top of the 65' aprons when it is installed. Here it is clamped under the top of the aprons:


The larger section of the flap will be held against the top of the apron and welded to the shock tower. I may add addtional support once these parts are welded together:


I did need to modify the flap to fit under the front apron crush points (that I wanted to keep):


Holes will need to be added to the reinstalled flap to match the early fender mounting locations.

The next issue is small, but was a common problem with the early Mustangs. There was not enough room to install a grease zerk on the UCA and in my case, the zerk touched the rear of both towers. This is most likely because I did the Opentracker UCA mod which adds a washer to the front attaching bolt, thereby offer a little more caster.

I simply heated the tower area cherry red and then lightly tapped it to creat a concave area for the zerk to reside in. Since this was only needed on the rear of the towers, it was an acceptable solution for me. Should it had needed clearancing at the front, I'd probably would have chosen a different solution:


Here is a photo of this Opentracker caster mod:


A washer is only installed on the front. Also I rotated the shaft one full turn in order to move the A arm rearward on both sides, which also adds caster:

Probably the worst issue that I had was that the Dynacorn motor mount bracket on the driver's side was spot welded out of position AND was stamped poorly at the camber adjustment slot. The slot which was at an odd 5-6* angle instead of being almost parallel to the ground like the passenger side was.

This is the slot in question:


I also found that the adjustment mechanism and the LCA would both bind when installed. I determined that the innermost part of the frame was stamped incorrectly from the factory and that the outer pieces excentiated the problem.

I ended up drilling out about 30 spot welds so the outer parts could be separated:



Then I mounted the motor mount inner bracket to the shock tower to check alignment:


The slot of the bracket was then a little closer in alignment with the passenger side:


Unfortunately, there was still issues with the inner bracket. The front and rear slots were stamped 1/4" to far inward toward the passenger's side. They also were stamped nearly 1/4" to high when compared to the passenger side frame bracket. After a little web reseach I discovered that it wasn't uncommon to have issues with the Dynacorn LH motor mount brace. Unfortunately mine seemed worse than those that I had read about.

Since I had already drilled holes in the tower and motor mount bracket, sending it back for an exchange was probably out of the question. Also I didn't want to invest another $150 for a new one to discover that it needed modified too. I decided that my only recourse was to try to fix the one I had. This is where I got really creative.

I decided that an offset cut would work and save me a lot of additional work piecing things together. I layed out where I wanted to cut and then used the thinniest cutoff tool that I had to remove the offending piece:


I also did the same on the rear that slot had a similar problem:


Once both sides were removed, all I needed to do was flip the pieces over and drop them down 1/4" before doing a test fit:

Here is the front piece clamped in place:


Note that the flipping the piece around moved the slot away from the engine compartment.

The rear piece after its been rotated:


A couple of pieces of 1/2" all thread and a couple of long straight bars were used to help alignment the parts. I cut the all thread exactly 24" long and centered one in the passenger side slot and the other in the driver's side slot. I also clamped the 2 long pieces of metal across the front and ther rear of the frame so that I could take measurements between them and the all thread. Once properly aligned I covered the top of the car with a couple of fiberglass blankets prior to welding:



The pieces were then welded in place. Similar thickness filler material was welded in the open space above the slot:


A close up of the front:


The previously removed outer rear bracket has already been plug welded in the correct position:



Wow ! Nice job :nice:. I have only had to use one 67-68 spring tower so far ,i must have done the good side .I have done a few of the 65-66 towers ,the towers them selves are fine the lower control arm bracket on one side had the piece that welds up under the frame turned upward enough that it would not let the tower slip over the frame .I had to drill the spot welds out and bend it down ,slide it over the frame and weld it back . They are clearly different from the other side ,i wonder if they use a jig to set them up or just guess at it ?
Thanks Jim. It was weird how side was quite nice and the other a disaster. They didn't even get the alignment holes drilled properly on the driver's side. Luckily the 3 motor mount were properly located. Dropping the slot corrected the distance to them. I suspect that the holes were punched in sheet steel prior to it being formed into a bracket.
The towers and motor mount brackets are now firmly welded to the frame.

Everything was first fastened in place with either bolts or an assortment of vise grips:


You never have enough vise grips for such a project . . . . .

Then the plug welding began:









Since the Mig is currently setup with .030" wire, I'm not going to weld the sheet metal aprons at this time. Instead I'll start working on the strut and sway bar mounting brackets. Once they're welded in place, I'll switch to .023" wire and secure the aprons to the towers.

I did start cutting spot welds and should get the strut and sway bar brackets removed plus the new ones installed this weekend:





Removed both the sway and strut rod brackets from the car:



The sway bar brackets will be reused, but must be moved closer to the shock tower:


The old strut rod brackets (center) cannot be used, as can be seen in this comparison:


Temporarily installed the lower control arms to verify the new strut rod location:




Prepping for the sway bar bracket relocation:




Welded in the strut rod brackets:


The 2 smaller holes in the frame above were the original 65' sway bar locators.


The front frame hole above will need repaired.



Primered the frame area of the shock towers that will be covered by the Boss 302 Trans Am support braces:


Decided to punch two 5/8" holes in the braces to better prime/paint and to later clean out the drains as needed:



Later I will install rubber plugs in the holes to keep out debris:


Added small strips to the front and rear of the shock towers to fill in the remaining gap between them:




With the above strips welded in place the towers will look like a factory installation:







Welded the strenghtening flaps under the tops of the aprons:



The aprons are really stiff now thanks to the flaps. This should help alleviate shock tower sag.

And finally straightened and finished the top of the driver's side apron that had a previous substandard repair:



Still lots of sanding and a little filling to do, but for all intents and purposes the tower swap is complete and ready for paint, suspension, and motor re-installation. The engine bay can now hold an FE 390, 427, 428, or even a Lima 429/460 if I was so inclined. None of that is currently in the plans though as this exercise was done to allow an increase in header clearance so that bigger, better performing heads can later be installed on the old 428w motor.

Still more to come . . . . .
Dennis, are you serious with this ? Yes, yes you are.

Super impressive man, you have some serious cojones and fab skills.

I can't wait to see this thing when its finished and painted. It looks like no one will be able to tell once you are done unless they were really looking for it.