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The car had a successful first outing last Saturday at Thunderhill West. Frankly I was surprised, given the scope of work that we'd done to it, but I'm not complaining!
A few small issues did crop up: the gas gauge likes to drop to empty randomly, and the shift from second to third still sucks despite the MGW shifter. I know the throwout bearing is worn and will need replacing soon, so we'll go through the transmission and see if we can improve that shift. We got some tire rub on the front fenders, but some rolling of the fenders with a breaker bar fixed that. Relatedly, with the Steeda Stage 3 suspension we can only get -1.8° of camber at the front, so we'll have to get some more adjustable camber plates. Lastly, the radiator fan doesn't seem to run as much as I'd expect. The OEM coolant temp "gauge" never budged from the middle despite ambient temperatures in the upper 90's, and it never exhibited signs of overheating, but I'd expect the fan to be running as I come off the track—even after a cool-down lap.
It was 104° on Friday afternoon as we got to the track and got the car ready to go through tech inspection. Right after we got through inspection my buddy / chief mechanic started feeling poorly—nauseated and cramping up. Hello, heat exhaustion! We got him into the air conditioned clubhouse, poured drinks down his throat, and rubbed him down with ice and wet towels, but he was done for the weekend and stayed in his hotel room the rest of time, majorly bummed out that he couldn't drive the car he'd worked so hard to make ready in time.
I thought we had the shocks set to the middle of their range, and found the ride to be really floaty and soft, but upon checking it again they were all at the softest settings. So, I started doing sweeps: set the front to full hard for a session, then set the rear to full hard for the next session. I didn't get a chance to run soft front / hard rear, but I think we'll try ⅔ hard in the front and ⅓ hard in the rear as a baseline. (BTW, full hard in the rear produced almost no suspension movement, just a lot of rapid bouncing as the tire sidewalls flexed—crazy!) Traction of the corners with the Eaton was phenomenal, and even after the tires got greasy towards the ends of the afternoon sessions the rear end was very smooth and controllable.
The stock ABS sucks, BTW. When a front tire would start locking up the ABS would release it so much that the car would start pivoting around the other front tire that still had traction, making for some really wiggly corner entries. A very kind forum member sent us one of the race ABS units that didn't work for him; we'll get it installed before our next outing and see if it improves things for us.
Our cage builder should be able to get the cage installed next month, and after that we'll add the fire suppression system. In the meantime, I'm figuring out which AiM data system to get so we can start putting some hard numbers to the car's performance.
Well, this project seems to be having trouble getting off the ground! Since the last update we decided we'd better address the transmission: the throwout bearing needed replacing, and since we were going to be in there I decided we should get a new clutch (and flywheel) installed. I then started thinking about the transmission itself and spent some time trying to find someone local to rebuild the 3650, but no one wanted to touch it, mainly claiming parts availability was poor and suggesting I just buy a rebuilt one. I looked into that, but eventually decided that I just replace the clutch and throwout bearing and see how it did.
I tried getting an ACT six-puck clutch, but after several purchases that were cancelled by the vendors ("oh, we don't actually have that in stock at the moment"), I ended up with a Spec Level 3 clutch and aluminum flywheel one week before our next outing. We managed to get the new parts installed in time, and a few short drives went well, so we thought we'd been successful. We also installed an aftermarket fan controller, as the fan wasn't running as much as it should have been the last time out, and we replaced the unknown brand of rear brake pads with the Cobalt Friction ones that had arrived.
However, as we got the car out of the garage to load it up on the trailer on Thursday, the day before the event, the brake pedal started getting squishy, eventually going to the floor. We got it back up on jack stands, bled all four corners and the clutch again, and the pedal felt firm until we started the engine and started applying vacuum to the system, at which point the pedal went soft again. Thinking the master cylinder might have had some air caught in it, we made a quick run to the parts store for a master cylinder bleeding kit and started bleeding the master cylinder. One port was fine, but the other port just produced an endless stream of bubbles. It seemed like the master cylinder had decided to give up the ghost, so we called around town and luckily found a new one, installed it, bled everything again, and this time the pedal stayed good and firm.
However, at this point we were four hours late for our desired departure time, and a big thunderstorm was rolling through the area. We made our way slowly into the mountains, where thankfully the weather improved, but about half-way up the mountains my wife, who was following us in my work van, called and said the van was overheating! We pulled off the highway and found that the shop that had done some work on the van earlier in the week had failed to fully tighten the cap on the radiator overflow tank and the van had lost a bunch of coolant. It was 45 minutes each way to the nearest auto parts store, so by the time we'd returned with some more coolant is was nearly 9 PM. We'd made arrangements to stay with some friends near the track, but now we wouldn't be showing up until after midnight, so I made the decision to call it. We drove back down the mountain and made it home safely.
We also intended to remove the dash after the event and drop the car off Saturday at our cage builder, who lives about an hour on the far side of the track, as he'd said he was (finally) ready to build our cage. We got the dash out on Friday, but I couldn't get ahold of the cage builder until Sunday, when he revealed he was out of country at a wedding and wouldn't be back for a few more days. Argh!