Leaf spring vs 4 link suspension

Feb 8, 2019
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South Elgin, IL
My 70 Mach 1 is going through a rotisserie restoration. It will be in the resto-mod class when completed and I will "show" the car initially. I currently have NEW leaf springs with factory traction bars. Although I Do plan to drive my mustang after I finish showing it, it has been suggested that I replace the "old school" rear leaf spring/traction bar set up with a modern four link set up, especially since I am replacing the front suspension with tubular A frames and coil overs. Can someone with "show car" experience tell me how big a deal a four link suspension vs an original leaf spring suspension would be to a resto-mod car judge? Is it significant? I hate to spend new money to replace new parts already on the car if there is little negative to a show judge. I will eventually drive this car but do not plan to road race it. This mustang has always been a straight line "street light to street light" car. I know this because I am also the original owner. Is the upgrade to four link worth the expense in a resto-mod Show Car competition, even though I do not plan to road race the car once it's show days are over? Are there any Car Show judges out there to guide me through my inexperience?
 
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zookeeper

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Aug 25, 2001
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Rogue River, Oregon
The term "Show Car" is such a wide brush to paint anything with that you need to be more specific. If you're talking judged shows, such as the indoor shows judged by a panel of experts, then obviously modified will add a bit to separate your car from one with leaf suspension as it came from the factory. Different isn't always better though, not in the eyes of the judge you hope to impress and not in the execution of the car in general. If it's poorly installed (wheel base longer on one side), designed (hits the exhaust) or finished (orange peel, "dry spray", wavy chrome, or too long of bolts, etc) the judges will mark you down for it, rather than improving your score. Judges balance the overall design of the car, then look at the individual components and modifications. You actually get dinged for using "off the shelf" parts rather than custom made stuff. Indoor car shows are brutal and in most cases the cars are trailer queens out of necessity to be competitive. If that's your intent, you'll need a lot more than advice from a random guy on an internet forum to be in the running.
If you're thinking of the one-day outdoor shows that are everywhere, I wouldn't sweat it. Most times they are participant judged which is why sitting by your car all day shmoozing the public is typically more important than sweating over suspension choice. Barely anyone gets on their knees to look at it anyway. Nice paint, expensive interiors and shiny wheels with something to look at under the hood work well here. Who cares if it runs poorly or the tires rub, as long as it's pretty.
Somewhere in the middle is the Goodguys-type shows. Typically judged by local car experts, they look for design above all else. If the car looks right, sits right and is unique then you're already off to a good start, but they have so many to judge, your car won't get more than a couple minutes worth of their attention at best. Sadly, Mustangs are a tough sell at car shows because they are so common. Don't feel bad, I love Mustangs, but I spent weeks perfecting the gaps and fit of the aftermarket 'glass panels and the stance of my GT350 clone and people will walk right by my car to look at a '61 Rambler wagon that has a stuffed dog and a picnic table in the display.
I've judged shows and participated since the mid-'70's and I can say with all honesty I'm over it. If you're building a car only to win shows, you're setting yourself up for a life of misery. It's much better to build a car you love to look at, drive and hang out with your buddies with than to spent time and money worrying about what others think of my work.
In the 11 years my car has been driving (they're never really finished) I've won less than 5 trophies period. The car is always spotless, those that do look at it like what they see and I've yet to hear someone fault the car's overall look. By comparison, my wife's restored Corvette and my brother's 1931 tudor sedan hot rod won constantly and neither is of the same quality as my car. I should know since I was heavily involved with both of their builds.
It's none of my business or anyone else's what you do with the car, I just want you to know it's far better to build the car you want, that does what you want and if it wins it's class, so be it, than it is to do anything on the car for someone else's approval.
 
Feb 8, 2019
4
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South Elgin, IL
What a really great and thoughtful reply. Thank you so much for taking the time!!! I will take to heart your final sentence. (for me so spot on and profound) Sometimes we get so caught up and overwhelmed by the build and all the many possible options (especially since I do plan to initially show the car) that we lose site of the goal....that ultimately the car is for our own enjoyment and if others end up enjoying what we've done, well that's the icing but not the goal. When the restoration is completed, I do plan to take the car to a couple of "trailer queen" indoor shows (like World of Wheels) to see how it stacks up, but ultimately I have no intention of keeping it's trailer queen status as what I will really enjoy are cruise nights and the local shows you speak of. Thanks again for "grounding me" and honing my focus on what's really important!!! You saw through my question and answered what my real issue was!!!! Thanks again!!!! So helpful!!!
 
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zookeeper

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Aug 25, 2001
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Rogue River, Oregon
John, I hope you didn't take my answer as a judgement on your decision. Personally I'd love to have tubular front suspension with a 4 link rear with coil-overs all around. I think they look great and really do add to the look. I love chassis detail myself and think it separates the great cars from the rest. My point was to make sure you were selecting the parts based on what you want out of the car rather than only picking parts based on what someone else would like.
I think it's great you are showing the car at indoor shows while it's still fresh. We did the same thing with my brother's hot rod. We worked 7 days a week for about 3 months finishing the car and detailing it prior to it being put in a trailer and driven to the Portland Roadster Show, where it won both it's class but a Best Engineered award. It's nice to see your pride and joy on display after months or years of hard work and tough decisions. The auditorium lights always seem to bring out the best in your car and if you win, it's something you'll remember for the rest of your life. Just be aware that the best car doesn't always win, and try to be happy even if you just make a couple new friends.
Also, let's see some pictures, it sounds like a nice car and to be the original owner is impressive indeed.
 
Feb 8, 2019
4
2
13
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South Elgin, IL
You gave me reflection and reinforcement of what is truly important. I appreciate such insight from someone who obviously knows first hand what I'm going through. This build started in 1999 but then life got in the way with kids, education and family and I had to put the project on hold with the Mustang a barren shell in a thousand pieces. It is 20 years later now with kids all grown up and me retired. It is time to once again enjoy my beloved Mustang. I have missed my baby dearly!!!! My issues deal with wanting to retain original beauty and styling while still giving the car some contemporary accents. Thee toughest decision frankly was 20 years ago when deciding to either go purist stock or modification, especially with me being the original owner. My ultimate decision goes back to your last sentence when I just couldn't decide (for months) until I reflected back to the day I first got the Mustang in 1970 at age 19. What was my dream for this car back then? The answer was realizing that from day one I wanted to dress it up and put more performance in my 351 Cleveland and make this Mustang my own. I was in college back then and had no $ for such upgrades. The Mustang itself was a present from my Grandmother, who to this day, I think of every time I see the car. Anyway, I knew the purists would hate me for this decision especially being the orig owner but this is what I believe you were reminding me of. It is all about what YOU want! The problem now is that I don't always know which is the best way to go when looking at the many now modern options. In this case suspension. It made sense to me to go tubular with coil overs to improve steering and handling and also great "eye candy" but the rear suspension I was not sure about especially since I had already (20 years ago) bought new stiffer leaf springs with the factory traction bars. Being a straight line car, I was not sure of the cost benefit, performance and handling wise, of a 4 link for my application so felt I needed more insight into the "judging" aspect in order to make a well rounded competent decision. (I will spend the $ "again" if it makes sense)
So regarding pictures, I have many pictures of this build but 20 years ago used (and still use) a 35mm camera and have not digitized these pictures yet. Here is where I'm at with this build. The uni-body is still a shell (and no longer a uni-body) with custom made frame extensions to handle the additional horse power and protect the paint. All the metal and body work and paint is now done. I matched the original Acapulco Blue paint with what I call "Acapulco Blue Replica". LOL! We looked at many modern paint samples to find what I felt was the exact color match but with the much richer paint pigments of today's base and clear coat paints. (don't tell anyone but the new color is actually Volvo's "Ocean Blue" now) : ) The motor is being re-built as we speak (optimistically two more weeks to completion) Matching # block obviously but now being Bored and Stroked to a 427, balanced, blueprinted with state of the art polished aluminum ported and polished heads and intake. More goodies under the hood I won't bore you with today. lol We believe we can get 450 hp and still use today's crappy pump gas. Rear end 389 with Auburn posi. Replacing my FMX trans with a new TCI 700R4 that TCI just recently modified with a Ford bellhousing. I wanted an overdrive gear due to the 389 rear end.
You probably got more info than you wanted but ya "got me started" and it's hard to stop when it's "Your Baby" were talking about. LOL!!! Thanks again for your help and insight.
 

zookeeper

Founding Member
Aug 25, 2001
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Rogue River, Oregon
I love your enthusiasm for your car project. Like you, when I did mine, I struggled with what to do as far as parts choices, etc. My car was purchased on August of '01 from it's 93 year old original owner as a 40th b-day present to myself and was in great shape. But I'd bought the car with the intention of building a Shelby clone but now that I had the car, I wondered if I was doing the right thing. In the end, my desire to build a nice clone won over and I'm glad I did. I still have the car and drive it regularly during the summer months. My son learned to drive a manual trans in it and he's the only person since it was finished in '08 to drive it aside from myself. It's mostly modified stock underneath but future plans do include the same stuff you're contemplating now. I enter the car in local shows a couple times a year, but enjoy driving it more than anything. After 18 years of ownership, it still makes me smile just to see it, just as I'm sure yours does.
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