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Thread: new to me 88 Tbird, pondering brake/wheel upgrades.

  1. #1
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    Default new to me 88 Tbird, pondering brake/wheel upgrades.

    hello everyone!

    Today i had the luck of coming across a 1988 ford thunderbird for an extremely low price, im not overly thrilled with the 3.8/auto setup, but that could be changed at a later date. The car seemed decent enough, considering it's northeast iowa. Ive had dozens of Tbirds before, but most of mine were in the 60's/70's vintage, and i did have a few 94's as well, but ive always thought this body style looked sharp.

    My intentions for this car is to be a budget work car/driver/fun little car, most of my vheicles are trucks powered by big blocks, and my 95 Lincoln town car decided it no longer wanted to live as it was pushing 300K.

    anyways, heres a few pics!




    ...and here's why i got it so cheap. the strut decided it didnt like to be in one peice anymore.


    So, the initial plan is to throw some cheap struts in it, give it a proper shakedown, and drive it for the winter months, but the 4 bolt/14 inch wheels just dont fit my tastes. i have already seen that they do offer swap options for a 5x4.5 bolt pattern setup. In particular, im thinking that the 11 inch front brake setup would fit my needs well. if i went and converted the rear axle to the 5 lug setup, can i use the ford explorer/ crown vic rear disc brake setup to get some affordable rear discs?

    Also, what sort of backspacing of wheels am i looking to run with the 5 bolt setup? are we talking the typical 0 offset rims? because ive got 1970's steelies, 99 Explorer swiri rims, a set of torq thrusts, several sets of Lincoln and crown vic rims all at my disposal. im really hoping that im able to run a 0 offset rim.

    thanks for all the info in advance!

    Lee

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    Read coolcats.net . Replace cougar with tbjrd and 90% of all questions will be answered.

    My personal opinion, get some cheap mustang 15" 10 holes and see if ya want to keep the car. If you do, you can unload the tires and rims on craigslist for what you paid for them. Next get a wrecked/blown motored 3.8 v-6 sn-95 mustang. You can reuse most all suspension parts, get a 5 lug upgrade and disc brakes for less then scrap yard prices, then you will have a good 5 lug driver with a common bolt pattern and almost limitless rim options.

    Then come back here when you are ready for a 302/460 swap, or if you have any other questions along the way.

    Welcome.
    Quote Originally Posted by jcassity
    I honestly dont think you could exceed the cost of a new car buy installing new *stock* parts everywhere in your coug our tbird. Its just plain impossible. You could revamp the entire drivetrain/engine/suspenstion and still come out ahead.
    Hooligans!
    1988 Crown Vic wagon. 120K California car. Wifes grocery getter. (junked)
    1987 Ford Thunderbird LX. 5.0. s.o., sn-95 t-5 and an f-150 clutch. Driven daily and going strong.
    1986 cougar.
    lilsammywasapunkrocker@yahoo.com

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    i did find the coolcats.net info. looks like good stuff.

    the winter time plans are to run the 14's, i'll find the cheapest set of snow tires for it for Traction action, and if i like the car by spring, then i will look for 5 lug parts.

    still, what offset of wheel would i bew running if i did a 5 lug swap?

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    The offset it going to depend on what size tire you want to run. Typically on these cars a 8" wide wheel up front is about the limit and a 10" wide rear wheel is about the limit. There are a few guys out there running wider and they can chime in on that. I do know that a set of stock 97 Cobra wheels will bolt right on the car with the SN95 five lug conversion so you can look that offset up and go from there.

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    I nabbed a set of mustang 10 hole 15" rims off of a Facebook garage sale page for $75. now, whats the "suggested size" to run? this is goingto be dialy driver material, so i dont need super wide, i was thinking 225/70R15's, will they clear with ease on these cars?

  6. #6
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    I run 215/65r15 with plenty of room and an accurate speedo. They are a common accord and camry size, so tires are pretty cheap and easy to find. "Stock" size on 10 holes would be about 225/60, but those tires are a bit more.

    If you were to massage the rear fenders, you can go pretty big. I ran 235/60's up front (any wider might rub the strut) and 275/60's out back on my 87tbird. Maxing out the suspension with weight would make the tires rub a bit, but nothing major. 275/50's would actually work much better and keep an accurate speedo. You went to shoot for a 25.5-26" tall tire to keep the speedo close enough.

    Run the numbers through a tire calculator to see how the sizes change. I personally like and use a tacoma tire calculator, just seems to work the best for me.
    Quote Originally Posted by jcassity
    I honestly dont think you could exceed the cost of a new car buy installing new *stock* parts everywhere in your coug our tbird. Its just plain impossible. You could revamp the entire drivetrain/engine/suspenstion and still come out ahead.
    Hooligans!
    1988 Crown Vic wagon. 120K California car. Wifes grocery getter. (junked)
    1987 Ford Thunderbird LX. 5.0. s.o., sn-95 t-5 and an f-150 clutch. Driven daily and going strong.
    1986 cougar.
    lilsammywasapunkrocker@yahoo.com

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    i know the tire calculations by heart, worked as a tire guy/ tire salesman for 15 years.

    I had pondered 235/60R15's, they are decent size tire without going too wide, so i could actually get somewhat decent traction in the snow. the tire height would be close enough that the speedo would be pretty close.

    the 225/70R15's are a full inch and change taller, the reasons i was considering these were due to the fact that i run that same size on three other cars, and that it will gain me a bit of clearance, which is always helpful on those snowy iowa days like today.

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    If ya got em or can use them on another car, go for it. The real prpblem on these cars is width more then height. I liked my 235/60's, I ran them both front and back for a while. I just found the 215/65's to be about $10 cheaper for the same brand of tire.
    Quote Originally Posted by jcassity
    I honestly dont think you could exceed the cost of a new car buy installing new *stock* parts everywhere in your coug our tbird. Its just plain impossible. You could revamp the entire drivetrain/engine/suspenstion and still come out ahead.
    Hooligans!
    1988 Crown Vic wagon. 120K California car. Wifes grocery getter. (junked)
    1987 Ford Thunderbird LX. 5.0. s.o., sn-95 t-5 and an f-150 clutch. Driven daily and going strong.
    1986 cougar.
    lilsammywasapunkrocker@yahoo.com

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    so, i never did get the 10 hole mustang 15" wheels put on. i finally got the car up on a lift, got it all checked over, and found a nice little surprise when i pulled off the rear drums.

    the rear shoes were about 5% left. both wheel cylinders were starting to leak. adjusters were rusted solid, and whomever put these shoes on ran the last shoes metal to metal and didnt replace the severely grooved drums. I mic'd em, they're way out of spec. the car has a 3.55 limited slip 7.5 axle in it. Added bonus, both axle seals are leaking.

    Moving to the front, brakes are about 25-30% left, but once it comes time to do brakes, it's gonna need a full setup.

    So, i found a local guy who is parting out a 98 Mustang convertible. 3.8 auto, has a 7.5 in it. He said he'd sell me the front spindle and brake assemblies, the entire rear axle, and the wheels and tires for $200. Granted, i havent seen the car yet and i have no clue what shape the brakes are in, these are the parts im after to do a 5 lug, 4 wheel disc brake swap, correct? Is there anything else i would need?

  10. #10
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    On the front get the spindles, rotors if good, and calipers. Get the entire rear end and off that you will need from the axles out to put into and on a 86-93 V8 Fox Mustang 8.8 or 94-98 V8 SN95 Mustang 8.8 rear end housing with third member of your choice. Hopefully the rotors are all in good shape and just need to be turned.

    Use the front calipers as the cores for parts store rebuilt '99 SN95 Mustang front calipers. That will get you the 44mm twin piston calipers. Check the rear calipers and if in doubt get reman units for the rear as well.

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