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The Whole 9 Inches- Installing a Ford 9-inch Rear End in a 1966 Mustang

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The Ford 9-inch rear is by far the most heralded of all rear differentials. Factory installed in practically everything since 1957, there are millions hanging out in salvage yards everywhere, waiting to be slid under your ride. That being said, it isn’t just a simple bolt in procedure, especially if the housing you have isn’t a perfect fit.

When looking for a 9-inch housing, careful measuring is necessary for a proper fit. There are some tolerances that can be fudged a little; the overall width of the unit does not have to perfectly match the existing rear-end unit, it can be narrower (the most common choice) or wider, as long as your wheels will still fit. The spring perches are the most critical measurement, as there is less than a 1\4” of play available on the alignment pins. You certainly don’t want a rear end that has half of the spring perches sitting off the springs. While the perches can be cut off and welded in place, it is much easier to keep looking for a closer fit.

The third-member or center section of the 9-inch is also available in thousands of configurations with different gear ratios and limited slip or open differentials. For a performance unit, a limited-slip unit is the obvious choice, and with OEM and aftermarket units available, the decision is easy. The nice thing about the 9-inch is that you can buy a housing that fits the car and scavenge a third-member from another unit, and most salvage yards allow you to swap parts in the yard so you only have to buy one rear-end. Just make sure you keep the axles to match the housing, which is an important part of the puzzle.

Once all the parts have been secured, the installation can begin. While most of the install will be fairly straightforward, there will be the typical snags. We installed a 1957 9-inch housing with a 74-Ford brakes and an unknown year 3.73-limited slip third-member into our 1966 Mustang Fastback. Our biggest problem (besides a mental fatigue-induced brake-bleeding fiasco that resulted in a 3 a.m. finish time) was a need for a set of cross-sized U-joints. We didn’t have the time or money to swap driveshafts, so we sourced a set of U-joints from the local NAPA auto parts store with a pair of 1 1\8” caps for the rear-end yoke and a pair of 1” caps to fit the original drive shaft. This type of unit is available pre-made, but we needed ours that day, so we bought 2 joints and swapped caps. The center section of the joint is the same diameter, so no problems there, and we have a spare should we ever snap one.

We also ran into a problem with the original shock mount plates. These are the pieces that the U-bolts bolt to under the springs and clamp the rear end in place. The stock 8” rear axle tubes measure 2.5” in diameter, while the 9” tubes are 3”. This required a set of 3 1\8” U-bolts and modification to the shock plates. We had to drill 4 new holes in each plate in order to keep the shock mounting point the same. Just make sure you mark the plate in the correct orientation as they are really easy to turn 90 degrees and drill in the wrong place, this is knowledge learned from experience.

While our install had a few bumps in the road, the install was still fairly simple and should only take a few hours with all the right tools and parts in hand. Just be sure to get your parts a few days in advance, as some may need to be ordered, and can really put a kink in your plans. Especially if the project vehicle is your daily driver.

1.With the vehicle raised up and supported with jack stands, the driveshaft was removed and the U-bolts were removed. An impact-wrench is not required, but sure makes things easier.

1. With the vehicle raised up and supported with jack stands, the driveshaft was removed and the U-bolts were removed. An impact-wrench is not required, but sure makes things easier.

2.The shocks can be tricky, so a pair of channel-locks were used to hold the tube while the lower mount was removed. The lower shock plates were then cleaned and sand blasted, so they were ready for modification and paint.

2. The shocks can be tricky, so a pair of channel-locks were used to hold the tube while the lower mount was removed. The lower shock plates were then cleaned and sand blasted, so they were ready for modification and paint.

3.The old rear end slid out on the jack.

3. The old rear end slid out on the jack.

4.The housing for the 9-inch received a new gasket and some silicone to ensure a leak-free unit.

4. The housing for the 9-inch received a new gasket and some silicone to ensure a leak-free unit.

5.The third-member dropped right over the studs on the housing.

5. The third-member dropped right over the studs on the housing.

6.The threads on the third member were treated to a little Medium Threadlocker. DO NOT put High-strength Red Threadlocker on these studs.

6. The threads on the third member were treated to a little Medium Threadlocker. DO NOT put High-strength Red Threadlocker on these studs.

7.The junction block from the old rear-end was reused on the new one. The lines would have probably worked, but we had new ones in hand, so the brake lines were replaced.

7. The junction block from the old rear-end was reused on the new one. The lines would have probably worked, but we had new ones in hand, so the brake lines were replaced.

8.At this point, we discovered the difference between the U-joints. It took a couple of hours to find the right caps to make our custom cross-size joints.

8. At this point, we discovered the difference between the U-joints. It took a couple of hours to find the right caps to make our custom cross-size joints.

9.With the basic assembly completed, the 9-inch was slid under the car using the jack. The larger third-member is very heavy. This is definitely a 2-person job.

9. With the basic assembly completed, the 9-inch was slid under the car using the jack. The larger third-member is very heavy. This is definitely a 2-person job.

10.The tubes were slid over one set of leafs, then the other. The spring perches locate on the stock locater pins.

10. The tubes were slid over one set of leafs, then the other. The spring perches locate on the stock locater pins.

11.The 9-inch axle tubes are 1\2” wider than the old unit. Using a 1\2” drill bit, the lower shock mounts were drilled to accommodate the new U-bolts. Using a little cutting oil saves the life of the bit, as we had to drill 8 holes in the 1\4” heavy steel plates. Once drilled, the plates were painted with a little semi-flat black paint.

11. The 9-inch axle tubes are 1\2” wider than the old unit. Using a 1\2” drill bit, the lower shock mounts were drilled to accommodate the new U-bolts. Using a little cutting oil saves the life of the bit, as we had to drill 8 holes in the 1\4” heavy steel plates. Once drilled, the plates were painted with a little semi-flat black paint.

12.Using both flat and lock-washers, the shock plates were mounted to the U-bolts. . These nuts need to be checked after about 25 miles down the road.

12. Using both flat and lock-washers, the shock plates were mounted to the U-bolts. . These nuts need to be checked after about 25 miles down the road.

13.The shocks were replaced as well as we discovered they were no longer any good. The lower mount simply bolted to the old plate.

13. The shocks were replaced as well as we discovered they were no longer any good. The lower mount simply bolted to the old plate.

14.The axle tube use 2 gaskets, 1 on the tube, and 1 on on the backing plate, behind the axle shafts.

14. The axle tube use 2 gaskets, 1 on the tube, and 1 on on the backing plate, behind the axle shafts.

15.The backing plates we used were already assembled when we bought them and the shoes were good, so they were placed over the tubes and new grade-8 bolts slid through.

15. The backing plates we used were already assembled when we bought them and the shoes were good, so they were placed over the tubes and new grade-8 bolts slid through.

16.The axles shafts were slid inside the tubes, making sure each axle engages the center section.

16. The axles shafts were slid inside the tubes, making sure each axle engages the center section.

17.The bolts for the axles were treated with a little medium threadlocker for safety.

17. The bolts for the axles were treated with a little medium threadlocker for safety.

18.Using the factory supplied hole, each nut was tightened on the bolts.

18. Using the factory supplied hole, each nut was tightened on the bolts.

19.The housing has a 3\8” square-drive socket cap for the filler hole. A ratchet or breaker bar fits perfectly.

19. The housing has a 3\8” square-drive socket cap for the filler hole. A ratchet or breaker bar fits perfectly.

20.The housing was filled with Quaker State gear oil made specifically for limited-slip differentials. The housing took just under three bottles.

20. The housing was filled with Quaker State gear oil made specifically for limited-slip differentials. The housing took just under three bottles.

21.With the brakes bled and ready, the new Oasis 18” Retro wheels and Kumho tires were bolted on. The addition of limited-slip, and the steeper 3.73 gears, really woke up the sleepy Mustang. Getting sideways is not a problem.

21. With the brakes bled and ready, the new Oasis 18” Retro wheels and Kumho tires were bolted on. The addition of limited-slip, and the steeper 3.73 gears, really woke up the sleepy Mustang. Getting sideways is not a problem.

About Jefferson Bryant (196 Articles)
A life-long gearhead, Street Tech Magazine founder and editor Jefferson Bryant spends more time in the shop than anywhere else. His career began in the car audio industry as a shop manager, eventually working his way into a position at Rockford Fosgate as a product designer. In 2003, he began writing tech articles for magazines, and has been working as an automotive journalist ever since. His work has been featured in Car Craft, Hot Rod, Rod & Custom, Truckin’, Mopar Muscle, and many more. Jefferson has also written 5 books and produced countless videos. Jefferson operates Red Dirt Rodz, his personal garage studio, where all of his magazine articles and tech videos are produced. You can follow Jefferson on Facebook (Jefferson Bryant), Twitter (71Buickfreak), and YouTube (RedDirtRodz).

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