Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
January 14, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy the Manufacturers

If you look under the hood of any modern vehicle, you will assuredly find the modern multi-rib drive belt—more commonly known as a serpentine belt—driving the engine's accessories. The classic V-shaped drive belt, common to Mustangs until the Fox era, usually meant that the more accessories your engine had to drive, the more belts that were used on the front of the engine. A fully loaded Mustang could easily come from the factory with three to five different drive belts, often of different thicknesses as well. All of these individual drive belts had to be tensioned separately and were often over-tightened at the hands of installers with giant pry bars—sometimes causing accessory bearing failures and in some cases crankshaft bearing failures.

The modern serpentine belt was designed to prevent these issues. The OE application of the six-rib serpentine belt was first seen on the '79 Mustang, an exclusive design to Ford at the time.The serpentine belt's design allowed for one continuous belt wrap around all accessory drive pulleys, one that was kept at the proper belt tension via a spring-loaded belt tensioner. This prevented over tightening of the belt and also allowed for quick and easy belt changes. Ford eventually expanded the serpentine drive system to everything from front-wheel-drive four cylinder models to the F-series trucks. Today you'd be hard pressed to find anything on four wheels built with an old V-belt.

Upgrading your vintage Mustang with a serpentine drive system not only offers many of the same benefits, but many of the serpentine systems available will allow a more compact accessory drive, offering a cleaner engine bay with more room for cooling components and other sub-systems. Even more critical is the age of stock components and their eventual mismatch as parts are replaced or added over the service life of the car. We've seen cooling problems, charging issues, and poor power steering performance all due to the wrong pulley ratio or drive belt size (or both!). A serpentine belt conversion will solve these issues by utilizing the proper drive ratios.

You can find several serpentine belt drive solutions for your vintage Mustang no matter the engine under the hood. From basic pulley and bracket kits that use the original Ford accessories to full accessory drive conversion solutions that feature high-amp alternators, high-flow water pumps, and tunable power steering pumps, the options are vast. You'll find basic setups for daily drivers for those looking for an “OE” look, as well as systems that are fully polished with all the bling you want for your under-hood real estate.

So if you've been fighting pulley mismatch issues, thrown belts, or maybe you're installing a new crate engine that doesn't include front dress items, check out the available serpentine drive solutions from the following and imagine one of these systems dressing up the front of your engine to solve all your problems.

Billet Specialties

With a name like Billet Specialties, you know this company knows a thing or two about taking ingots of aluminum and whittling them down to pieces of automotive jewelry. Billet Specialties has been making all manner of aluminum accessories since the 1980s but really turned the aftermarket on its ear when it launched its line of Tru Trac serpentine drive systems. The Tru Trac system is an all-inclusive upgrade for small-block, 385-series big-block, or FE big-block Ford engines. The Tru Trac features a polished Powermaster 140-amp one-wire alternator, a Ford Racing reverse rotation or Edelbrock standard rotation water pump, ARP mounting hardware, and a spring-loaded tensioner. Optional A/C and power steering accessories include a Sanden SD-7 compressor and a Maval power steering pump. Everything comes fully polished except for the power steering pump and water pump. The Tru Trac systems are designed for newer four-bolt crankshaft dampers and as such vintage engines will require a damper change. Options include a Premium Tru Trac system with polished power steering pump and a polished billet case alternator as well. Pricing is determined by options, but systems start at $1,650.

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CFR Performance

Over the years we've seen thousands of late-model 5.0L pushrod engines swapped into vintage Mustangs (with and without the OE EFI components). With decent power and 300 lb-ft of torque, the modern small-block is a direct replacement for aging 289s and 302s found in the early Mustang. One problem in the conversion's otherwise bolt-in nature is the accessory drive. The factory setup includes a Thermactor air pump, alternator, A/C, and power steering, along with a myriad of stamped steel and cast aluminum brackets all mounted with specialty bolts (some of which are metric). Often a salvage yard engine or a base-model crate engine will not have any accessories left/mounted as well, causing the owner to have to fend for themselves on finding the right brackets and bolts.

CFR Performance takes the headache out of such swaps with their simple, low-cost serpentine bracket and pulley kit for the late-model small-block. The system features two 6061-T6 billet aluminum mounting brackets, one for the alternator and one for the power steering (A/C is not supported), along with under driven pulleys for the accessories and a full complement of Allen head mounting hardware. Though designed for the '79-'93 5.0L small-block, this kit will work on early small-block engines as long as a four-bolt crankshaft damper and a reverse rotation water pump is utilized. CFR Performance offers their kits in several colors, plus chrome and polished. The underdrive ratio CFR Performance uses will typically give a 11-15 horsepower increase and improve fuel mileage by two to three miles per gallon, they state.

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Concept One

Concept One’s small-block offering is their only serpentine drive system to feature an OE-style spring loaded belt tensioner for a “set it and forget it” belt installation. Shown here in a machined finish, the Concept One system places the A/C on the passenger side at the bottom with the power steering pump at the driver’s side bottom, both making for shorter/cleaner hose runs. The small-block system can be ordered to fit traditional or low-profile timing chain/water pump combos and requires a four-bolt crankshaft damper and reverse rotation water pump.

Concept One may have gotten their start with GM-based serpentine systems, but when it was time to tackle the Blue Oval product line, the Concept One folks took the slow and methodical approach to make sure they figured out all of the Ford engine options/features so they could confidently offer a serpentine drive kit no matter what year engine, type of timing cover/water pump being used, power steering type, and more. What this means is when you order a Concept One serpentine drive system for your Ford engine, you'll be getting a quality billet aluminum serpentine drive system that'll fit right the first time. All Concept One systems can also be configured to run just the accessories you have—alternator only; alternator and power steering; alternator and air conditioning; or alternator, air conditioning, and power steering.

Concept One's serpentine drive systems feature the compact Sanden SD-7 A/C compressor, Powermaster one wire alternators, Delphi power steering pumps with your choice of power steering reservoir, OE-style spring loaded belt tensioner (small-block application only), and Goodyear Gatorback serpentine drive belts. All brackets, pulleys, and pulley covers come standard in a machined finish with fully polished or clear or black anodizing available as an option. Additional options include different power steering pressure and flow rates, 140-amp alternator (105-amp is standard), and chrome finished alternator and/or A/C compressor. Since the Concept One brackets attach directly to the cylinder heads, the stock timing cover and water pump can easily be utilized, meaning you don't have to “crack open” the engine to install your serpentine conversion.

Pricing starts at $775 (alternator only) and can go up from there depending on number of accessories driven and other options, topping out at about $2,200.

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Eddie Motorsports

Eddie Motorsports is a division of Eddie Marine, and any boaters out there reading this can tell you that when it comes to building parts for the marine industry, you have to have your act together. Eddie Motorsports takes that same commitment to quality, strength, and design from their marine division when developing their billet accessories for the automotive aftermarket. Their latest foray into billet hardware for vintage Mustangs (they're known for their hinges, taillight bezels, and more) is their S.drive serpentine belt systems for small-block Ford engines. The S.drive's heart is its billet timing cover design. This billet timing cover replaces the stock Ford cast aluminum cover and provides a stable base for all S.drive accessory attachments. What this means is no matter the year or application, the S.drive will work. There's no figuring out short or long water pump, iron or aluminum heads, etc. (even shaving your heads for compression can cause mounting issues sometimes).

The S.drive system features quality hardware from the top names in the aftermarket, from the typical Sanden A/C compressor to the Ford Racing water pump. All S.drive systems feature Powermaster 105-amp one-wire alternators and Maval power steering pumps. The S.drive is a true single belt serpentine drive system and uses an "off the shelf" OE Gates brand self-tensioner to maintain belt tension. So if the tensioner should ever fail or wear out/lose tension, a new one is as close as your favorite parts store. Eddie Motorsports can configure your S.drive for either power steering—integral or rack-and-pinion—and the power steering pump is available with an attached or remote reservoir. Lastly, the S.drive requires an electric fuel pump, as there is no provision for a mechanical pump mounting in its timing cover. The crank pulley requires the use of a four-bolt crank damper.

March Performance

For nearly three decades, March Performance has been known for keeping accessories moving with quality pulley and bracket sets. From the humble beginnings of the 5.0L Mustang underdrive pulley kits that ended up on nearly every Fox Mustang on the street to street rodders trying to mount their engine driven accessories in a compact setup to clear their chassis and bodywork, March Performance has been there with products to help. Today their product line of Ford serpentine belt drive systems is simply astounding with everything from basic bracket and pulley kits to all-out serpentine belt drive systems with full accessories.

March Performance offers their Deluxe and Ultra serpentine drive brackets in numerous part numbers to fit small- and big-block Ford applications. These clean, yet basic, bracket designs allow you to fit your own Ford accessory drive components to your engine. March Performance offers these kits in both three- and four-bolt crankshaft damper configurations so vintage engine users usually will not have to purchase a new four-bolt damper. Standard and reverse rotation water pumps are also supported with different part numbers. All March Deluxe and Ultra serpentine drive systems utilize manual belt tensioning adjuster rods.

Moving up the product line, March offers their Style Track systems for 289/302/351W small-block, 351C, 385-series big-block, and FE big-block engines. The Style Track serpentine belt drive system features a one-piece alternator and A/C mounting bracket with dual belt idlers (on most) for sufficient belt wrap around on the accessory pulleys. Speaking of accessories, the Style Track includes accessory drives for an all-inclusive kit. The Style Track includes a 105-amp one-wire alternator; Sanden A/C compressor; Edelbrock water pump (small-block kit includes low-profile pump and timing cover); GM type-2 power steering pump; and all pulleys, idlers, and pulley covers.

Recently released is March Performance's second all-inclusive serpentine drive kit, the Sport Track system. Designed as a lower-cost alternative, this budget friendly system is similar to the Style Track but with more economical accessory drive components and a standard silver or black coating instead of fully polished. The Sport Track system gets the job done for those looking for an all-in-one solution at a better price point and are willing to forego the fully polished look of the Style Track system. It works for us!

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Vintage Air

You wouldn't think a company devoted to air conditioning systems for classic and muscle cars would design and manufacture their own serpentine belt drive system, but you'd be wrong. Vintage Air did just that several years ago with their Front Runner serpentine belt drive system after seeing the constant battle customers had in fitting belt driven accessories to the front of their engines. From dealing with different deck heights, cylinder head manufacturers, and other variables, it was plain to see for Vintage Air that a serpentine belt drive system needed to be designed to allow accessories to mount to a single mounting surface, effectively removing the variables that frustrated so many builders/installers.

Vintage Air designed its own forged one-piece timing chain cover so all accessories can be direct-mounted, including the spring-loaded belt tensioner. To this, Vintage Air adds industry staples like a Sanden SD-7 A/C compressor, a Delphi power steering pump, a Stewart high-performance aluminum water pump, and a 140-amp one-wire alternator. The OE-grade belt tensioner is from Dayco (as is the serpentine belt) and ARP stainless 12-point bolts retain everything for a show winning look. Vintage Air currently offers their Front Runner for the small-block Ford engine family in bright or black finishes, with or without power steering (as an A/C company, all kits come standard with alternator and A/C). Their latest Ford offering is for the super popular 5.0L modular "Coyote" crate engine, allowing users to easily add power steering and A/C to their engine swap.

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