Modern e-brake in a classic ride
Stock 87-93 Mustang brake handle
Stock 79-86 Mustang brake handle

The step by step process of retrofitting a modern Mustang E-brake handle into a classic Mustang

Why should a Modern e-brake handle be put in a classic Mustang:
The first question you may have is why change the factory emergency brake handle out for a between the seat type e-brake handle.  Well, the answer is simple.   The stock early Mustang handle is in a poor location and is poorly designed.  The stock set up makes it difficult to get good solid lock up of the rear brakes during parking on an incline or decent braking during an emergency stop that is required due to hydraulic brake failure.  If none of what I have said has given you sufficient cause to up grade your braking system, then let’s look at it another way.

Imagine you are cruising down the freeway at 80 + MPH in your 65 Mustang.  There is a vehicle about three car lengths ahead of you and you see that they are applying their brakes.  In response, you press your brake pedal and to your horror it goes all the way to the floor.  With the stock configuration you must now reach under the dash, fumble around for the handle and then pull it straight out towards the seat, which is difficult in and of it self because where the handle needs to go is probably where your leg is currently resting.  All this must be accomplished while keeping your other hand on the steering wheel, the car under control, and an eye on the road.  You must also have some control in the brake application so that the wheels do not lock up completely, which would end up sending your car skidding out of control.  Now imagine that same situation with an E-brake handle conveniently located between the seats.  You calmly and easily drop your right hand to the handle, without even looking at it, and have the control to slowly apply the brakes and release them as needed to safely come to a stop.  There is no fumbling around under the dash or taking your eyes off the road to engage the handle.  Given both options, which would you prefer?
DazeCars Items for Sale:


Parts:
There are several parts to consider when preparing to perform this modification.  The first option is to purchase a Lokar E-Brake handle.  This option is very clean and works well but is, in my opinion, over priced, requires the use of Lokar brake cables and, to me, does not have that "stock" look.  Lokar parts are flashy and perfect for a hot rod, which is great if that’s what you are going for, but I wanted something that looks like it was originally designed to be there between the seats of my classic Mustang.   The late model Mustang e-brake handle is a natural choice given its looks, functionality, and especially since there are literally millions of Mustangs out there in bone yards with parts to harvest.   Also needed for this conversion are three 3/8" fine thread grade 5 steel bolts, three 3/8" fine thread nuts, a 6" X 8" piece of 16 gauge sheet steel, a 4" long piece of 1" X 1/4" steel bar, an E-brake repair kit, two extra cable stops, an e-brake mechanism cover, a three inch long piece of 1 & 1/2" angle iron and some nuts, bolts and oversized washers to use as mounting hardware.

Process:
The first thing I had to decide was "which stock Mustang handle was going to be best suited for my application".  Ford used two main styles of E-brake handle between 1979 and 1993.  The first can be found in Mustangs from years 79-86.  This style is a good choice for those who are using stock drum brakes or disc brakes with a small E-brake return spring.  It is a simple lever mechanism with no self-adjustment, so, if this handle is used, all adjustment needs to be made under the car.  Also the early type handle requires a hole cut in the transmission tunnel.  The second option, which is the one I chose, is to use a stock 87-93 Mustang E-brake handle.  There were several factors that led to this decision.  First of all, in my humble opinion, the later model handle is better looking and styled in such a way that it looks right at home in a classic Mustang.  The second reason I chose this handle is that it has a self-adjusting mechanism with a tensioning spring on it.  That means that, once you get it initially set, as the cable stretches, the mechanism in the handle will make adjustments to keep the E-brake consistent and functioning at optimal performance.  The only down side to this adjustment mechanism is that the return springs at the brakes need to be strong enough to compensate for the tensioning spring and that means that it will not work on drum brake cars with out modification.  NOTE If you want to use the later model handle with drum brakes there is an option to eliminate the self-adjusting spring.  I will need to modify my handle for an upcoming Jaguar IRS install (week return spring) and will add the process of modifying the handle after I have done so my self. Unlike the 79-86 handle, by using spacers, this handle can be installed with out having to cut a hole in the tunnel.  As you can see in the comparison picture, the two handles are quite a bit different in both form and function.  Once I made a decision as to which handle was best suited for my application, it was time to determine mounting location.

When I made this modification, I removed my interior, including carpet and seats.  Some drilling is required and, by removing these parts, I gained more working room, eliminated the possibility of damaging my interior, and reduced the risk of a fire.  After I removed my interior, I temporarily reinstalled the driver’s side seat just long enough to get a good feel as to where the best location was for my new handle.  On a 65 Mustang, there is a little hump on the transmission tunnel.  The E-brake handle will either need to be mounted in front of or behind it.  I chose to mount mine behind because I am over 6’ tall and my seat is always pushed back to the furthest point.  In a perfect world, I would have liked to move my handle about 1” forward so that if I dropped my hand down it would naturally grasp the handle.  Unfortunately the previously mentioned hump in the tunnel prohibited me moving the unit forward.  It is important to keep in mind that the handle is off to one side of the mounting holes and a compromise will need to be made between centering the handle and centering the mounting points.  While making this compromise, keep in mind that the closer to center of the tunnel the handle is mounted, the further down the slope of the tunnel the mounting bolts will be, which will cause the handle to be mounted at an angle. I chose to mount my handle slightly off from center towards the passengers side so as to minimize the problem of it being at an angle. Other years of cars may require other considerations in regards to the mounting location.  The next thing to deal with is reinforcing the sheet metal that is used to make the trans tunnel.

The stock configuration of the trans tunnel is not strong enough to handle the pressure that will be applied when engaging the e-brake.   So to compensate I took a piece of 16-gauge sheet steel that was 6” wide and 8” long and shaped it on a large round piece of wood. I worked it tell I had a shape similar to the trans tunnel, but bent the plate so the arc of the curve was just slightly smaller than the arc of the trans tunnel. This was done so that when everything was bolted together, the plate would be forced to flex slightly by the curve of the tunnel and be held in place with a small amount of compression.   I checked fitment often until I had the fit I wanted.  With the plate temporally in place I used the handle to mark on the plate where the mounting holes needed to be, and then drilled the mounting holes in said plate.  In the process of preparing everything for mounting I had another issue to address.  On the e-brake lever I used, the wheel hangs down past the mounting feet of the handle.  In order to achieve proper clearance between the tunnel and the wheel, I made two 1/4” spacer plates to be installed under the feet of the handle.


1/4" spacers and cable sleeve end

Reinforcing Plate

I positioned the plate I made earlier, on to the tunnel in the place where it would be mounted and used it as a pattern to drill the mounting holes.  NOTE brake and fuel lines run inside the trans tunnel.  Make sure you are aware of their location prior to drilling so that you do not damage them.  Failure to locate their position could, at the very least, create more work for you in having to fix them, and, the very worst, result in a fire caused by leaking fuel.  Once the holes had been drilled, I was able to mount the handle and reinforcing plate to the tunnel to insure proper fit. The mounting hardware I used consisted of two bolts, two nuts, two lock washers, two over sized washers for the underside of the car, and the two previously mention spacers.  I coated the underside of the reinforcing plate with truck bed liner.  This is a wonderful product to use on floor pans as its water resistance, sound deadening and rust encapsulation properties make it ideal for this application. I also had to drill a hole directly under the wheel for the brake cable sleeve.  The size of that hole was the same as the mounting hole for the e-brake fitting in the transmission crossmenber; sense that e-brake fitting and cable sleeve were being modified for uses between the handle and the rear brake cables.
  As mentioned above I had to fabricate a sleeve for the cable that connects the e-brake handle to the rear brake cables.  This sleeve keeps the cable from rubbing on the underside of the tunnel. I made one by modifying the stock front brake cable sleeve that housed the brake cable from the transmission cross-member to the engagement handle in the car. To do this I cut the nub off of the end that originally went in to the transmission cross-member so that it would be flat and would clear the wheel at the new handle. Next step was to cut the sleeve to length and to devise a means of fastening the cut end of the sleeve to a mounting bracket. (piece of angle iron that would be bolted to the underside of the tunnel) The new end was made by gluing a threaded gas line fitting (1/2" threads) with JB weld to the end of the sleeve. This fitting is a pressure fitting just like those used on Mustang break fittings only bigger. I got mine from a piece of old gas line. To be able to attach it to the angle iron, I cut a 1/2" nut in half and installed the thinner part of it on the fitting so that I would have more surface area on both sides of the mounting bracket. This allows it to be inserted in to a 1/2" hole in the mounting bracket and the other half of the nut tightened down. The sleeve was then wrapped in electricians tape and sprayed with clear rubber to seal it. From there It was a matter of inserting the “factory” end of the cable up through a hole in the tunnel and fastening it with a clip.  On the other end the angle iron bracket was  bolted to the underside of the transmission tunnel and the “brake fitting” end of the sleeve was secured in to place.


Modified Brake cable sleeve

Original end with tip cut off

End made with 1/2" pressure fitting
The next step in the process was coming up with a way to converge the two stock brake cables into the one that would be coming from the brake handle, as well as create a means of adjustment.   I achieved this by fabricating a bracket with three threaded holes in it that hallow bolts could be threaded into, to create an adjustable stop for the brake cable ends to pull against.  I cut a piece of 1" X 1/4” steel to a length of 4” and drilled three holes in it so that they could be tapped out to 3/8” fine thread.  NOTE To use during the taping process, I fabricated a tool that I call a “square tap” to aid in the tapping of the bracket.  A “square tap” is a piece of steel that has had a nut welded to it.  This gives you a tool that can be clamped to whatever you want to tap and provides a guide that starts the tap perfectly and squarely every time. Once all three holes had been taped, I turned my attention to the threaded sleeves.
Convergence Bracket

Square Tap

Taping the bracket

Drilling the bolt

The adjuster sleeves are created by drilling holes all the way through three grade 5 bolts.  I accomplished this by affixing the bolts up through the hole in my drill press.  I had to modify a washer by grinding two sides flat so that it would fit up in the underside of the drill press.  I then put a washer on the topside and tightened the whole thing down with a nut.  This allowed me to drill the bolt out.  The middle bolt in the assembly was going to have a smaller gauge cable passing through it so I drilled it with a smaller drill bit.  I then used a larger drill bit, the thickness of the stock cables, to drill out the two side bolts.  Once I had a hole all the way through the bolts, I used a step drill bit to enlarge the beginning of the openings so that it would be easier to install the cable.  The head of the bolt was also ground smooth so that the cable stops would not bind up on the grade 5 markings as I turned the adjusting bolts.  Once the bolts had been sufficiently modified, I threaded them into the bracket I had fabricated in the previous step and turned my attention to the cable stops.

Required for this project is an E-brake repair kit, which can be found at your local auto parts store.  In this kit are two essential pieces, one is a brake cable that will be used to connect the e-brake handle to the convergence bracket, and the other is a cable stop.  The hole on the cable stop is small and perfect for the cable in the kit, but far too small for the stock Mustang e-brake cables.  So I made two more of them, based in design of the one that came in the kit, only properly sized to accommodate the larger Mustang cables.  This was accomplished by buying two 1/4” bolts, two 1/4” allthread couplers and two small steel bearings that were just small enough to fit inside the allthread coupler.   I took the couplers and welded one end closed.  I drilled a hole just above the sealed ends that was the correct size to accommodate the thickness of the Mustang e-brake cable.  Then a steel bearing was placed inside each of the couplers through the 1/4" opening and the 1/4” bolt was threaded into the newly fabricated cable stop. The hole drilled through the stop should be large enough to accommodate the cable but not so big that the bearing can pass through it. NOTE When a stop is slid onto a cable, the stop needs to be bolt side down so that the bearing rolls up against the loosened bolt and opens the hole in the side for the cable to pass through.  When the bolt is tightened down, the bearing presses into the cable and locks it in place.  At this point, I mocked up the brake assembly to work out any bugs.  As mentioned above, I used the cable in the kit and threaded it through the cable sleeve I had fabricated and mounted earlier, through the hallow bolt, and then into its corresponding stop to attach the handle to the convergence bracket.  The stock Mustang cables were then installed in the two remaining sleeves on either side of the bracket.  In the case of my car, some previous owner thought that rather than fixing the emergency brake it made far more sense to just cut the cables.  In the case of an intact E-brake system, the cable ends will need to be cut off so that it can be threaded through the bracket.  I recommend cutting them long and then trimming them again after everything has been assembled in the final stage.  A cutoff wheel works well for making a nice clean cut without fraying the cable.


E-brake repair kit with cable and stop

The top of the bolts have been smoothed off
A "bug" I encountered well testing was that by leaving the original rear e-brake cables in the stock location they were to far apart and the cable would bind up on the sleeve as it left the  cable sleeve, when the brakes were engaged and disengaged.  This was easily overcome by fabricating a bracket that allowed me to relocate the mounting points of the stock brake cables. I took a piece of angle iron, drilled two holes large enough to mount the stock Mustang e-brake cables in, and than mounted the bracket in the middle of the underside of the trans tunnel.  I spaced the cable mounting holes with the same width as the convergence bracket so that the two parts would line up with no binding of the cable.  I also moved the mounting bracket towards the rear of the car to increase the distance between the convergence bracket and the e-brake mechanism.  This gave me more room to accommodate the convergence brackets.  
 brake cable mounting bracket
At this point, I also ran two wires from the E-brake mounting location along the trans tunnel to the firewall.  This was done so that I could utilize, in the future, the stock E-brake handle switch that indicates when the emergency brake is engaged. Once I had all the bugs out I took the entire set up apart so that I could install the carpet and then put the e-brake system in one last time. After I installed the carpet, including mounting the seat belt studs to hold the carpet in place, I installed the E-brake handle and corresponding cable.

With the handle properly installed, I was able to turn my attention to the underside of the car.  Once again, the single brake cable coming from the brake sleeve was threaded through the middle bolt of the convergence bracket, and the cable stop was installed but not yet tightened down.  The stock brake cables were then threaded through their corresponding sleeves on the convergence bracket.  The bracket was moved to the rear of the car, leaving about 1” between the adjusting bolt and the ends of the brake cable where they protrude out of mounting bracket.  The two cable stops for the stock cables were then installed and tightened down.   The next step took a little more trial and error.  I pulled the single remaining cable tight and tightened down its cable stop.  I then crawled out from under the car and tested the handle.  When it was first engaged and disengaged, due to the tensioning spring, the cable pulled forward but only retracted about half the distance.  It is this tension that creates the self-adjustment.  Upon further examination of the mechanism, I realized that as the handle is pulled up, a small lever drops down and grabs the teeth on the brake cable wheel.  The further backwards the teeth are rotated and, thus, the further forward the arm grabs, the less self-adjustment is remaining.  More self-adjustment can be created by pulling more of the single cable coming from the handle through the convergence block and relocating the cable stop, or by turning the adjusting sleeves on the convergence block.  I chose to do both. I first got as many teeth forward as I could by pulling on the cable and then pulled the rest of them forward using the adjusting sleeves. After all was installed and functioning perfectly, I then cut the extra length from the cables, leaving enough extra for future modification if necessary.  NOTE after adjusting the e-brake lever, make sure that when the lever is in the disengaged position that the rear wheels turn freely.  Failure to do so could result in a partial engaged e-brake system, which could potentially warp discs or drums.  All I had left was a few minor details to deal with so that I could complete this project.


I found that if you rotate the wheel forward you can push a screwdriver in front of a notch on the wheel to hold everything in place while hooking it up under the car.

When I pulled the handle the first time, the drop down arm grabbed the teeth about half way up. When I released it, the tentioning spring held the mechanism with most of the teeth rotated back.

 Due to the proper functioning of the self-adjusting mechanism, the drop down arm is grabbing at the last tooth so I had to make adjustments under the car to increase the amount of "self-adjusting" teeth.
One thing I initially overlooked, but remedied very quickly after I discovered it, was that when I relocated the stock cables they had the potential to rub on both the bottom of the car, as well as my fuel and brake lines.  This issue was quickly remedied by splitting two 18” long pieces of rubber hose and then sliding them over the brake cables from a point just behind my mounting bracket all the way to where they pass through the frame, and then fastened them in place with zip ties.  Another issue I had to deal with was that my vent opening knob was held into place by the same bolts that held the original e-brake handle in place and the nuts that the bolts threaded into were actually part of the brake handle.  This was remedied by simply cutting off the mounting end of the original e-brake bracket and putting it back in the car where it was originally designed to go, that way I had something to screw the bolts up into.  The last issue I had was in covering the brake handle mechanism.  I had hoped that an E-brake handle cover from an 86 car without a console would have fit but after buying one I realized that it was too small, however, it is the perfect option for anyone using the earlier style 79-86 brake handle.  What I ended up using was a vinyl manual transmission shift boot for a modern Ford car.  Unfortunately, I have no clue what car it came from.  I bought it from eBay and the seller was unsure what car it was for.

All in all, this was a good project and I am extremely pleased with the result.  However, due to the amount of troubleshooting required on this project, I would say that it was one of the more difficult modifications I have performed, especially before I realized how the self-adjusting mechanism on the e-brake handle worked.  I hope that the information I have provided will help eliminate any troubleshooting you may encounter if you attempt a similar project on your own vehicle.  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email.


Convergence bracket and cable mounting bracket

Cable sleeve installed under car


Here we have it, a modern E-brake handle in a classic Mustang.  Looks right at home, as if Ford had
designed it that way over 40 years ago.

Disclaimer on Daze Tech Tips
      I am not an expert in this field. I have performed these modifications myself with very good results. I am passing along restoration and performance tips for the purpose of education.  If you are concerned about reliability or safety issues, I do not recommend that you or any other individual perform these changes or attempt to modify your cars from stock configuration except under your own volition.  I do not assume nor accept any liability for the use of this information or how it is applied.

















2013 DazeCars
The words / logos for Ford, Jaguar, Mustang, Galaxie, etc are used for descriptive and reference purposes only. DazeCars is neither affiliated with Jaguar Land Rover North America LLC, Ford Motor Company nor the manufacturers/distributors of Ford or Jaguar automobiles.