Installing a Lincoln Versailles Rear End

“You look strong enough to pull the ears off of a Gundark“

- Han Solo, The Empire Strikes Back


 When I decided to go through with the Granada front disc brake swap, I also thought of adding the extra stopping power of rear discs to my car.   Many companies sell a rear disc brake kit for 60s Fords, but at the time their prices seemed a bit high for me.  In time, I found out that Mustang owners have been borrowing a rear end from a 1976 - 1979 Lincoln Versailles and bolting it in to their vintage Mustangs.  Not only did the Lincoln Versailles rear end sport 9" gears, but it also came with disc brakes.  The length of the rear end was only 1/2" longer than a stock Mustang's, with the spring hangers having the same placing, making the Versailles rear end a simple bolt-in...Or so it seemed on paper.

What's so hard about this swap?

 The Lincoln Versailles rear end brings a lot of positive upgrades to your car: a stronger Ford 9" rear end, and rear disc brakes.  Unfortunately, it also comes with several headaches:

1.)  The rear end ratios range from 2:49:1 to 3.00:1, with very few units being locking rear ends. If you want any kind of "off the line" performance, this rear end will NOT suit you.

2.)  The rear disc brakes were only around for about 4 years, and were installed in 1976 - 1979 Lincoln Versailles and some Ford Granadas.  Parts for these rear ends are therefore becoming scarce, and the parts that usually need to be replaced often in this swap (rotors, calipers, soft lines) are becoming rather expensive.

3.)  This rear end is "old technology" by today's standards, and special care needs to be taken when rebuilding one of these rear ends.  The rotors are uni-directional, that is, they are "vented disc brakes" only if installed on the correct side.  Installing a rotor on the improper side will cause the rotor not to draw air into its cooling fins, causing excessive brake wear or worse, brake failure.  The Anchor plates, caliper soft lines, and calipers also need to be installed on either the left or right sides; they are NOT interchangeable. 

What are some of my options?

The Lincoln Versailles rear end installation can be costly, but it might suit you if you have availability to parts or are on a budget. Let us see the my decision making process when it comes to integrating this rear end on my car:

There are the main three things I wanted:

1.)  Rear disc brakes

2.)  A "shorter" rear end.  My car sports 3.00:1 rear gears.  Since I will be using a transmission with an overdrive, I want gears that can give me better acceleration off of the line. 

3.)  A locking rear end.

There are several ways I can get these:

1.)  Buy a rear disc brake kit for my 8" rear end, then have my 8" rebuilt or purchase a new rear end with shorter gears and a locking mechanism.

Cost:  about $600 for the brake kit

          about $500 for new gears, a locking mechanism, and installation for my 8" rear end

Total = $1100

2.)  Buy an entire 8 or 9 inch rear end with the disc brakes.

Cost:   about $700-$900 for the 8 or 9 inch with wanted gears and locking mechanism

           about $600 for the rear disc brake kit

Total = $1200-$1400

3.)  Buy a Lincoln Versailles rear end, buy wanted gears and locking mechanism

Cost:    about $300 for the rear end from a junkyard

            about $350 to rehab brakes (new pads, cut rotors, new Calipers, new hoses)

            about $500 for wanted gears and locking mechanism

Total = $1150

4.)  I received info from a fellow Falcon owner, Mike Stevens, on his unique way to add rear discs to his 1964 hardtop:

Find yourself a 9 inch rear end with the BIG BEARING AXLES, and you then can slap some Rear Disks Brakes from a Early FORD EXPLORER. Ford sells this kit at any Ford Motorsports Dealer. Its the Explorer Rear Disk Brake Kit. It slaps right on to the big bearing axles . You CAN'T use it on your stock car. You need 14" wheels, and the Bigger Axles LIKE FROM THE MAVERICK! Go to your local rear end builder and and have them switch your stock rear for a 9 inch and big bearing axles. I pulled my own from the junkyard , bought the 9 inch from Pomona Swap Meet. Had Billy Thomas from San Bernardino slap them together , rebuilt the 9 inch and painted it . Put the rear end in, and slap on the new rear disk brakes. WAY EASIER than the GRANADA front swap but I did both for 4 wheel disks. IT IS POSSIBLE. Total cost with turning in both cores, stock and Maverick's.... 600 bucks... $375 was for the kit from Ford.

I have about 600 miles on my car right now after the swap. Sure go ahead and use my info. on your web page. Love your page and have started one of my own too. The rear end , all I know is it that it's a 9 inch with 3:50.1 gears with posi trac. The axles from maverick with big bearing. It is about half inch shorter than the stock rear end and axles. more wheel clearance. Sure go ahead and use my info on your web page.

These are ballpark figures I attained by calling around.  This list doesn't cover every detail and cost, such as shipping of parts, sales, favors, other needed repairs/replacement parts, or time needed to get prices one finds reasonable.

What did I do?

  The Lincoln Versailles rear end swap was attractive to me because I had the contacts and the parts availability for this swap.

1.)  I started out by purchasing a Lincoln Versailles rear end, and since I have been buying parts from the dealer who had it, I got it for less than the price listed above.

2.)  I then disassembled the brakes and started shopping for replacement parts.   I got rebuilt calipers, cut the rotors, and bought new pads.  These parts are becoming harder to find, with some parts taking over 2 weeks to get to me. The hardest parts to find in my quest were the left and right caliper hoses (Wagner part# F88979 for left hand, part# F88980 for the right hand - or check out Mustang's Plus.  Mustang's plus also carries Russell Braided Steel brake line, which is a logical alternative to the expensive hoses, and will last longer.)  

3.)  Thanks to Mark Dinzebach, not only did I get all the information I needed for the Geo power brake swap, but I also got a rear end center section ("pumpkin") and matching 31 spline axles from him.  My rear end now sports a nodular iron cased, 31 spline 3.70:1 locking rear end.  The center section was rebuilt with steel clutches in the locking mechanism and fit with the a small yoke to accept the a Falcon/Mustang driveshaft.

(Installation of the 9 inch "pumpkin".  Note the difference in the axle widths in the left picture. The 31 spline axle [left] is stronger than the original 28 spline axle [right])

4.)  Center section installation is easy.  Simply pull out the axles (might take a few wraps with the hammer on the axle adapter to loosen them), remove the nuts and brass washers that fasten the center section to the rear axle, remove the center section, scrape off remaining gasket and sealer, place new gasket on rear axle, install new center section with brass washers under the nuts.

5.)  I then went to work on the rear end with a wire brush and grinder.  After getting the rear as clean as I could, I used a rust neutralizing agent on the rear end, followed by multiple coats of primer, and topped with epoxy gloss black paint.

(Wire brush and grinding got rid of a lot of rust.[Left] The new center section installed, with the original 2:47 non-locking pumpkin on the floor. Note the different yoke. [Right] )

6.)  Next comes the brake installation.  I took the time to paint the calipers, caliper bracket, and the rotor "hat".  I used Versailles shop manual directions and torque specs.

The rear brake system is very similar to the Granada front disc brakes.  The difference is how the brakes attach to the car.  The front disc brakes ride on the spindles.  The rear disc brakes are attached to the rear end by attaching to an axle adapter; a thick bracket on each axle that bolts onto the rear end housing itself.

This axle adapter has two tapped holes to accept the dust shield, and two large holes that allow the caliper anchoring plates to attach (the cast iron brackets that the caliper slides on and holds the anti-rattle clips).  The rotors fit over the lugs on the rear end, and are held in place by the caliper/shoe assembly and the tire/lug nuts.

(When you pull the axle, the axle adapter comes with it, as it is riding behind the bearings [Left]. When assembled, the calipers mount rearward, and share the Granada front disc brake single piston, floating caliper design.[Right])

Rear End Installation

7.)  This rear end hasn't been installed yet, but here are a few pointers:

A.)  I am using 63 Galaxie shock plates so I can keep the stock geometry for the shock mounting.

B.)  Several soft lines are available to attach the rear end to the car's hardline.  You can stick with the
       Versailles line, but they are getting costly (sometimes around $50).  I am using an 80s Ford F150
      soft line - its the same length, has the same size fittings, and costs about $25.

C.)  The Versailles rear end is a 1/2" longer than a stock Falcon/Mustang rear end, so double check the
       placement on the rear springs.

D.)  When you remove the rear end from the car, make sure you leave some emergency brake
       cable still attached to the rear end.  These lines can be attached to your car's emergency brake
       system by using a line crimp tool and connectors.  You can find this tool at any parts store.

Mike in Chicago