North American Turbocoupe Organization

A4LD to Manual Swap BIBLE
Big Al Offline
Let me begin by saying that I am not a mechanic nor the son of a mechanic. I have no formal training. I grew up playing with wrenches under a car while dad changed the oil in the station wagon. (There may be a pic of me in diapers doing just that). I grew up loving cars, Ford cars and trucks. I have friends who are excellent mechanics and are also Thunderbird enthusiasts with their own shops. I learned much of my mechanical knowledge from working with them on the weekends as TBird guys in NC would get together to do work on our TBirds. All that to say this: You are getting this info from a car guy, not a car mechanic.
I am the average car guy. I am not rich and cannot afford a drag car or a show car but I wouldn’t mind turning this thing into a “third date” car. I want my car to look nice and go fast enough to make me smile on the street. Pretty sure that covers about 95 % of car guys.
Why do this swap? Your auto slush-box is robbing power, will soon break down, and will cost you TWICE AS MUCH to repair/buy a new one than doing a T5 Swap. I looked at getting a built A4LD, a good C4 and accompanying parts, and other auto transmissions. They were all more expensive than this swap.
The T5 swap on a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe is not exactly the same as on a Mustang. There are differences. Thus the reason for this post. You can find several write-ups for an A4LD to T5 swap on Mustangs.
***Read both of these threads (below) and mine and watch all videos which are listed later in this thread before buying parts***
STINGER has a good one:
Here is one with good pics on Mustang Forums from 2008 (he has torque specs listed):
This one is for a Lincoln so much of it does not apply to us, but he does have some good pics:
These are the places I received most of my study material from. However, I still ended up using TurboFord and NATO for other unanswered questions. If you do not use a TBird 5-Speed donor car, you will have lots of questions because there are many ancillary parts needed if you just get a T5 with no bellhousing…like I did.
As stated by others: Step One is GATHER EVERY PART YOU WILL NEED.
Here is the Stinger list plus my additions:
Parts Needed:
• Borg Warner T5 Transmission- (Decide if you are going to go cable or Hydraulic) Used: $250.00-$500.00
• Bell Housing (2.3) $75.00
• Pivot Ball
• Starter Plate
• Clutch Fork
• Clutch Cable (And Dogbone Cable)
• Make sure you have Clevis Links on the pivot arm of the T5, they are hard to find.
• Clutch Cable Clip (Small C-clip. Holds Cable In Housing)
• Clutch Quadrant (Part Of Pedal Assembly)
• Clutch Disc
• Clutch alignment tool
• Pressure Plate
• Pressure plate bolts
• Flywheel
• Flywheel to Crank bolts (longer)
• Throw-out Bearing
• Pilot Bearing
• Pedal Assembly (Engine Specific, 5.0 or 2.3) $90.00
• Shifter
• Shifter Bezel
• Shifter Knob
• Shifter Weather Seal
• Shifter Boot
• Manual Drive Shaft (Thunderbird 2.3 Only)
• Back Up Light Harness (Plugs into Tranny)
• Manual Cross Member and mount (can be from a Mustang)
• Manual Cross Member Bolts (they are longer and hard to find)
• Rear Main seal $2.00
• Rear tranny seal $18.00
• Some self-tapping screws
• Wheel bearing grease
• 2.8 quarts of Mobile One Synthetic ATF
You will want to use EBay, TurboFord Wanted section, NATO Wanted section, possibly, Summit and, and every parts store in your county to find the parts. Go ahead and create an account with every one of them.
Tools needed:
Floor jack, jack stands, metric and standard wrenches, socket sets, breaker bar, long pry bar, impact gun-if you can get one, gasket puller would be nice, screw drivers. Would be helpful to have a torch, a cutting wheel and a vice, and a small pipe cutter for the tranny lines. If all you have is a couple of screw drivers and a quarter inch drive set go find a friend with a garage and a bunch of tools and beg/bribe him to let you use it for a while. This is NOT a weekend job for a guy laying under a car in his driveway.
Bolts and Mounting Hardware (Pressure Plate, Bell Housing) You will need Flywheel bolts which are longer than your flex plate bolts. Ask around for a used set or buy them new from Summit. Your local parts store will NOT carry these. You do need 10.9 hardness bolts. You will need the pressure plate bolts unless you bought a new clutch kit that came with them. You will need bellhousing bolts, four, to attach the bell to the Tranny.
1. Removal of the A4LD:
Refer to the Stinger article. And don’t forget to remove the torque converter nuts from the flywheel. 
Good time to remove the transmission cooler lines. You may want a small pipe cutter. I found using one made the process much easier as these lines are contorted in all kinds of ways.
2. Removal of shifter:
This is straight forward and the Stinger article is applicable for the most part. I removed mine with the shift cable intact but I bent the four tabs you see below to do it. Not a big deal, they bend right back.
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3. Removal of Pedal Assembly
Follow the Stinger article but understand you will not be unbolting the steering column from up top, the ABS is way too big.
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Crawl underneath the vehicle and undo the bolt that holds the steering column onto the rest or the arm. It will be near the firewall. It is completely possible to do all this without removing the steering column, but it will be resting on your stomach while you remove all the bolts for the pedal assembly. I did it this way and it was fine.
Getting to all the nuts (9/16 deep well with long extension and an impact) isn't too bad except for the top left ABS nut which must be done by wrench. That part just took time, not too bad. The front two bolts on the pedal assembly are welded in place -and not only that- Ford attached an A FRAME to the left two steering column bolts!

There is no way of taking a picture of the A frame with the dash installed. So it was either partially remove the dash to get to the other side of said A Frame, or get creative. I got creative. I got a three foot pry-bar!

I pried the A Frame down in order to loosen the assembly
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Dropped the assembly and then rotated the assembly down and to the right, rolling it upside down
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And did a "barrel roll" around the steering column until the whole thing slid out.
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You will end up with a couple of bent corners but again, they can be bent back down.
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The Stinger article says to slot some holes. Slot the front left hole and slot that small front middle hole back and to the right a good bit. If you do not slot that front middle slot, the assembly will not go in. It’s OK to over-slot that front slot because there is a huge bolt that holds the top in place behind it anyway.
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SOLD: 1988 Thunderbird Turbocoupe, Now a 5 Speed, all options, Black. Stinger 3 into 2 with Magnaflows, Gillis Valve

Big Al Offline
Here is a pic of the steering, brake arm, and boost line.
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You will want to remove that boost line in the top of the pic to another firewall hole of your choice. I went with the main wiring harness which you cannot see in the above pic.
If you went with pedals from an SVO, the brake pedal is bent toward the accelerator pedal and if you have big feet like me, you’ll hit the brakes every time you go for the gas. Just be aware. All other Mustang pedals have a straight brake pedal.

Step 4. Install Manual Pedal Assembly
Stinger article is fine but you don’t have to slot the arm. Use a pry bar to bend it down, then a hammer to knock everything into place. Its steel, you’ll be fine.
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I still have not found the clutch neutral safety switch on my car so I am skipping it. At worst, I’ll jump the connection downstream near the tranny.
To install the clutch cable, you have a dimple on the outer firewall where you removed the boost line. Use a self-tapping sheet metal screw and it will go through and hold your clutch cable in place. I went with a stock cable as I have read they have an easier pull to them, less friction than an adjustable cable.
When inserting the clutch cable end onto the clutch quadrant, use a rubber band to pull it down into place and hold it there until later when you have hooked up the other end to the tranny.
I found this video helpful:
If you have trouble remembering how the brake switch goes back on, here is a diagram I found:
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Step 5. Installation of T5
Some caveats to the Stinger article:
You will need the longer flywheel bolts. They look just like your flexplate bolts but are about an inch longer. Autozone, Advance, O’Riely, and Napa do not carry these or anything that will work. You can find the right size bolts at Napa but they will only be 8.8 hardness instead of the 10.9 hardness required. Ask around the forums for a set or order them from Summit. And as far as the rubber dust cover (goes over the protruding clutch fork) you can hunt the forums for one or buy one for $50.00 NOS. However, they are not necessary and not covering the hole can help keep your clutch cool. I’m putting one on because the nice fellow who sent me the bolts also sent the boot. SCORE!
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Now, on to removing your flex plate. These little bolts are rough and probably have some red locktight on them. You can use a large socket wrench on the crank bolt with a pipe on it that goes to the floor to hold the crank in place…or a large air impact on the flexplate bolts….OR my personal favorite, the old locking players on the plate trick. Lock your plyers on the teeth and start cranking on your favorite flywheel bolt and let the plyers run up against a dowel. The plyers will keep the wheel from moving and you can use your large breaker/ half inch ratchet to break the bolts lose. There are a couple other ways of doing this, but I find this one to be the easiest if you are working solo and/or your tool girl doesn’t want to get the shop.
There is a small circular shim or whatever behind it that will fall out so make sure your head is not under the wheel when you pull it off.
Next you will want to replace your rear main seal. It’s only a couple bucks and your tranny is out- Just do it!
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You can use a flat head screw driver to pry it out. Do this carefully, do not drive the screw driver in under the old seal like you are mining for gold!
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Put a layer of oil on the outside and inside of the new seal and carefully put it in place. Lightly tap the seal in place, going around the seal. It may try to bunch up. Don’t force it. Go slow.
You can spend a little extra and get the Teflon seal, but it is soft and will not go in as well as the harder rubber one made by National. I ended up switching to the National rear main seal and it tapped in with no problem.
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SOLD: 1988 Thunderbird Turbocoupe, Now a 5 Speed, all options, Black. Stinger 3 into 2 with Magnaflows, Gillis Valve

Big Al Offline
Next you want to tap in your pilot bearing. You could put it in the freezer for two hours to let it shrink just a bit to help it go in easier. I just smeared grease all over it and gently tapped it in, using a 9/16 deep well socket.
Now is a good time to get rid of that balancer/vibration dampener on your manual drive shaft that you snagged off some poor wrecked TBird. Make some deep cuts, one on each side of the large outer ring. You don’t have to go all the way through, but mostly.
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Then use a hammer and chisel to crack it open.
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Then use a torch to heat up the rubber while prying on the outer ring. Did this in two pieces; it's easier that way.
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Then do the same cut, hammer/chisel to the inner ring to get it off.
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All Better!
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And paint it. Just do it!
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If you are using your stock 3.73 rear end and stock sized wheels, get a white 17 tooth speedo gear
Now replace your rear tranny seal. Be careful how you pull this thing out, if you chisel it with a flat head screw driver, you may damage the aluminum housing. Best to use a gasket puller like this:
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Or my personal favorite:
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SOLD: 1988 Thunderbird Turbocoupe, Now a 5 Speed, all options, Black. Stinger 3 into 2 with Magnaflows, Gillis Valve

Big Al Offline
Then tap in the new one, working your way around the gasket.
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So your Tranny is out, the rear main is installed, the manual drive shaft is prepped and you wiggled the U joints to make sure they are good, and you have a CLEVIS LINK where needed (on the pivot arm). Basically, you need some way of connecting the clutch cable to the bottom of the arm and the clutch fork to the top of the arm. Use a dog bone up top or luck up with a handy curved bolt like mine.
This one is NOT mine but shows the CLEVIS LINKS
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This is mine
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Here is the link to the above pic in case you want a larger view.
OK, you need a clutch. You decide what you need. I went with a Spec 2+ for my power (or lack thereof) and drivability. Make sure your flywheel has been resurfaced if you got a used one and don’t romp on it for 500 miles. And no, this does not include driving down the interstate for 250 miles and turning around!!!
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Throw-Out Bearing Install Video (helpful info and what to grease as well):
Clutch Cable Install Video:
You will need to get a self-tapping screw to drill into the dimple that your firewall has. The dimple is top right of the hole where you pulled the boost line from in the engine bay firewall.
Helpful clutch install video:
I was unable to find a place to mount the clutch cable to the frame. I do not believe these cars have a hole for that, so I used a large self-tapping screw (sheet metal screw) to drill and attached the cable to the frame. Let the cable hang until the tranny is installed.
Now on to the flywheel. This thing is a bit heavy when you are laying on your back with no room to work because you ate too much that day. The flywheel only goes on one way. It’s going to be a tight fit so tap it onto the crank enough so you can hold it up there while rotating to find the correct position, lining up the holes with the crank holes. Hand thread the bolts and do your best to tap the flywheel onto the crank with a rubber or hard plastic mallet. You may end up tightening the bolts in a star pattern to get the wheel all the way on. End by tightening the bolts in a star pattern to 85 foot pounds.
Notice I used the locking plyers trick again. Works every time!
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Normally this is the point in which you grab your clutch alignment tool and shove it through the clutch disc and put it all in the pilot bearing. However, the guy I got my hardly-used Spec clutch from accidently sent an alignment tool from a 5.0. Oops. Won’t fit. Now it’s time to get creative AGAIN.
I went for my sharp pocket knife and started whittling the alignment tool down staying as close to round-center as possible. And it worked!
Note: Check your clutch alignment tool against your input shaft to make sure they match
I placed my T5 onto a piece of plywood and then slid the tranny under the car and removed the plywood. Or you could just man-handle it if you have the back of a 20 year old.
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There are a few ways of getting the tranny up and bolted in. I placed it onto the floor jack and jacked it up just in front of the clutch and then placed a jack stand under the tail leaning slightly backward. This let me slide the input shaft into the clutch and then remove the jack and slip the tranny in. Easy. Not really. Took some rotating back and forth to get it to slide through the grooves and into the pilot bearing. Maybe a minute or more.
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SOLD: 1988 Thunderbird Turbocoupe, Now a 5 Speed, all options, Black. Stinger 3 into 2 with Magnaflows, Gillis Valve

Big Al Offline
At this point I had installed an old tranny bushing so I didn’t care if it got dragged around on the floor. So I installed a new bushing and then the crossmember. The manual crossmember goes into the brackets which are made into the car. You can unbolt the brackets your auto crossmember was bolted to and toss ‘em in the trash. You will need your long crossmember mounting bolts (unlike I, who had to run out and find a couple of long bolts cause I didn’t know about this part). I cut down a pair of leaf spring bolts. And thread locked the nuts.
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The manual shaft from a TBird is 48” from u-joint to u-joint. You may have a one inch gap but once you get it on the ground and drive it you’ll be fine. (I ended up installing an 11/16" spacer from LMR)
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You must either get a manual trans mount from a Tbird or use an energy suspension mount for a Mustang. The ES mount comes with a hole in the center which you can use. The two outside holes will not match a TBird Crossmember.
However, using the stock manual bracket shown here:
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You can use the stock manual bracket and stock TBird tranny mount found at any auto parts store. You may want to bolt all of this onto the tranny before installing the Crossmember though you can wiggle it in place otherwise.
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The Mustang guys have to cut their tranny tunnel to get the shifter to fit. We do not. You may want to cut the front right tab or bend it up a little but you should have enough room. I bent mine.
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You can fill your T5 with 2.8 quarts of Mobile One Synthetic ATF either through the 3/8 spot on the top passengers side or through the shifter hole. If you fill it before installing, you may want a spare yoke to plug the rear so it doesn’t pour out while installing. Or you can fill it using a funnel with a hose attached (Autozone) through the hole in the tunnel after it is up in place and stick the hose down into the hole plugged by the screw that takes a 3/8 square (ratchet head). The hose on the funnel is not long enoughbecause you have to enter above from behind the shifter. I taped an extra section of hose to make it reach. You need about thirty inches of hose.

The rest is simple reassembly. Hook up your exhaust (before the starter), drive shaft, plug in the tranny, and don’t forget that ground wire on the driver’s side bellhousing. Toss the starter back in (bolt on the power wire first, then fit the starter in place) and put your little stabilizing bar back on which you removed (or swung to the side) earlier. Thread the clutch cable through the hole in the bell, install the cable clip and attach the end to your CLEVIS LINK. Install the insulation, rubber gasket/boot (I used self-tapping sheet metal screws), shifter arm, shift boot, shift knob (I know it was the first thing you bought!).
Adjust the clutch cable so it is firm and then drive it. If you are using a new cable it may stretch and you may need to tighten it.
If you use a short throw shifter like a Steeda Triax (as seen below) you will have the shift length of a Miata.
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Attach battery cables, say a prayer, and fire it up!
If you found this helpful and would like to show your appreciation, please paypal $5.00 to [email protected] It will help me recover the loss of buying two of everything which I broke/mis-installed while figuring all of this out. Thanks!
SOLD: 1988 Thunderbird Turbocoupe, Now a 5 Speed, all options, Black. Stinger 3 into 2 with Magnaflows, Gillis Valve

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