Drifting Discs: A Look At Drifting Clutch Technology With SPEC

For most of us, we like our Mustangs to be well-rounded. Many of us can only afford one, so it needs to be able to do a few things other than just getting us from Point A to Point B. Fortunately, we can make a Mustang be good at a couple different types of performance without making wholesale changes. It’s pretty hard to make it great at several things at the same time, but we’re willing to make concessions in order to make it more than a one trick pony. We can take it to the drag strip, that’s easy. We can also take it road racing – which isn’t as easy – but we can still have a blast provided we have outfitted it accordingly with the right brakes. We can even take it drifting.  

SPEC Clutches is a company that knows after the act of drag racing, drifting is something that comes natural to a Mustang. SPEC’s David Norton has been involved with drifting since the sport’s beginnings, and knows V8 power mixed with a tail-happy suspension, getting a Mustang to drift isn’t difficult.

Last fall (2014) as Justin Pawlak (JTP) was finishing up his street/drift car build, aka Project sidewayS197, SPEC sent a clutch over during the SEMA thrash. We were there to shoot the install at his Hotline Performance shop and talk to Pawlak about drifting clutches.

Spec's Super Twin clutch is ideal for both drag racing and drifting, but it's also a clutch you can use on a daily basis.

SPEC’s Super Twin clutch is ideal for both drag racing and drifting, but it’s also a clutch you can use on a daily basis. SPEC’s Super Twin is designed for high-horsepower applications making between 700-1,500 ft/lbs of torque. The Super Twin is also rebuild-able by SPEC, or the end user.

A Coyote crate engine comes with a flywheel installed from the factory, so Pawlak must remove the stock flywheel in order to install the new SPEC flywheel and torque it into place. SPEC recommends the factory torque specs when installing the new flywheel. Pawlak was in the middle of the Coyote swap when he installed the new SPEC clutch.

The act of drifting is nothing new to late model Mustang enthusiasts. We’ve been drifting in Fox Mustangs since the early 90s; we just didn’t know at that time it was called ‘drifting.’ The act of kicking the tail out on your Mustang using the throttle wouldn’t become known as drifting until recently. Nowadays, drifting has become so popular everyone wants to “drift.”

The Right Clutch

If drifting is what you want for your Mustang, you must first make sure your car is ready for the abuse. One key component to successful drifting is your Mustang’s clutch. Checking with SPEC’s David Norton, we weren’t surprised to hear drifting is hard on a clutch.

Norton tells us drifting is hard on a clutch, regardless of technique. “We recommend a semi-metallic compound, like our carbon graphite,” Norton says. The carbon graphite reportedly has a high rate of engagement, a high friction coefficient; it handles the heat of drifting and wears well. This material allows the driver to manage traction in a drift by managing clutch kicks, brake resistance, and changing loads/momentum shifts during high wheel speeds. SPEC says its dampened hubs can be used, but most of the time the company recommends a solid hub if drifting is the car’s primary purpose. If that is the case, the driver wouldn’t need a sprung hub for low-speed engagement comfort.

Pawlak positions the clutch on the flywheel's dowel pins, but applies threadlock on the clutch's attaching bolts before threading them into place. You can also see Pawlak has lined up the clutch alignment tool, as well.

When it comes to the SPEC clutch you need for your drift ‘Stang, the company says its torque capacities are good guidelines for what you need.  If the torque output of the car is within the Stage 3, 3+, or 4 torque capacities it is not necessary to go with a multi-disc. However, it would certainly not hurt to do so if the budget allows, if for no other reason than rebuildability or additional wear life due to the extra capacity.

Pawlak uses a small ratchet to lightly tighten the clutch bolts.

Truth be told, SPEC uses some of the same clutch compounds between drag race and drifting clutches. Clutch kicking is equal to a series of drag launches, but some drag applications call for a softer hit when compared to a drift clutch, and just like in drag racing, SPEC needs some basic information when outfitting your drift Mustang. Weight, horsepower, gearing, transmission, and of course what engine you’re running are all factors here.

SPEC needs your Mustang’s weight, gearing, power curve, transmission, and flywheel material to recommend an optimum setup,” Norton says.

If you want to drive your Mustang every day, and do your drifting on the weekends, Norton also tells us clutch technology allows effective cross-application. This means the company has a clutch that will serve you on a daily basis, yet also conquer a drift environment. Of course, SPEC encourages you to contact its tech department before choosing a clutch for your dual-purpose Mustang.

The final step for the clutch is a torque wrench set to 26 ft-lbs in a star pattern to tighten properly.

SPEC’s Super Twin Clutch

SPEC’s Super Twin is a clutch capable of holding up to 1,500 lb-ft of torque, and that’s plenty of holding power for nearly any application. However, it’s also designed to provide near-stock drivability, tremendous life expectancy, a simple installation, and maintenance-free operation. Just a few short years ago, a clutch of this magnitude brought with it a heavy clutch pedal, an in-depth installation procedure, and a short life. Of course, what you do with the clutch and how you do it has much to do with how long a clutch will last.

The Super Twin is also designed to offer smooth operation. In many cases, a high-performance clutch will chatter upon engagement, but the Super Twin is designed to keep that behavior at bay. The Super Twin’s all-billet construction is responsible for the smooth operation, but the most beneficial part of the Super Twin is that it’s rebuildable. This is good because owners don’t have to buy a whole new clutch when they’ve worn out the existing Super Twin. SPEC can rebuild the clutch, or owners can do it with replacement components from SPEC.

With organic, fiber, and full metallic options available, the Super Twin is a master of all trades when it comes to the types of driving you want to do with it in your Mustang.

With the clutch bolts attached, the clutch alignment tool is removed, and Pawlak is done with the clutch install. Now he can install the engine into the car, and attach the transmission.

What Justin Pawlak Looks for in a Clutch

If you’ve never heard of the term clutch kick, Pawlak says clutch kick is a tool of the drift trade. Going into a corner a drifter uses clutch kick to initiate a drift. Basically, the driver pops the clutch to upset the rear end so that it kicks out, setting the car up for a corner drift.Pawlak says what he looks for in a drifting clutch is very similar to the demands of a drag racer. He likes a clutch with excellent holding capability, something that’s not going to slip. Pawlak says he likes a clutch with quick engagement, easy pedal pressure, and with excellent feel.

We asked Pawlak if he has any preference between a cable-actuated or hydraulic clutch, in making this author feel ancient, he tells us he doesn’t really have any experience with cable-actuated clutches.

“Holding capability is the biggest thing with a drifting clutch,” Pawlak says in closing. Just like in drag racing, or even on the street, a big horsepower drift car will need a twin-disc clutch, but if you’re not working with a lot of power, you can use more of an entry-level clutch and use the funds you saved towards tires and practice.

Pawlak’s Drifting History

Pawlak knows a thing or two about drifting, and clutches, and what works best. He’s been drifting since 2006 and running in Formula Drift since 2008. In 45 Formula Drift events, Pawlak has 4 wins, 8 podiums, and 18 top 10 finishes. He finished 2nd in points in 2011, and in 2012 won the Triple Crown, which in drifting means he accumulated the most points within three selected rounds of competition. A championship has eluded him so far, but having joined the Falken drift team in 2010, he has a great team behind him and will continue to chase the big prize.

Along with joining the Falken team in 2010; that also started his career behind the wheel of a Mustang, and he’s been at the wheel of our favorite car since then. Since his drift car of choice is a Mustang, he decided to make his street car of the Pony variety, as well with Project sidewayS197, a 2006 GT. For this 2014 SEMA build SPEC’s Super Twin fit the car’s needs and then some.

Pawlak says the GT is a car he put together to showcase his shop Hot Line Performance. He also uses the car to get involved in the Mustang community, and to attend local meets.

Pawlak says the GT is a car he put together to showcase his shop Hot Line Performance. He also uses the car to get involved in the Mustang community, and to attend local meets.

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About the author

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson brings his years of experience in the Mustang aftermarket and performance industry to StangTV. He has been passionate about cars since childhood, with a special affinity for the Mustang.
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