Inside The Moser 8.8 Ford Differential Builds of the $10K Drag Shootout 2

Inside The Moser 8.8 Ford Differential Builds of the $10K Drag Shootout 2

The build competition is extremely diverse when it comes to the rolling stock, powerplants, and power adders used in Season 2 of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout. But, there is a common denominator when it comes to the choice of differentials that will transfer the horsepower to the track surface.

The 8.8-inch Ford rear differential is the rearend of choice for all four teams. The popular housing has been offered in performance Mustangs since 1979 and has become a proven performer that is plentiful from the boneyard. Whether it be for the obvious Mustang entry or the Cutlass, Camaro, or even Granada wagon, the Ford 8.8 option is a readily available and robust unit.

When each team took on the build of their individual 8.8 housings, another common denominator was evident. Nearly all components for each team’s differential build were ordered from the Moser Engineering catalog. We followed the Dream Team’s Mustang as they fabricated and assembled the rearend for their 2002 Mustang.

With the Dream Team's 8.8 rearend removed from the Mustang and dismantled, they cut and narrowed the overall width to accept the forged steel housing ends from Moser Engineering.

“The 8.8 differential has a lot of good things going for it,” comments Jeff Anderson, Marketing Director for Moser Engineering. “The factory housing has more performance aftermarket support than just about any other manufactured housing out there.”

When the COMP Cams Dream Team sat down to lay out their order sheet, team member Jesse Adams explained that they planned to narrow and modify the existing 8.8-inch housing that came within the Mustang they secured during the first episode of the second season.

The extensive shop equipment available for the teams includes a rearend alignment fixture. This fixture keeps the axle tubes, bracketry, and housing ends aligned with the ring gear centerline as the assembly is welded.

“We ordered 35-spline axles from Moser Engineering along with their matched spool, axle bearings, drive studs, forged steel yoke, and Moser reinforced rearend cover,” Adams added. “The Moser rear cover features a heavy aluminum structure made of 356-T6 aluminum with studs that greatly reduce the amount of ring gear deflection at the bearing caps. That bearing support is significant since we will be hitting the sticky South Georgia Motorsports Park track surface really hard.”

At Moser Engineering, everything is made to order at two Portland, Indiana, manufacturing facilities. All of the products supplied by Moser Engineering to the four teams and their 8.8 Ford rearend combinations are proudly forged, machined, heat-treated, and manufactured using “Made in the USA” steel.

Last year, we used a 3:73 ratio gear, but this year, we have decided on a US Gear 4:30 ratio Lightning Series ring and pinion gear set. We should easily be able to pull 8,200 rpm with our LS engine combo if we need it. – Jesse Adams

With all of the Season 2 teams utilizing the 8.8-differential, they will each be modifying their unit for the 35-spline axles that also eliminate the stock C-clip style axle retention system. While the Dream Team Mustang and the Team Bigun Granada wagon are using the differentials from their respective cars, the Midwest Mayhem team secured a differential from a 2002 Mustang GT.

Team TurboRoo found a rearend from a Ford Explorer during their junkyard crawl. The team likes the larger 3.5-inch axle tubes and, like all teams, has OEM disc brakes that will provide enough stopping power.

With the housing narrowed and all bracing welded, installation of the bearings was completed by using a Moser rearend setup kit that includes all bearings, shims, ring gear bolts, and seals. With the pinion gear set into place, the housing is lifted into position within the rear suspension.

Each of the four differentials is modified to narrower widths to accept the Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial Pro drag slicks. Each team also incorporated Moser forged and CNC-machined 8.8-inch non-C-clip big Ford-style housing ends and retainer plates. These housing ends match to the pressed bearings on the Moser 35-spline axles.

Anderson described Moser’s quick order turnaround that worked well with the shootout competition 10-day build timeline. “We have over 100,000 square feet of manufacturing that delivers on the promise of keeping our two-day turnaround time on axles, center sections, and housings,” Anderson says. “Even with custom width requirements on the four different entries, we made everything to order for each of these builds and delivered them to California from Indiana in four days.”

The marking compound is applied to the ring gear to prepare to view the contact pattern between the ring and pinion gears. Dream Team leader, Dave Henninger, begins applying assembly lube to the various shims and hardware used within the third member.

All four individual rearends were assembled with each team using a Moser rearend setup kit explicitly designed for the 8.8 differential. This kit includes everything you need to complete a ring gear installation. The package has differential bearings, pinion bearings, the pilot bearing, pinion support shims, adjustable pinion collar, pinion seal, pinion nut, gasket, gear marking compound, and ring gear bolts.

Compared to last season’s quarter-mile competition at Summit Motorsports Park, the $10K Drag Shootout 2 will be held on the eighth-mile. Adams explained that the eighth-mile game necessitated changes for the Mustang rear gear ratio to get peak power from their turbo-LS combination.

No worries, they're not grinding on the ring gear; horizontal work space can be at a premium when you have multiple team members working on different areas of their Mustang during the 10-day thrash. Keith Berry and Jim Styke bear down on torquing the ring gear and spool. The 35-spline matched spool, axles, bearings are part of a Moser axle & spool package. Henninger begins to test fit the ring and pinion contact pattern.

The Dream Team proudly points out the rear differential and suspension layout of their Mustang entry in the Drag Shootout 2 episode three, titled “Building Begins.” The episode follows through the various build steps of each team’s individual rear suspension designs.

The four teams make short order out of adjusting the backlash and contact pattern of their rearend assembly.

When the show series progressed to episode six, titled “Scramble and Finish,” the Dream Team’s completed Mustang was rolled onto the chassis dyno where its first pull netted 825.5 horsepower. Their second hit on the Dynojet chassis dyno brought out even more significant numbers following a slightly more aggressive tune-up. The second session netted 854.1 peak horsepower.

Following their second and final shot on the dyno, Adams also noted that there is more horsepower to make with their turbocharged 5.3-liter LS powerplant once they get to the track portion of the competition. The team has no concern that their Moser-equipped drivetrain will handle what they ultimately throw at it during qualifying and eliminations.

The shim combination installed on the pinion gear is carefully measured between test fits. Once the proper mesh is established, the seals are installed and the axles slide in to complete assembly.

Jeff Anderson tells us that the staff at Moser Engineering are fans of the $10K Drag Shootout competition as well. He personally loves how the construction and race day really shows the American spirit in action.

“We all can’t wait to see how the final race turns out between these four amazing builds,” Anderson told us. “This show brings out the best in people when they must find a way to work together under the strong pressure of a completion deadline and with a limited amount of resources. People from different walks of life are brought together and forced to find a way as a team to come together and succeed.”

Just like all of the $10K Drag Shootout 2 fans, many of us here at Moser Engineering will be watching when it all goes down. – Jeff Anderson

The Dream Team’s 2002 Mustang 8.8 Ford Rear Differential Specifications

Vehicle: 2002 Ford Mustang
Rearend housing: Used Ford 8.8-inch housing w/ factory rear brakes
Axles: Moser Engineering custom length alloy 35-spline axles (P/N A30CST)
Spool: Moser Engineering 8.8-inch Ford 35-spline steel spool (P/N 5S8835)
Rearend cover: Moser Performance cover (P/N 7106)
Rearend gear: U.S. Gear Lightning Series, 4.30:1 ratio (P/N 07-888410ISF)
Axle bearings and setup kit: Moser rearend setup kit (P/N R88)
Pinion yoke: Moser 8.8-inch Ford pinion yoke (P/N PY088)
Housing ends: 1979-2004 8.8-inch Mustang non-C-clip housing ends (P/N 7700)
Retainer plates: Moser Engineering 8.8-inch Ford (P/N 9700)
Wheel studs: Moser Engineering 1/2-inch – 20 x 3-inch screw-in grade 8 wheel studs (P/N 8000)


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About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
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