Mustangs have had alternator charging systems since August 1964, when all Fords and Mercurys became so equipped. Alternators are clearly better than generators in that they maintain a steady charge at all engine speeds, including idle.
In the beginning, Autolite 1G alternators, which were rated at 38-55 amps, didn’t have much to keep up with. There was the radio, heater, lighting, occasionally horns, and the ignition system.
Today, alternators have a much larger job to do thanks to all the accessories we like to install in automobiles that offer the comforts of home. When you start adding subwoofer sound systems, power windows and locks, high-intensity headlights, electric cooling fans, and the rest of it, it can make an older Autolite 1G alternator sweat with anxiety trying to keep up with the load.
Whether you’re restoring a classic Mustang or building a hot restomod, it’s important to know a bit about Ford-based alternators and how they have evolved over the last 50 years, then make the right selection for your application. Cool thing is, you can uprate an older 1G 38-amp to 100-amp with the right parts, or fit your classic with an uprated 1G for a stealthy improvement.Alternator selection boils down to electrical demand. Output must be greater than demand or you wind up with dim headlights and a dead battery.
Showroom stockers can get by with original equipment—the externally-regulated Autolite 1G common from 1965 to 1986 are all interchangeable. In 1982, Ford stepped up the charging system demand with the internally regulated 2G alternator, which looks basically like the 1G, only with a 2G-specific wiring harness. The 2G was common to all Mustangs from 1986 to 1993. It was replaced by the 3G in 1994, then the 4G and 6G later.
Not only were there differences in amperage rating, but also pulley sizing, width, and type, in either one-groove or two. Most small- and big-block Fords had a 2.62-inch-diameter, single-groove pulley. The 289 High-Performance V-8 alternators had a larger 3.87-inch- diameter, single-groove pulley to reduce rotor speed at high rpm. Dual-groove pulleys are 3.15 inches in diameter—slightly larger than the single groove. Pulley size, number of grooves, and amp rating depended upon application.
Alternator fan type is also very important to both identification and function. We see so many rebuilt Autolite 1G alternators out there with incorrect fans for the production time frame, and we’d like to set that straight.
According to Jack Brooks at www.deadnutson.com, fan type depends on when the alternator was manufactured, and this is easy to see at a glance. Those first 1G alternators had the flat 13-blade fan used before March 1965. Beginning in March 1965, a more sculptured (stronger) 13-blade fan was used on the 1G. Beginning November 17, 1969, the 1G got a 10-blade fan (fewer, wider blades), which was used through the end of 1G production in 1986. This 10-blade fan was also used on the internally regulated Motorcraft 2G alternator from 1982-1992.
Alternator use and application gets complicated with the 1G. Because these 1G cores have been so scattered through rebuilds and salvage yards over the years, expect to see a wide variety of mismatched parts. The rounded case 1G Ford/Autolite alternator was used from mid-1964 through the ’71 model year. Beginning with the changeover to Motorcraft in 1971-1972, Ford redesigned the 1G case with a square corner housing, which was used through the end of 1G production in 1986.
The Motorcraft 2G internally- regulated alternator (known as “firestarter” and “flame-thrower” among enthusiasts) was introduced in 1982 on full-sized Fords and Mercurys, later working into the Mustang beginning in 1986, with 5.0 liters and fuel injection
Ask anyone about 3G and they might get it confused with the older cell phone network. However, Ford’s 3G high-amp alternator is the sweetest solution for anyone looking to boost charging system output in an afternoon.
The Motorcraft 4G pancake-style high-output alternator, which looks similar to the 3G, is available from PA Performance and Performance Distributors for Modular engines, small-blocks, and big-blocks. It is more compact than the 3G and produces more amperage.
The Motorcraft 6G alternator arrived on the Mustang for the ’99 model year (4.6-liter two-valve) and has been a mainstay ever since. The 6G is a super-high-output alternator designed more specifically for late-model Mustang applications with the 4.6L, 5.4L, and the Coyote V-8. There is virtually no reason to apply it to your classic Mustang application