The Benefits Of A Front Drive System From Billet Specialties

Mopar owners frequently run across the same problem: the choice of custom parts for their engines are often limited. While you can find dozens of intake manifolds for a small-block Chevy, the Mopar crowd is used to choosing from about a half-dozen manifolds. When it comes to dressing up a small-block Mopar, the choices are rather limited, too. The saga of Project Track Attack has been one that has us finding cool parts from rogue companies that don’t thrive on only what’s popular.

All is not lost for our Mopar brethren; Billet Specialties has some real bling to help dress up an engine. More than just good looks, there’s a few benefits to the Tru Trac serpentine front drive system. It performs as well as it looks. Plus, it’s available in black anodized or polished billet to give your engine the attention it needs. We gave you a little teaser of the Tru Trac back in February of this year, and now we’ve got the full install on our small-block stroker build.

We ordered the kit for power steering and air conditioning, because although we race the car a couple times a year, we also put some miles on it and want to drive it more often when the weather is a bit toasty.

We reached out to Scott Sandoval with Billet Specialties and one of the first things he wanted us to know is that a serpentine system is a total step up compared to a V-belt drive system. “The serpentine belt tensioner keeps a constant tension throughout the entire RPM range to eliminate belt slippage. So there is no reason to adjust anything,” he stated.

Another interesting fact is that a serpentine belt does not need as much tension to be effective. – Scott Sandoval, Billet Specialties

Most all of us old-school Mopar owners are used to squealing belts from our mills. No matter what we do, that annoying screech is there. We pull up on the alternator as hard as we can to get the belt tight, and it still slips.

Scott shared something else about the Tru Trac that you might like to know. “Another interesting fact is that a serpentine belt does not need as much tension to be effective,” he continued. “The Tru Trac is easier on all of the accessories that it drives.” Having less of a load on pulleys that ride on bearings, like an alternator or power steering pulley, can actually help extend the life of the component. “There is a reason modern vehicles all use a serpentine-drive system,” Scott said.

The instructions tell you what tools are needed. We collected them, along with some anti-seize, silicone gasket maker, and thread locker. Before the install, we bagged up the parts, labeled them, and laid all the parts out on the bench. If we can give you any real, sound advice: Follow the instructions, you'll be glad you did.

Does The Tru Trac Require Much Maintenance?

Let’s face it, we dress up our underhood area to impress people with our engine. There’s a reason that AN fittings are available in colors, and it’s not because each color represents something specific. We like the contrast and different colors under the hood.

The bearings on the idler pulleys are a sealed, OE-style bearing; they should easily provide at least 100,000 miles of service. Billet Specialties mentioned that they really don’t require regular maintenance or attention, nor does the belt tensioner. We were told, “The tensioner is engineered specifically for the platform, again, providing many miles of trouble free service.”

Be sure to use the proper tools to install the balancer, we can't stress enough that driving it on with the crank bolt is not good and can damage the threads. Use a balancer install tool, coating the mounting surfaces with lube to make installation easier, then torque it to spec.

Extra Bling, Replacement Parts

The Premium Tru Trac Serpentine System offers up a polished power-steering pump (instead of a cast housing), as well as a Powermaster alternator with a machined-billet case . Some kits that include Edelbrock water pumps can be upgraded to an EnduraShine water pump as an option.

When it comes to replacement parts, they are readily available, either directly from Billet Specialties or from the manufacturer of the component — all of which are well-known. Should you ever have some sort of damage, hardware and billet parts are available, as well.

The Powermaster alternator is one of the much-needed components for our build. It’s putting out 140 amps and doesn’t require a lot of RPM to start putting juice back to the battery.

More Choices For Mopar

In order to install the Tru Trac, you need to make sure that you use either an OE balancer, or find a performance balancer that doesn’t change the crankshaft pulley location. Some aftermarket balancers require spacers, which won’t work with this kit. But, we found that Fluidampr has a performance replacement (part # 720301) that even came with a shiny finish (black is standard) Although it’s thicker than the OE unit, it has a recessed area for crankshaft pulley mounting.

With today’s modern engines like the LS and the Coyote getting a lot of attention, adding some bling to the LA, Magnum, B/RB, and Gen-II Hemi mills gives the old-school guys a taste of modernization without breaking the kids’ piggy bank or college fund.

Both kits for small-block and big-block Mopars include a 140-amp Powermaster alternator, which delivers plenty of juice for those who have indulged with modern components like EFI conversions, electronically controlled transmissions, and electric cooling fans. This probably explains why our 65-amp OE alternators screamed out so often — we were demanding too much from them.

Using a good sealer on the fuel pump block-off plate and both sides of the water pump gasket is important. Once this kit is installed, a coolant leak is not going to be an easy fix, as the entire front drive will need to be removed. Also, coat the threads of the studs, as a few of them will enter water jackets. Anti-seize on the threads of the front brackets will keep them from galling. Initially tighten them only finger tight. Don't crank down on them until all the components are installed.

Even the included A/C compressor is a modern Sanden unit that is very popular with aftermarket heating and air-conditioning kits. At some point, we’re going to add a Vintage Air unit to the Belvedere, so it was something we decided to include now, even though we’re not quite ready to install A/C.

You'll find that leaving the bracket bolts a little loose will make it easier to line up the alternator and compressor mounting bolts. Be sure to torque the two bolts holding the power steering pump to the recommended 46 ft-lbs.

Billet Specialties tells us that it’s okay to mount the compressor, even though we’re not quite ready to use it, and warns that we should leave the cover plate mounted to the high- and low-pressure ports on the compressor, and to make sure we don’t connect the exciter wire on the compressor. Allowing the compressor to run, without being fully charged and with the proper mixture of compressor oil, could severely damage the compressor.

The crankshaft pulley requires thread locker on the bolts, and to be torqued to 46 ft-lbs. The small-block Mopar has an odd bolt pattern, and the pulley has one oblong hole to accommodate that.

The power steering pump is a modern Type-II pump, and includes AN-style fittings. It should work with either the factory power-steering box (including the compact Borgeson unit) or for rack-and-pinion conversions, like on our Control Freak coilover suspension kit.

Caring For Your Tru Trac System

When it comes to taking care of the bling, make sure to use the proper cleaning products. A common practice in the ’70s was to get an aerosol can of engine degreaser and spray down the engine. We all did it; cover up the distributor and carburetor with a bag and let loose with the engine cleaner.

Scott told us that these aerosol cleaners have far too many chemicals to be used on billet and anodized components. “For any aftermarket engine accessory, never use an aerosol cleaner on a polished, anodized, or powdercoated surface. There are harmful chemicals in them that can damage the finish as well as the internals of the accessories,” he said.

Starting to come around the final turn, the kit's looking great. You will need to torque the water pump bolts to 26 ft-lbs with the belt installed. It is much easier.

That possibly explains why we went through so many alternators when we were younger and not very wise. So, what can we use when we see a little road grime or fluids on our front drive?

For any aftermarket engine accessory, never use an aerosol cleaner on a polished, anodized, or powdercoated surface. -Billet Specialties

“Use a car wash soap or diluted organic cleaner like Simple Green. You spent that much money on your engine, you are not going to let it get grimy,” he stated. Good point; don’t let it get to the point of no return – keep it clean.

The two idler pulleys also need to be torqued to 26 ft-lbs.

Installation And Final Thoughts On The Tru Trac

Like any little boy with new toys, we couldn’t wait to get the shrink-wrapped packages open and start playing with our new Tru Trac kit. Initially, the packaged components are laid out well and clearly marked, and we highly recommend that you keep the hardware in the skin pack until you need it. Also, pay close attention to the instructions and the order of assembly.

The kit is rather simple and very straightforward. There are no requirements for an extra set of hands to help meticulously balance a bracket while another is magically slid into place behind it. All hardware is correct, and while there are a couple of instances where you need to pay very close attention — such as with mounting the threaded rods — the rest of the installation was a piece of cake and took less than an hour once we saw how it all went together.

Install the drive belt around the pulleys and then slide the tensioner pulley over the tensioner by prying down on it until the belt clears. Don't worry about inserting the bolt until the pulley and belt are in place, then torque it to 26 ft-lbs.

Where those threaded rods are concerned, you need to be sure to not leave too much of the rod exposed, because they are held in place by large spacer nuts that will also take a mounting bolt from the opposite side. Leaving just the right amount of threads exposed will ensure that the bolt won’t come in contact with the rod once installed. That was about the only part of the installation process that required extra attention.

The Tru Trac looks great on the small-block and we can’t wait to get our valve covers installed. We’ll explain that in the upcoming engine build articles.

As for the way the Tru Trac looks and performs, who can argue with the photos? It’s a great looking system, and brings even our old LA-engine into the realm of modern-style.

Tru Trac kits are available for Mopar’s old-school engines, as well as several GM and Ford engine platforms. They’ll provide a longer life for your components, and improve the underhood aesthetics of any vehicle. You can find the Tru Trac system at the Billet Specialties website, as well as authorized distributors.

The kit went on rather easily, and the instructions are simple to follow. As you can see, the entire installation fits within the front profile of the engine, which is an important piece to the puzzle that we'll explain later after the build articles.

Article Sources

About the author

Michael Harding

Michael is a Power Automedia contributor and automotive enthusiast who doesn’t discriminate. Although Mopar is in his blood, he loves any car that looks great and drives even faster.
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