Driving any hot rod is a really cool experience, especially one set up with a manual transmission. Not to knock an automatic, but when a hot rod is packing a monster V8 and it’s missing a pedal, it just doesn’t seem right. The only real drawback? Dealing with a mechanical clutch. As professionals, we know that if we want to keep our left leg symmetrical with our right, the answer is to upgrade to a hydraulic clutch. But getting a consumer to pull the trigger on the upgrade may prove challenging. So, we’re going to take a look at some of the “When’s and How’s” of approaching this upsale in a way that helps shops convince customers to avoid building only one Hulk leg.
Are you scratching your head wondering what kind of restoration would require the use of a hydraulic clutch? Most muscle cars and trucks, if not all, came with a mechanical unit. If the vehicle is going under a true restoration, what came out will go in.
Here’s the thing: clutch forks, z bars, cables, and springs all have lifespans. For the purists, replacing these components is paramount. But just like everything else in this industry, these parts all come with considerable price tags and depending on the application, new reproduction parts may not be available. Once everything is replaced, restorers may not be that far off from the price tag of a hydraulic clutch set up. For the grease monkeys looking to hit the street, it’s a no-brainer to just make this upgrade and be done with it.
So, what about the customer who is simply looking to replace a worn-out clutch, and not an entire setup? While they may not have planned on the cost of a hydraulic clutch upgrade, explain to them that it’s worth considering. The transmission is already coming out of the car and everything is going to be wide open anyway. Sure, it’s a couple hundred bucks. But dropping a transmission is a big job, and no one wants to do it more times than necessary. Why not kill two birds with one stone?
Perhaps the customer says it’s a little too involved; they aren’t looking to perform that big of a job right now. In reality, it’s not a whole clutch assembly that needs to be upgraded, rather just a throw-out bearing. Anyone dropping a transmission likely already has the tools for the job and the brain power to take down a few measurements. Besides, manufacturers build these kits to be user-friendly and simple. If the budget allows, and time isn’t a major determinant, then it’s an easily accomplished task.
Every Hot Rod Benefits from a Hydraulic Clutch
Without breaking down every possible type of hot rod on the road today, there a few universal benefits to a hydraulic setup that make them appealing to everyone. We already addressed the fact that a stiff pedal is a really annoying inconvenience. Being able to depress a stiff clutch with ease is not only better on your joints and muscles, but also can be a huge benefit on the track. You can run through gears like butter, without the temptation to power shift and potentially damage the transmission.
And those clutch forks and z bars? They take up space in the engine bay. They can get in the way of massive headers and potentially cause the customer to sacrifice that little bit of power. A hydraulic clutch adds that clearance and, therefore, can actually be considered a performance upgrade.
So, pay attention to your customers. Perhaps there’s someone swapping to a five speed, building a street rod, or just replacing a clutch. Pitch it, and let them know that you can easily provide them with the hands-on instruction and installation that parts manuals and YouTube videos can’t. Your expertise is part of the package!