Ever-advancing automotive technology has its place, but so does old-school simplicity. There are times for sophisticated electronics and precise computer control, but once in awhile a good dose of cubic inches and carburetion is just what the doctor ordered. Michigan’s Terry Ray has wholeheartedly adopted this latter prescription with his ’86 LX convertible.
What a cool find! We literally stumbled upon the little four-eyed ragtop by accident during a recent tech trip to Paul’s High Performance. Focused on another project, at first I didn’t take much notice--until this thing’s near-original, ultra-clean appearance demanded a second look. Then Paul mentioned its one-family history and filled me in on what was underhood. That’s when my shutter-trigger finger started the old familiar itch, and I knew I had a feature to capture.
Terry tells us it was his uncle, Lonnie Hansen, who bought the sun-loving LX new in Southern California. Lonnie kept it in the vehicle-friendly SoCal climate for a decade until a ’97 ’Stang caught his eye. At that point the convertible’s title passed to Terry’s brother, Scott, who drove it north to Michigan, kept the rust-free Mustang bone-stock save for a re-paint and new top, and thankfully never subjected it to Midwest winters. In 2002, Scott found he couldn’t resist the expensive lure of a Harley Davidson, and that’s when Terry became the perfectly preserved Fox’s third owner.
Naturally, that rare stock condition presented him something of a dilemma: Should he retain factory originality, or make a few improvements? Terry credits this magazine for motivating him toward a few changes, starting off with fitting a new dashpad and 140-mph speedo. I couldn’t tolerate the 85-mph maximum on the original, says Terry.
His major project for 2003 was to get rid of the original four-lug limitations. For up front, he ordered a ’98 Mustang brake/spindle kit from Dave’s Mustang Parts. Since new axles were required out back, he upgraded to Strange 31-spline units, and had the 8.8’s axle tubes welded and an Eaton Posi and FRPP 3.73 gears added at the same time. He turned to FRPP again for the Explorer rear-disc setup, as well as for some silver ’01 GT rims (M-1007-B178.) And though he’s not a racer, he mounted Nitto Drag Radials out back.
The biggest project in 2004 was installing a Tremec TKO 500 in place of the original automatic, helped out by a complete swap kit from AMP Performance. A Harwood 3-inch cowl hood went on up front, and since Terry strongly disliked the stock, trunk-mounted luggage rack, he replaced the lid with a ’glass version from Cervini’s.
Things were quiet in 2005, but in 2006 Terry invested in a six-point cage, with removable door bars, from Maximum Motorsports. By then, he was giving serious thought to the legions of available ways to up his power situation. After much mulling, he went for a short-deck combo from T&L Engine Development (Stanfield, North Carolina) that combines a cavernous 4.165-inch bore with a 3.400-inch crank for 370 cior a full 6.0 litersof carbureted aggression.
Terry had the engine shipped to Paul’s High Performance for installation, and asked the PHP crew to get rid of the power steering, power brake booster, and air conditioning while they were at it. The result is an engine bay that is the epitome of old-school simplicity, and a power plant personality that, like a thoroughbred, is maybe just a bit racy for everyday riding, but responds to the spurs like its tail is in flames.
On the PHP Dynojet, the 370 sends 461 hp and 404 lb-ft to the rollers. In these days of big boost on puny displacement, a big-inch, naturally aspirated pushrod combo with the knife-edged attitude of an assertive cam grind is a sure way to clear any mental cobwebs. It sounds wicked, too, so Terry tries to exercise it about once a week during Michigan’s brief kind-weather season. And to take full advantage of what his square-eyed 6.0-liter has to offer, he has now unbolted the TKO gearbox in favor of Tremec’s new T56 Magnum six-speed.
We can tell Terry’s having a blast with his re-powered ragtop, but he has also saved all the original parts, as he’s keenly aware of the increasing rarity of well- preserved four-eyed Mustangs. And one that’s been under the stewardship of a single family since new is rarer yet.
Horse Sense: Original sticker price on this LX convertible was a manageable $16,029.
Terry had the carpet replaced...
Terry had the carpet replaced and the buckets rebuilt, but he reused the original seat covers. He ditched the factory’s ludicrous 85-mph speedo, added a couple Auto Meter gauges, then cocooned the cabin in a Maximum Motorsports six-point cage. Note the crank windows and manual locks, and there’s no cruise control.
Nope, 370 cubes don't take...
Nope, 370 cubes don't take up any more room than a 203, making this a tidy package, especially with the power steering and brakes, as well as the A/C system gone. Between the Kooks long-tubes and the Comp Cams bumpstick, with 0.672 inches of life and plenty of duration, you certainly won't mistake its sound for that of a stock 5.0.