1991 Ford Mustang - Beg, Borrow, & Deal
Killer deals and good-guy prices are the fuels that power the huge exchange (on the Internet, at swap meets, and such) of Mustang parts and services that make budget-conscious projects like ours doable.
Diligence, patience and sometimes persistence really are the keys to making stout transactions online--especially in person--as is having cash or electronic funds at the ready so you can strike and close good deals as quickly as possible.
Your tech editor is a regular...
Your tech editor is a regular at early morning, high-performance swap meets, which are held each month throughout the LA area. Events like this are excellent for scoring all sorts of 'Stang parts, as well as tools and other items that DIY-Stang mechanics use when working on their Ponies.
This '94 Ford Explorer GT-40...
This '94 Ford Explorer GT-40 cylinder heads/intake package literally are the parts that inspired our Cheaper Sleeper train of thought. Some of you reading this may be too young to know, but this package was once considered a great low-buck performance upgrade for stock 5.0 'Stangs.
For all intents and purposes,...
For all intents and purposes, it's the same induction package that was standard equipment on the fabled '93 Cobra engines. While we acknowledge there are certainly better induction choices, this setup certainly is proven and inexpensive. With the porting and tricks that we have planned, it should help our project post impressive rear-wheel stats on the chassis dyno.
Of course, the Internet is...
Of course, the Internet is one of the best sources for great deals on new and used/good-condition Mustang parts. A big part of this project includes acquiring necessary parts through deals found on Craigslist, eBay, and Classifieds areas of many popular Mustang-enthusiasts' websites, such as Corral.net and others.
Here's a small sample of a...
Here's a small sample of a few pieces for Sleeper that were acquired through Internet deals, and trust me, there will be more. While most of the parts will remain under wraps until it's time for their installation, we're especially happy about the short-tube headers. The 1 5/8-inch tubes are CARB-legal. It's an area that we're not completely embracing with this effort, but we are trying to include some smog-legal parts in the build.
Post-purchase inspection uncovered...
Post-purchase inspection uncovered this leaking 8.8 differential. With an inspection and reseal necessary, we decided to make a gear change, too.
We kicked off Cheaper Sleeper’s mods with a simple gear swap and a spring, shock, and strut replacement. AOD-shifted ’Stangs are extremely sluggish by nature, and OEM gear ratios (3.08 and 3.27) for ’86-’93s don’t help low-end matters at all.
In an effort to improve in this area yet economize as much as possible, Stevie Morrow of Stevie's Garage in Simi Valley, California, installed a spare set of Ford Racing 3.55 gears in the project's differential. With 3.55s, the 'Stang shows slight improvement in stoplight takeoffs, but there definitely is a major difference on the freeway when the throttle is punched to accelerate around big rigs and slower traffic.
The suspension upgrade was made in part based on necessity (the factory coil springs were shot), and vanity as well (we desperately wanted to rid the LX of its notoriously high stance). Our buddies at GTR High Performance assisted in this area, after KJ and GTR's Eddie Zapata struck a $60 deal for a set of lowering springs.
Because of their expertise with Fox Mustangs, most mod procedures for our Pony will take place at Stevie's Garage or GTR. However, as Cheaper Sleeper is your tech editor's daily driver, there also will be occasions where we'll make changes on our Project 'Stang right at work, in our own West Coast Tech Center (located in El Segundo, California).
While unfortunately we don't...
While unfortunately we don't have any way of learning how two teeth on the LX's stock 3.27 were nicked, we're glad we performed the inspection, nonetheless. This set of Ford Racing Performance Parts 3.55 gears and an install kit (includes necessary bearings and so on) were sitting on a shelf in the shop, and were put in service as interim cogs.
Stevie Morrow of Stevie's...
Stevie Morrow of Stevie's Garage in Simi Valley, California, is the Mustang specialist supporting this latest project venture. As an OG 'Stangbanger who hails from the glory days of Fox Ponies, Stevie is hip to all of the retro stylings that are being incorporated in our LX build, and hyped about working with the new concepts that confirm that Fox Mustangs remain a significant force in our hobby.
Once the rear is buttoned...
Once the rear is buttoned up, a minor rear-suspension mod is the next improvement on our agenda. Check out the OEM exhaust system. The restrictive stock tubes also will be going bye, bye fairly soon.
Fox Mustangs (and all platforms...
Fox Mustangs (and all platforms that followed) are plagued with a stock ride height that arguably is one of their most-disappointing qualities. As you see in this photo, the cars sit way too high. We took measurements of 26-3/4 and 27-1/8 inches (driver-side front and rear) and 27 1/8 and 27-1/2 inches (passenger-side front and rear) on Cheaper Sleeper. This tall stance definitely calls for bringing the body down by at least an inch (or slightly more) by installing lowering springs, which also will even out the height numbers at the four corners.
GTR's Eddie Zapata put us...
GTR's Eddie Zapata put us onto this package of lowering springs for a cool sixty bucks! The springs are of unknown heritage but the price was perfect, and they're in good enough shape for use on our project car.
Installing this set of Strange...
Installing this set of Strange Engineering's '79-'93 Mustang adjustable front struts (PN S6001EM) and rear shocks (PN S6000EM) contributes to the project's sleeper persona. While our LX may not have the stunning looks of a hot street/strip or corner-carving Pony, equipping it with cool gear like this will allow us to dial-in the shock valving for all sorts of driving or racing styles.
Battered spring isolators...
Battered spring isolators (front and rear) are typical of stock Fox suspensions with 100,000 miles.
Energy Suspension's polyurethane...
Energy Suspension's polyurethane isolators replace the battered stockers.
Here are the completed upgrades......
Here are the completed upgrades... for now. We went with this simple package to start to do away with the 'Stang's OEM ride height, tighten up the suspension a bit, and add a little trickery (adjustable shocks and struts) for the car's first dragstrip test. Future chassis improvements include a stout package from Maximum Motorsports, which will be detailed in an upcoming segment of this series.
Our spring replacement uncovered...
Our spring replacement uncovered a serious malady with both swaybar end-links. Basically the bolts for both sides were bent, and likely would have snapped at some point if we hadn't caught the problem. Energy Suspension makes a direct-replacement set of links that feature Grade 8 fasteners, which are considerably stronger than the cheesy fastener that somehow got there.
Cheaper Sleeper's front-suspension...
Cheaper Sleeper's front-suspension upgrades were simple, and we're sure they'll prove to be effective.
The new lowered stance is...
The new lowered stance is much better. The springs dropped Sleeper down to approximately 25-1/2 inches in the front and 25 7/8 inches at the rear. We eventually plan to replace some of the stock rear-suspension components. A lower-control-arm upgrade hopefully will bring the back of the car up slightly and level off our Pony's stance.
After working with today's ('05-'13) Mustangs, which produce fantastic rear-wheel horsepower and torque when modified, we admit it's sometimes difficult to process the lower numbers of bone-stock Ponies of the past.
Not long after purchasing the '91 LX, we strapped the Pony down on the Dynojet chassis dyno at GTR High Performance to find out how it's really doing (from a performance perspective) with almost 150,000 miles on the virgin 5.0-liter engine. Not surprisingly, and as you see by the dyno graph and chart, the 'Stang isn't a record-setter of any sort. However, when comparing our project's dyno numbers (with an AOD transmission) against data from Rob Bieskche's bone-stock five-speed LX, which also was tested on GTR's 'Jet (see "The Main Event," Oct. '12, p. 52) the difference of 178 to 209 is almost exactly 15 percent.
Most of this project's upgrades will focus on drivetrain, and in theory, the amount of performance-lost-through-the-drivetrain will tighten considerably once Performance Automatic's new Fox-specific AOD transmission and torque converter are installed in Cheaper Sleeper.
Our goal is to ultimately get the LX to throw down at least 275 horsepower at the feet. While the number may seem miniscule by today's high benchmarks, it's important that you understand we're not out to set big-steam records with this project. Achieving a cool 100 (or more) naturally aspirated horsepower through inexpensive mods is plenty acceptable…and impressive...for an '86-'93 5.0. That's our immediate plan. Then we'll add nitrous oxide.