Horse Sense: After agreeing to tackle such a challenging project, it's only fair that the crew at Paul's High Performance gets to have fun. When Editor Turner's '88 LX arrived on the transporter, the friendly bunch at PHP called to let the project's mastermind know the car had arrived-not before checking to make sure the brakes worked. As soon as Editor Turner said hello to Paul Svinicki, he was greeted with the revving engine and squealing tires-the unmistakable sounds of a burnout. Imagine what they'll do when they finish the project.
While my pal Editor Turner continues to mull over the final details of exactly how we're going to mutate his unassuming '88 T-top LX into something that will resoundingly whip Associate Editor Johnson's sorry butt, certain elements are now cast in stone. Such as the fact that the next time the old white LX moves under its own power, the thrust will come from nothing less than Ford Racing Performance Parts' '07 GT 500 crate motor (PN M-6007-C54). That hulking crate is already taking up space at Paul's High Performance, where the bulk of this audacious project will come together under the experienced minds and hands of Paul Svinicki and crew.
This 800-pound gorilla of an engine demands certain funda-mental requirements. Since the Condor's-the codename assigned to the Shelby GT 500 during its development-blown 5.4 produces roughly the same amount of torque as the average tornado, a stiff and grippy chassis is a must to resist the twist-no easy task with our Fox's loosey-goosey combination of hatchback body style and T-top. Otherwise those rare and no doubt expensive roof panels may find themselves rudely ejected the first time I-I mean Turner-drops the hammer.
As we take our first tentative steps down the road to project car glory, we've acquired a plethora of proven hardware from Maximum Motorsports to build that Gibraltar-solid foundation, with a shopping list that includes complete front and rear suspensions and a rollcage. We'll detail all this cool stuff as the months pass, but first things first: You can't stick a modular-any modular-into a Fox chassis without a K-member designed explicitly for the job. Maximum has just such a K-member in its catalog, one that's a relatively lightweight tubular construction but is beefy enough to handle the mass and torque of our upcoming 5.4 power-generating station.
This time, we'll deal with what's literally the supporting cast for the entire project: a front suspension that will contain the Condor. Let the games begin.
Here was our starting point: the stripped engine bay with a well-used 5.0 and T5 having already been yanked by the PHP gang. Note the mass of the stamped and welded factory K-member. Obviously not a Rust Belt car, our LX shows clear signs of wear, but virtually no corrosion. In other words, it's as solid as a factory Fox unibody ever was. We'll need all that solidity and much more in the coming months.
The basis of our engine swap: Maximum Motor-sports' K-member-with accompanying A-arms and a rear K-member brace-designed specifically for the installation of a modular V-8 in Fox and early SN-95 chassis. Did they have a GT 500 swap in mind when they designed it? No, but it should work. No flyweight drag-race K, this thing is engineered and fully triangulated for the rigors of street, track, or even Johnson use. At the same time, the tubular design provides increased clearance for engine and suspension service, and more than an inch greater header clearance in critical areas. Other important features are 2 degrees of increased caster and the provision of a 0.75-inch longer wheelbase for slightly improved front/rear weight distribution.
The A-arm design requires the use of coilovers, so the shipping crate also included Bilstein struts and Maximum's coilover conversion kit-only its major parts are shown here-along with 400-lb/in Hypercoil springs. As with all its products, Maximum has invested a lot of thought and money into this conversion kit. Case in point: Instead of simply anodizing critical aluminum components, these are instead hard anodized for maximum life. We'll show some details of the coilovers coming together in upcoming photos.
With any coilover, all front-end loads are focused through the upper strut mount points, so steel caster/camber plates and spherical bearings are recommended by Maximum Motorsports. Naturally, the company has such a kit. Ignore the urethane cones-they aren't part of the installation and snuck into the photo while our backs were turned.
Maximum shipped us a 1.125-inch antiroll bar of 31/416 wall thickness, along with the appropriate Prothane bushings and end links. The plates in front of the bar are for reinforcement of the factory sway-bar mount brackets, which, according to Maximum, are prone to flexing and cracking.