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Bringing Down The House
Jesse Houseman's got the definitive bad-ass Mustang for the street.
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A few years back, while I was frequenting a local watering hole, one of the regular "old timers" who used to hang around the local street scene back in the '60s looked at my Mustang, turned to me and laughed in my face. I already knew what I was in for. To him, my friends and I were the young punks who didn't know anything about real performance, or so he thought, and I did not deserve to drive anything more than a Festiva.
He started with a sarcastic and all-knowing attitude and asked about my little tires in back. I explained to him that almost a decade ago, there was this invention called drag radials that work just as well as slicks in most cases. "Malarkey," he said with a cackle. He then inquired about my cam, and I gently replied with the very mild specs associated with the E303. Our Bow Tie-wearing primate then offered another guffaw, citing that the "puny" specs of the cam were not manly. He quickly replied with the dimensions of his "stick" which checks in at a lunar-eclipse-long 272 degrees at .050 with a pushrod-bending, valve-spring-bustin' .720 lift. He said it was very streetable, despite the 13:1 compression. Hardly, I thought to myself.
He then went on to say that "real musclecars have real engines." Hmmm, that's rather strange because the last I checked, my 302 still burned gasoline and had eight spark plugs in it. In the end, the argument went nowhere, and I realized that my 11-second Mustang was not going to win him over on modern performance. I figured that while he was changing lifters every 800 miles and fiddling with carb jetting, I would turn up the air conditioning and just drive off in a car that was just as fast as his and was a lot less temperamental.
So then, what is a real street car? It obviously means different things to different people, but in reality, all it needs is a pair of headlights and some working directionals. Although you could have a solid-tappet cam and an 8-inch converter on the street, we in the Mustang world want it to go fast and to go fast regularly. And if it looks bad-ass, well then, we've got a total package don't we? Kind of what Jesse Houseman's LX is like. It was assembled with blood, sweat and, of course, brains.
Houseman isn't a man of many words. He'd rather let you look at his '88 LX and allow you to make your own opinion. We're not sure what those "other guys" are thinking, but to us, it's the perfect street car. Why? Well, it's an "earlier late-model" Mustang, so it's mean looking and it has a power adder. It's pristine and incorporates some pretty neat touches, as well. It even has the right stance and looks the part of a tough, no-nonsense Mustang LX. Heck, we can't think of any more reasons why we wouldn't want his car for a daily driver, or a weekend car.
At just 21 years of age, Mr. Houseman has found himself a nice job as a service technician over at Carl Beasley Ford in York, Pennsylvania. With plenty of resources at his disposal, it was a no-brainer for the enthusiastic blue-blooded fanatic to go nuts on his car. As he mentioned, "It originally was a four-cylinder when I bought it in 2000 and I drove it for two years as such. I then took it off the road, and started the transformation into a street car."
At this point, there was no turning back. The 2.3-liter lump that used to make highway passing downright scary was given the boot, as was the spindly 7.5 rear.
The next step was to strip the hatchback of its original paint, and have it nicely redone with three coats of Performance Red by PPG Deltron and six coats of clear on top. The engine room was powdercoated as well, and all the holes were filled for a clean look. No detail was spared as all the wiring was rerouted into the wheelwells. For added effect, he deleted the letters "MU" from the front bumper and revamped it to read, simply, "STANG."
For the mill, Jesse wanted to make sure that it would meet several requirements. It had to make reliable horsepower, and be tractable. He also didn't want to perform regular maintenance every weekend, and no way would he ever suck the fumes of any F-body on the street. To ensure all of these requirements were met, a 1969-vintage 351, assembled by Jesse himself, was stroked to 377 inches. Although he's good with a rotating assembly, Jesse decided to trust Dennis over at Air Flow Development in Dover, Pennsylvania, to port and polish the AFR 185 heads. Once mounted on the big Windsor base, Jesse and his pals broke out the cherry picker and lowered the fresh long-block into the Mustang's engine bay.
Now, most would have left well enough alone, but Mr. Houseman then took it one step further with an F1 by ATI. Pulleyed for 10 pounds of boost, the head of dense charge air relies on the ACCEL DFI (tuned by Dennis Wheet) to make sure the 50-pounders squirt into the GT-40 lower when asked. And yes, it's programmed for docile manners around town and no-holds-barred performance when the right foot says "GO!"
Some may call this a showcar. Others call it a wannabe car, as it looks too good to be fast. But to us, this is what a street car should be. Immaculately finished from head to toe, great-looking and strong enough to run like a raped ape.
But I ask, where the heck were you on that night I needed to win my argument?