Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
June 1, 2013
Photos By: Paul Rosner

Richard Furr might've had one of the coolest dads ever. His pop owned an '84 GT T-top car. "I remember him teaching me how to wash a car while helping him clean it," Richard says, "and going for a drive with the T-tops off, feeling the wind and smelling the tire smoke."

Of course, all this was enough to turn Richard into a lifelong car guy. Richard and his dad even fixed up a '66 Mustang for his high school car. This time around, he wanted to get into something a little more modern.

Having owned a Fox convertible after the '66, he set his sights on another four-eyed Fox, but he narrowed his focus to a coupe. He began his search in January 2009, and after a few weeks, he finally came across a qualified candidate. "It was a blue '85 LX coupe, four-cylinder, automatic with a blue interior," Richard says.

He made arrangements to take a look at the car; what he saw looked tired but in pretty good shape. It had what Richard thought was original paint and all the parts were there. "When the owner started the car, it shook pretty bad and seemed like it was running on three cylinders," Richard said. Plus, there was rust in all the appropriate areas—at the bottom of the doors, the battery tray, and the trunk corners. "The steering wheel also flopped back and forth as if it wasn't even connected to anything," Richard adds.

That doesn't sound shady at all. This deal is getting better by the sentence.

Like us, his look of doubt must've been really evident, but the owner assured Richard that with just a bit of body filler and a new rag joint, it would be good as new. We've heard those same words on more than one occasion, and we're sure Richard had as well. However, he was undeterred. He used the car's imperfections as a bargaining tool to buy it for as little as possible. Of course, once cash changed hands, Richard didn't dare trust that floppy steering wheel for driving. He loaded up his new honey and headed for home.

Before applying that little smidge of body filler and tackling that new rag joint, Richard spent many hours planning every aspect of the build, figuring out exactly what he wanted from the car. "I knew it was going to be a lot of work and a long process," Richard says, "but I wanted to do every part of the build myself, including building the engine, body work, paint, and upholstery."

Since he had owned race cars in the past, Richard wanted this car to be completely different. "I wanted to build a unique, clean Fox coupe in which everything functioned like it was intended," Richard says. Meaning the car had to have cruise, A/C, an automatic trunk release, a fuel door release, power locks, and fully functioning gauges. "I also wanted a good stereo system, great stopping ability, handling, ride quality, and at least 400 horsepower," Richard says.

Richard wasn't out of line with his desires. However, he took a different route than the road often traveled, calling on a 351 Cleveland engine to get the job done. His plan was to pair the Cleveland with a Tremec five-speed transmission and a Moser 9-inch rear. Though the recipe was unique, Richard wanted a good driver he could hop in and drive cross country.

To get started, Richard stripped the car, putting whatever parts, nuts, and bolts into labeled bags so he wouldn't have any hardware leftover when it was put back together. He even kept a spreadsheet outlining the parts he would need to complete the build. He updated the list as the car came apart to keep track of what was needed.

With the car torn apart and up on a rotisserie, most of Richard's weekends were spent welding and smoothing all of the holes in the engine compartment, doing initial body work, and fixing the aforementioned rust issues. He rented an industrial-size compressor and media-blaster to remove all the paint, grime, and undercoating from the body. To keep the rust from coming back, Richard finished off the body with several coats of Dupont epoxy primer and 3M undercoating.

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When he wasn't working on the coupe, Richard surfed eBay, Mustang forums, and swap meets checking off items on his spreadsheet list. Through this diligent work, he was able to continue the build, and add a '99 GT hydroboost system, a Hurst roll/control, and custom-bent brake lines. "I put the front suspension in place with SN-95 spindles, 13-inch Cobra rotors and calipers, and a quick-ratio Fox steering rack with a Steeda bumpsteer kit and caster/camber plates," Richard adds. Out back, he bolted up a Moser Engineering Fox-width 9-inch rear with Steeda Autosports upper and lower control arms. Adding 10th Anniversary Cobra wheels to the mix meant the car had reached roller status.

With the coupe back on all fours, Richard began the process of choosing the car's powertrain. He already had the Cleveland engine leftover from a previous project. Since his goal was to make 400 hp, he decided it would be a good fit for the project. It would save him from buying another engine, and also make the car unique.

Historically, the Cleveland engine isn't known for torque, but Richard called Coast High Performance, ordering one of its 393ci rotating assemblies. Richard believed the added cubic inches would benefit the Cleveland's free-flowing heads and keep the rpm at a reasonable level.

While waiting for engine components, Richard went through the heads, cleaning up the ports, matching them to the Edelbrock Torker 351 intake gasket. He also smoothed out any casting imperfections, cc'd the combustion chambers, and calculated the compression at around 11:1. With the rotating assembly pieces in hand, Richard thoroughly cleaned every component, also checking for proper sizing before calling in his dad to watch over his shoulder as he built the engine.