Dale Amy
June 1, 2013
Photos By: Paul Rosner

As the driving force behind Stangnet.com, Michael Raburn has seen many a Mustang come and go. In fact, this one, while in reasonably stock form, had come and gone from his collection a number of times. But, after buying the boomerang Fox back for the third time, and then finally morphing it into the project that Stangnet calls Built to Cruise, we expect this '89 notchback will be cruising in his personal stable for the foreseeable future.

Given that it started early in 2010, the project became one of the earliest and perhaps best-documented Fox recipients of Ford Racing Performance Parts' then-new 412hp 5.0 Ti-VCT Coyote crate engine, but that alone might not have made it a successful candidate for a full 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords feature. Nope, we'd have to say it was Mike's overall obsessive attention to detail on his cammer coupe that sealed that deal. "Stangnet became the guinea pig to see what was necessary to get this swap done," Michael said. "But me being me, I don't do anything halfway, so this project was going to be huge."

But first the swap had to be made to work. Among the first things needed was a K-member, one that would address a lack of oil pan clearance for the Coyote. "We took a stock 4.6 K-member and modified it to give clearance to the new engine, and then sent it to J&M Products, which jigged up a new style K-member," Mike explained. "We have the only one currently, but J&M plans to release it soon."

Mike also had to engineer a power steering pump bracket to mount an '05-style pump to the normally-EPAS Coyote [a problem now addressed for the rest of us by FRPP's Boss 302R (PN M-8511-M50BR) pump bracket.] He also worked with BBK in the creation of a set of long-tube headers and an X-shaped crossover pipe specifically for the anticipated wave of Coyote-into-Fox swaps. Ram supplied a Terminator Cobra-style clutch (paired with an FRPP 4.6-liter bellhousing) in order to mate the Coyote with a Tremec TKO 500. Mike admits the five-speed may not be the best match for the rev-happy 5.0, but as he says, "The car is for ‘cruise,' not all-out racing."

Another key component of the swap was the ISIS Intelligent Multiplex System that allowed Mike to completely do away with the car's original aging bundle of wiring harnesses. Between that and Ford Racing's Coyote Control Pack, the project's electrons became fairly straightforward to route, even with all the Kicker audio gear distributed throughout the cabin and trunk. Mike does point out, however, that the Coyote-requisite electronic gas pedal (that comes with the Control Pack) does not mount well to a Fox's vertical firewall. His solution? "I had a grad student from Auburn University render in CAD a design I had made to mount the pedal, and now we CNC these and offer them to others doing the swap. You can find them at www.Auburncustoms.com."

Inside, Mike's approach was decidedly retro, turning to the crew at TMI Products for an upholstery and interior-panel makeover in a distinctive black-leather-with-silver-stripe '69 Mach 1-style theme that, to our eyes, works surprisingly well in a 20-year-newer Fox. He credits Patrick Lee from Classic Design Concepts for designing those custom door-speaker panels and suede inserts on the TMI door panels. The coupe's interior was originally blue; Mike wanted it black and so shopped the extensive offerings of Latemodel Restoration and Prestige Mustang for necessary interior parts. What he couldn't buy, he dyed with PPG Jet Black.

If Mike's interior design is decidedly retro, his approach to the exterior follows the modern hot-rod trend of matte finishes. That's '10-'11 Sterling Grey you're looking at, disguised by a few coats of PPG flat clear, all applied by United Auto Collision. We have to say it looks menacingly purposeful in combination with the black Terminator rims and the grille-bar-eliminator kit from Classic Design Concepts. That said, Mike has some caveats about the flat look: "It's a great look but doesn't weather well, so I would not suggest it on a daily driver. You can't wax or polish the car, and once a scratch goes in, it's there forever…"

So ends our quick look at what was no doubt a labor-intensive, pioneering project. Kudos to Mike for being among the first to mate the modern muscle of the Coyote with the lithe Fox coupe. In the process, he built himself the perfect cross-generational cruiser, but also created a blueprint that many of us would like to emulate. And they say genetic alteration is a bad thing…

Horse Sense: Check out Stangnet.com for complete—and we do mean complete, right down to a full parts list—details of Mike Raburn's Built to Cruise project.

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5.0 Tech Specs Engine and Drivetrain Block
FRPP 5.0 Coyote crate engine (PN M-6007-M50)
Forged steel, fully counterweighted and induction-hardened
Powered metal forging, I-beam
Hypereutectic, short-skirt flat-top w/four equal valve reliefs; moly friction-reducing coating
DOHC w/ independently adjustable timing
Cylinder heads
Aluminum, four-valve per cylinder
Intake manifold
Constant cross section, long-runner single-plane (single-scroll); molded composite w/upper section colored
Fuel system
High Flow Performance 255-lph in-tank pump
w/ stock lines
BBK long-tube headers w/ BBK crossover pipe, and Magnaflow after-cat
Tremec TKO 500 five-speed
FRPP 8.8-in w/ 3.73 gears and Strange axles
Electronics Engine management
FRPP Control Pack (PN M-6017-A504V)
FRPP/Auto Meter
Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension

J&M Products Coyote/Fox swap unit
Brembo big brake kit
17-in '03 Cobra, black
Sumitomo HRZ II 255/40-17
Rear suspension
Control Arms
J&M Products, adjustable
11.65-in Cobra
17-inch '03 Cobra, black
Sumitomo, HRZ II 255/40-17