Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
December 26, 2013
Photos By: Drew Phillips

The golden age of the Fox Rod may have finally arrived. Of late, more and more high-end Fox projects have hit the streets. Spurred on by nostalgia, availability, and the ease of adding modern engines, the Fox Mustang is ready for its real second coming.

This new wave of respect and highly modified cars has slowly built for the last eight years or so, but when noted car builder and multiple SEMA award winner Creations n' Chrome switched gears from building up the latest Mustangs for the Vegas flash fest and decided to focus its talents on the beloved Fox Mustang, in this case the 1986 Ford Mustang LX you see here. It was time for everyone to take note—the Fox Mustang is here to stay.

"The Fox Mustang will forever be relevant in today's track and street markets. It is an affordable car and a great starting point for any enthusiast's project," said Chris Matye, marketing director at Creations n' Chrome. "It has a well-supported aftermarket with parts ranging from appearance modifications; strong and diverse powertrain options; and extremely developed chassis and suspension support. And it appeals to enthusiasts in many forms of motorsports."

It's hard to argue with that kind of logic, as the Fox is the impetus for the creation of the magazine you hold in your hands. Of course, it's still exciting to hear a company that had become closely associated with the latest Mustangs paying homage to the Fox on the automotive aftermarket's biggest stage.

"...SEMA 2012 was the perfect time to debut a new take on our favorite generation of Mustang, the '79-'93 Fox..." Chris said. "We simply wanted a versatile vehicle that excelled on any road, track, or driving environment we threw at it. Mustangs, in particular, Foxes had become way too cookie-cutter in our opinion."

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Hence the idea for the company's Top Notch project was born. Of course, if you have followed C n' C's various modern Mustang projects, including the Boy Racer, which graced our July '12 cover, you know that the company's name is quite indicative of its work. It specializes in applying sprayable chrome finishes. The results are jaw-dropping, and ideal for the flash mob that is the SEMA show. They look pretty great on magazine covers too.

"This is far from the first Fox we have built. In fact, Gary's first car was an '84 SVO. When he was only 17 years old, he gave it a complete custom paint job. He has since owned another SVO, three 5.0-liter Foxes, an SN-95, and two S197s," Chris explained. "Every employee at C n' C, including Gary's wife, Kristin, has owned a Fox at some point. Although our Modern Mustang projects have garnered the most attention as of late, like many 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords readers, we wouldn't be where we are without the Fox."

It's one thing to start with a brand-new Mustang from Ford and prep it for one of these glossy finishes. It's a whole different game when you are starting with a 27-year-old Mustang. With the coupe relieved of all its removable panels the C n' C team acid-dipped the body to create a blank canvas for its paintwork. That said painting was the last step before Top Notch's public debut at SEMA. It was painted just two days before the show.

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"The Spectra Chrome preparation process is the same for old or new metal. Besides the roof and A and C pillars, there isn't much original sheetmetal left on the car. We actually found painting the motorsports-oriented carbon-fiber panels more of a challenge than the steel," Chris explained.

Well before it could get to that point, the '86 coupe underwent a complete transformation. Not only did it become an aero-nose Fox, but it gained full-length subframes and an aluminum floor. All of its seams were welded and reinforced. Moreover, its suspension was completely revamped with a JME Short Long Arm (SLA) suspension in front and a custom, S197-style three-link made up of Hotchkis parts in back.

"Obtaining a neutral handling car with 50/50 weight distribution was key in this build, so getting weight off the front end was a must. Add to that, we wanted to run a V-mount radiator/intercooler setup and freeing up real estate on the front end soon became valuable," Chris said. "So we broke out the tape measure and scales and proceeded to mock up the engine mounts. When it was all said and done, we managed to tuck six of the eight cylinders behind the firewall and a 28-inch driveshaft was all we needed to connect to our Ford 9-inch."

Obviously meeting the handling performance goals of the project required these intense suspension upgrades. Along those lines, C n' C went to great lengths to balance the car. The only remaining steel panels are the roof and its A and C pillars. The remaining steel is the frame, while all the exterior panels are carbon-fiber pieces from the likes of APR Performance, Maier Racing, and Motor City Solutions. Even the windows are lightweight preformed polycarbonate pieces from Pro Glass. Only the headlights, tailights, and rear bumper cover are traditional replacement parts from Latemodel Restoration.

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"Carbon-fiber panels meant for street cars usually have a thick gelcoat that can be sanded down to a more consistent finish. True motorsports carbon fiber has a thin gelcoat layer, which means there isn't much material to sand," Chris added. "If you sand too much, you basically get down into the weave which you absolutely don't want as it opens up porosity and pinholes in the surface. In an effort to avoid adding excess weight by adding primer and body filler, we carefully sanded the thin gelcoat filling only where necessary."

No matter how modern, putting a hefty V-8 in a slim and trim Fox like Top Notch wouldn't follow the theme. Fortunately the ideal engine is already a an all-aluminum masterpiece. Of course not just any Coyote would do for this car, as it would see boost, and a lot of it. C n' C chose Ford Racing Performance Part's boost-friendly Aluminator crate engine enhanced by a Vortech JT-Trim super0charger discharging through a massive air-to-air intercooler. This combination was good for a raucous 855 hp and 664 lb-ft of torque at the pavement before they tuned it down to live in every performance environment.

Coming together, as most SEMA projects do, in the four and a half months leading up to the big show, it was just two days before the bright lights that C n' C owner Gary Watson worked his magic with Spectra Chrome's spray on chrome paint. Atop that he applied a Ballistic Blue Candy topcoat. The results were jaw- dropping, and drew huge crowds of admirers at the show.

"When we set out to build this car, we knew it was going to be different from other Foxes, so we had no idea how the car would be received by the Mustang faithful. All we knew was that we wanted to build a Mustang our way. When Gary and I started brainstorming about what the car was going to be, our vast and different automotive backgrounds started to show up in every aspect of the car..." Chris said. "I think the vast difference of influences that inspired the various individual aspects of Top Notch are the reason why the car has such wide appeal to those who see it in person. No matter where your automotive background lies, you can appreciate and identify with some individual aspect of the car."

Horse Sense: Obviously C n' C is in the business of building cool cars, and Top Notch won't be the last. "Although, we can't say much about the project just yet, we will be teaming up with Team Falken Tire Formula Drift driver, Justin Pawlak, and 3D Carbon to build a '14 Mustang GT which will debut at this year's SEMA show," Chris said. "It will also feature the best from companies such as Ford Racing, HRE Wheels, and Wilwood disc brakes."

5.0 Tech Specs

Engine and Drivetrain
Block: Coyote aluminum
Crankshaft: Coyote forged steel
Rods: Manley H-beam w/ ARP bolts
Pistons: Mahle hard-anodized w/ Graphal low-friction coating
Camshafts: Stock Coyote w/ TiVCT
Cylinder heads: Four-valve-per-cylinder aluminum w/ Boss 302 valvesprings
Intake manifold: Stock Coyote
Power Adder: Vortech JT-Trim supercharger w/ BV-57 bypass valve, air-to-air intercooler, and NX N-tercooler spray bar
Fuel system: Holley Dominator billet fuel pump w/ Holley Dominator regulator, Metco fuel rails, and Injector Dynamics ID1000 injectors
Exhaust: Borla stainless-steel long-tube headers w/ Borla X-shape crossover and Borla XR-1 mufflers
Transmission: G-Force GF-5R five-speed manual w/ RPS carbon-fiber, triple-disc clutch and Long shifter
Rearend: Currie 9-in w/ Strange S-Trac differential, 35-spline axles, and 3.73 gears (2.80 for standing mile)

Electronics
Engine management: FRPP Boss 302S Control Pack Copperhead PCM
Ignition: Stock coil-on plug
Gauges: AIM MXL dash w/ AIM datalogger

Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member: JME billet aluminum w/ double-wishbone cantilever
A-arms: Hotchkis w/ JME six-way adjustable sway bar
Struts: JRi two-way adjustable coilovers w/ remote reservoirs
Springs: Eibach, 500 in-lb
Brakes: Wilwood Superlite, six-piston
Wheels: HRE C100, 18x11-in
Tires: Falken Azenis, 265/35-18

Rear Suspension
Shocks: JRi two-way adjustable coilovers w/ remote reservoirs
Springs: Eibach, 175 in-lb
Control Arms: Hotckis S197 three-link w/ adjustable Panhard bar
Brakes: Wilwood Superlite, four-piston
Wheels: HRE C100, 18x13-in
Tires: Falken Azenis, 315/30-18