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1989 Ford Mustang GT Hatchback - Fresh Fox
Paul Wallace’s tired ’89 GT hatch gets a mild facelift and a new lease on life
Some people think Mustang restorations are strictly restricted to the vintage models. But we Fox aficionados know better. We know that as many of our beloved Foxes get up in age, that a facelift is just what the doctor ordered to keep them on the road. Some go back to the way they graced the showroom floor back when they were new. Others want to add some upgrades that improve upon what the Ford engineers originally planned back in the day, with a few cosmetic touches yet still look “almost stock.” The latter is what Paul Wallace did on his ’89 GT hatchback when it came time to bring back his Mustang to its original glory.
Paul remembers the original look of this bright red Mustang because he purchased it new for his wife, Sharon, from Salinas Ford on April 13, 1989. Paul has always been a Ford guy ever since his first car, which was a ’55 Ford two-door. Along the way he’s had some muscle cars, like a ’66 Mercury Cyclone GT with a 390 big-block and a ’69 Mercury Cyclone GT with a 428 Cobra Jet. So, when Sharon’s Mercury Cougar was getting a little tired, a new 5.0L Mustang would be a great car to replace it with. She had originally wanted an automatic, but their son David said a sports car had to have a five-speed manual transmission; so it does. The optional flip-up open air roof sealed the deal to enjoy those drives on the nearby Pacific Coast Highway.
It served Sharon well as her daily driver for 10 years and had accumulated 148,000 miles on its odometer when they decided to retire it in November of 1999 and Sharon bought a new Cougar to replace the Fox. But the Prunedale, California, resident had some plans for the tired hatchback. Thus far it was completely stock, but that was about to change with the help of his sons David and Michael. For the build, the trio wanted to keep the now-classic Fox-body look, but make a few modifications to improve the performance aspects of the car. After all, these ponies were usually modified by day two when new.
The first order of business was the engine. The 5.0L V-8 was bored to 306 ci and was balanced and blueprinted. A Crane 2030 camshaft was inserted with a roller rocker arm conversion. The stock heads were ported, bowl blended, and given a five-angle valve job. Compression comes from a set of TRW forged pistons. A ported GT-40 tubular intake tops off the engine. To make the engine compartment shine, Paul polished or chromed numerous pieces and also hid wires and vacuum lines in the fenderwells.
The small-block mill is followed by the original T-5 transmission, but a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter with quadrant and adjustable cable were incorporated. Exhaust chores are handled by a set of JBA 15⁄8-inch headers, Borla cat-back exhaust, and a MagnaFlow Tru-X 2½-inch stainless steel exhaust. Motivation comes in the form of 3.55 ring-and-pinion gears from Ford Racing and the 8.8-inch axle is capped by a T/A Performance differential cover.
Paul and his boys threw everything at the underside of the car as well. H&R sports springs, Bilstein struts and shocks, a Baer bumpsteer kit, and Maximum Motorsports lower control arms. They also stiffened up the chassis with more Maximum Motorsports components, like a chrome strut tower brace, an aluminum Panhard bar, sub frame connectors, and a four-point K-member brace. Putting more “whoa” in their horse are 13-inch Baer Track brakes in front and 12-inch Baer Touring brakes in the rear, with the prerequisite five-lug conversion. All of it is planted down with killer 17x9 SSR Integrals wheels and Bridgestone Potenza RE730 rubber.
While the undercarriage received a lot of attention, inside things stayed simple and stock. A Sony audio system, white face gauges, and a leather parking brake boot is pretty much it. Thus the interior is still the original stuff. Paul has to thank Sharon for keeping it so nice during those daily driving years.
The Fox’s exterior received some upgrades too, but unless you’re a Fox fan they would pretty much go unnoticed and appear stock. The antenna has been shaved off the right front fender and cleverly placed inside the car at the base of the windshield. The front bumper is a Cervini’s Stalker unit with a Cobra insert, which gives the car a more sinister look. An ABC exclusive Cobra R hood with a 2½-inch rise displaced the old bonnet. In the rear simple LX taillights do the trick in place of the factory GT “cheese graters.” Paul had the car refinished back in 2004 in its original color since you can’t beat red.
Since its completion in 2006, Paul has only shown it four times and it has only been at the Vintage Mustang Owner’s Association show at DeAnza College in Cupertino. It has won the Fox-body class four years running against some pretty stiff competition. Though Paul never thought he’d have this GT some 25 years later when he pulled out of the Salinas Ford driveway, now he can’t see it not being part of the family. He has no plans to part with it and might hand it down to his grandson when the time is right. For now the “almost stock” freshened GT will continue to give him smiles and miles of enjoyment.