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1992 Ford Mustang GT Keeps Costs Low and Gets Million-Dollar Makeover
Transforming a mangy Fox into a trophy Mustang with some affordable fixes
Trash into treasure. Cinderella from a scullery maid. Making chicken salad out of chicken.
You get the idea. How many times have you seen basket cases turned into trophy cars? It’s a familiar theme, but one that bears repeating, particularly with Fox-body Mustangs because they’re so plentiful and affordable (especially when they are more beast than beauty).
Bargain basement pricing is what initially drew Harry Costopoulos to a ’92 GT in Texas. Unfortunately, due to some miscommunication, he thought he was getting a clean title on a screaming deal, but instead it had been salvaged.
Like a storyline out of Extreme Makeover, Costopoulos discovered one problem after another. Even though the car was solid in the repairs, it turned out it had suffered a front-end hit (imagine that). A replacement clip had been put on in the ’90s, and it measured out square in the suspension, so that was good, but other things were not.
“The more I looked the more I didn’t want to see,” Costopoulos admits with a wince. “It had the wrong-year front fenders, the front seats were mismatched, right-rear quarter panel behind the door was wrinkled, and left rear quarter behind the tire had been fixed. Whoever repaired it was masterful with body filler but that’s it.”
Turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse was now becoming an even more remote possibility. After the filler was removed, the quarter panel didn’t come close to lining up with the door. And the left side was pooched out too much.
Taking it all in stride, however, Costopoulos steeled himself and announced, “Let the parts swap begin!” That’s when some real wheelin’ and dealin’ came into play, demonstrating a cost-effective way to groom a mangy Fox. He also has a long background as a mechanic, fabricator, and bodyman for several race teams, honing the skills needed for such an extensive project.
“Let me say now that a lot of parts on the car are used, mostly Craigslist finds,” he points out, such as the shocks, coilovers, and BBK X-pipe. “The Ford Racing rear diff I took off one car and paid $500 for everything, no joke. The diff still had a readable paper parts tag on it.” He did a lot of junkyard scrounging and fabrication, too. More about that in a moment.
Getting back to the bodywork, the front fenders, hood, right door, and hatch came from a ’93. Late Model Restoration (LRS) supplied the front bumper cover. Design Concepts Cobra provided the rear bumper cover and front Cobra grille insert. Cervini’s front Cobra fender extensions were added more recently as well. A section of the right quarter from the door to the fenderwell was cut out and a good piece welded in, and the left quarter metal was shrunk some and straightened.
“I did all the bodywork and most of the paint in my garage,” Costopoulos says with a bit of pride—and also chagrin. “Doing the bodywork took a few months. If I was going this far into it, then it had to be straight. That was how I spent my summer in 2008.”
Costopoulos sprayed Blue Metallic Pearl on the body, and all the trim was shot in SEM trim black. After that endless summer of bodywork, he had his friend Eric Collins, who owns Final Finish Auto Body in Sparks, Nevada, fix a couple flaws in the paint. At the same time he asked Collins to put some flames on it. The PPG Frost Blue Pearl ghost flames is what he laid down.
Going the extra mile included a number of alterations under the hood and in the cockpit. For instance, the holes in the engine compartment were filled and smoothed from the shock towers forward. He also installed a brace for the struts from Ford Racing
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When it came to the suspension, Costopoulos threw on a set of Koni’s red, single-adjustable struts and shocks, Maximum Motorsports (MM) coilovers with Hypercoil springs (350 pounds front, 200 pounds rear). He left the front and rear antiroll bars stock but beefed up the unibody with MM full-length subframe connectors. He also went with a 1995 SN-95 five-lug conversion on the front, and MM caster/camber plates and lower four-point K-member brace. The rearend uses Ford Racing upper control arms and Hotchkis lower arms; the brakes are from Baer.
As for the Ford Racing strut tower brace, he cut the legs to the firewall and rewelded them so they pick up the mounting points on the flanges that MM uses on its brace. The reason for this reconfiguration is to locate the brace to a stronger part of firewall, where three pieces of sheetmetal join together. He also welded on gussets where the tubes meet the main tube for added strength. Altogether the chassis is now much stiffer to maintain the correct the suspension geometry under hard cornering.
By this time the car was torn down and everything had come off the car at least once. That included the 5.0L mill. Although the bottom end is a stock ’94 lump, Costopoulos bolted on a set of ported GT40 iron heads. Other internal upgrades included a Comp Cams XE270HR cam (0.512/0.512-inch lift intake/exhaust), Comp springs, Scorpion 1.6 roller rocker arms, and Trick Flow pushrods. ARP head bolts hold the whole shebang together, and a Ford Racing Harmonic balancer ensures that it spins smoothly.
Topping this mill is an Edelbrock Performer intake manifold fed by an Ford Racing 67mm throttle body with a BBK 70mm EGR spacer, metered by a Pro-M 24-pound MAF in the stock airbox with a K&N filter. A Walbro 255-lph fuel pump supplies the Ford 24-pound injectors, but the computer is stock and the smog pump deleted (the car lives in a remote area of northern Nevada, where emissions testing is more lenient).
Speaking of exhaust, a set of stainless shorty headers vents spent hydrocarbons into a BBK catted X-pipe, Flowmaster 40s, and tailpipes. The GT-style turndown tips were heated with a torch and worked until the ends were almost a straight shot out to match the Cobra bumper cover.
Keeping things cool is a Summit Racing Equipment two-core aluminum radiator with a Taurus electric fan actuated by a Flex-a-lite controller. PA Performance’s 130-amp alternator keeps juice flowing to the ACCEL distributor and the 9mm plug wires.
Once the performance parts were dialed in, Costopoulos had the intake manifold, valve covers, assorted brackets, and pulleys all powdercoated. Most items under the hood are black or silver, as he tried to keep with that theme, and powdercoating is cheaper than chrome and really looks slick. Which is a pretty good summation of his entire approach: keeping costs low while creating a million-dollar makeover.