Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
May 1, 2000

Step By Step

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P31358_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Rear_Passenger_SideP31360_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Front_Passenger_SideP31374_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible InteriorP31375_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Engine
Underhood, a Paxton Novi 2000 rides on custom 351 brackets and pumps 17 pounds of boost into an Edelbrock Victor Jr. carb manifold modified for injection. The revised Vic Jr. also sports a custom elbow and Edelbrock 75mm throttle body.
P31376_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Front_Passenger_SideP31377_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Trunk
In the custom-carpeted trunk hides the supply for a Safecraft on-board fire system and the battery, relocated courtesy of a Taylor kit.
P31378_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible WheelP31379_large 1988_Ford_Mustang_GT_Convertible Rear_Passenger_Side

"That car's not a Mustang," Andy Riedy of R Performance/ Florida 5.0 said offhandedly over lunch. "It's a hot rod."

His statement rang so true my thoughts drifted away from the corporate-chain barbecue on my plate. His statement made so much sense, yet I had never thought of a Mustang that way. Sure we hot rod Mustangs for more power, but isn't a hot rod a '57 Chevy or, worse yet, a '69 Camaro? Surely a Fox Mustang isn't a hot rod.

Just then Andy brought me back to the barbecue and car at hand by asking me to think about it. Of course, I already was, but he added that nearly every piece on this '88 Mustang did not come from the Ford factory. Isn't that what hot rods are all about? You take the classic lines of a stock car and fuse them with the best aftermarket trickery to come up with the dream car your rich neighbor can't just buy off the lot--a high-horsepower, head-turning Mustang built to your unique specs.

A Fox rod.

While the abundance of affordable '79-'93 Fox-body Mustangs coupled with the mass 5.0 aftermarket certainly points toward the Fox rod as a trend for the Ford future, trendsetting wasn't on Paul Gaudreau's mind when he bought his new drop-top GT in 1988. He was just a young guy searching for a speed fix. He began like we all do, adding bolt-on parts and searching for a shop to do quality work. Though the car certainly performed better than stock, he always wanted more.

As he hit his 30s, Paul began to make the kind of money that could support his speed addiction. With the means at hand, he decided to make the Mustang of his youth the Mustang of his dreams. This quest led him to Russ and Andy Riedy at R Performance/Florida 5.0. He asked them to turn the everyday GT into a beautiful beast. He wanted raw power, superb handling, and good looks without too much flash.

The Riedy brothers attacked this multiple-month project with the same mindset as the race cars they usually build. "...Any car of this magnitude is only as durable as its weakest piece. Dealing with so many different areas of the car, and all the aftermarket and custom pieces, and then blending them together is what we do for all our road-race cars," Russ says. "We know this is really a road-race car with license plates."

Andy emphasizes such bleeding-edge projects can have durability issues, so don't think life is easy at the top. As such, the brothers put many hours into sciencing out the combination for a max lifespan on the street and track. Providing a rugged backbone to the combination is a Ford Racing Performance Parts 351 block poked and stroked for 408 ci of grunt with a billet steel crank, Oliver rods, Speed-Pro rings, and Ross pistons.

Topped with a pair of fully ported Brodix Track 1 aluminum heads, the plus-sized Windsor percolates at a boost-friendly 9.0:1 compression. Also boost-themed is the top-secret camshaft popping open the 2.02/1.60 valves. This focus on forced induction was all designed so 17 pounds of Novi 2000 boost can cohabitate with the 93-octane pump gas sloshing about in the Fuel Safe fuel cell. Though this is no small task, a full-on fuel system certainly helps. It features a Paxton pump, a Paxton regulator, a filter, Earl's braided-steel lines, and 50 lb/hr injectors dancing to the beat of a thoroughly tuned ACCEL DFI computer.

"After much Superflow dyno time, then a switch to DFI, tuning on a Dynojet, and countless hours of road tuning, the car pumped out 680 hp and more than 600 lb-ft of torque with good street driveability," Russ explains.

Reliably supporting that kind of rear-wheel power leans heavily on the convertible's support systems. A pair of Jet Hot-coated, 2-inch custom headers; a high-flow X-pipe; Flowmaster mufflers; and turndowns vent the pressure. Meanwhile, a TTC T56 six-speed and Centerforce Dual-Friction clutch funnel 611 lb-ft to a custom-built 8.8 rearend spinning 3.55 gears. No word what the top-speed is on the open-air speedster, but with 3.55s out back it's got to push the upper 100s. As such, the dual-piston, 13-inch Brembo front brakes and dual-piston, 12-inch Wilwood rear brakes must come in handy when Paul hits an open-track event.

On the subject of carving corners, we'd be remiss if we didn't detail the interesting mix of parts underpinning this Mustang. Up front, a Griggs Racing tubular K-member secures the 408 and a pair of Griggs tubular A-arms. The A-arms lever Tokico five-way adjustable struts fitted with 950-1,000 lb/in coilover springs. Suspending the rear are Tokico five-way shocks, 180 lb/in springs, Griggs weight-jacker lower control arms, and a Global West Trak-Link. Tying the flexi convertible together are a pair of Lakewood subframe connectors customized for the convertible's underbelly and a four-point rollbar.

For all the hardware under its skin, Paul's Fox rod exudes a clean, sleek look on the outside. Though it started life as a tired GT, the Riedys blended the popular body lines of Saleen and Cobra to create the Mustang's Noxema-clean lines. A Saleen front valance and Cervini's 2-1/2-inch cowl-induction hood remade the front, while Cobra side skirts, a Cobra rear valance and Saleen wing round out the package. Not so obvious are the fenders and quarter-panels flared by Creative Colors and Concepts to accommodate the 18-inch Speedline wheels. CC&C also covered the whole package in three stages of Sikkens Laser Red.

Obviously, Paul's ride was no weekend project, but with the right combination of patience, planning, and parts, he realized the Mustang of his dreams. In the process, he just may have created a blueprint for the future of the aging Fox Mustang. 5.0

R Performance's sister company, Florida 5.0, manufactures slick gauge pods and clusters, so it's only natural this over-the-top ride got the full treatment of Auto Meter Phantom gauges. In the gauge cluster are the requisite volts, mph, rpm, and fuel-level gauges. Holding firm on the dash are boost, fuel pressure, oil pressure, water temp, and oil temp. If that wasn't enough, two exhaust-temp gauges and a blower-pressure gauge fill in for the stereo. Also inside are Recaro seats and custom leather-and-tweed panels.

Horse Sense: Obviously, it's tough keeping a 680hp street engine cool. To do so, the Riedys built a circuit-breaker-protected, two-speed fan kit. The normal speed toggles on at 195 degrees and off at 180. For extreme situations the high speed is activated by a toggle switch in the cockpit.