Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
April 1, 2003
Photos By: Steve Turner

Horse Sense:Matt Balazs is a logistics engineer for Mack Trucks. As we had no idea what that meant, Matt explained that he coordinates between suppliers and the production plant to get the parts delivered at the right time to coincide with production dates. As Volvo recently purchased Mack, Matt has made a few trips to Sweden to check out Volvo's operation. That would be cool-going to Sweden, that is.

There seems to be a theme to several features we've run in 5.0&SF lately. It centers on guys who have simply wanted a Mustang with which they can goof off. However, in each case the original plan was eventually pitched out the window and all caution was thrown to the wind.

Somehow, we get it into our heads that if we perform one modification, we should do two or maybe three more in order for the initial upgrade to perform properly. Here at the magazine, you can lock us up and throw away the key because we're as guilty as any of you-maybe more so. One staffer acquired a 347 stroker for his Mustang only to have the car down for another year, upgrading the heads and having them ported, changing the intake, and ordering a custom cam. Our chief, Editor Turner, purchased a Chrome Yellow '98 Cobra from Paxton (yes, it has a Paxton under the hood) and proclaimed he was not going to touch the car.

Well, at last count, the ultra-sweet ride has received a Bassani X-pipe and after-cat, new wheels and tires, a TTC-Tremec TKO, a D&D Performance clutch, a PST driveshaft, a Steeda G-Trac suspension, a Diablo-Sport chip, and a Kirban flaming-horse grille emblem. "Don't forget the brakes," Editor Turner adds. Oh, yeah-and he couldn't forget about the Baer Eradispeed rotors. That's quite a list for "not touching the car." However, if we chronicled the upgrades found on his '89 coupe, that list would make the Cobra look as if it's a card-carrying member of the gears-and-pulleys crowd.

Maybe that's why we got along so well with Matt Balazs of Walnut Port, Pennsylvania. After talking to him about his '88 LX, we decided he's one of us.

When Matt bought the car in 1994, just two weeks before graduating high school, he simply wanted a Mustang to drive daily back and forth to work and school. The bone-stock LX was the first car he purchased, and with only 34,000 miles on it, we'd say he got a gem. Although "the nasty blue interior" almost kept him from buying it, the LX served Matt well through college, with such simple additions as 3.55 gears and exhaust upgrades.

As with just about every Mustang owner with a pulse, Matt became involved in a little street racing, but that didn't last long as the state troopers raided his band of racing brothers. That experience helped persuade Matt to keep the racing at the track. His first trip to a dragstrip was at Atco Raceway in New Jersey with buddy Bill Tumas. That night, with just the gears and exhaust, the car ran 14.20s on stock radials. Being a poor college student at the time, Matt didn't have the funds necessary to break open the bank, but he did have enough to add the Cobra wheels, brakes, and to upgrade the rearend. With drag radials on the car, he ran regular 13.60s at 102 mph.

Once Matt graduated from Penn State in 1999, the car was relieved of its daily driver status. He became more aggressive behind the wheel-at the track, of course. And it was while at the track one day that he broke the clutch. He pulled out the engine to freshen things up. But somewhere along the way, that concept got tossed like yesterday's leftovers, and Matt decided it was time to spice things up a bit.

He wanted to do something different under the hood. "Everyone's got a blown 302," Matt reasoned. His version of something different began with a '74 351 block that he got out of a van down by a river. He almost built a stock 351, but for a little more money he could build a wicked stroked Windsor. So he had the block cleaned up and bored 0.030 over for a bore size of 4.030. In went a Scat cast-steel crank with a 3.85 stroke. Eagle H-beam rods swing from the crank and are attached to JE pistons. Though these days the popular stroked Windsor is a 392, Matt's stroker comes in at 393 ci.

The outside of Matt's LX is fairly subtle with only the additions of a Cervini's cowl-induction hood, a Design Concepts Cobra grille insert, and a Steeda rear wing. Matt didn't like the original color so he had Tom Lutzi of Auto Works in Bangor, Pennsylvania, do a complete color change to Moonlight Blue (a factory Ford color) with white stripes. The Cobra R wheels are from AFS Wheels and have 5.95-inch backspacing up front and 6.42-inch backspacing out back.

In its current state of tune, the car makes 440 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque. "The horsepower sits up there all day long through the rpm," Matt says. "It stays above 430 hp for 2,500 rpm." In this fashion and with a set of 17-inch drag radials, the car has run a string of 11.60s at more than 122 mph, leaving the line at 1,200 rpm and then stepping on it. Furthermore, Matt granny-shifts the car. He doesn't want to take any chances with stock axles within the Lincoln 8.8 rearend.

After almost not buying the car because of its "nasty blue interior," Matt refurbished it using black interior pieces, Cobra Workman seats, an S&W eight-point cage, and an impressive array of Auto Meter gauges. He also utilizes a Pro-5.0 shifter to manipulate the TTC-Tremec 3550 to his gear of choice.

Matt has had some lofty goals for his LX. "I've done the drag racing thing, I've driven it a lot on the street, now I'd like to do some autocrossing," he says. He plans on adding a torque arm, a Panhard bar, and bigger brakes to make the car more autocross-friendly. That part is firmly planted (get it?). However, one crucial part of the car is still up in the air-or should we say, under the hood. He got a sweet offer for the 393, and he's ready to do something different once again. This time around, "different" is either going to be a twin-turbo 5.0 or a supercharged Four-Valve Cobra engine. "I just want it to keep on getting nastier and have even more fun with it."

So much for not touching the car.

After serving Matt faithfully throughout his college years, the car's first major component to go was the clutch (at least he was beatin' on it at the track at the time). Instead of simply replacing the clutch, Matt yanked out both the engine and the tranny to freshen up everything. However, what began as a freshening up resulted in a 393 Windsor under the hood and a TTC-Tremec 3550 in the tunnel. In its initial state, the 393 made 390 hp to the wheels with a flat-tappet cam. When Matt made the switch to a Spyder intake, a mechanical-roller cam, an Accufab 90mm throttle body, and a clean-up/port match of the heads, the engine responded by laying down 440 hp and 435 lb-ft of torque to the wheels. Matt performed all the work on his LX using lessons learned at the feet of his father. "My dad had me out in the garage early in my childhood," he says. "That's where I learned to do my own stuff."

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block '74 351
Bore 4.030
Stroke 3.85
Displacement 393 ci
Crank Scat
Rods {{{Eagle}}} H-beam
Pistons JE dished
Compression 10.4:1
Cam Comp Cams mechanical roller
Heads Edelbrock Victor Jr., {{{Ford}}} Racing
  Performance Parts roller rockers,
  Comp Cams lifters
Intake Pro {{{Mustang}}} {{{Spyder}}}
Throttle Body Accufab 90mm
Mass Air None
Fuel System Weldon 255-lph fuel pump,
  Aeroquip lines, Pro Mustang fuel rails,
  Bosch 55-lb/hr injectors, Aeromotive
  adjustable regulator
Headers MAC 1 3/4-in long-tube
Exhaust Dr. Gas X-pipe, MAC 3-in after-cat
Power Adder Just cubes
Transmission TTC-Tremec 3550,
  McLeod Rev-Lok clutch, Pro-5.0 shifter,
  FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Rearend {{{Lincoln}}} LSC 8.8,
  Auburn differential, FRPP 3.55 gears,
  stock LSC axles
ELECTRONICS  
Engine Management FAST
Ignition MSD 6-AL,MSD Blaster coil,
  ACCEL {{{300}}}+ plug wires
Gauges Auto Meter Ultralite water temp,
  oil pressure, fuel pressure
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member Stock
Control Arms Stock
Springs H&R road race
  from Maximum Motorsports
Caster/Camber Steeda
Struts KYB
Brakes Lincoln LSC five-lug, Hawk brake
  pads, stainless steel bushings
Wheels AFS Wheels Cobra R 17x9
Tires Yokohama A520 255/40
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs H&R road race from
  Maximum Motorsports
Shocks KYB
Traction Devices Maximum
  Motorsports lowers, FRPP uppers
Brakes Lincoln LSC, Hawk brake pads
Wheels AFS Wheels Cobra R 17x9
Tires Nitto Extreme Drag 275/40
Chassis Stiffening S&W eight-point
  rollcage, MAC subframe connectors