Michael Johnson Associate Editor
August 1, 2003
Photos By: Steve Turner

Horse Sense: Kurt's Mustang has won several car-show awards, including Third Place at the '02 Carlisle All-Ford Nationals in the '79-'89 modified class, a Best in Show at the Al Packer All-Ford show, and Best Paint at the 13th Annual All-Ford & Mustang show at the Big M in September 2002. We're sure those won't be the last awards the car wins.

The majority of automotive infatuations set their hooks early in life. For yours truly, cars were a part of everyday life, and you read the result of that upbringing in every article. Articles in Hot Rod, Car Craft, and countless other musclecar magazines took the place of The Cat in the Hat, Curious George, and such. Instead of Green Eggs and Ham it was "400 Hp on Pump Gas" or "'79 Turbo Trans Am Test." We don't know if feature car owner Kurt Yankolonis grew up on the same steady diet of automotive ramblings, but the car you see here is the result of love at first 'Stang.

"I first fell in love with Mustangs when my parents bought my brother a white '87 four-cylinder automatic LX hatchback for his 16th birthday," says the Sparks, Maryland, resident. Kurt was just 11 at the time, and the fact that the car had just four cylinders under the hood didn't matter to him.

After driving the '87 for about three years, Kurt's brother moved on to an '89 LX five-speed, which meant the '87 had to go somewhere. Kurt's parents planned on selling the four-cylinder hatch at the '00 Carlisle Ford Nationals, but on the way there Kurt's brother had a minor fender bender in the car (could Kurt's brother have been part of a conspiracy?). "It was disappointing to bring [the car] back home," Kurt says, "but it turned out to be my good fortune." He was 15 by then and obsessed with having his own Mustang. He'd already been begging his parents for one, and after looking at the minimal body damage to the '87, he wanted to try and fix it himself.

"It was at that point my parents offered me the car to work on," Kurt says. "Of course, it was a four-cylinder automatic and I wanted a 5.0 Cobra."

But aside from the body damage, the '87 was in excellent shape with no rust. "I thought that maybe I could transform it into the car of my dreams," Kurt says. So in June 2000 the dismantling began. "It was a little frightening at first," he says. "I had no idea if I was capable of doing it, but once I started, I was driven." Obviously, the first item to go was the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, which were sold to someone rebuilding a four-cylinder car. Then Kurt relieved the car of all four-cylinder-specific components, including most of the wiring, tubing, and miscellaneous hoses. With the engine compartment now void, Kurt borrowed a pressure washer and cleaned the engine bay of all the oil the four-cylinder had spewed upon it. The 7.5-inch rear was discarded to make way for a 9-inch, and the interior was gutted. The car then lived on jackstands while Kurt gathered parts.

The interior doesn't look like the car originally had a four-popper in it. Kurt added a dash of MAC white-face gauges with a smattering of Auto Meter items. He also dropped in a pair of '01 GT power leather seats to kick up the comfort level a couple notches. Since the original interior was red, the dash is from a V-8 car that had been rolled. Kurt also added the corresponding center console, door panels, and rear seats. He repainted the dash and center console with Ford paint to bring them up to standards. The fresh carpet came from Auto Custom Carpets. Kurt's mom even got in on the action by refinishing the door panels and the headliner.

The engine compartment was repainted and then waxed to keep the dust away. Kurt ordered a Ground Pounder tubular K-member to replace the stamped-steel factory unit. He located the 9-inch rearend components on the Internet and summoned Auto Weld in Pennsylvania to build a custom 9-inch housing. He then ordered all-new suspension components along with a complete set of Baer brakes. "Hey," Kurt says, "since my dad was helping with some of the financial backing on this project, why not?" While the suspension was being ironed out, Kurt went back to the Internet and found a perfect gray interior out of a wrecked car. When his brother was searching the Web for wheels, Kurt happened to locate a set of AFS Wheels chrome Cobra R wheels wrapped in Parnelli Jones rubber. "I watched the bidding and waited until one minute was left on the auction," he says, "and then I made the winning bid."

Once he had the rolling stock, Kurt bolted them up to the rear, but the front was still in pieces. He stripped, sandblasted, and painted the spindles, and he installed new Energy Suspension bushings. After installing the front end, the car sat on its new wheels for the first time.