March 1, 2004

One of the main obstacles to getting started with a serious 5.0 Mustang project car is the material you have to work with. Some guys can take a rusted-out four-cylinder back to their garage, work on it a few years, and roll out a work of art. Others are quite content to plop down $35,000 for a new SVT Cobra and begin customizing it right away. Still others know exactly the Mustang they want and have to wait for it to come up for sale.

Anthony Acosta has had all sorts of hot street cars-dozens of them as a matter of fact. He's owned at least eight different Mustangs during his young 29-year-old life, but he never kept any of them around for long. That is, until this little notchback came up for sale. Once owned by an older gentleman in Austin, Texas, this '88 LX was one of the first Mustangs in that area to bust into the 10-second zone. It was the Mustang in Austin, and everyone who was into Mustangs knew it on sight.

Three years ago, that original owner lost interest in the car and began to part it out. Everything was sold-the engine, the transmission, the rims, even the entire rearend. But Anthony knew what he wanted-he had to have the car! So, for $1,500 (a hefty price in our book), he towed the once powerful 5.0 Mustang back to his house, and the construction project began in earnest.

Anthony had tried all sorts of combinations in his early Mustang adventures, discovering by trial and error that the bigger the cubes, the more he liked the car's combination. "There's just no substitute for cubic inches," he says. "With the 302, people have to rely on power adders to get it done. That's not what I'm all about."

So with visions of King Kong cubic inches dancing in his head, Anthony contracted a 408 to be built and installed in the car. A custom roller cam was designed to work with the 11.5:1 408-incher, and Anthony decided to leave the car fuel-injected to increase its overall efficiency. All told, the combination is good for more than 540 rwhp-enough to get this lightweight notch into the 10.60s at more than 128 mph (1.41-second 60-foot times) on muscle alone.

While the engine was being assembled, Slugrath Collision and Repair in New Braunfels, Texas, painted the virgin sheetmetal and 4-inch Cervini's hood in Ford Mineral Gray. Anthony finished the car off with a custom black interior featuring a Pioneer stereo, FloFit seats, lots of gauges, and a sprinkle of billet accessories.

After nearly three years of labor, Anthony's latest creation is a Mustang fanatic's dream come true. Able to be driven comfortably anywhere with gobs of power, this car exudes confidence. In fact, in one test session, Anthony drove it 80 miles to the dragstrip, ran a string of 10.60s, and then drove it back home.

Since our photo shoot, Anthony has added a Nitrous Express nitrous system, pilled up for a 75hp tickle. With that bit of help, he's already improved his eighth-mile times from a 6.80 down to 6.50s with a conservative tune-up. That's good enough for 9.90s already, but Anthony fully expects to add the 200-horse jets as soon as he does a few upgrades. It seems he's pushing things a little too hard with the torque of the 408 and the nitrous. It's already cost him one transmission, a driveshaft, and a twisted rearend. To tone things down, he plans on adding an automatic transmission to the car even though that means he'll have to give up the five-speed he loves so much. With a full rollcage and all that nitrous, look for low, low 9-second times at more than 140 mph.

We have to say this car was worth the wait, and we doubt that Anthony would disagree.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Lightning 351 roller
Displacement 408
Cylinder Heads Brodix Track 1, M2-S
Camshaft Custom Comp Cams hydraulic roller w/0.565-in lift
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Victor EFI
Throttle Body Accufab 75 mm
Power Adder N/A
Exhaust MAC 13¼4-in long-tubes, Dr. Gas X-pipe, Flowmaster mufflers
Fuel System Aeromotive w/38-lb/hr injectors
Transmission Tremec five-speed
Rearend 8.8, 33-spline Moser axles, Eaton posi, 3.73 gears
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management Stock computer w/Mike Murillo-tuned Autologic chip
Ignition MSD 6AL w/FRPP wires
Gauges Yes
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
Front Suspension
K-Member D&D tubular
Springs D&D coilover
Struts Lakewood 70/30
Wheels Weld Draglite
Tires Skinnies
Brakes Stock
Rear Suspension
Traction Devices Steeda upper and lower control arms
Springs MAC
Shocks KYB
Wheels Weld Draglites
Tires 26x10 Mickey Thompson
Brakes Stock
Chassis Stiffening Subframe connectors