Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
September 1, 2004

The year was 1986, and Ford was introducing its first fuel-injected V-8 Mustang. Knowing what you know now, we'll bet you think this was a good thing-and it was. But the automotive pundits of the period were aghast. Computers were a new technology at the time, and for the vast majority of Americans, a computer was not only a foreign commodity, it was downright scary. Most Mustang magazine writers (a far fewer number of scribes than now compete for your attention) wrote horror stories about how the new EFI Mustang would "shut right down" if you even looked at it with a hot-rodder's eye. Most even explained (inaccurately, we might add) that the new computer would be able to adjust the engine's tune so that any attempt to make more power-via a free-flowing exhaust system, for example-would result in a recalibration that would leave you with exactly the same power level as before you began. Most folks believed this philosophy, and several Mustangs of the '86 vintage had all their electronics replaced with more familiar four-barrel carburetors and matching intake manifolds.

Despite the detractors, 1986 was a great year for the Mustang. It not only opened the future of the car to vastly refined fuel delivery systems, but it also brought us a true dual exhaust and the 8.8-inch rearend. Once the '87 5.0 models came out with their 25hp bump, the '86 model served as a nice transition into the age of electronic fuel injection.

It is unlikely that Doug Cannon, a 43-year-old Defense Department manager from Westminster, Maryland, ever knew that all this drama had unfolded when he bought his '86 LX Mustang in 1992 for only $3,700. He had been into-gasp!-foreign cars at the time, and he was just looking for something to keep up with his buddy's '87 Buick T-Type (a close relative to the Grand National). Doug wanted a nice, clean car to have as a street/strip weapon against those nasty turbo Buicks, and with 67,000 miles on the clock and a flawless factory finish, the stock-down to the air silencer-'86 notchback was a perfect candidate.

"I wasn't too sure about the front end styling at the time," Doug says. "But I bought the car from a co-worker who was going overseas. I laughed at myself for being so fiscally irresponsible-buying a car that I didn't even need! Now, after many years of enjoyment, I realize it was truly a bargain."

Let's get something else out in the open right now-finding a clean '86 LX notchback that came from the factory with a 5.0 motor is challenging. If you do locate one, it will most likely be a pursuit vehicle that was employed by Florida law enforcement, or, if it's a civilian unit, it will be in black or red. Finding a blue one is tough-although I used to see one regularly at my home dragstrip in the late-'90s.

Without trying to make this sound like a Mustang Monthly feature, what may be the rarest part of this car is the factory-original tan interior (or "sand beige/buckskin cloth low-back bucket seats" to be exact). Doug provided us with a copy of the window sticker from this special-order car, and its original owner paid $11,623 for this beauty, with the 5.0 motor ($1,211), five-speed ($124), P225/60VR15 performance tires ($665), and air conditioning ($762) being the more expensive options on this loaded little coupe. In case you're wondering, it was rated at 17 mpg (city) and 25 mph (highway).

Not worried with rarity or historical significance, Doug went right to work with the modifications. He added a K&N air filter and Hoosier Quick Time racing tires and was rewarded with a 14.74 at 93 mph. Following the how-to articles that Tom Wilson used to publish in the former Super Ford magazine, Doug advanced the timing, installed a short belt (to bypass the power steering and smog pump), and installed 3.55 gears. With these, the car ran low-14s at 96 mph. A DynoMax after-cat exhaust, MAC short-tube headers, and an '87 intake manifold got the coupe to a best e.t. of 13.59. Doug and his buddy with the Buick tested quite regularly during those days at Capitol Raceway in Crofton, Maryland.

By 1995, Doug decided to step up his program. The Buick was on its way to running in the high-11-second zone, and he didn't want his pony left in the dust. He wanted to run deep-12-second passes with the chance of going 11s, and he realized he had to have a better (non-'86-headed) foundation to do so. He reasoned that with a fresh motor and something other than the "turbo swirl" '86 head, he would have a chance at running some big numbers. So Doug purchased a '94 iron-headed GT-40 crate motor from Ford Racing Performance Parts for $2,100, commissioning Horsepower by Hermann [(410) 451-3790] to do the installation. Hermann added a GT-40 intake, and the B303 cam that came in the motor was replaced with a stock 5.0 cam and 1.7 Cobra roller rockers to work with the stock, speed-density system. A mass air upgrade was later added, and by 1996 the coupe was running 12.90s at more than 105 mph.

In 1999, the car was once again back at Horsepower by Hermann-this time for a Vortech supercharger. With a polished S-Trim unit, an upgraded MSD-6AL ignition, and an Anderson Ford Power Pipe, Doug's crate engine was seeing as much as 10 psi with the stock blower pulleys. All together, this common combination is good for more than 350 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels.

Doug is still sorting out this 5-year-old combination, but the car has run a best of 12.19 at 113.5 mph. Of special note, on the day that Associate Editor Johnson shot the car, it ran a slippin'-and-slidin' 118-mph pass, showing that the power is there and the need for traction is the next move for Doug. On our slide rule, that comes out to an 11.20 or 11.40 pass-more than enough to hand a bolt-on Buick its doors!

For now, Doug is content to take his uncommon car out to car shows and an occasional dragstrip appearance. He says he's reluctant to put in a cage and the other serious chassis modifications necessary to run well into the 11-second zone. Frankly, we can't blame him, because with the stock hood and stock rims (that Doug will put on for special reasons) this is one sleepy, old-school 5.0 Mustang. Rare and fast, this '86 LX notchback is one for the record books.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock 5.0 ({{{GT}}}-40 crate motor)
Displacement 302
Cylinder Heads Iron GT-40
Camshaft Stock 5.0
Intake Manifold GT-40, gasket-matched by HBH
Throttle Body FRPP 65mm
Power Adder Vortech S-Trim, 10-11 psi
Exhaust MAC 15¼8-in short-tube headers, BBK 21¼2-in H-pipe w/cats,
Flowmaster three-chamber mufflers w/21¼2-in polished tailpipes
Fuel System 255-lph in-tank pump w/Vortech T-Rex kicker pump, 30-lb/hr
injectors, Bosch regulator, Vortech FMU
Transmission '93 Cobra T5 from D&D
Rearend 8.8 w/31-spline {{{Ford}}} Traction-Lok, 3.73 gears, Moser axles
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management Ford EEC IV w/mass air conversion
Ignition MSD
Gauges Auto Meter boost and fuel-pressure gauges
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member Stock
A-Arms Stock
Springs Stock
Struts Koni adjustable
Wheels Centerline Star 16x7 (street), Weld Drag Lites 15x7 (strip)
Tires Yokohama AVS Sport 225/55/16 (street), Dunlop
Sport {{{5000}}} 205/65/15 (strip)
Brakes '87-up 11-in rotor
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Stock
Shocks Koni adjustable w/Koni quad shocks
Traction Devices None
Wheels Centerline Star 16x8 (street), Weld Drag Lites 15x8 (strip)
Tires BFGoodrich 255/50/16 (street),
Mickey Thompson ET Street
26x10.5x15 (strip)
Brakes Stock
Chassis Stiffening Autofab through-the-floor subframes