Dale Amy
August 1, 2005
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Fall out of the womb in California and it seems you're automatically entered for life in the world's largest, longest running, and most diversified car show competition. Amazingly, for a place that has earned the dubious right to be nicknamed the People's Republic of California, the automobile remains as much an ingrained part of West-Coast culture as hot tubs, personal trainers, and the word "dude." This is a place where automotive one-upmanship is basically a way of life, and it's gratifying to see that the simple Fox coupe can still compete in this perpetual metal beauty contest.

Shaun Graham was born into the Bay Area chapter of this statewide car club a mere couple dozen years ago but, by our count, this is already his fourth Fox Mustang, and none of the previous trio was left stock either. This '87 notchback, however, is his most serious effort to date. Ironically, Shaun's first real hands-on exposure to this whole car thing came while helping his dad-who owned an auto body shop in the San Francisco satellite of San Bruno-build up a '66 Chevelle at the tender age of 15, but it was his brother's '88 LX that soon saved him from any lasting Bowtie damage.

In another bit of irony, when Shaun went searching for the basis of what would become his California coupe project, he had to go all the way to Texas to find it. He discovered it online, and was attracted by the fact that the super-clean notchback was practically bone-stock, save for some Center-line rims. A major bonus was that the LX already wore the PPG custom two-stage blue/purple hue evident in our photos, a feature Shaun knew would be cool and show-worthy, even on the jaded left coast. He and a buddy flew to the Lone Star State, and drove it home.

For the first few months, Shaun simply enjoyed his new Mustang, adding a Kenne Bell blower and some other little stuff, but all the while plotting his grand makeover. One particular goal? "Everyone told me you can't fit 20-inch rims on a [Fox] Mustang," says Shaun. "I was determined to be one of the first in the Bay Area scene to have done it." The impetus to really commence the transformation came when, within a one-week span, the LX suffered a spun bearing (too much boost) and a busted throw-out bearing. So began three years of work.

Family and friends pitched in with the project, and it was brother Steve, working at Bayshore Racing Engines, who got the nod to pump up the weary 302 to 331 inches by way of a Scat 3.25-inch crank and 0.030-over JE forged slugs at 8.9:1 compression. Up top, AFR 185 heads were ported and matched to a polished Trick Flow intake pair. Inhaling through an Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe, a Paxton Novi 2000 puts the combo under 13 pounds of boost and the result is 452 hp and 445 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

Speaking of wheels, it was a multi-month bout of research followed by an FRPP five-lug conversion and scads of trial and error fittings that finally resulted in the ADR one-piece 20-inch blings, 8.5 inches wide at both ends. At the rear, Shaun added a 11/42-inch spacer to bring them right out to the wheelwell edges, though the wheelwell lips are not in any way modified, front or rear. The identical rims are used up front, with about a 11/48-inch spacer. Shaun left the plastic well liners off in front to show off his meticulously detailed AJE K-member and control arm setup with coilovers. The coupe is first and foremost a show car, and he admits he wouldn't have left those splashguards out if it were going to see much regular road duty. Though photo-graphed at normal driving height, Shaun cranks the coilovers down at the shows he frequents, and apparently to great effect, as he's brought home endless trophies. We can see why.