Eric English
March 12, 2007
Brian added the H.O. Fibertrends cowl hood and Bogart Fly Stars after purchasing this original-paint LX from across the continent. In one fell swoop, the appearance went from utilitarian to subtly outrageous.

Without a doubt, one of the biggest challenges for any writer is the age-old game of separating fact from fiction. At this magazine, we face it every day, as modified automobiles are obviously a hotbed for competition, bragging rights, and the more than occasional ego boost. We'd like to believe every owner is completely forthright with us as they relate their show accolades, race results, and performance numbers, and we're convinced most do just that. We'd be plain stupid to believe everything we hear, however, so we work hard to sort through the chaff to bring you the straightest scoop possible. Of course whenever feasible, we like to witness a car's accomplishments firsthand and when we do, we usually let our readers know. We've also developed a sense for when we're being sold a bill of goods, but at the end of the day it often comes down to the honesty of the owner.

Now along comes Brian Murray, owner of the killer '89 LX you see here. This is the kind of guy we like to deal with because he's up front and tells it like it is. More to the point is the fact that the cookie hasn't always crumbled the way Brian would've liked when it comes to building his Mustang, and he's not too afraid to say so. His experience isn't so different from legions of performance-car owners across the nation-it's just that most are too proud to admit it, as if a lower number than expected is an irreversible slam against one's manhood.

A scant 317 cubes may sound like a small engine these days, but with big boost from a J-Trim Vortech, it's plenty for a dual-purpose street machine. Thanks to an A4 block and a billet steel crank, this one is built to take a pounding for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, Brian's story is far from all bad-he's ended up with a ride many would gladly call their own, and he obviously scored the full feature spread before you. The ownership tale begins several years ago as Brian searched far and wide for what he feels is the best-looking street/strip Mustang going-an '87-'93 notch. Typical of this day and age, the quest included use of nationwide resources, where Brian admits to a big mistake-buying the car sight unseen. Purchased out of Georgia, the LX was presented as a ready-to-go mid-500-horse street/strip rocket, yet when it arrived at his Snohomish, Washington, digs, it was something less than expected. Not only were the modifications done in a decidedly mediocre manner, but a trip to the dyno also revealed far less power than advertised. Looking for the silver lining revealed a car with no sign of accident damage and pristine original paint that indicated a pattern of overall good care. With no real recourse, Brian simply rolled up his sleeves and dug in.

The interior was one of the easier places to set right, with a nicely installed 10-point rollbar already in place. Brian repainted the chrome-moly 'cage, had Ron Pircey bend up some well-executed tinwork, and eliminated the center console in favor of fresh carpet and a B&M Pro Stick. Not as visible is Brian's rewire of the underdash area, where he cleaned up items such as wood screws trying to ground accessories to plastic trim. Now you're getting the picture.

Similar rewiring occurred under the hood, yet the biggest effort was farmed out to Smooth Performance in Vancouver, British Columbia, where main man Rashpal Dhaliwal disassembled the stout 317-inch mill in an effort to correct the underwhelming performance. A fresh hone on the cylinders and new file-fit rings were a good start, as was a completely new Comp Cams valvetrain, including the hydraulic-roller bumpstick, lifters, valvesprings, and pushrods. The basics of the engine were one area where Brian wouldn't be disappointed-with everything necessary to make a hard-running street/strip warrior, including an A4 block, 3.100-inch billet crank, Eagle rods, Venolia pistons, and the obvious Vortech J-Trim making as much as 16 psi in its current state. The previous owner chose to back the potentially potent Windsor with an Art Carr 200-4R trans, a 9-inch converter, and a Detroit Locker/Moser-equipped 8.8-inch rear-all of which was left virtually as is. Likewise, the 100-horse NOS system was a prior addition and, though plumbed with the necessary fuel system including a dedicated fuel cell, Brian doesn't foresee dual-power-adder use.

The interior is an interesting blend of stock and hard core, in perfect keeping with a similar theme outside. Brian's attention to detail can be seen in the new carpet, resprayed 'cage, and switch panel that takes the place of the factory HVAC controls. Auto Meter gauges are right where any street/strip enthusiast would want them.

In its now freshened state, Brian believes the 317-inch engine ought to be capable of the kind of grunt he thought he was buying in the first place. "Ought" is the operative term, however, as full capability will only be unlocked by some sort of electronic tuning, which an already tired wallet has temporarily put on hold. Remember, Brian believed he was purchasing a car that would run hard as delivered, so the unexpected expenditures have made the effort a bit of a budget-balancing act. We captured the LX on film shortly after its return from the north-of-the-border shop-so it's still lacking anything more capable than Ford's EEC IV.

Clearly in this state, the car isn't prepared to live up to what the hardware seems to promise, and Brian is man enough to say so. Should we have turned our lenses in a different direction just because the car isn't tuned to perfection? Hardly; in fact, we see it as an opportunity to shed some real-world light on the subject-projects full of pitfalls, financial limitations, and more. Clearly this is the less pleasant and, may we say, less publicized side of building fast cars, yet it's a common reality nonetheless. As frustrated as the buildup has been at times, Brian still maintains a glimmer of humor, joking at one point during our shoot that "this supposed Georgia peach turned out to be a bad apple." That statement would be better turned to past tense because in our eyes, it won't be long until this one's bad to the bone. Hang in there, Brian-there's light at the end of the tunnel.

ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINMass Air
BlockC&L
Ford Racing Performance Parts {{{A4}}} 
BoreELECTRONICS
4.040 inEngine Management
StrokeFord EEC IV
3.{{{100}}} inIgnition
DisplacementCrane HI-6, Crane coil, Moroso wires,
317 ciDenso Iridium plugs
CrankGauges
Billet steelAuto Meter
Rods 
{{{Eagle}}}Front Suspension
PistonsK-member
Forged Venolia w/ file fit ringsStock
CamControl Arms
Comp Cams hydraulic roller, 224/229-deg Stock
duration at 0.050, 0.533/0.544-in liftSprings
Rocker ArmsGranatelli coilover
FRPP 1.6 rollersStruts
Cylinder HeadsLakewood {{{90}}}/10
Fully ported Edelbrock PerformerBrakes
Intake ManifoldStock
Vortech Igloo/Cobra lower (Extrude Wheels
Honed)Bogart Fly Stars, 15x3.5
Throttle BodyTires
BBK 75mmHoosier 26x4.5-15
Fuel SystemRear Suspension
Dual Bosch pumps, Vortech fuel rails,Springs
FRPP 42-lb injectorsLakewood drag springs/airbag
ExhaustShocks
MAC 131/44-in short-tubes, 3-in customLakewood 50/50
cross-pipe, Flowmaster muffs, andControl Arms
turndownsSouthside lowers, Steeda adjustable
Power Adderuppers
Vortech J-Trim pullied to 16 psi, NOSBrakes
100-horse shotStock
TransmissionWheels
Art Carr {{{200}}}-4R w/manual valvebody, Art Bogart Fly Stars, 15x8
Carr 9-in converterTires
RearendHoosier Quick Time Pro, 27x10.5-15
8.8, 3.55 gears, Detroit Locker, MoserChassis Stiffening
31-spline axles, custom chrome-moly10-point chrome-moly rollcage, subframe
Driveshaftconnectors