February 28, 2007

At some time or another, every kid has been caught staring into space. Sometimes the dream is about laying into the gas of a hot musclecar, thrashing through the gears in exhilaration and passing by the scene of the crime the next day to admire to damage left on the fresh blacktop surface. There is no worry about how much was wasted on those expensive performance tires. More times than not, if it was a Mustang in the dream, the kid would not only own one in the future, but have one for the rest of his days.

George Lambert falls into that category. His Mustang is an '80, which he purchased in 1982 when it had only 25,000 miles on it. It was a turbocharged four-cylinder and the hottest thing on the market at the time. Soon he became tired of getting stomped by the new 5.0, and George added his own optional 302 with a mild camshaft. Unfortunately, the car spent minimal time on the streets for the next five years, as it broke a long list of parts, including several SROD four-speeds and early model T-5 transmissions.

After five years of silently plotting and planning a complete overhaul of his Pony project, George effected a complete facelift, including a dual four-barrel, high-compression 289, a C-4 transmission with a loose converter, a beefed-up 9-inch rearend, twin 125hp nitrous plates, and a rollbar. It turned out to be a successful go-fast recipe resulting in mid 10-second timeslips to feed his need for speed, something the car had not yet pacified. Unfortunately, his wife, Tara, brought to his attention that cruising in their precious Pony had become less than enjoyable.

The Lamberts enjoyed 15 years of fun hot-rodding in the old 'Stang, and they both agreed to get it back to a more streetable demeanor. George and Tara sold all the go-fast parts and sent it away for a frame-up paint resto. A friend from Bill Mathews Auto Body of Springfield, Illinois, worked on the car in his free time, spending nearly two years perfecting the complete body resto and current BASF Extreme Series' Purple Haze color-changing paint job.

Even though it had a show-car quality paint job, the latest stock '89 engine and drivetrain didn't offer much zip, and the car was garaged for nearly three years. George and Tara found their newly purchased Hayabusa could more than appease the need for speed until longtime friend Clint Faugust, from Scott's Auto Parts in Virginia, llinois, called and said, "George, did I get a deal for you!" The two had tossed around the idea of reviving the Mustang by converting it into a Terminator Fox on several occasions. Clint found a wrecked '04 Cobra with only 14,000 original miles on it, so George sold the pocket rocket and the saga continued-or just began, as neither of them realized the magnitude of the project they were about to embark on.

The first dilemma of the project was the engine electronics. The more phone calls George made, the more it became apparent that nobody wanted to write a program to bypass the Cobra's factory passive anti-theft system, a necessity if they were to mate the state-of-the-art Cobra electronics with the prehistoric '80 ignition-key system. This is when they got the idea to make a complete swap: every engine, drivetrain, interior, and electronic piece, potentially alleviating this and many issues surfacing along the way.

It became apparent that the easiest way to make the swap was to leave everything mounted on the '04 Cobra panels and hand-fit the firewall, transmission tunnel, and parts of the floorpan, minimizing the alterations. Clint, with the help of his son Aaron, swapped the firewall with the heating and air conditioning, pedal supports, and steering column intact. The same would hold true for the shifter and seat-mounting points, especially since the '80 model body was only set up for lapbelts.

After retrofitting the new Cobra interior and dash wiring, it was evident there was no place for the ECU and power distribution modules in the usual passenger-side kick panel, so all 106 wires had to be lengthened by nearly 18 feet to reach behind the rear seat. George began the painstaking task when he noticed many of the wires, mostly for the crankshaft sensor, had a special aluminum-type shielding. One phone call to Hometown Garage in Pleasant Plaines, Illinois, and Jim Saathoff soothed George's fears, assuring he could see George through the overwhelming task.

Next, Bill Collins from Bill's Mustang Restorations in Rochester, Illinois, took the lead aligning the Cobra radiator supports, engine mounts, K-member and spindles, transmission, and IRS rear suspension. This included utilizing all of the Cobra fuel lines and brake lines. An '80 Mustang with a massive, high-tech, four-corner disc brake system with an operational ABS is impressive. After mounting the engine in its new home, the Cobra fuel tank and filler tube was fitted to ensure the factory dual fuel-pump setup was available for the supercharged Four-Valve engine's voracious appetite for fuel.

Since the factory heat exchanger did not fit in the '80 front valance, George increased the cooling capacity. To accomplish this, an Afco double-row heat exchanger was altered for AN fittings to attach to an efficient Meziere electric water pump. Additionally, the system capacity was upgraded via a Vortech storage tank from FC Customs. The stock capacity of just under a gallon now circulates 2.2 gallons of supercharger-quenching antifreeze.

The trick part about the whole deal was since they transplanted all the pieces instead of retrofitting, the Kooks long-tubes, X-shape crossover, and Magnaflow after-cat fit perfectly as delivered.

The interior, however, was a completely different story. It was a nightmare until Mike Rodden from Alfa Omega Car Audio in Tailorville, Illinois, stepped up to the plate with some of his fiberglass modeling magic. He custom-fit the door panels, front kick panels, and rear inner quarters to fit the drastically different Fox-body shell. The armrests alone became a three-week undertaking for George and Clint as they mated Ranger, Taurus, and Cobra pieces for what appeared to be a Frankenstein re-creation. They glued together pieces of hobby-store foam and sculpted with a coping saw, files, sandpaper, and a lot of elbow grease before applying a coat of structural adhesive, similar to that used to repair bumper covers.

In May 2006, the Lamberts' Terminator Fox Rod came to fruition, but George and Tara were left with mixed emotions after driving the car. They had many fond memories from late-night blasts down the boulevard to all the hot summer cruises in the park with the sunroof out for the last 24 years. Now the car feels and drives like an '04 Cobra with 14,000 miles on it. It seems as though they get more double takes in the car now than they ever did. The overwhelming attention drawn at car shows makes the entire painstaking journey worthwhile.

Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlockStock '04 CobraDisplacementStock '04 Cobra CrankStock '04 CobraRodsStock '04 CobraPistonsStock '04 CobraCamshaftsStock '04 CobraCylinder HeadsStock '04 CobraRocker ArmsStock '04 CobraIntake ManifoldStock '04 CobraThrottle BodyStock '04 CobraMass Air MeterStock '04 CobraPower AdderStock Eaton w/Stage IV port/polish by Stiegemeier Head Porting Service Fuel SystemStock '04 Cobra w/all AN-fittings & braided linesExhaustKooks long-tubes, Kooks X-shape crossover with high-flow cats and 2.5-in Magnaflow after-cat systemTransmissionStock '04 Cobra T-56RearendStock '04 Cobra IRS

Electronics Engine ManagementStock '04 Cobra w/Stiegemeier dyno tune on Diablo ChipIgnitionStiegemeierGaugesAuto Meter DPSS digital tach & fuel pressure gauge; Hilton Boost Overlay, extends factory gauge to 15 lbs of boost

Suspension And ChassisK-MemberStock '04 CobraControl ArmsStock '04 CobraSpringsMaximum Motorsports Coilover: Front, 325 lb/in; Rear, 500 lb/inStrutsStock '04 CobraCaster/CamberMaximum MotorsportsBrakesStock '04 CobraWheelsOE Wheels Direct, 340 Cobra w/spinner centersTiresKuhmo