Dale Amy
July 19, 2007
It's amazing what a dedicated group of volunteers can accomplish in less than a month, turning a well-used '92 LX into something unique. Best we can tell, the ram-air hood, rear wing, and convertible styling bar are from Cervini's. Though there's nothing wrong with the chrome '95 Cobra R wheels, after our photo shoot they were replaced by 20-inch custom Foose wheels. The Lance Armstrong-inspired LIVESTRONG theme comes through loud and clear.

Horse Sense: Community support continues, including a couple of fundraising benefit car shows featuring Tom's LIVESTRONG Mustang. He even has his own Web site: www.tommywidenhofer.com. Appropriately enough-given the Overhaulin'-type speed of the convertible's reconstruction-Tom recently spent some time with Chip Foose, joining the West Coast styling guru in a 20-minute autograph session. Chip also chipped in-sorry-a set of his 20-inch rims and tires, along with a hand-drawn rendering of Tom's car on the big, new rolling stock.

Similar to most of us who produce and read this magazine, Tom Widenhofer lives and breathes Mustangs. So, long before the age at which he would be legally able to drive, he began working on a scheme to get one. He demonstrated a sense of resourcefulness and common-sense capitalism not always evident in teenagers. With his dad, Walter, Tom gradually began acquiring lesser cars, giving them necessary minor repairs and detailing, and then selling them for a profit. All proceeds were allocated toward the purchase of his first Mustang. That reward was this '92 5.0 LX convertible; it looked completely different upon its acquisition on eBay. The idea was for Tom and Walterer to do the father-and-son thing, working together to gradually get the ragtop ready for Tom's 16th birthday and driver's license-a date that was still two years distant.

That plan was suddenly and cruelly put on hold when Tom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Upon surgical removal, it was found to be cancerous. At this point, the undeterred young man resolved to give his project a "LIVESTRONG" theme, inspired by Lance Armstrong's Foundation and successful battle with cancer. A second surgery became necessary, along with weeks of chemo-therapy and radiation treatment at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, far removed from Tom's home in Punta Gorda, Florida.

While Tom was in Tennessee, his father had the idea of calling an old high-school friend up in Butler, Pennsylvania. That guy was Shawn Wolfe; he paints and restores cars strictly as a hobby. Walter wondered if Shawn could paint Tom's LX while he was in the hospital-and had no idea what sort of ball he had started rolling in the process.

Knowing Tom's situation, Shawn agreed to the request with enthusiasm and enlisted the help of no less than 30 individuals and businesses. They volunteered labor and parts so, rather than a simple paint job, the LX received a complete and thorough makeover from the engine to the chassis, body, paint, and entertainment system. The reborn ragtop emerged from Shawn's garage the way you see it here in only three and a half weeks-it's the Pennsylvania version of Overhaulin'. Such speed was essential, as the idea was to have the car awaiting Tom's return to Florida from Tennessee. Nearly 100 friends and family were on hand for the occasion, and the unveiling was broadcast via Web cam back to the generous folks in Pennsylvania who had made it all possible. We're not sure who was more pumped: Tom or his dad. "The pulling together of so many people for a common good still amazes me," Walter says. "How a group can focus for a boy in need of support makes me proud to call everyone involved our friend."

But this is a 5.0 Mustang, so the job is never finished, right Tom? The resilient young dude's wish list includes a Roush crate engine, nitrous oxide, and a Paxton supercharger. His parents' hope? That he learns to drive before his go-fast wishes come true. At the young age of 14, driving sessions are limited to parking lots, but Tom has apparently mastered the intricacies of the LX's stock T5 tranny.

As usual, there's a complete list of mechanical mods in our 5.0 Tech Specs box, but we can't leave without mentioning the potent entertainment gear from Kenwood and JL Audio. And the crowning touch for a 14-year-old guy? The Xbox tucked in the trunk, preloaded with 30 games and viewed through a monitor mounted in the passenger-side sun visor. That might be enough to tide Tom over until the day he can get his driver's license. Live strong, Tom.

There's nothing radical underhood, only a lightly modified, super-sanitary engine bay-at least for the time being. Tom has visions of a Roush crate motor, Paxton blower, and giggle-gas. His parents prefer that he learns to drive first. The "LIVESTRONG" valve covers are a nice touch.

Procar seats, the Kenwood Excelon head unit for the potent sound system, as well as a controller and monitor for the trunk-mounted Xbox are the major interior mods. The rest just looks new.

A Little Help From His Friends...Walter says, "There was a great group of people who came together from many different professions to make this project a success for Tom. The following is a list of the major contributors in labor, knowledge, and time."

Shawn Wolfe Project management, paint, and body
Kevin Kneiss Engine
Michael Vargo Engine
Gary Garman Labor
Denny Glasgow Parts
Steve White Suspension
Chris Galida Labor
Harold Nolan Transmission and brakes
Bruce Thomas Interior
Bob Murphy Labor
Nate Smith Audio installation
Bob Fello {{{Transport}}}
Scott Stepp Transport
5.0 Tech specs
Block Engine Management
StockStock with FRPP 8mm wires
Crankshaft K-Member
RodsControl Arms
Compression RatioSprings
FRPP B303Stock
FRPP Cobra upper and lower17x9-in Cobra R-style
Throttle BodyTires
Mass AirRear Suspension
Fuel PumpFRPP
StockControl Amrs
MAC H-pipe, Flowmaster mufflersWheels
Transmission17x9-in Cobra R-style
Stock with 3.73 gears