Sharad Raldiris
December 1, 2008
Our test subject is this '89 Mustang 5.0 LX. We found it hiding out near Cincinnati, Ohio, and purchased it from the original owner with only 42,000 miles on the odometer.

Horse Sense:
Twenty years ago, aftermarket heads, cams, and intakes weren't simply a phone call or a mouse click away. Racers such as Bob Cosby, Tony Defeo, Neil Van Oppre, and several others had to get it done with the factory engine. Their efforts laid the foundation for the 5.0 craze that carries on to this day.

"Honey, I promise-I'm done buying and selling Mustangs. I'm gonna keep this one forever!" I'm not sure what possessed me to make that promise. However, I steadfastly maintain my innocence in breaking it.

Several months later on a cold Decem-ber day, a rowdy Second-gear power slide into a highway divider left my '00 GT twisted up. So there I was, looking for a replacement. I suppose it was a blessing in disguise: The car looked great, but I had always preferred the older pushrod cars.

Armed with insurance money from the accident, a large tax return, and a rock-solid excuse for my wife, I began searching for a new Mustang. The number of options was overwhelming. I love the S197s, but I just don't need that kind of monthly payment. I think the New Edge Mustangs may be the best-looking generation, but I couldn't justify spending so much money on a car that would still leave me craving an engine swap. The truth is, I never really got over the Fox-body Mustangs. Maybe it's because I was raised on them. Maybe it's because the Fox was the king of the stoplight drags in the early '90s when I was in high school. Either way, I knew I wanted an '89-'93 Mustang, but it had to be clean.

You rarely ever see a 5.0 with an engine compartment this original. It still has the rubber boot on the distributor.

I probably looked at over 200 Mustangs online or in person in the weeks following my accident. Ultimately, I settled on this '89 5.0 LX. It was a one-owner, 42,000-mile car that had been garage-kept almost all of its life. It was mostly stock with a few tasteful modifications. I felt it was the perfect foundation for a Fox rod project, so I snatched it up without even negotiating on the price. The previous owner (whom I owe a debt of gratitude to for his meticulous preservation of the car) actually got choked up as he signed over the title. I can't say I blame him-it marked the end of an era for him, but I had big plans for the car, so I rushed it home and dove right in.

The car was beautiful, alright, but boy was it slow. It had been so long since I'd driven a stock 5.0, I guess I underestimated what the years of technology had done for our beloved ponycars. My deceased Mustang (you know, the one with the engine I didn't like?) would undoubtedly have run circles around my new car, which was unacceptable. I spent weeks contemplating what I wanted out of the car as a long-term goal and what it would take to achieve that goal. It needed to be fast, but completely functional as a daily driver. This was no garage queen. The goal was lofty, but as they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. I spoke with Editor Turner about the project and we laughed about how much fun it would be to "molest a stocker" like this one.

Step one was to put the car in the 12s without digging into the stock motor. Weight-loss and traction were the order of the day. I'm no Mustang Melvin, but even I cringed as the air conditioner, power steering, and smog pump were removed. We replaced the weighty factory alternator bracket with a simpler and lighter mount from March Performance. Then we removed the front sway bar and the charcoal canister, along with a few other brackets and covers. We replaced the belt-driven radiator fan with an S-blade electric fan from Summit Racing. The last underhood modification was to remove the battery and relocate it to the trunk using an aluminum battery box from Taylor.

On the inside, we replaced the cumbersome factory armrest with an armrest-delete panel from Latemodel Restoration Supply. Next, the factory radio and amplifier were replaced with a JVC CD/DVD player from Xtreme Audio. Underneath, the car already had a BBK off-road H-pipe, so we replaced the factory after-cat with 2 1/2-inch MAC Pro-Dumps. Of course, big-time weight reduction and traction came in the form of a swap to Weld Draglites with BFGoodrich 275/50-15 drag radials, also from Summit Racing, with the hope that the tires and previously installed 3.73 gear would launch hard enough to run in the 12s.