Eric English
June 1, 2009

Horse Sense: Instead of using SN-95 axles with his 11.65-inch Cobra rear discs, Michael opted for a set of North Racecars caliper brackets (www.northracecars.com) which allow using stock-length Fox axles, in this case, 31-spline Mosers. Fox-spec axles are 0.75-inch shorter than their SN-95 brethren, providing a slightly narrower track that can mean the difference between annoying tire interference with the fender, and smooth sailing. Be aware that SN-95 rotors have a different hub diameter than Fox drums, so order your axles with this in mind. Both North Racecars and Moser have these hybrid units readily available.

Among the Mustangs we see in our travels from East to West, ones like Michael McKinnon's help maintain the excitement of our hobby as much as any. You'd think it pretty easy to become jaded by King of the Street competitors, 6-second Pro 5.0s, 700-horse GT500s, and so much more, and yet a well-executed bolt-on car emphasizes that our world doesn't need to revolve around cubic dollars or gargantuan horsepower. We like Michael's ride as well as any we're apt to see, as the attention to detail and elemental performance pieces are reminders of what make Mustangs so great to begin with.

To the point, this '91 began life as a lowly four-cylinder LX--likely all of about $10,000 brand new. With few exceptions, Mustangs have always been about overachieving--taking cars of humble origins and transforming them into giant-killers. It's been this way from day one, when Mustangs based on Ford's Falcon beat out far more expensive competitors in a variety of racing venues. You could say it's in the DNA, as the theme continues to this day in the S197 chassis. Consider that Mustangs have always been built within the budget constraints dictated by their cheapest entry level model and must overcome this challenge to perform beyond the ordinary. That's no slam to the nameplate, but rather a simple grasp of reality.

To be clear, today's six-cylinder Mustangs with sub-$20,000 MSRPs prohibit the kind of exotic designs or materials used in the likes of Corvettes or BMWs--neither of which offer a base model anywhere near a Ponycar price point. While Mustang performance variants such as Cobras and Shelbys perform at levels far beyond their V-6 sibs, they too are hindered by the model's basic economical design. Herein lies the perennial challenge to legions of Mustang fans everywhere--how to make an affordable car outrun those with an economic headstart?

Time-honored techniques for building hard-charging Mustangs have always included a good measure of hard work and ingenuity, and the case here is little different. Some financial resources are helpful as well, as an effort like Michael's isn't exactly a budget deal. Nevertheless, the economics are considerably different than walking into the local car dealer and shelling out for the latest and greatest. In this case, Michael's contribution has surely been countless hours of manual labor, while the ingenuity is provided by a vast aftermarket that has R&D'd the popular bolt-ons we know and love.

His sweat equity began when he acquired this worn '91 four-banger in 2005. Michael stripped the car to its shell and, with brother Bryan, began the straightening and massaging that would set the stage for the stunner it is today. Once the body was finally ready for paint, Michael chose to go with a Lexus-sourced Matador Red, using three-stage PPG Global materials. Yes, it helps that both McKinnons are experienced in the paint and body business, yet the many hours of work are just that--hard work.

The cowl hood and Saleen-style body pieces are all from Cervini's, providing just the right amount of eye candy to the otherwise rather plain LX hatchback. For motivation, Michael had Brad's Custom Auto in Seattle, Washington, build him a stout 331-inch, naturally aspirated engine based around a D.S.S. Level 2 block and 3.25-inch stroke rotating assembly. Street-friendly Edelbrock Performer heads team with a FRPP F303 cam for good top-end power, assisted by a Cobra intake, a BBK 65mm throttle body, and BBK short-tube headers.

Making for a balanced performance package are underpinnings from several sources. Maximum Motorsports got the call to rein in the notoriously squirrely rear suspension, including a torque arm, Panhard bar, adjustable lower control arms, and the company's Road and Track springs. Up front we find a QA1 K-member with stock control arms, MAC caster/camber plates, and another pair of Maximum Motorsports springs teamed with AGX adjustable struts. Michael assembled a competent four-wheel disc-brake system based around 10th Anniversary Cobra hardware, along with '94 spindles, a brake booster, and a master cylinder. If the gear doesn't quite rate giant-killer status, it's certainly more than enough to make this old Fox chassis an impressive performer--exactly the sort of overachiever Michael set out to build at the outset.

When asked if anything in particular had spurred his interest in Mustangs, the 23-year-old explained that he'd been bitten by the bug when he was just 15. He related watching a highly modified Fox car in a parking lot in the late '90s, the engine making all kinds of impressive sounds--big cam, blower whine, aggressive exhaust, and so on. Even knowing little to nothing about the subject at the time, he recognized this was something special. As the car left the lot and lit up the rear tires, the hook was set. Michael knew he'd have his own someday. That someday is today, and we congratulate the owner on the kind of effort that demonstrates why Fox Mustangs remain a compelling force in our hobby.

5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block
D.S.S. Level 2 prepared block, engine assembly by Brad's Custom Auto
Displacement
331ci
Crankshaft
D.S.S. 3.25-in cast
Rods
D.S.S. forged I-beam
Pistons
D.S.S. SX forged
Camshaft
FRPP F303 (226 degrees duration at 0.050, 0.512-in lift) w/FRPP 1.6 roller rockers
Cylinder Heads
Edelbrock Performer, 1.90/1.60 valves
Intake Manifold
FRPP Cobra
Throttle Body
BBK 65mm
Mass Air
C&L 73mm
Fuel System
255-lph Walbro pump, BBK regulator, FRPP 24-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust
BBK 15?8-in short-tubes, Bassani X w/cats, Bassani mufflers, 3-in tips
Transmission
T5 w/King Cobra clutch, Steeda Tri-Ax shifter
Rearend
8.8 w/3.55 gears, Eaton Posi, 31-spline Moser axles

Electronics
Engine Management
Stock EEC-IV
Ignition
MSD
Gauges
Auto Meter Lunar series

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-Member
QA1
Control Arms
Stock
Springs
Maximum Motorsports Road and Track
Struts
AGX adjustable
Caster/Camber
MAC
Swaybar
StockBrakes
13-inch 10th Anniversary Cobra, braided lines
Wheels
18x9-in Bullitt
Tires
245/35-18 Falken Azenis FK452
Rear Suspension
Springs
Maximum Motorsports Road and Track
Shocks
AGX adjustable
Control Arms
Maximum Motorsports adjustable lowers
Panhard Bar
Maximum Motorsports
Torque Arm
Maximum Motorsports
Brakes
11.65-in 10th Anniversary Cobra, braided
lines
Wheels
18x9-in Bullitt
Tires
275/35-18 Falken Azenis FK452
Chassis Stiffening
Steeda full-length subframe connectors