Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
May 21, 2010

When most of us think of the bottom side of our Mustangs, we think of oil splatter, dirt, rocks, undercoating, and in some cases, rust. And you know what? That's perfectly fine with us; that's how it should be. We think of the bottom side of our Mustang like the bottoms of our feet. We don't give it a second thought until something goes wrong. However, there is a small contingent of Mustang owners with a sickness that keeps them from having the same attitude. These people think the underside of a Mustang should be just as nice as the topside. We know Mike Murillo has said waxing the underside of a Mustang is good for a few tenths, but that argument doesn't hold street value.

Loveland, Ohio's Joe Palmer is one of those appreciative of a clean undercarriage, but that's because the majority of Mustangs he sees are overridden with rust.

When Joe and his wife, Maggy, came across this former Florida Highway Patrol '92 LX coupe the underside's condition is what sold them on the car. That condition was a surprise to Joe since the car had been sitting for roughly six years leading up to the time of purchase. However, Joe and Maggy had the coupe up and running well in no time flat.

With the existing push-rod combination, a drag suspension, slicks, and 150hp worth of nitrous, the coupe ran a best of 11.75/114 mph. The car stayed in that form a couple years before its engine found its way into Maggy's LX hatch. The plan was to take the coupe to another level, but at that time Joe didn't really know what direction to go. "I knew I had the budget to build something nice," Joe says, "but I wanted to go fast also."

Joe looked into building a 408 Windsor, but knew he would have to bolster the rest of the drivetrain, which was outside of the aforementioned budget. Joe wanted to be able to drop in an engine and go. Craig Newport of Cincy Speed suggested an '03 Cobra swap, an idea with which Joe fell in love. "I jumped in with both feet," Joe says in reference to prepping the coupe for '03 Cobra power.

The coupe's interior came out to make room for '03 Cobra pedals and a hydra-boost system. Joe ordered an Anthony Jones Engineering K-member designed to swap a modular engine into a Fox Mustang. Joe and Maggy were able to get all the brake lines to share fluid with each other as the couple progressed toward the Cobra swap.

The only components missing were the actual engine and transmission, but a dose of reality set in as '03 Cobra engine and transmission packages were still in the $8,000 range at that time. "Still out of my budget," Joe says. Here to save the day was his friend Nick Middleton, who happened across an '01 Roush Stage III engine with all required wiring and a 3650 transmission behind it. Joe and Maggy disassembled the engine, detailing everything in the process. The 3650 was sold to help pay for a Tremec TKO transmission, while Joe reused the Roush aluminum flywheel with a SPEC Stage 3+ clutch.

Before sliding the Roush Stage III Two-Valve into place, Joe added a Metco Motorsports 2.57-inch supercharger pulley and 90mm idler pulleys. A Gary Rohe-built 8.8 with 9-inch ends can handle more power than the car will ever have. Joe's long-tube headers required modification by Rigid Race Cars in order to work with the Flaming River low-profile steering shaft kit.

A Glenn's Performance Sleeper fuel tank found its way in the car, with Aeroquip fuel lines and an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump. "Cincy Speed's Adam Maurer loaded a base tune into my SCT X-Cal 3 and she started right up," Joe says.

Greg at 131 Collisions color-matched the hood just three days prior to us taking these photos, which was pretty hard considering no one really knows the car's paint origins. It was painted just before becoming off-duty, so Joe doesn't know the exact color or code.

And Joe was worried about the car's underside...