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1987 Ford Mustang LX - Family Matters
A One Owner LX Coupe Goes From Daily Driven Drudgery, To Open Track Warrior To Family Heirloom, Without Leaving The Clan. That's Because In The End It's All About
If you walked by this at a car show, it would be a mistake. Not only does this 1987 Mustang LX still belong to the first guy ever to have put his name on the title, but it's also got a long and rich history in the hands of said individual. Owner Dick Minnick picks up the story. "When I first got this car I was working for Ford Motor Company and obtained it new on the management lease program. I remember the original sticker price was $12,513. During my time at Ford, I had a dozen Mustangs and also had some T-bird Super Coupes that I ran as company cars, but this LX, it was special. I bought it out in April '87 for the price of $10,471. I wanted something I could tinker with, as I couldn't do that with the company rides."
Minnick would end up keeping this car, but at first, he loaned it out to his son. "That was one of the primary reasons why I got a coupe, so he could put his tennis rackets in the trunk while in high school." His son later took the car to Illinois when he went to grad school. Eventually, in 1996 Minnick decided to buy it back and bring it home to Michigan. "By the time it came into my possession again, the LX had 45,000 miles on the clock. The years of daily driver duty had taken their toll. The headlights were yellow, the heater core leaked and it had been involved in one minor accident. However, I felt it was still too good to let go for a song, which was one reason why I bought it back."
At first, Dick's intention was to just fix it up a bit - freshen the LX, so to speak. "The plan was to make it nice enough again so it could be driven in good weather and to do quite a bit of the work myself. However, by the time I got the car back to Michigan, my list of 'jobs' had grown considerably. My wife was questioning just how many more years she'd have to park her car in the driveway, while garage space was taken up by this Mustang. I was still working on average 60 plus hours a week, so that didn't leave a lot of time for hobby activities."
However, there came a point where Minnick decided to just tackle all the major mechanical work in one fell swoop. "I put a plan together and contacted a number of different builders to get quotes." In the end he settled on D&D Performance in Wixom, MI. "Don Walsh Jr., was very helpful and has been since that first time I contacted him - he's put a lot of time in with this car. Over the winter of 1996-97, Donnie installed a Ford GT40 crate motor, T-56 six-speed transmission (one of the first batch of 10 to come in), Auburn differential and 3.73 gears, along with Cobra R brakes, suspension pieces and assorted other bolt-ons." In the end almost all the original 'moving' parts had been replaced and once the car got strapped to the rollers, Minnick's former lease plan Mustang cranked 300 horsepower to the tires. The upgrades sharpened the performance envelope, particularly in the steering and braking department, but Minnick not only wanted the car to perform well, he also wanted to make sure it looked the part too, so that meant investing in body repair. "Having been driven in winter salt all those years, the car was suffering from rust, even though it appeared to be only 'minor' corrosion." The biggest problem concerned the doors and rear decklid. "Although Dick had determined they were showing minor signs of oxidation, the original doors and trunk couldn't be repaired. "It turned out they were too far gone already, so I went down South, to Tennessee, Georgia and Florida - eventually scoring replacement doors and a new lid. I found each of the doors in a salvage yard - but the decklid, that was a tougher deal - I eventually ended up buying a new one, because it is really hard to find a Fox coupe/convertible decklid that hasn't been drilled for holes."
Once he had the new pieces, however, a plan was put in action to have the car repainted in its original shade of Medium Shadow Blue Metallic, a process performed by Classic Autobody in Madison Heights, who partially disassembled the LX and used the then latest urethane clear coat process when repainting the Mustang. Once the paint had cured, reassembly of the car began, but Minnick felt that with the body done and the mechanicals having already been attended to, it was time for some love to be fostered on the interior.
Dick wanted a certain style of Recaro seats, but when the time came to purchase them, he discovered they'd been discontinued. "I didn't really care for the new ones, so I spoke to the guys at Recaro. They found some old frames and actually had enough parts left over to build me a pair of the old style seats, the only problem, was that the black fabric didn't go to well with the rest of the interior, which was Regatta Blue. I ultimately decided to convert the entire interior over to black, so I had the rear seat recovered in black fabric. However, as I'm sure you know, black interior panels, especially for a Fox coupe aren't always that easy to find ..." By the spring of 1998 things were coming along, but Dick wanted to do something with instrument cluster. "A lot of people just add on gauges, but I didn't want to do that, so I designed and built my own instrument cluster with seven Auto Meter gauges and put them in place of the stock ones inside the pod - I became a poster child for Auto Meter and they put my cluster on their website."
Once the gauge cluster had gone in, along with the seats, it was time to take the car back to D&D, this time for some engine work. "It was time to put on a supercharger, so I went with a Vortech A-trim and upgraded both the ignition and cooling system."
Having finally scored his missing black interior pieces, Dick figured now was a good time to install a roll-cage. "I put in a Kenny Brown 8-point cage, both for stiffness and to add protection, then I changed over the interior panels - everything was changed to black except the headliner." However, one of the toughest aspects of the whole project concerned the steering wheel. "I must have tried four different wheels. I wanted a Momo, but every time I tightened it down the hub would bind. I even changed the steering column and that didn't make a difference. In the end, I used the hub from an OEM wheel and designed a solid steel mounting adapter with a machined flange on top to mount the Momo - that cured the problem and it's worked fine ever since."
After the Minnick's moved to a new house (with a much larger garage), Dick started working on the car again and got into open tracking, so that meant more new gear, namely racing seatbelts and tires. Further suspension upgrades were also added. In 2002, Dick finally retired from Ford Motor Company, giving him more time to work and play with the car. "The fuel system was next on the list - I replaced the stock tank with a fuel cell, fitted a larger fuel pick up and filter, added braided lines, bigger fuel rails, adjustable pressure regulator and 42-lb injectors. I decided to eliminate the FMU that came with the blower and had Don Walsh Jr. custom program the EEC-IV with a performance tune. That was a huge improvement and the previous issues I'd had with a fuel mixture that was too rich at idle and too lean at high rpm were eliminated." So that was one problem dealt with, but the Mustang was still suffering from cooling issues. "The car ran hot after the supercharger was installed, so in 2003 I decided to tackle the cooling system. I fitted an Aluminum radiator, installed a Flex-a-lite electric fan and replaced the theromstat, but the car still ran hot. I decided to remove the A/C, fit an oil cooler and install a cowl induction hood and electric Meziere water pump, but I later went back to a mechanical pump and also upgraded to a more aggressive Flex-a-lite cooling fan - which finally solved the problem.
In 2004, the electrical system was redone and the battery relocated to the trunk for better weight distribution. I was really enjoying the car when I got the chance to drive it - with the T-56 it was great to row the gears. At the track it was a lot of fun. I never blew it up or wrecked out on the circuit, but a couple of times on the street things let go. One time after a session the alternator blew, but that's the price for running hard and fast."
However, the latest major incident (to date), was something completely un-track related. "I took the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise in 2004. The exhaust system had literally been cobbled together to provide clearance for the T-56 gearbox and during the cruise I got caught in traffic up in Pontiac. I banged the downpipes on the curb and the exhaust system literally came apart. It was a mess. I started looking around and found out about Stainless Works near Cleveland. I trailered the car down to them and they put on a full custom exhaust. I'll tell you, from the workmanship, the new piping will be the last thing to go on this car." Semi retired now, 'Blue Thunder,' still gets taken out for a blast once in a while, but asked if he'll sell it, his answer was. "Actually it's my daughter, she's got an '05 Mustang she traded a BWM on. She likes the car and loves driving stick. She's told me that I'm not to sell the '87. I think she might just hang on to it once I've had enough." Can you say family heirloom?
Dick Minnick's 1987 Mustang LX
Ford GT-40 5-liter crate V8
Ford Racing E-303 camshaft, GT-40 cylinder heads, 42-lb fuel injectors, 9mm plug wires, AGSF32C plugs, aluminum 3-core radiator, Max Flow mechanical water pump, cooling hoses and plumbing, Motorcraft FL300 external oil cooler; dual Pierburg 255 lph fuel pumps, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, Fuel Safe aluminum 20 gallon fuel cell, Vortech A-trim supercharger with 6 psi of boost, 8-rib blower belt, by-pass valve; Crane LX92 ignition coil, HI6-TR ignition control box; Stainless Works 1 5/8" long-tube exhaust headers, custom 2 1/2" exhaust and tailpipes; Optima Red Top battery (relocated to trunk)
1993 Mustang Cobra EEC-IV with custom tune by Don Walsh Jr.
D&D Performance Borg Warner T-56 six-speed conversion, Pro 5.0 shifter, Ford Racing King Cobra clutch, driveshaft; Auburn Pro differential, 3.73 gears
Kenny Brown 8-point steel roll cage, Lakewood driveshaft safety loop, Steeda strut tower brace
416 RWHP, 409 RWTQ
Best Et To Date: 13.0 @ 116 mph
Interior / Exterior
Dick Minnick's 1987 Mustang LX
Repainted original color of Medium Shadow Blue Metallic in urethane finish by Classic Auto Body; clear front corner lights; H.O. Fibertrends 3" cowl induction hood
Custom designed and built instrument cluster by Dick Minnick, Auto Meter 3-1/2" tachometer and speedometer, 5" monster tach/shift light, 2-5/8" boost and fuel pressure gauge, 2" oil pressure, temperature, water temperature and volt gauges; interior panels changed to black, Steeda shift handle, custom built Recaro LTL front bucket seats with Simpson five-point harnesses, recovered rear seat, Momo Corse 320mm steering wheel with custom designed hub and flange, Sony Radio with Infinity speakers, Bearcat scanner, Valentine radar detector
Wheels And Tires
1998 Ford Cobra aluminum wheels 17 x8" (front), 17 x 9" (rear); BF Goodrich G-Force KDW tires, 245/45-17 (front), 275/40-17 (rear)
Tokico Illumina front struts and rear shocks, Steeda Sport springs (front and rear), stabilizer bars (front and rear), adjustable caster/camber plates, bumpsteer kit; Ford Racing lower control arms (front and rear), 13" Cobra brakes with PBR calipers, Cobra 11.65" rear brake discs, five lug conversion; Custom K-member brace, Flaming River steering rack, steering limiters; Performance Friction racing pads, custom brake cooling ducts
Special thanks to Don Walsh Jr. of D&D Performance, (now Walsh Performance) who worked on this car like he owned it himself.