Modified Mustangs & Fords
'89 Mustang - Always Wanted
When she was 16 years old, Nicole Belanger had a dream: to build her ultimate expression of the Fox GT, starting with a well-used four-cylinder. Although that project got sidelined, Nicole didn't give up and today has the Mustang she . . .
Other issues included mating the AOD trans to the originally five-speed-backed engine and the fuel system; installing a new throttle cable; and fitting new fuel rails, lines, and pump. "The engine and transmission install was a fun one," says Nicole. "We got the engine in, and here we were in this unheated garage in the middle of winter in New Hampshire trying to mate this V-8 with the AOD from the parts car. The first time we tried, it just wouldn't fit. We spent an agonizing 25 minutes and nothing. My dad was starting to say that Fords suck and I'd gotten the wrong transmission, but then we discovered that because the engine was from a five-speed car, it still had the pilot bearing in place." With that item removed, the torque converter could now mate with the flywheel and the whole transmission could be bolted up without further adieu.
Replacing the throttle cable was another task that Nicole didn't enjoy. "Try pulling an almost-seized throttle cable off the end of the gas pedal with your feet pushed against the headrest," she says. Still, she got there in the end, and with the old cable finally off, its replacement went on fairly easily.
The '93 LX was slowly coming together as a GT replica. Nicole did the wiring and cleaned up the engine before it went in, fitting new gaskets and fuel rails, along with the previously mentioned water pump. Jason helped out with the process, along with friend Joe Bellandi, who provided some knowledgeable info on the driveline swap.
With the engine, transmission, and fuel rails installed, it was time to add the rest of the V-8 fuel system. "Because we were changing the driveline, we needed completely new fuel lines. They run along the right-side floor on a 5.0 car, as opposed to the left side on a four-cylinder." Nicole figured that due to the fiddly nature of this task, it was best farmed out to a shop.
By May 2004, when the weather was warmer, the car was approaching completion. "We were getting there, but I still needed a few things. On Memorial Day weekend, with just odds and ends to finish to be really done, I worked like mad--of course, it rained the entire weekend." So there was Nicole, like a drowned rat, lying on a soaked blanket, working on her car. "I managed to install the instrument cluster, vacuum lines, and radiator. I reinstalled the front fenders and bumper cover, along with plugging all the accessories into the factory harness except the alternator. I found I didn't have a connector--I must've forgotten to take it from the donor car. I managed to find a local Mustang parts dealer, Rick Menards, and he gave me the right harness so I could hook up my alternator. I don't know what I would have done without his help."
All Fired Up
After some issues with her new Holley 255-lph fuel pump, which wouldn't turn on, Nicole finally got it working. Then the car wouldn't start. "I was at a shop getting the transmission TV cable set properly, and when the car wouldn't run, I had it towed home. I thought it must be an electrical problem, so I went through the wiring and found an incorrect ground connection. I asked Jason to bring in the video camera to witness the car starting for the first time. I turned the key and the starter cranked and cranked, and sputtered. I cranked the starter again and the engine fired. It was amazing to finally see the car I had worked so hard on actually come to life."
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Unfortunately, another issue reared its ugly head not long afterward. The new fuel lines Nicole had opted for were replacement OEM lines, which use rubber connectors to link them from the hard lines underneath to the fuel rails on the engine. "The shop that installed them routed the rubber sections outside of the sway bar, so every time I turned the front wheels, the right-side front tire would rub against the line extension," she says. "It only took two days before the rubber part failed and gas spewed out all over the place. Luckily, I had the windows down when that happened." Nicole soon addressed the problem, and now with Russell braided lines installed, that issue won't likely surface again.
Nicole has also been busy enjoying her car. She takes it to shows and cruises in the summertime, to Woodward, of course, and even down the dragstrip at Epping. Nicole can proudly boast, just like her license plate says, that 9 years after she got her first 2.3 LX, she's finally driving a "4NOMORE."