September 1, 2009

You may not recognize Lidio Iacobelli's yellow Fox body at a glance, but if you've followed the whole 5.0L Mustang movement since it began in the early 1990s, it should be a familiar sight. Starting in 1993, it's been featured in whole or in part in numerous tech story articles and, in 1997, it was featured in one of those distinctive BFGoodrich "color" ads that spawned count-less posters, T-shirts and more.

To say this LX notch has been around the block a few times is an understatement, but Iacobelli-who runs Detroit-area Alternative Auto Performance (www.alternativeauto.com)-has continually improved its performance and advanced 5.0L technology. The car's latest setup is the reason we've revisited this pioneering Pony car, as Iacobelli swapped his beloved supercharger setup for a single, intercooled turbo system.

The result of the new combination has been a stunning 9.30 e.t. at a whopping 155 mph. That was accomplished on the same, 18-inch street rubber seen in the accompanying photos. He couldn't help but notice our raised eyebrow and the "yeah... sure you did" tone in our voice after laying those numbers on us. "That's the reaction I get from everyone who wasn't at the track that day," he says. "But it's true. With slicks and front runners, it's probably got 8.80s in it."

That's crazy performance from a car whose chassis work includes a six-point rollbar and some fabricated frame connectors. The car is still running an 8.8-inch axle and AOD-E auto trans too. "It's not a race car at all; it's a street car," he says. "It comes out of the hole on motor and the turbo kicks in when rolling. It's a pretty easy launch; it did only a 1.62-second 60-foot time on the 9.30 pass."

To be accurate, the Tropical Yellow '88 Mustang that Iacobelli has flogged for the last two decades isn't his. It belongs to his wife, Lucy. "She bought it new when we were dating and drove it daily until we got married in 1991; it has about 44,000 miles on it and the first 30,000 or so came from her," he says. "Then, after we got married, I more or less took it over-but the title is still in her name." After the Mustang became family property, he ripped out the original AOD transmission and swapped in a T5. After promptly destroying it, he tried a Tremec transmission, before settling on the AOD-E that had been in the car for about 11 years.

Surprisingly, there have only been a couple of engines in the car over the years. Iacobelli stuck with the original 5.0L for years, and had great success with a succession of Vortech centrifugal blowers: A-trim, S-trim, SQ... you name it. "There was a Vortech in one form or another on it from 1993 through 2006," he says. "I had great success with them and I can't remember how many we installed on customer cars, so we knew them inside and out."

In 1999, Iacobelli took the LX off the road for a couple of years for a complete refresh. The body was resprayed by Steve Mulligan in the original Tropical Yellow (it is one of only 46 5.0L notchbacks made that year in the color), but with an extra dose of clear for a richer look. The only exterior mods are smoked headlamp and taillamp lenses, a low-profile cowl hood from HO Fibertrends, and a feature car rear spoiler. The interior is essentially stock, too, apart from the six-point 'cage and the obligatory A-pillar gauge pod.

The current engine, however, is anything but factory-original. Between the strut towers resides a 392-inch stroked Windsor that used the classic SVO four-bolt block as its foundation. The only mods to it include Cleveland-size main journals. Anchoring the rotating assembly in the block is a low-dough, cast Scat crankshaft that Iacobelli has used for about 11 years, including those various supercharged combinations. "It's not exotic, but it's durable," he says.