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1989 Ford Mustang LX Notchback - Real-World Rumbler
This backyard-built LX proves that performance doesn't have to be pricey.
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As magazine editors, it is our job to show you the most interesting and unique Mustangs that are perfect in every aspect. They stimulate the imagination, offer us project ideas, and look great on our covers (truth be told, they also help us sell magazines). Some are racetrack record-holders, while others are trailer-queen showpieces. Big-dollar engines and incredibly wild paint schemes blatantly expose the size of the checkbook that was used to build it. Heck, some of the powerplants alone are worth more than a new F-350 dually. With an unlimited source of funds and a custom car builder under contract, you, too, could have one of these mega-machines worthy of its own episode on a reality show.
It's nice aspiring to own such cars, but for many of us, that's not reality. The truth lies in what you and I drive-real-world cars that get driven to our 9-to-5s.
Sharing our thoughts is Dennis Severs of Louisville, Kentucky. Dennis knew what he liked because of his past experience with earlier Fox Mustangs, and he wanted back in. But finding a clean example for a reasonable price was elusive at best. "I had an '89 notch eight years ago and regretfully sold it." he says. "I couldn't find one I liked, so I decided to build my own." While on the hunt, he stumbled across a friend's '89 LX notchback that was serving duty as a station car. After a quick $800 transaction, the coupe was his, and within a few weeks, a smacked-up LX 5.0 donor car showed up in his driveway.
Dennis used the 5-liter car for its drivetrain and sheetmetal, and the little LX began to take a life of its own. After yanking out the 2.3-liter boat anchor, the shell was straightened and painted by none other than Dennis himself. To keep the car pure to its notchback roots, he avoided gaudy bodywork and installed a trim Blue Oval Industries spoiler and a simple Cobra R-style fiberglass cowl hood. To get the car where it needed to be, he cut and welded a bunch of pieces to fix the crumpled driver-side rear quarter-panel before he was able to lay down the House of Kolor urethane sealer primer and three layers of basic black paint. Mind you, this was all done in his garage with nothing more than an air compressor and a store-bought spray gun.
The donor car had plenty of hard mileage on it. Not wanting to go through the trouble of installing it into his LX just to find it nonfunctional, Dennis placed the engine on a stand and tore it down. What started as a mild buildup wound up being a grander project, but as they say, "While you're at it, might as well put in a new one." So, the engine was upped to 347 ci and fully built from top to bottom. Since he didn't have a machine shop in the corner of his shed, Dennis had to rely on someone else to perform the work. A local machine shop bored and honed the block 0.030-inch over and clearanced it for the 3.400-inch stroke crankshaft. Once back in his garage, Dennis linked the Keith Black pistons to the Eagle I-beam rods and slid in a hydraulic roller Comp Cams bumpstick with 212/218 degrees of duration at 0.050 lift and 0.512 lift on both sides. The top half of the 5.6-liter is straight out of the Edelbrock catalog consisting of Performer RPM heads with 2.02/1.60 valve sizing and a Performer RPM intake manifold. A matching 70mm throttle body lets the air in while a 75mm bullet Pro-M meter measures it. In keeping with his "money well spent" theme, Dennis moved on to the exhaust and picked up a set of BBK ceramic-coated long-tube headers with matching H-pipe, and hushed everything down with a MAC after-cat kit. As with everything he chose, the power parts are meant for real-world use-reliable, robust, and cost effective.
Since Dennis saved so much money by doing everything himself, he was able to greatly improve upon the front suspension with a UPR tubular K-member kit complete with matching control arms and caster plates. KYB struts and shocks were used with DropZone coilover springs to offer control and compliance for his street-bound ride. The 8.8 rear, also sourced from the donor car, was beefed up with 3.55 gears and new control arms. Because of the tighter confines under the front wheelwells,17x8 Cobra R wheels are used with 225/45/17 Hankook Ventus K102 tires. Out back, where there's a bit more room, wider 17x9s are used with 265/40/17 meats.
Although it won't garner a parking spot in the Automotive Hall of Fame, this LX proves that Mustangs are meant to be driven, not turned into sideshow spectacles. Maybe one day when a distant, rich relative leaves us his estate, will we be able to finance a car that all can gawk at. No offense to our millionaire readers, but we'd rather drive the cars we build with our own hands. Real cars get parking tickets, flat tires, and the thumbs-up from fellow Stang bangers. Our museum is the local burger joint. Where's yours?