Frank H. Cicerale
November 1, 2008

Life can be quirky at times. In a sense, life is like a road you travel on. Every now and then you hit a few bumps, but other times you come to a nice, long, smooth stretch of pavement where you can open things up. Then you come to a fork in the road. In front of you lies a decision, and you sit there, contemplating which way to go, because once that decision is made, there's no turning back.

What if there was an access road connecting those two roads, though? That would be great, wouldn't it? This way, in case the path you took is one you really don't like, you can just hop off and go to the other one. Sounds like something George Carlin would come up with, but it can happen. Just ask Brandon Gibson.

Brandon is a mechanical designer from Keswick, Virginia, and knows all too well that sometimes the path chosen isn't the one that gets you to your ideal destination. Take his '90 Mustang LX coupe, for example. What was intended to be a mild daily driver has evolved and changed its direction into one righteous, Windsor-packing Fox-body.

In Brandon's defense, the intention was there. It just metamorphasized into what the car has become as you see it here. "I have a red '93 LX with a 331 stroker and S-Trim blower, so when I bought this car, I knew I wanted it to be naturally aspirated," Brandon says. Truth be told, the car did end up as an N/A car, though with a much bigger bullet under the hood.

While Brandon has yet to take a trip down the quarter-mile in his '90 Mustang, all of the parts and pieces are there for it to gallop to some quick times.

When Brandon picked up the coupe, it was in pretty sorry shape. "It had a blown head gasket, so the original plan was to fix that, get a paint job, and drive the car." Sounds like a solid plan to us. Too bad it never materialized.

"The whole project kind of snowballed," Brandon says. "I originally had planned for the car to be a small-motor daily driver with nitrous. It was going to have a 306 with a set of AFR heads and a decent shot of nitrous, but when I started to take the car apart to fix the blown head gasket, I saw just how nasty it was. The motor needed an entire rebuild, so I figured since I had to replace the motor, I might as well go bigger."

What started out as a minor build for a daily driver morphed into a full-on restification of a tired little Pony. While a new paint job was in the plans all along, Brandon didn't hesitate to strip the car down to a bare shell and bring it and the remaining pieces to a friend who would perform the bodywork. Said friend shot the flanks of the Stang in Burnt Orange, which truly gleams in the Virginia morning sunlight. While the bodywork was being performed, Brandon hashed out the powerplant combination that would make its way into the engine bay of the nimble Fox-body. Knowing that a taller-deck Windsor powerplant would soon reside there, he ordered up a Cervini's 4-inch fiberglass cowl hood, which was promptly laid on and shot in the same hue as the car. With the exterior reassembled, Brandon took possession of his car, and set out to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Rather than rebuild the stock 5.0L that came with the coupe and throw some sauce at it, Brandon went with the "bigger is better" mantra, and bolted together a thumping 408 Windsor.

Already knowing that if he was going to build a motor, it might as well be a bigger one, Brandon touched base with Ed Curtis and Keith Craft Racing, eventually using the shop's combined knowledge and his thoughts to spec out a smoking-hot 408 Windsor. Based around a vintage '70 351 block, Keith Craft machined the block to accept the stroker bottom-end assembly, which consists of an Eagle 4340 forged crank, JE slugs, and Eagle H-beam connecting rods. Lubrication of the innards is a task handled by a stock Ford oil pump and a Canton pan.

With the short-block assembled, it was time for Brandon to finish things off. A custom roller bumpstick courtesy of Ed Curtis was stuffed in, followed by a set of AFR 225 aluminum heads that showcase 2.08 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves that help set the compression ratio at a pump-gas friendly 10.5:1. Scorpion 1.6:1 roller rockers tickle the valves open, while topping the 408-inch stroker is an Edelbrock Super Victor intake.

A friend of Brandon's sprayed the Pony this Burnt Orange hue. The color is perfect when combined with the shine from the Billet Specialties wheels. A 4-inch cowl hood from Cervini's adds even more appeal to the look of the car, and clears the taller-deck Windsor underneath.

It takes the right amount of air, fuel, and spark to make any kind of power, so Brandon made sure he kicked in some pretty nice parts to make his 408 sing at full song. The air side of things is handled by an Accufab 90mm throttle body, a PMAS Velocity 95mm mass air meter, a Wilson Manifolds intake elbow, and an Anderson 4-inch Power Pipe. A set of 42-pound injectors squirt the go-juice after receiving it from a 255-lph in-tank pump. An Aeromotive regulator keeps the pressure in check. As for spark, an MSD 6AL ignition box teams up with an MSD coil, stock distributor, MSD wires, and Autolite 3924 plugs to light things off. Exhaust fumes are funneled through a set of Kooks 1 7/8-inch headers and a custom 3-inch cross-pipe and exhaust system. Flowmaster's new Super 44 muffler cases keep the sound levels to a respectable and ear-pleasing volume. As for the tune, the stock Ford A9L is all that's needed.

Hunkered down in the trans tunnel is the stock T5 five-speed stick, though Brandon plans to swap that out for a TK0600. A King Cobra clutch gets the car to move from a dead stop, while a Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum driveshaft transfers the power to the 8.8-inch rear out back. Brandon stocked the rear with a bunch of goodies, including a set of 4.10 cogs, 31-spline Superior axles, and a 31-spline Ford limited-slip differential. Brandon changes gears via a Steeda Tri-Ax shifter.

Knowing the Windsor engine would require some frontend suspension modifications, Brandon did what he needed to do before the motor was lowered into the car. An Anthony Jones K-member gets the motor down in the engine bay a bit more than the stock piece, while a set of A-arms from the same manufacturer help handle the extra heft of the 408. Strange 10-way adjustable struts conspire with 140-pound springs to keep the frontend in check, while a manual-steering rack conversion sheds some weight off the car. Alignment and frontend adjustment is made easier thanks to a Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plate installation, and a pair of Maximum Motorsports subframe connecters tightens up the chassis.

Out back, HPM upper and lower control arms, Strange 10-way shocks, and the stock rear springs help keep the hind end planted to the tarmac.

For rolling stock, Brandon chose a set of five-spoke rims from Billet Specialties that give the car its drag-race appearance. The 15x3.5s up front are wrapped up in 155/80/15 BFGoodrich shoes, while the 15x10 rears are enveloped in 275/60/15 Mickey Thompson ET Streets. Hiding behind the rims are '96 GT brakes fore and stock drums aft.

The last thing to tackle on the car's revival was the black leather interior. Brandon left the inside pretty much as Ford designed it, though he made a few subtle changes, such as the addition of a custom dash stocked with Auto Meter Ultra Lite II gauges and some billet trim pieces.

"I have to admit, this was not at all how I had planned for the car to turn out," Brandon says. "I guess you could say I'm a detail freak. I wanted a daily driver, but I wanted it to be as clean as my '93. Like I said, the whole project just snowballed on me. The best part about the car is the stance.The look and stance are just perfect."

While Brandon's '90 coupe may have started out with a different mindset, its completion shows just what a change of direction can do.