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1988 Mustang 5.0 LX - A King And His Castle
Live In A House, Or Live In Your Car?
Many of us have had to sell our cars for one reason or another. It's not a recent cultural phenomenon, as people have had to do this since the advent of the automobile. The good thing is that many of us eventually get back to having a hot rod in the garage. Such was the case with Bellingham, Massachusetts, resident John Serra II.
Before John came to the tough decision of selling his pride and joy, it was a day back in 1984 that got him hooked on Mustangs. "I was in high school in the parking lot and a guy in an '85 Mustang GT was doing donuts for minutes on end," says John. Shortly after that experience, John took a lot attendant position at the local Ford dealer in 1987 and fell in love with a particular '88 LX Mustang.
"It came in on the trailer and my job was to unload them and wash them before they went out on the lot. I told them I wanted that car," recalls John. He bought that very '88 Mustang and began reading Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords at the same time. Unfortunately, the Mustang was stolen.
Not one to easily give up, John's next purchase was an '89 5.0L Mustang hatchback. The black-on-red Pony didn't stay stock for long, and eventually culminated in a 351-powered terror with two stages of nitrous, a Tremec transmission, and 10.50 elapsed times in the quarter-mile. John held onto the car until 1994, when he faced a dilemma. A bad real estate investment left him looking for a new residence, and unfortunately he had to sell his pride and joy to make the down payment on his castle.
"I made a promise to myself that I would build another one," says John, and what you see here is the fruit of his labors. By 2001, John needed to get behind the wheel of a 5.0L Mustang in a bad way. His friend told him about an '88 LX that was for sale.
"The guy was asking $5,000, and I offered him $3,500 because it had holes in the floor and the trunk. He called me later, desperate to sell it, and after he put all of the stock parts back on, I bought it for $2,500."
Short of sticking it on a rotisserie, this Mustang has undergone a full restoration from the bottom to the top. Along the way, John has made numerous changes to the drivetrain and suffered many engine failures that tried his patience and his pocketbook.
The coupe started out with vintage J302 cylinder heads as some of the first mods, and the car put down a respectable 298 rwhp in normally aspirated form. From there, John bolted on a ProCharger P600B centrifugal supercharger. After awhile, he blew the head gaskets right out of the 302. When that engine came out, John pulled the stock T-5 transmission and installed a Tremec 3550 five-speed with a Centerforce clutch.
That combination didn't last long before John pulled the P600B and installed a Vortech V-2 SQ supercharger with an aftercooler. The combination produced a lot of power and broke a lot of parts.
"I've been taking stock blocks apart left and right," notes John. When the most recent engine went together, John swapped out the 3550 for a TKO 600 from Pro Motion Performance, along with a McLeod twin-disc clutch setup. Sooner or later, John is going to have to step up to a better block if he is to satiate his horsepower needs. For now, the latest stock block bullet has been filled with .030-over slugs from Diamond and forged connecting rods from Eagle. ABT Machine in Holliston, Massachusetts, handled the grind work on the block, while EZ Breathing Cylinder heads in Franklin, Massachusetts, ported the Trickflow Twisted Wedge aluminum cylinder heads.