Pete Epple Technical Editor
January 13, 2010
Photos By: John Moore

For years, cars have been a canvas for enthusiasts to create art. Art, much like custom automobiles, is an interpretation by the artist. We've seen it in the form of automotive jewelry under the hood, in the interior, and of course, on the skin.

Kevin Tilney of New Baltimore, Michigan, didn't want the run-of-the-mill single-color Stang, so when he got busy, it was with something wild in mind. He is the owner of an amazing piece of art, as his '84 Mustang has seen a massive transformation from a beat-up roller to an incredible show car capable of blasting down the quarter-mile in 9 seconds.

In 2005, Kevin scoured Michigan looking for a new project car. He wanted a coupe and set out to find a suitable roller for the build. After finding this LX, Kevin started planning his new toy. "I had a 460 out of a '77 Ranchero I bought from my mother-in-law," explains Kevin. "I'm guessing it made about 400 hp." After hanging out at Diamond Fabrication (Warren, Michigan), Kevin saw the true potential of his Fox, and its show-car appearance and racecar power soon became a reality.

Kevin called Urban Asylum to handle the restoration. The '84 LX was in rough shape, so it was bolted to a rotisserie, and Urban Asylum brought this four-eyed Fox back to better-than-new condition. Months after the build started, the light at the end of the tunnel started to become brighter.

Once the mirror-like black basecoat was laid down, Kevin brought in Dan Carpenter of Art By Carp to make his coupe stand out. Carpenter went to work with his airbrush and added serious heat with "real flames" that wrap the nose and hood. Although this would be enough for most people, Kevin wanted more. The graphics tear down the side of the car and continue into the engine bay and undercarriage, including the driveshaft.

Once the paint and bodywork was complete, Diamond Fabrication went to work installing the running gear. With the late-'70s 460 resting under the hood, Kevin's coupe not only looked nasty, but IT also had big-block power to back up the bold paint. The car was completed only days before the 2007 Detroit Autorama car show where it was debuted. After some intense judging, Kevin's coupe took home the gold, placing first in its respective class.

With his Fox capable of holding its own on the show floor, it was time to put the big-block to good use. "We decided to take the car to the race track and see what it would do," Kevin tells us. "Unfortunately, it didn't do so well. After hitting it with a 200 shot of nitrous, we blew up the engine." Next, the search was on for a new powerplant, and a friend informed Kevin about a Ford big-block that was for sale. Kevin inquired and soon had a bigger-inch bullet for his custom coupe.

Holbrook Racing Engines, of Livonia, Michigan, built the 532ci mill that started with a stock 460 block. Diamond pistons fill the bores and are moved by a set of aluminum connecting rods that are attached to a cast steel crankshaft. The combination makes 13.5:1 compression under a set of Blue Thunder aluminum heads. A Comp Cams 0.720-inch-lift roller camshaft manipulates the valves with the help of Harland Sharp rocker arms. The air/fuel mixture enters the engine through a 1,050-cfm carburetor, and exits through a set of custom headers.

To ensure plenty of power was always at Kevin's fingertips, a Speed Tech nitrous oxide kit was also installed to feed the hungry big-block. When all was said and done, the heart and soul of Kevin's LX laid down stout horsepower numbers, checking in at 874 hp and 768 lb-ft of torque on an engine dyno-sans juice.

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To get this kind of power to the ground, a 9-inch Coan torque converter transfers power to a TH400 automatic transmission, while a B&M shifter controls gear selection. The TH400 spins the custom airbrushed driveshaft, which sets the 4.30 gears and Moser spool into motion. Thirty-three-spline Moser axles turn the Mickey Thompson wheels to help provide maximum acceleration on the street and strip.

Weight transfer comes from Strange coil-over struts with QA1 springs, and D&D K-member cradles the big-block. Tubular lower control arms keep the wheels pointed in the right direction, and the power steering has been removed in favor of a Flaming River manual setup. Out back, UPR upper and lower control arms keep the rear end straight under hard acceleration. Strange shocks and stock rear springs keep the Mickey Thompson ET Drags firmly planted.

"We haven't been able to make a clean pass on the nitrous," explains Diamond Hugo, owner of Diamond Fabrication. "We should have no problem going well into the 8s with a small shot."

When all is said and done, Kevin's coupe is much more than a showstopper. With a best run of 9.17 seconds at over 149 mph, this Fox is a moving work of art.

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