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1989 Ford LX Mustang - Trial, Error, And The Occasional Trend
This '89 LX Mustang has come a long way...
It's not every day that your dad tosses you the keys to the '70 Boss 302 he's had since new, but that's what happened to Archie Marasco when he reached driving age. When your experience behind the wheel starts out like that, your outlook on driving--and cars in general--is sure to be different. Looking at some of the pictures in this article, you may find it hard to believe that they all depict the same vehicle. But appearances, as they say, can be deceiving, as the photographs on the following pages illustrate the nearly 20-year evolution of a single Mustang--Archie's.
The Marascos eventually decided it wasn't the best idea to cruise the valuable classic on a daily basis. After relocating from Brooklyn, New York, to Spring Hill, Florida, Archie searched for a truck to drive every day. Despite the recent experience in the Boss, he picked up a Geo Tracker (remember those?) and began to modify it while he and his dad, Archie Sr., continued to take the Boss to the local car shows in central Florida.
As a result of his peers' interests and the modification trends of the time, Archie's Tracker moved closer to being a show vehicle, with a thumping stereo system and a hydraulic suspension. However, about a year or so later, while working for a local auto-repair shop, Archie experienced late-model 5.0-liter firepower for the first time thanks to a co-worker and his '89 GT.
In the early '90s, Hillsborough Auto Sales was considered "the place" to find used 5.0L Mustangs in the Tampa Bay Area. This was Archie's first stop on his Mustang search; there, a bright-red '89 LX caught his eye, thanks to its fiberglass cowl hood and upgraded Pony wheels. After a test drive, Archie was sold and took the LX straight to Lakeland dragstrip (Lakeland, Florida), where he whipped the colt to a 9.5-second eighth-mile e.t.
Archie sent the Tracker packing and the Mustang took up daily- driver duties. It was often used to deliver sandwiches for Archie's uncle's delicatessen, where he worked part-time. The other half of the working day, Archie found employment at an upholstery shop. "At the time, we did a lot of lowriders and mini trucks, so we did the Mustang's interior for the shop as a sales piece," Archie recalls.
The visual enhancements didn't stop there: a vinyl top was next, followed by a sliding ragtop, and Roadster wire wheels. About a year later, Archie changed the exterior color to purple, and the interior to a tan-and-black combination. Despite dedicating a massive amount of time to making changes to his car, Archie hit shows every weekend with his car club at the time, Unique Styles. He also became a father during this period, and his son A.J. often went with him to events.
After getting out of the upholstery business, Archie's outlook on the Mustang changed. He replaced the wire wheels with a set of '97 Cobra hoops, and ditched the ragtop look by replacing the entire roof. The latter change necessitated paintwork, and good friend Jim Veenstra applied his paint-gun prowess, updating the Mustang with several coats of Viper Blue Pearl. Archie's tastes continued to evolve once he started hanging out with some old musclecar enthusiasts, and before long, the Mustang was wearing a big-'n'-little set of Centerline Telstar wheels. With its lowrider styling firmly in the past, the Mustang returned to drag racing at the local tracks and the occasional street race.
Nearly ten years after buying the Mustang, Archie finally got around to some engine mods, like a GT-40 intake, 24-lb/hr fuel injectors, and a larger mass-air meter and throttle body. A Vortech S-trim was next, but the stock bottom-end spit the crank out after only a year of service under pressure. Archie enacted an upgrade plan by putting together a stout 347ci stroker with an Eagle crank and Dart iron heads; the iron lungs were later replaced with Ford Racing's aluminum Z304 pieces. In Fun Ford Weekend Street Renegade form, the Mustang ran a best e.t. of 9.70, while still a daily driver.
Like many 5.0-liter pilots of the time, Archie broke his share of T-5 transmissions during his tenure of Mustang ownership. He even used a couple of four-cylinder gearboxes to get him by when times were tight, but he eventually swapped in a C4 automatic for reliability under the improved power levels. In 2005, the Vortech was swapped for a Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger with a Vortech Mondo intercooler; Archie also modified the suspension and rearend to suit his increasing incursions into the NMRA's Open Comp class.
Around this time, he utilized his experience under the hood of 5.0- liter Mustangs to open up a side business, Extreme Motorsports. After working at a local tire shop during the day, Archie spent his nights turning wrenches on customers' Mustangs. He and his crew also used the newly leased shop space to repaint the LX yet again, this time halving the car down the C-pillar with an orange-and-purple combination.
Putting the Mustang's daily driver status to the test, Archie drove the LX from Florida to New York three times to race a number of events along the East Coast and visit family back in the old neighborhood. By 2007, Archie's racing efforts were ramping up further, so he purchased an SUV to double as a family transport and tow vehicle. Just as things seemed to be going smoothly, disaster struck. While testing at Bradenton, the engine broke. Fortunately, this negative development was more than offset by a positive one on the professional front.
"I knew Walt [Drakeford] from hanging out at the track, and he happened to be there that day. He told me about an engine he was selling and that he was in need of an employee, so I ended up doing the service work for him for a while. I eventually closed up my shop and joined his--Real Speed--full time," Archie recalls.