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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.
With that rather large life change out of the way, Archie started on his next engine--an A4 block with a forged crank, connecting rods, and pistons that would complete the Mustang's transition from street car to full-on drag machine. With power now his overarching concern, Archie installed a cog-drive belt setup for the blower. "I bolted it on, went to the dyno, and it ripped the balancer off the end of the crank on the second pull after making over 600 rwhp. I was so mad, I came home and sold the blower as well as the Mondo intake manifold." It was turbo time for Archie and he went all-out, purchasing a Precision 101mm turbo, a FAST EFI system, and 160-lb/hr injectors. (He had been using a Ford Extender up to that point.)
Since the C4 was out of its league, Archie went to Ed Taal of Trans Are Us (Palm Harbor, Florida) for a two-speed automatic. Other artifacts from the Mustang's street-driven past remained, including its drum brakes and MSD 6AL ignition. Having spent all his available funds on the big-ticket items, Archie had to fabricate the hot side of the turbo system from a pair of BBK shorty headers. They worked fairly well, though, as the Mustang ran a best of 8.47 still with a hydraulic roller cam.
Still, more changes ensued. Tiring of the checkerboard graphics that separated the outside colors, Archie enlisted street-rod painter Tim Donton to re-color the car. The result was a new shade of purple with "true fire" flames licking the front end. At the next event--the Snowbird Nationals in Bradenton--Archie's freshly painted ride grabbed the runner-up spot with a best e.t. of 8.27. No matter how quick the car ran, though, it topped out at 163 mph through the traps. A switch to a solid-roller cam and ported heads led to a final round visit at the '09 U.S. Nationals in Bradenton the following January, where the Mustang went 7.88 at 188 mph.
While the Mustang was running its best e.t.'s to date, it wasn't quite competitive enough, so Archie sold the engine and spent 2010 upgrading the car with lightweight Aerospace brakes, fresh MSD ignition hardware, and Painless Performance wiring. With eighth-mile racing becoming more popular, Archie focused more on short-track events and assembled the current 427ci Windsor using a Dart block, a Lunati crank, Ross pistons, Lightning aluminum connecting rods, and Yates C3 cylinder heads. A Chiseled Performance air-to-water intercooler and AMS1000 boost controller were employed to maintain the boost pressure and temperature, while the hot side of the turbo system was fabricated in-house at Real Speed. The rollcage was also upgraded in-house to 25.5 SFI specifications, and the car's glass was replaced with lightweight Lexan. Twin Garrett GT47 88mm hairdryers were plumbed in, and Van from V&M Racing Cylinder Heads (Tarpon Springs, Florida) ported the SC1 intake manifold.
During this time, the Mustang's exterior took on its current look. Jim Veenstra was once again called to the front; he smoothed out the engine bay, modified the front bumper cover for the twin turbos, and covered the entire chassis in vibrant Atomic Orange. A black-powdercoated set of Holeshot wheels rounded out the latest appearance. During the Outlaw Radial Championship at Bradenton in October of 2010, Archie ran a 5.03 and a 4.99 at 152 mph with the new combination, and a couple of 5-teens followed. Archie qualified in the top 10 at the Orlando World Street Nationals that year, but torched a cylinder head in the third round.
With the Outlaw Radial class evolving faster than his racing program's funding, Archie decided to change his combination altogether and head to the X275 drag radial class. The twin-turbos were replaced with a single Precision Turbo large-frame 88mm turbocharger, and after logging a couple of 5.30s with the new setup, the Mustang eventually ran a 5.14 at 144 mph with a 1.26 60-foot.
Following this performance, Archie and crew entered the 2012 NMRA season-opener in Bradenton to make some test runs. They found themselves largely outgunned in the Pro Outlaw 10.5 class, which was populated with much faster cars. The field was only four cars, and while Archie managed to get past Mike Murillo in the first round, the turbo checked out in the process. You never know what can happen, so he elected to take the light against Tim Essick in the final. "He came by me on the wheelie bars and I decided to lift. I knew it was hurt and I didn't want to oil the track," Archie says. After the turbo was repaired, Archie went three rounds at an X275 event before the engine sacrificed a number of bearings under the stress. While he goes through the bottom end again, Archie plans to have Harold Engine & Dyno (Denton, North Carolina) modify the turbo.
It should be clear that Archie is quite a dedicated individual. But he's also been blessed with a lot of help and support over the years. Real Speed Racing's Walter Drakeford, Jeff Gibbud, Jon Anderson, Jim Veenstra, and Chris "Cornfed" Campbell are all parts in the performance equation, as is Archie's family--crew chief A.J.; daughters, Haley and Makayla; and girlfriend, Bonnie Sass. Somewhere between all the modifications and race-to-race rebuilds, Archie finds time to race RC cars with A.J., turn the occasional wrench on his dad's Boss 302, and spend time with the family.
Despite operating on an average Joe's budget, Archie's Mustang has evolved through numerous styles, trends, and paint jobs. The late-model enthusiasts probably cringe at its early iterations, and the classic Mustang fans may see a car too far gone now to be valuable down the road, but it's not unthinkable that Archie might someday restore the car to its original configuration. For now, he's content to race. What's important is the dedication. With that, anything is possible.