Darel Clark's 1985 Mustang GT
When you're a college freshman, chances are that, for the most part you don't have a lot of cash at your disposal, so things like new cars are not often a priority. That was Darel Clark's case back in the mid-1980s. At the time he was driving a VW Rabbit, but one day he went down to nearby Vinton Motors. "They had a bunch of Mustangs on their lot, including six GTs, a couple of SVOs, even a Saleen. That day, Clark got the opportunity to test-drive a brand new 1985 Mustang GT - Medium Canyon Red Metallic with a tan interior. "After driving my Rabbit, it felt like a rocketship. I knew there and then that I had to get myself one of these cars." It would take a while, of course, until 1992 in fact, when Clark had graduated college, but then, with a bit of cash now burning a hole in his pocket, it was time to start searching for the car he'd promised himself.
"I went to look at a few of them, but even by this stage, a lot of these cars were looking rough. I found an ad in the local paper where somebody was advertising 'a clean, stock' '85 GT for sale, but based on previous experiences I didn't have high hopes." That changed when Darel went to view the car. "It was exactly as described, in good shape - so I bought it. The T-top GT served as Darel's daily driver for a number of years, and although quite a few of his buddies had modified Mustangs at the time, Clark resisted the temptation to follow suite. "It was a clean car and I liked the way it was stock. "I put headers and exhaust on it, but other than that I didn't change anything." The car provided faithful service for a long while, taking Clark to and from work and out on trips for his engineering gig. However, one day, while driving back home to Virginia from Ohio, his opinion about keeping the car stock would change forever. "I was about 40 miles from home when the rear end started howling. I pulled into a garage and discovered that the rear pinion seal had blown out, emptying the differential of lubricant. I managed to nurse the car back home, but the 7.5 was fried. When I got home I called up my friends. One of them had a built 8.8-inch rear with an Aurburn posi and 3.73 gears, so I got it from him and installed it in place of the original 7.5 - best mod I ever did." Not long after that, the original 10-inch clutch bit the bullet, so "I called D&D Performance for a replacement clutch. A pressure plate was just a few bucks more and they also had B&M Ripper shifters on sale ..." Needless to say, Darel had started down the slippery slope.
"Before I knew it, I'd pulled the T-5 tranny out for a freshening - new bearings and synchros and with the transmission out I thought, heck, the car's got about 100K on it, so why not pull out the engine and inspect that too?" Clark found that the rear main seal was leaking and discovered a few other problems, so the 302 was torn down and rebuilt. Kowalsky Machine in Lynchburg, VA was given the task of machining the block, honing it; punching out the bores .030-inches and adding new bottom end bearings. The stock crank was polished and it, along with the stock rods and pistons, went back in. Clark chose to retain the car's original H.O. heads, but on his request, Kowalsky Machine, removed the air injection bumps and treated them to a mild porting and valve job. Darel decided to upgrade the valvetrain, with a Wolverine camshaft featuring .493/.510-inch lift and 289/299 degrees duration, along with a set of Motorsport 1.6 roller rockers that were installed atop the heads.
Replacing the factory aluminum intake manifold was a Weiand Stealth piece, and with it, Clark deemed a carb swap absolutely mandatory. "As far as I was concerned, the factory Holley/Motorcraft 4180 on my car was junk. It would take forever to start the car in the morning - at least three cranks on the starter, so it had to go. I eventually replaced it with a Barry Grant Road Demon 625 with electric choke, but being the pack rat I am, I still have the stock carb on a shelf at home." For improved lubing, a Melling high volume oil pump was added, along with a Ford Racing heavy-duty pump driveshaft. Fuel feed was also upgraded and the Demon now drinks from a Carter high volume pump and Summit carburetor feed with an integral fuel pressure gauge. Once the engine was put back together, Clark went to town detailing it and the bay in which it sat. "I installed a polished 3/8-inch aluminum fuel line and added Ford Motorsport polished aluminum valve covers with the insets painted blue and basically polished or painted every external engine accessory I could - stuff like the breathers, wire looms, accessory pulleys and ignition coil, which I relocated to the driver's side shock tower."
So with the engine built and detailed, plus the transmission overhauled, the car was able to run under its own steam once again, but with lots of other projects on the go, including a new house, Darel didn't have a lot of time to play with the '85, and barely drove it. After selling an '86 GT he had and clearing a few of his other things out of the way, Clark finally found some time to get back to finishing the project. "The car ran great with the rebuilt motor and trans, but I was no longer happy with the original paint and the suspension was still all stock and very worn by this point. My first plan of action was deciding to have the car repainted in its original color of Light Regatta Blue Metallic. In order to get it done right, that meant removing every piece of trim from my '85, along with the interior and all the weatherstripping. The whole process led to a 1-1/2 year rebuilding of the car. I had purchased a Cervini's Stacker wing a couple of years before and while I was getting the car painted by good friend Lee Durham, I ordered a Ram Air hood for it. As I'm a stickler for details, I made sure that the wing I'd purchased didn't have a high mounted stop light. The car is an '85, the last year before the Feds mandated center brake lights, so that was important to me." Once the paint was done, the GT looked better than new, but as Darel recalls, one of the hardest tasks was replacing the trim and weatherstripping. "Because it was a T-top car, I had a difficult time locating the correct weatherstrippping pieces and getting it to seal properly - even when these cars were new, the T-tops were notorious for leaking." So the '85 was running good and now on the outside, at least, it was looking the part too - time to tackle the suspension and brakes. "With the motor and driveline work done, the car felt sloppy on the road and the brakes were just terrible. I wanted to retain the Centerline Billet Sabre four lug wheels I'd purchased, so that limited my options a bit when it came to brake upgrades. I decided to use 1987-93 Mustang front spindles, Powerslot discs and got my hands on a pair of SVO calipers. At the back I replaced the weak 9-inch drums with a 10.25-inch rear disc four-lug upgraded kit from Stainless Steel Brake Corporation." Next it was the suspension. Clark turned to Maximum Motorsports and Stang Suspension to get the parts he needed. This included Tokico Illumina front struts and rear shocks, Ford Racing 'B' coils front and back, HP Mega-Bite Jr. rear lower control arms and FRPP heavy-duty uppers. There's also a Maximum Motorsports brace tying the front strut towers together, and one down beneath to keep the frame rails straight. Other bits included polyurethane bushings in just about every place possible, along with a set of Ford Racing lower front control arms. A Maximum Motorsports solid steering shaft and caster/camber plates also aide in cornering agility. Sitting on BFG 245/50-16 radials, Darel's '85 GT looks ready to pounce, even when sitting still and at least now, when he takes it out for a bit of back road bashing, it doesn't feel like he's driving a bowl of soup on wheels - far from it in fact and the best part is, it didn't cost him an arm and leg to bring the dynamics up to a modern performance level.
The Mustang was mostly back together by summer 2005, we say mostly because "when I decided the interior needed a complete revamp; it needed to be up to par compared to the rest of the car," remarks Darel. "New carpet and seat covers installed by Stitch's Custom Upholstery freshened up the look and I had the interior panels removed, cleaned and re-dyed." So that was one thing, but then Clark noticed the engine was dribbling coolant at the front. "I tried my best to get the car ready for Mustang Week 2005, but it wasn't completed to my standard. I went to the show anyway but vowed that I'd be back and ready to compete next year." The coolant leak resulted in the top end of the motor being pulled apart once more, reassembled and detailed once again. Boy, he's enthusiastic this Darel. But in the end it paid off. "The car was I guess you could say 'complete' in time for Mustang Week in 2006 (well actually, it probably never will be complete - I'm still doing things to it - I recently installed some Saleen/Recaro Mesh headrests and am always looking at other little tweaks here and there)." Anyway, let's just say it was good enough by most people's standards and proved a tremendous hit. In fact, Darel has been somewhat surprised by the reception the venerable four-eye gets. "When I drive this car, it seems to get more and more attention everywhere I take it. Even folks with new Mustangs and high horsepower late-model Cobras and such really like it. I often get comments about how they had one of these cars back in the day and after seeing mine they want to get another one again." And after having a look at Darel Clark's 1985 Mustang GT ourselves, let it be said, who can blame them?
Darel Clark's 1985 Mustang GT
Block bored .030" over and honed; stock crank polished; new bearings installed by Kowalsky Machine; Wolverine WG-1190 hydraulic roller camshaft with 289/299° duration .493/.593" lift; Ford Motorsport 1.6 stud mounted roller rockers; stock H.O. heads, ported and smoothed with 3-angle valve job by Kowalsky Machine; Weiand Stealth intake manifold; Barry Grant 625 cfm Road Demon carburetor with electric choke; Ford Motorsport 13" chrome air cleaner with K&N air filter; Carter High-Volume mechanical fuel pump, Summit carburetor feed with integral fuel pressure gauge fed by custom bent and polished 3/8" aluminum fuel line; Mellings High Volume oil pump; Ford Motorsport HD oil pump driveshaft: Ford Motorsport polished valve covers with blue inset detailing; Lokar engine dipstick; Ford Motorsport blue anodized accessory pulleys; R&M billet wiring looms; Ford Motorsport 9mm plug wires; Ford Motorsport dual chrome breathers; Ford Motorsport Duraspark II ignition coil and bracket (relocated to driver's shock tower); Exide dry cell battery; 180° thermostat; Goodyear Hi-Miler blue radiator and heater hoses; MAC 1 5/8" shorty jet coated headers; MAC 2 1/2" off-road H-pipe; Dynomax 2 1/2" mufflers; MAC 2 1/2" tips
Rebuilt Borg-Warner T-5 five-speed manual gearbox, using D&D Performance kit; D&D heavy-duty 10.5" clutch; D&D steel flywheel; steering bearing retainer and adjustable shift quadrant; factory Ford driveshaft with heavy-duty U-joints installed; 8.8" rear with 3.73 gearing and Auburn limited-slip differential
1986-93 style double hump crossmember; Maximum Motorsports full-length subframe connectors; Polyurethane transmission mounts
Cervini's Stacker wing; Cervini's Ram-Air hood; car re-sprayed in original Light Regatta Blue Metallic by Lee Durham
Ford Motorsport 140 mph speedometer; Pilot Sport steering wheel with cruise control; B&M Ripper shifter with MGM cue ball, stock re-upholstered, material by Stitch's Custom Upholstery and Street Rods (factory materials but with gray piping); Saleen mesh style headrests; Kenwood KDC-7001 AM-FM CD stereo
Suspension And Brakes
1987-93 Mustang front spindles; Ford Motorsport lower front control arms; Ford Motorsport 'B' springs front and rear; Tokico Illumina front struts and rear shocks; Maximum Motorsports Caster/Camber plates; Maximum Motorsports front K-member brace; HP Motorsports Mega-Bite Jr. lower rear control arms; Ford Motorsport heavy-duty upper control arms; Maximum Motorsports pinion snubber; Polyurethane suspension bushings; rebuilt quick ratio power steering unit; Maximum Motorsports solid steering shaft; 11" slotted front brake rotors; Mustang SVO 73mm front calipers with high performance pads; Maximum Motorsports front caliper sleeves; Stainless Steel Brakes Corp; rear disc conversion with 10.25" rotors and 45mm calipers; SSBC 1 1/8" bore master cylinder; Ford Motorsport/Wilwood adjustable proportioning valve
Wheels And Tires
Centerline Billet Saber 16 x 8" with BF Goodrich 245/50-16 Comp T/A tires all-around