For the last decade, southern Massachusetts has witnessed many sightings of a pristine, tire squealing, gear banging, '85 Mustang GT. And now, with a new heart beating between the fenders, this New England stalwart is packing a bigger punch than ever.
Some of you might be getting a case of deejay vu from either looking at these pictures, reading the copy below or both - and there's good reason for that. The Mustang on these pages belongs to one Paul Slaney. That's right ... Paul Slaney as in the twin brother of Pete Slaney, whose magnificent 1979 Mustang Cobra we ran in the April 2007 issue. Both Slaveys are understandably fanatical about their Fox Ponies, as is cousin Craig Gillis, whose '84 SVO you'll be seeing next month. In Paul's case the infatuation began quite some time ago. His first exposure to 5.0 power came when he decided to do a bit of experimenting in high school. "At the time, I had this Ford Pinto wagon. It was one of those with the cruising package so it had the small portholes instead of full side windows. I thought it would be neat to drop in a 302 and an AOD in this car, so that's what I did."
Paul works as a machinist, and grew up around machine shops, so performing major surgery on autos is pretty much second nature. Later on, the Pinto received a 351 and a C4, but I think we're straying a little off course here, after all, the magazine you're reading is entitled Modified Mustangs. Slaney's introduction to these cars actually came via a Mustang II, but hit high gear when he bought a 1990 LX hatchback. "That car was my daily driver. I used to run it about 400 miles per week, from my home to my job at Mid Cape Automotive out in Hyannis, MA. I did the usual stuff - bolt-on things like gears, exhaust, heads, cam and intake. I drove that car for nine years straight, every day of the week." However, living in Plymouth, MA, (the same one founded by the pilgrims back in 1620) means that, like New Englanders both past and present, he has to endure cold, snowy winters. And let it be said, driving in such conditions isn't much of a picnic, especially in a front heavy, rear-drive car with ample torque like a Mustang LX 5.0. In order to help remedy the traction situation faced by motorists at that time of year, the local Department of Transportation laces the roads with lots and lots of liquid calcium chloride. And while it may assist in melting the snow to get commuters on their merry way during the colder months, the downside is, that come warmer weather it just loves to chew through sheetmetal at an alarming rate. And that's basically what happened to Paul's LX.
"I racked up about 260,000 miles on this car, but by that stage the body was toast. The motor and driveline were still excellent and the fenders and hatch, but the floors and the inner structure were done, so I yanked the driveline and junked the car. The engine and trans are going into an '88 GT convertible I'm fixing up."
The Prized Possession
The '85 on these pages however, is a keeper. "I bought this car back in 1992. At that time I was looking for something that would be my summer cruiser/show/drag car. I'd originally been thinking about a 1970 Mustang but most of the examples I came across were rotted out. But I also really liked the look of the '85s when they came on the scene and I ended up finding this one locally. It was originally a throttle body injection car with the 180 horsepower engine and automatic. It was sitting in a buddy's back yard, because the motor was shot, but otherwise it was excellent - the body was in good shape and the interior was mint - it was an original owner car. I dragged it home for $1,000."
For the next five years, Paul toiled at every opportunity, building this '85 into his ideal street machine. As originally built, Slaney installed a 302, boring it over .030 thou to result in 306 cubic inches. To the top of that block, he bolted on a set of 1969 351 Windsor heads and a dual quad intake manifold. "It made good power. I beefed up the rear to handle it, replacing the 7.5 with an 8.8 inch assembly and I put in a locker differential and 4.33 gears, along with some 31- spline axles." However and this might come as a surprise, Slaney stuck with a T-5 gearbox for the longest time. "When I originally built the car I put a World Class T-5 in behind the 306. It withstood a lot of abuse from drag launches over the years - it finally let go before last Christmas, not a bad stretch really - it lasted nine years."
Keen observers will notice a few subtle exterior alterations on Paul's car, aside from the Weld Draglite rims 'n' rubber that mirror those on brother Pete's '79. "I've made a few changes. Its got the older 1979-82 style Marchal fog light covers and I added an '82 GT hoodscoop and LX taillights - I like those better." You might also notice the brilliant shade of blue paint. "This '85 was originally that Light Regatta Blue Metallic, but when I had it painted I went with something that stood out more. I picked out a 1994 Ford Ranger Splash color - Lapis Blue and I really like the way it looks." So have a lot of other people in fact, because Paul's GT has bagged more than 30 car show trophies since he first rolled it out of the garage under its own power again some 11 years ago. And there's one event we probably should talk about. "Back in 2000, I took the car to the Fun Ford Weekend event at New England Dragway in Epping, NH. I entered it in both the Street Ford bracket class and also the car show. In between racing rounds I'd drive it over to the car show and pop open the hood. It must have worked because I won both my class in Street Ford and also a trophy on the show field. Mustang Illustrated magazine voted it their editor's choice for the event - I was pretty happy that weekend." (Now here's a bit of useless information - your humble scribe was a budding automotive writer contributing to the now defunct MI at that time and remembers when Paul's car bagged that award).