DJ Mayle’s 1991 Mustang LX
Our cover car story this month begins back in 1997, in the state of Maine, when one Chris Nowak went to gander at a 1991 Mustang LX 5.0 hatchback - a clean, stock, Oxford White five-speed car with a Scarlet Red interior, that the original owner was selling. The car was too clean for Chris to pass up, so he bought it. Of course, this particular project began with the little things, kicking off with replacing the clutch. After that, a set of 3.73 gears went in and Chris pulled off the entire stock exhaust and installed aftermarket headers, mid-pipe and Magnaflow catback. Like a lot of Fox Mustang owners, Chris wasn't exactly keen on the Scarlet interior, but instead of taking the quick and easy route, he opted for a different path. "I wanted a genuine black interior for the car, so that meant a lot of searching for the right parts. I found a dashboard, but it turned out to be painted black, which wasn't what I wanted, so I kept looking, eventually scoring another one. The best part about looking for new interior parts was the two black, 7,000 mile door panels I found in my backyard - they were mint." While swapping out the interior, Nowak figured he'd change the axles and rotors over to five-lug and install a set of Eibach Pro kit springs on the car. It was while doing this that he made another big-time score. "A guy I knew had a genuine set of 2000 Mustang Cobra R rims and tires. This was around 2001 and nobody had really caught on to installing these rims on Fox cars yet and there were very few vendors selling them. I gave him a new set of drag radials and $550 and I got these Cobra Rs (they're the rims on the car in the photos). I put a set of 285 series tires on the back wheels, but had a little problem mounting the fronts, because they were designed for spindles with sealed bearings, which the Fox cars don't come with, so I modified the dust caps to stay on."
A Step Further
A couple of years later, in the winter of 2003, Nowak got serious, lifting the original 302 out and making plans for installing a seriously worked drivetrain. "With the motor out, I got to filling and smoothing all the little 'swiss-cheese' holes in the engine bay and painted it. Then I got to work on the motor." Nowak had got his hands on a Stage 1 turbo kit from HP Performance, along with Tial 44mm wastegate and set about mating that to the car's original H.O. V8, along with upgrading the 302's breathing capability to handle the extra air from the turbo. "I ended up installing a Motorsport E cam; TFS Twisted Wedge heads and a Ford Racing valvetrain. I also took the precaution of o-ringing the heads so I wouldn't face any problems down the road with blown seals." As for the turbo kit install? "It actually went pretty well. There were a couple of places where I had to do some cutting in order to get it to fit in the engine bay, but I liked the way it turned out." Chris upgraded the fuel system to 42 lb Lucas injectors and installed a GSS 255 lph pump in the stock gas tank. He also decided at this point to swap the 3.73 ring and pinion for a milder 3.55:1 final drive, but being the renaissance motorhead he is, actually tuned the car himself. "I used a Tweaker RT to dial it in with the stock processor. It took me a while to figure out how to use it, but in the end I was rewarded with a smooth idling, quiet Mustang that cranked out 478 horsepower and 515 lb-ft of torque at 10 lbs of boost, yet would still get over 20 miles per gallon on the highway - I was very happy." Nowak was very meticulous with every aspect of this car, even as the mods progressed. "Attention to detail was very important to me when building this car, I took extra steps - basically nobody else touched it during the build except me. I even used an X-acto knife to make sure the gasket was nice and neat when I installed the timing cover." Clearly others appreciated his efforts, because when Nowak took it to the 2003 Fun Ford Weekend New England Nationals, he came home with an Editor's Choice award trophy. By early 2005, the white LX had morphed into quite the machine. It had a Hurst Line Lock, Corbeau Carerra seats and harnesses, full-length subframe connectors and strut bracing; Strange adjustable struts and shocks, Hotchkiss lower control arms at the back; 13-inch Cobra front and '88 Lincoln Mk VII rear disc brakes. It also had a S.P.E.C. Stage 3 clutch, aluminum driveshaft and safety loop, full cooling system upgrade including silicone hoses and SN95 electric fan, along with a full ignition upgrade - including MSD billet distributor, Jacobs control box, cut-off switch and 130 amp alternator to handle the stereo system - which included an Alpine deck, three Rockford Fosgate 40, 60 and 100 amps and a pair of Orion 10-inch subs. Chris did take it to the track and managed to bang out a 12.40 at 122 miles per hour with the stock T-5 gearbox and Nitto NT555 drag radials, but in his words "faced a few traction problems." Still his '91 had proved to be a great car to enjoy. It was smooth, dead reliable and with plenty of power on tap to leave unsuspecting challengers in the dust and; save for a cowl induction hood and the rims, it looked bone stock on the outside, heck even most of the paint was the original Oxford White sprayed on at River Rouge.