Today It's A Multiple- Award-Winning Show Car That's Truly One Of A Kind. Maybe It's Time For A...
When it comes to '80s Ford vehicles, you'd be hard pressed to find one that's more widely personalized than the venerable Fox Mustang. The thing is, these cars are just as popular now as they ever were. Recently, yours truly pulled into a fast-food joint, and a bunch of kids working there were sizing up a burgundy '80s GT, which was probably made before they were born. Now, if those same kids had been witness to Joe Sofia's car on these pages, that excitement would have no doubt reached an entirely different level.
A Nice Driver
Joe has owned this particular Mustang for 13 years, and if I were to tell you that it's an '84 GT, you'd probably think I'd been smoking something funny. Well it is, or at least it was when he bought it. Back then, his brother Chris owned an '85 GT-carbureted H.O., five-speed, the whole nine yards. "It was actually my brother who got me into this car," Joe says. "He was planning to turn his '85 into a drag car, so I bought a lot of the parts from him. I found this one on a used-car lot, not far from where I live. It was a decent driver. I mean, it wasn't perfect-it needed paint-but it ran good, so I bought it. One thing I liked about the car was the T-tops."
Of course, being a car guy with a spate of FoMoCo creations lining the driveway in the past, including a '67 Cougar, a '71 Mustang Mach 1, and an '80 Capri RS turbo among others, Joe was no stranger to the breed. "My first-ever drive was in a Mustang-a '64½ convertible with a 289 and four-speed," so piloting the '84 wasn't much different. Still, as any car guy would, he decided to play with it, beginning with the paint. "Chris was still painting cars when I bought this one," he says, "so it was given a fresh coat."
Joe also started doing a few mechanical upgrades, including the exhaust and clutch, and he installed a short-throw shifter. However, it sometimes takes a sizeable event to create a truly outstanding show car, and for Joe that happened one Sunday morning while he was on his way to work on his brother's house. "I'm a carpenter by trade, so I agreed to do some work at the house. I was driving along the road when all of a sudden, the inner and outer parts of the hood separated-the outer part flew up and smashed against the windshield header." The ensuing mess resulted in Joe stashing the car while he figured out what to do with it. "It got to the point that I figured that if I wanted to really do something with this car, now was the time to do it."
Thus, over a 13-month period in the late-'90s, Joe stripped the car down to a bare shell and hatched his plan. "To be honest," he says, "I wasn't a huge fan of the '84 front end, so I decided to modernize the car, using the Cervini's Stalker body kit and Stormin' Norman hood, designed for the '87-'93 Mustangs. I actually found it wasn't that hard to update the car to newer specs as nearly everything is interchangeable. In keeping with the look, I also changed the quarter-windows to the newer '87-and-up style."
One thing you'll also notice about this car is the absence of exterior door handles, something you don't see often on a Fox. "When building my '84, I strived to be different," Joe says. "I wanted the car to stand out, and the shaved door handles gave it that custom feel. They've also been really popular at shows."
Joe and his brother prepped the unibody, and Chris sprayed it Ford Laser Red Metallic in two-stage urethane. The result was as arrow straight a paint job as we've seen and part of the reason why this car has collected a fistful of trophies since it was back under its own steam. Another thing that sets this Fox apart from many in the stable is the interior. A Competition Engineering eight-point mild-steel cage ties everything together, and perhaps surprisingly, the futuristic-looking Summit Racing bucket seats don't look out of place in the cabin, and neither does the 120-watt sound system, nor the DVD screens cleverly housed in the sun visors, nor the digital (that's right) Nordskog instrument cluster (when was the last time you saw one of those in a '79-'93 Mustang?).
Although Joe is able to monitor the car's operation via the cluster and a plethora of Auto Meter gauges while sitting in his high-tech tan control capsule, the mechanical aspects of this car remain very much old-school. Underhood is still a 302 H.O., and as it was back in 1984, it's still carbureted, drinking fuel through a time-honored Holley 750 four-barrel bolted atop an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake. With a high-flow mechanical pump, MAC Products' full-length exhaust headers, 2½-inch H-pipe, and classic Flowmaster mufflers, this thing rumbles along the Pennsylvania highways with aplomb. Thanks to the addition of an 8.8-inch rear with an Auburn limited-slip and 3.73 gears, it goes pretty good down the dragstrip, too-to date, Joe has run a best of 13.62 at 107 mph down Atco Raceway's 1,320, not bad considering the stock bottom end and a suspension built for handling more than straight-line stuff.
And how Joe got his hands on the corner-carving hardware is also a bit of a good one-again, he has to thank his brother for that. "Chris was really into turbo Foxes for a while, T-bird Turbo Coupes, SVOs, that kind of thing. He wrecked an SVO and parted it out, so we took all the good stuff, including the adjustable Koni shocks and the disc brakes." Along with a set of coilovers and more recently Cobra front brakes, the little Fox now handles and stops better than ever before.
Even though the car continues to collect yet more trophies, Joe readily admits that he's not done with it. "There's always something else I want to do with it, like the coilovers, the tubular K-member. I think the next thing will be supercharging." But when we asked him if he'd switch to fuel injection he said, "No, that's what everybody else does. So far this car has been a hit, both with me, my 19-year-old son Philip, (who's been a real help and inspiration for building it), and of course, friends, family, and even strangers. I think part of the reason for that is because it's a little different. When you walk by it, you look twice, so when it comes time to go blown, I'm going to stick with a carburetor because it will cause heads to spin even more." Sounds like a good idea to us.
Joe Sofia's '84 Mustang GT
- Ford 302 V-8
- Edelbrock Performer RPM intake
- Holley 750-cfm four-barrel carburetor
- K&N air filter
- Holley 80-gph high-flow mechanical
- fuel pump
- Ford Racing 1.7:1 roller rockers
- Ford Racing tall chrome valve covers
- MSD distributor
- MSD 6 Plus ignition
- Optima Red Top battery
- MSD 8.5mm ignition wires
- March underdrive pulleys
- Summit Racing aluminum radiator
- Flex-a-lite electric fan
- Borg Warner T-5 five-speed manual
- Ford Racing 10½-inch steel flywheel
- Ford Racing King Cobra 10½-inch clutch
- Hurst shifter
- Ford 8.8-inch axlehousing
- Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft
- Auburn limited-slip differential
- 3.73 gears
- MAC Products 1 5⁄8-inch full-length headers
- MAC Products 2½-inch H-pipe
- Flowmaster 2½-inch two-chamber mufflers
- Polished exhaust tips
- Front: Cobra springs, Koni adjustable struts, Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings
- Rear: Cobra springs, KYB shocks, South Side Machine lift bars, Energy Suspension polyurethane bushings, full-length subframe connectors
- Front: 11-inch cross-drilled/slotted rotor, SVO single-piston caliper
- Rear: 11¼-inch cross-drilled/slotted rotor, single-piston caliper
- Front: Ford Racing Cobra R, 17x8
- Rear: Ford Racing Cobra R, 17x8
- Front: BFGoodrich Comp T/A HR4, P245/45HR17
- Rear: BFGoodrich Comp T/A HR4, P245/45HR17
- Custom tan upholstery by J&J in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Summit Racing front bucket seats
- RJS five-point harnesses
- Nordskog digital dash
- Auto Meter Sport Comp 5-inch tachometer
- Auto Meter
- Pro Comp 2 5⁄8-inch oil, air/fuel, and water temperature gauges
- Auto Meter shift light
- Competition Engineering eight-point mild-steel rollcage
- Cervini's Stormin' Norman hood
- Cervini's '87-'93 Stalker front bumper
- Cobra rocker rear bumper and Cobra rear wing
- '93 Mustang quarter-window glass
- '93 Mustang Cobra taillights
- '93 Mustang six-piece aero headlight assemblies
- '93 Mustang Cobra foglights