Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatures
Michael Zwick’s 1990 Mustang LX Brings a Vintage 5.0 Appeal To The Street
A Notch Above the Rest
There is a lot of noise in today’s horsepower wars—no pun intended. When we say noise, we mean the Coyote segment tends to get most of the attention in today’s Mustang market. Many owners have coaxed a ridiculous amount of power from the beloved modern 5.0 platform and they use social media to draw an exorbitant amount of attention to those exploits.
If you are only exposed to the noise from the current 5.0 movement, you might never realize that the 5.0’s right of passage into the high-performance world began in the 1960s. Even more fitting, the EFI hot rodding craze started in large part with the 5.0 Mustang in the mid-80s through the early ‘90s. But a car that is old doesn’t mean it is out of style and Michael Zwick has brought some vintage noise of his own to the modern Mustang world.
Michael is no stranger to the Coyote community; his 2012 Mustang GT was featured in Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords (Dialed In, August 2016, page 16) and ran 10s in naturally aspirated trim, a rare feat in today’s boosted world. But his next adventure would bring him back to the old school, explaining, “I sold the 2012 and I wanted to buy a 2018. As I was waiting for it, I then wondered about the direct injection.” With money burning a hole in his pocket and a hesitation towards the Gen 3 Coyote with its direct injection, Michael decided to feed his longing desire to grab a Fox-body notchback.
He thumbed through countless ads for notchbacks across the Internet—all were too expensive, too big of a project, or it just didn’t seem to be the right car to fit his criteria. That is until one day a call from a buddy would point him in the direction of Adam Browne and Revolution Automotive, the shop responsible for building Michael’s previous Mustang. The shop had the car in storage for seven years when the owner failed to pay a bill and mechanics lean turned the title over to Revolution Automotive. Adam listed it on Craigslist and less than 24 hours, Michael was at the shop negotiating a deal for it.
“My initial thoughts were that this car is a basket case,” Michael says with a hint of a giggle. But a quick charge of the battery, the 1990 Mustang LX coupe fired up on the first turn of the key, that is when nostalgia set in and Michael’s hand reached into his pocket for his stack of cash. The classic choppy idle resonating through a set of Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers was all that was needed to complete the transaction.
A quick inspection revealed the torque boxes were absolutely perfect and not one hint of rust. As it is said in the housing world, the car had good bones. It was, however, out of date from the looks to some of the parts and Michael knew it would require a complete rebuild to fulfill his goals. The car wouldn’t go anywhere after the purchase, part of the deal was that Revolution Automotive was going to perform the modernization of the coupe and work began immediately.
“The project started around December of 2017 and completed by May 2018, that was a complete teardown from the interior completely out to the paint work and mechanical upgrades,” Michael explains. The car features a Ford Performance 302 crate engine that Adam and Michael figure to be roughly ten years old. It runs perfectly, so it is powering the coupe for now but with a few mods. “When I was in high school all I wanted was the Vortech blower whine, the cam lope, and loud mufflers,” Michael admits and twenty years later he got exactly what he has desired.
Mike McNew of Revolution Automotive, who took on this project as a personal conviction, immediately added a Vortech Superchargers V-1 Ti H/D supercharger. The idle lope is courtesy of a B303 camshaft, one of the first-ever aftermarket cams available for the 5.0 High Output engine from the 1987-1993 Mustang generation. Topping the revered 302 is a set of Ford Performance Y303 aluminum cylinder heads and a Cobra intake manifold. Adam worked hard to get the ancient A9L computer tuned perfectly and he ended up adding 47 lb/hr fuel injectors and an SCT BA2600 MAF sensor to help get it right.
The drivetrain consists of a Tremec T-5 that Revolution Automotive pulled apart to ensure it was in proper working order, especially Third-gear. It went back into the coupe and they added an Exedy Mach 500 Stage 3 clutch, Exedy lightweight flywheel, and a short-throw shifter to make the trans shift smoothly. The final output, complete with perfect idle and driving manners, is 455 rwhp but Michael says they are already planning a new stroker engine with an aftermarket engine block so they can turn up the Vortech blower.
Next on the agenda were the two most important parts of the project—being able to enjoy it on the road as a cruiser and have an imposing appearance with a ‘90s feel to it. Creating a cruiser that exhibits excellent handling was easy; for the back, a set of Pro Series adjustable upper and lower control arms were bolted in along with Strange 10-way adjustable shocks and a special rate UPR/Viking spring coilover package. In the front, the factory K-member and A-arms are enhanced with Strange adjustable struts benefit from Viking/UPR 200 pound coilover springs. The proper caster/camber is dialed in through adjustable plates on top of the shock towers. A set of through-the-floor subframe connectors stiffens the Fox-body.
Moving to the looks, Michael had a very specific style in mind from the proper color to the right look. The new suspension got the stance right, so he handed the car over to Calvin Atwell for the body upgrades. First to go on the list was the Saleen wing on the trunk and they didn’t stop stripping the car down from there. All of the bolts were replaced with anodized ones to match the forthcoming paint job and they added all new door hinges, molding rejuvenation, replaced every rubber seal, and the interior got a complete makeover.
All-in, the body work alone had 120 hours of prepping, shaving, and final assembly to create the vision Michael had for his new-to-him car. The paint job is a custom blend of Ruby Red with triple the amount of gold flake that the factory paint code called for when mixing it. “It took 15 paint samples to get the Ruby Red to look right with that much gold flake in it,” admits Michael.
Calvin added a Cervini's 1.5-inch rise cowl hood and picked up a new deck lid, front bumper, and rear bumper from CJ Pony Parts before applying the perfectly blended Ruby Red paint. He also smoothed the entire body, including removing the Mustang name that is imbedded in the fore and aft bumpers. The Cobra grille insert was molded into the body and every single emblem and the antenna were removed and smoothed over. Final count on the paint job was a three stage paint process followed by four layers of clear coat and a ceramic seal to give it protection and extra glow.
The reason for the extensive amount of gold flake was because of the final addition XXR 521 wheels with gold honeycomb centers. It goes back to the goal of a vintage ‘90s look but with a modern feel. The 18-inch wheels are wrapped in Mickey Thompson Street Comp rubber. In all, over 200 hours between Revolution Automotive and the body work was needed to achieve Michael’s idea of the perfect Mustang notchback.
As the noisy Coyote crowd clings to their micro records, Michael will be trolling the streets with a unique, but classic, choppy idle and a monumental look, making his Mustang a notch above the rest.