Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatures
Andrew Kelly Transformed His Four-Eyed Fox Driver into a Scary-Fast Street/Strip Retromod
Rise and Conquer
Putting foot to wood in his coupe commands all of Andrew Kelly’s concentration to keep this turbocharged machine tracking straight. It wasn’t the car he imagined when he picked up this high-mileage four-eyed Fox back in 1999, but it is the result of a natural evolution of his all-consuming passion for automotive adrenaline.
Growing up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida within a short drive of the World Center of Racing, Andrew quickly nurtured a need for speed. His parents were teachers, so hot rods didn’t fill the driveway, but his father did take Andrew and his brother, Ryan, to Daytona International Speedway and Orlando Speed World where the scents of tire smoke and race gas coupled with the roar of fast machines permeated his every fiber.
Soon his brother went through a string of cars until he picked up the one that really changed everything for Andrew. It was a1990 Mustang, and Fox Mustangs had already cemented their legendary status amongst Blue Oval performance fans. On this car Andrew learned some of the ropes, which set the stage for eventually picking up the car you see here. Before that point, however, he had a 1968 Mustang with a high-strung small-block that lumbered to mid-15-second e.t.’s but made all the right sounds.
“I soon after purchased a 1968 Mustang from my neighbor that had only 66,000 miles,” Andrew said. “I quit high school sports and got a job to get the car, and built a 302 for it as my ‘senior project’ in high school. Got the 1986 coupe once in college when I needed something more reliable. I’ve had it ever since.”
As you can see, cars became a powerful force in his life, but it wasn’t necessarily the performance or looks that led him to make a move to the now-adored four-eye Fox. Back in the day people were all about the more modern Foxes, but today the four-eyes have an ardent following that includes their own forum, dubbed Four-Eyed Pride.
“The 1986 wasn’t all that popular when I got it, most people would say to swap on an aero nose. We bought it because it was a solid car and looked like a fun project,” Andrew confessed. “I always liked the uniqueness of the four-eye and never thought about swapping to newer body parts. Now, I’m a huge fan and people go nuts over the 1985-1986 coupes. It’s funny how times change.”
Life definitely takes us in some unexpected directions. Andrew’s path to his now-beloved ride wasn’t quite a straight line either. It was really a matter of necessity and convenience. “I was so lucky to grow up in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. My dad and brother actually bought the 1986 as something to tinker with, I was driving the 1968 at UCF and it would break down occasionally. I didn’t have two pennies to fix it even though they were minor repairs. When I got sick of fixing things on the 1968, I traded my Dad the 1968 for the 1986,” Andrew explained.
That decision couldn’t have been better. With at least an hour-long commute to college he needed a reliable machine, and we all know Foxes will have your back as long as you keep up with the basic maintenance. Of course, they are also notoriously difficult to leave stock.
“The 1986 was a much better daily driver and I had already gone through the range of bolt-ons on my brother’s 1990 GT to know what the Foxes were capable of,” Andrew elaborated. “It didn’t take long and I was doing exhaust, upper and lower intake, underdrive pulleys; Mostly stuff handed down from my brother. It was all the stuff I could get away with on the speed density. That car was amazingly reliable over the years and was great to me. It wasn’t the fastest, but never left me stranded.” Not surprisingly, the car earned a special place in his heart, and he has paid the coupe back over the years by repeatedly building it up and refreshing it.
“I became sentimentally attached to the car after a while, I get that way for some reason. That’s why I still own pretty much every car that I’ve bought after the 1968... I’d love the 1968 back to restore too!” Andrew confessed. “Once I started my career after college, I retired her from daily duty and always planned to fix her up. I wasn’t sure it would get to this level, but I love tinkering with the drivetrains, it was always my favorite part. My cars were never lookers early on, as I wasn’t a detail guy.” After finishing college and moving to Orlando, Andrew did not leave the car hobby behind. Despite starting his own business, Performance Roofing USA, and starting a family, he never let his passion wane. Andrew prefers doing most of the work on his own cars, which means lots of late nights and weekends in the garage.
“I rarely let anyone touch my car unless it’s internal transmission, rearend, short-block, or paint work that I don’t have the proper tools for. I strongly believe that you should enjoy the mechanical side if you want to be a car person,’” Andrew told us. “Seeing others pay shops to build these fancy cars amazes me. That’s the part that I enjoy the most for some reason — the accomplishment. This car has been a project from the moment I got it to the present day. I never let it be. It’s been through multiple motors, naturally aspirated, single-turbo, and twin-turbo. It’s always evolving. The most recent restoration took a couple years.”
Such efforts, however, require a supportive spouse. As with any relationship, honesty is always the best policy, so his wife, Krissy, definitely knew what she was in for when it came to cars. In addition to this coupe, Andrew has a pair of SVT Lightning pickups, a 1994 and a 2003, and his wife wheels a 2013 Mustang.
“First, I think you have to discuss the level of your involvement in your hobby with your significant other early on if you want it to work out. Pretty quickly, she could see that the cars weren’t a little fad with me. They weren’t going anywhere,” Andrew explained. “My wife has always been amazingly supportive of my hobbies and for that, I’m very fortunate. She didn’t grow up around cars, but she’s a great sport and embraces what I enjoy. Now that my two small sons, Blake (7) and Bryce (4), are hopelessly addicted, she can’t get away from it. As long as it keeps us all together, she has fun.”
As Andrew mentioned, his coupe has seen a wide variety of combinations over the years. The former mono-turbo arrangement ran mid-11-second passes, but as the car weathered from use Andrew was at a crossroads. The car ran well, so he didn’t want to touch it, but he came across the classic turbo kit and made a change. If you don’t recollect the Incon Systems twin-turbo kit, it was one of the earliest off-the-shelf turbo systems for Mustangs. Based on a pair of cast turbo manifolds, the system offered all the gear necessary to twice-boost a pushrod 5.0-liter engine in one box. It even carried a CARB EO number, making it 50-state legal, which was really ahead of its time in the world of power adders. Alas, the kit was probably a little ahead of its time, but no less effective on a modern small-block build.
“My brother and I came across the kit at Fun Ford Weekend in Orlando around 2007. Jake Lamotta (of LaMotta Performance) was at the track and took a look at the turbos and said they appeared to be in good shape, he was one of the original Incon installers and gurus,” Andrew shared. “We loved the uniqueness of it. My brother bought it, then had to sell it to fund another project, and I quickly jumped on it. I sold the single TTI kit to my friend and immediately installed the Incon kit.”
Andrew ran this setup on his existing combo for a while before deciding his project was at a crossroads. He needed to either move on or completely rebuild it. As you now know, he stuck with the car and completely tore it down back in 2010. He stripped it to a shell, repaired some problem areas, and shipped it off to spray-gun maestro Dean Santiago at Spike’s Performance for a fresh coat of Kona Blue paint.
A fresh Fox deserves a new drivetrain, of course, and the centerpiece of this car is a Ford Strokers-built 363-cube stroker based on a Dart SHP block and filled with a Scat forged crankshaft and forged rods swinging Wiseco forged slugs. Topped by a pair of Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads and Box R intake, this engine lobes to the tune of a custom COMP camshaft, which makes the most of the boost coming from the Incon’s two Garrett snails.
As the combo rose from the ashes of a full rebuild, Andrew needed proper calibration to make it conquer any driveability issues. Fortunately, he had already met another passionate and knowledgeable Fox Mustang enthusiasts who happens to know a thing or two about tuning power adder pushrod combos, as Jack Lyons tunes his own ultra-clean black Fox coupe.
“Jack and I met at Orlando Speedworld. I was running the Incon stock-block combo and he was already running his single-turbo Dart 363,” Andrew said. “We both crawled all over each other’s cars and immediately hit it off. It’s not often you find someone as deep into this specific segment of the hobby as the two of us. He’s so gracious to always share his knowledge and one of the most talented people that I know.”
Having befriended Jack before this complete rebuild began, Andrew knew just how to get a handle on his new, big-cube, twin-turbo setup.
“I blew up my stock block not long after we met, and I started picking his brain for my next combo. He further helped me once I decided to step up to the Haltech Elite 2500,” Andrew elaborated. “He was, and is currently, running an older Sport 2000 plug and play harness ECU. I always bounce my questions off Jack and if he’s needed, he’s always a phone call away. He was there to help me configure and has taught me the basics of tuning. I still call him in to review my changes! I’m very fortunate to have him as a friend.” While he hasn’t hit the dyno or dragstrip with the latest combination, it’s safe to say that Andrew’s combo performs pretty well thanks to a little help from his friends.
“Doing some research and talking to a tuner up North that has an Incon kit on a 347, it will probably support up to the 800 horsepower or so advertised of the kit. This is the smaller 800 kit. He made around 800 to the tire before the turbos started falling off,” Andrew explained. “The torque curve is what I’m dying to see and it’s currently having some clutch issues (that I was expecting). I need to get it on a dyno ASAP once I get a new clutch in it. We’re guessing that it’s making around 650 to 700 lb-ft currently on 9psi based on comparisons to Jack’s, but it comes on so low that it still gets away from you.”
Andrew describes the combination as scary, but we would imagine that’s in a good way. When he is banging the gears with the Tremec TK600 six-speed, the 3.31-gear 8.8 rear struggles to put down the power even with host of suspension upgrades and a set of sticky Mickeys out back.
“…We knew it would have a comical amount of torque, but it’s just a death trap to put it bluntly. Between the 363 cubes and the small turbos, it ramps up so hard, so low in the RPM range, that it’s hard to keep on the road,” Andrew confessed. “I’m still only running 8.5 to 9 psi, I haven’t added the boost controller yet because I don’t know what I’ll do with more torque. I may swap to a larger single just to make the car more useable. For now, it’s a blast as long as you don’t let it get away from you. The drivability has been phenomenal. It just turns sideways on you whenever you stab it on the street.”
While the Incon-boosted, big-cube small-block is certainly the kind of throwback combo that will gather crowds when Andrew pops the hood on his four-eye, it isn’t exactly the most practical for a hot street car, so it may not stay this way forever. “During this most recent motor build, I knew it wasn’t well suited to the combo, but it’s just so period correct for the car and I couldn’t take it off,” Andrew added. “I’ve had thoughts of moving it to my first-gen Lightning if I ever go to a big single on the coupe.” Until then, however, he plans to simply enjoy the fruits of his labor, which emerged from a three-year rectification in 2013 and remains a stunning example of this now-classic version of the Fox Mustang.
“I’m just trying to enjoy the car for a while now. Efforts will be to expand the potential of the Haltech, finish running the air conditioning through the ECU, and making it a great street/strip car. I’m too sentimentally attached to chop it up and make it a race car, so I’m just trying to make it a crazy street cruiser,” Andrew added. “It’s been to Mustang Week and sat in the NPD booth in the convention center and it always gets a ton of attention. I also want to thank Matthew Laszaic and National Parts Depot. We have been close friends for a long time and he has been a part of this build almost every step of the way. We test fit a lot of parts and did a lot of R&D with the build.”
Andrew went on to say, “Racing efforts have moved to a Coyote-swapped coupe that I’ve been working on. Once I get back into consistently racing with the other car, I’ll suck it up and make a few passes.” Based on the results of this car, we have no doubt that Andrew’s Coyote-powered racer will become an impressive specimen, but it might not pull at those nostalgic heartstrings quite has hard as the 800 lb-ft thundering to the rear tires of this twin-turbo small-block combo.
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Photography by Wayne Stewart