K.J. Jones
November 2, 2007
Photos By: Ford Racing Performance Parts, Courtesy Of Strange Engineering
Here's a sampling of parts that Strange Engineering used for assembly of Fox 500's 8.8 rearend. The housing, which has been modified and now sports Strange's chrome-moly, 9-inch bearing housings, can be purchased in stock-length trim through Ford Racing Performance Parts (PN M-4006-C373; $875). The bling radiating from Motive Gears' 3.73s comes from a Mikronite treatment courtesy of the folks at Crane Cams; Strange's beefy 31-spline S/S Street series axles await installation. From the "trick part" department, North Racecars' offset brake-caliper brackets ($150) are the pieces that allow our LX's proposed 11.65-inch Cobra brakes to mount to the rear's 9-inch ends without any fabrication issues or fitment drama.

Horse Sense: Editor Steve Turner has high hopes for getting the massive 18-inch wheels and tires of an '07 Shelby GT 500 to look as though they belong on his Fox-body version of the super 'Stang-without putting a hammer to the wheelwells. [But thanks to KJ's tire-sizing recommendations, there's not much chance of that!-Ed.]

5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Editor Steve Turner is now in full swing with his project 'Stang: the '88 T-top LX you've been reading about in our magazine. You also may have seen discussions about the rare car in 'Stang-themed message forums on the Internet.

With Ford Racing Performance Parts' Condor (PN M-6007-C54; $15,999)-a 500hp supercharged 5.4 crate engine-and Tremec's custom TR-6060-in-a-T56-case six-speed leading the lineup of cool components in Fox 500's drivetrain, any performance aficionado could argue that installing a 9-inch rearend is the only way to properly close the drivetrain for Steve's radical 'Stang.

Ford's beefy 9-inch is considered by most gearheads to be the ultimate in rearend options. While the rear's fame comes primarily from its success on the race track, we've also seen a fair amount of 9-inch setups under street Mustangs that pack a lot more power and torque than one might think. Fox 500's project-car brother (our '86 T-top coupe) fits this mean street-'Stang description; it relies on a Strange Engineering, Motive Gear, and Eaton Detroit-stuffed (axles, 4.30 gears, and Locker differential) FAB9 rearend to handle all the muscle its supercharged powerplant can flex.

Steve has opted to install an 8.8 rearend below his radical new ride. The decision was made mainly because an 8.8 is much lighter than a 9-inch, and Steve's overall plan with Fox 500 is to do a lot less dragging-if any at all-than simply driving the blown, mod-powered, '88 T-top car on the highways and byways of the Sunshine State. That, and his suspension from Maximum Motorsports requires an 8.8 for its torque-arm arrangement, which will plant all that GT 500 power. Despite the "ultimate-rear" cred the 9-inch carries, the truth of the matter is a Mustang's 8.8 rearend can be just as great, provided it's built with the right parts and set up by a technician who knows what he's doing.

With Steve going after the big-wheel (18-inch) look and the wheel-and-tire size limits of non-minitubbed Fox Mustangs ranging in the 17x9 area, a customized rearend housing is required for properly pulling off a clean, trick fit. Strange's techs begin transformation of our project's rear by using a plasma cutter to remove unnecessary quad-shock brackets from the housing.

Strange Engineering's JC Cascio promised the company's technicians would ensure the car's rear is correct by assembling the killer 8.8 being featured in this report. The rear is highlighted by a pair of Strange's street-tough, 31-spline, S/S Street series axles (PN P3102; $369.60) and its chrome-moly 9-inch housing ends (PN H1138; $70.00). They were fitted into and on FRPP's 8.8 rearend housing (PN M-4006-C373, $875.00).

Of course, no rearend would be considered complete without gears and a diff, so Strange also outfitted Steve's housing with a 3.73 ring-and-pinion gearset from Motive Gear (PN F888373; $158.00) and an Eaton Detroit TrueTrac (PN 913A561; $435.95) locking differential.

Paul Svinicki of Paul's High Performance in Jacksonville, Michigan, is the shop that has taken on the challenge of turning Steve's Shelby GT 500-powered dream into a real-deal Fox 'Stang. It's a daunting task, but the project seems to be moving along nicely. The T-top LX's complete Maximum Motorsports front suspension is now in the car ("Supporting Cast," Oct. '07, p. 56), and once the Strange-built rear arrives at Paul's and is combined with Maximum's gear for the backside, there's no doubt the ponies running through the FRPP aluminum driveshaft will find their way to the pavement when Steve takes the wheel and finesses the gas pedal.

Rearend assembly is actually a twice-done process. A rear is usually mock-assembled for measurement taking and fitment analysis, which helps an assembler determine correct shim sizes and clearances, among other things.

The following photos capture some of the highlights of Strange Engineering's 8.8 build for Fox 500.

Each axle tube is carefully measured. Per Paul Svinicki's instructions, 2 inches (measured along the axle tube from the back of the stock bearing housing to the differential housing) are sliced from each tube.A chop saw handles this task nicely. Strange's tech-nicians remember to accommodate the thickness of the housing ends that will be welded on, as well as axle length.

Once the sawed-off ends on each axle tube are deburred and cleaned, our Strange 9-inch bearing housings (housing ends) are set up for welding on a bar-style, installation jig. The jig is a dual-purpose tool, as it also serves as a truing index for straightening axle tubes as they're being welded to the differential housing.

The 9-inch bearing housings...

...are TIG-welded into place.