February 25, 2010

Horse Sense:
Our Fox LX project car hadn't been given an official name, but "stocker" had been thrown around quite a bit. At this stage of the game, calling the LX a stocker seems almost comical. Since the car still looks stock, it's going to shock a lot of people when it's done. Therefore, the car's name is Project Shocker.

Stop me if you've already heard this one: Some guy buys a Mustang. He adds a few bolt-on modifications. Then, before he knows it, he realizes that he's built a racecar and he's not sure how to feel about it.

Yeah, I know. That story is all too familiar to many of us in this hobby. On the outside looking in, it probably seems like we are building our LX into a racecar, but that is simply not the case. There is a distinction to be made here, and it involves the general philosophy guiding our project.

This is a street car we're working on and it will not be gutted out in the pursuit of low e.t.'s. However, we said from the beginning that our performance goals are lofty, so certain concessions must be made. As of this writing, we're putting the finishing touches on a new power plant for our '89 that should be capable of four-digit power. Accordingly, a complete overhaul is needed for the drivetrain in order to effectively deliver that power.

We contacted Strange Engineering to discuss the particulars of our buildup, and what might have been a short phone call quickly became a lengthy conversation. Thankfully, our man JC Cascio at Strange, had the patience to deal with all of our questions and the knowledge to point us in the right direction.

The major sticking point was the difference between street and race equipment. For a serious street/strip application, JC prefers the company's 35-spline S/T axles with a locker differential and an 8620 steel gear set. But when I told JC we were shooting for 1,000 hp at the tire on pump gas with the possibility of switching to C16 and going for really big numbers, he insisted that we step up to Strange's race-only equipment.

Of course, that would contradict what Editor Turner and I set out to accomplish from the beginning of this project. Street-ability has always been a key component of our build philosophy, so I was hesitant to go the race-only route. In the end, I posed this question to JC: If it was you sitting in the car getting ready to release the transbrake on the starting line, would you rather have the 35-spline street axles or the 40-spline race rear? He says the race setup is necessary at this power level, so we agreed, but with one caveat: We are hanging onto the LX's existing 31-spline 8.8-inch rear so it can be swapped in for extended street driving. It's a complicated proposition, but we won't compromise on safety.

With that said, JC cooked up a nice setup for our '89 LX. The boys at Strange Engineering started with their sheetmetal 9-inch housing, narrowed it 4 inches overall, installed suspension mounts in the factory locations, and reinforced it with a back brace. Next they loaded it with their 3.812-inch bore Ultra Case center section with a 40-spline spool; billet aluminum pinion support; large-stem, 9310-steel 3.50 pro-gear set; and chrome-moly yoke. The 40-spline gun-drilled Pro Race axles feature lightening holes in their flanges, along with 5/8-inch wheel studs. The finishing touch is a set of Pro Race brakes with billet-aluminum, four-piston calipers and vented steel rotors. A 9-inch rearend like this would be right at home in a 2,000hp Outlaw Drag Radial ride, so we shouldn't be anywhere near its physical limits. This provides the driver with much needed peace of mind!

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Of course, this driver is also concerned about getting the power to the ground, so I contacted Jeremy Martorella at UPR Products, who promptly shipped out its Extreme Duty Pro-Series rear suspension package. The system includes double-adjustable upper control arms and single-adjustable lower control arms just like the standard Pro-Series kit, but the Extreme Duty system incorporates larger spherical bearings and fasteners that will stand up to extreme power levels. With its double antiroll bar, the suspension is 7-second capable on the dragstrip. Our particular kit was shipped with offset lower control arms that offer extra tire clearance. Additionally, our lowers do not include spring perches because we chose to run coilover shocks.

While wrapping up our research and parts ordering, it was actually quite an honor to speak with Chris Alston about our Fox project. The man is a wealth of suspension knowledge and he knew just what we needed.

We covered all of the particulars of our Fox build and he selected his double-adjustable coilover conversion kit. It includes Chris Alston's Chassisworks double-adjustable VariShocks with separate knobs for rebound and compression dampening. The knobs have an adjustment range of 16 clicks. The billet-aluminum shock bodies are threaded for coilover spring collars, and the shocks feature spherical bearing mounts at each end to minimize the suspension bind caused by bushing deflection.

Chris threw in some adjustable lower shock mounts to work with our Strange Engineering housing and an extra pair of springs so we can do some thorough suspension tuning. We will examine the suspension tuning in more detail when we install the front suspension and dial it all in.

With parts collection complete, we loaded up and headed north for another trip to Rigid Race Cars outside Cincinnati, Ohio. Rob Lewis is the owner/fabricator at Rigid Race Cars and he has my trust to work on this car. To say that your author is a bit picky with this car is a bit of an understatement, but Rob does awesome work at a reasonable price, so we're proud to have him on our team.

Speaking of pride, all of the components installed in this Phase 3 article were manufactured right here in the USA-something we can all be proud of! Follow the captions as we show how our Fox rearend was upgraded for strip duty!

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