Pete Epple Technical Editor
September 14, 2011
Photos By: Marc Christ

March 26, 2005, is a significant date in the life of our Sonic Blue and Satin Silver '88 Cobra clone-it was the last time this Fox ran or moved under it's own power. Between then and now there have been countless daydreams about the "perfect combination" or what direction the car would take. A big-inch small-block with massive turbos, big-block Ford power with a healthy amount of nitrous, and a centrifugal-supercharged, stock- displacement 5-liter setup have all been past "plans" for our two-tone hatchback.

May 26, 2011, is also a significant date for our Fox. In the late hours of that Thursday night, the key was turned and the Ford Racing Hot Rod Three-Valve crate engine roared to life for the first time. The lope of the Hot Rod cams coupled with the sheer volume of the open American Racing Headers long-tube headers (we have yet to fabricate an exhaust system, but plan to) and the hum on the Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump is music to a car guy's ears. The smell of exhaust filled the shop, but it was overpowered by the excitement of hearing this six-year hibernation come to an end.

Six years is a long time for a project to sit dormant, but so many times people run out of money or time and projects are put on the back burner- this was the case with our Fox. Its road to completion has been anything but short. In six years a lot of things can happen (read: go wrong)-the combination can change, hardware ends up missing, you can simply forget how things go back together-and we encountered all of this.

Until this point, we dropped a Ford Racing Hot Rod Three-Valve crate engine into a Maximum Motorsports K-member, along with its coilover front suspension; wired it up with Ford Racing's Control Pack; modified a set of American Racing Headers long-tube headers; installed Maximum Motorsports' rear torque arm suspension; and swapped the stock gas tank for an Aeromotive Stealth tank, which houses an A1000 pump and fuel filter in the sump. Although this is an impressive list of parts, we still needed to connect the dots.

The "dots" are the little things that can nickel and dime you to death, but also make or break a project. As we compiled the "short" to-do list to wrap up the initial build of our Three-Valve Fox, there was a sizeable uphill battle in front of us. The engine, headers, wiring, suspension, and fuel system were already in place, but in order to bring the Three-Valve to life, we were missing a lot. We started in the engine bay and worked our way back. PA Performance sent us one of its 130-amp alternators for the '05-and-up Mustang GT, as well as one of its Hi-Torque starters for the Three-Valve. Both pieces fit perfectly and were super-easy to wire.

Moving on to the transmission, we installed a used T45 from a previous project, with the used stock clutch that was with it. This will work for the time being, until we break it or decide to run something different. We were missing a few critical parts to make the trans work. MPS Auto Salvage sent us a clutch fork for the T45. MPS also supplied us with a stock driveshaft with the correct yolk for our gearbox.

To connect the clutch pedal to the new-to-us clutch fork, Maximum Motorsports sent us one of its clutch cables, firewall adjusters, and quadrants. While we were under the car, we filled the engine and trans with fresh fluid from AMSOIL. We also drained the rearend fluid (which may have been as much as 14 years old) and replaced it AMSOIL Severe Gear rearend fluid.

After giving the fuel system, moving components of the driveline, and wiring a thorough once-over, we were ready to start the Hot Rod crate engine. Our Aeromotive fuel system is a true return-style system, and this meant we no longer used the fuel rail pressure sensor to set fuel pressure. Chris Jones of Blow-By Racing modified the Ford Racing calibration to work with the return-style fuel system using SCT software, which we then loaded into the ECU using an SCT XCal3 handheld tuner.

When we turned the key for the first time, the fuel pump came to life and we checked the entire system for leaks before cranking the engine. Being that none of the fittings were leaking, it was time to fire the engine. Unfortunately, when we turned the key we got nothing-the motor wouldn't crank. With the help of Mark Houlahan, Tech Editor of our sister magazine, Modified Mustangs & Fords, we began inspecting the wiring. We found a bad crimp on the run/start wire in the steering column. We reattached the wire and tried again, and this time the Three-Valve came to life. Knowing the exhaust was not on the forefront of our to-do list, the car was started with open headers. Although this made things a little noisy, the Hot Rod cams sounded amazing!

After letting the car run for a while, we checked for leaks and were happy when we didn't find any. Unfortunately, when we returned the next morning, we were greeted by a huge puddle of water under the car. The reused radiator had a hole in it, which let all of the water escape. A phone call to Latemodel Restoration Supply netted us a new Fluidyne three-core aluminum radiator.

Once the radiator was replaced, we were ready to head to the track. After making sure every nut and bolt was tight, we bolted our Mickey Thompson drag radials on, loaded the car on our trailer, and headed to Bradenton Motorsports Park. Being the car owner and author, I was a little on edge as I rolled into the water box for the first time. It had been over half a decade since I had driven the car for more than 5 minutes, let alone raced it.

The first pass would be a very easy run, simply to make sure nothing was going to come apart and that it would stop safely. The car crossed the stripe in 15.03 seconds at 94 mph with a very mild 2.38 60-foot time. The second run started with a much more aggressive launch, which resulted in a 1.80 60-foot time. Unfortunately, a missed gear ended the run early. Our third attempt was much cleaner, and we walked away with a 14.19-second timeslip at 94 mph. It was quickly backed up with a 14.14 at 96 mph.

Our last pass of the night was the cleanest. The car made it through the short section in 1.95 seconds, and motored to a 13.92 at 97 mph. Although these aren't overly impressive times, the car still hasn't been on the dyno. Its been suggested that the open headers are tricking the knock sensors, and the computer is pulling timing back. The fuel system is also set up so the air/fuel mixture is on the rich side. Once we spend some time on the dyno, we expect much quicker numbers. Stay tuned!

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