March 6, 2013

Admittedly I’m not used to hitting car shows in January, but who could stay away from 80-degree weather and close to 1,000 Fords?

I’m talking about the Ford and Mustang Roundup at Silver Springs Theme Park, sponsored by National Parts Depot (NPD). While there were dozens of amazing Fords, we zoned in on one particular Cabernet Red ’89 5.0 LX hatchback and the memories (for me) started flowing.

The LX was a near clone to long-time MM&FF contributor Neil Van Oppre’s own ’87 Cabernet Red 5.0, which served as a mule for zillions of tech stories and track-thrash sessions. Neil and I spent many Wednesday and Friday nights at Englishtown Raceway Park squeezing ounce after ounce of e.t. from our bolt-on Stangs.

To say this LX is well-preserved would be a gross understatement. It is in 100-percent original condition—the odometer has only rolled 630 miles! It belongs to Steve and Tim Smith, a father-and-son team that owns quite a few original, low-mileage Mustangs.

Though many claim something to be “original,” in my eyes something is only original once. After it’s been restored, repainted, and/or rebuilt, it might be factory, but it’s not original. This Stang is original. Right down to the Goodyear Eagle tires that didn’t even seem scuffed. The darn thing hadn’t even been dealer prepped!

Walking around the hatchback evoked emotions from when my own ’87 LX was virgin—before the numerous mods, before it was stolen (twice, but found both times), and long before it became a NHRA record-holding 10-second Stocker. I still have that car, and I don’t regret modifying it—not one iota.

“We’ve owned the LX about five years,” said Tim Smith. “I was looking for a ’93 Cobra, but when I saw this, I figured I could find a Cobra in 10 years or so. You don’t find many plain-Jane LXs.”

Tim’s LX still wears the window sticker and the Cabernet paint shows like new. It’s a total throwback. I remember thinking how much fun these cars were—at just $13,816. A close look at the sticker shows the base 5.0 LX was just $12,265.

As I walked away, I wondered why anyone would have preserved an ’89 5.0 LX, and I argued with myself about whether it was a waste of a car. Although a hot one in 1989, it didn’t have the prominence of a big-block ’60s muscle car, or an original-era Shelby. Imagine the enjoyment that little 5.0 could have given someone… imagine the burnouts, the powershifts, the T5 carnage.

But wait, I said to myself, where else can you find an original example of Mustang history circa 1989? Tim Smith is sharing his timepiece with the world. Suddenly, it became even cooler. It attacked my emotions, brought back memories and I could totally appreciate it for what it was—even though secretly I wanted to rip out the air silencer, jack the timing, and swap in 3.73s. Hey, where’s my short-belt?

In reality, if Tim’s LX wasn’t preserved, it would most certainly be ragged out, maybe wrecked, crushed, or who knows?

Thankfully, Steve and Tim’s LX will be enjoyed by anyone who can appreciate a perfect example of what Ford produced in the late-’80s. The 5.0 Fox-body Mustang essentially saved the Mustang as we know it today, as a rear-wheel-drive performance coupe. Yes, it was slated to be the Probe, but by 1989, the 5.0 Mustang had a cult-like following, and Mustang enthusiasts made the cry that Ford executives heard loud and clear.

The Mustang aftermarket was also being built up as racers pushed the limits of the EEC-IV-injected 302 with nitrous, blowers, and turbos. This fueled a revolution in performance by Ford, GM, and even Chrysler. Today the Pony car is alive, and in my book, you can thank the 5.0 Mustang.

These cars were a steal at just $13,816. A close look at the sticker shows the base 1989 5.0 LX was just $12,265.