When it comes to owning your first Mustang, many times you are unaware of the demons lurking under the surface. It's most likely you don't see them because, like they say, "Love is blind." We buy a Mustang because we want one so bad. We're willing to overlook some of its rougher edges, mechanical maladies, or its multi-colored interior, in the name of simply owning a Mustang. Sure enough, though, once you get the car home, and those rose-colored glasses come off, you have to admit to yourself that maybe you should've remained patient in your search.
However, it's too late, you own a Mustang, so now what?! You can punt, and just sell it, hoping to recoup your money. Or you can get to work; pull up your pants, roll up your sleeves, and get busy. After all, the parts are available to rejuvenate any Mustang. All it takes is work, time, and of course, money.
Our newest project is this 1992 Mustang GT we call Project Nephew. It's owned by this author's nephew, and the car is his first Mustang. He looked at several cars before settling on this particular car, and not being very mechanically inclined, he was unsure of what to go over before making the trade for his existing Ford Expedition. Therefore, what he became the owner of was a Fox Mustang in need of work; at this point, most of them do need a rescue.
First things first, the car's exhaust, or lack thereof, was pretty disappointing. At some point after driving the car for a short period of time, one of the mufflers fell off. We've only witnessed a muffler come off while attending a drag race, and that happened more than once. For a street car to lose a muffler, that is a sign of shoddy work. We even tried to reattach the muffler, but the existing pipe wouldn't hold up. Obviously, the exhaust needed help, and it was addressed.
The engine compartment had issues, as well. It had an electric fan that didn't seem to work very well. The spark plug wires drew too much attention for our tastes, but also featured a few cracks and burns. The engine, as far as we can tell, just has a Trick Flow StreetBurner intake, but it had the injectors and mass air of a car making 500 horsepower. The 42 lb/hr injectors made for a drivability nightmare, so that was also on the list to replace.
Safe to say, even though this is the first installment for Project Nephew, it won't be the last. We have our hands full with this one.
First things first, Project Nephew looked like a lot of its mechanical systems were thrown together. That stuff happens, but we wanted to start off by installing known components in order to get the car running more reliably. The car had an electric fan with questionable wiring, so that was one of the first changes we wanted to make. The stock clutch fan and radiator came from our friend Tim Townsend. We also had little things we wanted to add, like new door strikers, a thermostat and gasket, door hinge pins and bushings, and a few other parts from CJ Pony Parts.
So this is what we started with under the hood of Project Nephew. Nothing really matched and the injectors and mass air meter were way too much for the combination. Drivability was subpar, the radiator leaked, and overall we were looking to improve Project Nephew's general disposition. The car is needed on a daily basis, so we had several systems needing attention.
We recruited fellow Mustang 360 Tech Editor Mark Houlahan to help turn wrenches, and we started by removing the electric fan and radiator, existing spark plug wires, and thermostat. Here Mark is installing the replacement Ford Racing spark plug wires he donated to the cause. These match the Trick Flow intake much better than the existing red spark plug wires.
The car's existing electric fan ran off a toggle switch on the dash, and that is definitely one thing we wanted to change. Therefore, this new-to-us factory radiator and clutch fan from Tim Townsend perfectly fit the bill. The new-to-us parts created a new problem, but we'll get to that in a minute.
With the new spark plug wires, radiator, clutch fan, and cleaning up the wiring, the engine compartment was remarkably better than before. No, it wasn't going to win any car show awards, but it's still a big improvement.
Unfortunately, the new parts created a new problem. The new fan and fan clutch was causing fan wash, which is when air from the fan hits the filter causing an erratic idle and a lean bucking issue. In a nutshell the increased air from the fan was totally confusing the mass air meter. A quick fix for this was making an enclosure for the filter. Since the car's owner works for Coke, he used an old box as a makeshift enclosure. It was crude, but it worked until a more permanent fix could be installed.
We regrouped at David Piercey's Mustang Performance to address the intake and exhaust modifications. David Piercey has a ton of Fox Mustang parts and knowledge, so we knew we were in good hands if we needed assistance or parts. First thing we did was remove the car's existing air intake. We disconnected the mass air meter, loosened the throttle body clamp, and removed the Pro-M unit in one piece. We discovered a hole in the throttle-body flange, which means this engine could've ingested gobs of nitrous at one time during its life.
In this day and age where we cover a lot of Coyote swaps and installations, and Modular-based combinations, it was refreshing to once again work on a pushrod engine. We had to replace the injectors with stock 19 lb/hr examples so the Trick Flow upper intake had to come off. While we were at it, we were going to also replace the valve covers and valve cover gaskets. However, with just a -inch phenolic spacer, the new-to-us valve covers from Gus Markou were too tall.
We purchased new Trick Flow intake gaskets from Summit Racing in preparation of the injector swap, but before we could put it all back together, Mark scrapes off the existing gasket from both the upper and lower intake, and the spacer. Whoever did previous work on the car also uses silicone to help seal the intake, but using new gaskets, we didn't need to the help of silicone when we put it back together.
With everything prepped and ready to go back together we reinstall the Trick Flow upper intake. You can also see Mark has installed a factory air box, coupler, and mass air meter. We traded David Piercey a stock Fox meter for the SN95 meter Travis Smith mistakenly sent to us.
To finish up the engine compartment, Mark attaches a factory inlet elbow. We purchased the stock air box, coupler, and elbow from Fox Mustang Restoration. It's not included in this photo, but we also added the correct idle air control valve, as well. Thanks to the stock injectors and mass air meter, and the correct air intake system, our nephew says the car's drivability is so much better. Compared to what was on it, we're not surprised.
Moving on the car's exhaust, or lack thereof, this was what we started with. When our nephew bought the car, it did have two mufflers in place, but shortly after purchase one of them fell off. We tried reattaching it with the existing clamp, but that effort was futile. The exhaust was just a disaster, and it definitely needed replacing.
The only good thing about removing a clapped out exhaust is that it's usually very easy to get off of the car. Since the exhaust was made up of single pipes, it was easy to remove them from the headers on each side.
For an H-pipe, we checked out Holley's website for Flowtech's 2 -inch example (PN 53605FLT; $215.95) designed to fit 1986-1993 Mustang 5.0L GT/LX models. This H-pipe is made from aluminized tubing, and features a two-piece construction with a clamp to join the two sides together. The easiest way to install the H-pipe is to loosely attach the two sides together, and line them up against the header flanges on each side. Once you have the rest of the exhaust in place, then you can fully tighten the clamp, or even weld the two sides together for an even better seal.
For the rest of the exhaust, we called on another of Holley's brands for a Flowmaster Force II cat-back system (PN17106; $479.95). Like the Flowtech H-pipe, this Flowmaster system boasts a 2 -inch diameter, is made from aluminized steel, and features 50-series Delta Flow mufflers. Since we didn't have much of an exhaust to remove, it took us maybe an hour to install the new Flowtech H-pipe and Flowmaster cat-back. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out Project Nephew sounds way better with the Flowtech H-pipe and Flowmaster cat-back in place.
With the cooling, intake, and exhaust systems sorted out, it was time to take care of other aspects of the car. We ordered up a door hinge pin and bushing kit, and also door strikers for the car from CJ Pony Parts. Project Nephew's door hinges and bushings were surprisingly good, but the door strikers definitely needed changing. In case you are new to the Fox Mustang game, there's supposed to be a bushing on the door striker. If you open your Fox Mustang door to the sound of a "tink," the bushing is probably gone.
Chances are you've heard us bellyache about Fox door striker bushings in the past, but this is how your door striker is supposed to look. Instead of the door latch hitting metal, and causing the "tink," the bushing instead provides a nice "thunk." We harp on this because we continue to see high-dollar Fox builds without these bushings in place. The sound it makes when the owner opens the door is the equivalent to fingernails on a chalkboard. If your Fox makes that noise when you open the door, CJ Pony Parts sells them for roughly $8 apiece. Simply install the new door striker in the same place as the old one, and you should be all set. You may have to do subtle adjustments in case the door was adjusted to compensate for the lack of a bushing, but that's just a matter of either moving the striker either inward or outward to arrive at the proper adjustment.
To finish out this round of Project Nephew upgrades, the car's existing Cobra R-style wheels lacked any kind of center cap. Tom Clark from SINIS Built donated these center cap decals to the cause to bring the car's wheels up to snuff. SINIS Built has a wide variety of center cap decals, ranging from the ones we received to custom designs. Hit up SINIS Built on Facebook or Instagram to check out what is available for your Mustang.
Photography by Michael Johnson