Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsNews & Views
Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords Magazine 20th Anniversary - 20th Century Fox
The 5.0L Mustang Spawned A New Age Of Performance.
In 1986, Ford changed the face of performance with its new Port Injected 5.0 H.O. Mustang. Featuring free-flowing cylinder heads and intake manifold, tubular exhaust manifolds, a computer system that was friendly to modifications, and a real dual exhaust, the 5.0 Mustang had an overall lightweight package, a cheap price tag, and darn quick times in stock trim. It was the first time in nearly 15 years that Detroit produced a package worth selling to car enthusiasts who wanted real, affordable muscle. The fuel-injected 5.0 High Output engine appeared in the '86 Mustang GT and LX models, but it wasn't until the 225hp version in the '87 model that it was launched into the performance-market stratosphere.
Boasting redesigned "aero" looks and an increase in horsepower, this Mustang was a smashing hit. Hot rodders and magazine journalists were hooked on the super-light shipping weights, and the fact that you could do a few tweaks and slam gears into the 13s. Of course, many feared the new EFI setup, but it didn't take long for the masses to get on board.
The now-defunct Cars Illustrated magazine, the forerunner of MM&FF, pounded multiple 5.0 Mustangs, invented the 10-minute tune-up, and did things like adding gears and generally teaching Ford freaks how to go fast with lessons on powershifting and launching techniques.
By the late '80s, Mustangs were starting to take over local test-and-tune nights at tracks, and the aftermarket began ramping up for growth. Countless companies are where they are today because of the 5.0 Mustang, including this magazine, which was the first to focus solely on late-model Mustang performance.
Most traditional hot rodders were scared of EFI, but a new generation of enthusiasts were poised to take control of the market and push forward. It all centered on the 5.0 High Output engine, and this magazine is a testament of its impact on the industry. It had been a long time since a car had been so quick-high 13s in some cases-and cost so little. This was the car that the pizza-delivery guy could afford to own and modify, as well as some high-end guys like Stormin' Norman Gray, who was one of the first guys to throw big bucks and big modifications at a 5.0. Popularity grew, and the magazines of the time took an increasingly bigger interest in the burgeoning Mustang market. One such magazine was the aforementioned "in-your-face" Cars Illustrated. The editors shot from the hip, and it was a knuckle-dragging rag that left the fluffy stuff to the California-based magazines.
Cars Illustrated's driving forces were Neil Van Oppre, Steve Collison, and Tony DiFeo, and they pushed the boundaries of journalism. Their work is stuff legends are made of. They made fun of readers with stupid questions, and had no problem street racing press cars, as well as their own. Most people remember when they actually street raced a Grand National from the GM Press Fleet on the local street scene. Then they'd let you know what cars to look out for and which ones were easy prey. Cars Illustrated didn't make a huge impact on the newsstand because a small New Jersey niche publishing company called CSK Publishing put it out. Circulation wasn't as high as the giants Car Craft and Hot Rod, but those who did read the magazine became cult followers. A few are on this staff today.
Then came a special project the Cars Illustrated crew worked on-a one-shot called MUSCLE MUSTANGS& FAST FORDS magazine. The editors knew the Mustang market was hot, and they decided to throw together a magazine to capitalize on it. The first MM&FF issue came out with a Fall 1988 cover date. Seasonal Fall issues in this industry usually carry an October cover date, marking our first issue as the October '88 one-amazingly, 20 years to this issue!