KJ Jones
January 1, 2013
Photos By: KJ Jones

Finding Deals

Killer deals and good-guy prices are the fuels that power the huge exchange (on the Internet, at swap meets, and such) of Mustang parts and services that make budget-conscious projects like ours doable.

Diligence, patience and sometimes persistence really are the keys to making stout transactions online--especially in person--as is having cash or electronic funds at the ready so you can strike and close good deals as quickly as possible.

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First Mods

We kicked off Cheaper Sleeper’s mods with a simple gear swap and a spring, shock, and strut replacement. AOD-shifted ’Stangs are extremely sluggish by nature, and OEM gear ratios (3.08 and 3.27) for ’86-’93s don’t help low-end matters at all.

In an effort to improve in this area yet economize as much as possible, Stevie Morrow of Stevie's Garage in Simi Valley, California, installed a spare set of Ford Racing 3.55 gears in the project's differential. With 3.55s, the 'Stang shows slight improvement in stoplight takeoffs, but there definitely is a major difference on the freeway when the throttle is punched to accelerate around big rigs and slower traffic.

The suspension upgrade was made in part based on necessity (the factory coil springs were shot), and vanity as well (we desperately wanted to rid the LX of its notoriously high stance). Our buddies at GTR High Performance assisted in this area, after KJ and GTR's Eddie Zapata struck a $60 deal for a set of lowering springs.

Because of their expertise with Fox Mustangs, most mod procedures for our Pony will take place at Stevie's Garage or GTR. However, as Cheaper Sleeper is your tech editor's daily driver, there also will be occasions where we'll make changes on our Project 'Stang right at work, in our own West Coast Tech Center (located in El Segundo, California).

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On The Dyno

After working with today's ('05-'13) Mustangs, which produce fantastic rear-wheel horsepower and torque when modified, we admit it's sometimes difficult to process the lower numbers of bone-stock Ponies of the past.

Not long after purchasing the '91 LX, we strapped the Pony down on the Dynojet chassis dyno at GTR High Performance to find out how it's really doing (from a performance perspective) with almost 150,000 miles on the virgin 5.0-liter engine. Not surprisingly, and as you see by the dyno graph and chart, the 'Stang isn't a record-setter of any sort. However, when comparing our project's dyno numbers (with an AOD transmission) against data from Rob Bieskche's bone-stock five-speed LX, which also was tested on GTR's 'Jet (see "The Main Event," Oct. '12, p. 52) the difference of 178 to 209 is almost exactly 15 percent.

Most of this project's upgrades will focus on drivetrain, and in theory, the amount of performance-lost-through-the-drivetrain will tighten considerably once Performance Automatic's new Fox-specific AOD transmission and torque converter are installed in Cheaper Sleeper.

Our goal is to ultimately get the LX to throw down at least 275 horsepower at the feet. While the number may seem miniscule by today's high benchmarks, it's important that you understand we're not out to set big-steam records with this project. Achieving a cool 100 (or more) naturally aspirated horsepower through inexpensive mods is plenty acceptable…and impressive...for an '86-'93 5.0. That's our immediate plan. Then we'll add nitrous oxide.

RPM Power Torue