KJ Jones
August 30, 2013


Check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the project series!

While our latest run of Fox love isn't the result of any best-laid plan or scheme, we've really been enjoying our look back at the OG late-models. Projects like T-top Coupe, Cheaper Sleeper, Roadkill (that's right, Associate Editor Mike Johnson is at it again), and the latest member of our project stable, a '79 coupe, have all had us feeling nostalgic.

Yes, we're taking things back as far as they can go with this effort, all the way back to the first Fox. This was a ground-breaking period for our beloved 5.0-liter Mustang. When you consider today's high standards for Mustang performance, it's a wonder we'd even dare to think about including the original, 140hp Five-Oh in our tech mix—let alone, actually do it—especially now that Coyote-powered ponies have taken the Mustang Nation by storm.

Since the majority of you are the second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth (or more) owners of '79-'93 Ponies, presenting insights and ideas in minimum-hassle form is the road we've elected to take,given the cars' age. Nowadays, most Foxes—especially those with stock drivetrains—deserve more attention than just adding simple bolt-ons. So with this being the case, enhancing chassis, suspension, and drivetrain are the key areas to address and make a 'Stang like-new again.

The catch-22 here is the fact that in most instances, a Mustang's external appearance is the quality that earns it the initial nice-car status. We typically appreciate Ponies when their paint is poppin', wheels are blingin', and they're laced in other appealing bits that catch our eye. Yes, external beauty typically is the first characteristic to draw us in for closer assessment. And, more often than not, high standards also must be met by a Pony's insides, for us sign off on its badness.

Our most-recent project Fox is a stark contradiction to this concept. The Pony really doesn't meet either aesthetic criterion, being so borderline hideous that owner Rick Anderson actually refers to his 'Stang as Project Pretty Ugly.

"The car is a cherry '79 Mustang coupe in a awesome color of Light Chamois (paint code 83)," says Rick. However, despite this sarcasm, there is method to Rick's madness. "I left the outside as beautiful as it was and worked on the interior and engine compartment," he said. That's what makes the effort so compelling. It's an idea that Editor Steve Turner discusses in his editorial column in our April '13 issue ("Inner Beauty," p. 15), and is the often-repeated credo of your author's uncle and automotive Zen master: It don't gotta be pretty, as long as it runs hard!

As Big Steve explained, it's only natural to be somewhat overprotective of any Mustang that is the product of great ideas, hard work, and oftentimes huge investment. However, there's a huge element of "this makes good sense" in Rick's approach and the message Uncle Joe has been preaching forever. At the end of the day, performance is the quality that really makes us feel good when we're behind the wheel of our 'Stangs. Stunning looks certainly make the package complete, but it really is cool to be able to get away with more, while actually showing a lot less.

"I just wanted a cool car that I'm not afraid to drive anywhere," says Rick. "If it gets a dent, so what? It already has dents. I just wanted killer performance with daily driver reliability, packaged in the most-unassuming Fox in existence (a '79 coupe)."

While looks definitely weren't the primary objective for Project Pretty Ugly—which Rick endearingly refers to as Ugly for short—the coupe did receive some appearance enhancements below the surface, including Rick's did-it-himself interior makeover (a full-color change and resto-mod gauge setup). He really brought the old-school Fox's cabin back to the future.

In the accompanying photos and captions, we spotlight these undercover upgrades, as well as the prep work for the street/strip beast that's coming soon—a 427ci Windsor, shot with nitrous and commanded by Holley's new Dominator EFI system.

Despite the intentional exterior neglect, interior style and comfort are important qualities for this Fox Rod project. As such, Rick starts the effort by dismantling the dash and then removing the carpet, seats, door panels, and all interior trim pieces. This will be the last look at the Pony’s OEM Chamois (Interior Trim Code C3) interior. The plan is to give the coupe’s cabin a cool do-it-yourself makeover that only requires a little time and patience to execute. (Note the knobs on the AM/FM radio. Knobs? Really?!)

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The finished cluster looks stock, but it’s actually really trick.

Horse Sense: Fear not 'Stang fans, we haven’t lost our minds. The cold, hard fact is that even at 35-years-old, ’79 Foxes still qualify as being young enough to remain in our coverage range. Yes, even we wonder how long the window will remain open, but until it closes, we’ll continue to present upgrade ideas for these near classics... especially when the mods are as cool as the ones you’ll read about in this project series.

With everything installed and powered up, Rick gives the gauge system a test run. Note that the values all register as 0 or 1.04. These are default numbers, as there is no engine in the car to produce data.

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…And after the primer was dry, JR lays factory-original Light Chamois paint (Paint Code #83) to complete Project Pretty Ugly’s minor beautification effort. We hate to leave you hanging here, as we are pretty excited about the next phase, but you’ll have to stay tuned to see how PPU turns out.