Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 7, 2006
Photos By: Steve Turner
Our Project Real Street's interior is among the best looking and most fully functional of any Real Street car in competition today, but that's what magazine cars are supposed to be like. You'd be hard-pressed to find a competitive Real Street car with the A/C, stereo components, full sound deadening, and more that we left or installed on this car. The finished results are awesome, but I certainly hope Editor Turner's next project car comes with a black interior already in it!

Our Project Real Street wasn't a pretty sight when ex-editor Rob Kinnan-heading back to Cali to work with the NMRA-handed over the keys and the title to Editor Turner. Faded white paint (in three shades) and a ratted-out red interior just wouldn't cut the mustard for a project car. We handled the painting of the Real Street project in the August issue ("Real Pretty," p. 166). With the paint job done, we can start putting our Real Street back together, hopefully in time for Bowling Green.

We've been working on the little things, including brake lines, wiring, lighting, and so on. But the big item to tackle is the interior. As usual, Editor Turner couldn't make it easy for yours truly, as he wanted yet another black interior similar to the one in his purple '89 notch (at least his '98 Cobra came factory that way and I didn't have to deal with that one!). Trying to locate black interior parts-especially for a coupe with manual windows-can be daunting, but we struck oil with the large selection at All Mustang Performance's salvage division. After speaking by phone with the company's knowledgeable staff, we not only had most everything we'd need to convert to the black interior for Goth king Turner, but we also ordered the small, beat-your-head-against-the-wall parts needed for the V-8 swap.

With the main Ford pieces out of the way, it was time to pick up the phone for some aftermarket enhancements to add to our black interior. Editor Turner has always been jealous of the Cobra Daytona seats in my LX with matching Schroth harness belts, so I had to set up the Real Street car in a similar fashion to keep my job. The Cobra Daytona seats and adjusters are from Sube Sports, the U.S. importer of Cobra seating, while the Schroth Profi-III harness belts are from HMS Motorsport, the U.S. distributor for Schroth.

It will be much easier to install the Interactive Systems EFI harness and EEC IV processor now before the dash assembly goes in. This also goes for any auxiliary gauge or switch wiring. The cleaner you can make it, the easier it will be to work on in the future.

Rounding out the interior is a plethora of Auto Meter Phantom instrumentation, KS Reproductions white-face gauge overlays from CJ Pony Parts, Auto Custom Carpets embroidered floormats and carpet, and a Grant Evolution GT wheel with yellow accents. It's almost too nice for a "race car," but we all know that after its tour of duty, Editor Turner is just going to baby it around town like his other Mustangs. Right, Mike?

Horse Sense: The Johnny Cash theme seems to be popular with Fox Mustang owners. All three of Editor Turner's Mustangs have black interiors. But finding black interior trim parts can be difficult for such items as rear quarter-panels and manual-window door assemblies. Sometimes it's simply better to paint the panels using a high-quality interior trim paint, such as the ones from Metro Mustang [(404) 767-3378], which we've used in the past with great success.

Before we get to the door panels, we first install new rubber glass runs and wipers from Latemodel Restoration Supply. The old seals were dry-rotted, and we knew we'd have a better paint job with the seals out. The wiper is simply riveted into place on the door-skin lip as shown here.

The window-run seal is trickier to install, but it isn't something a bit of patience and time can't tackle. Begin at the upper rear corner of the door frame, as shown here, and then carefully work the seal into the glass run channel. Some silicone spray might help get the seal into place. Notice the door-opening seal is already installed on the body.

The first items to be installed of our black interior stash from All Mustang are the door panels. Because we're dealing with used parts, we spent the extra few bucks on all-new door-panel retaining clips to keep everything tight and quiet.

As Kinnan was a cheapskate, he didn't bother to look for a better car with power windows. So we're stuck trying to find black door panels for a manual-window car. This is your basic needle-in-a-haystack story. We decided to use power-window door panels, thinking there wasn't any difference. We found out the hard way there is indeed a difference-the armrest is positioned further back on the panel. After cutting a hole in a perfectly good door panel for the window crank, it hits the armrest. We'll think of something, but it would have been easier if Kinnan had found a car with power windows. Thanks, Rob!

We had some of these nice-looking Unlimited Performance Racing switch-panel covers laying around, so we mocked up a pair on the door armrests (we also used UPR's A/C knobs and coat hooks on the interior project). We were all in agreement that they look quite spiffy in our black interior. We may just have to convert to power windows and add the switches to make this all work.

Auto Custom Carpets has everything you need to install fresh carpet in any year Mustang. Not only did we get black stock-type, cut-pile carpeting for our Real Street ride, but also ACC's floormat division whipped up these sweet, embroidered floormats. In addition, we ordered some bulk carpeting (sold by the yard off the roll) to cover the now-vacant rear-seat area.

The carpet lays in place easily, requiring only minor trimming. What's nice is if you aren't using the factory console or parking brake in your race car, the carpet-while precut for those areas-still has the carpet sections in place. Just leave them in place and you have nice, new carpet everywhere.

Using the bulk carpet, we carefully trim away small scraps around the rollbar and plastic quarter-trim panels (already installed) for a clean fit. 3M trim glue in aerosol cans helps hold everything in place.

Since Project Real Street began life as a four-cylinder car, we needed a complete, black V-8 spec dash with gauges and wiring. All Mustang was able to scare up one of these rare, unmolested beauties. Here Associate Editor Johnson gets the short straw and has to work cleaning detail. If only he would do the same to his own car's black interior.

Installing the dash assembly is a two-person job. The wiring harness must be carefully routed out of the firewall by the brake booster, while the HVAC system, defroster ducts, pedal-support brace, and so on are carefully aligned to allow the dash to sit correctly. As soon as the dash is in place, have someone install the center screw of the five long Torx screws found underneath the defroster duct trim. Complete the dash installation by attaching the remaining four screws along the top and the bolt found in each corner by the kick panel.

The console slides into place. Again, All Mustang was able to find a console for us, this one from a '90 with no armrest. Since '87-and-up models have the correct console rear-mounting brace, it's simply a matter of tightening down some Phillips-head screws. If you're updating the interior on an '86-or-older model, you'll have to acquire this brace as well in order for your console to mount securely.

With the factory gauges monitoring the basics, we knew we had to get more detailed information on our D.S.S.-built 306 and our Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger. We installed a full count of Auto Meter Phantom gauges using the company's tach pod and A-pillar pod treatments, as well as its two-gauge center A/C vent gauge cage. Filling these openings is a tach with shift light, fuel pressure, boost, air temp, water temp, oil pressure, and exhaust temp. The wiring of this many gauges is oftentimes handled with the dash out of the car. We did some preliminary wiring this way, but since our 306 was still on the engine stand at the time, we have to wire each gauge separately for the most part.

Although we aren't installing it just yet, we picked up a KS Reproduction white-face gauge overlay kit from CJ Pony Parts to complement the Auto Meter Phantoms. We'll hold off installing the white-face kit until we get the Real Street fired up, so we can properly place the gauge needles during the upgrade.

We're ready to install the seats. The Cobra Daytona seats are of the utmost quality for their price. You can spend more for a seat, but your butt won't know the difference. Shown here in standard Blackrock trim with leather wear patches, the Daytonas, as well as the complete Cobra seating line, can be ordered in several colors. Cobra seats are available with fixed or adjustable runners. Since Project Real Street will see a multitude of drivers, we opted for the adjustable runners.

Before the Cobra seats can be installed, the seat mounting brackets must be fixed to the stock mounting locations. When you order seats, these brackets are an extra charge, but they allow you to mount the seats in just minutes.

The adjustable runners are mounted to the base of the Daytona seats. The OE design of the runners means both sides of the tracks lock in their adjustment, so there isn't any seat wiggle from one track to the other.

When installing the seats to the mounting brackets, it's a good idea to have a friend help so as to not scrape the paint in the rocker area or tear the door-opening seal. We also left the mounting brackets loose to allow some flex in lining up the mounting bolts to the adjustable runners. The runners offer height adjustments in one of three mounting holes, but going too low will dig the runner tab into the carpet. If you're that tall and need to have the seat that low, then you'll want to cut off the excess runner tab to clear the carpet.

When it comes to steering wheels, the stock, nonairbag wheel in the '87-'89 Mustang is downright dull. No running horse, no two-tone look-nada! We wanted to be able to hold something comfortable, to have good value mixed with an easy install, and top it all off with great looks. We found all that with the Grant Evolution GT wheel. There are several options for the thumb inserts (or paint them to match your car), but we ordered the wheel direct with the yellow inserts. The factory cruise can even be retained with one of the Grant cruise-control button kits.

The cam-lock-style buckle system allows for quick exit in the case of fire or crash, and the cam lock will accept one of Schroth's single or double crotch straps to make the Profi-III four-point into a five- or six-point restraint legal for most any racing venue.

The name "Real Street" conjures up ideas of driving these race cars on the street, which is what we aimed for when 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords and the NMRA put their collective heads together to write the rules for the class. While the drivetrains are certainly potent, the Mustang must have opera-ting lights, wipers, horn, and so on.

For those wishing to actually drive their Real Street cars on the street, the subject of safety restraints is an important one. The stock, three-point belts from Ford work, but for most Real Street cars with aftermarket racing seats, the belts either don't lie across the seat properly or they just plain don't look good. Many owners use a standard SFI-spec, five-point harness in their Real Street cars. These work fine for the track, but they're usually not DOT legal for street use, which means you have to have both the aftermarket and the OE belts in the car.

The best alternative we've found to allow both track use and street driving, and to stay legal in both applications, are the harness restraints from Schroth. By using the company's Profi-III four-point harness system, you can maintain DOT-legal status for street driving. When racing, simply connect the optional crotch strap to make the system a full, SFI-spec, five-point harness. The best of both worlds-legal, and an all-in-one harness system.

When you sit in a seat such as the Cobra Daytona, you don't want to wear the stock three-point belt-it just doesn't look right. And the three-point belt isn't legal for competition use. Schroth (pronounced shh-ro-t) harness-belt restraints are some of the best safety equipment you can buy. The Profi-III four-point belt system shown here is not only DOT legal and FIA approved for street use as a four-point harness, but also, with an optional crotch strap, it can be used in NHRA competition as an SFI-approved five-point harness. Don't try to use your regular five-point harness in a four-point application because without the crotch strap your body will "submarine" under the lap belt, while the Schroth four-point design will not.