KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
July 20, 2007
Photos By: KJ Jones
Classic Automotive Interiors' Sales and Marketing Manager Dean Satterfield (right) and Master Technician Esteben discuss their strategy for restoring a set of stock 'Stang seats for Editor Steve Turner's "Fox 500" '88 LX.

Horse Sense: My, how time flies. It seems only yesterday we turned the first wrench on our '86 T-top coupe project 'Stang, and now we're making moves on an '88 hatchback version. Fans of the four-eye and T-top Fox are probably rejoicing over the back-to-back lovefest for these special cars.

Similar to many 'Stang enthusiasts who hope to someday own or build their dream Mustang, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Editor Steve Turner has laid out an elaborate plan for his latest 'Stang project, code-named "Fox 500."

Bringing you up to speed, Steve acquired a rare five-speed, 5.0 '88 T-top LX hatchback last year-most '87-'88 T-top cars were GTs. It was added to our project-car fleet, resurrected last year with a ground-up rebuild of an '86 T-top coupe.

Unlike the T-top coupe build, which focused more on the strip side of the street/strip platform, we're following the path of true-albeit radical-roadworthiness with the Fox 500. The plan is for the car to have the speed, comfort, and agility of the S197 'Stang from which its name is derived: the '07 Shelby GT 500. We have a good idea of what you're thinking-yes, it's definitely a cool idea.

Seat reconstruction begins with destruction. Esteben takes the stock '90 LX seats-a complete set of OEM Fox seats from Prestige Mustang-apart, beginning with disassembly of the recliner's hinge-and-lever hardware. Prestige runs a full Mustang salvage business with early and late-model gear, so if you're looking for a missing piece for your project, there's a good chance it will be there. We knew we were redoing our seats, so we asked for beat-up stuff. Prestige also has plenty of clean parts in stock.

The LX has been shipped from our Tampa headquarters to Jackson, Michigan, and is currently in the hands of Paul Svinicki, owner of Paul's High Performance. The shop is engineering the project car's transformation from pushrod 5.0 to the supercharged 5.4-modular power of a Ford Racing Performance Parts-supplied Shelby GT 500 Condor bullet. Still, we're beginning by addressing Fox 500's comfort qualities. Classic Automotive Interiors (a division of TMI Products) of Corona, California, and Corbeau USA are assisting.

The Mustang's original seating included a pair of gray, non-stock, big-headrest, tweed fronts that our project's visionary wasn't hyped about. We procured a set of replacements with the small headrests Steve favors from a '90 LX through our friends at Prestige Mustang in Clarkson, Georgia. We brought them to TMI for a desperately needed makeover that will work with the black, carbon-fiber interior scheme Steve has in mind.

Believe it or not, the T-top LX will also have a convertible trait-sort of. The stock/everyday front seats can be removed and replaced with Corbeau USA's GT7 reclining front buckets ($389) when the spirit moves Steve to take Fox 500 out for autocrossing or a spirited drive. [I think every drive will be spirited! -Ed.]

Corbeau GT7s feature high-density, injection-molded foam, integrated kidney and thigh support, a fully adjustable seatback, provisions for safety harnesses, and an ergonomical design for safety and comfort. We think GT7s are good alternatives to stockers and can be easily swapped.

Classic Automotive Interiors is giving the Corbeau pieces the same treatment as stock seats. Classic is all about "restoring your interior your way," and it has done a knockout job of putting Steve's idea down on the works of art you see here. Keep in mind-the custom touch is to give you ideas. Classic offers a number of off-the-shelf options, but if you want something unique, ask one of the company's dealers to hook you up.

The donor seats feature power adjustments, and Esteben is careful to keep all controls intact. Steve may elect to include power-seat functionality as part of the T-top resto project.








Seat covers attach to foam padding via a series of hog-ring clips and listing rods that run horizontally (across the middle) and vertically (along bolsters) in the seatback and bottom. Esteben extracts the hog rings and listing rods, then he uses a long screwdriver to dislodge the headrest. The stock seat's worn-out cover is removed once the headrest is clear. While our seat's old hog rings can be discarded, it's important that all the listing rods are saved for reinstallation with the new seat cover.






















The OEM foam padding is the final item Esteben removes and discards. Ours isn't in the best shape, to say the least. The silver bladder sitting in the center of the seat frame is an air-adjustable lumbar support.








This date stamp confirmed our identification of the donor seats as '90-'93 Fox. Fox-seat vintage can be determined without uncovering the seat. The torso distance-or space measured between the top and bottom of the seatback without the headrest-is 26 inches for '84-'89 high-back Sport seats. The '90-'93 version has a torso span of 24 inches, while '87-'89 GT and LX seats are typically differentiated by headrest size-GTs received big headrests. Seats with knee bolsters were optional between the two trim levels from 1987-1993.

This is a sample of what we're working with. Not only does the front seat have ground-in dirt and a few rips in the cloth material and foam padding, but we're also convinced the mysterious stain on the right side of the seat bottom may be from an injury. We found particles of glass in both front seats prior to beginning the overhaul. It leads us to believe the seats were salvaged from a fallen 'Stang.














Here's the key to a PerfectFit installation of Classic Automotive Interiors' Fox-Mustang seat covering. This replacement foam ($149) is molded in-house to OEM specs and restores the look and comfort to worn-out OEM seats. It's available for high- or low-back seats, with or without knee bolsters.





What a recovery! Fox 500's redone stockers feature standard Ford Sierra-Grain Black vinyl (PN 958) with Classic Automotive Interiors' Carbon-Fiber-Graphite material (PN 6512) used for the inlay. The company uses vinyls that are more colorfast and stronger than leather. The material is so close to the real deal, we're sure Fox 500's seats will fool many an admirer who sees or sits in them.














We were knocked over when we saw the personal touch added to the project car's new seatery. While this type of personalization is one-off/ specific to our project car, it represents the unique customi-zation that sets a Mustang apart from others in a clean and tasteful manner.





Check These Out
Seeing Classic Automotive Interiors' handiwork with vinyl prompted us to inquire about other accessories for Fox 'Stangs and the possi-bility of a set of carry bags for T-top panels. OEM carry bags (above) aren't protective and are poor quality. Thanks to our request, Classic now offers all-new carry bags (right; PN 43-7TTop-958; $59.99/pair). They feature a lot more protection, and they're available in the color of your choice. With two T-top 'Stangs in the 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords project-car fleet, we're happy to see cool, new pieces that address the needs of T-top-loving Fox-Rodders everywhere.










A pair of Corbeau's GT7 reclining buckets ($389 each) is Steve's aftermarket seating choice for Fox 500. GT7 offers adjustable lumbar support with torso and thigh bolsters for the look and feel of an expensive race/touring seat. Corbeau says overall comfort is a primary asset.

The King's New Throne
Editor Steve Turner has elected to forego building his Fox with a drag-race flair, and is instead setting up the rare '88 T-top LX hatchback 'Stang with a "road-and-track" attitude. When given the opportunity, our fearless leader plans to exercise the Fox 500's strength and agility on the street, the hard turning and braking situations of an occasional autocross, or during a lap or two on the road course.

In an effort to ensure the boss won't fly all over the cockpit when the wick is turned up, a set of Corbeau's GT7 reclining buckets are at the ready and can be bolted in place at the drop of a hat. Corbeau offers a number of high-performance seating options that have optional brackets for bolting them right into Steve's Mustang with no modifications.

The GT7s provide comfort and security. They're perfect for the type of aggressive road touring/ autocrossing Steve has in store for Fox 500. With a Sierra-Grain Black and Carbon-Fiber-Graphite re-covering (similar to the stock seats covered earlier in this story) by Carlos and Esteben of Classic Automotive Interiors, the high-performance seats are searing-hot additions to the project car.