Tom Wilson
March 1, 2009
Photos By: From The 5.0 Archives
That trusty Fox has been a good sport and wears its bolt-ons well, but now it's time to step up. Take your time deciding what sort of Fox you'll build, generate a plan, and stick to it. Moving from general driver to more specialized hobby car means getting more serious at the parts counter. Bumping an old Fox up the performance chain is the natural way of things, but think it out first to avoid financial wheelspin.

Horse Sense:
We knew we were in trouble when the 20-something dyno operator said, "Nice old Mustang!" when we pulled our '91 onto his rollers--and that was five years ago. Yes, the Fox Mustang has moved from current to classic.

There comes a time to move up or move on, and for Fox Mustang enthusiasts, the major step is getting their ride past the bolt-on level. It's a surprisingly involved decision, especially this late in the Fox life cycle, so let's get to it.

First of all, you probably have a Fox Mustang ('79-'93); if you're considering buying a project Fox, chances are good that it has all of the usual bolt-ons. By that we mean a large throttle body, short-tube headers, a big mass air meter, the intake air silencer is removed, and a K&N panel filter or even a cold-air intake is in place. There may be some lowering springs and rear lower control arms under the car. Often the wheels have been changed, and the stock tires aren't even memories any more.

It's a fun place to be, but it's time to refresh the cosmetics and definitely step up performance. Since the Fox Mustang was born to modify, booting an old Fox into its second millennium is an excellent hands-on automotive exercise.

All but the most pampered Foxes can use TLC in the headlights, switches, and other touch points around the interior. Working with a dealer, wrecking yard, and specialists such as Latemodel Restoration Supply can get you nearly any part you desire.

Decision one is writing a master plan. Adding bolt-ons is the cheap and easy part of car building; making a Fox into a tight driver with respect-demanding performance is considerably more expensive and exacting. At the bolt-on level, typically only the powertrain gets a few doodads as moving up means upgrading the whole car, from engine to brakes, body to interior. So, decide right now if you're building a daily driver, fun weekend street car, a weekend drag toy, an open track mount, or what have you. Get as specific as you can, such as mid-11s at the strip or 450 hp. Setting the goal will define what parts you need and avoid killjoy budget-busting false starts and deadend modifications. At this level, you don't want to be changing your 'Stang in the middle of the modification stream.

The next step is likely the most difficult, and that's critically examining your project Fox. We assume you're starting with Old Paint, the bolt-on Pony you've had for years and want to spruce up, but our comments also apply to anyone considering buying a project Fox.

So is your intended Fox worth fixing up? Ouch--that hurts when talking about an old friend, but today a good Fox Mustang is a $12,000 car, and you're getting ready to spend $10,000 on it.

Don't think so? You might be right if you're starting with a rare, clean car, but the average Fox upgrade will eventually consume around 10 large these days. The greedy folks in the financial sector have just schooled us on what it's like to get upside down in a house; you don't want to get hopelessly inverted in a toy car. Sure, it's going to cost something--this is not much of an investment--but the point is that it's worth every penny to start with a half-decent Fox rather than a roach.

Fox Mustangs were made to drag. Start with an upgraded rear suspension using parts from a single chassis tuner. Stiffen the chassis with subframe connectors and a rollbar; then add power as possible. Getting the chassis safe and consistent (good shocks, slicks, upgraded control arms, and reinforced torque boxes) is the secret to developing a Fox that's repeatable enough for you to learn the driving game.

Look at it this way: You're going to either do the mechanicals in a major way, or spend on the paint, body, and interior, but you really can't do both completely. Yes, you'll do some work in all areas, but starting with a fender-bendered, 200,000-mile heap that took three teenagers through high school will take too long and cost far too much. You can't afford to start with a roach, and if that means selling Old Paint and buying a cleaner Fox, then that's the smart thing to do. You may even decide to move on to a newer SN-95 or S197 Mustang, but the important point is to accurately assess your goals and work with the appropriate vehicle. Often the lightweight and no-nonsense 5.0 demeanor carry the day.

So, where to start? Let's check out the restoration pieces, because replacing standard body and interior wear items is a 5.0 concern typically not required in newer Mustangs. After all, the newest 5.0 is now 16 years old.

The obvious choice here is Latemodel Restoration Supply, which warehouses all those rubber, vinyl, and plastic bits old Foxes need these days. Of course, precisely which parts you'll spend for depends on the starting point, but it's safe to budget for carpet, floor mats, and likely an upholstery kit.

Think creatively to save money. A set of floor mats is mainly what you see on a Fox floor, and they are far cheaper than new carpet. Later you can step up to (or on) new carpet once you've got the major mechanicals and quickie cosmetics out of the way.

Outside, the headlights and turn signals are no doubt ready for replacement. You'll find all sorts of gaskets and trim parts that are dead or dying. Some will require replacement; others you might be able to fade into the background with a well-handled buzz can. This is one area where a track-oriented car saves bucks because many of the warts can be painted over or even discarded, whereas a nice street driver can end up consuming thousands of dollars just in parts, not to mention labor and some finish costs (i.e., a paint shop).

Speaking of paint, we took our '91 LX hatch to the good paint shop in town and asked about having it resprayed in the same color. We don't have body damage or missing pieces, and the guesstimate was around $7,000 to do it right. This is for simple, one-step black paint--but in costly California (think regulation). The concerns listed were handling the adhesive-backed belt-line moldings (Don't remove 'em, just paint 'em unless you're doing a restoration!--Ed) and the labor to R&R the windshield and backlight.

Still, if new paint is in the offering for a nice street car, think in thousands, not hundreds. Don't Cheap Charlie a paint job: It's the quickest way to ruin a car for life.

Here's how you do it. Peeling clearcoat paint doesn't mean a thing at open-track day, but the fact that this guy is out playing with his Fox does. A fresh 302 long-block, a $300 rebuild on the T5, good brake pads, and diligent chassis maintenance (mainly bushings) will get you started in major on-track fun. Keep the engine simple and concentrate on the chassis for road-course action.

Chassis & Suspension
We believe in sticking with one manufacturer when it comes to suspension parts. By now you've likely discovered your bolt-on Mustang has a mish-mash of suspension hardware. It's best to remove most or all of it, and concentrate on building a chassis and suspension as engineered by a single vendor.

Step one on the flexi-flyer 5.0 chassis is a good set of weld-in subframe connectors. These are aftermarket exoskeletons of round or square tubing. They connect the front and rear subframes--the deep sections of the floorpan or chassis that are easily visible when looking under the car. All Fox Mustangs need these as the body structure is notoriously weak (especially in the mid-body). It's never too late to add these important reinforcements. They help stop squeaks and rattles, tighten the body to allow the suspension to work better, and postpone floorpan cracking.

Again, these are must-haves for all Fox chassis, but doubly so for track-driven cars. Subframe connectors are a staple of the 5.0 market, and chassis specialist Maximum Motorsports offers one of the longest, stiffest versions that doesn't require cutting into the floorpan.

Because of their age, older 5.0s need attention on the rubber suspension bushings, and possibly the front-strut upper bearing and tie-rod ends (inner and outer). These all degrade with time, and if yours are stock, they're likely worn out now--decide on a case-by-case basis. Besides, rubber bushings squirm under heavy loads, so they aren't performance- or precision-friendly.

If you're thinking whole-hog on a showy Fox, be prepared to have your wallet vacuumed twice. The first is for the big money required to spray war paint like this; the second is when buyers declare its nearly worthless resale value. Trendy schemes are indeed trendy, but it's your project, so do what makes you happy. Just don't plan on your Fox being an investment unless it's rare, clean, and stock.

The rear bushings are easy to replace, as new ones can be had with those racy upper and lower control arms you've been lusting over. But be careful: Some compliance is mandatory in the rear upper control arms to avoid any more of the hateful and unavoidable binding of the Fox four-link.

Front bushings can either be had by stepping up to FRPP's nicely upgraded but pricey ($300) replacement lower control arms (M-3075-A), or urethane bushings can be installed for much less. We like the A-arms because you score new low-friction ball joints as well as new bushings and an A-arm. They seem perfect for street cars as is. Handling fans may wish to rebuild their existing arms with urethane for more precision.

Urethane bushings have a bad rap for squeaking. Maximum says they won't if properly lubed with "whale snot" grease. Maximum packages this grease with their replacement urethane bushings. Installation consists of removing the arm from the car and using a torch to burn out the rubber bushing. (Heat the bushing until its adhesive fails; then push the bushing out of the control arm.) The urethane bushings are then lubed and lightly pressed into place.

Sexy but far beyond taking your Fox a step above bolt-on status is bling. Here are all the show engine tricks; filled holes in the engine compartment sheetmetal, cover panels, chrome, polishing, and a power-adder. The bright stuff is way more expensive than the Vortech blower, not to mention the paint. It's cool, but we'll bet it doesn't see much rain, so forget practicality if stunning looks are desired. At least such classic color combinations hold their value better than the candy-corn stuff.

Of course, the priciest--but superior by far--suspension option is to go for a complete replacement suspension. The torque-arm rear and tubular K-member front suspension is a popular solution in Fox cars (and just about any Mustang, for that matter), as is Steeda's Five-Link arrangement. After the weak unibody construction, the Fox suspension is its weakest link, so although expensive, the replacement suspensions are superb upgrades to Fox Mustangs. They completely transform these cars into good handling, shorter braking, more responsive sportsters, and usually with a better ride quality to boot--highly recommended for street, track, or strip.

Front spindles are a common change item on better-performing 5.0s. Maximum Motorsports has extensive technical information on this subject on its website, but the gist of the message is one of the two later SN-95 spindles gives better geometry for improved handling and braking. This change is good for open-track and hot-cornering street cars; the street/strip cars can wait until later to make this change.

Brakes are a must-improve subject to better 5.0s. Fox brakes are subpar when the car is stock, challenged to failure with bolt-ons, and hopeless if surpassing bolt-on power or adding chassis mods.

Acknowledging that even with big power a weekend street toy may typically only need to panic-stop once, then the most basic brake upgrade--a set of improved front brake pads--is the minimum requirement. Almost two to one, our sources offered Hawk brake pads, typically the Hawk HP pad, as the first step. Probably a better minimum standard would be larger front discs, but at that point you might as well step up to the proper brake kit.

Brembo and Baer Brakes were also repeatedly brought up as sources of comprehensive Fox brake kits. There are others, of course, including FRPP, StopTech, Wilwood, and Sierra brakes from Griggs Racing. The point is that unless you're building a strip-only hobby car, you definitely need to upgrade the brake hardware when moving past bolt-ons. Concentrate on large front brakes with four-piston calipers; rear discs help, but the fronts are vital. When it comes to options, slotted rotors are good and cross-drilled rotors are mainly for looks.

Here's the problem: That 85,689 miles actually has a 1 in front of it. That means its time for a fresh long-block when contemplating a bump in power. Bolting a blower to an engine this tired is like asking your mom to run a five-minute mile.

In many respects, rear discs' greatest contribution isn't to improve braking force, but to balance the brake package, even out hydraulic pressure, and give a more precise pedal feel. Of course, stronger brakes are important on canyon-carvers and open-track cars that have the chassis and tire to support a "real" brake, so don't think we're shunning four-wheel discs. Another option for rear Fox discs is to swap in an SN-95 rear axle. This gets the discs, albeit used discs, relatively cheap--around $400 for the complete axle assembly, though the track is wider.

We'll leave the four- versus five-lug decision to you, as well as your wheel, brake, and axle suppliers. Once your past bolt-ons, it seems you'll end up with just five-lugs for the wheel choice, so making an intermediate stop for four-lug aftermarket wheels might be shortsighted ... might.

Another 5.0 chassis maintenance item is the rear torque boxes. These are the reinforced sections of the unibody where the rear upper control arms attach. Drag-style launches combined with big tires or traction aids tear up this area, so if your car has been launched hard or was the burnout king's mount in high school, this area needs reinforcement or repair.

The same is true if you're fitting good drag tires and heading to the strip. The cheap fix is to stitch-weld this spot-welded area, but a near universal recommendation from American Muscle, Brother's Performance Warehouse, and others is to weld in the Battle Box reinforcement kit from Wild Rides.

Ah, the noisy stuff. As almost all bolt-ons amplify the powertrain, it's likely your starter Fox is already maxed out when it comes to easy power upgrades. To make more power, you'll have to get inside the engine.

If the cosmetics are faded but the mechanicals are fair, there is always the street-machine look. Again, the resale value is inversely proportional to the gaudiness, but if profiling is the game, then paint, a stereo, and a V-8 that will start and run should suffice. (In the end, your Fox rod should be about what you like, resale be damned.--Ed.)

It's also a fair guess that the old, basic 5.0 H.O. is looking for a better ring seal and a set of bearings. If so, the first powertrain upgrade is a fresh long-block. Since there's no replacement for displacement, a stroker short-block will ease power production if you can swing a few more dollars.

The real action in building power, though, is in the heads, intake manifold, and camshaft. These are the parts that build power, and no matter what flavor 5.0 you're cooking up--blown, squeezed, turbo'd, or naturally aspirated--the more fundamental breathing you can give the engine, the better.

So the minimum engine upgrade from bolt-ons is a good set of heads. This will get rid of the asthmatic stock Ford exhaust port, the number one power killer in the 5.0 powertrain. To match the heads, a good intake manifold is mandatory as well. The stock cam is still best for anyone who needs to pass a smog test or good streetability. If you're looking for real power, the right cam is a godsend.

As with the suspension, get expert advice from an engine shop, or at least a parts supplier who can give you accurate feedback on the engine combination you're considering. There are thousands of excellent 5.0 parts available, but it all comes down to how you assemble your combination, and that takes experienced, intelligent advice on a custom basis. One place to start is with Comp Cams and its technical support people. They can point you toward a workable combination from the thousands possible, and Comp has a huge selection of cams and supporting pieces to pump up any 5.0.

Today it pretty much takes a power-adder to make the sort of mega-power that's fast becoming the norm. Sure, nothing beats a crisp high-compression, naturally-aspirated V-8 for pure driving enjoyment, but this is an expensive, impossible-to-smog combination. It also typically ends up requiring fairly high rpm and steep gearing, which sucks up gas, so it's easier and typically less expensive to go with forced induction.

For good driving fun, a bit of extra resale value, and tasteful good looks, the '93 Cobras are tough to beat. Even if starting with a plain LX, this clean, original look is a good aspiration. Clay-barring original paint back to life is the way to make sense of your hot-rod Fox project; you'll have plenty of chances to write checks for mechanical pieces.

Centrifugal superchargers are still the most popular because they are relatively affordable, easy to install, well-sorted, and make the type of mid- and top-end power a 5.0 can put to the ground. Nitrous, once the opiate of the masses, is still good for either giggles on the street or massive hits at the track, but it's become more expensive. It's the least expensive power-adder initially, but after refilling bottles, plus running back and forth to the refill station, nitrous can end up being more expensive than a centrifugal in the long run.

That said, modern nitrous systems are nicely engineered. An honest 75hp shot provides good thrills, and up to 150hp augmentation is easily done and a real thrill. Keep in mind nitrous is an all-or-nothing power-adder. When cruising around, the engine is Clark Kent mild; then the squeeze hits and you're ready to take on Doomsday. It's fun for straight-line work but not finessed enough for corner-based action.

Gaining popularity are turbos. They're more complex, bottle up heat underhood, and therefore tend to be more expensive. Nothing makes as much power, however, and if you're going big or going home, a turbo kit will make the beans and provide a little underhood sex appeal to boot.

Curiously, we've noticed the power-adder choice is somewhat regional. On the East Coast and upper Midwest, the tough winters mean hobby cars such as Foxes are put away for the winter. This downtime breeds bigger power and better presentations. Eastern cars thus tend toward hardcore action compressed into the warm months, so slap-you-silly nitrous hits and drinking-age boost pressures are not uncommon.

Hopefully your interior isn't as bad as this, but still, when budgeting your next Fox move, keep in mind some interior restoration is likely.

The milder climate of the West means the cars are driven and driven and driven. Our '91 hatch, for example, has a few bolt-ons, 186,000 miles on the odometer, and has never had the valve covers off. It's still in daily--albeit easy--duty. It also has to pass an emissions sniff test every two years, so it's scheduled replacement powertrain features mild upgrades. If a power-adder is to be fitted, it will likely be an E.O.'d centrifugal.

One "power-adder" we normally don't recommend is an engine swap. Years ago you'd see the odd 460-powered Fox; they proved to be way too much. A 351 Windsor is a vastly better choice; in a stroked version (392 to 427 inches), they out-power-to-weight a 460 any day, plus out-handle the nose-heavy big-block beast, even at the dragstrip. But the 351W swap requires more small parts than you'd think, and all things considered, a blown 302-347 makes more sense.

Speaking of strokers, opting for a 310/331/347 short-block when renewing a tired 302 works great. We say the stroker engines feature more internal friction and likely won't go 150,000 miles like the stocker, but for hobby use, such concerns are secondary.

Transmissions are a non-issue for the bolt-on builder, but for an up-powered Fox, you'll need to renew the gearbox. For the ubiquitous T5 manual, the options are to rebuild it for around $300 or replace it for approximately $1,300. Naturally, the silky little T5 is over-torqued by today's hot-rodded engines, which is where the Tremec TKO 500 or 600 five-speeds come in. These transmissions are named by their approximate horsepower ratings, so they're much happier behind a supercharged 347. Of course, they'll cost you an extra grand, around $2,100 or so. This doesn't seem to stop many of Brother's Performance Warehouse customers: The company estimates 75 percent of its buyers opt for a new Tremec rather than a new or rebuilt T5.

As for the AOD automatic, they're definitely a job for a specialist rebuilder. By the time you're done rebuilding and modifying an AOD, however, you'll likely find moving up to an AODE/4R70W is the better choice because the later transmission offers all AOD features, but it's stronger and more tunable.

We think of rear axle gears as bolt-ons because so many are sold, but if yours are stock 3.08s, a set of 3.73 gears for street cars and 4.10s or higher for strip cars are a must. In fact, these are the best bang-for-the-buck modification as nothing else will get you moving as fast, and especially not for so little money. Installation is a pro job, but you can save a couple of dollars by having the gears changed when the rear suspension arms are fitted and the rear axle is partially disassembled anyway.

Ultimately, modifying a Fox today is done because you either have one already or are looking for a fairly hardcore performance toy. Both are great reasons, and the parts and expertise are widely available to build whatever Fox you desire.

Topping them all, Fox parts are relatively inexpensive and there is no better bang for the buck. Our caution for street-driven Foxes is to budget for the interior and limited exterior restoration these cars typically need. Dedicated track toys are another matter, and in that case starting with a fairly dog-bit car makes sense as long as the chassis is straight, rust-free, and all of the mechanicals are there and salvageable. To paraphrase the old T-shirt, "Old Foxes never die, they just go faster."

Which Fox Is Best?
Fox Mustangs were built from 1979 to 1993, but the electronically fuel-injected '86 to '93 are by far the best for hot-rodding. Typically the '86 cars are not considered good performance candidates because they used a restrictive cylinder head, but as an amped-up 5.0 will use aftermarket heads anyway, this isn't a real issue. Mass air cars are the best of all: '88-'93 California and '89-'93 50-state cars.

New upholstery is a major blessing, but it can highlight other weak areas in the interior. Our handsome hides came from TMI/Classic, which offers numerous interior restoration and upgrade options. Combine these with Latemodel Restoration Supply's extensive interior and exterior replacement parts and a daily driver restoration on a Fox is easy stuff.

Earlier Foxes were carbureted, and as you go back, you'll encounter the wimpy 7.5-inch rear axle, four-speed manuals, and other expensive-to-replace parts. Of course, if you're building a gutted weekend toy and are going with an all-new powertrain from radiator to rear axle, then the earlier body style is workable. You'll find fewer restoration interior and trim parts are available, however.

Convertibles are tough customers too because a Fox-chassis ragtop is about as rigid as cooked spaghetti. We've driven some awesome drop-top Foxes, but keep in mind that you'll want the best in suspension, and especially chassis stiffening.

Hatchbacks are the consistency of Fox-rodding, so there's no need to shy away from these. And coupes, well, they weren't popular when new, but they sure are now. A different look and a few pounds less weight are the reasons.

As for Cobras, there are only two: the rare '93 Mustang Cobra and the ultra-rare '93 Mustang Cobra R. You won't find an R-model as only 103 were built, and the regular Cobra is best left as a collectible. They're great drivers, but you can do just as well performance-wise with a civilian Fox, and you'll hate yourself in a few years if you cut up a genie Cobra.

The final option is starting with a four-cylinder Fox. These are good for all-out race cars or high-end Fox rods, but need too many upgrades to be cost effective for hobby V-8 use. It's cheaper to start with a 5.0.

Expert Advice
To get the latest on hot Fox modifications, we polled many in the aftermarket. Here are some of their direct comments:

American Muscle

Nick Macura
"For the 5.0 guy wanting more, start looking at upgrading the heads and valvetrain. Look at 306 or 310 or stroker combos, all along with where you want to go--blower or nitrous. These modifications come after all the bolt-ons are done.

"We see guys looking at major engine work or power-adders: Big nitrous, plates, or full foggers. I ask them, `What is your purpose, what is your horsepower goal?' Usually they have a horsepower number in mind.

"Everyone is always performance-oriented, and with the increase in power, you need a little whoa. Once past the 350hp mark, you need to step up the suspension and brakes.

"Upper and lower adjustable control arms are popular, and on Foxes, Battle Boxes in the rearends are important. Go through the [torque] box first thing and replace them with a performance set, or weld the stockers if they aren't too torn up. Wild Rides makes those reinforcements. Weld in these deals; they're crucial for the Fox Mustangs.

"Subframe connectors make a world of difference. Ever look at the typical Fox Mustang at launch? Does one wheel come up and the other stay on the ground? That's not good.

"Brakes--the big names are Brembo and Baer. Both make great kits. Also consider Hawk brake pads. Something as simple as a better set of pads makes a world of difference. These areas are often overlooked.

"Make sure to have a set of gears. The gearset is one of the simplest things you can do without stressing the car with more power--make the utmost use of the power you already have. When doing the suspension modifications, the 8.8 is out and it's easy to do a gear swap.

"The Fox guys already did the bolt-ons, the exhaust, intake, throttle body; they're starting to look at superchargers. What can they do? The younger guys are calling for custom chips. They're staying with the bolt-ons and going for a tune.

"[There are] not many clean, untouched Fox Mustangs... nearly nil. You do see half-done projects, so you're getting Fox Mustangs past the starting point in the modification stage already. They already have short-tube headers, a short-throw shifter... probably a single-tap nitrous system.

Going past bolt-ons means getting inside the engine. Stick to established engine combinations to avoid dyno expenses, such as those we rack up when testing parts. You can leave such admittedly fun experimentation for the second step past bolt-ons.

"You really need to focus on what you're going to do next. What point are you trying to take it to? The next upgrades are more expensive. Now you're spending a couple thousand dollars on an upgrade, not a couple hundred. A lousy exhaust? No biggie--but a bad blower? You aren't talking about a couple hundred dollars anymore.

"Foxes are the race-car chassis, and they're starting to show their years... smacked up, crushed. It's hard to find a clean one.

"In NMRA, the primary chassis for racing is the Fox chassis. You do see the New Edge body style--with the popularity of the S197, you see a whole lot of them--but now I wouldn't be surprised if the S197 becomes the next Fox Mustang, the one to race. It has a wider stance, sleek body, and wider, stickier tires. But the popularity of the Fox Mustang is due to its weight."

Brother's Performance Warehouse

Tim Gilpin, Manager
"These cars are a minimum of 15 years old, so start by freshening the short-block, especially if you want some longevity from it; then heads and cams.

"Some guys are swapping out the rear axles for '94-'98 axles and getting the discs.

"The T5 is still available. The price has dropped to $1,295 and the TKOs are $2,250 for that conversion--so $1,000 more for the TKO. Most, say 75 percent, go the TKO route over the T5. We do sell a T5 rebuild kit and also a video--a how-to from Hanlon. It's really informative.

"Nitrous really has slowed down for us because of regulations; nitrous is an accelerant. The fire department wanted us to have permits, and the insurance company wanted more money because we had a refill station here. It was too expensive. We were selling it for $3 to $4 a pound, and with a 10-pound bottle it's $45 for a refill. It's cheaper to start out with it, but in the end it costs more than the blower.

"The Fox is still a good template to start with. You can get it cheap, and it's still a great-looking car. If you get one and fix it up right, it's one of those cars that will last you a long time. It's still a great car for a young person's project car."


Ricardo Topete, Owner
"I've prepared a list (in stages) of how the average California Mustang fanatic approaches their Mustang project. The factors in consideration include the real-world constraints my customers face, specifically smog-legality, 91-octane pump fuel, driveability, reliability, and price. In short, the objective is to take the Fox-body 5.0 Mustang to the next level and have it be streetable in every sense of the word. Keep in mind that not all of the mentioned items may be CARB-approved or 50-state smog legal, but they will pass the sniffer test.

"I've also included typical horsepower and torque figures as seen on our in-house Dynojet chassis dyno.

"Stage I: This is where most 5.0 Mustangs are currently or will be shortly. For our purposes, we assume the average guy uses this as a starting point or foundation on which to build their Mustang. This list of modifications includes all or a combination of the following mods: a stock 302 bottom end, stock cast-iron heads, and stock camshaft without real engine internal upgrades. All the mods thus far have been the true bolt-ons. The more adventurous Stage I guy may also have a street upper-and-lower intake manifold kit and adjustable fuel-pressure regulator. Expect around 245 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

"Stage II: Let's assume that most people in this category have a fresh low-mileage, 302/306-based engine with some internal engine upgrades such as forged pistons, forged rods, and a good engine-rebuild kit. All of the upgrades used in Stage I will transfer over and complement the Stage II nicely. More importantly, it provides an excellent point to continue adding horsepower with a power-adder in the future. These are possible upgrades and related pricing: 302/306 short-block with forged internals, $1,700; AFR 165cc, aluminum cylinder heads, assembled, $1,350; Trick Flow Street Heat upper/lower intake-manifold kit, $465; Crane roller rocker arms, $250; Trick Flow Stage I cam, $180; 24-lb/hr fuel injectors, $300; and Walbro 255-lph fuel pump, $120. Expect around 300 hp and 345 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

"Stage III: Some customers may choose to skip Stage II and go straight into Stage III, while others may choose to build yet another motor, this time even more serious. Stage III starts with a 331/347 stroker short-block with forged internals that are boost/nitrous ready. Nearly all of the mods from Stage I and Stage II can transfer over to this stage, however, in some cases it may be necessary to simply go bigger to feed the larger displacement and maximize performance. Here is what Stage III consists of: a 331/347 short-block with forged internals, $1,700; Trick Flow Track Heat upper/lower intake manifold kit, $510; AFR 185cc, aluminum heads, assembled, $1,375; Trick Flow Specialties Stage II camshaft, $180; and 30-lb/hr fuel injectors. Expect about 325 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

"Stage IV: This level gets pretty close to the limit of a truly streetable 5.0. With this combination, 91-octane is required, and many of the parts will be smog-legal while yielding good reliability and flat-out blistering performance. Much from the previous stages will transfer over to Stage IV, but it's best to start with the Stage III combination for best performance. We are estimating for a 331/347 forged stroker short-block: a Vortech S-Trim supercharger kit (8 psi), $2,900; 42-lb/hr fuel injectors, $375; Lightning 90mm mass air meter, $175; Anderson Ford Racing Power Pipe, $250; Walbro high-pressure, 255-lph fuel pump, $129; DiabloSport computer chip, $190; and custom dyno tuning, $400-$500. Expect about 420 hp and 460 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.

"Substitute a Paxton NOVI 2000 supercharger kit (10 psi) for $3,350, in place of the Vortech S-Trim, and expect about 490 hp and 530 lb-ft of torque at the wheels."

Maximum Motorsports

Chuck Schwynoch, Owner
"Our Road and Track box (a suspension kit) is still the most important. It's $2,400 in one shot, so many start with the Starter Box; then the rear lower control arms, and end up with the Road and Track box, but they do it in three or four purchases.

"We get a reasonable number of people who get the Road and Track box, then upgrade. They add either just a torque arm and stiffer rear springs, or a fair number of coilovers. Many others just buy their Road and Track box with the coilovers. This is an upgrade, as it gives a much higher wheel rate without the penalty of ride-quality degradation.

"The standard subconnectors are short with a welded seat brace. The new ones are taller and much stronger; they're longer, from the firewall to the end of the rear lower control arm. This later version is a big seller. They're 53 percent stiffer than the early version, a real popular part. We move more subconnectors than camber plates, and we sell a lot of those.

"For Fox spindle upgrades, there are the SN-95 spindles. We have lots of information about spindle swapping on our website: Look at the Tech Tips."

Steeda Autosports
Scott Boda, Director Of Manufacturing"One of the main areas you need to address right away is the Fox chassis. As weak as it is, you need a set of framerail connectors. They plant the power a little better.

"A strut-tower brace helps takes some squeaks and rattles out of the car.

"Restomod parts are typical."

"Guys try to go fast and forget to get the power to the ground. Bushings are shot on the control arms. We offer a good package of rear lower control arms. It plants the tires and keeps the rearend from following you around the corner. It's like a maintenance item.

"As weird as the economy has gone, it used to be aluminum lower arms only, but now we sell more steel control arms. It's splitting hairs performance-wise, steel versus aluminum.

"For the best seat of the pants, it's always gears. I definitely recommend 3.73s; for more of a track car, 4.10s are usually better. The 3.55s are just a little too high.

"Hawk HP brake pads and caliper guide sleeves are a great mod. The two factory caliper-mounting bolts go through a rubber sleeve, but it walks on you. Pounding in our stainless inserts will keep the caliper from walking, giving more evenly distributed brake force. It's amazing how much this helps.

"Powerslot front rotors aren't too pricey. Good for aggressive driving habits, the Powerslots have additional cooling.

"Depending on if the car is lowered, a set of camber plates are good. They definitely help, and many Foxes are cut out in the shock tower to do the same thing.

"The handling guys are going for the later chassis because they are more rigid.

"As for maintenance Items, we sell a lot of caps and rotors, spark plug wires, and plugs.

"The Fox market is not a bling market, unlike the newer markets: It's a performance market. There is just that certain way of thinking--a Fox-body Mustang, those things are sweet.

"If you're goals are the track and going low 11s or faster, the torque box is something you need to address before you get hurt. The lower arms are compressing, the uppers are pulling. Put stiff bushings in them and you're going to hammer the torque box, especially with a slick. The cheap way is to stitch-weld it. Wild Rides has the replacement kit, a kick-ass part.

"Shocks and struts are just another maintenance item. We'd put them into Tokicos. I run the five-way drag shock and it's real cool--the best of both worlds. The regular Tokico HP is the one for daily driving.

"Brakes: The drag-race and street guys sort of forget about brakes."