5.0 Mustang & Super FordsProject Vehicles
1989 Mustang LX Upgraded -Fox Buildup, Phase 2
Adding Big Boost, Big Fuel, And Big Spark To Our Stocker Fox Project Yields Impressive Results
Overcome with emotion, I pulled over on the return road still clenching the time slip. I hopped out of the car, screaming in my helmet. The next thing I knew, I was jumping up and down like a a kid on Christmas morning, ecstatic that I finally broke into the 12-second zone with my stock-motored '89 LX. If anyone had seen my victory dance on the return road that day, I'd be locked up in an institution. But like a true addict, that ecstasy was short-lived. Before I made it back to the pits, I was already pondering: If this car can go 12s on the stock motor, could it run 10s with some boost?
Yes, it's true. I have a problem. I am an adrenaline junkie and horsepower is my drug of choice. They say that acknowledging you have a problem is the first step toward recovery, but I'm not looking for a cure! And so began the second phase of our Fox buildup. Our new quest was to see how far we could push our stock-motored Fox with boost and all of the necessary peripherals.
Turbos, nitrous, even positive-displacement blowers are all viable options, but I've done well with a ProCharger in the past, so the choice was easy. The first call was to Accessible Technologies Incorporated, better known as ATI-ProCharger. When we told the staff about the project, they were happy to participate. When we told them we want to run their F-1R blower, it took several moments for the laughter to subside.
Yes, it's ludicrous to put the F-1R on a stock 302. This is the same blower that pushes NMRA Drag Radial cars into the low 8s in the quarter-mile. Still, there was a method to our madness, and the boys at ATI understand our sickness, so they played along. They set us up with the F-1R with their 50mm cog drive setup; the race bypass; and a three-core sheetmetal air-to-air intercooler.
ProCharger's F-series blowers don't come with any of the required tubing, so we enlisted the help of Rob Lewis at Rigid Race Cars outside Cincinnati, Ohio. On the inlet side of the F-1R, we used a Power Pipe from Anderson Ford Motorsport. Using aluminum tubing, silicone couplers, and T-bolt clamps provided by Darin Matera at Race Parts Solutions, Rob then constructed a masterpiece, fabricating a setup that could easily be marketed as a true bolt-on kit for the F-series blower in a Fox-body Mustang.
With boost taken care of, we turned our attention to the fuel side of the equation. Aeromotive manufactures some of the highest quality fuel systems on the market, so we turned to it for our fuel system needs. The company had just come out with its Stealth system, which our own KJ Jones introduced to the world in his article ("Sump-thing to Talk About," Sept. '08, p. 106). The system is available with the A1000 or Eliminator fuel pump mounted inside the tank in a custom sump/pickup arrangement. We chose the Eliminator system for a better match with the ProCharger F-1R.
The system includes everything you need to supply the engine with fuel, right down to a custom fuel tank, which is a direct replacement for the factory tank. The tank features a custom sump which houses the Eliminator pump and inlet filter in a trick pickup arrangement. It runs an -8AN line to the outlet filter, another -8 line to the Y-block underhood, two -8 lines feeding each of the included aluminum fuel rails, -8 lines running to the boost-referencing regulator, a -6 return line, and all of the necessary hose ends and fittings. The kit even includes all of the wiring necessary to power the huge pump. This is a well-thought-out kit and its quality is second to none.
With boost and fuel in abundant supply, the last necessary ingredient for combustion is spark. Summit Racing Equipment set us up with an MSD Digital 7 Plus ignition box and the Pro Power HVC ignition coil that matches it. These two can set fire to just about anything that crosses the combustion chamber, and the adjustable rev-limiters in the ignition box are certainly handy.
Air, fuel, and spark are required for combustion, so with those ingredients present, we only needed a chef to finish our recipe. We turned to none other than Rick Anderson of Anderson Ford Motorsport to tune the new combination. He sent AFM's Series IV Programmable Management System, an ABACO DBX85 mass-air meter, and a three-bar manifold-absolute-pressure sensor. The Series IV PMS has a standalone mode, sequential tuning, and many other powerful tuning aids found in some of the big-dollar EFI systems out on the market, but its handheld controller and user-friendly interface is so easy, a caveman can do it.
Like the PMS, the DBX meter is a sweet little unit. It's calibrated by connecting it to your computer with a USB cable. You can either choose from an extensive library of existing tunes in the DBX software, or you can create your own air/fuel tune. The meter holds up to 10 different tunes that can be flashed into its memory, and there is a manual switch that allows you to select different tunes with the meter installed in the car. The three-bar MAP sensor lets the PMS know how much boost or vacuum is present in the intake manifold. Using this hardware and the specs from our particular build, Rick provided us a tune-up that was not only incredibly safe, but also makes far more power than the stock engine should.
Added horsepower was the focus for Phase Two of our Fox-body buildup, but the additional power is useless if it can't be put to the ground. We pondered the installation of a Tremec TKO, a T-56, and so on, but the bottom line is that the budget for that just isn't there. Thankfully, my man David Fuller at Summit Racing Equipment sent us a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch to work with our factory flywheel and T-5 setup. Wait, a factory flywheel and a stock T-5? I thought, What's this...? This ain't enough! My wallet said, Make it enough. And with that settled, our drivetrain was taken care of.
There was still some concern over the reliability of the car. We didn't want it to be a one-hit-wonder. After all, this is my daily driver. With the advice of my friend Lewis Kemish at Show Car Depot here in Somerset, Kentucky, we picked up a set of NGK Racing spark plugs and an Auto Meter wideband oxygen sensor. The plugs are much colder than stock, which helps to prevent detonation, and we gapped them at 0.035-inch per NGK's recommendation. The wideband meter provides the peace of mind of knowing the actual air/fuel ratio at all times. An Auto Meter Gauge Cage from Summit replaces the dash vent, with three gauges to fill it. We went with a mechanical boost gauge, and electronic fuel pressure and oil pressure gauges. Along with the PMS' Data Terminal, the Auto Meter gauges let me know how the car is running, which helps reliability and performance.
Though it took several months to gather up all of the parts for this phase, the actual installation time was right at two weeks. We started off by placing the car on jackstands and removing the front clip so that all parts were easily accessible. Moving on to the fuel system, we removed all of the factory components and replaced them with the Aeromotive equipment. The fuel rails wouldn't fit under the factory upper intake manifold, but an FRPP phenolic spacer from Summit Racing remedied the problem. The fuel system was complete, so we put a few gallons of 93-octane pump gas from Shell in the new tank and gave it a try. The fuel pump fired up with no leaks, so we moved on to the clutch installation while the car was still up on jackstands. Being a true "bolt-on" part, the clutch installation took just a few hours using handtools.
With the transmission, driveshaft, and exhaust reinstalled, we were ready to move on to the blower installation. First we installed the 50mm cog drive system from ATI-ProCharger. It replaced all of the existing pulleys and came with a new alternator mount to relocate the alternator much lower on the passenger side of the engine. We took the opportunity to upgrade the factory alternator with a much stronger unit from PA Performance. The 200-amp 3G alternator is a perfect complement to our big ignition and stereo systems. Next, the induction setup from Rigid Race Cars was assembled with no drama, and it fit the ProCharger system like a glove.
The final portion of the installation was electrical wiring, and a lot of it. Again, we turned to Xtreme Audio & Performance for its electrical expertise. The fuel pump, ignition box, and ignition coil were wired, along with the Auto Meter gauges and the MAP sensor. They also installed the gauge cage and made a custom dash mount for the wideband. Technically, all of the components for Phase Two of our buildup were in place.
I couldn't resist the urge to turn the key, so I gave it a shot and the car fired right up. Words cannot express how wicked the F-1R sounds. Imagine a commercial jet taxiing toward the runway and you've got the right idea. That the engine would start and run so effortlessly on a 30-degree day is a strong testament to Rick Anderson's tuning ability. Since the car was ready to run, we reinstalled the front clip and fender liners, and lowered the car back down to the ground.
We took the car for a shakedown spin to see how it would run. Everything worked just as it should, but we were only making 8 pounds of boost. We took it straight home and replaced the 56-tooth blower pulley with a 54-tooth pulley. The new setup made 10 pounds of boost, but we calculated we'd need 15 pounds to make 10-second power. As such, we stepped up to ProCharger's 70-tooth crank pulley and 52-tooth blower pulley. This pulley combination only yielded a peak of 13 pounds of boost on the street, but even at this boost level, the car was violent. I had recently installed a pair of 275/60-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials, but they were hopelessly overpowered by the ProCharger-blown 302. We felt the car was ready to race, so a few calls were made and we settled on a mid-December track rental at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
When the big day came, it was only 40 degrees and overcast. The air was decent, but the track was pretty slippery. I came out soft on the first pass, leaving at 3,000 rpm and scored an 11.58 at 121.25 with a 1.85 60-foot time. The trap speed was promising, but we needed to lower the short time. For the next pass, I left at 3,500 and absolutely blew the tires off. Slipping the clutch on a subsequent pass dropped the 60-foot time down to 1.75 for an e.t. of 11.45 at 121.77. Frustrated but undeterred, it took four more passes to nail down the best 60-foot time of 1.71 for an e.t. of 11.36 at 122.41 mph. We knew it would take at least a 1.55 short time to meet our goal of breaking into the 10-second zone, but it simply wasn't there. The car would not hook on a 40-degree day with a slick track.
On the positive side, we ran 122 mph with only 12 pounds of boost on Shell 93-octane pump gas. Better yet, the car made eight passes with no breakage. Who would've thought that a stock 302 would stand up to that kind of abuse and live to tell the tale? How about the stock T-5 which soaked up 6,500-rpm powershifts like it was born to do it? These 5.0-liter Mustangs really don't get the credit they deserve.
It was mighty tempting to swap in some Fel-Pro gaskets and ARP fasteners, then throw a pulley at the blower and take this car well into the 10s. Alas, it was not meant to be. This phase of our Fox buildup was merely a stepping stone. The stock 302 is hopelessly outclassed by the F-1R ProCharger, the Aeromotive Eliminator system, MSD ignition, AFM tuning, and Abaco mass air, but a 427-inch Windsor would look just right under the hood of our '89 LX...
Like Editor Turner, I have always been a bit of an audiophile. Typically my cars are either fairly quick or they have killer audio systems, but preferably both. During the planning stages of this Fox buildup, I decided that I wanted the '89 LX to be a good all-around street car. In my book, a nice street car should have a good sound system, but this project was complicated. Knowing that we were going to put a great deal of effort into making the car perform well, I was not willing to load up the trunk with hundreds of pounds of audio equipment. We knew we'd be taking a minimalist approach to the audio system, but I happen to be picky about sound quality, so choosing the right equipment was critical.
For nearly 30 years, Boston Acoustics has been an innovator in the audio business. They are well known within the industry for producing top-quality equipment, but we needed more than excellent quality. We were specifically looking for high performance in a small package. This is one area where the engineers at Boston Acoustics have distinguished themselves among their competitors. Boston uses neodymium magnets in many of their speaker lines because neodymium magnets are up to four times stronger than standard rare earth magnets. In practice, this means that Boston's neodymium speakers are smaller and lighter than their competitors' most comparable speakers.
Smaller and lighter fits in perfectly with the philosophy of our Fox buildup, so we contacted the folks at Boston to see what they would recommend. The company supplied a set of SL60 component speakers for the front and SL80 plate speakers for the rear. The speakers bolt into the factory locations for a truly stealthy installation. They are powered by the GT-42, which is a stout four-channel amplifier. We also ordered up Boston's SPG555 subwoofer, which is known as the "racetrack" subwoofer due to its oval shape. It's powered by the GT-28, which is a brutally strong subwoofer amplifier. Xtreme Audio & Performance took care of the installation, and we were most pleased with the results!