Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
January 3, 2012
Contributers: Marc Christ

Here at Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine, we often talk about maximizing efficiency and concentrate on extracting the most performance from a given engine or vehicle. With our Street Smart Windsor project, we definitely went against the grain. When we proposed the idea of building an engine that idled like stock but produced a respectable 350-400, some questioned why we would spend so much money on aftermarket parts and leave so much on the table by going with a small camshaft.

Well, not everyone wants a lopey idle. Not everyone wants to deal with the bucking and surging that can often occur with a high-overlap camshaft profile. If you can make lots of low-end torque for your street car, then your ride will be just as thrilling as if you made 50 more horsepower with a high-strung 302 or stroker combination. As your letters proved, after we shared the premise of the build in our May '10 issue, we were on to something.

We wrapped up the engine build on our Street Smart Windsor project quite some time ago, and we've continued to refine the rest of the car to bring it to the current Mustang performance level, culminating in a hot street machine that still drives like a stock Fox-body Mustang.

Recently, we gave SSW a five-lug upgrade from Latemodel Restoration Supply and FRPP, as well as a complete set of Track4 brakes from Baer (front and rear). Last month, we installed a Watt's link from Fay's 2, and single-adjustable shocks and struts from Koni. Lap times on the road course at Gainesville Raceway dropped from the 1:13 range to a consistent 1:10 average. And the only modifications to the suspension have been the shocks, struts, and Watt's link.

After the Watt's link install, our average lap time was 1:10.30. Our new single-adjustable Koni Sport shocks and struts were set a half-turn from full firm, and we still had significant brake dive and body roll. However, our GT was much more predictable both entering and exiting turns. Driver feel was much improved, but there was definitely too much movement fore and aft, as well as side-to-side.

This month, we wrap up the build by installing the final pieces--springs. Why we waited until now to install the springs may be puzzling to you, but we wanted to show you all that could be done without swapping them. To date, we've done absolutely nothing that would sacrifice driveability or street manners, but even though springs do affect ride quality, their benefits prove to be worth the small sacrifice in ride comfort that some may feel--others welcome the firmer ride.

Jim Fay from Fay's 2 suggested the Koni dampers, as well as H&R Sport springs (PN 51650; $369/set), which lowered the car by 1.25 inch in the front and 1 inch in the rear. H&R's best seller, these progressive-rate springs provide a lower center of gravity and reduce body roll, all while providing a ride quality that is reduced only marginally thanks to the springs' progressive design.

Once installed, we headed back to Gainesville Raceway to retest. We immediately noticed the car was more balanced both under braking and when turning. However, we weren't getting the weight transfer we needed for traction under braking--the front brakes kept locking up, causing the front tires to skid and us to miss our turn-in point. After a few sessions of making shock/strut adjustments, we settled on the opposite end of the spectrum--a half-turn from full soft all the way around.

Finally, all the pieces fit together. We are now consistently in the 1:09 range, with a couple of back-to-back 1:09.28 laps and a 1:09.87 lap bringing our new lap average to 1:09.47--almost a full second quicker. We probably could have adjusted tire pressure (we had all four set at 30 psi), but we ran out of time.

The Original
We originally picked up this '89 GT for just $950 to build as our Repeat Offender True Street project. After repairing the fusible link, the old Pony started right up, 7-year-old gas and all. Despite the exterior being banged up a bit, the interior was so nice and clean that we just couldn't tear it up by installing a rollcage and other racing equipment.

After purchasing an '85 notchback to serve as our True Street foundation, former MM&FF technical editor Steve Baur decided to build a Cobra clone out of the car, and rather than go with a healthy 302 stroker, his idea was to build the Ford equivalent of an LS1 engine. It would take 350-plus cubes, a stock idle, and 350-400 horsepower.

While the cloning part didn't quite come to fruition (we decided it would be cooler to give the car a look of its own), it did become a really nice street machine that can get it done on the road course despite its nose-heavy attitude, and run respectable times at the drags.

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