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Modern Mustang

The Ideal Muscle Car?

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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While reviewing Fox Body Mustang Restoration: 1979-1993, I was reminded just how amazing the 5.0 Mustang really is.

When you take a look at its build specs, you see that it embodies the very best of the 1960s era Muscle Cars.

In fact — other than limited production high-performance cars like Shelbys and Yenkos — I think it may be the only standard regular production car that had every Muscle Car trick in the book built into it from the factory.

It really was the total package.

If you aren't familiar with '60s Muscle Cars or the technology that both drove them and that hot rodders idolized, here's how that compares with the 5.0 Mustang:

  • Fuelie Corvette-style induction like it was featured in the Beach Boys song Shut Down? Check.
  • Electronic ignition similar to that used on the Motion Performance cars? Check.
  • High-winding valvetrain like a Hi-Po 289 or L-76 327? Check.
  • TRW forged piston 302 ala a Boss Mustang? Check — at least from 1985-1990.
  • Headers which were every performance maven's go-to mod for a factory '60s Muscle Car? Check.
  • Dual exhaust made so famous that it was used in the name of a Muscle Car — the Olds 442 ("442" stands for four-barrel, four-speed, dual exhaust)? Check.
  • BorgWarner T-5 built like a Ford Toploader 4-speed? Check.
  • Ford 8.8" rear end built like a Chevy 12-Bolt? Check.
  • Trailing arm rear suspension similar to a Chevelle to help limit axle rotation and improve traction? Check.
  • Front (LX and GT) or all-wheel disc brakes (Cobra)? Check.
  • 225 (LX and GT) or larger (Cobra) tires like the later big block and Trans-Am-focused Muscle Cars? Check.
  • Lightweight like a first-gen Mustang or an early Nova — at least in coupe form? Check.

This car rolled off the showroom floor like every '60s hot rodder's wet dream — and it ran like it, too. Even with the tiny engine it was still capable of pulling down a very '60s Muscle Car-like 14-flat in the quarter mile right off the showroom floor with the right options and a professional-level driver. In 1987 a coupe like the Survivor managed to run harder in the quarter than the quickest Ferrari available in the U.S. that year — which was only able to lay down a 14.4.

It's no wonder the car became a legend and remains popular today.

In my opinion, love them or hate them, they really are the idealized expression of a Muscle Car and I hope those of you that are lucky enough to own them are able to keep them on the road, going strong for many decades to come — there are plenty of resources out there like Ford Electronic Fuel Injection & Electronic Engine Control and Fox Body Mustang Restoration: 1979-1993 to help you do it, too.


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