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Project

Special K

Table of Contents

Introduction

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Some cars are too special to go to the junk heap in the sky.

The LX '93 Mustang is just such a car.

Project: Special K is about saving this derelict Mustang from that unpleasant fate.

Background

Why would I call this project "Special K?"

The LX is a unique car for a factory Mustang: It's equipped with Kenny Brown chassis components.

I don't mean a previous owner added a bunch of randomly installed Kenny Brown parts.

I have the complete history of the car and when it was originally ordered, the Ford dealer installed the parts before it was delivered to the owner.

It's not actually a Kenny Brown car, meaning one that was modded and delivered by Kenny Brown, but it's definitely not a normal factory 5.0, either.

For those of you who don't know, Kenny Brown was a road racer who started his own company and got into the 5.0 modding business ala Saleen, Steeda, and the SAAC.

I have an old Motor Trend article from 1991 that covers the mods and performance of the Kenny Brown Mustangs and it's definitely a cut above the factory 5.0 fair, but this car isn't that. It is, however, a very taught version of a factory 5.0 Hatchback. The only reason I know that is because I drove it briefly before I bought it and it felt great; substantially different from other factory 5.0s I've owned or driven.

I haven't driven it since that day because I got my hands on it after the second owner had begun installing some bolt-on mods and it wasn't drivable any longer.

After I bought it, I went through two separate attempts to get the LX on the road. First, was as a direct replacement for the 347, in which I started modding it to match the 347. That effort was short-lived and, after my failure to get the Survivor on the road in a timely manner, I switched back to the virtually immaculate '93 LX.

The most intelligent and least expensive thing I could do at the time was return the 160,000-mile LX to stock so that I could drive it. I only got part way through before I lost my job as a graphic designer at the height of the recession and wasn't able to get back into the industry as the economy was a shamble.

Now, the '93 has been sitting in pieces for 10 years, awaiting my loving touch to bring it back to life.

Description

The interior is done. That much is on my side.

The rest of the car needs attention, though.

I mean, the entire rest of the car.

The engine and trans are out and need to be rebuilt or replaced. The rear end needs to be rebuilt. The entire suspension and brakes need to be replaced, nope, not repaired, replaced — they were part of the bolt-on modding spree performed by the previous owner. The exterior paint and bodywork are nearly perfect on this car except for two areas that need a little attention: the satin black trim needs to be refreshed and there's a spot of clear coat missing on the driver side front fender.

This project isn't extensive enough for me to consider it a restoration, but it is a total rebuild of virtually every functional system in the car.

Thankfully, I've done quite a bit of the detail work and collected almost every part I need to complete the project.

So, once I have the space, this should be a pretty straightforward, if not extensive, mechanical repair job with the exception of painting the trim and having the fender repainted.

Reasons

Why am I doing this?

Not for the original reason, that's for sure: I won't be using this car as a daily driver any longer. I have the Cobalt SS/SC for that. I do want it back on the road, though — but that's a bit too general. Of course I want to drive it, it's my car. If I didn't, I wouldn't own it.

Here's a more illuminating list of reasons for this project:

  • The LX is a unique vehicle and should be kept alive — all Muscle Cars should be kept alive, but this one is special.
  • The joy of driving a Muscle Car.
  • I want to experience driving this car again. I really enjoyed it and didn't get enough of a chance to.
  • I want the experience of driving a stock '93 5.0 Hatch — well as stock as a 5.0 with Kenny Brown mods is.
  • It's the easiest and least expensive project in my hobby, making it the quickest project to complete, and thus, have me back in a Muscle Car the soonest.
  • It's in far too nice a condition to let it rot or to throw it away — and, like the Survivor, I worked too hard to keep this car to get rid of it now. That would be a shitty reward for all of my efforts to keep it through the tough times.
  • Much like the Survivor, I failed to get this car on the road the first two times I tried and I want the opportunity to succeed — with this specific car and the particular challenges it poses.
  • Speaking of the challenges this car poses, this is the perfect project for me to start with to get my toes wet again and to practice and improve my skills before moving on to more ambitious and/or important projects, like the '95 GT and the Survivor '87 Mustang LX.
  • As explained in Project: Car Cancer for the Survivor '87 LX, I abandoned my first car and if I can avoid doing it again, I will.

Finally, this car will make an excellent all-around ride. It excels at commuting duties (even though I won't be wasting it by using it as a daily driver), touring, and as a weekend racer. Really, the 5.0 Mustang always was an idealized evolution of the '60's Muscle Car — even if it does have electronic fuel injection.

Goals

The goal for the LX in Project: Special K is to bring the car up to a like-new condition. Thanks to its already fantastic shape, that won't be too hard.

In order to achieve that goal, the following criteria have to be met:

  • Rebuilt powertrain — the entire thing from throttle body to axles needs to be refitted.
  • Rebuilt suspension — again, every piece needs to be replaced, since they've been replaced with bolt-on performance items.
  • Rebuilt brakes — read previous goal about suspension.
  • Refinished trim — as already mentioned, the satin black trim on this car is pretty oxidized, so making it all like new is on the list — luckily, this is pretty easy to do, too.
  • Refinish driver side front fender — there's a curious round spot devoid of clear coat on the fender. The basecoat is still there and nothing is peeling — it's just bizarre. I think it's the only blemish on the entire exterior body and I'd rather it didn't deteriorate any further.
  • Remove rust from driver side engine compartment panel — there's a spot that wore through the paint behind the battery that’s built up some car cancer, so I'll have that repaired at the same time as the front fender.

Basically, I want the car free of worn-out parts and all the surfaces in like-new condition. However, I'm not looking for a concours restoration here, just a nice, new-ish 5.0. So, I'll also be using good used, unrestored parts where I can to save money.

Scope

Like the Survivor's Car Cancer project, the scope of this project includes any and all the work, parts, and other resources, necessary to bring it back to a like-new condition.

I'll also be avoiding any mods — at least for Project: Special K.

Timeframe

This car really is in phenomenal shape, so I don't foresee myself needing a great deal of time to finish it up with the right work set-up and a solid plan in place. I'm giving myself six months to complete it in, which works out to about 18 weeks of actual work time for me.

Now the sad part, I lack both the money and the facilities necessary to complete this project — which means I can't start it, either, so start and end dates are up in the air at this point.

The following table summarizes my planned personal work time for the project. This doesn't include any contractor time — which will probably be needed for the fender and engine compartment panel, as well as the suspension alignment:

Per: Day Week Year Totals
Hours 5 10 180 180
Days 2 36 36
Weeks 18 18
Years 0

Budget

There is no real budget at this point, but licking my thumb and lifting it into the breeze over my head says I should be able to complete this project for right around $10,000.

Using that estimate as a starting point, I've put together a preliminary scheduled budget evenly divided for the timeframe above. That means I have no clue what the scheduled budget will look like based on the actual work being done or the repair areas that need to be addressed.

Week: 1 2 3
Initial Financing $5,500 $0 $0
Scheduled Financing $250 $250 $250
Scheduled Cost -$555 -$555 -$555
TOTAL $5,195 $4,890 $4,585
4 5 6 7 8
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$250 $250 $250 $250 $250
-$555 -$555 -$555 -$555 -$555
$4,280 $3,975 $3,670 $3,365 $3,060
9 10 11 12 13
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$250 $250 $250 $250 $250
-$555 -$555 -$555 -$555 -$555
$2,755 $2,450 $2,145 $1,840 $1,535
14 15 16 17 18
$0 $0 $0 $0 $0
$250 $250 $250 $250 $250
-$555 -$555 -$555 -$555 -$555
$1,230 $925 $620 $315 $10
Totals
$5,500
$4,500
-$9,990

Location

This project hinges on me doing the majority of the work myself — both for financial reasons and personal fulfillment.

The financial savings may seem a bit ridiculous since I don't have a place to work on the car and will have to invest in the facilities to do the work. However, since I have every intention of doing lots of work on a number of cars, it ends up making financial sense.

That justification is all well and good but I still don't have a place to wrench on the LX.

The facility development necessary to do the work is already planned for in Project: Space Maker for my as-yet unbuilt Service Garage.

As of now, I'm planning to have the body and paint work done at a currently-unknown body shop — but time will tell. I'd love to do everything myself.

Work Requirements

As much as this car is in great shape, I need to touch every system to complete it — even the interior needs a little cleaning and detailing after 10 years. So, I've broken down the work requirements section by vehicle system.

Body

  • Rust removal
  • Paint repair

Interior

  • Cleaning and detailing

Powertrain

  • Rust removal
  • Mechanical part replacement
  • Rebuild engine
  • Rebuild transmission
  • Rebuild rear end
  • Primer and paint?
  • Plating?
  • Powder coating?

Chassis

  • Rust removal
  • Mechanical part replacement
  • Drivability adjustments
  • Primer and paint?
  • Plating?
  • Powder coating?

Electrical

  • Mechanical part replacement

Trim

  • Rust removal?
  • Mechanical part replacement
  • Straightening?
  • Primer and paint

Hardware

  • Rust removal
  • Mechanical part replacement
  • Primer and paint
  • Plating
  • Powder coating

Sealing

  • Mechanical part replacement
  • Material reconditioning

Schedule

This isn't a restoration, so taking the approach of a total teardown doesn't fit well with this project and since this car is already in varying degrees of disassembly, I've chosen to look at it from the perspective of a bunch of smaller repairs.

With that said, here's a look at the major milestones needed to complete the project, sequenced as best as I can without assessing the car and writing out a detailed plan.

This plan can and will likely change.

Assessment, Feasibility and Go/No Go

The LX '93 Mustang is another car that's disassembled. In order to move forward with the project, I need to assess its degree of dishevelment. Once I do, I'll have a much clearer idea of how viable this project is.

I don't see many — if any — issues with the feasibility of Project: Special K, provided I can get the rest of my hobby to cooperate.

By cooperate, I mean sufficient funding.

I currently don't have the funds to support the project much less the development of the facilities necessary to execute the project in. As such, the final step of this phase, project launch, is on delay for the foreseen future.

Planning

Planning occurs once the project and its viability have been assessed and it passes.

During planning I'll be putting a finer point on the sequence of work and lining up any needed contractors. Like the Survivor's own Project: Car Cancer, I'll also need to organize the disparate components of the project because at this point they are fairly scattered.

Engine Rebuild

The LX is already fairly blown apart. The engine is out of the car and I had already started a rebuild for it, but at this point, that engine needs to be gone through again — the cylinder walls are rusted. Thankfully, the engine was only bored .020 over so there's still room for boring.

I'm not sure of the condition of the rest of the engine as I write this, but that's where the assessment in the previous milestone comes into play.

Regardless, the shortblock will need to be rebuilt or at the very least, dressed down with a honing provided that will work.

Transmission Rebuild

The transmission is also out of the car and completely disassembled. I've gone through the entire thing and I think there may even be replacement parts already on hand for the worn-out pieces, but I'm not certain of that. So, I'll assess that during the previous milestone and for the transmission rebuild, I'll go through and make certain everything is straight and then put it back together.

Rear End Rebuild

The rear end isn't out of the car, but it is in need of a rebuild — at least the clutches in the differential. It has 160,000 miles on it and my experience is that the clutches are pretty sad by 100K — which will likely make these extra sad.

Interesting fact: this car came from the factory with a 2.73:1 gear set, so, one of the first upgrades this car will receive is a swap to 3.08s. I happen to have the rear end waiting. That mod won't be occurring during this project, however — as nice as that would be.

Chassis and Brake Rebuild

These aren't in the car at the moment, in fact, most of it has been modded with components such as a disc brake set-up from a later '94-'95 GT. I'm sure that sounds like a great thing to a lot of 'Stang Bangers out there, but for this project, I want it all stock, so the entire chassis needs to be blown apart and the stock parts put back in place.

I don't remember how much I have on hand, but hopefully most if not all of the components are ready to go in.

Paint and Rust Repair

I've already mentioned the paint and rust repair in this brief repeatedly, but to recap for the Schedule section, there's a spot where the clear coat is missing on the driver side fender that needs to be repaired before the otherwise immaculate paint deteriorates.

The only rust spot I've found on the car is in the engine compartment, behind the battery. Before it gets any worse, I'll be taking care of that, as well.

In both of these cases, I'll probably need a body shop to handle the repair work. I'd like to handle it myself, but as of right now, I don't expect to ever have access to the facilities necessary to handle that kind of repair :(

Engine and Transmission Installation

At this point, everything should either be repaired or in the car, which means that the only thing left to go in will be the engine and trans.

I don't foresee anything difficult here — I've certainly done my fair share of powertrain installations.

So, that means both the engine and transmission should disintegrate while I'm shoe-horning them in.

Interior Cleaning and Detailing

It's been 13 years since I finished this interior. I'd be willing to bet, sitting with the trans opening open to the elements, that things have gotten pretty ugly in there. It spent some time outside like that and it's likely got more than dust built up.

We'll see what it needs, but it shouldn't be too much trouble.

Adjustment and Quality Control

After the previous milestone, the car will be fully assembled and ready for the finishing touches. That means adjustments and checking to be sure everything has been done up to my standards for this project — and should I have failed to police myself during the build, it will also mean fixing whatever I lacked the mental capacity to do the first time around.

The adjustment phase is another place where I may have to enlist the help of a shop: the suspension alignment. I doubt I'll have the facilities and equipment to pull it off — especially for this project (I may gain the ability at a later date) — but ideally, I'd like to handle it myself.

I'm so bloody particular about my alignments.

Delivery

Once the QC is done and everything checks out fine, I'll put it into the rotation with the other cars — in this case, I won't be using the LX as a daily driver, but I will use it as a back-up to the Cobalt, as a touring car, and for a little racing now and then on the weekends.

If it's not raced it's not really a Muscle Car, right?

Close Out

The close out is where I take stock of the project, review the lessons I've learned — both from the failures and successes — and look forward to applying that knowledge to future projects. The project I'm most interested in applying what I've learned to is the one for the GT — which is a rebuild very similar to this one. However, it will also more loosely apply to the restorations I have planned with the Survivor, the New 351, my Mom's Mustang, and my Grandpa's El Camino.

Summary

Project: Special K isn't as deep or as complex as a complete restoration. It's one I define as a rebuild because it deals with rebuilding major components while performing minor repairs to other areas of the car to put it back on the road, basically in the same condition it was in before the project started. In this case, the '93 Mustang LX was almost like new — even though it had 160,000 miles on it. So, when this project is through, it will be like new, again; ready to roam about as a back-up to my daily driver, go on adventures and road trips, and hit the track now and then for some real fun.

Progress

As of now, this is going to be the first project car I dive into as soon as I'm able to start up my hobby again in earnest. However, there is no progress for the '93 Mustang LX to report, yet.

Be sure to check back — as soon as there's something to announce, you'll find it right here.

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