What better way to kick off the new year than by bringing a new project car on board? Well…let’s be honest, it’s not exactly a “new” project car. If you’ve been around a while, this particular 1980 Ford Mustang Ghia will probably look pretty familiar…it belongs to my wife, Haley. It’s her first car, and has been in her family ever since the day it left the lot at the long-gone Ken Williams Ford. For many years, this Mustang saw daily-driver duty, right up until the day that she got her truck. Once that happened, the Mustang became a garage queen…until I entered the picture and fell in love with the Bright Caramel fake-roof Fox-body. Ok, I’ll be honest and upfront from the beginning…I’m not that big a fan of the color or the fake convertible roof, but it’s a relatively low-mileage (117,xxx) early Fox Mustang that, excepting sound system, 10-hole wheels from a later model Mustang LX, and a Flowmaster muffler upgrade, has made it 37 years relatively unscathed and unmodified. The interior is almost perfect (just some minor sun fade on a panel or two) and everything works, even the air conditioning.
That being said, there is a LOT about this Mustang I’d change over in a heartbeat, and I’d start with it’s heartbeat. This is a V8 car, but it’s not a 5.0L under the hood. Nope, for 1980 and 1981, Ford saw fit to stuff a 4.2L (255 cubic inch) V8 under the hoods of Foxes. Effectively, it’s a de-bored and severely asthmatic 302 that on it’s best day, might choke out 120 horsepower. Lame. Then there’s the automatic…I can’t bash the C4 automatic, they are good units, but it doesn’t matter if it’s paired off with the 2.73 ring it came with stock or the 4.10-equipped unit that I shoved under here a couple of years ago, this Mustang is not highway or Interstate friendly at all. Then there are the puny brakes, the stock Fox suspension, and the flexing issues that need to be dealt with. Add to that list the shot paint and the raggedy fake roof material, and you can see that we have a pretty good-sized list of issues to address on our hands.
Now, we don’t need to tell you that Fox Mustangs are probably one of the easiest cars to modify…the aftermarket for them is huge, so while there may not be a lot of restoration parts for the Four Eye cars (1979-86), hard parts are easy to come by. But the bigger bonus of the cars is that you can junkyard-build a solid ride using cars in the yard now: SN-95 Mustangs (1994-2004) are a mildly upgraded Fox platform, and vehicles like V8 Explorers, Rangers and such have pieces that easily adapt to the Fox platform, as well as providing potential engines. And we intend on exploiting that fact.
So, what’s the goal for the Mustang going to be? We are going to return this little orange Fox back to daily-driver duty, and it’s going to be great at it. That 4.2 is going to make a great eight-spot flower pot, because we are going to put in a V8 that will actually behave like one. But that doesn’t mean a wild build at all. It means real-world horsepower, hooked to an overdrive automatic transmission (it’s still the wife’s car, and she wants an auto) that together will knock down decent MPG in this flyweight coupe. We will stiffen up the body, bring the suspension up to par, and put on brakes that won’t scare the ever-loving crap out of us when we drill the pedal. Where we can, we will work on visuals as well.
This will not be your typical hot 5.0 build. The goal is to restomod this Mustang to the point where I can get in it, twist the key, and drive it without the usual worries I have with stock Foxes. That means no overheating, no concerns over lack of power, no chassis flex that I can see while driving. As light as this car is, with a respectable mill under the hood, an overdrive, and respectable gears out back, the Mustang should be a great alternative to hunting down a four-cylinder daily. And that’s a good thing, especially with the Angry Grandpa Chrysler knocking down a 93-octane only diet. Last year, I shot my mouth off about building a Pro Commuter, a car that can do the daily grind well without being a total embarrassment to be seen in. We’ve got a great candidate on our hands, so it looks like we’ve got some work to do…