Marc Christ Associate Editor
November 1, 2009
Photos By: Pete Epple

You can't beat the good 'ol five-liter Mustang. For speed, simplicity, and ease of modification, it just can't be beat. Sure, Ford has produced some faster, safer, and better-handling Mustangs since the trusty Foxes of '79-'93, but as far as affordability and fun, the Fox Mustang is the way to go.

As advanced as OBD-II Mustangs ('96-up) and its engine control modules are, EEC-IV-controlled 5.0L Stangs ('86-'95) remain some of the easiest Ponies to upgrade with little effort or expense. In fact, there are so many aftermarket parts available, trying to pick which ones to purchase can make your head spin. What is also so wonderful about EEC-IV is its quick reception and response to upgrades without a programmer or a reflash.

With a great response from past 5.0 projects, we decided to keep going, this time with a '93 LX SSP (Special Service Package) coupe. Originally some kind of Fed car (according to the VIN tag), this one is unlike most SSPs. It's equipped with an AOD; power windows, door locks, and mirrors; and even a power driver seat. Much of the original SSP-specific upgrades are gone (the odometer is tipping 175,000 miles), but it's still cool to have. The original 2.73 gears (for high-speed chases) are gone and replaced by 3.73s. The differential is a 31-spline Traction-Lok out of a '95 Cobra R, complete with five-lug axles and the 11-inch brakes. Front brakes and spindles from a '96 GT, aftermarket rear lower control arms, and a 2-inch lowering kit complete the chassis upgrades.

Our 5.0L powerplant before we started any modifications.

Under the hood, the stock-block 5.0L recently received a freshen-up. New chrome-moly rings and bearings, cylinder honing, and a new oil pump were the only changes made to the bottom end. A pair of stock GT-40P cast-iron heads from a '98 Explorer and an FRPP Cobra intake manifold help our Pony inhale, and a set of 1 5/8-inch shorty headers, an off-road H-pipe, and Bassani race mufflers with dumps allow it to exhale.

The engine also received a mild cam (similar to the FRPP E-303 stick), new hydraulic lifters, a new timing chain, along with an aluminum radiator with electric fan. The stock throttle body, MAF, 19-lb/hr injectors, fuel pump, and fuel pressure regulator remained. Even the ignition system is stock, except for the FRPP 9mm wires. The stock airbox has been removed and a performance air filter was attached to the end of the mass air meter, and the smog pump has been deleted. The stock AOD hasn't been touched, neither has the original torque converter. It's quite similar to thousands of Mustangs on the road right now.

We cleaned the harmonic balancer with sandpaper and made marks at 10, 14, and 16 degrees with white correction fluid. When using a stock, worn balancer be sure the outer ring has not moved, thus showing inaccurate timing.

Our coupe recently received fresh two-tone charcoal and Tungsten Gray paint with a burgundy stripe to accent the bone-stock Ruby Red interior. Stock '96 SVT Cobra wheels with 245/45R17 rubber replace the 10-hole stockers. It looked nice, but really wasn't very peppy. In an effort to raise the fun factor, we took an old-school approach to performance. The basics for making power on a budget may not yield huge gains with the Mustang's newest version, but the Fox-bodies still respond exceptionally well to minor changes. Many years ago, MM&FF implemented what was termed the 10-Minute Tune-Up. Those simple, yet effective, tricks worked then, so why not see if they'd still produce the desired results.

Our Baseline
Prior to making any changes, we wanted to see what our LX could do on the chassis dyno and at the track. After strapping the coupe in place on our Mustang dyno, we made a pull and the pony struggled to spin the rollers to a full pull. Our Stang produced a disappointing 199 rwhp and 220 lb-ft of torque. With the oil warm and engine temperature up to 175, we made another pull, which yielded 205 rwhp and 222 rwtq. For our quarter-mile times, we visited the ultra-sticky Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida. On a scorching-hot, mid-July day, we made a best run of 14.522 at 97 mph. Backup runs were 14.774 and 14.873 at 96 and 95 mph respectively.