When I was 18 years old, I owned a 1968 Mustang 2+2 that I custom ordered direct from the factory. Despite the fact that I was still in high school, had no job but had a pregnant girlfriend, I knew it was the right thing to do. I think the movie Bullitt had a lot to do with my decision to purchase a Stang!
My car was a 302 CID, auto, blue with white stripes and the sport roof. I was an extremely popular guy with this car because in small-town Alberta, a new sporty car driven by a young guy is sure to turn heads. The fuzz would stop me just to talk about the car and ask where I stole it from. When I got a job, so I could pay off the loan on the car, I drove cross-country on gravel roads to my job at a large chemical plant. Needless to say both of these conditions caused a lot of premature wear and tear on the car.
When I moved closer to work and decided to drive a smaller family-type car (I had a family now-see above about pregnant girlfriend), I sold the car to my twin brothers-in-law. These guys were younger than I was, lived in the country, and being co-owners of the car they always fought about who was going to drive it and who was going to fix it! On a day when they both agreed to get it repaired, the shop that was doing the work burned down, with the car in it. ‘Twas a sad day.
Jumping ahead 20 years into the future, I found myself divorced, and working as an instructor at a Community College. I had recently bought a Ford Escort stationwagon that I could ferry my son and his hockey equipment around in. And I had a beard. The image was just like it sounds: Bearded, divorced, college instructor with son, driving a friggin’ stationwagon! I even wore the brown sport jacket with the patches. I had no idea about the Mustang revolution going on in 1987, hell I couldn’t tell a Mustang apart from a Camaro or Firebird!
A colleague of mine told me how he passed by this Ford dealer every day on the way to work, and that the front lawn was covered with 1987 Mustangs. I looked at him and said "Yeah, so what?" One day he convinced me that we should go take a look at these cars at the lunch break. I agreed, more to be polite than for the act of seeing the cars because I had been re-programmed by marriage to keep "car-thoughts" out of my head.
Wow! Were these things ever nice! After an hour or so of chatting with a salesman, I was asked if I wanted to go for a test drive. "Well," I said, "no." "No?" came the reply. I then proceeded to explain that I was already in love with a car I chose and if I went for a drive that I would probably buy a car I couldn’t afford! Well, to a car salesman, these sounds are like those of a cash register, and there’s no way I could have left the dealership alive after saying that! Once again my arm had to be twisted to "just take it out for a ride". "No obligation", he said.
Having driven little 4-cylinder cars for the last 20 years I was thinking that this 8 cylinder Mustang was just two little 4-cylinder engines together. So when I put the pedal to the metal as we left the parking lot, I knew in those first 10 seconds that I was going to buy this car. I had fallen for the old "just take ‘er out for a spin" trick. After 6 hours of haggling the next day for the best possible price, I drove away with the car . On Friday before a weekend. A little boy with a big, new, fancy, fast and sporty car.
This reminded me of the day I got the girlfriend pregnant! Life was worth living after all! As the plates were being put on my new 1987 Mustang GT convertible, another salesman asked me what I had been driving before. When I pointed out my little wagon, he said "You had a 4-bangerwagon, and now you have a 5.0 Mustang rag?" To which I answered "Yep". I lost 15 years in age that day.
I drove it for two years, summer’s only, storing the car in a protected environment for the winters. For my "getting-around" car I bought a used 1982 Mustang LX with 4 cylinder, 4 speed standard. I was hooked on Mustangs now. I was hooked on power. There ain’t nuthin’ better for a man’s spirit than a bunch of horsies under the hood. Soooooo.... Out came the 4 banger, in went a 351 Windsor, balanced, blueprinted, cammed and Edelbrock’ed! I shaved the beard, took up Karate, squash, and body-building and started dating horny women. Could it get any better than this?
After driving the souped-up Stang I was kinda sad that it beat the hell out of my nice rag-top! Starting in 1989, and to this very day I’ve been on a mission to have the rag beat the LX! And so the quest begins... Ford of Canada was allowed to use the name Cobra on these Mustangs, so to augment the "cobra" lettering on the trunk I added chrome cobras from a 1971 Mustang. A 1968 chrome running pony was put on the trunk lid, replacing the Ford blue oval. The first performance mod (in 1991) was a set of zinc-coated underdrive pulleys. Also in 1991, I added the 180 degree thermostat and 65 mm throttle body. I really wanted to get the engine cleaned up at this point and made the decision that the only way to do a good job was to pull the sucker. It was hard thinking about chroming anything when the engine itself was, for some reason, extremely rusty. (I say "for some reason" because the car has never been driven in winter, very seldom in wet weather, and the relative humidity in Calgary is about 40%.) I rented a hoist, marked every wire, cable, and hose tied to the engine and took lots of pictures. All this so I could re-install it and make it work! I took 5 days vacation to do the job, and by myself, was able to pull the engine and re-install it. I have horror stories about pulling the tranny without a jack, just my chest to let it land on. Geez these T-5s are a lot heavier than the 3 speeds I used to pull out of my ‘56 and ‘57 Ford when I was a kid. I’m okay now, just a little breathing difficulty.... I detailed the engine bay with same color paint as the outside and the engine with gold ol’ Ford blue and did the "Phase I" chrome job. And the engine actually started up on the first turn!
In 1992, I converted to mass air ,added a Hypertech chip, platinum plugs, MSD ignition, 160 mph speedo (yeah, Canada is metric, so what?), smoked light covers and incidental chrome pieces. 1993 saw the addition of the strut-tower brace, Hurst shifter, stereo system, neon lights, and the Saleen wing. I also purchased, but only installed last month, the .355 gear set. Phase II of the chrome job was also done. For Phase I the concentration of chroming effort was on the lower parts of the engine: the lower manifold, water pump, pulleys, valve covers, 30 pieces in all. Phase II included the top manifold, EGR spacer, windshield washer motor, and throttle body for a total of 10 pieces. The wheels and tires, car-lowering springs, Dynomax exhaust, supercharger and gauges were installed in 1994. And finally, in 1995 the car was painted, and the Testorosa ground effects and Stormin’ Norman hood were added. I then got the sound system installation upgraded: the first one I did myself, and though it sounded great, it wasn’t up to show car potential. It is now.
Don’t ask me what it all costs: I’m spending my retirement savings now! I should point out that all the chrome on the engine was paid for by not smoking cigarettes for the last 6 years. I quit smoking when smokes were $2.00 a pack and rewarded myself by spending the money on my car. Now they’re up to $6.00/pack so I can spend more money on the car! Good reasoning huh? Most of my goodies I purchased by mail order. In the early days I was buying from JBA and Dugan Racing. With Dugan, I would order the parts and have them shipped to Marshalltown, Iowa where I was going to be for factory training on computer systems. Then I’d pack it all in my (formerly)part-empty suitcase for my trip across the border. This way I was allowed more customs duty allowance and didn’t have to pay shipping! (I had to pay for the chiropracter, so what did I really save???)
Between 1995 and 1998, I added Edelbrock heads, Crane cam and roller rockers, sub-frame connectors, drag shocks, the chrome roll bar (custom made by Guyon Racing), and a 75HP NOS kit. I also put disc brakes in the back to replace the factory drums. As I’m writing this, I’m replacing my stock T5, which I blew up once already and installing a Tremec 5550 with B&M Ripper Shifter. I have a Centerforce clutch of course. I chromed everything that could be chromed.
At the local NHRA track (Race City), I’ve progressively dropped my ET from the stock 15.7 seconds in 1994 to 12.3 seconds in 1997 (without nitrous). This is on a 3800 foot altitude track. My car has won over 50 First Place trophies over the past number of years, including Best of Show at the International Mustang Show in Spokane in 1997
In the Beginning
a love story...
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