The Truth About Cars » fox body The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:45:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » fox body Super Piston Slap: I Know What I Don’t Know Wed, 25 Jun 2014 12:45:11 +0000

Were you ever taught something you already knew, something you normally teach others? That moment of surrealism came for this regional LeMons Judge while attending the Newbie School in a new racing series called the World Racing League. Baruth already gave you a tease: I set aside the idiotic ironic Indian Chief hat of LeMons for a weekend stint as a racer/pit crew/errand boy with the same team that brought you the iconic Ford Fairmont Wagon: now with more Granada.

To see the stance is to know it: Property Devaluation Racing made a worthy successor to their Fox station wagon.  So when these guys offered me a spot in the Granada and their similarly-spec’d Thunderbird Turbo Coupe, I took Friday off, forked over the fees, picked up another Fox Body loyalist from Hobby Airport (you might remember his Homer Simpson car) and hit the road for College Station.

I drove the Granada for 10 minutes during the Friday afternoon test ‘n tune session, and felt great: the Granada’s flat cornering with mild understeer was a natural transition from my street going Fox Body Cougar.  But the first day of racing?

Logging 100-ish miles in the Thunderbird was a different story: the Granada’s tame demeanor was replaced with something a (handling savvy) teammate later explained as body roll induced oversteer. The Thunderbird had razor-sharp turn-in, so sloppy steering inputs netted body roll which reduced the rear tire’s contact patch, easily inducing oversteer.  Lap 1 resulted in a huge spin entering a corner at around 50mph.  Lap 2 was no better: a similar wipeout left me bewildered, frustrated.

Both times I self-reported my impending black flags before the staff received word from the corner workers. Perhaps LeMons taught me well.

Not well enough. The Thunderbird’s owner’s words in my Nerdie helmet kit were clear: spin again and you’re out for good.  It was the reality check I needed, quickly swallowing my pride and methodically retracing the track at a slower pace. This let me understand how drastically the Thunderbird sits/lifts with my steering inputs.

Racing the Thunderbird was like a scientific experiment: repeat the process but alter a variable every time.  Enter the turn at the right speed, monitor your steering inputs and smoothly accelerate exit post-apex.  If you turned too hot, the rear tires howled: slightly dial the wheel back and they shut up.  Thank goodness for TWS’ banked oval, it was the only place I blipped the throttle, downshifted to 3rd and comfortably unwound the Thunderbird’s wicked Windsor V8 to pass “slower” cars. Sure I was slow and hyper-conscious elsewhere, but the banked oval experience continues to give me goosebumps.

Now the World Racing League is an interesting series: damn near any class of car races on the same track.  I was passed by far more professional drivers in LeMons cars, Spec Miatas and misc. track beasts to the point my left hand seemingly spent more time doing the “point by” for others than grasping the tiller. And a certain Poorvette absolutely clobbered every car out there, as you’d expect from the wholly under appreciated C4 Corvette.

I learned something besides the obligatory “damn that was so exciting I’d totally do it again” statement of any autojourno in my shoes: my racing technique toolbox just multiplied. The Thunderbird gave me a new set of tools, items previously more foreign than Portuguese.  So now I Know What I Don’t Know. Several of my friends suggested I embrace this new addiction to hone my skills, as I’m now a racer.

No dice.

Racing brought me a short term joy that I will gladly spend another $1000 in fees, gas, hotel, meals, etc. to replicate another weekend.  But the Thunderbird helped me cross a (final?) frontier: I did what made moonshiners so famous, racing/working on a boring car made from bits of more impressive vehicles. This experience crystallized my plan to write the definitive story of Ford’s underappreciated chassis.  I told others about this (including a working vacation to the Detroit Public Library) and they agreed: that’s a book they’d read.

Which isn’t exactly the point: like the benefits of grade school music programs, racing helps you in your real world.

It’s a deeply personal experience that everyone with a modicum of disposable income should try. Go race and then make yourself. Just don’t get motivated to write a book about Fox Bodies, that’s my schtick.

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Piston Slap: You’ve Got to be All Mine…Foxy Lady! Mon, 31 Mar 2014 11:50:13 +0000  

Mark VII

TTAC Commentator Thunderjet writes:

Hello Sajeev,

Last year I picked up a ’91 Lincoln Mark VII LSC for $800. It’s in decent shape for being a Chicago area car and having 153K on the clock. The body has no major rust issues except for the front fenders, which have rust holes due to the sunroof drains, so the car will eventually need new fenders. The under body and frame are rust free and very clean. The car sat for several years before I purchased it and over the last year I have put about $500 into the car replacing various wear/tune up items (water pump, hoses, belt, cap, rotor, plug wires, spark plugs, and the starter). The car runs well and I’ve always wanted one, being that I have been a Fox Body nut since I started driving.

I would like to keep the car as I enjoy driving it. My daily driver is a 2011 Ford Focus SE bought new. It currently has about 28K on it and I’m hoping to keep it another 10 years or more. The Mark VII needs several things to make it more presentable including a paint job and the replacement of some of the leather panels on the front seats. In addition I would like to replace some wear items on the car such as the air springs so I won’t have to worry about failure in the future. I can do the repairs as time/budget allow and probably get a pretty nice car in the end.


The issue I’m having a problem with is that I already have a fun car that I tinker with: a 1988 Ford Thunderbird LX. It’s a factory 5.0 car with Edelbrock aluminum heads, a GT40 intake, .533 lift Comp roller cam, AOD with 2800 stall converter, and a 3:73 Traction-Lok differential. It’s a fun car and it’s the first car I ever bought. It’s not going away as the improvements I’ve made to the Thunderbird in the last 12 years I’ve owned the car make it too fun to part with. Also being my first car the Thunderbird is special to me.

I’m wondering if it makes sense for me to have two project/fun cars or if it’s overkill? A little background on me: I’m in my late 20’s and I’ll be getting married later this year. My fiancé doesn’t mind cars and in fact likes them as her daily driver is a 2012 Mustang V6 in Grabber Blue. I own my own house outright and I only have two sources of debt: about $15K I’m paying off in student loans for my master’s degree and the other two years on the loan for my Focus. I bought a new car as a daily driver as the dealer offered me 0% for 60 months. Who am I to say no to free money from Ford Credit? I am saving for retirement and put 15% of my yearly salary towards that. I make in the mid to upper five figures so I’m not poor but I’m not rich. As of right now having the Mark VII is only costing me about $300 a year in insurance. Does it make sense for a late 20 something to have two fun cars or should I ditch the Mark VII and just keep the Thunderbird?

Sajeev answers:

Before I go completely bonkers over a Fox Body question, a question back: do you have adequate parking for everyone’s cars???

Thunderjet writes:

The parking situation is good with the extra fox. The Thunderbird and my fiance’s Mustang reside in the garage while the Focus sits in the driveway. I usually keep the Mark in the driveway as well but if weather is bad my parents have let me drop it off at their house. They have space in their garage they are not using.

I should also note that I purchased the AOD floor shifter from your 1988 Cougar XR-7 on foxtbirdcougarforums several years ago. I think you sold it to me for ten bucks. I still have it if I ever get the desire to remove the column shifter from my Thunderbird. And yes the graphic EQ in my Thunderbird still works. It’s wired through a JVC head unit and the factory amp.

Sajeev answers:

Since normal people won’t understand this graphic EQ hack, a photo from my Cougar to clarify:

Not only is the Fox one of the most customizable vehicles on the planet, the truly insane among us convert the Ford EQ’s wiring into RCA connections; making it work with any aftermarket stereo. And it sounds kinda great, too!

What a small world it is: you knew me back when I was a Fox UBB forum fiend!  Times change, but multiple housebound projects are doable for these reasons:

  1. Your intelligent and enviable debt-to-equity ratio.
  2. Ownership of a new vehicle as a daily driver.
  3. Enough space at your residence for cars, without pissing off your significant other.
  4. Intimate knowledge of the vehicles in question, with a great track record for success.
  5. Readily available parts and low-cost of ownership inherent in Fox Body (resto?) modification.
  6. A strong internet community to help you when needed. And a sympathetic resto-mod Cougar owning schmuck on TTAC too, if that helps.

You are one lucky duck. How do I know? This is kinda how I co-exist with my old Fords. BAM SON!

A final note: since you showed me yours, here’s mine. Getting rid of my shifter opened up room in the Cougar for a manual gearbox. Thanks for that. And best of luck with the LSC, I am jealous.


I really, really want an cherry 88-89 LSC, just not with Porno Red leather. One of these Foxes is enough.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Ford Thunderbird Town Landau Wed, 09 Oct 2013 13:00:38 +0000 10- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFord may have squeezed even more vehicles out of their Fox platform than Chrysler got with their roughly contemporary K platform and derivatives, and the range of cars was just about as broad. Though Foxes are very plentiful in high-turnover self-service wrecking yards, I let most of them go to The Crusher undocumented. We’ve seen this ’79 Mustang Indy 500 Pace Car, this ’80 Mercury Capri, and this ’82 Mercury Zephyr so far in this series, and today we’ll add another Malaise Era Fox. Yes, there was a Fox Thunderbird with squared-off, Fairmont-style body, available for the 1980 through 1982 model years. Not many of these cars were sold, so today’s find— in Denver— is a rare one.

1982 Ford Thunderbird Commercial

Ford’s marketers did their best, but the Thunderbird name had fallen on hard times. Again.
01- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Old Car BrochuresHeritage split bench seats in Midnight Blue!
04- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese Midnight Blue seats have lost some of their luster after 31 years, but you can imagine how Barcalounger-like they must have been when new.
11- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinDetroit stuck with the “wire wheel” hubcap concept well into the 1990s, but the middle 1980s were the pinnacle of the style.
03- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Town Landau emblems are gone, but the landau roof remains.
13- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interesting thing about these Foxes is that just about everything mechanical, plus unexpected stuff like dash panels, is bolt-on interchangeable between cars. You can swap in the drivetrain and suspension out of, say, a ’93 Mustang SVT Cobra into an ’82 T-Bird with a minimum of modifications. Or you could install the Heritage Split Bench seats out of an ’82 T-Bird into your Mustang.

01- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13- 450px - 1982 Ford Thunderbird Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]> 66
Piston Slap: One of “Those People…” Wed, 17 Apr 2013 10:00:49 +0000 TTAC Commentator MNM4EVER writes:

A mechanic friend of mine has a 1993 LX 5.0 w/AOD in slightly rough condition he is looking to get rid of. I can pick it up now, complete but not running, for $1800. If I do not buy it, he plans to get it running but otherwise not fix it up and sell it for $3k or so.

My goal for my potential Mustang is to resto-mod it… 4.6L Cobra motor, track suspension, Cobra disc brakes all around, restore the interior but replace the seats, maybe even swap in a later 94-2004 dash, etc. Since I am looking to replace much of the major components of the car, a rough project car is a definite option for me.

But this rough car needs a lot of other things replaced too… all of the exterior moldings are weathered and degrading thanks to sitting in the Florida sun, the interior is trashed all around, paint is very bad, the body has dings and cracked plastic bumpers, surface rust has set in on many places and a little rust appears on the hatch edges, etc. I am guessing I would need to strip it completely and spend around $2k on bodywork to get it fixed, but then it would be showroom new. But the idea of replacing all those moldings and interior parts scares me… sh!t adds up fast.

So my long drawn out question: Is this a good buy at $1800? Or should I keep looking for a closer to mint Mustang for $5-7k that only needs minor restoration and mechanical upgrades as I see fit?

Sajeev answers:

So basically NOTHING on this Fox Mustang is up to your standards.  Honestly, it’s a horrible example of Fox-aliciousness for anyone at $1800. Even if it had a T-5 (stick), this is a $1000 Fox as it sits…on a good day. $1800 if it was complete and fully assembled? Somewhat likely.

You are one of “those people” that demands a nice car and will pay big money to make it right. For you people (what do you mean YOU people?) there’s no substitute for buying the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford. $5000 or more for a clean Fox Mustang isn’t unreasonable, and that’s right for you.

Once more: buy the cleanest, most pristine example you can afford.

And when you do, you better not put the later model dash in there…that’s just wrong for the rest of the body and a complete waste of a nice car.

MNM4EVER writes:

Well, since I consider you the expert on Fox bodies (too bad 5.0 Mustangs are lamesauce and Fox Lincolns/Cougars/Granadas/etc. rule – SM) , I figured there was no one better to help with my decision. I have been considering picking up a 90-93 Mustang hatch, preferably an LX 5.0 with a stick. I don’t want a convertible, I don’t like the GT look, and I don’t want a notchback. I remember back in the day the notch was considered super rare and therefore more desirable, but today it seems like they are everywhere. I know they are lighter, I don’t care, I like the hatchback look.

This will be a long term project/driver, and will definitely get upgraded suspension and brakes, wheels, seats, and I want 300-350hp. The dilemma is that nice LX 5.0 hatches are hard to find, especially in the condition I want it. I want a nice clean interior, I don’t want a beat on drag car or a rusted banged up body, in the end I want this car to be better than new and bodywork is very expensive. I can do most mechanical and all interior work myself, but I can’t paint or fix rust and dents. Down here in Florida it seems to be easier to find mint condition 4-cyl Mustangs, many owned by elderly people with low miles, and definitely never beat on. And since they are not V8s, they are CHEAP, much less than the V8s I see for sale.

So how hard is it to do an engine and trans swap into a 4-cyl Fox body and build it up the way I want it, compared to starting with a 5.0 platform? I don’t know how many differences there are in the chassis between them. I know even 5.0 cars need chassis bracing, I am going to change out the suspension and brakes anyway, etc. And no, I don’t want to turbo the 4-cyl, I want a V8 this time. To compare, I found a pretty nice all original LX 5.0 hatch with an auto and 68k miles for $7k, but I also found a just as nice, newer 4cyl LX hatch with 48k miles for $3k.

Any advice would be appreciated!

Sajeev concludes:

When it comes to Fox bodies, always remember the first rule of modification: chassis bracing uber alles. That means subframe connectors (get the ones that bolt to the seat bottoms, weld to the subframes) a G-load brace for the front subframe and a 3-point strut tower brace.  Not much extra weight, and it changes the car for the better. You will notice the difference behind the wheel in a matter of FEET, not miles.

If you only want less than 400hp (at the wheels), stick with the stock small block Ford (SBF) and upgrade the heads/cam/intake to make that up. For a street car, I’d recommend a power adder (Whipplecharger) and the appropriate camshaft to make it sing. And apparently Mr. John Kasse is finally making a set of heads that will put the 5.0 V8 a little closer to your garden variety LSX motor.** If you buy your parts wisely, the SBF will be a good fit for your needs and not be a huge money pit. If you plan on paying someone for the motor work, save yourself the expense of a non-SBF motor swap and build a good SBF that will drop right in with zero drama.

Now about the 4-cyl to 5.0 swap: it’s a huge pain in the butt because the wiring harness must be changed (alternator, interior stuff, etc.). Not fun. But if you have the two Mustangs side-by-side and a long weekend ahead of you, you can do it.  And be miserable…in the short term.

Good luck in your hunt.  But take heed to my parting shot, son:


Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

**Obviously the all-aluminum LSX-FTW swap is the ideal answer, but sometimes its cheaper (parts and labor) to accomplish almost the same thing with the factory correct engine block.  I am always torn between a 5.0 or an LS in a Fox Body, in cases where less than 400 horses is needed on a reasonable budget. The stock SBF is still a good motor in certain applications, and I am pretty sure this is one of those cases. This ain’t no wheezy four-banger or a gutless V6. And the SBF sounds better than any LSX, so there’s that.

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Piston Slap: Stupid Question, or Stupid Answer? Mon, 07 May 2012 10:14:29 +0000


TTAC Commentator tresmonos writes:


I recently wrote you about my dilemma of my dying cavalier and should I purchase a ST Focus when they come out. My question is: how easy is it to convert a v belt to a standard ‘grooved’ serpentine belt? My ’84 Diesel Fox body has mostly sat since I’ve started my new job, but back when I had time and excellent southern weather to work on it, I had rebuilt the alternator, rewired the main line from the alternator to the battery (removed the high voltage line from the main loom) and was messing around with different pullies to see if I could solve the age old dilemma that plagues these diesels: thrown v belts.

The v belt drives the alternator and the water pump. Diesel Fox’s are rare as those v belts get tossed, octogenarians would limp their beloved Lincoln home, then crack their Ford meth inspired, paper thin, specific head to a BMW M21. Sad grandma and grandpa.

Rather than keeping 3 spare belts, a socket set, and my balls in the trunk of the car at all times, I’d rather be lazy about it. The rebuild didn’t seem to help. The rewire addressed my laziness of not disconnecting the battery: blown fuse links from arcing of wrenches to alternator when tensioning fresh v belt, fuse links now have ‘quick disconnects.’ I also got over the ‘let me try to replace fusible links with a in line fuse’ phase of my life. Fun times.

Do you think I should upgrade the old assed 90 amp alternator instead? I would have to ‘jumper’ the external voltage regulator, etc. This would be easy as I’ve already prepped the wiring to handle a bigger alt. Or will that further load the skimpy little v belt and make it fly off into the sunset like all the other v belts I’ve lost on my joy rides?

I’m not even sure the Ford bastardized L21 could take a serpentine belt conversion due to how the V belt sits between the serpentine belt and the engine. I laugh at the terrible service illustrations in this Ford manual. No way in hell you can get a screw driver in to ‘tension’ the v belt as they describe. But the illustration gives you an idea of what I have to work with:

I got all the other fun diesel specific manuals, to boot. The guy I bought this baby from was a mechanical genius.

Hope this gives you some cannon fodder!

Sajeev answers:

Well yes, it certainly does. You see, I’ve finally started watching this TV show that all my friends, family and co-workers believe I should know very, very well.  So I decided to finally DVR it. The show is Top Gear, and they play it on some TV station in the UK. Or something like that.

And while the show is pointless, full of Internet-grade trolling, packed with reality TV worthy drama for absolutely no good reason AND is borderline racist…well, it does come in handy when responding to questions like these.

But first…let me tell you why I’m fuming mad.

  • Son, let me tell you about the Fox Body Continental.  It was made on a unique production line in a unique factory, with a unique name not associated with the Lincoln brand. It is a Continental, and you should at least mention that once!
  • But no, you insisted on always referring to it as a “Fox Body.” Which is like referring to a $50+ steak as just another hunk of meat. It’s disrespectful. This was the test bed for so many famous Fox Body parts or models.  It’s why the SVO had a good suspension and fantastic brakes.  It’s why that other famous Mustang Fox with a V8 engine became sorta-kinda-less flimsy, had a better-ish suspension and sported a fun little 5.0 motor after a lot of testing in Continental mules within Dearborn, circa 1985. (According to a report from Car and Driver, back in the day.)
  • And when Ford had the balls to slip behind BMW and swipe a Steyr engine during the diesel rage in the 1980s, when GM pissed away so much on their terrible oil burners, they made a rather fantastic radiator for this respectable motor to live inside an, ahem, Fox Body.  That al-you-mini-um radiator so conveniently slipped into the 1993 Mustang SVT Cobra R.  That’s right: R…son!

So say it with me: this is a Fox Body Continental with a Diesel motor.

It is the best example of–what could be–the most exciting/tweakable/patriotic platforms ever to come from Ford Motor Company.  If you disagree, put some MKS badges on it, tell everyone it’s actually a Volvo under the skin and do some degrading thing that Jeremy Clarkson might suggest.

So perhaps you can see why I don’t necessarily see the problem with your car. It’s quite perfect as-is.  It, quite frankly, was Detroit State of the Art for the time. Would you go into the Lourve and paint eye brows on the Mona Lisa?

NO!  You just deal with it and enjoy a time piece that you can mess around with on weekends. That said, I do have one of those Ford-Steyr Diesel manuals you mentioned, and I agree…they are totally useless.

My Mark VIII recently developed a no-start issue and this manual was absolutely no help at all.  Sometimes I wonder why I even purchased it…to make my library look even geekier?

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: It’s Not A Fox Body… So What Is It? Wed, 10 Aug 2011 18:03:42 +0000

TTAC’s personal window into the CAW, mikey writes:

Sajeev, as spring approached our frozen north, I couldn’t face another summer sans convertible. As a proud, retired UAW and CAW member, my choice was limited to domestics. What to buy?

The Sebring? No way. New is out of my reach, so rule out a 5th gen Camaro. Having owned a 4th gen F-body…one was enough. Did I really say that? A Solstice or Sky, maybe?  Can a 50 something couple pack up and go for two days? I couldn’t find a place to store a cell phone, never mind two suit cases, and a Beer cooler.

I looked at a used “Pontiac G6″ hardtop convertible. Wow! all that mechanical stuff that runs the retract? Hmmmm, lets put it this way: too many years on the assembly floor, tells me to give that baby a wide berth. Draw your own conclusions.

So today we find ourselves the proud owners of a 2008 Mustang convertible. In my way of thinking, knowedge rules, and I have zero experience with Fords, except a 1969 Marquis that was a POS when I bought it, 35 years ago. So I need to update. So I’m asking the B&B to help me out.

Its not a Fox body, so what is it? What other Fords, if any, share the same platform? It’s a 4 litre automatic, without a lot of options. So I guess it’s a base model? Were Pirelli tires standard equipment? How about the “Shaker 500″,it can’t really be 500 watts? Why the phone button on the radio? I don’t think its got Bluetooth, or does it?

So it’s a 4 litre sohc? Where’s the camshaft? Does it have push rods? Why three valves? Two intake one, exhaust? 210 HP, is it me, or why do I feel that my old Firebird 3800 had a lot more cookies?

In all, the Mustang is far more comfortable, for a couple our age. It’s roomier, and quieter than the Firebird. It certainly has less rattles, and squeaks. That being said, I don’t find the Mustang as much fun to drive. That might change with time eh.

So any input/knowledge, negative, or positive, from you guys would be welcome.

Sajeev answers:

As much as I hated the 4th Gen F-bodies, I gotta admit they were a ton of fun and better than the 5th Gen in so many ways.  Plus, your particular Firebird was one of our first Piston Slaps, so pardon me for my nostalgia.

While Wikipedia has most of your answers, let’s try to put a more interesting spin on the facts. Yes it’s an D2C (a.k.a. S197) platform, and while it is the most authentic platform in Ford’s passenger car lineup, they chose to run the Volvo-D3 platform for their premium sedan and crossover offerings.  This platform is an evolutionary dead end…for now.  But could you imagine if Ford came out with a “foxtrot” lineup?  Can you imagine the sweetness of a 5.0L coyote powered Ford Flex or Lincoln MKS?

The Cologne V6 in your Mustang also has a well-documented wiki page, and Pirelli tires were indeed standard equipment: not so surprisingly, the timing of the Ford-Pirelli deal was soon after the Firestone tire debacle.  I haven’t seen the rubber on the new Mustangs, but many new Fords roll on Hankook donuts.  Not that I put much faith in a tire’s brand name, but some brands go for more green…and sometimes damage control is very important. More to the point, lucky you: you got yourself some fancy eye-talian tires, man!

The rest of your questions are good fodder for the B&B. If they don’t answer ‘em all, owner’s manuals are rather cheap on eBay.  If you have a manual but didn’t read it, well, shame on you and RTFM!

One last thing, if you feel the Mustang doesn’t have the balls of your old Firebird, remember that V6 Mustangs (except the latest model with the performance pack) are tuned for softness in throttle response, power delivery and overall suspension mushiness.  That whole “Mustangs are secretary’s cars” thing from the 1960s never really left.  Luckily, an SCT tune is pretty cheap and easy, people with Mustang GT’s dump their stock sway bars on a regular basis, and shock upgrades are plentiful. If you really care.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Piston Slap: What’s a Ford Employee to do? Mon, 25 Jul 2011 17:30:22 +0000  


TTAC Commentator tresmonos writes:

OK.  So I used to work for Ford and am now gainfully employed by them (again).  My dilemma is as follows:

I am rolling on a Z24 cavalier that I bought brand new in 2001.  It has 160K on the clock and the only thing I can see that’s wrong with it is a AC compressor that’s been on limp mode since 2007 (bearing), bad drum brakes due to my laziness (LMAO – SM), and interior fan’s lowest two resistors being shot.  The twin cam has a bad coil as it misses at idle, but I could care less.  The car’s exterior filth has literally out lasted my marriage. It’s been a hell of a financial savings for me.  But we all know the twin cam dream won’t last much longer.

I temporarily moved to SC and blew my car savings load on a 100% rust free 1984 lincoln continental turbo diesel.  I repainted it and have slaved over some wiring nightmares on it.  I’ve got 6K invested in the thing.  And I need a new mode of transportation.  Foolish purchase, I know… but if you would look at the clean, rust free body, and sit in that Corinthian plush leather seats whilst romping on the gas to behold two dual plumes of diesel particulate whooshing in the rear view, you’d understand.

The Focus ST is coming out and working at my current employer has me torn between a new ride and being cost effective with a used one.  When you work around the product, you want it.  I love the fact I know every little thing about my cavalier.  I know immediately when I need to address something, and luckily, it’s been just electrical issues thus far (I’ve rewired the entire acc harness in the engine bay due to cheap mexican made delphi spliced together sh**).  So, with that preference (being weary of a used vehicle), do I spring on the ST if the Cavillac stays alive long enough?  Or do I buy a lightly used Ford/Lincoln for 10K less?  I already have a Lincoln, but I cannot find a desirable used Ford sans a SVT focus, though the SVT isn’t known for quality.  What do you think I should do?  I have an easy 10-15K that I can put down on a purchase.  Used SVT focus or new ST?  Or make my household 100% lincoln?  I’m torn between my cheap habits and the desire for something fun, and I want something as trouble free as my Z24 has been.

I think you know one of my friends. (Yup, I do. – SM) I’m one of his college buddies and he mentioned you would love my new Foxbody Lincoln.  Next time you’re in Detroit, let me know and you can drive the shit out of it.

Sajeev answers:

Your college buddy called me out of the blue to tell me about your Foxy Conti.  He was there when I towed my Fox-Conti to a ranch in central Texas where it rotted for almost a decade, so he knows those cars. And now that I will be spending an ungodly/vulgar/stupid amount of cash to restore mine, I would be honored to drive your little BMW-Steyr-Foxbody-Continental at some point.  And maybe give you a spare part or two for the trouble. Thank you.

Now on to your quandary:

I wouldn’t trust a used Focus SVT, mostly because I worry about a lack of upkeep and a ton of hooning under it’s belt.  And because you are a Ford employee, you are almost obligated to lease a new car every two years. Not for corporate advancement or to “fit in”, although those undercurrents creep up in any company in some way/shape/form…but let me tell you a story:

I lived in Metro Detroit when I was a student at CCS.  One of my friends, who was very aware of private school tuition, totally surprised me when I saw a brand new Chevy S-10 (that’s how old I am) in the student parking lot.  I thought this guy MUST be a fraud, a brand spankin’ new truck?  Turns out his Dad was a GM Engineer.  And GM offered employees a sweet deal on 4-cyl 5-speed trucks…to keep their CAFE standards up?

Whatever, my point was that this little truck was only $98 a month for a two-year lease.  No money down either, I think.  So here’s my plan of action for you.

  1. Lease whatever little compact car they have on heavy incentives.
  2. Use the money saved over buying a Focus ST/fixing an SVT to tweak it with an SCT tune, bigger swaybars, Eibachs, +1 tires,  whatever you want. It’ll still be slow-ish, but it will do if you make it to your tastes.
  3. Use the money saved to buy a house, if you didn’t already come up with a down payment for one in the Detroit area using the change in your ashtray.
  4. Use the money to address problems on the Foxy Conti…you see where I am going with this?
  5. Sell the Cavalier on craigslist before it dies.
  6. Worry about getting an ST Focus or any other hot button purchase after your short term lease on a shitty car is over. Because, much like the Taurus SHO, Focus SVT and Contour SVT before it, I see this vehicle getting discounted heavily…once the small market that demands it is saturated by it’s excellence.
  7. Have your cake and eat it too, via delaying your gratification.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.


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New or Used: I know you. You are me. Thu, 30 Jun 2011 18:36:04 +0000 Daily driver?


TTAC commentator siggy writes:

Hello Sajeev and Steve,

I’m a big fan of TTAC’s Piston Slap column and I hope you can help me with a good recommendation. Currently, I have one car, a 1984 Mustang SVO.  It has about 75k miles, and I’ve given it numerous upgrades.  I love it, but it doesn’t have a heater or A/C, and the mileage is crap.  On long freeway drives, I can get up to 25mpg, but the reality is my commute to work is 10 miles, and it’s all stop and go, sometimes bumper-to-bumper traffic.  So I end up with about 15mpg.  But, like I said, I love the car, so I will not be getting rid of it in the foreseeable future.

With gas at almost $4, and the way the SVO chugs the premium juice, I think it’s time to get a proper commuter.  Not having A/C in the summer is a serious problem here in Orange County, so with spring and summer around the corner, I need to act on this now.  Time for a beater!

Here’s a breakdown of requirements:

  1. I can only spend a max of about $2500.
  2. Smaller is better.  Ideally, something that can return at least 25 MPG City.  (30+ MPG highway).  Probably FWD.
  3. Easy to work on and easy to find parts for.  One thing I like about my Fox Mustang is how easy it is to work on, with its huge engine bay and tiny 4 cyl. Engine.
  4. I’d prefer a manual.  This is not a dealbreaker though.  The main reason I prefer a manual is because they are way more reliable.  My old ’96 T-bird’s auto started to slip at around 150k miles, and my girlfriend’s ’02 Accord Auto, with 120k miles, slips worse than my Mustang’s tires in the rain.  The added MPG and fun factor of a manual is nice, too.
  5. Because of #3, only American and Japanese brands.
  6. Not really a big deal, but R134 A/C and OBDII would be a plus.

Let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing back and/or seeing my name up on TTAC.

Sajeev answers:

SVO? SVO! You mean I get to talk Fox Bodies for a moment?  Just kidding…

You have an SVO Mustang and are familiar with MN-12 body Thunderbirds.  That combination is disturbingly close to my restomod(?) Fox Mercury Cougar and daily driver Lincoln Mark VIII.  The Fox and MN-12 love within you is strong: you should embrace that.  Be one with your love, let the passion fly like the turbocharged SVO wind, soaring on the wings of a thunderous Thunderbird!

You might be nuts to not get another MN-12 Tbird. Get a V6 if you want mileage improvements at part throttle, head gasket condition be damned.  $1500 gets a disturbingly nice MN-12, they are really that terrible on the used car market.  And they are a rather brilliant (if flawed) platform even in stock form. I personally think the MN-12 deserved a second chance, a significant re-think: it coulda replaced both the Panther and spared us the disappointment of the Five Hundred, Flex, Taurus, Montego, Freestyle, etc.

Of course I am only partially kidding…

You need an older, 2.3 or 2.5L Ranger with a stick: 25mpg, fun, cheap and you already know the motor from your SVO, inside and out.  Find one in that price range with some service records, new parts and an honest private seller on craigslist. I know you. You are me.  And a Ranger is precisely what I’d want if I were in your shoes.

Steve answers:

I would not fall head over heels over any particular car.

At the price range you are looking at, it will be the prior owners who will determine the long-term reliability of your ride. It also will be pretty damn hard to find a good one… for now.

My advice is to try to seek anything that has a well-known bulletproof drivetrain. The Ford platforms Sajeev mentions tend to be that way. But so are a long slew of various domestic and foreign models.

If you do orientate over a given type of car then Ebay would be a good bet. Go to the ‘completed items’ section and see how much things are selling for these days. If the seller has 100% positive Ebay feedback (like yours truly) then the odds will definitely be with you.

Research the histories, get it inspected no matter what, and good luck.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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