Stop the Presses
Just as we were putting the final touches on our June '05 issue we came across this stunning beauty, a 1989 F-150 with a 5.0L motor and AOD transmission. Our intent was to simply pickup a cheap beater truck to use around the FM shop for making Pick n' Pull runs and hauling motors. However when the opportunity presented itself to own, for dirt cheap, what is essentially a Mustang with an 8ft. bed, we scratched our collective chins and realized this could make for a pretty fun project. In fact the more we thought about the possibilities of hopping up a big and ugly work truck the more excited we got. So rather than hold off and introduce the truck next month we scrambled together in the last few days to make some initial mods just in time for this issue.

This F-150 served most of it's life as a commercial duty truck. It's eggshell white paint is permanently stained with greasy jobsite fingerprints. The bed showed plenty of evidence of the loads it's been subjected to fortunately we scored a Ford bedliner for $40 so we threw it in for looks. The truck is all about utility, from it's vinyl bench seat and floor to it's headliner-delete and lack of power anything. If indeed this were a Mustang it'd be highly sought after, as the lack of accouterments means weight savings, hence better power to weight ratio. Of course when you're talking about a long-bed truck with dual fuel tanks, weight is a moot point. It's heavy as it should be. Our goal is to pump up the 185 horsepower (factory rating) 5.0L motor so that at the very minimum we give a few fart-can imports a good beating.

From the Five-Point-Oh Playbook
Other than the fact we need a step stool to look into the engine compartment, the underhood of this truck is as familiar as any Fox-body Mustang we've worked on. It's got the venerable 5.0L powerplant, fed by a sequential electronic fuel injection system. The engine management is however based on a speed density system, and the cam and intake are all set up for low-end grunt, hence a whopping 160 rear wheel horsepower is all this truck can muster. We'll shoot for a 100 horsepower gain in the coming months, namely with the plans calling for a cylinder head and intake swap. We may likely convert to the more versatile mass-air system to allow for a cam change.

That's all in the near future. For now, however, there are considerable modifications and performance enhancements to make before getting into the serious bolt-on's. Below we've outlined the initial steps - a proper tune up and a K&N air-intake system. In the next installment of this project we'll detail some exhaust system modifications. Also in the next issue you'll get all the dyno results of each change. Heck, we'll even give you a report on how it fares at the local Wed. night bracket racing.

Hot Sparks

With any project car we like to start out with first identifying and addressing any problems. In this case all the 127,000 miles motor need was a tube of BarsLeak radiator sealant to stop a small radiator leak, and then a good tune up. A set of plugs, wires, cap, and rotor would have sufficed, but our experience with 5.0L's is they tend to pick up some torque and throttle response with a hotter ignition. The usual ignition system upgrade is wiring in an MSD 6AL box, however we felt that was overkill for a beater truck. Instead we opted for the FirePower ignition kit from Performance Distributors. The kit consists of their hefty 10mm LiveWires, brass terminal cap and rotor, along with their Screamin' Demon coil and DynaMod TFI module. The coil enables a hotter spark and the TFI module is engineered to provide a longer spark dwell time. As a result spark plug gaps can be opened up to 0.060". We measured as much as 10 lb-ft of torque off-idle and vastly crisper throttle response over the stock replacement system.

Shown is the FirePower ignition kit. Inclued are 10mm LiveWires, a cap and rotor, as well as Performance Distributors Screamin' Demon coil and DynaMod TFI module. Just add a fresh set of plugs and you have a robust ignition system for under $250.

We ditched the 15 year old stock coil and put in the hotter Screamin' Demon into the factory bracket. The hotter coil features a non-corrosive brass terminal. We opened up our plug gaps to 0.055" for a fatter spark.

The distributor needs to be removed to access the TFI module screws. Remove the stock unit and apply some thermal grease to the contact surface.

The DynaMod module is plugged into the distributor and secured. Note the special TFI module wrench. A standard 5.5mm socket will not fit in the holes. Lisle makes the wrench, which sells for under $5 at most auto chains.

The firing order on early 5.0L truck engines is 1-5-4-2-6-3-7-8, and not the typical H.O. order of 1-3-7-2-6-5-4-8.

The big LiveWires will not fit in the stock wire looms. Performance Distributors sells billet loom kits to nicely route their wires.

More Air
With any Ford engine you are all but guaranteed to free up some horsepower by addressing the restrictive air intake system. The F-150 sucks in air via a tiny rectangular scoop mounted on top of the radiator support. This feeds into a a 1"x5" opening in the air-box. A replacement K&N panel filter would have done this truck wonders as the stock paper filter was filled with crud and dirt from trips onto unpaved jobsites. However perusing K&N's website revealed a full FIPK (fuel injection performance kit) for the F-150. The FIPK consists of a big conical air filter, heat sheild, and custom molded tube.

K&N's FIPK kit for '88-'95 F-150/Broncos works on with either the 5.0L or 5.8L engine options.

Loosen a couple hose clamps at the throttle body and remove the air-box retaining screws.

Disconnect the PCV tube and lift out the factory air-box. The factory PCV breather tube can also be removed, it is replaced with the hose included in the FIPK kit.

The factory air-box is fed via this rectangular inlet and duct. The K&N instructions leave this in-place to allow for some cold air to enter the filter area.

Trim off these tabs from the relay bracket. They aren't used on most applications, so there is no harm in removing.

Remove this nut from the coolant reservoir. The head shield will connect to here using the same nut.

With trim and brackets mounted to the heat shield, lower it into place. Attach with one of the air-box screws and the nut removed in step 2.

Assemble the tube support bracket and secure under the A/C bolt as shown. K/N has specific instructions for trucks without A/C.

Connect the molded tube to the throttle body using the supplied silicone sleeves and hose clamps.

Attach the conical K&N air filter to the end of the tube and secure the hose clamps.


In This Article:
Enough of project cars, here is a project truck for FordMuscle. If you can look past the 'Department of Public Works' white paint and all-business body, you'll find the same guts as a Mustang - a 5.0L SEFI motor and an AOD transmission. We're going to pull some plays from our 5.0 playbook and beef up the power output from this truck.

With it's vinyl seats and floors, headliner delete, and no power accessories, this truck is all business. The odometer shows 127,000 miles on the motor and AOD transmission. We know the motor is just getting broken in, while the AOD may be minutes from death.
To get this project started we've given the 127,000 mile motor a tune up with Performance Distributors FirePower Igntion Kit. A K&N FIPK (PN 57-2542) replaced the restrictive factory air-box and ducting. All told we've tallyed up 18 horses. We'll have all the dyno testing breakdown in the next issue, along with an exhaust system upgrade.

Not many manufacturers bother to include step-by-step instructions with photos, as well as dyno results, with their products. K&N in-fact offers all of this information in downloadable form on their website so you can review it prior to purchasing, or should you ever need to refer to it afterwards.
























Performance Distributors
2699 Barris Dr.
Memphis, TN 38132
(901) 396-5782

K&N Engineering, Inc.
PO Box 1329
1455 Citrus St.
Riverside, California 92502
(800) 858-3333



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