If you aren’t keen on Fox Mustangs, you might just assume that Jack Lyons is the proud owner of a clean older Mustang. However, a peek under the hood reveals that his coupe packs a race car punch in a street-car package. In fact, after chatting with him, we wished we could travel back to 1990 with this combination where it would have been the baddest street ’Stang on the planet.
In 2006 I took it off the road to build what I had already built for everyone else, which was an ultimate street car. — Jack Lyons
“I bought this car in 1990. I am the original owner. It served me well as a daily driver, but in the process of that I became part of the 5.0 Mustang crowd and built a friend’s race car in exchange for his drivetrain, which was supercharged at the time,” Jack explained. “I started building and tuning cars for other people while driving this car around as a supercharged 302 with about 500 horsepower. In 2006 I took it off the road to build what I had already built for everyone else, which was an ultimate street car.”
Jack Lyons doesn’t hesitate to drive his high-horsepower Fox because that’s just what he built it for. “I got 18 mpg on my way to Bradenton from Orlando for the 2017 NMRA event with the AC on at 80 mph,” he said. “It drives and handles very well for what it is — a $9,500 Mustang with some bolt-ons! I believe, with some slicks, it would run a solid low to mid-9-second something in the quarter mile, then I would get ejected because I have no cage!”
From there he came up with a plan to upgrade nearly every piece of functional equipment on the car with the idea of improving performance without rendering the car just another race car.
“The only part on this car that’s still original Ford that came with the car is the power steering pump,” he said. “Everything that rotates or revolves has been exchanged with replacement parts because it has 260,000 miles on it. I have rebuilt the whole car twice, just because of use. It’s been drag raced as a nitrous car, a supercharged car and, now, it’s a turbocharged car.”
His Fox coupe caught our eye in the National Parts Depot display at the NMRA’s season opener this past March. First we just saw a really clean Fox and that always stops us in our tracks, but the more we learned about the car, we realized it was the kind of sleeper that would have ruled the streets back in the day.
Looking much like a well-preserved example of the Fox lineage, Jack’s 1990 LX only benefits from a few replacement parts out of the NPD catalog. “I did a partial restoration on this car, so some of the pieces — like the headliner and the carpet — are new, but essentially this is a stock 5.0 Mustang, except for the drivetrain,” he told us.
“Most of the time when people first see it, their first thoughts are ‘It’s a beautiful car. It’s very clean.’ Most people who don’t know Mustang absolutely love it,” Jack explained. “The people who do know Mustangs understand from closer inspection that it’s probably more than just a stock vehicle. However, most of the time, people have no idea what’s lurking under the hood, so to speak.”
What’s lurking under there is a fully built 363ci stroker based on the robust Dart SHP Windsor block, which he filled with a SCAT forged crankshaft, SCAT forged connecting rods, and Wiseco pistons yielding a boost-friendly 9.3:1 compression ratio. Topped with AFR 195 aluminum cylinder heads and a Trick Flow R intake the combo is orchestrated by a custom COMP camshaft.
Driveable and Reliable
“When I contemplated getting rid of this car, I thought it would be worth more as a stock-format vehicle instead of with the modifications that I made. I was used to driving it around at about 500 horsepower,” Jack said. “I thought about going back to a stock format because I wanted the driveability and dependability that Ford was famous for in these vehicles. But, I knew I wasn’t going to be happy with less horsepower than I was accustomed to, so I did some research and decided to build a streetable, big-cubic-inch small-block.”
With the Coyote swap craze in full swing, it might be a surprise that Jack kept his street sleeper powered by a pushrod small-block. That was an easy decision for him, however.
Having owned this car since it was new, Jack was ready to freshen it up in 2015 when it turned 25 years old. He turned to Steve Harper, of C&H Motorsports in Sanford, Florida, to paint the formerly Oxford White coupe in a sleek black finish, which is accented by those timeless Pony R five-spoke replica wheels.
The reason I stuck with the pushrod engine is that I am somewhat of a purist. — Jack Lyons
“The reason I stuck with the pushrod engine is that I am somewhat of a purist. That’s why I wanted the OEM look. I wanted all the features that go on the 8.2-inch-deck motor that came with the car to be retained,” Jack said. “I wanted to keep as much of this as original as possible, allowing me to go back to a fully original build if I ever desired to do that. Everything that’s done to this car can be undone. There is no roll cage in it. Other than the weld-in subframe connectors, the chassis is all-original. It just had to be built in a way that retained as much of the originality factor as possible.”
“Everything is as you would probably find in a X275 car that runs 8-second quarter miles, but it’s in a street car that looks like this, which is what makes it cool,” Jack said of the 363-cube, turbocharged Windsor that powers his Fox sleeper.
Transmission: Tremec TKO-600 w/ TKO billet shifter, McLeod RXT1000 clutch and stock driveshaft
Rearend: Factory 8.8-inch w/ Detroit True Trac differential, Ford Performance 3.55 gears, Moser 31-spline axles (custom from North Race cars, stock Fox track width)
K-member: PA Racing, stock location with spring perches
A-arms: Stock Ford lower control arms
Struts: Tokico fully adjustable
Caster/Camber Plates: UPR steel
Springs: UPR coilover conversion, 14-inch springs
Sway Bar: Factory with urethane bushings
Wheels: Five-lug Pony R, 17×8-inch
Tires: Continental Extreme DW, 235/45-17
Brakes: 2004 Ford Cobra w/1993 Cobra master cylinder
Shocks: Tokico fully adjustable
Springs: Ford Performance M2300-C, 1/2-inch lower than stock, stock spring rate
Bushings: Heim Joints
Control Arms: UPR double-adjustable upper and UPR single-adjustable lower
Wheels: Five-lug Pony R, 17×10-inch
Tires: Continental Extreme DW, 285/40-17
Brakes: 2004 Ford Cobra w/ North Race Cars adapter bracket
Application of Experience
The ability to return this car to stock might be reassuring to fellow purists, but you might assume that a big-cube pushrod engine might not behave the way he wanted it to, but that’s just not the case. Jack called on his vast experience to select the parts that would make power while retaining drivability and reliability. Far to often, he told us, people believe bigger is better, but that’s not always the case, especially on the street.
“In the ’90s, during the Pro 5.0 era, we built a record-breaking Pro 5.0 and I learned a lot of the tricks of the trade back then. It evolved into me applying everything I had learned over the years to this car…” he explained. “Thanks to the advances in technology, I was able to build this platform, which is fully streetable with working air conditioning, working cruise control and the only reason the heat is not working is because it’s disconnected — I live in Florida. It functions exactly as it did when it rolled off the showroom floor in every aspect.”
A great enabler of this level of performance in a streetable package is the On3 single turbo with an ample intercooler. It is set up to deliver about 16 pounds of boost and the whole combo is refined by Jack’s aftermarket fuel injection system of choice — a Haltech Sport 2000 plugged right into the factory harness — which he tuned himself to deliver that stock-style driveability.
“To make it streetable, keeping it to around 680 at the tire is probably the limit. It will break the tires loose in all four gears with the amount of torque this car makes. But, generally speaking, the way the cam profile is, it starts to build its peak power around 3,500 to 4,000 RPM, which most of the time when you are driving it, you are not in that powerband, you are below it,” he added. “So it drives more or less like a daily would until you put your foot into it. …By the time you are at 4,000 RPM you are at full tilt, full boost and you go all the way to 6,000 RPM. I drove it, and on my datalogger, it went from 30 to 130 mph in 8 seconds. What more do you want? And, that was with the street tune.”
With a 93-octane tune this turbocharged Windsor belted out 680 horsepower and 705 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels on just 12.8 pounds boost. Turning up the wick to 16 psi and adding a 60/40 blend of 93- and 110-octane fuels yielded 810 horsepower and 854 lb-ft of torque before the clutch slipped. With more octane and boost Jack is confident this combination would produce power well into the four-digit range, but he could never use that much on the street.
What more do you want, indeed? Having the title in our names? Seriously though, we have to applaud Jack for building exactly the kind of car we would have dubbed King of the Street.
With any luck Jack is passing on an appreciation of high-performance classics to his son, who often gets to ride along with dad in this powerful street ’Stang.
The suspension under Jack’s Fox is fortified with goods from Ford Performance, Tokico and UPR Products, but the practical limit of traction on street tires is around 580 rear-wheel horsepower.