Robert Lewis Transformed His Fox Into A Street-Legal Coyote Coupe

What lengths would you go to for the perfect project car? Would you spend all of your time, money and dedication in order to perfect every single micro task that lead up to the final thing? For Robert Lewis, it was all of this and more that drove him to building his incredible 1990 Fox Mustang project car. His dream for a Mustang project came from many streams of inspiration – some out of pain and misfortune and some out of envy and aspiration.

Originally, the plan was to do a ’93 Cobra clone with a Terminator swap. — Robert Lewis

When life throws you a pretty severe curveball, your outlook can sometimes understandably be a bit bleak. It’s one thing if you lose a job or take on a temporary financial burden, but it’s another if you’re like Robert, who was unfortunately involved in what you could call a life-threatening accident.

“About six years ago, my back was messed up from an accident, which made me think that my days of wrenching were over and it was time to hang it up,” he said.

Fortunately, that accident proved to be just a bump in the road, and Robert recovered better than expected. He was able to continue his days of wrenching again. His recovery, along with prior magazine features proved to yet again inspire him to continue his path for a new project car.

It Started With An Idea

Robert picked up a 1990 Fox Mustang notchback while visiting in the Northern California Bay Area.

Fast forward to the year 2014, and Robert had taken notice of several other Fox Mustang project cars. He was revved up to get moving on a new project.

“Originally, the plan was to do a ’93 Cobra clone with a Terminator swap,” Robert explained. “How cool would that be to have done a Mach 1 rendition in a notchback, and to do a ’93 Terminator? Been there, done that – should be a quick swap – done in three months, tops.”

Unfortunately, Robert wasn’t having any luck while searching for available 1993 Mustang GTs or LXs – it proved difficult to find something worthy of a transplant.

“After being stranded by my wife in the middle of Stockton, California, with $3,500 cash in my pocket, I got to do some real soul searching,” Robert said.

As time would pass, Robert would eventually decide on a Coyote swap for his Fox build.

“While browsing some local Craigslist ads, I came across a handful of four-cylinder-powered coupes for sale, and I thought I’d give it a try again and open up to do another notch,” he said. “A couple days later, I picked up my new-to-me Fox, paid the back fee and started disassembling the car. I also started searching for a Terminator as a donor car.”

As fate would have it, this is where Robert would find most of his inspiration. He picked up his new-to-him 1993 Fox Mustang coupe in May of 2014, and he had anticipated many routes from here – a GT500 swap or a Terminator swap – whatever he chose, would have to be smog-legal as he resides in California.

Let The Swap Begin

(Photo credit: Robert Lewis)

1993 Mustang LX Mods

Block: Stock Coyote

Crankshaft: Stock Coyote

Rods: Stock Coyote

Pistons: Stock Coyote

Camshafts: Stock Coyote

Cylinder Heads: Stock Coyote

Intake: BBK Performance CARB-legal cold air intake

Fuel System: Stock Coyote

Exhaust: Stock Coyote

Transmission: Stock MT-82 6-speed manual

Rearend: ’99-’04 SVT Cobra IRS

Electronics: Stock Coyote

Engine Management: Stock Coyote ECU

Ignition: Stock Coyote

Robert admits that he was originally inspired by a 5.4-swap Fox.

“After reading up on Jason Hall’s ‘FoxGT500,’ I felt I had enough information to commit to a ‘Jason Hall’ type Coyote swap – but mine will be CA smog legal,” he said.

Robert explained that he had completed a Mach 1 swap into a Fox coupe in the past. However, this time around, he wanted to try a Terminator swap again.

“My last attempt, which was more than six years ago, was discouraging due to the price of obtaining a wrecked ’03-’04 Cobra,” Robert explained. “These cars were still in the range of $11,000 to $13,000, and the price hadn’t gone down much over the years. After two months of being outbid, I noticed that ’11-’14 Mustang GTs were only a few thousand more, but with less mileage and more horsepower in stock form. I searched online to see if anyone had done such a complete Coyote swap and keep it smog legal. I did find a few Coyote engine swaps, but none were California legal.

“At the time of my research, I only found one person who had completed an engine and interior swap,” he added. “But again, it wouldn’t be California smog compliant. However, the fact that he was able to put it all together, told me it can be done – I just needed to get the car in my garage and evaluate what was necessary to complete it.”

Law-Abiding Swap

It was at that moment that Robert decided to pursue his own CARB-legal Coyote swap dream. Albeit he knew this journey would naturally be met with resistance from the state of California, but Robert had faith he could make it happen.

“This build was full of challenges,” he shared with us. “To name just one to be most challenging is actually quite difficult. In a sense of physically challenging, an example would be removing and re-welding the floor and firewall. In regards to mentally challenging, it would be the aptitude necessary for staying focused on the build, and not getting too far ahead of myself or becoming overwhelmed.”

One of our favorite aspects of Robert's Fox Mustang is that it's finished in Gotta Have It Green, which is an original factory color option for the ’13-’14 Mustang. It is extremely unique to see this hue on a different generation of Mustang, and we absolutely dig it. "That's the bad thing about pearl paints," Robert said. "They tend to be camera shy."

When we discussed the challenges of bringing Robert’s Fox to 50-state-legal status, he shared that the referees look for things like not having check engine light present, verifying there is a smog canister and that the vapor lines are connected and functioning.

“You have to use the stock catalytic converters and a stock intake,” Robert explained. “During my first visit to the referee, I passed on everything except for the intake I had at the time. Because I used a silicone elbow in conjunction with the stock air box. I had to cut the intake pipe about two inches and clamp it together with a silicone boot. Just the fact that it had a silicone boot was grounds to fail it on visual.”

In April of this year however, Robert was finally able to pass the car with flying colors – right in time for us to see the car in person at this year’s Fabulous Fords Forever show.

A Path To Follow

Since the beginning, Robert’s secondary goal was providing a step-by-step guide, available online, for those who are looking to perform this CARB-legal swap for themselves. Beyond that, he used nearly all of the original interior from the donor Mustang GT, and was able to retrofit nearly the entire interior himself.

“The big reason for the swap is to simplify the complete swap for everyone else,” Robert told us when asked why he chose to use the S197 interior. “Another reason is because the Fox’s original interior is no way near as nice as the Coyote interior. Plus, with the Coyote interior, you get built-in USB ports for charging electronic devices, Track pack features, a navigation system and Sync.”

If you didn't know any better, you might think you were sitting inside of a ’11-'14 S197 Mustang. "From the moment I park the car, fellow Mustang enthusiasts are really interested and ask many questions about my build," Robert explained when asked about the feedback his car received at Fabulous Fords Forever. "Many of them were followers of my build thread and wanted to see the car in person. The random on-lookers that see the car for the first time always notice the Coyote engine in the Fox and acknowledge the engine swap, but then they get a glimpse of the interior swap, and then their jaws drop!"

Robert commented that his donor car unfortunately didn’t come with the navigation system from the factory, but that it might be in the cards for future modifications. You might be asking yourself – what’s it like to drive a 50-state-legal, Coyote-powered Fox Mustang with a manual transmission and a full S197 interior? Fortunately for you, Robert has the answer.

The big reason for the swap is to simplify the complete swap for everyone else. — Robert Lewis

“Since I’ve never driven an unmodified Fox Mustang, or driven a stock Coyote Mustang for any length of time, I guess it’s like driving a 2013 Mustang GT with no power steering, but much lighter,” he said.

Now that Robert has upgraded his Fox with an OEM A/C system using Power By The Hour brackets, his ride is much sweeter during the Northern California summers. Robert has plans to continue modifying his Fox to his taste, perfecting small ins and outs and applying his attention to detail through every corner.

We can’t wait to see what’s in store for this street-legal Fox. In the meantime, checkout Robert’s thread in-depth here for a more precise look at the swap in detail.

Photo gallery


About the author

Harrison Noble

Living in San Diego for most of his life, Harrison was exposed to a variety of cars at an early age. His passion for anything that is fast, or has a V8, brought him to Power Automedia.
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