Welcome to Rehab – Introducing StangTV’s Latest Project Car

It’s been almost a year since StangTV had a Fox-body project car. Many of you may remember our Project 666, 86 Mustang Coupe that went 9’s in the quarter mile. That car has since been sold to make room for other projects in the Power Automedia garage. With the need to fill a hole in our lineup, we sent StangTV’s Don Creason out in search of a new Fox-body project.

We’re not sure we want to know what lurks beneath those stylish parts store seat covers. We do know the ugly red interior has to go!

Creason found a 1988 5.0 LX, coupe. The car has 77,000 original miles. While the exterior and interior are rough, mechanically the car appears to be sound. The only modifications to it are an off-road H-pipe, some form of badly installed cat-back exhaust, a removed air silencer, and a K&N panel air filter. This car is representative of many Fox-body’s on the market today, and short of buying a low mileage collector nearly as virgin as we can find.

Deeper inspection showed no sludge buildup, broken, or damaged parts with the heads or valve covers. We replaced the gaskets due to typical age related leaks, installed some new vacuum hoses, and changed the oil and anti-freeze out.

The owner that Creason purchased it from had found it on a car lot in a rural Kentucky town, and bought it intending to make a LS powered drag car out of it. Fate would intervene, and this young man was talked out of the project by a Ford faithful friend. Hard up for money and his plans for an LS drag car dashed, the owner put the car on Craigslist where Creason saw it and after watching it drop in price for a few weeks, met the owner and struck a deal.

Creason brought the car to StangTV’s top secret southeast facility and immediately ripped into the engine, pulling the intake and valve covers to replace the leaking gaskets. He also replaced the worn out fan clutch which was causing a high temperature at idle, and disconnected the factory thermactor pump and tubing, although the pump remains in place for now.

From this angle and distance Rehab doesn’t look too bad, it’s when you get up close that you start to notice all the problems.

We were anxious to see what the car’s performance was like after 25 years of life.  New plugs and plug wires were installed and the oil was changed. We also replaced the leaking valve cover and intake manifold gaskets. The car was then driven over to Fast Track Performance in Louisville, KY for a dyno pull to see what type of foundation we had power wise to start with. We were also interested to see how much power the original AOD was sucking out of the engine.

Under the car we found a botched exhaust installation which lead to the tail pipes riding against the rear bumper cover. We also found enough oil to make Jed think he'd struck it rich again, no doubt a result of thousands of miles of driving with leaky gaskets.

Our dyno pull greeted us with only 139 rwhp to the rear wheels at just 3,800 rpm. We hadn’t scheduled tuning or trouble shooting with FTP that day, and as such they weren’t prepared to help us deal with troubleshooting the car. Our first thought was timing, and we thought we could address that once we got the car back to the garage.

On the way home though the problem reared it’s ugly head in full blown fashion. We were left stranded in a local department store parking lot, with a car that wouldn’t do more than eight mph. A couple of basic diagnostic tests finally revealed fuel pressure at only 24 psi when idling, dropping to less than 20 psi under any attempt to accelerate. The end diagnosis was in fact a bad fuel pump.

Our dnyo graph showed the problem which was about to reveal it’s ugly head on our drive home. We’ll be back at FTP for another dyno run once we figure out what’s up and correct it.

Once we square away our fuel pump issues we intend to start improving on the car’s performance and looks. We brainstormed for several days on a name and finally came up with Project Rehab. We think it’s fitting since the car needs work in all major areas, as is typical of many Fox-body cars these days. Additionally we’re all Mustang addicts here and nothing relieves the stress of a long days work like swinging some wrenches on a project car.

Rehab has it's share of issues, but half the fun of having an older Mustang is wrenching on them. We can't wait to dig in and get started on our Rehab.

Rather than take the drag only route of many Fox-body’s these days, Rehab is going to remain a street car. Our goal is to build this into a nicely restored coupe with more of a Pro-Touring attitude than the typical drag strip flair that most Fox-body cars are known for. We’re planning to turn corners as easily as we can make a full on pass at the strip. We’ll be doing a mix of low buck and new high tech parts installs on this along the way, as we try to broaden the appeal of the entire project. It’s time to get started on Rehab’s therapy sessions. Stay tuned because you probably never knew that Rehab could be this much fun.

About the author

Don Creason

Don Creason is an automotive journalist with passions that lie from everything classic, all the way to modern muscle. Experienced tech writer, and all around car aficionado, Don's love for both cars and writing makes him the perfect addition to the Power Automedia team of experts.
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