Rebuilding My Totally-Not-Collectible Mustang, Part 9

Categories: Collector Cars.

It seems that I titled this series prematurely. Blue Thunder – my two-owner 1980 Ford Mustang – was once among the least desireable Mustangs in existence but is now soaring in value. Not only are Fox body Mustangs increasing in price across the board, but it turns out that the coupes (sometimes called “notchbacks”) are among the most prized ponies in the corral.

The last two weeks were spent installing a new suspension system. Specifically, the car is now outfitted with lowering springs (650 lbs in front, 250 lbs in rear), performance rear upper and lower control arms, new stabilizer bars (35mm in front, 25mm in rear) and Stiffler Engineering’s FIT chassis brace system. This suspension supplements a 347 stroker motor, 17-inch five-lug wheels, four-wheel disc brakes and a host of other performance parts.

We didn’t re-invent the wheel with this suspension build. It basically mimics the tried and true springs, control arms and stabilizer bars recommended by influential Ford suppliers like Steeda, National Parts Depot, Eibach and others. And this suspension likely won’t remain in place for long, since a new coilover system is on the way.

But in the meantime, we have a magnificent chance to compare notes and see just what can be done with a basic, old school suspension build on an early Fox. After a week of road tests by an experienced racing driver (yours truly), here’s what we found…

The control arms instantly solved all wheel hop issues and our 0-60 times plummeted from 5.9 seconds to 5.1 seconds in just three runs. We made no effort whatsoever to adjust tire pressures or suspension for a better holeshot. Blue Thunder’s wheelspin was epic and the car launched through a cloud of smoke, nevertheless, acceleration was still statistically the same as a 2015 Mustang GT convertible. Not too bad for a 44 year old warhorse. Dropping our 0-60 times into the high 4’s will be easy. Not long ago that range was reserved for exotic supercars.

Body roll is a thing of the past. Once a handling nightmare, Blue Thunder now eats up curvy roads with aplomb. Corners are dead flat and as fast as you have the nerve to take them. The car just feels right at every speed. And it already handles better than some of the race cars I’ve driven. Steering response is on par with an S197 GT. The car has been equipped with a 1985 Mustang GT steering rack and yes, it could still use some improvement but it’s light years ahead of the original 1980 system. The new suspension has actually helped with overall steering feel even though we haven’t touched the steering rack.

Blasting down a winding country road, my initial thought was… “Wow. And the coilovers are going to make it better? Is that even possible?”

The car is now at the point where further street testing is useless. Flinging Blue Thunder through a curve at even faster speeds is not safe on the open road. We’ve done all we can safely do on public byways. To find out just how fast the suspension setup will go requires a race track. Fortunately, I’ve been on a few.

We are four weeks away from the car’s first-ever track day. Historic Nelson Ledges Sports Car Course is coming up soon. Europolis Automotive of Union City, Indiana will provide an on-site mechanic. YouTube’s Road Noise 2.0 will have a camera crew on hand for a full video feature.

And we’ll finally learn what a once-worthless early Fox body can do with 400 horses and a performance suspension on an open road course. Stay tuned.

Stephen Cox

Driver, World Racing League

Sopwith Motorsports Television Productions

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