Rebuilding My Totally-Not-Collectible Mustang, Part VII

Categories: Blog and Collector Cars.


The Stephen Cox Blog is presented by National Parts Depot

Holy cow. I may have to give this series a new title. For thirty years no one cared about the early Fox body Mustangs. Then I took my 1980 Fox in for rust-proofing last week and the entire staff quit working and walked out to the parking lot to see it. Times certainly are changing.

The early Fox body Mustangs are experiencing an unprecedented resurgence in popularity and price. All those 1981 Cobra owners who had their sanity questioned for decades are starting to look pretty smart.

I bought my 1980 base coupe – affectionately known as Blue Thunder – in March 1982 and its never been out of my possession. But it is no longer the weak-kneed econobox that drew years of sneers from Trans Am owners. It now boasts a 407 horsepower McGunegill racing engine, Tremec T-5 manual transmission, five-lug upgrade with four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch Pony wheels with Continental performance tires and a 3:73 rear gear. And at barely 2600 pounds, that combination launches the Mustang at cruise missile velocities.

Keeping all that power cool has been something of a chore. Those of you who have tried to keep a 1960s era muscle car below 220 degrees at a city stoplight in mid-summer heat know just what I mean. So with the trepidation of a young martial artist conjuring the ghost of Bruce Lee, I called Mustang guru and Fox body expert Matt Laszaic (Instagram: mustang_mattndp). Matt was on vacation with his wife in Florida, but thank goodness he shared his Yoda-like wisdom on the phone for the next hour until we came up with a solution. And his wife didn’t get angry, proving that The Perfect Woman really does exist.

Old school cooling was certainly an option. But the engine was moved backward on its mounts, closer to the firewall, to improve the car’s handling. This created nearly ten inches of space between the fan and the radiator. Bolting a steel fan on a long extension seemed like a great way to bleed horsepower, and we’d have to fabricate a shroud. Matt Laszaic had a better idea.

Believe it or not, Cold Case radiators and cooling systems makes a complete electric twin fan unit designed to drop into the engine bay of a 1980 Ford Mustang. Who knew? I’ve spent so long modifying my 1980 model with band-aids and adapted late model Fox parts that I no longer expect to find actual parts for my specific car, so within 72 hours a complete unit was sitting in my garage. I was delighted.

The biggest challenge was restoring the radiator mounts to their original position and finding 1980 upper and lower hoses, after which the remainder of the installation was pleasantly uneventful.

After two 45-mile test drives in Indiana’s July heat, the results are fantastic. Six tire-burning holeshots never challenged the cooling system. The twin fans come to life around 210 degrees and immediately squelch any hint of overheating. I’ll add Water Wetter soon to keep the temperatures even cooler. The noise level of the fans is minimal and can only be heard at idle. The engine clearly retains a few horses that would otherwise be wasted whirling a fan.

This upgrade wasn’t as exciting as installing new chrome wheels or a racing engine, but it’s been one of the best utilitarian moves to make my Mustang drivable on a daily basis.

The next job is to rid the car of wheel hop and turn it into a canyon-carving road hugger. That means new coilovers and a bevy of chassis stiffening tricks to solidify the soft Fox platform. And as Jack Black said in Nacho Libre… “I need professional help.”

It’s time to call Matt again.

Stephen Cox

Driver, FIA’s EGT Championship Series, Grid Life Touring Series, CRS Super Truck Series

Co-host, Mecum Auctions on NBCSN

Facebook Comments