Yet by the '86 model year, Mustangs were proving to be fairly bulletproof, at least by production-car standards. For example, the engines in all 5.0 Mustangs from '85 to '91 came with honest-to-God forged pistons made for Ford by TRW. They certainly didn't need them to make 225 hp at 4,800 rpm with 9.2:1 compression, but there they were. All roller-cam H.O. engines (also '85 and later) have double-roller timing chains without any noise reducing plastic coatings. Did they need this for the puny factory cam, relatively weak stock valvesprings, and that factory-spec'd 4,800-rpm redline? Doubt it.
Then there's the 8.8-inch rear-axle assembly. It came in every 5.0 Mustang beginning with the '86, replacing the 7.5-inch unit. In time it proved capable of handling abuse from both the stock drivetrain and repeated drag launches with sticky tires-even with boosted engine output. If there is a weak link, it's the stock 28-spline axles, but a quick call to a mail-order house for upgraded replacements is all that's needed to prepare the average Fox 8.8 for trouble-free strip action. It seems Ford went to the truck parts bin for this one, just like the good 'ol days of the '60s. In fact, the Ford 8.8 is virtually identical in design-and therefore strength-to the famed Chevy 12-bolt. A 3,300-pound car making 300 lb-ft of torque probably didn't need an axle this durable, but Ford made it a standard part of the 5.0 package just the same.
We could go on, but the bottom line here is that the good folks at FoMoCo obviously built the Mustang for more serious duty than it would see in stock form, and the masses loved them for it. Over the years, the durability of every mechanical component in the 5.0 Mustang has been put to the test, often astounding even veteran wrenchers and racers. We will admit that the T5 five-speed trans doesn't hold up to power-shifting well, but how many factory-assembled short-blocks do you know of that can withstand enough forced induction or nitrous to make repeated 10-second drag runs?
SwapabilityWe're not even sure that's actually a word, but you get the gist. Ford was not known for killer parts interchangeability throughout the '60s and '70s; that quality was most frequently associated with GM products of the era. However, one of the other design parameters of the Fox platform and its corresponding component systems included accommodating various engines, transmissions, rearends, and even interiors without requiring major alterations to the car's core structure.
This benefited car crafters greatly back when these cars were still fairly new. Many of us couldn't afford to run out and buy a new 5.0, or even a used one, despite the bargain they actually were. However, four- and six-cylinder Stangs seemed to depreciate at the speed of sound. In the '80s and '90s, it wasn't uncommon to see wrecked 5.0s donating their guts to lesser four-banger cars. With some time, moderate skill, and basic tools, you could convert a lowly 2.3 automatic into a factory-appearing 5.0L five-speed in the garage behind your house. Try that with an IROC Camaro.
Even minor parts swapping, like making a '79 look like a '93, or putting an '87 dash in an '82, doesn't require master fabrication skills or even a welder for that matter. This is evidenced by all the Fairmont wagons, Turbo T-birds, Fox Granadas, and so forth, that can often be seen with H.O. drivetrains and Mustang interiors at any given Ford event. We'll be seeing these "other" Fox cars with 5.0L transplants for years to come.