Wrench Friendly Naturally, any car that a car crafter is going to mess with should be accommodating when it comes time to spin the wrenches. This is definitely an area where most '80s cars fail the test, but again, the Fox cars shine. Although the engine bay on a typical 5.0 looks pretty tight, it's actually roomy enough to swap in a 460 big-block without any cutting. Thanks to the design of the engine bay, plus the design of the small-block Ford, plug changes on the fly (like at the track) are no problem. Need to change the timing? Bust out the ol' Craftsman dial-back strobe and go to town, just like the old days.
The EFI intake ducting may look cumbersome, but it can be removed in seconds, and although the upper intake manifold blocks one of the valve covers, it can be separated from the lower with six bolts and easily moved out of the way. And how about that serpentine beltdrive? Fox Mustangs with V-8s were among the first production cars to use one, and belt swaps occur in minutes, even with A/C, power steering, and the original A.I.R. pump. This comes in handy when installing a short belt at the dragstrip to bypass unneeded accessories.
This trend continues underneath. Ford was good enough to equip all '86-and-newer 5.0 Stangs with true dual exhaust, complete with crossover tube. Ford even went so far as to make the centersection removable with only eight bolts. The flanges where the pipes connect can be disconnected in minutes and then reinstalled with no hassles. Back in the late '80s, Ford Motorsport even offered an off-road pipe that bolted right in place of the stock H-pipe but had no catalytic converters. Today numerous aftermarket suppliers can provide similar pipes or high-flow cat pipes to maintain smog legality.
Being able to quickly remove the H-pipe provided the additional benefit of easy access to the gearbox, which was also relatively easy to remove on manual-trans cars. The simple cable-actuated clutch and internal rail shifter made the R&R procedure go faster (and were great for power-shifting), and the four-bolt flange on the driveshaft added strength and eliminated lost roller bearings during disassembly. As for the rearend assembly, we've seen them swapped on the ground in under a half-hour. On any given race day at any dragstrip across the country, you'll find Mustangers that can pull apart and reassemble the parts, pieces, or entire drivetrains of their partially prepared street cars with amazing speed. You won't see anyone doing this on an LS1 Camaro in the pits.
Race FriendlyAside from being strong, Mustangs proved to be well suited to racing, primarily of the drag variety. The four-link-style suspension found under Fox cars is similar to that used in A-body GM cars (Chevelles and the like), which drag racers have spent decades learning how to tune. The aftermarket had already figured out how to make this type of suspension work years before Fox cars were even a blip on the radar, and they were able to quickly apply that technology to the Fox cars to achieve outstanding drag launches. As a bonus, most of the traction aids used also allow these cars to be driven home from the track and then to school or work on Monday.
The factory-installed bolt-in engine/suspension crossmember proved to be advantageous because it allowed the aftermarket to develop bolt-in tubular K-members that greatly reduce front-end weight. For the most part, no cutting, welding, or other fabrication is necessary to use a tubular setup, and the car can be converted back to stock later on if so desired.