When the call came about doing a Mustang for the Editor's Charity Challenge presented by eBay Motors, we knew there would be a lot of ponies to choose from. Our research showed there are typically 900 Mustangs of all types and ages for sale on eBay Motors. There are also literally thousands of performance, replacement, or restoration parts. Assembling the right combination of car, parts, and pieces on time and on budget would definitely be a challenge, but putting this car together provided a lot of fun along the way-and taught us some important lessons.
Looking for LoveWe knew that choosing the right horse would be critical to our success. We could have gone the restomod route with a classic ponycar or chosen a late-model GT with the 4.6L modular motor. Yet, with almost 2.6 million cars produced between 1979 and 1993, we thought a Fox-body with the 5.0L pushrod engine would have more mass appeal. Finding a car in great condition with a power adder and some suspension mods was also important in that it would save time and money.
All the other teams were located in the arid Los Angeles area, so we knew the competition would probably have a lot of rust-free project vehicles to choose from. Near Chicago, we were concerned about corrosion on any car we might find. Transportation costs were also an issue, because we had to bring the vehicle to California for the shootout. All that put us at a disadvantage budget-wise, but we were determined to find a way to make it work.
When we began, the search tools on eBay Motors saved us a lot of time by allowing us to focus on the model years in our immediate vicinity. A late-model Saleen caught our eye, along with a lightweight supercharged notchback, but we decided on this '93 Cobra. Aside from the very limited production Cobra R (just 107 made), these cars represented the high-water mark for Fox-body Mustangs. The car had been kept in a garage all its life and had just over 13,000 miles on the odometer. An added bonus was a Cartech turbo kit with a Precision PT-44 turbo rated at 540 hp. The supporting cast was made up of a four-point roll bar, Griffin radiator, Kenny Brown matrix subframes, and some aftermarket upper/lower control arms. Team Mustang was ready to roll!
Dealing With the BaggageEvery used car you buy comes with issues, and ours was no exception. Constant backfiring, sputtering, cutting off on deceleration and other driveability issues told us the car's stock EEC-IV and the add-on FMU weren't quite on speaking terms with the turbo boost. The car came without an exhaust, and the weak factory brakes had to go. Our first impulse was to throw a bigger turbo on the car and crank up the boost, but with driveability issues staring us in the face, we knew what needed attention the most. Besides, the turbo on the car could already support more power than the stock engine could stand, so without an aftermarket girdle to support the bottom end, we decided to stick with what we had.
Our first goal was to get an exhaust on the car to make it more civilized. The Challenge rules required purchasing nearly everything from eBay, which showed just how broad a spectrum of parts it has. We found a used ATR stainless steel system from a Mustang SVO after just a couple weeks worth of searching. Sound Performance got the system on the car for us, along with a high-flow catalytic converter and a driveshaft safety loop. With a little bit of backpressure, the car was better behaved, but it still needed optimized tuning.