Flip This Car: 1992 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible—Part Four

By Christopher Smith

April 11, 2012


Darn weather....

So, at this point I’m supposed to regale all the faithful Flip This Car readers with an unlikely and slightly wacky auto adventure. For part four of the last series I entered my Buick Roadmaster in an SCCA Rallycross event, and to keep the fish-out-of-water spirit alive I turned to the Michigan Ice Racing Association (MIRA) for some winter time fun with the Mustang. With everyone telling me how dead I’d be trying to drive this car through the ice and snow, what better way to give everyone the raspberries than to race the 5.0 on a frozen lake? The stakes would be much higher this time, however, for while the rallycross was a solo event racing against the clock, I’d be racing side-by-side with other cars at the MIRA event. And none of us would have the benefit of studded tires.
Perhaps, then, it was fate looking out for me the Mustang, because the winter (or lack thereof) in mid-Michigan was mild enough to force the cancellation of MIRA’s entire season. Speaking honestly, I have mixed feelings about that because I was very much looking forward to having a go on the ice with the ‘Stang. Mild though the winter was, I still had many days of piloting this car through very low traction situations, and the Nokians were simply astonishing at delivering grip in a car that had me a bit more nervous than I let on back in part one. Racing on the ice would’ve been fun, but my penchant for controlled (and uncontrolled) drifting combined with several other drivers racing in close quarters on ice with similar attitudes . . . let’s just say I was anticipating some body work in my best case scenario. Worst case I’d be telling you how much I got on the insurance payout, provided I could convince them I wasn’t actually racing the car on ice. On second thought, I guess that still wasn’t the worst case. Kinda glad it stayed warm this year.
But carry me through the winter the Mustang did, and though I didn’t have the chance to potentially destroy this otherwise nice car in an ice race, I’ll always have the lake effect snow blizzard that struck the northern Lower Michigan snowbelt during my trip to the Sno*Drift rally in Atlanta, covered back in part three. Driving a 5.0 Mustang in a raging snow storm with tropical storm force winds and snow up to the bumper? No problem. Check that off my automotive bucket list.
So the grand adventure will have to wait until part five, and though it likely won’t be quite as exciting as ice racing (or at least not as exciting in the same potentially disastrous way) it will involve a pair of new 5.0 Mustangs, a small road trip, and 1320 feet of asphalt in a wheat field near a place called Lapeer.
In the meantime, I do have a few things to talk about. For starters, how about the difference a nice set of wheels can make! I scored a set of factory 16-inch Mustang “pony” wheels in decent shape a couple months ago, and the early summer weather spurred me into refinishing them. I talked about patience and prep work for refinishing back in part two, and once again that is the key here, because over-the-counter wheel paint with the wheel-specific clear coat can do an outstanding job in bringing new life to faded wheels, provided you're diligent in your prep work. In return, these wheels brought new life to the Mustang, and though I feel 245/50-series rubber is a bit wide for this car (they completely redefine the term bump steer), for $200 all total there’s no possible way I can complain. Once the new exhaust goes on, the journey towards the dark side will be complete.
Ah yes, the exhaust. I won’t give everything away just yet because that’s all slated for part five, including some video. It’s not yet installed—I delayed the purchase because I wanted to be free and clear of potential winter time snow and slush, and with my FTC budget starting to stretch a bit I wanted to make sure I found the best possible price. As I write this the new exhaust system is bought and paid for, and en-route via free two-day shipping. Feel free to speculate about what I purchased, but until the reveal I’ll offer this hint: Of all the places to purchase parts for a Fox Body Mustang, of all the specialty companies and online auction houses, I actually found the best price (by far, actually) at none other than Amazon.com. Amazon.com? The place known for books and music? Yeah, I was beyond surprised, but also very pleased.
Otherwise, all is well with the 5.0. The new rubber is actually well-used rubber that came with the wheels, and since winter has officially left the building I’ve switched the ditch/close calls status in the bottom page update back to the familiar tire tread depth, and I’m not exactly starting with much. On the engine side, the oil leak was actually a very bad lower intake gasket that, in the warmer temperatures, got a lot worse in a hurry. To keep the car on the road with minimal downtime (and without dropping a quart of oil every week) I sent it to the shop for a $330 fix. That unexpected bill pretty much wiped out my suspension budget but honestly, aside from sitting just a bit lower I don’t see it making the car any more enjoyable to drive. Let me explain.
I’ve put 4000 miles on the Mustang in just over four months, through rain and snow, smooth highways and washboard back roads. I’m a firm believer that, with used cars it’s a good idea to get a feel for the machine’s personality (not to mention reliability) before going too far into the modification department. I originally wanted to do suspension and gears and more work on the engine, but now I understand what this particular Mustang does best. It’s not a street racing hero or a corner carver, both of which would be better served by a hard top packing a five-speed manual. The LX 5.0 convertible—or at least this one—is simply a killer summertime cruiser with great looks, enough power to be fun, and a V-8 soundtrack that could replace the Star Spangled Banner at sporting events. There’s just no need to go any further than that.
So bring on the warm weather. The Mustang and I are ready.
1992 Ford Mustang LX 5.0 Convertible
Vehicle status: Topless more often than not
Miles driven: 4219
Observed fuel economy: 18.40 mpg
Tire tread depth: 4/32 front, 6/32 rear
Broken parts since the last article: Lower intake gasket
Total parts investment to date: $334.74 (lower intake gasket, parts and labor), $10.58 (power steering fluid for system flush), $3.17 (throttle body gasket), $887.14 (parts total from part three) = $1235.63.