CC Goes to the Auction: Part Five – 1992 Ford Mustang LX Budget Makeover

In the previous installments I bought a 1992 Ford Mustang LX at auction despite not really even looking at it. It was now time to collect it with a proper assessment to follow. Then get it on the road as a daily driver. Maybe uplift the appearance a little bit as well.

I had my oldest son drive us out to the auction site in Coaldale, Alberta where I did a quick once-over of the car. The driver’s door latch was very stiff and reluctant to open. Popping the hood, all the fluids were at reasonable levels. I had brought jumper cables but they proved to be unnecessary as the car fired from the battery as is. The 14″ tires were winter ones with plenty of tread and no cracks. So it looked reasonable to drive the 25kms home. Before we left, the seller let me know that I was now the second registered owner of the car! The first stop was a gas station to fill the tank, as it was sitting on empty. Here my son reminded me to check the air pressure in the tires, which was sitting at an astounding 70 psi each. I suppose this was the seller’s hedge against flat spots but I quickly dropped that in half. While fueling up, an older gentleman came over to admire the car and ask which engine I had. He did not seem too disappointed when I admitted it was the four cylinder, but continued to chat about his good for nothing son and his vehicle woes for several minutes. The son apparently did not check his oil despite multiple reminders, thus running a Ford Escape dry and ruining it in the process. Apparently, he is out of the will but does not know it yet. I promised not to (somehow) spill the beans before hitting the road.

With a full tank of gas, reasonable air pressure and a windshield wipe down we were back on the road. The gas gauge had moved up to the full position, so that was a good sign that it might be reasonably accurate. It was not long before we were out on the highway and I immediately noticed I had put it in Drive rather than Overdrive with the frantic revving of the engine. With tachometer markings out of a tractor, the 2.3L four does not encourage high revs. This automatic thing is going to take a bit of getting used to. The car itself did not feel super slow nor fast. Sort of a very average acceleration, if that makes any sense. It tracked down the road nice and straight. Only the temperature gauge seemed reluctant to move. Maybe I had snagged myself a good one?

The more perceptive of you may have noticed the Mustang has two antennas. But what for? An old school cell phone perhaps? It was the Nineties after all.

Under the hood lay a pretty big hint. A remote start system which is perhaps not surprising given it came from a northern location. As a general rule I dislike these as they have to muck with the wiring during the install and unfortunately did not come with a remote.

Inside there was a mystery switch that likely was connected to the remote start. Not sure what “NOR LT” might stand for. Any ideas?

As per my usual process, I gave the interior a deep clean. There was a subtle layer of grime on everything, which mostly came out. I found a carrying box for the faceplate of the stereo. Remember when you had to remove the stereo faceplate when parking your car, or it would stolen instantly? There was a remote for the stereo in there, which seems a little silly in such a small car. On the plus side, the stereo supports Bluetooth so I can blast out all my retro 90s music to match the car.

In the rear, the parcel cover was intact and working. I have been told a few times since that these are now quite rare. Can I remark on how weirdly heavy the rear hatch is on these? Because it is. Despite this, the struts still hold it up.

A further exterior examination showed some rust on the fender lips and a little on the rocker panels. The rest of the car was very solid. The wheels that came with it were on the ugly side and reminded me of a Tempo. But not in a good way.

Here is quick walk around video if you would prefer right after I had bought it. Please ignore the license plate taped to the back window, as I could not find any bolts right away.

The Mustang came nice and clean on the outside after hitting up a car wash.

The color is one of my favorite things about this car as it is quite eye catching.

Popping open the engine bay showed lots of space, as this platform had also housed a V8, V6 or inline six at various times. As far as non-turbo four cylinder Ford Mustangs go, the 1992 year is not a bad one. I realize that is pretty specific, but I reaching here for some bragging points. Earlier cars had a 88hp rating but starting 1991 they received a revised head with two spark plugs per cylinder, among other changes to develop 105hp. The automatic also had overdrive, which helps with fuel economy and overall gearing.

All in all, I was pretty happy with my purchase as it was a fairly sharp looking car as far as sub $1k clunkers go. Except for those mirrors. They looked awful. Could we make it a little nicer without breaking the bank?

It was almost like the mirrors had been painted (poorly) with white at some point. A quick sand, primer and a bit of leftover black paint improved those shabby looking mirrors.

A plastic intake grille was glued back into shape and the wiper arms received some black paint as well. It is amazing what a dramatic overall improvement a few little things can make.

The hinges as well as door catches were lubed and the stiff driver’s handle worked well again. It made sense to catch up on some maintenance items like a new air filter plus oil change. This went smoothly until it came time to remove the old oil filter. The previous mechanic must have been Thor as it was on crazy, crazy tight. It took a silly amount of time to get this filter off and I only barely got it moving with the big screwdriver through the filter multiple times. I have owned a good number of vehicles and this was the most stubborn filter yet. That includes some cars that I have pulled out of fields after decades.

The car did have a check engine light on. Since this is a pre-OBD2 vehicle, to check the codes without a Ford specific reader, one has to jump these two spots with a wire. Then read all the blinking check engine lights on the dash. There are both two or three digit code versions to complicate this. It took me a while (ok, quite a while), but I determined I have the three digit code version. Then counting the codes was an exercise in frustration.

If you would like to get an insight into the process, then watch the video above. I would not blame you if you did not, as I certainly do not want to again. The action, if you can call it that, begins around the forty second mark. In the end I have one temperature sender error (no surprise there as it does not move much) and EGR valve system error. On the last item, it could be the EGR valve itself or the sender. Something to track down still.

Now it was time to do something about the ugly wheels. The Mustang shows off the versatile hatchback body style as I snagged a set of 15″ ten hole alloy rims cheaply off a high school shop teacher, with brand new snow tires on them. I would have preferred non-snow tires, but new rubber is new rubber. Besides winter is coming.

The V8 model LX rims have a more favorable offset, filling out the fenders much better than the base rims. The Mustang has received a surprising amount of attention and thumbs up from all sorts of people, including a very enthusiastic new Corvette driver. With the big grin and thumbs up he shot me, I suspect he does not realize this car is on the road for less than the cost of one of his rims.

We got a decent dump of snow and my boy has been driving the Mustang to school since the Fiero only has all season tires on it. A Ford Probe owner there apparently commented on how cool it is, just to show that the fox body Mustang has universal appeal. As far as a project goes, I did not get one at this auction… but stay tuned.