The first time I saw it, it was parked down the street in the neighbor’s driveway: A very plain, white, Fox-bodied Mustang. This car was not a hatchback, it was a coupe, AKA a notchback or “notch” in Mustang parlance. Drag racers prefer these Mustangs because they weigh a little less than the hatchbacks (less glass) and they seem to be slightly more structurally sound in the back (smaller opening).
My neighbor was always buying and selling cars and had big plans for this basic little car with virtually no options. He usually did not complete projects so I was curious about this four cylinder car’s fate. For next few weeks I kept my eye on it. I noticed that there was no license plate on it and it never moved.
One of the reasons I was interested was because I had a Ford 5.0 HO sitting on an engine stand in my garage. It was a low mile mill out of a Lincoln Mark VII. The 5.0 Mustang and the later Mark VII used identical engines. I picked mine up at the Pull-N-Save on a “half off sale” day. My engine and that car, well, it was just meant to be. After a month or so, a deal was struck and I became the owner of the little 2.3 Mustang.
I made a little money back by pulling the entire driveline and selling it at the local scrap metal yard. The 7.5 inch ring gears in the base model Mustang rear axles can’t take the punishment of a 5.0 and sticky tires, so that went too. I was able to locate the better 8.8 inch rear axle for sale, and from a junkyard car, a T-5 manual gearbox and all the related parts.
I have done a few engine swaps, and these are easy. Because these cars were engineered to have these engines, every part needed is available, somewhere. After a short time getting everything sorted out, I had the little white Mustang running 13 second passes at the local quarter mile dragstrip. Within the year I had upgraded the heads and added lightweight aluminum wheels, But in most respects, it was still a very basic little car.
The last time I took that car to the dragstrip, I ran a 12.98 in the quarter mile. While this is not extremely fast, this was a true budget race car, a hodge-podge of used junkyard parts. I loved that little white Mustang.
All good things must come to an end. The car was my primary transportation for a season, and it “met” an SUV driven by a 16 year old with a shiny new license. That eight-sided red sign? It means stop. The nose, hood, and passenger front fender were crushed, but I was able to limp the car home. The only good thing about haggling with a national insurance conglomerate is when you have the crunched car parked in your driveway. I was not paying daily storage fees so I was in no rush to settle up with the low-ball offers from the kid’s insurance company.
In this same time period, my wife was going through a garage sale phase. We often went out driving the neighborhood streets on Saturday mornings. Imagine my surprise when one house had an emerald green ’92 Mustang for sale along with all their other items. It was a 2.3 hatchback in good condition, but was priced to move because of a blown head gasket. As I was getting it home my wife said there were clouds of steam coming out of the tailpipe.
No matter, the 2.3 and related parts would be gone soon. As a bonus, the insurance company raised their pitiful offer a little, and said they didn’t care if it was a 5.0 with a 5-speed or a 2.3 with an automatic and a bad head gasket. Guess what they got?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that our interests change over time. I got the green car nice and shiny, and it ran strong, but I just never liked it. Although it was almost identical to the white car, it just wasn’t the same. I sold it a few weeks after getting it back on the road.
Over the course of my life, I’ve owned six or seven Mustangs. That little white one was my favorite Mustang, and one of my favorite “Cars of a Lifetime”.