Video: LS-Swapping A Foxbody Mustang Is A Great Idea

Even today, the boxy, rugged Foxbody Mustang still looks fresh. Perhaps not modern, but there’s a lack of pretension in its refreshingly simple shape. It’s a utilitarian sports car. Maybe that’s why transplanting a Chevrolet LS1 into its engine bay doesn’t seem so sacrilegious. Why not place a powerful, reliable, lightweight motor in the place of the old 5.0? If budget horsepower and a friendly, accessible chassis is your aim, this recipe might tempt you.

The Right Collection of Parts

The fact that Dave Pratte of Speed Academy is wowed from the get-go of the video speaks volumes. Doused in a shade of Monte Carlo Blue, this incredibly clean car is show-worthy, but by no means a money pit. After realizing that a Coyote powerplant would be both pricier and heavier, Mike bought a donor ’98 Chevrolet Camaro for $4,000. He removed the LS1 and the T56 and stuck it in the Mustang’s spacious bay, then started a project which still infuriates the purists.

The “spicy” LS1 makes a healthy 375 horsepower to the rear wheels, which Mike wrapped in 275-section Toyo R888 rubber. Further helping with traction is the independent-rear-suspension setup from a 2004 Mustang Cobra. Recaro seats, a half-cage, simple Autometer and AEM gauges, and a set of big Stoptech brakes, Hawk HP+ pads, in front round out this attractive alternative to a current Mustang GT. As we learn, this hodgepodge of well-chosen parts is just as quick as its younger, 40-grand brother.

“It’s 1987 in here everybody — with a wideband! What more do you need?” You can always rely on Dave for amusing commentary.

Straightforward and Friendly

A square setup encourages a little turn-in, which Dave describes as “instantaneous.” But, the Foxbody is still a friendly car with a reassuring amount of understeer. Attack the corner entry too much, and the front washes out slightly. Still, the surprising amount of rear traction, coupled with the relatively progressive breakaway from the R888 tires, Dave has no difficulty dancing the rear out of the slower corners at Toronto Motorsports Park. It’s fast, approachable, and able to deploy its power with little wheelspin.

That’s a good thing since the motor is the centerpiece of this Mustang. While the LS1 isn’t exactly a racing engine, its low-end grunt helps Dave considerably when navigating the slow, technical corners of Toronto Motorsports Park. “I don’t even need to think about Second gear; I can just leave it in Third and fire it out of the corners,” Dave elaborates. It’s a leisurely experience—”a low-effort speed machine,” as he puts it.

Within a few laps, Dave is doing his best Ari Vatanen impression.

The Mustang’s accommodating nature has Dave flirting with four-wheel drifts within a few laps and giggling like a teenager. Though the light power steering was disconcerting at first, Dave admits he likes it and the ease with which he can catch slides. It’s a balanced car which is strong in most departments, save for one.

There’s no denying the ABS-less brakes don’t help Dave much around the technical Toronto Motorsports Park, which requires good stopping power. With Mike’s braking system sorted out, Dave predicts it going one or two seconds faster. Indeed, there aren’t many cars which are so easily accessed, so straightforward, and so fun.

Going off of the way Dave — a man who’s tried all manner of track cars — is hooting at the end of his hot laps, you know it’s a special sort of machine — even if it’s a little blasphemous.

 

About the author

Tommy Parry

Tommy Parry has been racing and writing about racing cars for the past seven years. As an automotive enthusiast from a young age, he worked jobs revolving around cars throughout high school, and tried his hand on the race track on his 20th birthday. After winning his first outdoor kart race, Tommy began working as an apprentice mechanic to amateur racers in the Bay Area to sharpen his mechanical understanding. He has worked as a track day instructor and automotive writer since 2012, and continues to race karts, formula cars, sedans, and rally cars in the San Francisco region.
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