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post #1 of 8 Old 02-27-2016, 02:59 AM Thread Starter
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First time Mustang owner. (And I'm already screwing it up.)

Good morning/afternoon/evening/night all.

(TL;DR, I lost my shirt on a 93 Fox body, finding after the purchase that the rear torque boxes are broken and I need some guidance as to my best course of action. Skip to the bottom for specific questions.)

Full story:

I'm a Connecticut native and recent convert from the Subaru world. I slowly lost interest in my WRX when I began to realize that I was building on the wrong platform for my goals. Don't get me wrong. It was a FUN car and I have absolutely no love lost for imports (deal with it), but they're hugely expensive to modify and I was no longer convinced that I would be satisfied with the end result if I continued with it. So when a friend expressed interest in buying it - GREAT!

That's when my eye turned to the Mustang world. I decided that if I was going to get into another project, I wanted it to have 8 cylinders up front and drive 2 wheels at the back with 3 pedals and a stick in the middle. Naturally, Mustang was at the top of my shopping list. I decided to go used rather than new, because Project Car + Monthly Payments = Frustration, so I pretty quickly zeroed in on the Fox platform. I've had a soft spot for those cars since I first got a driver's license. So (at 31) perhaps this ended up being something of an early mid-life crisis, wanting a car you lusted after in your youth that you couldn't afford then, but can now!

Research, research, research. The Fox ticked all the boxes. I can get SUFFICIENT power out of one and with some carefully selected suspension bits, they can be taught how to carve a corner. Plus, they look cool as hell in a 90's sort of way. My search began, and I found pretty quickly that options are slim in the Northeast if you don't want either a complete HEAP or something built to the 9's that the owner wants north of $10k for. In some cases, both of those things at once. Disappointing.

Finally, I came upon a Craigslist ad. A really clean looking 93 GT hatchback (my most lusted after body style) with a 5 speed and a list of mods that I probably would have ended up doing myself anyway. GT40x aluminum heads, E303 cam, ported Cobra upper and lower intake, 75mm throttle-body, 76mm MAF, 24lb injectors, 155lph fuel pump, smog delete, off road x pipe, 3" cat back, full length subframe connectors, upper and lower chassis braces, Cobra 17" wheels, fiberglass cowl hood, 3.73 gears... All at a pretty reasonable price!

This should have been a clue, in hindsight.

Of course, the day I went to look at the car it was pouring rain. But it fired up, sounded great, looked very clean and straight. Because it was raining so hard, the owner preferred not to do a test drive (it was also unregistered) and we agreed to meet up the following morning when the weather was supposed to improve. It did, I went, and with a more careful and detailed look at the car, it also came with a LOT of minor faults. The interior was pretty rough, inoperative fog lights, passenger door won't open from the outside, power locks inop, power mirrors don't work well, power windows operate slowly and stick on the way up, bald tires... little things. But I DID want this as a project car, so minor issues like that can be mended. The body was straight and the paint pretty fresh as he'd had it painted when the hood was installed.

Then came the test drive. More problems emerged. The clutch was EXTREMELY heavy, and vague and difficult to modulate. Owner said the cable was worn and gets sticky from sitting. The transmission took a lot of force to get into gear. Worn clutch cable, car's been sitting a while, okay. Speedometer doesn't work. Owner said that once he did the gears, he was in the process of changing the gear on the end of the speedo cable and lost the spring clip that holds it in place and couldn't find a replacement. No biggie. The ride sucked a little on lowering springs and what felt like worn shocks. But the engine ran and sounded extremely healthy, and the car pulled like a train.

During the drive, I noticed that when accelerating from a coast, the whole body of the car felt like it was rotating to the left slightly. It was as if the rear axle was twisting slightly out of line to the right. But I didn't hear any unusual noises, so I wrote it off as some worn out control arm bushings. I was very, very wrong.

Because the car wasn't registered, I couldn't do what I would have PREFERRED to do and take it to a friend's shop to get it up on a lift, so I was stuck laying in the dirt to get a look at anything underneath. From what I was able to see, it seemed pretty clean and solid underneath. I decided it was a great starting point for my project. So I put on my wheeler dealer cap and began the haggling process, and backed the owner down off of his selling price by $400. We came to a deal, and now I was the proud owner of a Fox in need of a little TLC. (I care not to say what I paid for it, because knowing what I know now, I paid WAY too much.)

Flash forward to today, when I went and got a set of plates and went to pick it up. I went straight over to my friend's shop an hour away to show off my new toy and see what I had gotten myself into. It was bad news.

The right rear lower torque box is broken with quite a bit of play in the lower control arm pickup point, and there's some extremely shoddy bird-nugget welding around the area that during my in-the-mud inspection appeared to be welding related to the subframe connectors... which upon closer inspection ALSO feature some really ugly welds. The news got worse, as the damage continues in the form of stress cracks up underneath the car and through the upper torque box and crossmember. There was a rubbing sound from the right rear under cornering, which the owner said was the parking brake cable rubbing the tire due to the width of the Cobra wheels. No... That was the right quad-shock contacting the inner edge of the wheel itself. So the whole rear axle is actually shifted to the left.

The verdict was that the car needed to be driven home and parked until I could get it fixed before it caused any additional damage or a catastrophic failure. So back home I went (very gingerly), parked the car and briefly pondered whether some jail time was worth beating the seller's face in. I decided it wasn't, and started to research the problem instead. If only failed torque boxes had come up in my pre-buying research so I would have known what to look for. It seems it's a pretty well documented issue.

In any case, the only way out of this is forward. Aside from that one MAJOR issue, the car is otherwise clean and pretty healthy aside from needing some tidying up of the more minor and annoying shortcomings. I wanted a project, I just paid way more than I should have for it and the guy is probably laughing all the way to the bank.

I hate that.

But it's not the car's fault. Even broken as it is, it was a lot of fun to drive and I want to move ahead with it. I'm in it way too deep now to get my money back out of it. So I may as well fix and build this and move on.

Here are my questions that I can't seem to find answers to:
1) Torque box reinforcements. I get the impression that those are not a REPAIR for a broken torque box, but a preventative measure for one that is still intact. Correct?

2) The only REPLACEMENT torque boxes I seem to be able to dig up come in the form of the Wild Rides S-Box kit. If anyone has experience with those:
a - They seem to be oriented for drag racing. Are these appropriate for an application where handling is a primary concern?
b - Can these be installed by just any experienced welder, or is a frame jig required to ensure that the chassis is straight?

3) What is my best bet for getting the torque boxes repaired (and strengthened) to pave the way for future upgrades? Body shop? Race fabrication shop?

4) The way that the rear axle seems to have shifted concerns me greatly and makes me suspect that the entire rear of the car may be twisted. If that's the case, can it be repaired? Or do I need to be looking for a donor shell to transfer parts into?

Apologies for the long post, and also if this isn't the appropriate section to ask but this is my first post and none of the sub forums seemed applicable unless I overlooked something (which seems to be a habit). Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated.

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post #2 of 8 Old 02-27-2016, 03:45 PM
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First off Welcome to the dark side...lol.

Don't beat yourself up over the purchase, crap happens and we have all made poor decisions...its how you react and move on from them that means anything. The lingering question in my mind would be how did than much damage happen. The torque boxes are not the strongest by design in stock form but plenty of us (myself included) have beat on them HARD and been ok, so needless to say your new baby wasn't a bock and forth to church on Sunday ride.... Either way, you are here now

Without seeing its hard to give advice but you should be able to take some measurements and see if the car is tweaked out of shape. Get it up and level and then measure identical points around the chassis, it wont be perfect but will give you and idea. Obviously a good body shop would be the best choice but this is free.

I have personally never had to deal with anything that severe but it may not be as bad as you are thinking, although more expensive than you had planned. The wild rides "-box" kit looks like it would be good for you since everything is there and already squared-up, but a little pricy. There are several write-ups on the install and seems easy enough to do in a garage with just your basic fab tools, and if one side is torn out your already ahead of the game .

As far as the axle being out of line...are you sure its not because part of it isn't connected properly to the car anymore at the tq box?


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post #3 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 12:33 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by QuickGT View Post
As far as the axle being out of line...are you sure its not because part of it isn't connected properly to the car anymore at the tq box?
You make a great point there. And I guess it wouldn't be too hard to get the car on a level floor and take some measurements to see if the whole thing is tweaked.

I did speak with a body/restoration shop today about repairing the torque boxes. He said he could cut out and fab up some new ones that would never break again, or he'd be happy to install the premade ones. Either way, big bucks. But he did say that he would jig the car and make sure it was dead straight before and after the work. So that has to count for something.

He also said that if I dropped the fuel tank and gutted out the interior before bringing the car down, he'd adjust the labor time accordingly. Seems pretty reasonable.

I was still pretty bummed out over the whole situation this morning. But then a friend of mine pointed out that even if the car had been cherry underneath, I would have had to strengthen the torque boxes anyway during the build process. So I guess it's not like I'm not spending money unnecessarily. Just sooner than I expected. That's about as bright a side to all this as I can find.

Either way, thanks for the input!
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post #4 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 01:15 AM
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Anytime, just keep positive and your friend is right. This actually could be a blessing in disguise, now you can build the car exactly the way you want it and not use someone else's vision. What is your goal for the car?

Chris
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post #5 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 10:52 AM Thread Starter
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Ultimately, I'm looking to build a street car that can hold its own at a track while striking some compromise to make it comfortable, reliable and well mannered enough to just go out for a cruise or make a cross country drive. Kind of a: Meet up with some friends for dinner on Friday, drive out to the track on Saturday to lay down some passes or hot laps, and then be able to drive out to a Cars and Coffee on Sunday.

That might be enough to answer your question, but typing stuff like this out forces me to put some thought into my goals. So if you want more details, read on. Feedback is welcome, of course!

While I love anything with an engine, my experience in the import world has definitely influenced my tastes. I'm NOT talking flashy body kits, wheels and paint or graphics, now. My groove is clean, simple and well engineered. That's why I chose the Fox platform. It's already got the clean, aggressive looks and can easily have the performance to back it up. But there are a lot of systems that can be re-engineered, tidied up, strengthened and improved. Then there's the 90's-tastic interior. It's a blank canvas. I don't expect to have many parts of the factory cabin left by the time I'm finished.

My primary interests are in road racing, time attack and autocross so the TOP priority is going to be chassis, suspension and brakes. To that end: The chassis will be strengthened and stiffened anywhere possible, up to and including a cage that will meet safety standards and still be tolerable in a street driven car. I want to be able to launch this thing or chuck it into a corner and not have to worry about it twisting ever again.

Suspension-wise, I'll be doing a lot of ordering from Maximum Motorsports. Coilovers and tubular K-member and control arms up front. Coilovers out back and switching to a torque arm/panhard bar setup. Yes, I've elected to stick with the solid rear axle. I know that ditching it in favor of retrofitting an independent setup would ultimately be better for cornering, but that's my first compromise. I dig the simplicity and strength. It's also the best choice in my quest for a DO IT ALL car. It'll be right at home launching at a strip, and the MM torque arm setup will make it formidable in the corners. It'll just be up to me to learn how to work around the inherent quirks of driving a solid axle car in the bends. I'd also like to gut the power steering in favor of a manual rack for better road feel.

Brakes: I'll be doing a 5-lug conversion, for sure. SN195 front spindles with 4-pot monoblock calipers and 13" rotors up front, and 2 pots out back. I'll be adding an adjustable brake bias valve accessible from the driver's seat, and of course there will be a line lock system. My plans also call for routing the brake lines and park brake cables through the inside of the cabin for better ground clearance and protection from the elements. I'm going to see what kind of space I have to work with near the end of the project, but brake cooling ducts would be nice even if they're not strictly necessary.

Concerning power, I have to say that the current power level as the car sits put a huge grin on my face even if it needs some fine tuning and refinement. BUT, I have my heart set on a single turbo build with the aim of fattening up the mid to high end power band without having to rev it to the moon to get there. Another big consideration with the turbo is the obvious benefit of being able to cruise around and be relatively mild-mannered off boost and get (semi-reasonable) fuel economy, and have the power there on boost. It's there when you want it, not when you don't. Horsepower numbers are only numbers in the end. It's the gearing, power curve and delivery that make a car fast, but if I had to stick a goal on it I'd say anywhere between 400-500 would be ideal. It's a really light car, after all. And you can only put down so much power before you're just turning your tires into smoke and going nowhere.

I haven't done much research just yet as to my engine management options. Maybe Megasquirt? I really have to consider my options, and also take into account who I'll be bringing it to for tuning. They might prefer one system over another. I'd also like to retain the air conditioner. That's just another compromise. If I decide I want to drive the car long distance in July, running with the windows down in 90 degree heat at highway speeds for hours just gets obnoxious. It's a driver, not strictly a race car. I'll also probably add a high flow cat to the system even though it won't be necessary in 2 years. Raw exhaust stinging your nose and eyes while you're idling in traffic is just not my idea of a good time.

Everything I've read tells me that the stock T5 trans isn't going to put up with even spirited use of the factory power, so I'll be exchanging the stock box. The TKO500 seems like a great candidate and the best bang for the buck, but a 6-speed T56 Magnum WOULD be really nice. We'll have to see what prices are looking like when I get to that point. 5 gears will do JUST fine for my purposes. Switching over to a hydraulic clutch is high on my wish list as well. Another hidden benefit of the turbo is having only ONE exhaust pipe to worry about. So I can work the exhaust around a nice, fat aluminum prop shaft. That'll feed a limited slip diff in the rear axle. The car has 3.73 gears already, so I may stick with that ratio. Further research required there.

I think that about covers all the major aspects. So far as the overall "theme" of the build. Simplicity. I like things clean and uncluttered, but not to the point of a wire-tucked and painted engine bay and a show-car interior. I don't want a trailer queen. I like having the mechanics plainly visible for the world to see.

Anyway. As you can see I've put a lot of thought and daydreaming into this, but I've only just started to scratch the surface so far as serious research, planning and budget. An $80,000 build budget is just NOT in the cards for me, so some additional compromises may have to be made.

That was probably a LOT more information than you were looking for, but thanks for giving me a chance to throw it all out there.
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post #6 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 05:35 PM
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Actually, that was exactly what I was hoping for! Its the thought process that I try to get friends and clients to think about and verbalize before they spends a penny. If you don't have a goal you it takes a long time to get where you are going...and in this means bunches of wasted money. Sounds like you have a good idea of what you want. Im with ya on a lot of what you said, I prefer to build something clean and if you don't notice things that I spent a ton of time on IMO that is a great feeling.

Your goals are attainable, but it will be a challenge building a one for all car that is great at everything, that's the give and take, but you should be able to build a nice well rounded ride...that is, until the bug starts to bite you in once area more than the other and you start to loose your mind like the rest of us..lol

General advice (not that you need it)
Suspension is a great place to start, and is the most logical step in your situation. Don't loose site of the details and how decisions effect other aspects (brakes effect wheels, bushings effect comfort, cage can be a PITA, etc..)

Chris
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post #7 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 09:20 PM Thread Starter
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Quite the contrary! I'll take all the advice I can get being a newbie to the platform, and that's some really sound advice you're giving there. I learned it the hard way with my Subaru. It started as a daily driver, so I was just bolting random parts on as I went with no idea where I was headed and bought a lot of stuff twice. This time, I want to go in with a solid plan and order of operation.

I think attacking the suspension first is the best decision. There's already been a bunch of engine work done, and the power it makes right now is plenty entertaining. In fact, if I'm patient and save up for the torque arm kit from MM, I can have that welded in while the torque boxes are being repaired. Before I do anything at all, I'm going to get the car up on ramps and go through everything with a fine tooth comb and see if there are any other lurking issues.

Like I said I'm open to opinions. Is there anything in that build concept that you think I'm totally out in left field on? I agree that a do everything car is difficult. One car simply cannot excel at all things, but as long as it's competent in all areas so I can go out and enjoy them, mission accomplished I feel. I don't need to set records, nor do I want to (yet), but if I can go out and make a good showing for myself and have a good time, that's all that really counts. It'll be a street car, after all.

Also, thanks for the input and opening up a dialoge. I was hesitant to sign up for a forum due to past experience. The Subaru forums just get downright nasty. You rarely see this kind of helpful and supportive conversation right off the bat.
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post #8 of 8 Old 02-28-2016, 09:28 PM
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Without much delay, congrats on becoming a Mustang owner!
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