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.)
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.