• Welding in Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors. Or getting crushed to death. One of the two.
  • Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors
  • Bending Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors to cope with a bent floor pan.
  • Preparing the factory frame rail for welding.
  • Weld-through primer.
  • Partially installed Maximum Motorsports subframe connector.
  • Hard lines protected with heat wrap.
  • Installing Maximum Motorsports
  • Welding in Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors.
  • Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors installed.
  • Insert Tabs A-Z into Slot B. Don't panic.
  • Ugly Horse with a Ford EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder.
  • Ford EcoBoost 2.0 Mustang
  • Ford EcoBoost 2.0 Mustang
  • Ford EcoBoost 2.0 Mustang
  • Ford EcoBoost 2.0 Mustang
  • It's like Christmas, but with more internal combustion.
  • When they say, "crate engine," they mean it.
  • Cherry picker at work.
  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX front 3/4

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX front

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX front 3/4 wide

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX front 3/4 wide

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX side

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX rear 3/4

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX rear 3/4

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX rear 3/4 wide

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX rear 3/4 wide

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX rear

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX engine bay

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX with Chrysler steelies

  • Project Ugly Horse: 1989 Ford Mustang LX

  • Home at last

  • Removing a stubborn seat belt bolt

  • Corbeau Evo driver's seat

  • View from the rear hatch

  • A trail of automatic transmission fluid

  • Out with the old slush box.

  • Differences in length: four-speed automatic to five-speed manual.

  • Gussied up T5 five-speed manual transmission.

  • New aluminum transmission mount.

  • Assembling the end bushing.

  • This particular piece is adjustable front to rear thanks to a pair of set screws.

  • Each solid bushing is comprised of two end plates, a center sleeve and six machine screws.

  • The aluminum crossmember in its fully assembled glory.

  • If you want to use the old exhaust hanger, make sure it's facing the correct direction (passenger side).

  • Bolting everything in place.

  • A temporary crossmember solution

  • Installed.

  • Project Ugly Horse Cabin

  • Manual Pedal boxes: with clutch tube (right) without clutch tube (left)

  • Three pedals

  • Clutch cable adjustment quadrant

  • Manual pedal box with clutch tube removed

  • Hurst Billet Plus Shifter

  • Hurst Cue Ball

  • Stock shift mechanism

  • Hurst Cue Ball

  • Project ugly horse Cabin

  • Fox Body five-lug conversion with Chrysler 300 wheels

  • Factory 1989 Mustang brakes (left) with 2003 Mustang Mach I brakes (right)

  • Original 1989 Mustang brakes

  • 2003 Ford Mustang Mach I brakes installed on a Fox Body Mustang

  • Chrysler 300 steelies

  • PBR Dual-piston calipers

  • Braided stainless steel brake line

  • Chrysler 300 Steelies

  • Project Ugly Horse on the road

  • Independent Rear Suspension into a Foxbody Mustang

  • 2004 Ford Mustang Cobra IRS

  • 2004 Ford Mustang Cobra IRS into a 1989 Ford Mustang

  • 2004 Ford Mustang Cobra IRS detail

  • Ford Mustang Cobra Axle dissassembly

  • Ford Mustang Cobra Axle dissassembly

  • Ford Mustang Cobra Axle dissassembly

  • Ford Mustang Cobra Axle dissassembly

  • 1989 Ford Mustang 7.8 Solid Axle

  • Removing Ford Mustang 7.8 Solid Axle

  • 7.8 Solid Axle removed

  • 2004 Ford Mustang Cobra IRS under a Foxbody Mustang

  • Trimmed inner fender

  • Marked bracket location

  • Installed Cobra IRS bracket

  • Cobra IRS installed in a Foxbody Mustang

  • New toys

  • Freeloading brackets

  • Removing spot welds

  • Removing spot welds

  • Routed hard brake lines

  • Independent rear suspension emergency brake cables in place

  • Brass T-Junction

  • Rear braided stainless brake hoses

  • Original driveshaft vs Ford Racing driveshaft

  • Installing the Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft

  • Companion Flanges. Left to right: GT, LX, Cobra

  • Companion flanges. Left to right: GT, LX, Cobra.

  • Complete installed driveline

One Step at a Time

Nearly every flavor of exotic driveline has been shoved into the ubiquitous Ford at some point or another.

Chuck Schwynoch had been patiently listening to my ramblings on the other end of the phone for a solid half hour. I'm not too big of a man to know when to ask for help, and at this point, I desperately needed some assistance. The truth is, working on a machine like a Fox Body Mustang is as easy as breathing thanks to the wealth of information available on the web. Nearly every flavor of exotic driveline has been shoved into the ubiquitous Ford at some point or another, and odds are the sorry souls behind those builds shared the highs and lows of their torment with the internet community.

That is, unless you're trying to drop an EcoBoost 2.0-liter four-cylinder behind the clouded headlights of an '89. Then you're kind of on your own.

As the CEO of Maximum Motorsports, Schwynoch knows a thing or two about making old ponies fast around a road course. He and his team run an active research and development program committed to squeezing precious seconds from track-built Mustangs, and I was hoping that if anyone could help me navigate the vagaries of planting my modern engine into my old Fox, it was him. The fact that he had neither laughed me off nor hung up entirely seemed promising.

Project Ugly Horse is an ongoing series. Need to catch up? You can read all of the previous posts here.

The Fox Body chassis boasts all the rigidity of a square of Charmin.

"Well, before you do anything, the first modification you should make to the car is installing a pair of subframe connectors," Schwynoch said.


I kept the part about the five-speed conversion, independent rear suspension swap and Mach 1 brake install to myself for the moment while Schwynoch extolled the virtues of welding in a pair of connectors. You see, the Fox Body chassis boasts all the rigidity of a square of Charmin. There's technically a "frame tube" at each corner behind each front wheel and ahead of the rear rollers, but they don't run the length of the car. There's nothing but thin, mostly flat sheetmetal between the nose and the tail.

The result is some pretty pathetic rigidity. Over time, a little bit of track use can cause stress cracks in the chassis and result in a car with the driving dynamics of a wet piece of Charmin. The issue is a known chink in the Fox Body armor, and plenty of companies make solutions in the form of subframe connectors. Effectively bent square tubes, the connectors marry the front and rear factory frame tubes. BBK, Steeda, Kenny Brown and others all turn out their own take on the best way to join the nose and tail of Fox Body and SN95 Mustangs.

Maximum Motorsports Subframe Connectors

Maximum Motorsports offers two options when it comes to connectors: standard and full-length. The company says the full-length variant is 95-percent stiffer than its standard option thanks to taller tubing. I probably don't need to tell you which route I took. The bits use 1.5-inch by 2-inch tube with .083-inch wall thickness, and you can specify bare steel or black powder coating for better rust prevention.

The only way to get better is to actually screw up a few times. That, I can most certainly do.

Schwynoch and I struck a deal: He and his team would help develop and engineer a set of engine mounts that would place the EcoBoost 2.0 where it needs to be in the engine bay in exchange for me playing guinea pig. If everything worked out, they could then sell a kit to anyone else interested in hoeing the same row. They'd also cut me a deal on other parts to help speed along the build so they wouldn't have to wait for me to sell plasma every month to cover the cost of going faster. I ordered up a set of powder-coated full-length subframe connectors and got to work securing the information Maximum needed to get started.

To be completely honest here, the full width and breadth of my welding experience spans across two very simple projects. But, as with most endeavors, the only way to get better is to actually screw up a few times. That, I can most certainly do.

Bending the Subframe Connectors
Preparing for weldingWeld Through Primer

After getting the car on jack stands, I set about test-fitting the passenger-side connector. The instructions clearly warn that if anyone has incorrectly used a jack on the stock frame tubes at any point in the vehicle's past, there's a good chance you'll need to bend the connectors by using a shop press in order to get everything to fit nicely. My frame tubes looked as if someone had used a jackhammer instead of a floor jack on them, and sure enough, my first test fit revealed that nothing fit accordingly.

This work was going on upside down, in the dark and with plenty of old, bent sheetmetal. "Nightmare," is a word I'd use.

I bought an el-cheapo press on sale from Harbor Freight, assembled the machinery and began carefully reversing the factory bend as instructed. Of course, the instructions also caution you against bending the tube too far. What was it that I just said about screwing up?

After finding out the hard way that flattening the bend too much is just as bad as not enough, I reversed my damage with a little help from a floor jack once it was clear everything would fit where it belonged. I marked all my future weld points and brought the areas on both the connector and the car to bare metal with a sanding disc. After shooting everything in weld-through primer, I started my do-it-yourself welding lessons.

Except, unlike my previous projects, this work was going on upside down, in the dark and with plenty of old, bent sheetmetal. "Nightmare," is a word I'd use. I've read that good welds should look like a stack of nickels laid over on its side. I wanted nickels. What I got was melty Dippin' Dots with similar holding power. Unhappy with the first run, I removed the connector, ground off my old welds, fiddled with the welder settings and gave it another go. The second pass was no more attractive, but significantly more effective. I can live with that.

Weld In Mustang Subframe Connectors
Heat WrapWelding in Subframe ConnectorsWelds in place

By the time I got to the driver's side, my welds were looking cleaner and cleaner. After wrapping the hard brake and fuel lines that travel along the factory frame rail with heat wrap to prevent any unexpected explosions, I finished sticking everything in place and hit my more horrible welding atrocities with a grinder to smooth it all out. I finished up by shooting both connectors with white Rustoleum to further prevent corrosion.

Do the connectors work? With the car effectively immobile, it's impossible to say what sort of impact they'll have on handling or durability. We'll have to wait until the car is up and moving to learn more. While I was worried about reducing ground clearance, it looks like the connectors don't hang any lower than the factory exhaust, which is a good thing. The parts will set you back $144.97 for the bare metal and $174.97 for the powder coated variant, and while the powder coat finish is nice, you'll spend just as much time grinding down to bare metal to prep for welding as you would painting the parts to begin with. They do offer the peace of mind that comes with knowing every last nook and cranny is protected from oxidization, however.

Installed Subframe Connectors

Meanwhile, the guys at Maximum Motorsports are busy working to plop a 3D model of the EcoBoost into a scan of a Fox Body engine bay. From what I hear, there may be some firewall massaging in my near future.

Full Disclosure: I approached Maximum Motorsports for help installing the EcoBoost 2.0-liter engine. The company has offered to partner with Autoblog on this build in the form of knowledge, engineering expertise and discounted parts. I have accepted that partnership under the agreement that doing so will in no way color my impressions of their products.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      While this isn't going in the direction I expected, this is still really interesting. This is going to be a serious little machine when it's done. Thanks for sharing!
        The Wasp
        • 2 Years Ago
        Yes -- when it's all done I hope to see some performance comparisons between this, stock 5.0 Mustang and other higher-power Mustangs.
      Lavell Riddle
      • 2 Years Ago
      Man Zach, ever since I heard of you putting that motor in the fox body I've gotten more and more excited! I just picked up a 92' fox body and I was thinking that my project would be nicer... but after this I crown this project King ugly horse. I wish I could take a spin in it after its done. It is cool that Autoblog is you an opportunity to share this build with the world. Most publications wouldn't allow this. #AWESOME
      JP Chow
      • 2 Years Ago
      Can we call this a Mustang ST already? Don't forget to paint the brake calipers too!
        Zach Bowman
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JP Chow
        I love it. The Ford guys may have an issue with the plan...
        • 2 Years Ago
        @JP Chow
        hello to all. jp chow and zach bowman, that sounds good. but i would prefer mustang svo 2. regards, vrmchris
      • 2 Years Ago
      While I would be more than willing to drive 20mins to come help, when it comes to upside down welding I'll kindly take a step back and let you enjoy all that. You'll find me by the beer. This car was always going to be a turbo 4cyl, so I'm really not sure why some people are so bent out of shape. Putting a Coyote in it would have been killer, but even that's been done so many times at this point. A 2.0L Ecoboost pegs the way-cool meter much more than an old 2.3L would have.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Any Fox body mustang fan will agree that Sub-Frame connectors are an absolute necessity! They don't call these cars flexible flyers for nothing!
      • 2 Years Ago
        • 2 Years Ago
        Because the ecoboost is direct injected, there is a high pressure pump and rail assembly, which makes the engine longer.
          Zach Bowman
          • 2 Years Ago
          Bingo. All the extra bits on the end of the head require some breathing room.
      William Robinson
      • 2 Years Ago
      I love this build. Its a good idea you asking for help from the pro's, especially when their is no info on your specific issues. I have thought about sticking this drivetrain into a second gen escort.
      Timothy Gammey
      • 2 Years Ago
      I am watching this project eagerly- I would really like to swap one of these into an older (pre-1997) ford pickup (please spare me the hate-mail, it's my fantasy world and I will butcher as I please :) ) I am thinking with similar horsepower to the old 5.0, that motor would be absolutely perfect in a regular cab, long bed (with 4.56 gears and a pretty steep overdrive 6 speed to overcome the lack of low end grunt) and should get mid to upper 20's on the highway (wild guess). It would probably suck at towing- but I don't do much of that anyways.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Timothy Gammey
        My Evo has a 4.69:1 final drive with a 5speed and I don't mind it at all. It's quite low but unlike the V8's you can just rev out the 4cyl without shifting and it still won't hurt fuel economy. I get about 23-25 when just driving without thinking, and can eek out 30mpg on the highway at 60 turning roughly 3300rpm. Flooring it at 3300rpm provides an instant rush of 300ft/lbs and letting back off the gas goes back to 30mpg. Where as my Cobra would have to turn 1500rpm in 5th to get 20mpg and flooring it without a downshift provided no power at all at that rpm. So don't underestimate how low you can go on the gearing because high rpm means nothing to fuel economy with these small motors. It's plain and simple how much boost you run that determines economy for the most part. Enjoy the build but I'd recommend looking into a T-5 adapter plate that cost $300 and lets you bolt up a 4G63T Evo motor capable of 400whp or more to your truck trans. It's been done many times and it's a reliable high hp 4cyl motor. No idea what these Ecoboosts can do but it may be awhile before they are running 600whp+ like Evo's do on their 2.0.
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          Stop talking about your Lancer on every AB post, as if it has something significant in common with the Mustang.
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          ...or the F-Series, for that matter.
          • 2 Years Ago
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          Please stop.
      The Wasp
      • 2 Years Ago
      I really like to see details about how one gets a new engine in a car never designed for that engine. There are so many Mustangs/Camaros/etc. that have a bored or stroked version of an original engine and I'm always curious how difficult it is to figure out the placement and mounting of a totally unoriginal engine. Once Maximum Motorsports has finished that part, it would be interesting to know details of their kit -- like what Mustangs it works for and what more modern engines it would work for (is it compatible with non-EcoBoost 2.0L, 1.6L, 2.5L, etc. Ford engines?).
      • 2 Years Ago
      Hint: Next time you install a set of subframe connectors or install any body modification, use a drive on lift..... Jack stands are convenient but you are essentially locking the car in a twisted state.
        Zach Bowman
        • 2 Years Ago
        Not everyone has access to that kind of luxury. The third bullet point in the MM install instructions say that the car can be on jack stands for the job, but that they need to be positioned under the K-Member and the rear axle housing. Doing so essentially puts the same stresses on the body as the car would experience when its on its feet. Not ideal, but better than using stands on the factory jack points.
          Zach Bowman
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Zach Bowman
          Hmm. Hadn't thought about drive on ramps. I imagine they'd be alright, but you'd need to get the rear in the air as well. Rather than have half the car on its tires and the other half on stands, I just opted to do stands on all four corners. It's easy enough, and honestly, takes up less space than the drive on kit.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Maximum Motorsports has some real quality components for Foxbodies. I have their full lengh subframe connectors, rear lower control arms, and caster camber plates. I hope to get one of their full kits at some point. Pricey, but very well made components. Congrats getting them to help you with your build, I'm looking forward to seeing the end product.
      • 4 Months Ago

      Nice project man! I love it. Here is mine 


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