Back to the Future-Ron and Sydney's 1985 5L Mustang Build

Great project you have got going there, we are kind of heading in a similar direction with a DODGE DART 2 door that we bought out of the States many years ago. Was going to have a Viper motor shoe horned in but we sadly sold the car a couple of years ago as a rolling shell. Regrets were recently answered when that buyer put the car up for sale and my nephew went and bought it back. Never has a car had so much spent on it as we had painted it and fitted a full roll cage when it was sold it for $10.000.00. Well all we have bought back for $2500.00 is almost a slot car body....the entire chassis, fire wall and rear bulk head has been cut out to fit on a custom chassis. Its been well done with all the loose doors, bonnet, boot lid and trim in perfect condition....just waiting for some structure to mount it all on once father and son agree on what the outcome will look like...big block or small block....straight line or corners.
The real reason I started writing after reading your story was to ask if the photo specs when I am posting have changed. When I try and post pics 1600 x 1200, they get rejected and I am sure that I was previously able to.
Can you help thanks
Cheers Russell

Ron Earp

Max file size is 2048x1024 OR 976 KB. It is highly likely a JPEG that large is going to be over 976KB. Now, if the picture was full of large swaths of solid color it probably wouldn't, but a picture of a car, yeah. And, according to image calculators most 1600x1200 files will be over 976KB too if they have any color.

File Size Calculator

I think pictures should be more forum friendly anyhow. I keep mine to a small 640x480. Why? It's good enough to convey the information needed and not bog down people's internet connections. Need more detail for instruction? Get closer for the picture. Just my two cents.
Some progress. Went to the Mustang Parts Superstore, aka, the storage space above the garage, and brought down two damaged transmissions we got from Dave Brown, Ford Guru Extraordinaire. We've got a lot of storage space above the garage, and a winch, but getting up there is a bit challenging for those of us that are vertically challenged, my daughter and I both. The stairs have almost kicked her ass more times than I can count.


We took apart the original box that was in the car. The PO indicated it was broken, but near as we can tell its in decent shape. It has damaged shift forks, a bit of an abrasion on a third gear tooth, but certainly serviceable. Sydney got the hang of the air tool and we took three boxes down to their component pieces with the help of Jeff G who helped out in the middle of the process.


The box shown on the left, the dirty one, is THE ORIGINAL box, the one that turned the wheels of the chariot while I ranged around the greater NC area.


The Dave Brown boxes are mostly toast but between the three we've got a good set of gears, countershaft, main shaft, and housings. We plan to build the new box using one of the later housings (the original box has the funky T5 reverse spring), and will stick with the 0.68 5th gear set instead of putting a better V6 0.73 5th gear in the box. We'll be using the 3.55 gears in the 8.8" axle so we might need a highway gear.

Ron, I think im about to head down a similar path with a T5. Are they an easy box to work on and will I need any particular tools? I have watched some of the youTube vids and I think I will cope with most of the stuff I have.

Chris Kouba

Looks great Ron, and sounds like a dream project with the kiddo.

I've never been too gifted stylistically, so take this suggestion with a grain of salt, but have you thought about the blacked-out chrome treatment? Looking at your pics, the chrome almost seems out of place (to me):


Painting the window/door trim pieces would match them with the belt line strip. I had an 87 5.0 LX coupe with all its trim painted and thought it looked pretty good.

Not mine, but an exact copy of it:


Ron Earp

Ron, I think im about to head down a similar path with a T5. Are they an easy box to work on and will I need any particular tools? I have watched some of the youTube vids and I think I will cope with most of the stuff I have.

T5s are easy. We have rebuilt seven or eight now with no problems. We do get the fifth gear strengthening plate from the guy in FL though as that will help save them and keep the countershaft in the box when put up against high torque loadings. You will need a press and an assortment of blocks, tubes, etc. to press things into place.

As for the blacked out treatment, we're staying old school on this car. I do think the blacked out and aero treatment looks good but it is more at home on the more rounded 87 and up Foxes. 85-86 SVO/GTs did have black trim, but, I am purposely wanting this car to remain LX. Same for the inside, the mirror buttons etc have silver trim and we'll keep it for now. Maybe she'll want to change it over later which we can easily do as we have probably most of the black trim from SVOs and GTs lying around.

Ron Earp

It has been a couple of weeks since I have updated the thread. Progress is being made but it is slow going on the wiring. We're chipping away at it but still I reckon we're only about 40% done. But, the hard 40% is done.

One of the early jobs was the pinout for the gauge cluster. Jeff G. handled that part and make a easy to read diagram for the two connectors. We'll make all new gauge harness based on this and make sure it functions properly.


Meanwhile I took apart the gauge cluster to make sure everything is functioning. It's in excellent shape and the instrument faces were restored awhile ago. While at this stage I removed the ammeter and applied to decal, step one, in converting it to a voltmeter. After that shut removal and conversion.



We went down the road of messing with the cluster harness and then stopped, turning attention instead to the engine harness and Sniper rig, as well as the fuse panel mounting. Step one was mounting the Ron Francis panel in its permanent location, under the dash left hand side.



Once it was positioned I could mock the steering column up for mounting the switch and putting the all new harness in for that - switch, power feeds to the panel, clutch switch, AC wiring, fan wiring, brake, etc.


Meanwhile Jeff was working on the Sniper. The Sniper has a lot going on because it controls timing, breaks the coil for ignition, it needs to know about the AC, it controls the fan, and of course all of this is done properly with relays and so on. He did a great job tidying that wiring harness up so it looks factory.





Meanwhile on the inside the HVAC got permanently mounted and the wiring all tidied up there too. Lots o wire, all brand new.



And, after we got the Sniper in, engine harness, and chassis power/grounds we checked everything and it was good. The final check came with hooking the column up, ignition switch, and firing the Sniper up. It lives!!



Ron Earp

It has been a long while since posting on this thread. A situation at work exploded in late September and I haven't had much time to coordinate work in the garage with Jeff and Sydney. Sydney is knee deep in school too so she has little free time. Still, work has been progressing slowly and the wiring is done save radio harness and the instrument harness. We should finish those today and we're ready for an engine start. Here are some pics from the last several weeks.

Once the engine harness was complete attention turned to the corners of the car, specifically getting the lights working.


Light wiring is fairly straightforward but along the way we encountered interesting problems like the horn switch not working. That switch is part of the column and if you work at it you can take it apart. There are small spring loaded copper pins that push upward and make contact with the circular horn ring. The flexible copper braid had detached from it. After some futzing around we were able to resolder the braids and get it working again. Easy peasy.


In the course of working with the horn we repaired the wiper switch and made sure all the gear was functioning as it should before installation into the car. We had an extra light switch and ground the connector lock tabs off of it so we could easily use it with the new harness for testing. Invaluable if you aren't planning on installing the dash at this point.


It got messy inside. Everything with respect to wiring for the car is new. We are using some old connectors when we harvest them but we're making subharnesses and so on as we go so the going is slow.


Small subharness for corner marker lights. Uses original connectors plus two new ones I purchased for the tiny lights. Eventually this harness was put in a cloth loom better than OEM.


Success with the corner markers.


and success with the headlights. A proper Four Eye stare.


The Dark Gray Box, something that won't be going back in the car.


Sydney finishing the dynamat liner for inside and doors. This actually happened a bit before the wiring but so it goes.


Bit of wiring detail for wiper looms.


These wires got sleeves and looms, just testing fit and length here.


All the electrical wiring systems have been extensively tested and work properly. Door locks (we had to put in new actuators), windows, all lights, trunk release, etc. everything is functional. Some things I choose not to make functional such as the shift light, seat belt light, and key buzzer. No thanks on those.

I'll get more pictures up for the inside wiring. We're basically done there and we're ready for the dash. Speaking of which, the dash is in poor shape so I'm waiting to see if I can score a good dash hull for replacement. I have made some repairs on this dash using fiberglass and epoxy but if I could get something better to start with I think I'd go for it.

Seat covers have been on order from FoxResto for a couple of months but it's going to be at least 6 more weeks before they arrive. Probably the same on the head liner. But for now the next steps are:

Engine startup
Install carpet, insulation
Recondition door cards - I have the new ones just need to transfer existing good skins
Repair or replace dash
Recondition interior panels / paint panels
Install dash / headliner
Rebuild seats
Install seats

The end is in sight. I have learned better to put drive dates or similar on projects but here I think we might be able to drive the car sans cosmetics before Christmas. I sure hope so as it'll be something of a Christmas present to all involved to have this project complete.

Randy V

Staff member
Lifetime Supporter
Okay — I’ll bite.....
What was the purpose of the Dark Gray Box?

That will be probably the nicest Fox Mustang on the planet!
I notice that lately any posts (any time) go straight to the forum page and not to new posts, is there anything I am doing wrong.

Ron Earp

Whew, a month had flown by. We're really close now. The engine is running, not great but running. The Sniper install went fine and initial startup is done, but while we can get it to idle and take throttle it seems to forget all that once you shut it down and let a day pass. Come back and start it up the next day and it's almost like starting all over, it's strange. Anyhow, we're on it and it's just a matter of us learning some particularities of of the Sniper further hampered by the fact we can't drive the car anywhere. I think we'll be okay once we can get the car on the street as I know the ignition timing is good, engine is timed correctly, fuel flow good, and the wiring is all 100% correct.

We've received the new seat cushions and covers from TMI so we moved the car off the lift and over to the side of the garage where we can get back on the interior. Next up is carpet, seats, and dash. While the car was out of the car hole I shot a few pictures of it in natural light. I think it looks pretty damn good!





Brian Kissel

Staff member
Lifetime Supporter
Looks awesome Ron. Congrats on the build. I wish my daughters would have had more interest in my projects. They both came out and helped, but not to the extent that Sydney has. You are a very lucky guy.

Merry Christmas to you and the whole family !!
Regards Brian

Ron Earp

It has been a good while since I updated this thread due to WORK, as in J O B work. January through mid-February is a heavy work time for me and there isn't a lot of time for other pursuits. However, progress was still made on the car.

First up, the Holley Sniper issue is sorted, or at least I think it is. The bottom line is that I believe the fact that I was turning the ignition switch on and off literally dozens of times per day while testing and making wiring harnesses, then, I'd try and fire the car up for fun was ending up with essentially a overly rich cold start.

We tested that hypothesis first by performing the actions described and getting the rough start and shitty running. Then, we following day we'd pull the fuel pump fuse, repeat the same actions, install the fuse and bam, the car runs perfectly. Since then we've verified that many times so I feel the Sniper / engine is ready for some road testing.

A lot of time was spent rebuilding the door panels, about 3-4 hours per side including the conditioning, cleaning, fitting, etc. It wasn't difficult but it is work I don't particularly enjoy. Given the panels are a mixture of pleather, fabric, foam, metal, and cardboard they came out pretty good.

Initial condition, although you can't see the warpy waviness of the panel which it definitely has from the cardboard that was warped from being wet.



Rip the old cardboard out bt removing all the stapes and using various tools to break glue bonds.


New cardboard in place, waiting for glue to try. Notice new clips around perimeter.


Mostly assembled and before cleaning:


Installed and clean door panels. Well, mostly clean. A bit more scrubbing is needed but they look pretty solid.



And we have finally turned attention to the dash. I've made a bunch of epoxy and fiberglass reinforced repairs to the dash, here are but a couple.



And the dash has responded well and I think it'll be fine. All the metal support etc. was removed, and the dash was cleaned to get it ready for paint.


Archaeological find, remnants of the touch up paint I kept in the glove box back in the day.


And, I cleaned all the interior parts.


Our local paint connection is going to paint all these pieces so that they'll match. I hope it will come out well, should know in a few days.

Next up is seat recovering and I'm thinking the interior will be going back in the car inside a week or go. Getting pretty excited.

Randy V

Staff member
Lifetime Supporter
The door cards came out perfect! Very nice....
The epoxy-glass repair should be easily as strong as the original. The one thing I hate about aged plastic is how brittle it becomes... Retention screws are more likely to pull through or crack the surrounding area. Very frustrating in a restoration like this.

Ron Earp

Mucho work happened in the shop yesterday with a long work session. We're finally at the point where the dash is repaired & painted and the wiring is done, so, it's time to hang it. Not so fast there....

First up is the repro dash pad. It's a cosmetically nice piece but didn't fit for shit. So we had to modify it considerably to mount on the plastic tabs on the dash. And we had to modify the dash mounting points to fit it too.


All the metal tabs needed enlarging considerably.


After that we got to hang the dash numerous times while we fiddled with placement of wires, HVAC crap, and so on. Also, vacuum was pulled again on the HVAC to make sure it's holding and we don't need to futz with the heater box again. A few weeks ago I had to pull that box out again for a fan motor replacement and had to break the AC lines again. So, it's always good to check.


Success. Speaker wires all in place, cluster, HVAC stuff will reach and it is surprisingly solid. Given how unbelievably flimsy the dash hull is outside of the car you'd never image it'd mount solidly but it does.


The semi-finished product. Doesn't look like much, but hours of work went into repairing the dash, fixing and checking the HVAC stuff, prepping for paint, paint, and getting it back in the car. Probably 14-18 hours all told. It still has a couple of hairline cracks that are now hard to see, and it's original to the car so that's sort of cool.



So later today the instrument cluster is going in, radio, and the HVAC controls for testing. All that stuff is prewired and has been checked once but I suppose this is the final run through.

Then it's time for the interior starting from the top down. Headliner is in the box awaiting install and we'll start there.

We're getting close!

Ron Earp

Had to take a bit of time off for racing and race car prep, but, a bit of Fox work got done too.

The dash is all in. Everything is functional and works as it should, no small feat. It's surprisingly rigid too. After having it out and seeing it crack to pieces and flop all over the place I didn't think it would repair well. But, it did. HVAC is working as it should, blows strong with no out of the ordinary noises. Gauges all do their thing, it's like 1985 all over again. Oh, that's an original SVO wheel that hasn't been restored - hard find and it is in great shape. A bit of leather dressing will make it shine.



The 1985 5.0L lives!! - YouTube

Randy V

Staff member
Lifetime Supporter
That’s got to give the two of you a lot of great satisfaction!
Great work on a pretty tough and tedious job!

Ron Earp

Carpet going in over here boss. Not a fun job and a lot more to go. Found out the front seat belt locks aren't working so I ordered new ones. Probably a good idea anyhow.