As the store manager for Audio Express in Scottsdale, Arizona, Frank Gallo has a few contacts in the world of high-performance automotive audio systems. When Kicker Performance Audio learned that Frank had acquired an ’89 LX 5.0 Mustang, they challenged him with the task of building the car into a display vehicle for their annual Kicker’s Big Air Bash during last November’s SEMA Show. The kicker? Frank had nine weeks to convert the hatchback from daily driver to show car.
The circumstances surrounding Frank’s purchase of the older Fox-body 5.0 were not as pleasant as the eventual outcome. When Frank’s father passed away in April 2010, he sold his daily-driver ’01 Cobra to help with the funeral expenses. His father left him a ’66 F100 pickup, but when fuel consumption proved too costly for Frank’s 100-mile work commute, he started looking for an inexpensive daily driver. By August, he had found it on the Internet--a still factory-stock, 82,000-mile LX 5.0 for sale by the original owner for $2,600.
The daily-driver status for the Almond White Mustang didn’t last long. Within weeks of obtaining the car, Frank was commissioned to build the hatchback into a show-stopper for Kicker’s Big Air Bash, an annual blow-out at the Palms Casino Resort during the SEMA Show.
I call it the nine-weeks-to-SEMA car, Frank says. I spent the first week ordering parts and the next eight weeks building the car. Latemodel Restoration Supply helped with all the trim and weatherstripping.
With much-needed assistance from friends and co-workers, Frank went to work in the Audio Express shop, a facility more suited for sound system installations that car builds. Using a floor jack and jackstands, the crew disassembled the Mustang in preparation for fresh PPG Grabber Blue paint, chosen for its attention-grabbing ability. The engine was rebuilt for a horsepower upgrade with Patriot aluminum heads, Professional Products’ Typhoon intake and throttle body, Pro M mass-air meter, Ford Racing E303 cam, and MAC long-tube headers with Flowmaster mufflers. The T-5 five-speed was also rebuilt, while the 8.8-inch rearend was treated to 3.73 gears in a Traction-Lok differential.
While Frank and the crew worked over the mechanicals, the body was sent to Ric’s Paint and Body for its transformation into Grabber Blue. However, when Ric’s fell behind due to an unexpected rush of customer repairs after a local hail storm, Frank painted the bumper covers himself in order to keep the project on track.
Of course, as a display car for both Audio Express and Kicker, Frank’s Fox-body is a showcase for the performance sound equipment. A 2,000-watt JVC navigational head unit sends its signal to Kicker speakers throughout the car, while both sun visors feature DVD screens. Subtle yet functional, the rear hatch area is filled with Kicker amps and a subwoofer in a custom enclosure. Upholstery and door panels were done by Unique Upholstery.
Thanks to a little all-nighter help from friends Justin Bradford, Lou Cano, Capt’n Hook, Travis Kurz, Paul Fenton, Dennis Adorjani, John McLeod, Dereck Johnson, and Mustang Mike Iandiorio, Frank completed his Fox project just in time for the Kicker Big Air Bash, where the Grabber Blue 5.0 grabbed attention for the thousands who came to enjoy an evening of games, rides, and free-styling motorcross exhibitions.
For nine weeks, the Mustang was the center of attention. Now the car is back doing what Frank bought it for in the first placedaily driving for Frank’s commute. He explains, I won’t build ’em if I can’t drive ’em.