Love it or hate it, the Ford Mustang is an automotive icon and the original pony car has been a favorite among enthusiasts ever since its introduction in the mid ’60s. After its Carroll Shelby and Steve McQueen “glory days”, the Mustang was reduced to a shadow of its former self with the Mustang II of the ’70s. By the mid ’80s the Mustang had regained some of what made the original cars great with the introduction of the famous Fox body 5.0. The 5.0 ‘Stangs became the car to have in the ’80s, and the potential of the EFI 5.0 engines made them one of the most popular “tuner” cars ever. The original 5.0 Mustangs are now over 20 years old, but they continue to be one of the best “bang for the buck” vehicles on the used car market in the USA. The 5.0 has already been established as a great platform for drag racing and even road racing, but what about drifting?
All you have to do is look at the success of Vaughn Gittin Jr. and his Falken Mustang as an example of what can be with a Mustang on the pro level. But what about on the grassroots level? Can the older Mustangs be built into a drift cars that can rival the more popular choices like the Nissan S-chassis? The Mustang has a lot in its favor with a vast number of affordable aftermarket parts, an abundance of junkyard parts, and fair amount of power from the factory. In many ways, the 5.0 is the American version of what the S13 is in Japan. Geoff Chandler of Driftlive.com had these questions in mind when he bought a stock 1990 Ford Mustang GT and went to work on transforming the car into a grassroots drift machine with the help of his good friend and driver David Padron.
I owned a couple 5.0 Mustangs during my younger days and I think they are great cars, but even the factory power easily overwhelms stock chassis, suspension and brakes. Geoff says that while a lot of car builders might simply throw tons of power and a crazy E-brake at the car, he paid attention to Japanese-built drift cars focused his efforts on improving the chassis and bringing balance to the car before adding any more power. Of course the privateer budget also kept them from adding anything crazy like a 600 horsepower race engine or one-off carbon fiber body panels.
As was just stated, most of the efforts have gone into improving the chassis and suspension. In fact, the trusty 5.0 small block with 170,000 original miles remains stock with the exception of a custom side-exit system. The list of chassis and suspension mods is long and includes a number of parts from Mustang suspension specialists at Maximum Motorsports. MM parts on the car include a full coilover setup (with Eibach springs), panhard bar, SN95 Mustang control arms, and strut tower and K-member braces. Other modifications include Battle Version rear lower control arms, Race Craft drop spindles, a rear end from a ’94 Mustang GT with disc brakes and an ARB air-locking rear diff.
One of the biggest hurdles for Geoff and David has been to overcome the less-than ideal steering angle of the Fox Mustang. After all, steering angle is one of the most important parts of a drift car. So far they have used wider wheels and spacers and modification of the front control arms to get some more steering angle. Like a lot of the other work done on the car, it has been a learning experience for them. There isn’t quite the same knowledge bank for setting up drift Mustangs as there is for S13’s or AE86’s.
Most of the car’s interior has been removed and the stock driver’s seat has been replaced with a Sparco Pro2000 bucket seat. The roll cage is a custom six-point unit from Alex Pfeifer at Battle Version. To help trim some weight from the Mustang’s chassis, the air conditioning, stereo system, and other unnecessary items were removed from the car. Despite this, Geoff uses this Mustang as his daily driver and the car passes California’s tough smog checks with no problem. It’s also driven to all drift events. So far it has proven to be quite reliable.
The car can bee seen drifting at a number of SoCal events including Just Drift! and the All Star Bash gatherings at Willow Springs and the Drift Day events at El Toro. Here we see a bit of dirt drop action at WSIR via the photography of Alison Merion.
And lastly, a little bit of tandem action from the most recent All Star Bash event at Willow Springs. One of the coolest things about the Drift 5.0 project is that Geoff and David have a website that his completely documented their progress in building and drifting the car with TONS of photos and video. A big goal of the site was to show the potential of the Mustang as a drift car and Geoff says that the website project has been just as fun and as important as the car itself. Make sure you check it out at www.drift50.com.
Thanks to Geoff for letting us feature the car.