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Project “Oliver” A Mustang in Fairmont Clothing


Back in 2013, I reluctantly sold my 1997 Subaru Legacy. I didn’t want to sell the car,  but the former owner made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Goodbye Subaru -ETCG1

That left me with money in my pocket and the desire to go looking for a new project to work on.

I couldn’t decide exactly what direction I wanted to take. I was hoping for something I could feature on my show and enjoy driving. I actually started out looking for a VW diesel or a diesel truck. I thought that might make for some interesting and new video topics. However, most of the cars I found had very high mileage and seemed beyond repair. The trucks were also worn out and beyond my budget. Diesel trucks hold their value BTW.

That’s when I decided to change my strategy and came up with the idea of getting a Ford Fairmont. Weird I know, but hear me out.

I really wanted a wagon, but this one was so clean I couldn’t pass it up.

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I chose a Fairmont because it’s made on the Ford Fox body platform. Other Fox bodies include the Mustang from 79-92, as well as other Ford/Mercury/Lincoln cars of that era. This means there is a TON of aftermarket support for these vehicles. Not to mention it’s chassis can support a V8 with minimal modification.

Personally, I’ve never been fond of Mustangs, too obvious. A fast Mustang is something you’d expect to see. I was going for something different than that. I was going for a Mustang in Fairmont clothing. A ‘sleeper’, which is a car that looks slow, but goes fast.

Like just about everything in our world these days, I ended up finding what I was looking for online. I was happy it was so close. A lot of the Fairmonts I found were halfway, if not all the way, across the country. The ‘clean’ cars anyway. I didn’t want something that needed a lot of body work because I wanted to focus on the performance upgrades, not the body.

I ended up driving for about 3 hours to a small dealer in Portsmouth OH. I took my wife, and the asking price in cash, so that I could take it home if I wanted to.

As you can see, the car is this baby poop yellow, some call it custard. I believe Ford called it, Antique Ivory. I think the PPG color code is 90102. Despite what people say, I like it.

I named the car Oliver because the color, and the car, reminded me of the 1963 Opel Kadett that Richard Hammond drove, and named “Oliver”, in the Top Gear Botswana Special.

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It’s not lost on me that an Opel is a GM and my Ford is well, a Ford. Aside from being a similar color to Hammond's car, I also saw both cars as being created as basic transportation for the everyday person. There’s nothing really special about either of them.

The appeal for me, and I think for Richard, is that they are cars that have an endearing plainness about them that gives them a personality all their own.

The Kadett and the Fairmont are about as far removed from a supercar as you can get.  In my eyes, that makes for the perfect ‘sleeper’.

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While my Fairmont shares the same chassis as a Foxbody Mustang, it did not perform like one. The original engine was a 3.3L inline-six that made a conservative 86hp when new. That equals to about a twenty second quarter mile at around 65mph in my Fairmont.

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The initial plan was to simply swap a normally aspirated carbureted V8 from a Mustang into the Fairmont and see how it would work out.


1982 Mustang Donor Car Introduction #FairmontProject -EricTheCarGuy

Things did not go as planned, as is often the case with custom car builds. The engine in my donor Mustang turned out to be junk unfortunately. Well the block anyway, and I needed to rethink that part of the build.


Ford 302 Complete Engine Tear Down #FairmontProject -EricTheCarGuy

Setbacks can sometimes mean opportunity, so I figured, why not make the build a little more interesting?

I went back and forth between a supercharger and a turbo. I also briefly considered nitrous, but you have to keep filling those bottles and that can be very inconvenient. I decided on a single turbo system from On3 Performance.

This is my turbo set up

Much to the dismay of some of my viewers, I decided to stick with a blow through carburetor over fuel injection. I wanted to keep things as simple as possible and I honestly didn't feel fuel injection would be necessary with the right carburetor. I chose a 750cfm blow through Demon carburetor. I'm confident it's going to handle the job of fuel delivery nicely. After all, it's one trick carburetor.

Demon Carb

I chose a turbo because I knew a small block V8 would have plenty of bottom end grunt with the right cam. Once that started to fade, the turbo would kick in. I wanted the flattest torque curve I could get across the entire RPM range. Something that would perform at about any speed on the street.

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Also; Jeremy Clarkson’s endorsement really spoke to me.

Jeremy Clarkson

At the end of the day, the idea was to be underestimated. I knew if I built it right, my plain Jane Ford would be able to run with just about any performance car on the street. Not all of them, but enough to put some BMW’s and Corvettes in their place.

The key thing to remember here is I wanted to make this a street car. Not something that was strictly for the track. That meant upgrading every system on the car in addition to the engine.

I also wanted to upgrade the transmission, the suspension, the tires, the rear end, the fuel system, and anything else that could make the car go fast and still stay on the road.

I was also looking to teach my audience that a performance car was more than just a great engine, you have to look at the car as a complete package where every system works together to complement the engine's power, not work against it, or be overpowered by it.

Carroll Shelby once said, “There’s no such thing as too much power, just not enough traction.”

Carroll Shelby

The build started off great. Well, once I got the engine sorted out. A viewer in Washington state hooked me up with the bulk of my first suspension. I say first because it wasn’t the last suspension as you’ll see later in the article. I’ll say this, if you’re going to build a project car, especially a performance build, bring money$.


How To Install a Fox Body K Member FairmontProject

One of the first problems I ran into with these used parts was the positioning of the front wheels. After getting the engine and transmission in, I checked the clearance between the front tire and the fender. It was pretty close, too close for my taste actually.

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I did what I often do in a situation like this, reach out to someone smarter than me. It’s not hard, a lot of people are smarter than me. In this case, it was Jack Hindley of Maximum Motorsports. Maximum Motorsports is the place to go when it comes to Fox body suspensions, it’s all they do, and Jack is one of their chief engineers.

Maximum Motorsports

It turns out the positioning of the front wheels was intentional. The reason is to move the weight of the engine and transmission back toward the center of the body. This changes the car's center of gravity and improves handling.

However, when I showed Jack pictures of the parts I was using, he didn’t think they were actual Maximum Motorsport parts. Mainly because MM doesn’t make lower control arms that will support the stock front coil springs like mine did. With a true Maximum Motorsports front suspension and K member, you need to run coil overs.

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That conversation was very productive and I learned a lot about my Fox body suspension. I also ended up buying an entirely new front and rear suspension from Maximum Motorsports. In addition to being a top automotive engineer at Maximum Motorsports, Jack is also one of the company's best salesmen.

Remember what I said about custom builds, bring money$$.

My new panhard bar
- My new panhard bar. This positions the rear axle side to side.

My new torque arm

- My new torque arm. This keeps the front of the differential level on take off.

I also found out the transmission I was originally using, a T-5 expertly built by Paul Cangialosi, wouldn’t be able to handle the power the new engine was producing. T-5's are good up to about 400hp, I was well over that with my new engine. It's a shame really, Paul did a fantastic job on my T-5 as you can see in the videos.


Ultimate T 5 Manual Transmission Rebuild with Paul Cangialosi EricTheCarGuy Part 1

Ultimate T 5 Manual Transmission Rebuild with Paul Cangialosi EricTheCarGuy Part 2

I’ll talk about how I solved that a little later.

Speaking of my new engine, here it is. I spent a lot of money on that too.

DMP Engine V8 Turbo

My engine is so cool, it even has it’s own moniker, #DarkMatterPikachu. Here’s the backstory on that name. .


How DarkMatterPikachu Got Its Name

It’s a completely new engine from the block up. My builders son used the word, "immortal" to describe it in one of the build videos.

Speaking of the block, it’s a beast. A rock solid foundation that the rest of the engine is built on. It’s called a Man ‘O War from World Products. It was designed from the 4 bolt mains up to be a stout platform that can handle a lot of power. To say it’s a ‘race’ engine block would be an accurate statement.


DarkMatterPikachus Engine Block FairmontProject

DMP also has a forged crank, lightweight pistons, H beam connecting rods, double roller timing chain, a custom cam from Comp Cams, aluminum cylinder heads that were reworked by my engine building master, Kevin Frische and his son Justin Frische at Kalvinator engines in Wapakoneta OH.

Kalvinator engines

Everything was balanced and carefully assembled. I shot an entire series of videos on just the engine build at their machine shop. I loved that shoot BTW. If this YouTube thing doesn’t work out, I’m going to apply at Kalvinator for a job. I LOVED it there. The noise, the smell, the metal, the machines. Not to mention Kevin and Justin are great guys and a pleasure to work with.


How To Balance an Engines Rotating Assembly DarkMatterPikachu FairmontProject

Once the engine was assembled, we took it to Kevin’s old place of employment, the University of Northernwestern Ohio. He was an instructor there for many years.

UNOH

They have a fantastic program for those looking to get into the world of performance vehicle building. They also have a set of engine and chassis dynos. The perfect place to dial in Kevin and Justin’s work.


We did have some difficulty at first. It was all due to one stupid part. Watch the video and you’ll find out who the offender was.


DarkmatterPikachu Dyno Testing Day Full Video

You’ll also see that my 363cid V8 produced 575hp @ 5500 rpm. That was at 7.8psi of boost. Given that the engine wasn’t done pulling, and I could safely crank up the boost to at least 9psi, I could probably get much closer to, if not over 600hp.

The best part is the torque curve. Flat as a pancake through the entire run, just like I wanted. Torque is really where it’s at. Horsepower is just a calculation based on torque. DMP made 622 lbft of torque @ 4400rpm. This engine will never stop pulling. I LOVE it.

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The FairmontProject Engine DarkMatterPikachu Turbo V8 on the Dyno

So, is the project done? Nope, far from it. Since the engine made so much power, I’ve had to go back and rethink a few things. I believe I already mentioned the suspension. I also had to purchase a TKO 600 transmission from Modern Driveline that could handle the torque of the new engine. I spoke directly with Bruce Couture and he hooked me up with the transmission and clutch parts, as well as the accompanying parts such as a steel bell housing and the master and slave cylinders for the hydraulic clutch.

moderndriveline transmission

Bring money$$$.

The rear end is also complete. It has 3:55 gears in case you were curious. I built the differential myself out of a salvage rear end from another donor Mustang. Of course the internals are all new Ford performance parts.


Ford 8.8 Assembly Set Up Part 1 FairmontProject

Ford 8.8 Assembly Set Up Part 2 FairmontProject

Someone had already cheesed up the differential in my ‘donor’ car so I couldn’t use it. My donor Mustang didn’t yield the parts I was hoping for, but it still yeilded some useful bits I could use. Just not as many as I would have hoped.


I’ve also installed a new braking system with rear disc brakes. I got the brakes as part of a kit that included a 5 lug conversion. Fox bodies start out with 4 lug hubs.

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The brakes are supposedly off of a ‘94 Mustang Cobra SVE which utilized 13" front discs, but the parts were aftermarket, not Ford, and I have concerns about how well they’re actually going to work.

My brakes and 5 lug conversion kit

I may end up replacing them with some name brand parts if those don’t work out. I want the car to stop as well as it goes. Bring money$$$$.

I’m also proud of my custom parking brake cables.


How To Fabricate Parking Brake Cables FairmontProject

Frame connectors were actually the first upgrade I did on the car. That honestly was one of the best improvements so far. Fox bodies aren’t really known for their structural integrity and frame connectors go a long way to help that. Those also came from Maximum Motorsports.


Installing Ford Fox Body Frame Connectors Conclusion FairmontProject

Additionally, I installed reinforcements to the rear lower control arm mounts.

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This will ensure nice straight launches. At least that’s the hope. I still need to do an alignment once everything is complete.

The car will also be lowered about 1.5”. My new suspension is completely adjustable. Both the dampers and the ride height can be adjusted. I’ll need to dial that in once all the parts are on the car.

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The wheels are going to be stock Ford wheels from their full size line. In particular, these wheels are from a early 2000’s police interceptor Crown Victoria aka a P71. Simple, affordable, 17” and they don’t give away how fast the car is. Well, not that much. I wrapped a set of Mickey Thompson's around them. I have no intentions at this time of installing hub caps. I really like the black against the "antique yellow".

MTT Tires


Things on the todo list are to remove the engine and transmission so I can install the new K member and front suspension. I still need to gut the interior and pull the dash. I’ll be rewiring the entire car with a harness I got from Painless Wiring.

Painlessperformance Harness

Removing the interior will make that easier. It will also make it easier to install a roll cage. I think I’m going to need one. Along with the roll cage I'll likely install racing harnesses to keep my butt form sliding on the vinyl bench seat.

I’ve also relocated the battery to the trunk. The turbo took up residence in it’s previous location under the hood. Not to mention a battery in the trunk is cool.


How To Install a Trunk Mounted Battery FairmontProject

Removing the dash will make the wiring easier, but it will also give me an opportunity to rethink the HVAC. The car had a dealer installed AC system, but it had a very heavy compressor and ran R-12. I’d like to run AC, or at least set myself up to install it at a future date. I’m hoping to sort out what’s inside the dash so when the time comes for AC, I won’t have to mess with anything inside the car.

I’m also geeked about my new gauges from Speedhut. I’ve got the layout planned already.

Speed Hut Gauges
Fairmint gauges with Speed Hut

You can keep up with the progress of this build by following my Stay Dirty tribe, or by subscribing to my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/EricTheCarGuy

Monthly updates are also posted on my blog.

ETCG Blog

I still have a few ‘miles’ to go before I have this thing on the road. I’m hoping it’s only about 3 more months. That way I’ll be able to drive it this spring.

Don’t worry, I’m making videos of everything along the way. You’ll be sick of this car by the time I’m done if you’re not already, but I bet you’ll fall in love again after the first burn out. I know I will.

Oh yea, if you’re going to build a project like this, bring money$$$$$.

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Be safe, have fun, stay dirty. ETCG