In the last update of our $600 1989 Ford Mustang LX project beater, we had dropped in the engine and the radiator assembly. It’s been a couple of weeks…you would think that you would’ve heard the sounds of small-block Ford by now, right? Well…no. There is more to it than that. Systems are being checked, the engine bay fuel system needs to be built up, and other details need to be addressed, but let’s start with the biggest one: There’s no transmission in the car. The only thing holding the engine in place are the motor mount bolts and a couple of ratchet straps that are keeping the tail of the block from dipping towards the dirt. I was 50/50 on the decision, but luck would have it, that decision was made: our little Fox Body will have a stick!
This 1999 Mustang donated it’s T5 five-speed manual transmission to the cause, along with the pedal box, for a total of $300, removed for me and ready to go. That’s great and all, really…but here’s where I run into a problem. I’ve owned three vehicles over the years that were manual transmission-equipped: my 1987 Dodge Diplomat, a 1984 Dodge D100, and the 2012 Chevy Cruze. Here’s all I learned over the years: Avoid the Cruze. I can take out and install a transmission, it’s fairly straightforward. But a junkyard-sourced five-speed? I might have gotten lucky stuffing it directly behind the 302 and could’ve called it a day, but when American Powertrain stepped up with parts to help unite engine and transmission together in mechanical matrimony, yeeting an unknown box into the car didn’t seem like the right thing to do.
So, not knowing what I was doing, I did the smart thing, and asked around for someone who did. After reaching out to Andy Warren, he pointed me towards NMRA racer Adam Cox. Adam’s a Mustang guy through and through and knows his way around the T5, and agreed to help me give the gearbox a once-over to make sure that it won’t turn to dust the moment I try to shift from first to second. If this seems like radical overkill…yeah, it is, especially for a budget build, but if you’re going to do something, do it right…right? This work does two things: it assesses the health of an unknown transmission and it offers up the chance to fix some issues. And I say that after these photos were taken. I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at Cox’s garage, but I can honestly say that I didn’t expect a 100% teardown.
As of writing, we have a parts list and a pile of transmission parts that looks more daunting than your grandmama’s 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. Follow along with the pictures for more details:
Previous Rough Start budget left: $3,290
Remaining Rough Start budget: $2,990
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