What's Your Eleanor? – Mad_Science Edition

1988 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
There will be no Vanilla Ice Jokes

Bear with me for a second. I know an ’88 Mustang GT 5.0 drop-top has not weathered the last 22 years well in terms of cultural identity. The good news is, I don’t care. This is the car that introduced me to the concept that cars could be awesome. Not just to look at, or hear, but that they could move so fast you felt it in your chest.

I still remember coming downstairs one Saturday morning, and my parents told me to go look in the garage. Being six years old, I didn’t know that much about cars, but I knew awesome when I saw it: it was red, two-doored, convertible and the bottom was wrapped in air dams.
1988 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
Dad's was red like the one above, but had these "turbine" wheels

Then there was the sound. Like it or not, nothing sounds like a 5.0L Mustang. The combination of that funky intake manifold, EFI and the factory exhaust gave it a voice by which I still judge all V8s. True to fashion, there’s a bit of Ford power steering pump whine thrown in to the chorus.
In addition to the “pefect C” exhaust note, The Mustang was my performance benchmark as a budding hoon. It was always “Dad, is that faster than your Mustang?”. For years, the answer was rarely yes. There wasn’t too much on the road in the early 90s that could beat a mid-6s 0-60 time, particularly for the price. That car provided my first exposure to a burnout, power oversteer, and running light-to-light (with a Chevy, of course). It provided my first dose of ohshitweregonnadie fishtailing when a family friend who was keeping an eye on me for a weekend took it out for a “cruise”. (Did Simon ever tell you about that one, Dad?)
1988 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
I cannot remember caring if the dash was hard plastic or not

Time and performance engineering advances took their toll on the Mustang’s luster. In a way, I’m glad I never got to drive it. By the time Dad parted with it in ’96, the air dams that seemed so cool in ’88 were chipped and dinged. One fog light was busted. Eight years in the sun were not kind to an interior assembled to late-80s Ford standards. Even on its way out, it provided some entertainment: the night after my dad sold it, the cops showed up in our driveway, happy to alert us that they’d recovered our car. Huh? Turns out the dude that bought it handn’t changed over the registration yet, and had managed to get pulled over downtown. Oops.
1988 Ford Mustang GT 5.0
This was about the shape it left in

Still, whenever I hear a 5.0 go by, I’m taken back to driving home from a soccer game with the top down, barely able to see over the dash, taking in the sun and listening to that motor sing.

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  1. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    On a bit of an unplanned Mustang/Fox body kick today. Such is Eleanor.

  2. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

    I still think it's a handsome car, but I prefer the LX trim. If I had a Fox Mustang Eleanor, it'd be an LX 5.0 (or 4.9, if we're being honest here) Coupe. Those are getting quite hard to come by these days because most have either been hot-rodded to hell, crashed, or have about a billion miles on them.
    I actually had an '86 convertible, and there were big plans to get it fixed up and have a weekend plaything. Unfortunately I found that if you have an '87 or newer Fox Mustang, you can get any part you need. If yours is '86 or older, good luck with all that. Powertrain bits are everywhere, but that's not what my Mustang needed. So long story short, I gave it to one of those cars-for-charity tax write-off places and that was that. These days, I've shifted my longing eyes toward a new toy. It's also a convertible, but has half as many cylinders, half as many seats, and it's wife approved. Now I just need to stack up some bills and go pick out a good one.

  3. Jeff Glucker Avatar
    Jeff Glucker

    <img src=http://www.ryanwharvey.com/periodicdiversions/vanilla/Cool08.jpg">

  4. Mad_Science Sr. Avatar
    Mad_Science Sr.

    So, it brings back fond memories for me as well. It was the first new car I ever owned. It really was a hoot to drive and not very expensive (I paid $18k for it new in '88).
    Yea, Simon fessed up to the crazy weekend of taking the car out for a "cruise". And you wonder why I sold it before you got your license?
    Of course, replacing ti with the '93 RX-7 might be questionable….

  5. Manic_King Avatar

    Not to nitpick but shouldn't your dads' answer be "rarely: yes", to question “Dad, is that faster than your Mustang?”
    Anyway, I knew about some unbelievably crazy characters 15 years ago, big time drug dealers who also were connoisseurs of rare (stolen) vehicles, which were nice things to have in post-soviet landscape of Ladas, Volgas and Mosckwich'es, they had Jeeps, Porsche and RHD Jag but their main car was black 5.0 Coupe Mustang, these junkies, continually high on all kind of substances were making powerslides in the city center or raced 90 mph on main streets with invisible competitors/cops/aliens. Once 2 of 3 guys in this car started to fight each other at 60 mph on city street, one decided to kill the other with his Magnum 357, fortunately they were so high (on LSD?) that he missed by 30 cm, they stopped the car as it didn't had side window anymore, reconciled and continued driving, now more slowly, a bit shocked of what happened. Mustang 5.0 will always be embodiment of badassery and stupidity to me.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      Silly inverse-negative sentence structure.
      Also: holy crap.

  6. Goingincirclez Avatar

    I still think these have aged pretty well, considering the era they came from. I always loved those cheese-grater taillights for some reason.
    As for build quality, it's kind of a sad testament to the popularity and hoonability of these cars. Ford's build quality was pretty damn good for its time in the late 80's. My '88 T-bird was put together extremely well and had very few fit / finish and NVH issues, even toward the end of its road days. (Now, infamous Ford 3.8 engines and AOD transmissions – the backbone of their catalog, are another story). But the Mustang was always begging for abuse, and most people gleefully handed it out. Nothing looks as white-trashy nor besmirches the reputation of a marque, as an aging Fox-body Mustang with OEM ground effects falling off. But that's probably not as much Ford's own fault, as is the Mustang being a victim of its own success.

  7. longrooffan Avatar

    So glad to see Hooniverse is multi-generational…thanks for checking in Mad Science, Sr…and for passing on the Hooniverse experience to your youngster.
    As an aside, a Vietnam era Vet friend of mine has three, count them, three, of the Florida Highway Patrol versions of the coupe of this era in his livery these days.
    I remember, back in the day, renting one of these as a 30 year old "stud" and when I punched it, it spun around and, just then, this olelongrooffan realized I needed a whole lot less horsepower and torque as well as driving lessons if I was going to hang around this power.
    Ended up with, eventually, three E30 ragtops over the years and this oleman keeps my foot out of them.
    Thanks for sharing and wishing my Dad was still around to share his experiences of his Corvair, DS21, Austin Healey, Model A, two mid 60's Country Squires, and several MicroBuses with the rest of us Hoons.
    But I know he is watching down on us and enjoying it all.
    And to quote Bob Hope, Mad Science, "Thanks for the memories."

  8. Maymar Avatar

    The 5.0 is something of an Eleanor for me also. They were still reasonably cheap in '02, when I turned 16, and they were right up my hormonal hooning alley. Plus, my dentist urged me to go with a Fox body over a 3rd gen F-body.
    So anyways, scouring Auto Trader and the classifieds were all part of my daily routine, to keep an eye out for anything I might want. I found an '89 GT (supposedly the 25th anniversary edition) hatch, with an automatic (what I wanted at the time, because my parents had no interest in teaching me), for $3700. I called and set up an appointment to look at it on a Saturday afternoon, after a shift at work. But I called again before leaving, and the owner had someone going to the bank to get the money, so I moved on. I never found one again that seemed that right, and then ended up with an Intrepid at my parents' suggestion (they would've preferred me to take over their old Sundance, or anything strictly rational). Ever since then, I haven't had the means (or the insurance rating) to really afford one, and they're going up in price. Although, I loved that my F-150 had the 5.0, albeit in a lighter state of tune.

  9. Møbius Avatar

    That is a handsome car, and well worthy of being someone's Eleanor. Also, 0-60 in mid-6's is not slow. I am certain none of the cars my parents have owned can do any lower than 10. I think whereas teenagers plaster their walls (and now computer desktops) with unobtainable cars and girls, the realist in us lust after that girl in that class and that sweet sounding and cool looking sports car that we could buy before it ends up in a place Murilee visits. This is just like that, I suppose. Awesome.
    Sorry, I meant AWESOME!!!

  10. Clashtastic Avatar

    finding clean 5.0's is harder and harder, the one I found which was modified to all belief… koni-4 ways, 12 point cage, 302 w/ offenhauser intake, 289 heads, holly 750 double pumper, straight pipest, t-5, 3:73 posi, weld in subframe connectors, big lunati cam, and T-Tops, saleen body kit for 4k my mom wouldn't let me buy b/c it didn't have airbags…

  11. From_a_Buick_6 Avatar

    The very first car that really made an impact on me was an '87 or '88 Mustang GT. I don't remember if it was a convertible or the hatchback, but it was white and those tailight louvers are permentantly etched into my brain. It was the spring of '88, so the car was nearly new, and I was about 2. My parents used to take me for walks in the evening, and someone on the next block had this GT in their driveway. I must have already had a budding interest in cars at the time, so it caught my attention. When we were maybe 10 feet away, the car started up, flew out of the driveway and took off. Scared the hell out of me. As a two year old that car: the lights, the exhaust, the speed, made it seem like some kind of demon.
    And that's precisely why I still want one 22 years later. Too bad they've all been hooned and modded to hell. Sure, almost all the restoration parts are available on the interweb, but that's a lot of effort and money for a car that still looks like a Fairmont. Then again, I also think that a hot-rodded 302 Fairmont is an awesome idea.

    1. Tim Odell Avatar
      Tim Odell

      You didn't, by chance, live in Fair Oaks, California at the time, did you?

  12. engineerd Avatar

    One of my all time favorites, as well. The ground effects of the GT were a audacious, but didn't seem like it in the late 80s. The styling has held up well over time, I think. It's one of those classic shapes that will be instantly identifiable decades from now.

  13. muthalovin Avatar

    Around that time, the 5.0 GT was the benchmark for affordable sports cars. It is what I always compared my Daytona too. Sure, the 5.0 had a V8 and the Daytona had a turbo-4 and the Daytona was FWD, but I could keep up with a majority of them and even beat a few with some light tuning (read: taking out the sub-box). Now, all the Daytona's have asploded and the 5.0s are wrecked. Bygone era.

  14. TheOnlyCannoli Avatar

    Thanks for the memories. I had 1993 GT Convertible in triple black when I was a kid. I put BBS rims, a lighted Saleen roll bar and a Saleen wing. ____Damn I miss that car.

  15. James Avatar

    ha. A large part of why i'm such a car nerd were my dad's fox bodies, too.
    He picked up a metallic teal '93 SVT Cobra when I was six. I remember holding the stopwatch and my head bouncing off the seat as we did 0-60 timed runs from stoplights. I was hooked in.
    The '93 LX 5.0 Special Edition convertible he replaced it with was never quite the same. Sure, it was bright ass yellow. Sure the roof went down. But no clutch pedal?!?

  16. prince willis Avatar
    prince willis

    I really love this car. I'm looking for one at a reasonable price and that's an automatic, so if anyone have one please email me at pwilli11@baker.edu, please convertible only! THANKS

  17. Business Firewall phoenix Avatar

    Great post. I am definitely looking forward to seeing more posts 🙂