Progress Thread Black Beauty: '85 GT T-Top: Winter Is Coming

LiquidStangs

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Dec 13, 2015
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So I've come back to the forum after a bit of an absence. There's been some work drama, and some life drama, both of which are ongoing, and I've let myself spend a little too much time getting wrapped up in that drama. So, it's time to come back.

It's also time to come back to bask in my good fortune a bit.

I've just posted the last chapter in my other build thread (search for "Getting In Over My Head"), which ended with me selling the car to someone who truly has the skills needed to bring the car back from the sorry state it was in. This was a bit depressing, as I really enjoyed that car. But the wife was very much about "getting back into the saddle" with a replacement, and we had the money to get something truly decent.

Surfing Facebook Marketplace, I noticed a 1985 GT down in the Cincinnati area that looked pretty good, but that wasn't selling. The listing was by the seller's son, who had actually owned the car for a while before passing it to his dad due to changing life circumstances. The dad said he just wasn't driving the car much, and felt it needed a new home before it sat and rotted in a garage or driveway. One thing led to another, and I made my way to Cincinnati to look at it.

After giving it a good look-over and a test drive, I was convinced, and we agreed on a price. But I had driven down there by myself, and the seller was paranoid about keeping the plates (something about Kentucky tax law). So we drove it together to the Cincinnati airport and parked it in long-term parking, and I drove back to Indy that evening. The next weekend, the wife and I made our way back, drove to Frankfort to pick up temporary plates (which you can only get in Frankfort--why, I don't know), then back up to Cincinnati to pick up the car, then back to Indy. My first ever drive in the car was a few-minute test drive; my second was a 130-mile road trip. Very Roadkill...

...except that the car made it without a hitch. And was amazing. At one point, I needed to make a quick pass in some traffic, hit the gas to speed up, and freaked myself out a little; the front end lurched up and the G's pulled me back in the seat, and this at somewhere in the 60 mph range. It was glorious.

I got approached by a guy while buying gas who told me stories of his old Mustang, and was literally offered a trade while driving on the highway from a guy in a truck. (I don't think he was serious; he offered the contents of his truck, whose bed was overflowing with junk.)

Since the trip, I've had it at our local car show, where it got star billing for being a Fox during the 40th anniversary of the first Fox Mustang.

So, the details:

It's a 1985 GT hatch, manual, with T-tops. The engine is not stock; it's built, and I have a whole binder of receipts I'm still making sense of. The transmission was also rebuilt, though it's whining a little; it clearly has a short-throw shifter. The clutch is a Centerforce; it has very little "slip room" between fully disengaged and fully engaged, so it's been a learning experience. I'm pretty sure the carb is a bit wonky, as it idles at startup at about 2100 rpm, but will immediately try to kick down to below 1000 rpm if you touch the throttle, which usually causes it to stall. When warm, it seems to have a little fishbite, but otherwise runs well. No real issues starting it, whether cold or warm.

I have a box of original parts for some of it, including the original carburetor, air cleaner housing, and rear lower control arms. The interior is immaculate. The only non-stock bit is the radio (which is close to being period-correct; it's a Pioneer cassette single-DIN with the big knobs on each side) and a set of analog gauges positioned where the ashtray used to be. It's got lots of little flaws in the paint, especially in the replaced fender and nose, which look pretty terrible; there's also some rust in a few places, but nothing serious. That front nose is also for a non-GT, so no fog lights (although I have the switch still). The T-tops are in OK condition; the plastic trim is really loose, and the tint is faded and splotchy, but the seals have all been replaced, and it locks in pretty well. The driver door sags a little, but not as bad as my old '89 did. Power locks and power windows all work.

There will likely be more problems found, and these will all need to be fixed. But the basics are there. I'm kinda giddy. This car tickles all the right bits of my brain, better even than the '89 did.

Don't have a whole lot of pics yet; here's what I have:

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stanglx2002

CT Material here
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Congrats on the new car! This one looks to be a great platform to work on.

What are the plans for it now?

Also, do you have any pictures of the interior or engine bay?
 

LiquidStangs

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Congrats on the new car! This one looks to be a great platform to work on.

What are the plans for it now?

The biggest plan: drive the snot out of it! It's really fairly good as it sits, and there's something to be said about just being able to drive a car you really like without constantly thinking of what you need to do to it.

That said, there are a few small projects that will need to happen soon:
  • The "used car purchase fluid change" hasn't happened yet. I'll probably need to throw in a transmission fluid change on top of that to see if it helps the transmission whine any.
  • The speedometer is completely dead. The previous owner said it had just stopped working recently, so I'm hoping this is something simple. It's got a fairly new speedo cable, so maybe it just didn't get tightened down or something.
  • The aforementioned problems when the engine is still cold. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about pre-computer cars so I can try and fix those problems on my own, but we'll see how well that works out.
  • The parking brake is almost nonexistent. This feels like a misadjusted cable; I can pull the lever up until it hits the center console, and it's only slightly engaged at that point.
  • The headlights are a bit dim. They were a lot worse, but I bought new, stock bulbs. I've read that getting the high-output bulbs puts too much stress on the wiring, and that it's best to add a relay.
  • Do something about the few rust spots that are there so they don't get worse. The most concerning bits are on the hatch and a spot of surface rust on the passenger frame rail.
  • Speaking of the hatch, it's really difficult to shut. The bushing on the striker is completely gone, so I suspect that's the culprit.
Also, do you have any pictures of the interior or engine bay?
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stanglx2002

CT Material here
Mod Dude
Jul 7, 2005
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That is super clean for sure. I totally understand the drive the snot out of the car since everything is working and doesnt need to be touched.

I drive my Black 88 GT as a DD, and is super nice to just jump in the car and go. The Red one on the other hand is a work in progress.
 

LiquidStangs

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Status update: I have succeeded in "driving the snot out of it" -- to the point where it's not running. I don't think that's how it's supposed to work. :shrug:

Yesterday, the wife was driving our Escape, and the rear hatch window started falling out. Apparently, this is a thing with these; the hinge breaks because of corrosion. Apart from the replacement hinges being $90 each, not a big deal to fix. Getting that taken care of required a bunch of driving -- to the dealer to get the hinges, to Home Depot to get needed tools, a few others for miscellaneous other errands. All done in the Fox, and gloriously so.

But after running to Home Depot, the car suddenly became hard to start, and didn't seem right even idling. Glance at the gauges -- wait a minute, why is the voltmeter below 12? It's been around 14 when running pretty much all the time. And, look at that, the voltmeter also acts like an extra turn signal indicator, with the little needle jumping back and forth in time with the clicking.

It being somewhat late, I ran home while I still could, and finished working on the Escape. Today, I ran to O'Reilly, and had them test the electrical system. According to their tester, it was a bad voltage regulator, and they had one in stock.

After swapping it out -- no change. So, let's just take the belt off to see how that alternator spins. And it does spin, but only sorta; it's kinda catching a little. If I hold it just so to mimic the belt tension, it smooths out a bit; must be that the little wobble in the pulley wobbles to a good place... waitaminit!

Off comes the alternator, and I immediately realize I've made a good call, as bits of the alternator litter the floor of the garage as I carry it.

Back to O'Reilly to return the voltage regulator, and order a rebuilt alternator. It's just another 60-amp; I could have gotten the 70-amp, but that would have required some messing around with the wiring in ways I didn't feel like doing at this juncture. Maybe that will be an upgrade for a later day (or, maybe, the upgrade will be to something more beefy; it seems LMR wanted to sell me a 130-amp upgrade kit).

So, the old alternator is sitting in the garage, and the car is completely dead. But hopefully all will be well again by this time tomorrow. I'm also giving the other cars the stink-eye, in case they decide to play "follow the leader" to the Escape and Fox.
 

Olivethefet

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That sucks about the alternator, but at least you got to "drive the snot out of it" for a bit anyway. Easy fix you'll be on the road in no time!
 
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TOOLOW91

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When you’re ready to tackle it the 130 amp is worth the upgrade
 

LiquidStangs

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Well, that was fun. While putting in the new alternator, the wife slipped on some mud from a utility repair crew and messed up her leg and wrist a bit. Taking care of that meant the car had to wait until this morning. It's running again, pretty much like it had been. I had been hoping that maybe some of the issues with cold starts and hesitation were due to alternator problems, but no such luck.

Incidentally, when stress-testing the new alternator, I noticed that the voltmeter still flicked back and forth with the turn signals, only now it's going no lower than 13 (compared to below 11 before). Which makes sense, I suppose.

@TOOLOW91, that 130-amp upgrade does look like a good idea, especially if i upgrade the sound system at all. But this seems like it will get me by for now.
 

DSB88GT

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Did you replace the alternator harness as well? I've read that's the root cause of the "fire starter" reputation the alternators have been labeled with.
 

LiquidStangs

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Did you replace the alternator harness as well? I've read that's the root cause of the "fire starter" reputation the alternators have been labeled with.

I did not change out any wiring. From what I've read, the main issue is with upgraded alternators overwhelming the factory wiring, and not with any specific fault with the wiring itself. Though if I'm wrong, I'm all ears! Since this is a stock 60-amp replacement, I'm hoping there are no issues.

The voltage regulator harness was a bit iffy, but seems to be working fine. When I get to the 130 amp upgrade, I'll likely address that at the same time.
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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The alternator fire issue is with the big plug, although the charging system itself is inadequate.
the 3G upgrade requires upgraded wires too. There is a writeup in the technical/how to thread.
 

LiquidStangs

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The alternator fire issue is with the big plug, although the charging system itself is inadequate.
the 3G upgrade requires upgraded wires too. There is a writeup in the technical/how to thread.

Thanks for the link. It makes mention of the 75-amp alternator, but mine is 60-amp, so I was hoping the wiring was at least good enough to not catch fire with 60 amps.

Sounds like doing this upgrade might be something to do sooner rather than later. Oh, well.
 

LiquidStangs

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Time to take a break from work, and work on cars, especially the really nice one! Tonight, I just jacked the car up and spent some time looking around. Tomorrow will be the actual work (fluid changes and such).

Subframe connectors!
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Looks like mufflers are in my future. This one is actually the better one; I wasn't able to get a good picture of the other, but it crunches when I push on it.
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Here's a pic of the rear lower control arm:
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Oh, and the speedometer mysteriously stopped working just a short while ago... :rlaugh:

Don't know how easy that is to see, but the speedo cable is zip tied to the bracket, with the speedo gear just hanging out above the tranny. There's some kind of wad of cloth wedged into the speedo cable hole, which is leaking a good bit. That probably explains the whining. I hope it goes away with some new fluid, and there isn't real damage in there.

The speedo gear is also likely wrong. It's red, which looks like 21 teeth by LMR's catalog pics. I don't know what's in the tranny yet, but I either need a 17-tooth or 20-tooth gear with my current tires. Given how close it is, I suspect I've got a 7-tooth gear in the tranny. If so, I can run with that level of inaccuracy for now.

There's a good bit of oil coating things underneath closer to the front. I traced it to this:
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Not sure what it is. If you're looking at the engine from the front of the car with the hood open, it's to the right, not too far from the power steering pump.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with what I'm seeing so far. The previous owner said he went over everything with a can of black Rustoleum, which seems to be doing the job keeping rust at bay. The exhaust looks to be in OK shape, except for the mufflers; one of them is welded in, so I might have to buy some more exhaust parts when the time comes to deal with that.

Tomorrow: oil and transmission fluid change, brake adjustment, and some attention to that speedo cable.
 
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