Please Help! Ideas/Tips on how to make my '93 2.3l (NA) Convertible Faster.

Realblaxxican

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Jul 6, 2020
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Hello! My name is Malik, I bought my '93 Convertible Foxbody about a year ago. This is my first car, I love everything about the car. But frankly... Its really slow haha. I love the idea of having a 2.3l Mustang, but I have no idea what to do to make it a bit faster. When I bought this car, it was in really bad shape. I would love to also replace my stock exhaust but I have not been able to successfully find a after market exhaust for my Stang. If anyone has any tips or suggestions for me, I would truly appreciate it. Also, I was possibly thinking of doing a motor swap. I'm really indecisive right now, especially since I'm on a budget. Again! Any suggestions would be great, Thanks!
 
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91TwighlightGT

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Okay, here is the deal...

#1 - Nothing you do is going to be particularly cheap. While these cars have always been known for cheap speed, IMO prices on everything have gone up and they are getting to the point where you will need to seriously consider whether that car can cost effectively meet your goals. I have to bring this up because if you are on a budget, it will almost certainly be busted and you can buy newer Mustang convertible that will easily blow your Fox out of the water from the factory.

#2 - This brings us to the second point, which is what is your motivation for owning and modifying this particular car? There are always intangibles that are unknown to the rest of us on the internet. If your dream car has always been a Fox Mustang and you are just in love with the body style, then fair enough - that is probably most of the Fox owners on this site. In that case...

#3 - Okay, the meat and potatoes of this post. First, your 2.3L Mustang Convertible is probably the least desirable Fox Mustang they made, only made worse if it is equipped with the A4LD Automatic. Consider that you could likely sell your car and buy a better Fox Body for less money than you will spend on that one, and it will likely have better resale value down the road.

With that said, if you are dead set on making this Mustang into something, I would start with an end goal in mind. Is this supposed to be a mild cruiser? Decide what you want out of the car, then plan your build accordingly. In my opinion, there are basically only two options set for you to consider...

#1 - A 2.3L Turbo swap. If you go this route, your best bet would be to source a Turbo Engine out of an 87-88 Thunderbird. If your car is an Automatic, I would highly recommend swapping to a T-5 5-speed Transmission as well as the automatic is not reliable under stock conditions, much less under boost. You also have to source the ECU from the donor car to run the Engine and then rewire your harness to make it work. IMO this is not the best way to go as there are aftermarket ECU options such as the PiMP ECU that are plug and play for Turbo swaps, but they are a bit pricier. Still, better driveability and plug and play functionality can't be beat in my book.

It has been brought up before that the stock 2.3L engine can be rebuilt to accept a Turbo by changing Pistons and adding an oil drainback. This is true and can be done, however it is the more difficult route to go which is why the Turbo engine swap itself is more common. Realize, as one of our members who is doing this swap just experienced, that these engines are 30 years old now and you will likely still have to overhaul a Turbo engine if you buy one out of a salvage yard. I would not attempt to simply drop one in without going through it beforehand.

#2 - The other option is to swap to a 302. In this case, it is almost imperative that you have a donor car to swap all of the pieces that you need because you will be nickel and dimed to death trying to chase down random bits and pieces needed to make the swap work. This swap is well documented and is fairly straightforward, and is probably the most recommended thing to do at this point. While your car will still always have less value than a factory 5.0L car, having a 302 is always going to be a selling point over a 2.3L Mustang.

Lastly, if you are thinking just mild bolt on's for your Normally Aspirated 2.3L... forget it. These engines are pretty stout and can be fairly reliable, but they have a ridiculously restrictive cylinder head that kills any possibility of Normally Aspirated performance. There are basically zero aftermarket cylinder head options, and the ones that are available are designed with the Turbo engines in mind and have similar architecture to the stock engines. While people have done some cylinder head swaps with a Volvo Four cylinder, the reality is that it is heavy on fabrication and not cost effective to pursue.

PS: There are tons of exhaust systems available for Mustangs, even 2.3L cars. It really depends what you are trying to do before any recommendation can be made.
 
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Realblaxxican

New Member
Jul 6, 2020
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Brentwood CA
Okay, here is the deal...

#1 - Nothing you do is going to be particularly cheap. While these cars have always been known for cheap speed, IMO prices on everything have gone up and they are getting to the point where you will need to seriously consider whether that car can cost effectively meet your goals. I have to bring this up because if you are on a budget, it will almost certainly be busted and you can buy newer Mustang convertible that will easily blow your Fox out of the water from the factory.

#2 - This brings us to the second point, which is what is your motivation for owning and modifying this particular car? There are always intangibles that are unknown to the rest of us on the internet. If your dream car has always been a Fox Mustang and you are just in love with the body style, then fair enough - that is probably most of the Fox owners on this site. In that case...

#3 - Okay, the meat and potatoes of this post. First, your 2.3L Mustang Convertible is probably the least desirable Fox Mustang they made, only made worse if it is equipped with the A4LD Automatic. Consider that you could likely sell your car and buy a better Fox Body for less money than you will spend on that one, and it will likely have better resale value down the road.

With that said, if you are dead set on making this Mustang into something, I would start with an end goal in mind. Is this supposed to be a mild cruiser? Decide what you want out of the car, then plan your build accordingly. In my opinion, there are basically only two options set for you to consider...

#1 - A 2.3L Turbo swap. If you go this route, your best bet would be to source a Turbo Engine out of an 87-88 Thunderbird. If your car is an Automatic, I would highly recommend swapping to a T-5 5-speed Transmission as well as the automatic is not reliable under stock conditions, much less under boost. You also have to source the ECU from the donor car to run the Engine and then rewire your harness to make it work. IMO this is not the best way to go as there are aftermarket ECU options such as the PiMP ECU that are plug and play for Turbo swaps, but they are a bit pricier. Still, better driveability and plug and play functionality can't be beat in my book.

It has been brought up before that the stock 2.3L engine can be rebuilt to accept a Turbo by changing Pistons and adding an oil drainback. This is true and can be done, however it is the more difficult route to go which is why the Turbo engine swap itself is more common. Realize, as one of our members who is doing this swap just experienced, that these engines are 30 years old now and you will likely still have to overhaul a Turbo engine if you buy one out of a salvage yard. I would not attempt to simply drop one in without going through it beforehand.

#2 - The other option is to swap to a 302. In this case, it is almost imperative that you have a donor car to swap all of the pieces that you need because you will be nickel and dimed to death trying to chase down random bits and pieces needed to make the swap work. This swap is well documented and is fairly straightforward, and is probably the most recommended thing to do at this point. While your car will still always have less value than a factory 5.0L car, having a 302 is always going to be a selling point over a 2.3L Mustang.

Lastly, if you are thinking just mild bolt on's for your Normally Aspirated 2.3L... forget it. These engines are pretty stout and can be fairly reliable, but they have a ridiculously restrictive cylinder head that kills any possibility of Normally Aspirated performance. There are basically zero aftermarket cylinder head options, and the ones that are available are designed with the Turbo engines in mind and have similar architecture to the stock engines. While people have done some cylinder head swaps with a Volvo Four cylinder, the reality is that it is heavy on fabrication and not cost effective to pursue.

PS: There are tons of exhaust systems available for Mustangs, even 2.3L cars. It really depends what you are trying to do before any recommendation can be made.
Okay, here is the deal...

#1 - Nothing you do is going to be particularly cheap. While these cars have always been known for cheap speed, IMO prices on everything have gone up and they are getting to the point where you will need to seriously consider whether that car can cost effectively meet your goals. I have to bring this up because if you are on a budget, it will almost certainly be busted and you can buy newer Mustang convertible that will easily blow your Fox out of the water from the factory.

#2 - This brings us to the second point, which is what is your motivation for owning and modifying this particular car? There are always intangibles that are unknown to the rest of us on the internet. If your dream car has always been a Fox Mustang and you are just in love with the body style, then fair enough - that is probably most of the Fox owners on this site. In that case...

#3 - Okay, the meat and potatoes of this post. First, your 2.3L Mustang Convertible is probably the least desirable Fox Mustang they made, only made worse if it is equipped with the A4LD Automatic. Consider that you could likely sell your car and buy a better Fox Body for less money than you will spend on that one, and it will likely have better resale value down the road.

With that said, if you are dead set on making this Mustang into something, I would start with an end goal in mind. Is this supposed to be a mild cruiser? Decide what you want out of the car, then plan your build accordingly. In my opinion, there are basically only two options set for you to consider...

#1 - A 2.3L Turbo swap. If you go this route, your best bet would be to source a Turbo Engine out of an 87-88 Thunderbird. If your car is an Automatic, I would highly recommend swapping to a T-5 5-speed Transmission as well as the automatic is not reliable under stock conditions, much less under boost. You also have to source the ECU from the donor car to run the Engine and then rewire your harness to make it work. IMO this is not the best way to go as there are aftermarket ECU options such as the PiMP ECU that are plug and play for Turbo swaps, but they are a bit pricier. Still, better driveability and plug and play functionality can't be beat in my book.

It has been brought up before that the stock 2.3L engine can be rebuilt to accept a Turbo by changing Pistons and adding an oil drainback. This is true and can be done, however it is the more difficult route to go which is why the Turbo engine swap itself is more common. Realize, as one of our members who is doing this swap just experienced, that these engines are 30 years old now and you will likely still have to overhaul a Turbo engine if you buy one out of a salvage yard. I would not attempt to simply drop one in without going through it beforehand.

#2 - The other option is to swap to a 302. In this case, it is almost imperative that you have a donor car to swap all of the pieces that you need because you will be nickel and dimed to death trying to chase down random bits and pieces needed to make the swap work. This swap is well documented and is fairly straightforward, and is probably the most recommended thing to do at this point. While your car will still always have less value than a factory 5.0L car, having a 302 is always going to be a selling point over a 2.3L Mustang.

Lastly, if you are thinking just mild bolt on's for your Normally Aspirated 2.3L... forget it. These engines are pretty stout and can be fairly reliable, but they have a ridiculously restrictive cylinder head that kills any possibility of Normally Aspirated performance. There are basically zero aftermarket cylinder head options, and the ones that are available are designed with the Turbo engines in mind and have similar architecture to the stock engines. While people have done some cylinder head swaps with a Volvo Four cylinder, the reality is that it is heavy on fabrication and not cost effective to pursue.

PS: There are tons of exhaust systems available for Mustangs, even 2.3L cars. It really depends what you are trying to do before any recommendation can be made.
Thank you so much for all the information. I bought the car because I really love the body of the car, my dream was to own a Fox. But I will start saving for a 5.0, I only bought this 2.3 because the previous owner was selling it for $900. But I started loving the car more, I will definitely keep this Fox stock then. My end goal for this car is to make it a really nice daily. Thank you for your time!
 

General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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Aug 25, 2016
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Here is some advice from an old guy (I think I am not old but people tell me I am so I must be)
you have a pretty nice convertible there, if the engine is in good working order, the trans shifts ok and crap ain't falling off drive it, keep up the maintenance while learning how an automobile works. You are young (judging by the age you show on your signature) and people will tell you this and that, and if you are not careful that nice car can become an un driveable crap pile, learn for yourself, and the members here will not steer you wrong.
What are your skills? (Automotive skills)
budget
working conditions
Think better not just faster.
 
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junkyardwarrior

5 Year Member
Jan 10, 2011
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Leave the 2.3 in it, leave it alone if it runs.

Very seldom to see a 2.3 fox body anymore. For that matter, all fox body Mustangs are hidden in this area;, there about 3 of them that I know of. maybe a couple more that I "think" I might know of, all are V8 and the first three are original 4 cylinder cars that were converted (and one of them is a 5.3 GM engine).

The 2.3 Mustang is basically worthless. Convertible? Takes it to negative value. You have to pay people to take them. I have an 89 2.3 convertible, really a nice car but it has zero value to anyone. So I am going to pull the engine/trans, give the bay a good cleaning and stick a roller cam in it and reinstall, then drive it as-is until it won't drive anymore. It's so slow that it's just funny to drive. Throw a set of gears in it, that helps. I was thinking about doing a 4.10 in mine. Won't go any faster but it'll get to speed quicker. Then focus on fixing the interior since you have to plant your butt in the seat(s). If the interior is trashed, you don't really have much motivation to do anything with the car, much less drive it, being a 4 cylinder. Many swap the engine and leave the interior alone, on mine I fixed the interior (wasn't too bad, but needed lots of cleaning) and honestly I like driving it more than my 92 GT which has a 427" small block and manual transmission. Oh and if the a/c don't work, fix that too. It's amazing how much nicer the car is to drive when you are sitting in a nice interior with working a/c. I ain't suggesting make a show car out of it, but if you clean it up and make it nice enough, it's a lot more enjoyable--even if it is slow.

2.3T swap is not worth the trouble, IMO. Lots of headaches, and lots of money. It's about as much money, time, frustration to swap a 5.0 into it from a donor car. I have a 93 coupe that's 2.3T swapped (from a Merkur XR4Ti) and it does have a little more "pep" but it's still slow. Those engines, with a good intercooler and the boost turned up to about 18 psi still only make about 240 wheel horsepower, at the most, in cool air. Sure that's more than twice as much as the stock 2.3 but they're still slow and still a headache. They aren't known for reliability. Think about it-the last 2.3T rolled off the line in 1988 (and a few were leftover for the 89 Merkur's) so that makes them over 30 years old, no telling how many times your donor's been rebuilt/fixed and how 'well" it was done. In my case, not very well. .040" overbore (beyond maximum for a turbo 2.3 Lima) and very loose at that, just worn out junk. Total rebuild including the turbo, set me back about $2500. Pistons and rods alone were roughly $1000. Then the transmission, rear end, intercooler, exhaust, wiring, and all of the other periphals that you need to swap it. It just ain't worth it. Way back "when", in the days when the old stock turbo pistons (TRW) were available for under $200 for the set, it was a cheap rebuild and cheap swap, but not anymore. Then figure the rods. Stock rods are many times bent. Aftermarket rods cost as much as a set of 8 302 rods. Pistons are all aftermarket now, $450+. The head? The head is extremely restrictive, to open it up & make some decent power is going to set you back $1500-$2800. That's ONE head-assuming your core head is not cracked (and most of them are). At that point the VAM EFI system is beyond over-taxed, as is the turbo, so add another couple grand for those upgrades. You'll spend $5K quick on one of these little turds, to make 400hp, and then fiddle with it every single day trying to keep it running. Keep the jackstands handy and keep the wrecker service on your contacts list.
 
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General karthief

wonder how much it would cost to ship you a pair
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I am growing, ah, lets say 'sad' about the ' 4 cyl cars are worthless and even worse if it's a convertible ' rhetoric.
Yeah, they are at the bottom of the list of desirable mustangs and the convertible, well there ain't nothing better than cruising around on a summer evening with the top down along the coast.
Who cares what it's worth, it ain't an investment like a stocks or bonds, if it runs good and looks good drive that thing!
 
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91TwighlightGT

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I am growing, ah, lets say 'sad' about the ' 4 cyl cars are worthless and even worse if it's a convertible ' rhetoric.
Yeah, they are at the bottom of the list of desirable mustangs and the convertible, well there ain't nothing better than cruising around on a summer evening with the top down along the coast.
Who cares what it's worth, it ain't an investment like a stocks or bonds, if it runs good and looks good drive that thing!


To me the 2.3L cars are basically just like any other old car. Drive it and enjoy it, but be careful about spending too much money into it if you really want something else. The main issue with dumping a lot of money into them is that they just will never hold resale like an original 5.0L car will, so you really have to question whether or not you are spending your money in the right places.

I'm speaking from experience, too. I have a '93 that I've got every bit of $7,500 invested... but if I sold it today I think I would be hard pressed to get even half of it back. It's fine for me because I want to drive it and enjoy it as a 2.3L, and I also still have the '91 GT as my fun car. For people who are new into the hobby, it's just hard to recommend putting money into a 2.3L convertible because they are unfortunately just so undesirable.

If he was rocking a notchback it is a bit easier to put money into because someone will want to 5.0 swap that car at some point. Even a hatchback is fine if it's particularly rust free... but convertibles just aren't the hot ticket in the Fox market like they are in the classic stuff.
 
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