It will NEVER be this empty ever again.
Warning, I’m one IPA and a solid half-bottle of champagne into celebrating the closing of our new home. How are you guys tonight?
Hey guys, Duck here, still alive, just been too busy to really do much besides the odd Discord interruption.
--We've vacated the rental house.
--We've moved in to the new home but still have a ton of boxes to unpack. The living room looks like an active box fort battle ground, my office is useable but still needs work, and the garages are in a firm state of 'just get it in there and figure it out later'.
--All of our cars are 'broken'
--I found an IRS for the Mustang but recent issues with the cooling system may dictate missing out on it.
--We're going shopping for a TV, couch, and hopefully something MCM to store the audio equipment, wish us luck.
--Just completed a several-hundred user Microsoft Exchange migration to 365 and ready to sleep and drink, not necessarily in that order.
A short while ago, three days or so, I posted about my intention to make my 2003 Ford Mustang Mach1 act more like a Thoroughbred than a Mule.
Step 1: Chassis and Suspension
-Improve upon chassis rigidity flaws inherent in the stock design
-Resolve rear suspension geometry flaws inherent in the stock design
-Replace and uprate worn out components, including dampers and bushings
-Reduce unsprung mass, roll-center, suspension friction/bind
-Increase wheel rates and roll-stiffness
-Minimize reduction in wheel travel from stock.
-Maintain streetable compliance and NVH
Step 2: Driveline
-Increase durability of driveline components
-Maximize power transmission from engine to ground.
Step 3: Transmission
-Replace the insufficient 4-speed automatic with a manual transmission.
-Minimize clutch actuation resistance and deflection over stock design
-Improve shift precision over stock manual design
Step 4: Profit?
-No profit, but maybe with the help of a lot of AutoX and HPDE, I'll have some fun and become a better driver
While priority number one is to improve the handling and chassis, an opportunity led me down a far different path.
A seemingly ‘mint’ Tremec TR3650 5 speed manual transmission came up for sale out of Maryland, which included my preferential MGW shifter, and seemed like a good deal to boot.
As I started to orchestrate shipping and working with the seller to deliver to a nearby transmission specialist for inspection and allowing them to pack and ship to me, the story started to change and willingness to sell remote became more challenging. The shifter disappeared to another buyer, and suddenly the details like mileage and when specified work was done became a mystery, though condition was still assured to be ‘perfect. Another OPPO, S65, that was local to the transmission was super-nice and even offered to go check it out and help with the logistics (Thank you!!!), but by the time he and I sorted that side out, the product itself seemed too sketch to chance. -- and just like that, I’d moved on from this momentary distraction from ‘sensibility’, or so I thought.
Only a bit later in the day, a 16,000 mile-young Mach1 came up for part out, and had everything I could need to convert to manual, the parts looking as new as you’d expect and better met the description of ‘mint’, including a few healthy upgrades I had on the wishlist.
After some back and fourth, I even ended up with a set of American Racing long-tube headers with a catted midpipe.
I still need to order a clutch, flywheel, and clutch actuation solution, which is cable as-stock, but I am considering some hydraulic solutions, using parts from the S197 Mustang and bits from Wilwood.
Of course none of this helps handling, but I am sure excited for all of it. More to come when my pallet full of happy arrives.
About damn time I dredged the the swamp for an update to ‘Making a Faster Horse’; my never-ending story of modifying a 2000's era Mustang to make good on the marketing machismo checks it was writing all over town.
Part 1: Making a Faster Horse [An Introduction]
Part 2: Making a Faster Horse [Step 1, skip to Step 3]
Part 3: Making a Faster Horse [Overnight parts from Michigan]
Part 4: Making a Faster Horse [In Trouble With Management]
Part 5: Making a Faster Horse [An aside, numero uno]
I also snuck in some work on a rainy day to install new dampers, but it was not among the 'official' stories told thus far, so I'll also detail those activities below.
Last we left off I was banned from car purchases until our move concluded, I had just dropped off the Mach1 with my friend at VMP Performance to have subframe connectors installed, and while he had my car, I'd spend what would become the better part of a month gaining an appreciation for a GT500, with an accompanied absurd 730whp.
Good news, we've moved! I've got not one but two garages (2 car + 1 car) and a whole new list of honey-dos that are getting in the way of spending money and time on this car, but inches over time become feet, and feet over time become miles, so let's inch along.
I've really enjoyed the GT500 and would be lying if I didn't say I attempted to procure long-term ownership of it -- but with the move and other efforts already underway, and a need for a more practical car if we add to the fleet again -- it was not meant to be, at least not right now. For antithetical reasons to why I'm building the Mach1 (track), the GT500 would be an amazing car for me -- it is heavier, larger, and brutally fast, but composed and complaint, has more advanced controls while still being an analog experience, with more interior space than the Mach1 for passengers. It couldn't replace the Mach's purpose but for a 2+2 GT car to be used on the street? It is everything I could hope for from such a vehicle.
So what exactly is the deal with subframe connectors anyways?
Well that requires a bit of history on how the SN95/New Edge Mustang chassis came to be, but feel free to skip down to the / if you're already apprised or just don't care.
Being based on a platform from 1978, cars were not particularly safe, not stiff, and the targets were to float between destinations more than carve your way to them one apex at a time. Most cars see heavy improvements or more often wholly new chassis over the course of three decades, but not the Mustang.
In the 80's Ford was riding high on the success of the Ford Taurus sedan and saw efficient FWD platforms and creative sharing as a great way to save time and money. Ford worked closely with Mazda, as Ford held a 25% stake in Mazda at the time, to develop a new Ford Mustang, sharing a FWD platform with the Mazda 626/MX-6. Planned for an 89' release, news broke in 87' and the loyal fanbase of Mustang faithful's were outraged at the notion of a Japanese, FWD Mustang. Salvaging the FWD Mustang program and rebranding it as Probe; Ford initiated an 11th hour redesign of the Mustang and resigned to a mere facelift to carry the Mustang through the end of 1993. After some initial consideration to shorten the Thunderbird's elaborate MN12 chassis, price targets for the entry-level Mustang forced the program to instead once again re-use the FOX platform, significantly updating it into what would be called FOX4, or later SN95. The platform saw significant improvements over previous FOX platforms, particularly fore and aft of the axle centerlines, and even some in-between which resulted in a near 100% increase in rigidity from the previous generation. Even with these improvements it was still 75% that original FOX platform from 1978; for a performance application, the chassis still flexes a lot. Convertible cars required factory-installed bolt-in subframe connectors to tie the front and rear subframes together due to the stiffness lost with the soft top. Performance models such as the Cobra, Bullitt and Mach1 coupes each included the convertible subframe connectors to improve handling over the standard cars.
These rails helped, but they are thin, only bolted in-place, and don't extend very far into each subframe, so through leverage and force, the car still flexes a TON, even with light or static loads. This can be seen most-easily by driving the car up ramps or lifting one-side with a jack. The doors will become resistant to opening due to friction between body panels from the flex. Driving, you can sometimes visually see an oscillation between the hood and cowl/A-pillars. Turn-in can feel vague as a result, bumps you'd think would at least be softened by the marshmellowy chassis instead stay with you for far too long as the force bounces around the car, winding and unwinding the chassis. The entire car was acting as a giant spring, without a damper to tame it.
Below you can see the hollow square-tube factory rails, running outboard of the exhaust.
This image shows a stock bolt-in SFC against a Maximum Motorsport weld-in SFC. Most basic weld-in SFC's match the MM design.
I originally intended to go with Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors, but they were on an 8 week backorder due to COVID-related manufacturing delays. The HP-wielding madman in charge suggested Stifflers instead and indicated he could have them in days. I researched a little bit about the company and found them to be founded by an engineer with a background in IndyCAR, a love for Mustangs, and for making them handle far better than they should. Their kit starts with the full-length weld-in rails, which may also be used as a jackpoint once installed, and optionally may be upgraded with an additional pinch-weld rail, doubling the beam stiffness, and cross-braces to tie them all together.
The entire 'system' on another Mustang
We opted for the base arrangement for now, with potential to add the rest of the system should it be necessary in the future.
The full-length SFC's get bolted to the front seat mounts and then welded to each subframe to assure they are fully tied together.
A bittersweet exchange as I return to the Mach1:
When I picked up the car it felt very much the same, sounded very much the same too, but upon crossing the first bump in the road I could feel immediately that the car was more rigid, no longer wobbling for a second after the bump had passed. At speed the car felt more cohesive, I couldn't fully appreciate the Koni dampers before the subframe connector installation. Later at home when I went to investigate an underhood concern, I drove the car up on ramps I found the shock and shudder normally present in the process absent, and that once the car was lifted, the door opened as effortlessly as it had on flat earth, closed as easily too.
While technically already done before I sent the car away for subframe connectors, I also had dampers to install, from Koni.
The stock Mach1 suspension is an upgrade from the standard V6 or even V8 cars, equipped with Tokico dampers stock -- they were quite good in their day but 145k miles and almost two decades have not been kind to them. All of the original dampers had either failed entirely or were on their way to failing.
The Konis made a huge difference, but also highlighted how flexy the chassis still was before the SFC's went in, as the wallow I initially blamed worn dampers for was as much or more so due to the floppy car as a whole. It also took me awhile to figure out the best settings for the dampers, as they can get rather stiff when cranked up, but set near full-soft and I found road conditions often found the bumpstops. I've settled at 3/4 turn away from full-firm (adjuster range is approx. 1.75 turns). Accessing the underhood adjusters is easy as they are on top of the dampers, plainly visible at the top of the strut towers.
The rears however are typically covered by the trunk carpet panels, which required some minor hole saw surgery to make accessible going forward.
I'm pleased with the handling for now, as it handles how I feel a stock car of the era should. Not to say there isn’t loads more still to do, but it is a good plateu on which to rest until until the more extreme changes I have planned are ready to go. There are still some age and wear issues to address, including a rear suspension squeak that may be sway bar bushings, and failing outer tie-rods up front leading to noises there too. There is also that pesky underhood concern that is at the very-least an A/C system leak, though coolant may be finding its way out too, more to come there.
I have several parts on order to resolve the A/C leak and the suspension noises, hopefully to arrive in the next 7-14 days. Once I'm certain there are no engine issues to worry about, we'll schedule some garage time to execute the transmission swap.
Wife went to the park today, though it took her two vehicles to get there. She left in her XJ Cherokee, with our kiddo. Ten minutes later she called to say, “I think the Jeep is on fire, there is a lot of smoke. (Here) is where we are, anything I should do besides get some distance?” I grabbed my ‘go bag’ of tools, some garage cloths, and headed out to meet her down the street and assess the situation.
Just follow the trail of transmission fluid to find the Jeep at the other side of the rainbow.
Thankfully the Jeep was not on fire. She had determined as much in the ten minutes it took me to arrive, where it didn’t smolder to the earth. She surmised it was transmission fluid, and while I initially thought power-steering fluid due to the area of the vehicle it appeared to be coming from (front driver-side of the car), once I looked underneath, I asked her to start the car again and quickly saw she was right, it was indeed the transmission, specifically the cooler line just ahead of the engine, on the driver-side.
It seemed the rubber line had deteriorated and slipped from the hardline. I cut an inch off the rubber line to get to healthy hose and re-clamped it.
Wifey and kiddo took the Mustang to their play date, and I took ‘HEEPY’ back home to rest. The line held for the short drive back home, but it is a solid reminder that I have not just one automatic-to-manual transmission conversion to complete, but two.
Wow. Just... wow.
At least she doesn't have a big commute to get home:
Welcome back to modifying (and restoring!) my 2003 Ford Mustang Mach1, an adventure where I attempt to up-fit better parts, improve or otherwise engineer solutions to overcome core design shortcomings, and meet the requirements and wants I've set ahead of any such effort.
All Mustangs face left, for rebellion, or marketing... or something.
My most-recent post covered the massive parts accumulation for a manual transmission conversion, which was freight shipped to my office and stored in the warehouse until I could figure out where I'd be doing the work.
The elation of procurement was short lived, as I got in trouble with my wife while purchasing car parts. Mind you, my wife and I discussed this project at length, including timing, budgeting, and how to pay for it all. The transmission was a surprise, hence the massive leap to Step 3, but it was still discussed and given the greenlight all the same. She even suggested I buy more parts from the low-mileage donor, as in her own words, "You'll need/want it eventually, right? Why not get it now when the price is right, and it is coming in a known condition?" -- this is how I ended up adding the stainless-steel longtube headers, Koni Sport dampers, and several additional interior parts to the order.
The trouble began with the use of a credit card. That is, I used a credit card instead of just paying out of savings and ho-lee sheet, did I get a due earful for this error. When we first discussed the parts, we agreed we should use PayPal (with bank transfer back-ending it), but that wasn't going to work for the seller, so I turned to a credit card I knew had no balance, thinking no big deal. There was also the matter of freight payment which would come separately, that I used the same card to pay.
All of our credit lines have been intentionally left paid and idle save for one. My wife is very proud of this fact and has been architecting it all in preparation of favorable terms when we decide to buy a house again. We have a pretty comfy rental situation that suites our needs though and the options to buy are limited, with those coming up, usually selling fast, so just prior to buying all these parts we'd resigned to 'We can revisit buying in a year or two'. I took that as the card states don't matter as much because, well, they'll be well paid down again by 'a year or two' anyways.
Fast-forward a week and a house comes to market that checks most of the boxes and is below budget, so we look, we like, we made an offer, they accepted the offer. Then the weight of my actions set in as my wife realized one of our dormant credit cards had just recently gone active to the tune of several thousands of dollars.
I’m laughing about it now, but it was an awkward moment, set at the end of 40 minutes of painful conversation, as the doorbell rang and FedEx dropped off another box marked ‘Exedy Racing Clutches’, also purchased via the same credit card. (gulp)
Thank you FedEx for your comedic timing. It broke the tension, she started laughing at the absurdity of it all. We worked it out, thankfully paid the card off before it hit the statement, and all has come right, but I did get put into the penalty box regarding 'The Horse'. Project may move forward, future planned purchases and all, but they've got to wait until we close. Also may be smart to re-verify payment methods with the house accountant going forward, team effort after all.
In other news, I worked with my friend to get the parts out of the office warehouse and to his house. He has offered up his shop for the swap, as long as I can wait for a home remodel he is in the middle of to wrap. This is perfect timing as his remodel should finish sometime after we close, and I've offered my unskilled hands to assist with anything on the home front, should he need it. Always down to help out and learn something, even if he wasn’t graciously offering his well-equipped shop space for my project.
New home for awhile until they are ready to be installed.
I've got one more update to post in-detail, but after that The Horse With No Name is on hold until after the move.
We went to pickup some supplies the other day... and pulled into a glitch in the matrix. Not one, not two, but three dark-colored Acura RDX vehicles waiting for their items.
When the Target employee arrived, he frantically hopped between all three before figuring out which one the specific order he had was for.
I laughed and mentioned this is the cruelest prank to play on ‘Curbside Pick-up’, to which he responded, “The orders all say Acura SUV; when did I arrive in hell?” Then laughing about it as he went off to play Acura roulette at least one more time.
I alluded to this a bit in my Still alive... update, a morsel of my continual nonsense that I posted as a holdover given that I've been scarce in light of an in-town move from a rental home to one we are proud to own.
Last year we completed an 1,800mi journey, crossing eight states, transporting three cars and a moving truck, and despite all of that, this small move, all of two miles, within the same neighborhood, felt just as cumbersome. We have too much stuff, I'm not organized in the least, and like a golden retriever (My spirit animal) I'm easily distracted by any opportunity to try and enginerd a solution to make my cars 'mo betta' irrelevant of the mess it may make or time it might consume.
With the distraction of packing, keeping work trucking along, while actually moving and unpacking, it seems the razor-thin margin of stability on which all of my cars constantly teeter, tipped decidedly, not in my favor. They've all been neglected, and are spiteful for it to varying degrees. Indeed broken is used loosely as they all technically still motor under their own power, but there are issues, some significant and I need to address at least one of them, stat.
I felt compelled to emote their immediate concerns to the OPPOverse, because tragedy over time equals comedy. Right? I'll detail each vehicles full needs, wants and frustrations in their own threads, but keep it to the core concerns here as I'm sure even just these core concerns will be, more than verbose enough for one read.
The most infamous of my fleet, the 2003 Ford Mustang Mach1, a car which is meant to presently be in a state of reinvention from the ground up, has decided to take a break from handling enhancements to offer a surprise coolant leak. This leak started innocent enough as just an odd drop here and there, and was rather rare. I was well-aware of an existing A/C line leak, which seemed to leave a neon-green residue (evidence of investigating a previous leak?) and was first considered the culprit of little concern.
The other day however, the Mustang decided to leave a green trail of fluid from tip to tail as it transitioned from the craft of part-time leaking to making it a full-time job.
My initial assessment was quite inaccurate, as confirmed by checking the head cross-over pipe, which proved far drier than is intended, echoing the witness account of the coolant bottle that now held half the fluid it once did. It has not overheated, yet, but this was the alarm to signal I should cease driving until I can resolve the concern.
While investigating the source has proven difficult so far, as none of the coolant lines are damp or stained, and the engine itself is consistently 'dry', the conditions of the leak indicate water pump weeping; a symptom that tends to start lightly but aggressively accelerate as time goes on. I never do repairs/replacements without upgrades, so investigations are in work for improvements and preparations for future forced-induction while addressing the principle concern.
The wife's 1993 Jeep Cherokee Sport, affectionately called 'Heepy' for good reason.
Like all Jeeps, her's has a tendency to overheat, and while the cooling system is overall in top-form due to several previous maintenance efforts, the mechanical fan clutch has regularly required replacement EVERY year, like clockwork since we first bought it almost a decade ago.
I'm done playing this annual game and am now working on a longer-term solution, involving a high-flow electric fan (robbed from another make/model), an upgraded alternator from 90A to 130A to better tolerate the increased electrical load, and a new sub-harness to feed/control the fans. In the meantime, I've disabled the A/C compressor clutch relay so that the electric support fan could be set to run all the time and assist cooling. This so far has assured the Jeep never climbs over 210*, even at the longest of traffic lights, but leads to occupant discomfort in climates such as Florida's.
Otherwise known as the car most anticipated by the whole world to be an unreliable nightmare, this RX-8 has proven itself exceptionally reliable from a drivetrain standpoint. This no doubt stems from the lengthy engine-out service I performed in Spring of 2018, in which I replaced the engine, entire cooling system, rewrapped the engine wiring harness, replaced all fluids, and refreshed the braking system with all new Stop-Tech parts.
Despite my general care for the car and brake components that are sub-10k miles and only a few years old, an environmental issue arose I hadn't considered a concern, that has now made the RX-8 an unsafe mess, but still my best bet for arriving at my intended destination compared to the other two. While street parked outside, we experienced an onslaught of rain while the RX-8 sat unused as I'm work from home most of the time. After a mere two weeks parked and a solid eight days of off and on rain, I found the FeO2 lumps that once were my brake rotors. I thought I could knock it off with a few laps around the neighborhood, but alas, they are now ribbed for no-one's pleasure, and stopping distances are greatly increased.
I don’t have a picture showing the current state of the rotors, so enjoy how I got to imagine my garage being for a month.
I need to pull the brake rotors and have them turned at a local shop, yes all four of them (sobs), but can't risk my only 'dependable' car being down given the state of the other two. Hopefully I'll have the Mustang coolant leak, with bonus A/C leak fix, sorted soon and then I can address the RX-8's rotors. I feel bad as the Jeep always gets left for last, but my wife can drive any of the other cars and often does, with the Jeep demanding the most effort to reform, not due to the primary concerns but the secondary ones that should be handled at the same time.
I've managed to keep the cars running pretty well up until this point, and I've been okay with the level of effort that demanded. The recent additional strain on our attention has certainly had an impact and in this moment, I hate having three ratty projects. I hate myself more as the responsible thing to do would be sell one for a newer, more reliable car, but all I can think about is selling the most-reliable of the three to fund a basket-case GT500, leaving me not so far divided from my current predicament.
Kudos to any of you that made it this far. I'd like to thank my sponsor, Bourbon barrel-aged Cabernet Sauvignon
The package arrived at my work, so I went in (normally WFH) to verify everything.
-Tremec TR3650 5spd manual transmission
-Engine-to-trans debris plate (missing clutch debris cover)
-MGW TR3650 short shifter (Early style)
-Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft
-Mach1 shifter trim + custom leather boot
-Lower shift boot
-Carpet as mine has seen better days
-Manual steering column (thumb key release)
-Manual pedals with NOS Mach1 aluminum pads
-Manual Mach1 cluster (higher redline at 6,800RPM)
-Manual engine wiring harness
-Manual transmission wiring sub-harness
-American Racing long tube headers
-Koni Sport ‘Yellow’ dampers
All parts came from a very-low mileage, approx. 16,000mi Mustang Mach1.
I needed to get back home, so I didn’t dawdle too much. Just checked parts over, moved the pallet into the office warehouse, took the carpet, pedals, and Konis home, will have to get the rest via truck to my friend’s so we can do the conversion there.
While I haven’t reviewed every part, things appear to be in as good as shape as described. I’ll review each part more thoroughly once I have more time.
Clutch cable, firewall adjuster, and quadrant arrived from Steeda. Still waiting on the clutch, flywheel, and shift knob.
More to come as the rest of the parts arrive and I start installation. The weld-in subframe connectors are still slated to go in, just pending shop time to do it.
Boxster or Z4 are east answers. Convertible with good power? Perfect for beach bombing in Florida. That said, if a coupe is your preference, go with the GT350 and don’t look back. Don’t let the magazine BS fool you, 350’s are amazing and don’t need the R package.
We don’t have a lot of twisty roads, the Miata will still be a joy, but more power will suite the application better.
Tried a new wine tonight, I’m a fan.
Tomorrow will be a mixture of grocery shopping and attempting to fix the water pump on the Mustang. This, to assure I have at least half of a functioning car, so I can finish up the RX-8 seat swap with less stress. Hoping to pull the dad card for Sunday to have tacos for dinner.
@orneryduck I have an intense and probably irrational dislike of SN95 Mustangs, and I could take or leave the RX-7, but I'm with you on the others. That Alfa especially, I don't think I've ever seen one in BRG before. It wears it well.
And the 2.8/manual A4s were the ones that could almost kinda-sorta be considered not entirely unreliable, weren't they?
I have an irrational love of SN95’s, victim of my age. shrug
Of the bunch, I think the A4 is the only I’d seriously consider at the price point. I like both the RX-7 and the Alfa, but with my present mindset, I’d go Alfa. For old car desires, more than anything, I want an Alfa Type 105/115… but I’ve been priced out of them. The Spider is looking like a promising alternative that is essentially the same platform. That color combo and condition is a stand out too! BRG vert FTW!
@orneryduck Weren't 1995 Mustang GTs the last of the 5.0Ls of that Gen? My GF in high school had a 'vert and it was a 5.0. I think they went 4.6L in 1996.
You are bang on right 96’ was the first year of the modular in the Mustang. The taillights are the dead give away, horizontal versus vertical on modular cars. Was a grade A goof on my part, nice catch on your.
@nermal Counterpoint - black steelies with Tiguan centercaps on a VW Golf:
@f86sabre Congrats on getting it to start after such a long slumber.
The possibilities are endless. Coyotes fit with a little effort (thankfully you've got the bigger 67+ engine bay to work with) but I have a soft spot for the i6. If you're happy with the power or at least, only moderate increases from where it is, I'd be inclined to keep it in-place.
I like oddball setups, even if they aren't the easiest road to travel. If you want to be admired and hated by large populations all at once, may I suggest a Fast & the Furious inspired Japanese turbo inline 6 conversion?
I love Autotrader; not because their website is fantastic or their app works brilliantly, as neither is true. It is just that there is a HUGE aggregate of car sales in a consistent fashion on their site and that makes for fun window shopping.
Something I've always found myself doing is setting strong metrics with a 'realistic' price point to see what sort of interesting things come up. I do this on the idea that I may find something special for a low enough price, that I'd want to buy it, but most often I just see some neat things that aren't quite a fit and move on. Below are the 'top five' most-interesting finds, even if they are comically pricey for the experience they offer in return.
This week's filters were as follows:
Price: Less than 25,000 dollar-bucks
Year: ANY to 2015
Mileage: Less than 45,000miles
Body Style: Convertible, Hatchback, Sedan and Wagon
Drive: AWD/4WD, RWD
I will preface that I have no affiliation with AutoTrader or any of these dealers. In fact, I do not consider any of these a particularly good deal, just a handful of highlight cars I found for sale that fit my metrics this round.
First up, and my top pick for most-practical find, an Audi (B5) A4 quattro, finished in a very clean and almost timeless, Jewish Racing Gold. I've always liked this generation for the small size, tidy lines, and simple but attractive interior. I'd always imagined one of these as a wagon with the Sport package (better seats and dampers) would have been a stately way to get around town, and because I'm an oddball, the gold color suites.
EDIT: corrected a mistake on my part for the engine called out. I will mail my Mustang card back to the chapter next week.
Next, we have a 5.0 V8-powered Mustang GT, the last year of the V8 pushrod for the Mustang; subsequently replaced by the 4.6L 2v modular powertrain hated in the era, and still hated now by many, but I personally find it a solid engine that got a bad rap because of the audience and their anachronistic expectations. -- and just look at the color, the contrasting tan top, and tri-spoke wheels! It's a beautiful token of 90's American kitsch and despite the power difference, I'd trade my Mach1 for this one in a heartbeat, but I doubt they'd be keen to it. From memory @CB has a soft spot for these too.
Rounding 3rd, we have a Mazda RX-7 convertible, a car that evolved the definition of the RX-7 from the 1st gen, unapologetically aping styling from Porsche's own 924 in an effort to evoke their intention to compete directly with the established German sports car firm; and then mid-course, was re-engineered with a convertible option that previewed Mazda's next hat trick that'd debut at the end of the decade, the MX-5 Miata.
I am struggling to appreciate any rotary car at the moment due to the intense disdain for my present basket-case RX-8, but the reasons are hardly rotary-centric. I also had a very rough RX-7 convertible of the same vintage for a time and it was a lovely, compact, anti-GT GT car. It wasn't fast, but that didn't matter. The Miata is a better convertible car, and the coupe RX-7's are better sports cars, but it was a joy none the less, the sound was unique, and it is near impossible not to enjoy any drop-top sports car, no matter how half-baked. For one this nice, if not so inordinately expensive, would be a solid consideration for malaise-era convertible fun.
1988 was a very good year for today's search anyways. This Firebird is impeccable and comes draped in a paint scheme that evokes the charms of the 80's most-villainous car, KARR. I love the way these look on the outside, especially the paired-down body-cladding free ones like this Formula, but their interior is.... woof... hard to suffer. This one has a not-at-all common manual transmission and an all-too-common and pathetic GM 5.0L V8. The latter is easily rectified with any number of engines, or even just better heads, cam, and pistons. Hard ask to spend 20k on a slow car that'd need another 2-5k and a good bit of work to make fast enough to match the looks.
Wowza! I should note I also found a lovely Mariner Blue (NA) Miata to wrap this whole thing up, but then I saw this Alfa for the same monies, and I couldn't in good conscience ignore it. It is beautiful, it has Italian charms for literal decades as this thing spanned three of them, and gives all the same feelings of a baby Ferrari for the price of a baby Mazda. If you haven't heard an Alfa four-cylinder at full-song, they are musical and I highly recommend a visit to YouTube. If you love the sound of old Honda motors, you'll weep with joy at the sound of a healthy Alfa.
The Miata runner-up for those curious: https://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?listingId=582762843