TJ Hurley remembers a bucolic childhood, growing up in the sprawling suburbs just west of the New Jersey shoreline. It was an existence filled with good friends, a loving family and a deep passion for the then present day car culture when the Fox-Body Ford Mustang like his present day homage to the ’90s notchback ruled the roads.
One of the factors that helped nurture Hurley’s interest the automobile hobby was his father’s extensive workshop he kept for his business. “My dad owned an excavating and construction company, so my brother Ryan and I had total access to a huge garage stuffed with all the tools we needed to experiment with, and use to help build-up our own cars and trucks,” says Hurley.
Though the twosome had use of everything they needed to customize their own rides, there was one rule that could not be broken when it came to their motorized toys. “Dad said you could fix and repair your vehicles in the shop, but if you raced anything you would have to find another roof to live under,” says Hurley. And that was just fine with him, because though his friends all loved testing the local speed limits with their sporty Mustang and Brand X rides, big and burly 4×4 trucks held the majority of Hurley’s vehicular interest at that time.
But a strange thing happened over the next few years; little by little the Mustang bug started to chew away at Hurley’s love of the truckin’ lifestyle. “My friends all drove and talked up their Mustangs and Camaros, and that started to eat at me; especially when they talked about how fast they were,” exclaims Hurley. He still stuck to his trucks for the time being, but his brother Ryan started to experiment with his own rides. “One night my brother went out for a test and tune at nearby Raceway Park in Englishtown with his daily driver Mercury Marauder, and forgot to wipe off the shoe polish numbers on the windshield. When dad spotted them in the morning all hell broke loose in the house; we all got yelled at.”
As the years went on, Hurley eased into the Mustang hobby, and the brothers started to hit Englishtown consistently. Hurley was now bringing along some of his current daily-driver Mustang builds to see how they did on the quarter-mile. It was mainly test and tune nights, with the pair trying to work some of the bugs out of their car’s recent upgrades. “We really never realized how spoiled we were; we had a Class A track down the road, a shop full of everything we could possibly need, and a knowledgeable family to help us out when needed. You never realize how good you had it till it’s gone… and sadly Raceway Park’s dragstrip is no more,” says Hurley.
Once Hurley was out of the house, he got more serious about his need for speed. “By this time both my brother and I always had a project Mustang to work on. We promised our father no matter what we would be there to help each other out when needed,” says Hurley. But in the overall picture, for some reason their dad could not get over their need to race the cars they took so much care in building. ”That was always a mystery to him, to this day,” exclaims Hurley.
Flash forward to 2015 and his current situation. Hurley’s latest Mustang build is one that he had his heart set on for some time. “I wanted to build a Mustang the way I would have had done it in high school…if I had the money, and the family’s permission,” says Hurley. So with that notion, he set out to find a used but not abused Mustang that would make a good starting point for his new creation.
Hurley got wind of a 1991 notchback 5.0L for sale which would be the perfect canvas to start his project with. He immediately contacted the owner to try to make it his own. It was a one-owner car, which the now 68 year-old title holder was ready to pass on to the next caretaker. He had carefully upgraded the Fox-body over the years, building it up with some of the day’s top modifications. But he felt he had done all he could and was now ready to pass it on to the next owner to give it the attention he felt the car deserved.
So Hurley made his bid for the car, but was unfortunately beaten to it by a guy in Texas. “I then found out that the new owner wanted to cut the car up and build it into a street racer, “says Hurley. Well, that revelation didn’t sit well with Hurley. Not convinced he was defeated, he contacted the new owner and tried to persuade him to sell the Mustang. It wasn’t easy, but after a few months of prodding the owner relented, and sent the Mustang packing to New Jersey. “It wasn’t cheap, but in the end I got what I wanted, “admits Hurley.
Once here, Hurley realized the short stay in Texas had not done the car any good. Throw in the fact that most of the first owner’s mods had become worn out or just outdated, and Hurley realized that a full tear down was needed to make his dreams a reality. “So my brother and I stripped it down to the bare bones and then starting adding the parts I wanted in my ‘90s inspired ride, “says Hurley.
Over the next four years, the twosome pretty much replaced every part on the car. It started with several suspension mods, including adding a set of Kenny Brown subframe connectors to start. Next, Koni adjustable shocks and front and rear SVE lowering springs to help get the stance and grip Hurley wanted from his Fox-body. LMR replacement control arms up front and SVE tubular upper and lower control arms out back finish off the main points of the ride of this nimble pony.
A Cobra front rack along with a Maximum Motorsports steering shaft helps keep this Mustang pointed in the right direction. Energy suspension poly bushings replaced all the old OEM pieces for improved feel. Out on the corners Hurley kept the OEM brakes for now, installing better gripping EBC pads up front. An upgrade is planned in the future.
As for the body, Hurley made a few subtle mods to recreate that dream ride he wished for back in high school. A Makers Garage carbon fiber splitter and side sill covers add some needed accents to the plain white wrapper. A Cervinis 4-inch rise cowl hood brings an aggressive touch to the front visuals. The wheel wells out back were massaged a bit to prepare for the meats that Hurley was going to install out back. For paint, he went with a fresh layer of Ford Performance White. It was laid-out to perfection by Atlantic Auto Body in Howell, New Jersey.
For motivation, Hurley knew exactly what he wanted from the start. He wanted to keep it period-correct, using the best parts the 1990s could muster. It all starts with an original 1991 302 block, bored 0.030-over, and stroked-out to 347 cu-in. That’s accomplished using an Eagle stroker crank, and finished off with Mahle 9.8:1 pistons. It’s all tied together with Eagle rods. Ford GT40X Aluminum Turbo Swirl heads top the cylinders and are mated to a polished Ford GT40 intake. A Comp Cam Extreme Energy 35-522-8 cam gets the valves jumping in sync.
To supply this spunky 302 with fuel, a Walbro 255 LPH handles the duty. It feeds a BBK Power Plus 70mm throttle-body and Ford Motorsport 39 lb/hr injectors. Engine control is done through a Ford EEC IV A9L computer and an Anderson Ford Motorsport PMS piggyback computer processor. East Coast Mustang guru Jimmy Chahalis did all the tuning so you know they’ve squeezed every drop of horsepower out of this small-block they possibly could. All this power feeds a Lentech Street Terminator AOD transmission. Power hits the ground via a Ford 8.8 rear, stuffed with Motorsport 3.55 gears and spinning Yukon 31-spline axles.
The interior is mostly stock, using the Ford factory dash. Corbeau seats were added up front for some racing-styled comfort. An AutoMeter Phantom water temperature gauge sits in view, and a Sony Bluetooth head unit gives Hurley all the tunes he needs on his frequent drives in and around the Jersey Shore area.
SVE supplied the choice wheels here; dark Stainless Drag wheels in 17×4.5 upfront and 15×10 outback. They are shod in Mickey Thompson rubber; Sportsman 26x6x17 and E.T Streets 275/50/15 respectively. Exhaust notes are obtained by a set of BBK long tube headers which flow into a BBK X-pipe and into a set of Spintech 9000 mufflers. The growl is deep, dark and street nasty.
After finishing his ’90s throwback Mustang, Hurley immediately took it to the streets; and to the track. Right away the pony pushed into the low 12’s without much effort. Hurley knows there’s more there, and future plans are to get this little beast to pump a few more ponies out. But for now, he’s set on just enjoying his Ford time capsule. “Whenever I sit behind the wheel I’m immediately transported back to my early days in the car hobby. This thing is truly a look back to my early years of ogling hot Mustangs on the street, “says Hurley.
Like any top build, there are plenty to thank here. “I was lucky enough to have several top shops around me that played pivotal roles in the Fox Body scene over the years, and helped me make this period perfect example of a ‘90s notchback,” says Hurley. Those shops include Genes Wild Rides Race Cars, Martino Race Engines, Jimmy Chahalis Tuning, Anderson Ford, Downs Ford, Late Model Mustang Restoration, and Makers Garage.
“I have to also thank my brother Ryan for helping out as well, but most of all I want to thank my dad for the use of the garage over the years and letting us stoke our imaginations, and create our dream cars in his shop,” says Hurley. The ‘90s were a great time, and now Hurley gets to relive them every day in this stealthy tribute to his favorite decade. How about next year? ”Maybe a trip to the Hot Rod Drag Week”, says Hurley. Just don’t tell Dad.
Photography by Scotty Lachenauer