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1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

Insanity meets ingenuity: How a 2JZ-swapped Fox-body Mustang drift car was born.

Justin Fivella
Jan 6, 2020
Photographer: Jeremy Alan Glover

On the surface, it doesn't make sense... really, a Fox-body Mustang drift car with a 2JZ powerplant?! But the deeper you dig, the more you realize this insane creation is the perfect pairing. Dare we say, the teaming of two legends?

1979 Ford Mustang Rear Bumper 01 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

Toyota's 2JZ is arguably one of the best engines of all time, thanks to extreme strength and its ability to produce huge power. While its strength and power potential are its strongest characteristics, perhaps an easily overlooked attribute—when properly modded—is its robust powerband. Quite simply, few engines have both a pancake flat torque-curve and big top-end power with a rev ceiling of more than 9,000 rpm. What does a flat torque curve and a high rev ceiling make? Extreme versatility and the ability to excel in any form of motorsports, that's what. Top-end power is good for drag racing, drifting, and road racing, but so is a mile-long powerband with plenty of meat for thousands of rpm. The 2J is as capable as it is versatile, which only adds to its place at the top of the world's best engines.

Speaking of versatility, the Fox-body Mustang is renowned for single-handedly bridging the gap between Bay Area sideshows, hillbilly-deluxe drag racing, and apex-hunting road-race nerds...change our minds.

1979 Ford Mustang 2JZ GTE Engine Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

The Fox-body chassis isn't much in stock form, but thanks to solid bones, a lack of heft, an engine-bay big enough for just about anything, and aftermarket support strong enough to build it into whatever you want, the Fox-body is a legend in its own right...with beer guts and handlebar-mustaches or big rims and sideshows in the streets to prove it.

Alright, so both the engine and the chassis before you are illustrious, but what happens when they're mixed?

1979 Ford Mustang Saleen Side Skirt 03 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

"The car works so well that it needs more fine-tuning. In fact, the car actually has too much grip; even with skinny 205 tires, it has tremendous grip," says Francis Dussault, a local drifter alllll the way up in Quebec, Canada.

Two-oh-fives are damn-near pizza-cutters, which means if it's still got too much grip on those skinnies, they're doing something right. By "they're," we mean Francis.

1979 Ford Mustang Custom Center Console Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

Francis started drifting a little more than four years ago, and about a year into the sport he decided that despite the lack of Fox-body Mustang drift cars in the scene, he wanted to see just how his favorite chassis would do.

"It started simple enough, with this '79 Mustang coupe that was pretty rough, with roached paint and rusted floorpans and doors. I fixed the rust, added a simple angle kit (to increase steering angle), and left the 5.0 in it," he says.

1979 Ford Mustang JNC Wheel Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

The car continued to shine as his skills behind the wheel and in the shop as a fabricator progressed, which meant he was not only going faster on the track, but repairs came much easier. It was then that the idea of serious upgrades to the Fox could finally move from dreams into reality.

"After the 2016 season, I decided to restart the project from A to Z with the goal of competing in more serious races with something that was also totally unique," he continues.

1979 Ford Mustang 91 Mustang GT Front End Conversion 02 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

A Fox-body with a 2JZ in a drift series is just that: different. But that wasn't different enough—he wanted it to be one of a kind.

"I decided I was tired of building a car to class specs, so I decided to ignore class rules and build the car the way I wanted it, which was as low as possible, so I cut up the stock chassis and built myself a fully custom unit that would let me achieve my goals of building the ultimate drift Fox," he says.

This, of course, didn't happen overnight, as Francis invested more than a year into the project in order to bring it to fruition. Yes, a year, because while it's technically still a Fox-body, he extensively modded the chassis and drivetrain himself, with a custom 'cage, control arms with different pick-up points, custom coilovers, engine mounts, intercooler, intake manifold, race-friendly interior and exterior mods, custom paint, and much more. Oh yeah, did we mention it's so low that he had to fab a full belly skidplate to protect the entire underside of the car, so things like the fuel- and brake-lines, oil pan, and other underside bits aren't quickly ground into oblivion?

1979 Ford Mustang Jaz Products Fuel Cell Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

The custom chassis with its crazy low stance is only rivaled by the 2J under the hood, but the funny thing is, his first motor of choice was even more unique.

"I was originally going to swap in a rotary and build a custom turbo kit for it. But when the owner of the turbo had two Supras for sale, which were offered up at a price I couldn't refuse, I realized I had to go with the 2JZ instead," he says.

1979 Ford Mustang Cobra Seat Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

With a race weight of 2,200 pounds and a 50:50 weight bias, the non-VVTI 2J didn't need to be set on kill, but it has been turned up to 13 psi and fortified with a custom intake manifold and intercooler, an AEM V2 management system from a Honda Civic, an open exhaust, and other basic supporting mods. On 91-octane pump gas with an RD Turbo tune, the combo made 436 hp and 379 lb-ft at the wheels.

All that twist makes its way through a Collins aluminum flywheel and a custom clutch from a local shop in Montreal before it mates to the CD009 transmission out of a 350Z. A custom driveshaft spins an 8.8 rear end from a '94 Mustang that's filled with 4.10 gears and a PowerTrax Lock Right locking rear differential.

1979 Ford Mustang Headlights Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

As mentioned, the hand-built tube chassis that was designed to make the car as low as possible takes advantage of Scale coilovers, a custom angle kit, and race-ready pieces like Heim-joints instead of bushings throughout the entire car.

A five-lug and brake swap from a '94 Mustang allow him to run 17x9 wheels that hide a custom twin rear caliper brake setup with Hawk HP+ pads that's controlled by a Wilwood pedal box.

1979 Ford Mustang Turbocharger Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

Besides the stance, the exterior garners plenty of attention, thanks to custom paint and more than 200 hours of bodywork. The exterior ensemble includes a '91 Mustang GT front bumper, Saleen skirts, custom green paint with two coats of flake, and plenty of other race car touches. Inside, you'll find, among many other race-ready pieces, a Cobra driver seat, OMP belts, and a Sparco wheel.

1979 Ford Mustang 91 Mustang GT Front End 03 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

OK, so it's clearly a crazy creation, but how does it perform? "The car is really competitive and easily makes work of the other more typical drift cars—it's super low, which keeps the center of gravity low, and it performs really well despite being so low. It sticks like glue and achieves a lot of angle; you almost can't spin it," Francis explains.

Most builds are never truly done. As such, Francis has plans before the next race season for more suspension tuning and fab work in the form of moving the gas tank closer to the center of the chassis to reduce the weight over the rear tires.

1979 Ford Mustang 91 Mustang GT Front Bumper 02 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide

There's theory, and then there's application, and oftentimes the two don't sync up. On paper, this combo sounds crazy: 2JZ powerplant and a Fox-body Mustang chassis with custom tubular chassis mods made for drifting. Thankfully, after hundreds of hours of blood, sweat, and tears, this crazy creation not only successfully combines the forces of two respective legends, but it's managed to become celebrated. Some might call that impossible—we call it the Ultimate Drift Fox.

1979 Ford Mustang 91 Mustang GT Headlights Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide
1979 Ford Mustang 91 Mustang GT Front End Conversion 03 Photo 27/27   |   1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide
By Justin Fivella
64 Articles
1979 Ford Mustang - When Legends Collide
Tuning Menu
Owner: Francis Dussault
Hometown: Quebec, Canada
Occupation: Fabricator and drifter
Power: 436 whp; 379 lb-ft
Engine: Toyota 2JZ-GTE non-VVTI engine swap; custom intake and intercooler
Drivetrain: CD009 transmission; Collins flywheel; custom clutch; 8.8 rear differential; PowerTrax Lock Right locker; 4.10 gears
Engine Management: AEM Series 2 EMS
Footwork & Chassis: custom tube chassis, control arms, angle kit; Scale coilovers; deleted bushings; adjustable rod rends
Brakes: '94 Mustang brake conversion with dual-piston rear calipers; Hawk HP+ pads; Wilwood pedal assembly
Wheels & Tires: 17x9 JNC wheels; 235/45R17 Zestino tires
Exterior: '91 Mustang GT front end; Saleen side skirts; custom green paint with flakeh
Interior: Cobra driver seat; OMP and Sparco harnesses; Sparco steering wheel

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