For some, automobiles are soulless machines that only serve as a means to an end — traveling from Point A to Point B. We know better. Certain cars are more than machines. They are both an escape from the hardships of life and a conduit for connecting with other like-minded enthusiasts.
I didn’t intend to go this crazy, but you know what happened was this car saved my life. Tom Schwenzer
Like many, Tom Schwenzer of Dingman’s Ferry, Pennsylvania, learned to appreciate high-performance automobiles, thanks to his father’s ’68 Pontiac GTO. Soon, he followed his path after discovering the allure of Fox Body Mustangs.
“I was hanging out in a bowling alley parking lot with my buddy Rodney. A kid named James Allen pulled into a deli across the street with his supercharged Fox Body. We always saw him driving around, but his car really caught my eye. He pulls out and romps on it for what I swear was a quarter-mile rip,” Tom says. “Ever since that day, the Fox Body seemed like the perfect platform to have old and new together. It’s like the last of the American muscle cars. You can still have modern technology like Bluetooth and GPS navigation. It’s got everything, including A/C, and still makes crazy horsepower. So to me, it is the last of the real muscle cars.”
Certainly, there have been some pretty muscular machines since the early ’90s, but few have proven as adaptable and timeless as the pony cars based on the Fox platform. There’s something about these cars that inspires people who grew up with them — and some who came along later — to continue loving them long after the last one rolled off the assembly line.
“The first one I owned was a white ’89 GT that was pretty much a track car with skinnies up front. It ran like 10.70s with a small-block with just a little A-Trim,” Tom recalls. “And then I had countless notches that I started and had to sell because of financial issues. Then I had a black notch that I was working on really hard, with a 408 stroker that was close to being done. While I was building that one we decided to have a kid, so I sold that, and I had a couple of other ones at the time, but I took a 15 year break until this monster.”
Just because he put his Fox passion on pause didn’t mean that Tom had given up on wanting to build one. He put his passion aside for good reason, as he set out to start a family, and that meant reallocating some of those funds that would previously have been earmarked for project-car fun. Yet, Tom pined for a certain Fox coupe that eluded him for years.
“This car was my father’s best friend’s car. He was the second owner. For years I tried to buy it. I actually had a bunch of Fox Bodies before, but I had to sell them.” Tom says. “So, after we had my daughter, I tried to buy this car for like 12 years.”
During that time, Tom’s father was diagnosed with cancer. Tom cared for him, but he was gone in a short time. Losing his father and seeing him in pain at the end profoundly impacted Tom. He was down, and life kicked him at his lowest point.
“So a couple of weeks later, I’m driving home in my Jeep commuter car, and it caught on fire,” Tom says. “Four hours later, Bob, who was my dad’s best friend, calls me and said, ‘Hey man, if you want the car, you can have it.’ I ended up acquiring the car. He sold it to me, ultimately, because he knew that I just kind of needed to get my head right. Then it just escalated.”
That might be an understatement. Tom threw himself into the project he calls War Admiral. He worked long hours to earn the capital needed for the Fox build. Yet, even during that process, he didn’t envision the complete transformation that would ensue.
“I didn’t intend to go this crazy, but you know what happened was, the car saved my life. It’s hard to even say because I’m a grown man. We have pride, but the reality is, we have our moments too,” Tom confesses. “When I lost my father, and then everything snowballed with other life issues, Bob sold it to me. The man cried when he sold it to me, but he knew I needed something to take my mind off the things that were going on in my life. I didn’t want to let him down, because he’s my father’s best friend.”
To that end, Tom turned to Blue Sky Performance (BSP) and Restoration in Budd Lake, New Jersey, for much of the custom work and assembly. BSP completely revamped the powertrain with an On3 turbocharged, 363-cube stroker built by Hansen Racing. It is backed by a TREMEC TKX five-speed manual transmission from American Powertrain that feeds four-digit power to a factory 8.8-inch rearend bolstered with Moser 31-spline axles. Jeff Manzella wired the car, including the Holley Terminator X EFI system that controls the pushrod engine.
That potent powertrain motivates a classic Fox coupe accented by several custom touches, including bolt-on aluminum pinch-weld covers and a unique rear splitter. The car was originally a Wild Strawberry 5.0 coupe, but Tom “isn’t a red guy,” so he enlisted Jesse Barrat to spray it in Magnetic Gray Metallic.
Sitting just right on BC Forged wheels, the resulting muscular machine is befitting of the moniker Tom bestowed on it — War Admiral. Named after a Triple Crown-winning racehorse, War Admiral is also a triple threat of sleek looks, four-digit power, and street manners. It also delivers on its mission of not letting its former owner down.
“He loves it, but he’s an old-school guy. When I put 18-inch wheels on it, he would kind of make fun of me,” Tom says of the reaction from his father’s best friend. “But I took him for a ride and I think his opinion changed. He’s super happy. He’s a huge supporter.”
Seeing his former Fox become such an incredible custom ride must have been rewarding, but knowing that the car pulled Tom from the depths of despair had to make it all the more special.
“I put in countless hours of work, sleeping on the floor of a work truck through winter storms, to make the money to do it,” Tom concludes. “It’s been an adventure man, but above awards and recognition, it’s the people to me. It is appreciating the effort I put into it. That’s the best part of the whole thing.”