Founded on the idea that Fox Body Mustangs needed restoration gear too, Late Model Restoration entered the Mustang chat 24 years ago. Over the decades, its name and product offerings evolved with the times, but its commitment to the hobby and its customers still permeates everything the company does. A prime example of that commitment is the company’s annual LMR Cruise In.
Established to celebrate the cars and customers that keep the company moving forward, this event is free for all to attend and offers the kind of experiences that draw locals and long-distance travelers alike. Although this year’s Fast Friday drag racing event at the Texas Motorplex was canceled due to weather, Saturday’s Cruise In provided fun runs around the NASCAR oval and parade laps around the infield autocross.
From sunrise, the speedway filled with Fords of all shapes and sizes, though Mustangs dominated the field. Special displays adorned the garages with unique and rare machinery, including a collection of rare SVT Mustang Cobra Rs from 1995 and 2000. Outside those garages were groups of Foxes, SVT Lightnings, and Terminators. Beyond the garage area, thousands of cars filled the infield, and many of those cars left their spots to join the on-track action. This scribe was invited out to document the proceedings. It was a lot to cover in just a day, but it was a day filled with fun, friends, and great cars. Although there is no official show or awards at the informal event, we couldn’t help but put together a list of our favorites from this year’s installment of the ever-growing event.
While your author was smitten by all the 2000 Cobra Rs on the property, those cars were mostly pristine machines. As the event wound down, all the Cobra Rs on the property made three laps at speed around the Texas Motor Speedway before assembling for a group photo on the track. Yours truly hitched a ride in Todd Michel’s 1995 SVT Mustang Cobra R, which boasts a road racing pedigree. The hotted-up R-model still runs the same race-spec controller from its competition days, but Michel now enjoys running the car in open-track events. It sounded and felt great at speed on the NASCAR oval, reminding this author of the ’00 Cobra R media drive in which Ford SVT brought out a few ’95 R-models for comparison.
Picking a list of favorites is an exercise in personal bias, and the car that put this writer on the path of pony car appreciation was the 1982 Mustang GT. Ford exclaimed that the Boss was back as the 157-horsepower 5.0-liter HO engine supplanted the 120-horse 4.2-liter engine that underwhelmed in the ’81 GT. The combination of the 5.0-liter engine and the sharp lines that recalled the ’79 Pace Car made the ’82 a milestone machine. While this period-correct silver model wasn’t the most pristine car at the Cruise In, it tugged at the heartstrings.
While Mustangs receive most of the Fox-platform attention, there were more than a dozen other vehicles based on this storied foundation. One such vehicle was the Thunderbird, and it was hard not to be smitten by Adam Delamielleure’s clean and mean ’88 T-Bird powered by a naturally aspirated Gen -1 Coyote 5.0-liter engine from an F-150, enhanced by BBK long-tube headers and a JLT cold-air intake. This V8 powerhouse is backed by a Silver Sport-prepped TREMEC Magnum six-speed manual transmission. This stealthy, black sleeper looks like a fun ride.
Rare SSP Coupe
Ford produced thousands of Mustangs optioned with the Special Service Package from 1982 through 1993. These vehicles served duty with government agencies, primarily as police vehicles before being auctioned off. This pristine example served and protected as one of just seven SSP Mustangs deployed with the Kansas Highway Patrol. From March of ’92 through January of ’95, Trooper Greg Kyser patrolled the highways of southeastern Kansas in this coupe. It is still equipped with all the law enforcement upgrades and looks even better in 2023 than it did on the first day it pulled over a speeder.
You might be noticing a theme here. It’s no secret that LMR began with the idea of supplying restoration parts for Fox Mustangs. Likewise, this writer will always have a soft spot for Fox stallions. As such, they dominated this list, and when it comes to aero-nose Foxes, it’s hard to go wrong with a Calypso coupe. While modern engine swaps are all the rage with many Fox builds, this example rocks a period-correct style, from the chrome Cobra wheels to the polished Vortech blower under the hood. That blower inhales through a chromed Power Pipe and boosts a pushrod 5.0-liter via a classic GT-40 tubular intake manifold. The boost is cooled by a Snow Performance water-meth injection system, and the whole combo looks great in the cleaned-up engine compartment.
It’s always fun running into familiar faces and machines. Your author once wrote a feature story about Wes Ryan’s 1993 Mustang GT. It served as his family vehicle for years, but he was forced to sell it to pay for his wife’s cancer treatments. Eventually, his children plotted to buy the car back and surprise him with it. Their goal was to revitalize it a little bit at a time, but the story garnered local media coverage that caught the attention of Ford. The Blue Oval enlisted Hennessey to completely revamp the Fox hatch with a litany of Ford Performance gear, including a Gen-3 Coyote crate engine swap.
The Fox era began with a significant stallion, as Ford constructed a special model as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 in 1979. The first example of these cars held court in the garage during the LMR Cruise In ’23. This car is in pristine condition, looking better than the day the checkered flag dropped at the Brickyard back in ’79, right down to those immaculate TRX wheels.
The LMR Cruise In attracts a lot of rare and unique machinery, including this preproduction 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra, one of 18 such examples constructed in 1992. This particular car was used as a model for media photography and a test vehicle for California emissions certification.
When it comes to classic Mustangs, they weren’t as numerous at the LMR Cruise In, but this one shone brighter than the rest. It’s tough to beat a ’69 Fastback in any form, but this one was elevated to a higher plane with immaculate paintwork, a custom interior, and a nicely detailed Coyote swap holding court in a sanitary engine compartment. The clean presentation even extends to the trunk, which is finished and carpeted. This is the kind of car that should collect trophies wherever it goes and shows.
“The current Fox Mustang craze is driven by a mixture of nostalgia from those who were there when the cars were new and appreciation from those who wish they were around back then. A car that brings those vibes together in one package is the TimeFox, a retro-tastic 1998 Mustang GT with a 3-inch widebody, custom aerodynamics, and an Australian Ford Barra 4.0-liter engine swap under the hood. Inside, it features plaid interior accents and a straight-out-of-the-’80s car phone mounted to the parking brake handle. The entire vehicle is covered in an ’80s-inspired, brightly colored wrap, accented by a large rear wing and those rear hatch glass louvers, which were required back in the day. In a skulk of impressive Foxes, this back-to-the-future build is different enough to stand out.
The company is already planning Cruise In ’24, which is sure to be even bigger as LMR celebrates 25 years in business, coinciding with the Mustang’s 60th birthday in the same year. Until then, we hope you enjoyed our Top 10 list from this year’s event. With so many great cars on display at the LMR Cruise In 2023, it was a challenge to narrow our list down to just 10. However, that’s what we signed up for, and we look forward to giving it another shot next year.