A Dealership Actually Did This?? Was it Legal at the Time?

By: Bob Goodson
July 24, 2023

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Stage 1 Options – Bleakley Ford Impressor

The likelihood of any of this happening today on the dealer level is next to nil due to federal regulations and all of the computer programmed equipment.

A lot of the Bleakley Impressor Stage 1 options are things that most all five liter owners did on their own and are well known in those circles today.  We are discussing the list of mods of the Stage 1 in this article. Imagine walking into a dealer and they’re offering to do these mods for you before delivery.

Bleakley Ford is becoming synonymous with 1980’s and early 1990’s Ford performance among Fox Mustang Collectors.  As we’ve talked about before, they touted themselves as the largest Ford Motorsport parts dealer in the country.  Being located in the Atlanta, GA area, it is very likely that this was the case.  In talking with people who lived within a three hour radius of Bleakley, they would drive there just to look at the cars they had on the lot and in the showroom.  We were also told that if you wanted a Ford Motorsport part the same day, you could drive there to buy it.  Bleakley always had the parts in stock.  Which makes sense because they were modifying the cars they sold with those parts.

Recently we’ve been asked if Bleakley created Impressor’s out of more than the Saleen Mustangs at the time and the honest answer is we don’t know.  It is very possible that Bleakley offered this package on regular 5.0 vehicles.  And if you’re from that area, email us if you have inside info. As of this writing, the only ones we are aware of are Saleen Foxbody Mustangs. Now, Bleakley Ford did create a model called the GX.  This was a completely in house build using both Saleen and Ford Motorsport parts.  The cars looks emulate a Saleen SC, but is a complete in house build.

Here’s an article by the owner of GX – 01.

1993 MUSTANG GX 01

With the Impressor there were two stages offered by Bleakley.  Keep in mind from a sales perspective that you have to entertain a couple of options to meet the financial ability of customers.  Not all customers can afford one level so if you create multiple tiers that opens the opportunity to sell to more people. Also, keep in mind that if a customer wanted any part of these Stage options and was willing to pay for it, Bleakley would sell it and install it.  That’s Sales 101.  Close the deal. So there may be cars out there with Ford Motorsport parts installed at Bleakley at the time of purchase. However, you’ll need documentation to prove this was done.  AND, that doesn’t mean it is an “Impressor” car.  But it would be a Bleakley Ford modified vehicle. 

Above is a Bleakley Ford Impressor Saleen that came with both Stage 1 and Stage 2 options.  We’ll discuss the Stage 2 in a future article.  We’re covering the Stage 1 options in this article.

The picture above is a copy of the Bleakley Ford Impressor literature.  The first two line items were removing the air silencer and adding in a K&N panel filter.  These two mods alone were proven by the magazines at the time to increase horsepower by anywhere from 3-5hp. It definitely increased throttle response and allowed the intake system leading to the throttle body to flow better.  Better flow = more horsepower. 

The next line item below the panel filter is headers.  Changing the factory headers out created more flow on the exhaust side.  The factory headers, although tubular from 1985-1993, still had some restrictions due to their design.  The factory tubular headers were a better flowing architecture over the old “log style” cast iron headers but they had some kinks and bends that weren’t optimal for peak performance.  Changing them out to the larger tube headers that were mandrel bent increased air flow out of the motor.  

Below the headers there is a muffler change from factory.  Walker-Dynomax was one of the manufacturers of the OEM Ford exhaust systems on the five liter Mustangs. But the Dynomax muffler system installed on some, we say some because not all got these mufflers, of the Bleakley Impressors were a shorter muffler body and flowed better than factory.  

The High Polished valve covers were just an appearance mod that helped spruce up the engine bay.  But the 160* thermostat was a move in the right direction but that was an old school mod on the carburetor motors.  It worked really well back in the days of non computer controlled engines.  This thermostat temp would later be proven to hinder performance because the temp was too low for the computer to transition from one program loop to another.  It did do what was advertised in richening up the mixture, but the perfect temp of 180* thermostats would later be proven by magazines to be more beneficial. 

The last performance mod on the list is one that all 5.0 Mustang owners did right out of the gate. Even on cars under warranty, this was something that could be done with a single turn of a wrench and a timing light.  Bumping the timing from the stock 10* to 12* or even 14*.  This really increased throttle response off idle and honestly gave a big seat of the pants that could be felt when driving.  

I’ll add that when I’m doing this final mod that I will bump the timing to 12* and run the car.  If it doesn’t “ping” or “knock” at high rpm that I would bump it one more degree until it did ping and knock and then bump it back a degree.  

Doing this allows for the maximum timing that could be run on that engine.  Due to the tolerances of the engine builds you can have variances in engine cylinder compression which could allow for more or less timing depending on the specific tolerance of that engine.  Some engines have tighter tolerances and run great while others are a little “soft” due to their tolerances being more on the “outer edges” of those quality control numbers”. 

That’s all that was done on an Impressor Stage 1 equipped vehicle.  These mods outlined here were the first things I did to my 1988 GT when I bought it.  Those things along with a Hurst Competition shifter were what I added to the car within the first 60 days of ownership. These were such common “mods” to Foxbody owners back then to the point of the first conversation with a first time 5.0 owner being “did you bump the timing”  and “remove that air silencer”.  

Stay tuned… we’ll be discussing the Stage 2 options next. Those were a bit more involved.  The Motor was actually taken down to the long block for those Stage 2 mods.


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