Michael Johnson Associate Editor
May 1, 2009
Photos By: The 5.0&SF Staff, Dan Schoneck, Alan Hurley, Scott Spandet, Matt Simonds, Jerome Shumate, Matt Knab, John King, Cory Harris, Andy Barth, Chuck Hamstra

Ryan Vitiritto
Well, we have to be honest-when we were going through the judging process, we really didn't have Ryan Vitiritto's Mustang pegged as the Nitto Tire KOTS winner. However, as you see, here he is, the Nitto Tire King of the Street winner.

If there was ever an example of the third time being the charm, Ryan's case is it. At this year's KOTS, Ryan was like a baseball player at the World Series, just happy to be there. He entered the competition two years ago only to blow up the engine right before the event, forcing him to sit out. Last year he sold his Cobra to Fred White right before the King of the Street. We loved the Cobra and he drove it in the Drag Race portion, but Fred owned the car, so technically Ryan still wasn't an official KOTS competitor. This time around Ryan was serious about the KOTS, and he wasn't about to let anything stop him from being an official competitor.

Starting with a '00 Mustang V-6 salvage title car, Ryan purchased an '03 Cobra donor car to make for an easy swap. The Cobra's drivetrain was swapped into the V-6 car, as well as all the Cobra exterior pieces. An H.O. Fibertrends cowl hood was added up front, and a Saleen S281 wing found its way out back.

Not only did Ryan save a little coin by going the V-6 route, but he was also able to save a little weight over a factory Cobra. The car itself weighs in at 3,180 pounds. For Ryan's sake, we'll withhold the car's curb weight, but that number still comes in lighter than a genuine '03-'04 Cobra.

Ryan says he was able to keep weight off the car by adding manual brakes and steering, lightweight racing seats, and removal of the wiring harnesses thanks to a Big Stuff 3, a rear-seat delete, and a tubular K-member. Ryan says he weighed the car at a couple different scales because he didn't think the first one was correct. It was, but with all these race-type additions, how would the car fare in the Ride and Drive? You're about to find out.

For paint, Ryan chose to keep it simple, going black with silver graphics. Weld Alumastar wheels fit perfectly with the car's theme. Ryan's former Cobra was set up like this, although white with orange stripes. We loved the stance of that Cobra, and this car is equally stunning. It took the spring of 2008 to build.

As part of the 5.0&SF staff, we had the enviable task of judging the fruits of his labor. We'll start with the bad. Remember the previously mentioned manual brakes and steering? What was Ryan thinking? Did he forget this was the King of the Street? Sure, a lot of people run manual brakes and steering on the street, but those cars aren't in the KOTS. Furthermore, the car features Tokico Drag front struts. Seriously? And the cage boasts welded door bars, and those lightweight race seats sport five-point harnesses. Come on, Ryan, did you fall and hit your head? After a few minutes of driving Ryan's car, we knew we were driving a race car on the street.

Those weren't the only issues we ran across on the Ride and Drive. The car had a low-rpm bucking problem, making me feel like a professional bull rider regular. Once the rpm was up past 2,000, the car was happier than Tech Editor Jones after a morning stop at 'Buckies (Starbucks, that is).

Out of all the KOTS cars, Ryan's was one of the hardest to get used to. The first few driving moments were truly an adventure. For yours truly, it reminded me of my dad letting someone borrow one of his cars, but he would go through a checklist of things that were wrong with the car before the person could drive off in said vehicle. We wish Ryan had given us a heads-up on the brakes and steering. Instead, we had to find out on our own. Good thing he was riding shotgun.