Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
November 4, 2002

James Sandkuhl began his driving career at the tender age of 16 with a Ford Probe, but once he had some miles under his belt, the call for a little more horsepower was given and before long, James was cruising in a 1996 Mustang that pranced the streets of San Diego, Calif., with 3.8 liters of V6 motivation.

With the rear-wheel-drive platform came a greater need for speed, and this was satisfied with exhaust modifications and a Vortech supercharger. The hopped-up pony was fast, but a need for grab-the-dollar-on-the-dash g-force spurred him to add nitrous oxide to the mix. The 3.8 performed well, but given the fact that James was trying to double its intended power output, it wasn't long before the 3.8 eventually called it quits.

At this point, James could have gone in a couple of different directions. He could either rebuild the V6, or swap in a V8 and step up again in performance. James considered the fact that he was already at the V6's performance limit, so the OK was given to commence the engine swap. Auto Corral 2 of Escondido, Calif., was put in charge of the conversion, and started by finding a 1998 4.6-liter motor and T-45 transmission. The motor was disassembled and rebuilt, and the cylinder heads were ported and polished. Then came the hard part.

"The swap wasn't pretty and there were lots of labor and parts that were needed to make it work," said James. Exchanging the 8.8 rear and trading up for the V8 brakes was just the beginning, as the computer harnesses all needed to be replaced also. "What gave us the hardest time was the fact that the 1998 Mustangs had an anti-theft system built into the computer. When we plugged it in and the computer couldn't deactivate the system, it went into theft mode and prevented us from starting the car. We had to have the computer reprogrammed to bypass it," noted James.

Selling the V6 blower kit gave young Sandkuhl some extra cash with which he purchased another Vortech kit, this one for the V8 engine. Other engine mods like a Bassani X-pipe and Flowmaster mufflers aid in the engine's breathing process, all of which is controlled by a Sean Hyland Motorsport custom computer chip.

As interesting as this engine swap is, most people will notice the horse's outward appearance first. Originally Bright Atlantic Blue, the pony wore Baby Blue flames until a driveway incident left the pony in need of repair. Jeff Dodge of Rods and Customs Unlimited had been working his magic on James's father's cars, so it was only natural for the young Sandkuhl to gravitate to the paint pros.

An Erebuni body kit was the first addition. With its open front bumper cover and sharp angles, the nose of this Mustang is pretty intimidating. This look smooths down the sides of the car to the back, where the custom rear bumper cover wraps around twin 3-inch exhaust pipes. Dodge shot the Nitro Blue color-shifting paint, as well as the new flames that accompany the eye-catching color. Critical eyes will note that the 4-inch cowl induction hood doesn't exactly look like the current crop of bonnets. That's because it's a custom carbon fiber piece from Kaminari.

James also opted for Gewalt Evolution 18-inch wheels, which definitely gave the supercharged pony some racy appeal, while at the same time rendering it unique in appearance. And of course, the car has been lowered with a set of Eibach coils and Hotchkis caster/camber plates.

Now that James Sandkuhl finally has everything ironed out in his wild ride, he informed us that the Mustang will be going through yet another change: That of a carbureted 351 Windsor.

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Rods and Customs Unlimited also took the liberty of tastefully color-matching the engine compartment to the Mustang's exterior. The Vortech supercharger pumps out 12 lbs. of boost, which has propelled the pony to a 12.6-second elapsed time.


Blatantly bucking the Cobra R wheel trend, James mounted a set of 18-inch Gewalt Evolution rims wrapped in Nitto 225/40 front and 245/40 rear rubber.
Photographer Peter Linney did an awesome job of getting the paint to change its hues for the camera. Note in one picture how the dashboard is blue and in the other it is green. Jeff Dodge of Rods and Customs did the paintwork, while P&P Upholstery of El Cajon, Calif. stitched the unique seats.
For interior entertainment, James has a Clarion CL625 head unit hooked up to a 6.5-inch television that has been mounted in-dash. A VCR and Sony Playstation are also on board.
Matrix Generation II tail lamps offer an aggressive look, but it's more likely that the custom 71-inch APR aluminum wing will attract your attention.
James Sandkuhl comes from a true Ford family. His father owns three, his late brother owned a Ranger, and James also has a '98 Explorer to tool around in. Regardless of changes, brand loyalty holds true for this family.