Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
June 1, 2013

We've seen a few Mustangs in our day. We've also been asked to consider a few for the magazine—just a few. As you might imagine, we've grown a bit jaded.

It's our gig to pick the best Mustangs for the magazine. So it's often with some trepidation that we approach a car someone enthusiastically asked us to check out. Such was the case at the 2012 Mustang Week Meet 'N Greet. What could have been a here-we-go-again moment became love at first sight. We couldn't ask to shoot the car for the magazine fast enough.

We love it when a story has a happy ending. However, it started in a way that might have made your Strawberry Fox-loving scribe break into tears.

"The car started as a Wild Strawberry 1991 with a mild 302. It had new paint but Strawberry didn't pop enough," explained Charles Cartrette. "So we went to Electric Currant with candy and House of Kolor charcoal graphics. Then I took the car home and it never saw the light of day."

It never saw daylight because Charles just wasn't satisfied with it. We might have finally met someone who holds his cars to a standard that would exceed even the most passionate enthusiast.

"I decided I wanted a smoothed engine bay. It snowballed from there. From just a simple smoothed engine bay, it evolved into a totally smooth firewall, framerails, radiator panel, and more. Nothing was left untouched," Charles explained. "I wanted a Fox-body unlike anything that had been done: smoothed everything, mini-tubbed, painted, cleared, and a highly detailed undercarriage."

Working with his friends Shawn Thompson, Tony Robbins, David Hardie, and Corey Spann, Charles took the car down to the bare shell and the crew did just what he had in mind, smoothing every nook and cranny and prepping it for a unique custom blue paint that would deliver the pop he sought. In the end, the car and all its parts absorbed seven gallons of this one-off hue.

With a such a detailed chassis ready to go, there's no way the mild 302 was going back into this Fox chassis. "I already had a Dart 327 setup with a turbo ready to power the car," Charles said. "But that had already been done. I now had bigger goals. I wanted a Fox unlike anything ever seen or built."

That's certainly a bold plan. Obviously, a pushrod engine was old hat for a car like this, but a straight Modular swap wouldn't do either. Instead Charles found a stout Modular engine equipped with a turbo setup. "The powerplant and tranny came from a donor car already making 723 horsepower," Charles said. "It had run 10.11 at 143 mph with a bad solenoid on the wastegate."

To that combo, he added a more efficient turbo and replaced the Mach 1 intake with the more purposeful Sullivan intake you see in the photos. Obviously the engine received a fair amount of detailing before it ended up in the car, but its performance stats from previously powering a hatchback Fox gave the car instant performance cred.

Like the clean presentation of the painted and polished Modular in the super-sano engine compartment, the car's interior follows a similar path. To a highly coveted black interior, Charles and his pals added a few choice pieces to make it fit in with the car's overall presentation.

While the interior is nice and the engine compartment is out of this world, it's the car's underside that really pushes the coupe to that next plateau. "The first time we slid the mirrors under the car, we were stunned," he said. "What we had created was so far ahead of what we had envisioned. Seventy-thousand dollars later, I arrived and Mustang Week and it took Best of Show."

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Yeah, even when you start with a simple Fox, you can't go that far without spending a bit of cash on it. That said, people spend that and more on newer Mustangs that don't stand out quite like this car. Charles summed it up perfectly with his estimation of the car's rear visage: "From the side it looks normal, but from the rear, the sumped tank and 345/40-18s scream ‘pure sick.'"

As much as he loved the car, Charles lost his sister shortly after its completion. Eventually he associated the time spent on its build with time he could have spent with her. It made it difficult to enjoy the car, so he ended up parting ways with it and picking up a Terminator droptop in the process.

Though he moved on from this Fox, he hasn't moved on from loving Fox projects. He is planning another build to debut at Mustang Week 2013. He also hopes to move forward with his own shop, Fox by Design. He wants what he calls a "community shop," where he can help fellow enthusiasts with their projects. If it blossoms into a business, he will run with it—but if not, he can simply continue with the hobby he loves.

Horse Sense: Charles makes his living as a commercial beekeeper. He and a partner raise, care for, and supply bees for agricultural use. They deliver their bees as far away as California and Maine to facilitate crops that need pollination.

The polished fuel sump and pumps are but a hint of the attention to detail paid outside, inside, and underneath of Charles’ stunning coupe. “I had been sitting on a set of factory Carlite coupe windows for years, so now it was time for them to shine,” Charles said of the project.

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5.0 Tech Specs

Engine and Drivetrain

Block
2003 Mustang Cobra iron
Crankshaft
2003 Mustang Cobra forged
Rods
2003 Mustang Cobra Manley forged
Pistons
2003 Mustang Cobra
Camshafts
2003 Mustang Cobra
Cylinder heads
2003 Mustang Cobra Four-Valve aluminum
Intake manifold
Sullivan sheetmetal w/ Accufab monoblade throttle body
Power Adder
Turbonetics 76mm turbo w/ Hellion intercooler and Zex 75 shot
Fuel system
Aeromotive Pro Series fuel pump w/ -12 feed, -10 return lines, Sullivan fuel rails, and 80-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust
Jet Hot-coated '03 Mustang Cobra manifolds w/ SLP mufflers and tailpipes
Transmission
ProMotion-prepped Tremec T-56 six-speed manual w/ McLeod Racing RXT twin-disc clutch, aluminum driveshaft, and Pro-5.0 shifter
Rearend
8.8-in w/ Shelby GT500 differential, 3.27 gears, and 31-spline axles

Electronics

Engine management
'03 Mustang Cobra PCM w/ Ron Francis wiring harness and an SCT tune
Ignition
MSD w/ NGK spark plugs
Gauges
Auto Meter

Suspension and Chassis

Front suspension
K-member
UPR Products
A-arms
UPR Products
Struts
QA1
Springs
UPR Products
Brakes
Mustang Cobra 13-in
Wheels
True Forged Chicanes, 18x8-in
Tires
Nitto 555, 225/40-18
Rear suspension
Shocks
QA1
Springs
UPR Products
Control Arms
Stock
Brakes
Cobra 11.5-in
Wheels
True Forged Chicane, 18x13-in
Tires
BFGoodrich Drag Radial, 345/30-18
'91 Mustang LX