Drew Phillips
June 1, 2013

Ever since he was a teenager Paul Fercho has worked hard to be able to afford his passion for cars, particularly the Ford Mustang.

"My first real car was a 1967 Ford Mustang 390 GTA fastback," he tells us. "I worked for a year and a half as a dishwasher and saved every penny. I bought it for $3,400 back in 1985."

Paul had to eventually sell his 1967, but his love for Mustangs continued into his adulthood when he purchased a 2005 Mustang GT. While he used the car as a daily driver, he also spent plenty of time at the drag strip. Thanks to a twin-screw supercharger and a modified suspension setup he ran consistent 10.60s in the quarter-mile. All of that ended, though, in an unfortunate accident.

"One day on the way to work I got hit by a semi-truck in the driver door, and the rollbar saved my life," Paul remembers. "I had a broken pelvis and two broken ribs, but the car was totaled."

With his Mustang written off, he decided to build the car he always wanted, a big-block Ford. "Because of the accident I decided that life is short and that I wasn't going to wait anymore. I've always wanted a big block Ford, so I went ahead and did it." The catch, however, is that Paul wanted to put the big-block into an S197 Mustang.

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To make the build as cheap as possible. he purchased a '06 Mustang that didn't have an engine and transmission. He also bought his wrecked Mustang back from the insurance company and pulled out all of the modified suspension components that hadn't been damaged in the accident.

For the engine, though, Paul didn't hold back. He ordered Ford Racing's 460 iron-block (PN M-6010-A460), turning it over to Vrbancic Bros Racing Engines in Ontario, California, to complete the build. The block was bored out to 572 ci, then filled out with items like an Eagle 4340 steel crankshaft, Diamond 16:1 forged pistons, Eagle 6.700 H-beam connecting rods, ARP L19 rod bolts, Comp Cams solid-rollers, Manley Nextek valvesprings and Kaase P51 aluminum cylinder heads.

For airflow, a Holley 1150 Dominator carburetor and a Trick Flow Mafia 4500 intake manifold are on the top end, while a custom set of headers from Overkill Fabrication in La Verne, California, handle the exiting of exhaust gases.

With everything said and done, the engine produces an impressive 924 hp at 6,900 rpm and 781 lb-ft torque at 5,000 rpm at the crank. An ATI ProGlide straight-cut transmission, Strange Engineering driveshaf, and a Currie 9-inch rearend direct the horsepower to the rear wheels.

While swapping out the 4.6-liter Three-Valve V-8 for a big-block V-8 could be considered fairly difficult, Paul says it's easier than you might think. "It's not really a big deal," he tells us. "Probably the most difficult part is the electric—how much functionality you want to keep with the stock computer. But as far as physically fitting a big-block Ford into these cars, it's easy. The width was perfect. The engine is 2.5 inches longer than the Three-Valve V-8, but as far as the width goes, it's exactly the same. So it was a easy installation." Paul says the only items required to install the big-block into the S197 engine bay are a custom set of motor mounts and a custom transmission mount.

For the suspension and chassis setup Paul kept it simple, using many of the same components on his previous car. In front, the stock struts and springs are still in place, although a tubular K-member and tubular A-arms from BMR Fabrication replace the stock pieces. The rear has been modified more extensively, featuring Strange Engineering double-adjustable coil-overs and BMR suspension gear. Paul also replaced the stock brakes with a set of Strange drag race brakes with lightweight slotted rotors and billet aluminum calipers front and rear.

While Paul's Mustang is a full-blown race car, he wanted to keep the look of a street-driven car. "Even though it is a race car, when people look at it I don't want them to think it's a race car," he tells us. Regardless, much of the body panels have been changed out for lighter components. The carbon-fiber, 4-inch cowl hood and trunklid save several pounds over the factory panels, as do the JPC front and rear bumper supports that replace the stock crash guards.

Inside the same theme continues. The 10-point, 8.50-certified rollcage and Kirkey race seat give away the car's true purpose, but Paul kept the factory dash and door panels to maintain a street-car look. Even so, he still managed to take plenty of weight out of the car. All of the mechanicals, including the power windows, were removed from behind the door panels and any unnecessary wiring was removed from behind the dash. The rest of the interior features an MMR rear seat-delete kit, Momo Race 3000 steering wheel, Auto Meter gauges in the center stack, and an Auto Meter 5-inch tachometer and shift light mounted on the dash.

Paul finally completed his car, constructed almost entirely by himself in his driveway, and took it out to the track in August 2011, a little more than one and a half years after he first started the project.

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"I was a little scared at first because I didn't know what to expect," he remembers. Paul had nothing to worry about, though, as his new Mustang proved to be even faster than his previous one, running consistent 9.4s in the quarter-mile. Paul expects the car to run further, though, as he has yet to make a pass with the recently installed nitrous system engaged. His goal is 8.70 in the quarter and 5.50 in the eighth. He'll have plenty of opportunities to practice, though, as he races in PSCA and Street Car Super Nationals events regularly.

Paul would like to thank the many vendors that made his big-block S197 Mustang happen, as well as the members over at www.S197forum.com, who didn't shun him when he stepped away from the Ford modular motor.

You can see more details about the build and the parts used at his website, www.Psfracer.com.

Horse Sense: After a near-death accident that totaled his '05 Mustang, Paul Fercho decided that he wasn't going to wait any longer to build his dream car. By combining a big-block V-8 with the S197 platform, he built his ultimate Mustang that takes old-school horsepower and blends it with new-school looks.

You might think that a big-block V-8 wouldn’t fit in the S197 Mustang’s engine bay, but it’s the same width and just 2.5 inches longer than the Three-Valve 4.6-liter V-8. No fabrication was needed, and a set of custom engine mounts and a custom transmission mount were the only items required for the install.

5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block
Ford Racing A460 iron
Crankshaft
Eagle 4340 forged-steel
Rods
Eagle 6.700 H-beam with ARP L19 rod bolts
Pistons
Diamond forged aluminum
Camshafts
Comp Cams solid-roller w/ Crower solid-roller lifters
Cylinder heads
Kaase P51 aluminum
Intake manifold
Trick Flow Mafia 4500 intake w/ Holley 1150 Dominator from The Carb Shop
Power Adder
Nitrous Outlet fogger
Fuel system
Aeromotive A2000 pump with pro stock regulators
Exhaust
Custom headers by Overkill Fabrication w/ Vibrant 4-in bullet mufflers
Transmission
ATI ProGlide Powerglide w/ ATI 9-in Treemaster torque converter
Rearend
Currie 9-in
Electronics
Ignition
MSD 7AL Plus and Pro Billet Distributor
Gauges
Auto Meter 5-in tachometer
Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member
Stock stamped-steel
A-arms
Stock reverse-L
Struts
Stock
Springs
Stock
Brakes
Strange lightweight slotted rotors w/ billet calipers
Wheels
Bogart 15x3.5-in
Tires
Moroso 28x4.5-in PS2
Rear suspension
Shocks
Strange double-adjustable coilovers
Springs
Strange
Brakes
Strange lightweight slotted rotors w/ billet calipers
Wheels
Bogart 15x10-in
Tires
Mickey Thompson 29.5x10.5-in ET drag slicks
'06 Mustang