Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
October 17, 2013

Horse Sense: There are a few discrepancies regarding the deleted options regarding GTS and 248A packages, but both were void of rear wings, power windows, power seats, anti-lock brakes, and other power accessories.

Some things you can't live down. No matter how long it's been since you flipped over the handlebars on your bicycle, you're always going to be known as Flip. No matter how many years pass, if you've taken out a couple front splitters, no one's ever going to toss you the keys without a comment. Whatever screw-up you may have endured, you won't be able to escape it—especially that time you redlit at that race.

As you have have guessed, Leo Sturm redlit at a national race in front of everyone and their brother. At the 2001 Modular Shootout, Leo ran the Two-Valve Naturally Aspirated class in the car you see here, and unfortunately, he redlit in the first round. To add insult to injury, Leo had one of the quicker cars in his class.

Before we redlight on this story, let's back up and stage again. Leo bought the 248A GT as a new dealer demo in March 1997. If you remember, the 248A name given to the '96 equivalent of the '95 GTS. The GTS was a pushrod offering, but the 248A package carried the bare-bones, LX-style style into the modular era.

Yep, just a plain black Mustang, but this author absolutely approves of Leo’s choice of 5Zigen FN01R-C wheels. In a sea of me-too wheels, the 5Zigens are distinguishable enough to lend a different look to his GT. But to make sure no one gets confused, Leo has added a Cobra front bumper cover and a ‘95 Cobra R hood. Leo has the 5Zigens for street and drag duty, as well as a set of Cobra R wheels for open-track/autocross action. If you see the car in its open-track form, resist the urge to push it around the parking lot, lifting yourself up on the wing, and yelling, “wheeeeee!” Sorry, Leo.

Leo bought his 248A GT his first day back in the states after a tour in South Korea while serving in the U.S. Army. “It was my daily driver and only car,” Leo says. That didn't keep Leo from taking the car to the track, though. He started out with a best-of 14.7/98 mph, but he was able to wittle that number down to a 13.8/102 mph with the stock engine.

When the PI swaps were all the rage, Leo jumped on the bandwagon, but with a complete engine, not just the heads and intake. Around the time of the infamous, at least in Leo's mind, 2001 Modular Shootout at Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina, his times dropped into the 12.7 range at over 108 mph.

Going in a straight line wasn't Leo's primary focus. While drag racing, Leo also auto-crossed the GT, and its suspension was being optimized for that style of competition. To that end, Leo wanted to take some weight off the car's front end so he added a Mark 8 aluminum short-block with ported PI heads, stock cams, and a PI intake. To make the car handle at that time, Leo added Tokico shocks and struts, and Steeda Autosports upper and lower control arms. Mostly what Leo was doing was improving his own driver skill until he could really devote time, effort, and funds toward a dedicated open-track/autocross suspension.

In the meantime, Mark 8 short-block redlit, developing a death knock, signaling its race in life was over. It was at this time that Leo retired the GT from daily-driver duties, focusing on a big cube, Four-Valve conversion. Unfortunately, with a new house and new career, progress was slow. Fortunately, Leo had a couple aces up his sleeve—namely Revolution Automotive's Adam Browne and A.H.M. Performance.

Even with those guys in his corner, though, it still took a few years to get the car to this point. Remember, this was before you could go plop down $6,500 and buy a Coyote crate engine, and Leo wanted a combination that made more average horsepower under the curve.

To make that possible, A.H.M. Performance took a Teksid block and added a Kellogg stroker crank, Manley billet rods, custom Diamond pistons, and ported '04 Cobra heads with Crower Stage 3 cams to the mix. For induction, a short-runner Lincoln Aviator lower was matched to a custom MA Motorsports custom upper with an Accufab throttle body, and an '04 Cobra mass air.

When yours truly photographed the car at the second-annual 5.0 Shootout at MIR in 2012, it featured this custom intake arrangement. Now the car has a Ford Racing FR500 Daytona prototype intake on it. Leo says the car now makes on pump gas what it used to make on race gas, which is 451 horsepower and 394 lb-ft of torque at Revolution Automotive. He gave up a little torque with the FR500 intake, but with Leo’s GT spending much of its time at the drag strip or open-track event, the engine is a regular resident on the right side of the tach. Leo’s quest for more horsepower never ends, and we like that.

After our camera got a close look at Leo's GT, he has since replaced the intake with an FR500 intake modified by Roush Yates for a Daytona prototype race engine. To make this swap more compatible with Leo's needs, he outfitted the car with a Mach 1 computer and harness from headlights to taillights. The Mach 1 computer makes it a little easier to tune the car during high rpm romps when other Mustang computers start getting flaky in the tach's upper range. It will also come in handy because Leo's future plans call for traction control and anti-lock brakes.

We saw Leo and his GT in person running in the high-rpm range at the 5.0 Shootout at MIR in 2012. We really didn't have preconceived plans to shoot the car at the event, but after seeing Leo run 11.1s in street trim, then 10.90s on slicks, we couldn't help ourselves. It had been a long time since we had seen the car, and we weren't sure when we'd have another chance to shoot it. Leo still serves in the Maryland National Guard, and he's already had a stint overseas, so we jumped on it.

Leo calls his GT a jack of all trades. Leo says, “It holds its own at an autocross; runs fast at open-track days; can rip off low-11s, high-10s at the drag strip; and is pretty docile on the street.” Leo says those traits are the neverending theme to the car. “It's a little schitzophrenic in that respect, and unfortunately, gets drag raced more than open-tracked.”

One thing we did notice as he made several runs at the 5.0 Shootout, Leo never once redlit. So can we put this “red light” to bed?! Hmmm ... are you crazy? We never forget.


5.0 Tech Specs

Engine and Drivetrain
Block: Teksid aluminum, 3.710-in bore
Crankshaft: Kellogg Stroker 3.75-in
Rods: Manley billet I-beam
Pistons: Diamond custom, lightweight flat-top
Camshafts: Crower Stage 3
Cylinder heads: '04 Cobra, AHM Performance-ported w/ Ford GT followers, and PAC Racing valvesprings
Intake manifold: Lincoln Aviator lower w/ MA Motorsports' custom upper, Accufab throttle body, and '04 Cobra mass air
Fuel system: Walbro 255-lph fuel pump w/ Steeda Autosports fuel rails, Ford Racing 42-lb/hr injectors, and an Aeromotive regulator
Exhaust: SLP 13/4-in long-tube headers w/ X-shape crossover pipe, MAC Flowpath mufflers, and Pypes Performance polished tailpipes
Transmission: Tremec T56 Magnum w/ McLeod RST clutch, Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft, and a Tremec shifter
Rearend: 8.8 w/ Torsen T2 differential, 4.30 gears, and Ford Racing 31-spline axles

Electronics
Engine management: '03 Mach 1 computer, Revolution Automotive-tuned via SCT XCal2
Ignition: '03 Mach 1 coil-on-plug w/ NGK TR6 plugs
Gauges: '01 Cobra cluster w/ Auto Meter Phantom water temp, wideband, and oil pressure gauges

Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member: Maximum Motorsports tubular
A-arms: Maximum Motorsports tubular
Struts: Koni single-adjustable
Springs: Maximum Motorsports coilover 275 in-lb
Brakes: Baer T4 four-piston calipers w/ EBC 13-in rotors and pads
Wheels: 5Zigen FN01R-C, 17x8-in
Tires: Nitto 555 245/45-17

Rear suspension
Shocks: Koni double-adjustable
Springs: Maximum Motorsports Race
Control Arms: Maximum Motorsports Weight Jacker lowers w/ Maximum Motorsports torque arm and Maximum Motorsports Panhard bar
Brakes: '03 Mach 1 w/ EBC rotors and pads
Wheels: 5Zigen FN01R-C 17x10-in
Tires: Nitto NT05 drag radial 315/35-17