5.0 Mustang & Super FordsFeatured Vehicles
1998 Ford Mustang GT - Staying Power
Christopher Alfieri stuck with his first Mustang and learned a powerful lesson
Our story begins on familiar note as a budding Mustang enthusiast snags a lighly used SN-95 coupe—thanks to his father's financial assistance—at the ripe young age of 16. That was more than a dozen years ago in 2000, and the Pony in question was an unremarkable, black-on-black '98 six-banger.
For too many of us, those first cars never seem to last, so where our tale happily departs from the norm is that Christopher Alfieri still owns his first Mustang. However, you'd now be hard pressed to guess its humble beginnings. Which is not to say the relationship hasn't had its ups and downs…
Far from a golden-spoon story, Christopher's deal was that he was completely on his own for all insurance, gas, and maintenance, as well as for any modifications he had in mind. Of course, he had plenty in mind, 'cause what he had really wanted was a Cobra. But the economic realities of a teenager meant moving slowly, detailing cars after school to finance some mostly visual bolt-ons that he installed himself. Still, by his senior year in high school, his coupe had been lowered, wore some aftermarket body enhancements, some 4.10 gears, and was even rigged with a 100-shot of dry nitrous.
By 2004, that giggle gas had taken its toll on the aging V-6. At that point, Christopher could have sold his coupe and bought a Cobra, but says he had become quite attached to the car. So he instead decided to muscle it up with a V-8 swap. He bought a used 351W truck block, and sent it off to be bumped to 393 cubes with a stroker kit and some (what he thought were new) AFR 205cc heads.
By then, he was working at a shop called Mustang Services and Performance in Marietta, Georgia, so he had the skills, facilities, and a few co-workers to help him with the transplant. Even so, it took 10 months of after-hours effort, but when his SN-95 finally reemerged, its 393 small-block was nestled in a UPR tubular K-member, and bolted to a Tremec TKO 500 gearbox and a built 8.8-inch housing. It then rolled on 18-inch Saleen rims wrapped in Nitto rubber.
In 2005, that shop was sold and Christopher opted to attend college. Meanwhile, his new 393 Windsor combo wasn't running too well and kept puking head gaskets, so he hooked up with Jeff Harris, who then owned Pro Speed performance in Powder Springs, Georgia, to see why. Upon teardown, it was discovered that warped heads and a damaged piston were the culprits. Wanting to do it right this time, Christopher had the re-pistoned short-block balanced and blueprinted; converted to roller lifters; fitted with a bigger, custom Comp cam; and capped with an Edelbrock Victor EFI intake. The warped heads were decked, bumping compression up to 10.4:1, and long-tube headers came onboard, feeding a 3-inch exhaust.
At that point the combo made 413 rwhp, but still wore its original black hue. It was time for paint. "After contemplating a few colors," Christopher said. "I decided on a color that BMW used on its M-series cars from '86 to '95— Diamond Schwartz from Spies Hecker." He gave the job to Mike Smith of A&W Auto Body who unfortunately became ill and passed away before he could finish. From there, the coupe went to a shop where Mike's son worked, and where the paintjob was completed. Christopher loved the results: "By the end of 2007 the car was finally rebuilt. Over the next few years, I would enjoy it and do minor upgrades all around…"
All was good until 2009 when he ran over a large piece of steel at highway speed, which bounced up under the coupe, mangling the headers and exhaust. Enter a shop called Exotic Xhaust in Hiram, Georgia, which fabbed a custom set of long-tube headers with unusual flat, merged collectors, meaning all four primary tubes are side by side in the collector. "The end result," Christopher said, "is an exotic-looking and functional exhaust with ground clearance comparable to that of a stock ride-height Mustang—and my car is pretty low."
He then found a rare set of used (discontinued) BBS RK 18-inch rims and had them powdercoated in Hyper Silver, and probably would have been content to this day had not a newly licensed 16-year-old girl driven her Nissan Sentra smack into the side of his coupe, causing around $10,000 worth of damage.
It got ugly, as Chris explains: "The girl's insurance company tried to total my car, stating that it was a V-6 VIN car, and only worth $3,000. Luckily, I have the Mustang insured for a stated value with my insurance company. I had to present all the receipts to her insurance company, which added up to around $60,000. I don't know if I should be proud of that number or vomit over that number…"
Long story short, the car was repaired once again (the hardest part being finding replacement BBS RK rims for the two damaged in the incident). And finally, after nearly 12 years, it was time for boost, so Chris found a freshly rebuilt Vortech V2 with an air-to-air intercooler, and took it to Jeff Harris's new shop (Mo's Speed Shop) in Dallas, Georgia, for installation, something that involved changing all the front engine accessory drive hardware from its original Fox configuration to an SN-95 setup. To simplify the blower ducting, he flipped the Victor EFI manifold to have a driver-side inlet, and nothing less than a Bugatti Veyron in-line fuel pump came onboard to feed new 60-lb/hr injectors. Because of the high 10.4:1 compression, an AIS water/methanol injection system joined the fray, permitting 11 pounds of boost, 607 hp, and 604 lb-ft of torque at the wheels on pump gas.
For Christopher, the resolve of staying with his first and only Mustang has paid off—despite its trials and tribulations. It certainly wasn't the cheapest or easiest route. "The only mechanical parts that have not been replaced," Chris claims, "are the brake booster and master cylinder." And he credits his dad, Rich, for his perseverance: "He made me realize that it wasn't just about building a car, but showing that no matter how hard it got, I should stick with it and never give up, which is something I can apply to life in general."
Well said, and well done, Christopher.
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5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block: '89 351 Windsor
Crankshaft: Eagle nodular iron
Rods: Scat H-beam, forged
Pistons: Probe forged
Camshafts: Comp Cams hydraulic roller w/ 0.600-in lift and 242/248 duration
Cylinder heads: Air Flow Research 205cc
Intake manifold: Edelbrock Victor EFI w/ Accufab 80mm Race throttle body
Power Adder: Vortech V2 S-Trim
Fuel system: Bugatti Veyron inline external pump w/ 60-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust: Exotic Xhaust custom long-tubes w/ Flowmaster 40 Series mufflers and 3-in tailpipes
Transmission: Tremec TKO 500 w/ SPEC Stage 3 Plus clutch
Rearend: 8.8-in w/ FRPP girdle, 3.73 gears, and Superior 31-spline axles
Engine management: A9L w/ Painless wiring harness and SCT chip
Ignition: MSD 6AL
Gauges: Auto Meter Ultra-Lite in Florida 5.0 cluster
Suspension and Chassis
K-member: UPR tubular
A-arms: UPR tubular
Struts: UPR coilover conversion
Brakes: FRPP rotors w/ '03 Cobra calipers and Akebono pads
Wheels: BBS RK, 18x8.5-in
Tires: Nitto NT555 Extreme, 255/35R-18
Shocks: KYB AGX, eight-way adjustable
Control Arms: Metco
Brakes: FRPP rotors w/ '03 Cobra calipers, and Akebono pads
Wheels: BBS RK, 18x10-in
Tires: Nitto NT555R Extreme Drag, 305/35R-18
Horse Sense: Despite its unassuming V-6 beginnings, Chris believes his coupe has earned the right to wear its coiled serpent emblems.