Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
May 14, 2014
Photos By: Grant Cox

Zac Freeman was wheeling a $2,000 Fox Mustang when he graduated from welding school. Of course, once we graduate we all hope to land a paying gig, and that's exactly what panned out for Zac.

With a new gig, he was ready for a Mustang upgrade. "I saw that a local guy had this car for sale," speaking about the Bullitt you see here. "I didn't really care for green cars," Zac says, "but for some reason, I had to have it." The seller was the original owner, but it seems like he wasn't a true Bullitthead since Zac says the car, "didn't run for crap and the paint had been severely neglected—but I still had to have it."

Truthfully, Zac didn't know anything about Bullitts, and quite frankly, he didn't care. "I bought it, and that's when it began."

It being the transformation of a Bullitt that went from not running for crap to what you see here. Quite the jump, right?!

To help get the weight out of the Bullitt, Zac added Kirkey Pro Street seats with black tweed covers, and Racecraft seat mounts. To keep an eye on the mechanical stuff, the Bullitt features an array of Auto Meter’s finest. The pillar pod is from Speed of Sound.

Zac wasn't used to owning a nice Mustang, and he had never really cared about what his car's paint looked like, but after a few weeks with the Bullitt, he was really bummed about the paint's condition. His friend Joe, however, assured him it could be rescued.

"I didn't really believe we could make it look all that much better," Zac says, "but I was willing to let him try." Joe was right, and after a few detailing sessions, Zac says the car "looked so much better." Joe told Zac as long as he took care of washing the car properly between details, it would continue to be nice.

Keeping it looking good, Zac added minor mods to the Bullitt to improve its driveability. That made the car more enjoyable, which is the goal for all of us. Zac took lots of road trips, did a lot of street racing, and overall just enjoyed being a hooligan in the Bullitt. All that came to an end when he hurt the engine while racing a friend and his nitrous'd '99 Cobra. Though Zac won the battle, he lost the war.

Zac has Leroy Roduner at Roduner Racing to thank for answering all his technical questions; also Mike Schill, formerly at Patterson Racing, now at Steve Morris and his own shop, Big Mike’s Speed and Performance, for doing the Bullitt’s heads, as well as offering advice and troubleshooting. Zac is not done, though. He has plans to take the engine apart and bolster it for a run at the 1,000hp mark. With a little more fine-tuning, the car made 780 horsepower and 621 torque on a Dynojet.

The Bullitt sat with a broken engine and transmission for over a year before Zac found the motivation to rebuild her. Patterson Racing built a 12:1 pump-gas, nitrous engine, to which Zac added a good 3650 five-speed manual transmission. Zac then installed the most hidden nitrous kit anyone had ever seen—or not seen.

"I raced the crap out of the car for the next year," Zac says. He only made one pass with the 3650, stock suspension, and nitrous. To maintain the hustle, he only sprayed it through First and Second gear, running an 11.62 at 118 mph with a 1.56 60-foot time. This was with a 150-shot.

"I then decided it was time to get more serious," Zac tells us. Out came the 3650, and in went a built 4R70W automatic with a manual valvebody, trans brake, and high-stall converter. The stock suspension pieces came out, exchanged for aftermarket tubular replacements. Weight was taken out of the car, and the nitrous hit was upped to a 235-shot. "Holy cow, it was fast," Zac enthused.

He took the Bullitt to a big street racing event around Kansas City, and was shocked at how well the car worked and how fast it was. Why haven't I done this sooner, Zac asked himself. He also fell in love with the automatic, and as a stick driver, that was probably hard for him to admit. However, after too many hits of the sauce, that engine decided it was done.

"When I took it out this time, I knew it was time to make some big changes," Zac says. He tore the engine apart, stripping everything from the engine compartment.

Zac had never wired anything. He'd never made brake lines, never made AN hoses, never built an engine, never done a set of 8.8 gears—none of that stuff. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into," he said. "I just knew what I wanted to end up with, and what I was fed up with in my engine bay."

Racing a nitrous car, he was used to pulling plugs, but number four was always a pain. "There was just so much stuff in that area," Zac says. Wiring, vacuum lines, heater core lines—he wanted it gone. "I also hated looking at the hydroboost," Zac says. He felt it took up too much room and there was no way to make it look good. He believed ABS was a joke with big n' littles, anyway. It was all just extra weight to Zac, and it had to go.

"It honestly snowballed," Zac says. "I really didn't intend on it ending up the way it did when I started," he adds.

Zac started taking everything out, cutting, splicing, soldering, heat-shrinking, hiding wires, "I became a monster." He can't imagine how many hours he has in the wiring alone. He hid the brake lines, the Hurst roll control solenoid, the fuel pressure regulator, vacuum lines, and boost controller solenoids. "I hid it all inside the fenders," Zac added.

Patterson Racing built a 12:1 pump-gas, nitrous engine, to which Zac added a good 3650 five-speed manual transmission.

He even did the well-known coolant mod and hid everything underneath the intake, along with the coolant temperature sensor. "I didn't want to see any of it."

Then he turned his attention to the engine. The one that came out of the car had blown out piston ring lands, a blown head gasket, a torched head, a burnt valve, and more. He had the cylinder head fixed and scrambled to find a set of pistons for $200.

Zac took the pistons to Patterson Racing to have the skirts ceramic coated and have them order a set of rings for them.

Once he had everything ready, Zac went to work putting it all back together. Remember, Zac had never built an engine before, so it was a learning experience. He had a buddy check his work, but Zac did it all. Once he was ready, a couple friends helped install the engine and transmission into the car.

Everyone asks you how you're feeling before you fire it for the first time. It's not really a feeling of excitement at all. "I was terrified," Zac said. Anyone who's not an expert feels that way, trust me. Zac was no different, but he still had to finish the wiring, and he had a turbo kit to install, as well.

That's right, Zac traded in the bottle for a little boost. "There were a couple of hiccups that day," Zac said of the day he got the Bullitt running. There are always hiccups when doing it yourself, but he drove it home that day.

Initially, the Bullitt featured a 78mm Turbonetics with a 3-inch exhaust to the rear axle with a single muffler.

"It was fun," Zac says. "I can't even tell you how much fun! It would kill the tires from all speeds ... and I mean all speeds," he adds.

But as we all know, the fun only lasts so long until we attract the wrong kind of attention.

Zac had a friend riding with him who happened to own a 9-second Fox. Zac wanted to know how his car compared to that 9-second Fox. On a deserted road at 3 a.m., Zac and his buddy head out for a little butt-dyno run.

"I roll into it at 60 mph, it hazes the tires, spinning, but still motivated forward and rolling out. I lock the converter up at 100 mph, and it really starts to skate. My friend grabs the sides of his seat and is now hanging on," Zac explained.

Turns out, someone else was out at 3 a.m., too. "That's when I saw the cop sitting on the side of the highway running radar. Crap! I go ahead and pull over before he even gets turned around."

While sitting there waiting to see if he just gets a ticket, or taken to jail, his friend had some uplifting words. "Well, the good news is, it's friggin' fast!"

Zac drove the car with that combination for a while, but if the power he had was good, more was better. After searching but failing to score a billet wheel 7675, he came upon a deal for a Precision 88mm turbo. He jumped on it, but since the 88 was larger, it was like shoving 10 pounds of crap into a 5-pound bag. He was able to make everything fit, but "boy was it tight," as Zac says.

Then came the exhaust. With the previous arrangement, it was loud. Zac felt like he had been to a concert every time he drove the car.

"I had become infatuated with the idea of a front-bumper-exit exhaust," Zac says. If the Bullittheads don't hate Zac at this point, they definitely do now. He couldn't have been happier, though, and he could actually carry on a conversation in the car ... without pulling over on the side of the road, but we digress.

On a Mustang Dyno and with the mass air meter pegged before Zac could even look at the boost controller, the Bullitt put down 680 hp and 542 lb-ft of torque. With a little more fine-tuning, the car made 780 hp and 621 torque on a Dynojet. For the Kansas City event, though, the Bullitt had other plans. An electrical gremlin reared its ugly head. It took Zac a week to get over it and tear into the car for repairs. Once he did, Zac drove the Bullitt daily for a while, "beating on it like it owed me money," Zac says.

Speaking of money, Zac didn't go to jail that fateful night, He just received a ticket for a 118 mph in a 60. "I felt thankful he clocked me while I was on the brakes."

Zac had become infatuated with a front-bumper exhaust exit. “Without any hesitation, I built a 4-inch downpipe to exit out of the driver-side front bumper,” Zac says. “Nothing like sitting there with a 5-inch holesaw about to poke a hole in the side of your beloved car,” he adds. He says the setup is much quieter than the previous 3-inch system that dumped in front of the rear axle.

Tech Specs
Vehicle: 2001 Ford Mustang Bullitt
Engine and Drivetrain
Block: Factory Iron
Crankshaft: Factory Bullitt
Rods: RPM H-beam w/ ARP 2000 rod bolts
Pistons: Diamond Racing, Patterson Racing-coated
Camshafts: Anderson Ford Motorsport N42 w/ Ford GT valvetrain, Pacaloy 1213 valve-springs
Cylinder Heads: PI, Patriot Stage 2
Intake Manifold: Edelbrock Victor Jr. w/ a sheetmetal elbow, a BBK Performance 75mm throttle body, and an HPX mass-air meter
Power Adder: Precision PT88 single-turbo w/ On3 Performance intercooler
Fuel System: Factory fuel pump w/ 2-gallon surge tank featuring 3 GSL392 inline pumps (two pumps are boost- referenced), Edelbrock fuel rails, and Siemens Deka 80-lb/hr injectors
Transmission: Full-manual Roduner Racing-built 4R70W w/transbrake, Precision Industries converter, B&M Racing, and Performance Products shifter
Rearend: 8.8-in w/ '03-'04 Cobra 31-spline differential, Moser Engineering 31-spline axles, and 3.55 gears
Engine Management: Stock computer, SCT XCal3
Ignition: Factory
Gauges: Factory w/ Auto Meter, AEM wideband, and Speed of Sound pillar pod
Suspension and Chassis
Front Suspension
K-Member: Team Z Motorsports tubular
A-Arms: Team Z Motorsports tubular
Struts: Strange Engineering single-adjustable
Springs: Hypercoil 12-200
Brakes: Modified Mustang GT by Roduner Racing
Wheels: Champion Cap5, 15x31⁄2-in
Tires: Continental 165/85
Rear Suspension
Shocks: Strange Engineering single-adjustable
Springs: Factory Mach 1
Control Arms: Tubular non-adjustable w/ antiroll bar
Brakes: Factory Bullitt
Wheels: Champion Cap5, 15x10-in
Tires: Hoosier QuickTime Pro, 28x11-1⁄2-in

Horse Sense

Zac Freeman has a few people to thank in his journey to these pages. "Most of all, my parents, Bryan and Phyllis Freeman. Without them, nothing I've done would be possible," Zac says.