Elisa Coon
September 22, 2014
Photos By: John Machaqueiro

Owning and modifying a Mustang is truly a labor of love.

That would accurately describe New Jersey native, Joe Ferro's five-year project—still ongoing with no end in sight. Joe is like so many others who take baby steps into the Mustang realm only to discover they have awakened a passion that had been lying dormant. His passion was brought to life after trading his daily driven six-banger 2005 Mustang for a great deal on a pristine Vapor Metallic 2008 GT, fresh off the showroom floor and loaded to the hilt with a Three-Valve and an automatic 5R55S transmission. It was that awakening that would serve as the motivation to dive head first into a new world of Mustang performance.

Joe started with small appearance upgrades and a cold-air intake and mild "canned" tune—but that's when it all goes awry. Sure, cruising around in his GT was pretty awesome and bench racing was fun, but soon Joe got the itch only hardcore horsepower junkies get—an itch that can only be scratched by spending copious amounts of money and installing a slew of go-fast parts.

Model: Shaina Von Rae

It didn't take long for Joe to plug into the car community and make friends who were more than willing to educate him and help him reach new performance heights. And there is nothing sweeter than a wife who can recognize the way her hubby's eyes sparkle when he excitedly thumbs through the Summit Racing Equipment catalog (while simultaneously breathing heavy and earmarking pages, of course). Joe's wife, Hilda, took notice of his new-found Mustang friendships and after convincing her that he needed more oomph, she gave her other half the blessing to start the often-costly modified-Mustang journey.

Local to Jersey's famous Raceaway Park, Joe and a Corvette buddy of his hit the quarter-mile for some test and tune, but Joe wasn't satisfied with a 13-second e.t. After a mere seven months owning his S197 Mustang, he began researching the web and studying up on the forced-induction options. Joe decided on a Stage Two Procharger P-1SC supercharged setup with a three-core intercooled design to give his Steed a serious power increase.

He followed up those mods with a one-piece driveshaft and BMR upper and lower control arms. A couple of trips to the track would prove rather disappointing on the canned Procharger tune—with a best lap in the mid-12-second range. It was a quick, but not enough for Joe. He installed FRPP 4.10 gears with an Eaton limited-slip differential and a CHE axle brace to beef things up out back.

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A cold Jersey winter fell upon him and it was time to think about what was next for his shadowy silver Steed. With the help of his Mustang family and his diligent research, Joe headed to Big Daddy Performance in Lakewood, New Jersey, for a full-on dyno tune session using an SCT tuner—the best decision he says he has ever made with his car. After some custom tweaking, the Stallion spun the rollers and produced a respectable 459 rwhp and 407 lb-ft of torque. He was much happier about the overall manners of the car after trading his canned tune for a custom calibration, and Joe's labor of Mustang love continued on slowly

Big Daddy's crew helped to educate Joe on the benefits of installing an aftermarket torque converter and so he made the move to a Precision Industries 3,200-stall unit. He continually researched the best parts for his application and added more personal touches with interior and engine bay dress-up parts throughout the winter months. He installed a Roush full exhaust system and Kooks long-tube headers, met with a catted X-style midpipe to really amp up the power and sound and open up this Stallion's lungs. Joe also added a Ford Racing intake and an L&M twin 62mm throttle body and 60-lb/hr injectors before making another trip to Big Daddy Performance for more custom dyno tuning.

This time Joe's ride laid down a powerful 513 rwhp, but ultimately backed it down to a safer 498 rwhp and 437 lb-ft of torque due to the known weaknesses in the 3V engine's internals. The warmer weather came around and Joe was out running consistent 11-second e.t.'s with a best of 11.3 at 117 mph—quick enough to earn respect around those parts for a pretty stout street Stang.

Going any faster than 11.50 requires a roll bar and he wasted no time installing a NHRA-legal Maximum Motorsports six-point setup. With the extra weight from the roll bar, he the Steed would need to go on a diet. He achieved that weight loss easily by swapping the factory buckets for Corbeau lightweight race seats and a BMR K-member and A-arms. As a matter of fact, Joe overhauled his entire suspension with Eibach Drag Launch springs, Tokico D-Spec shocks and struts, BMR lower control arms, sway bar and adjustable panhard bar. Joe finished the suspension with an Auburn locking ETCED max locker to cut down on dreaded wheel hop/spin and the push of a button. It's pretty obvious this hot rod had finally found its purpose on the drag strip. Joe was proud of what his new Mustang passion had created . . . a perfect street/strip daily driven machine!

We know you're drooling over the unique airbrush design under the hood, created by Bruce at Virtuair Airbrush Studios in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The exterior details set this horse apart from the pack with Cervini's 2 1/2-inch cowl, sinister-looking CDC body parts, and hypercoated 2010-style 18-inch wheels wrapped in Goodyear rubber. Joe and Hilda are definitely passing their love for Mustangs down to their kids—their daughter got her first car, a silver Mustang GT of course, right after getting her permit and one day her dad's sweet S197 GT will be hers as well.

With over 100 trophies and a bracket win at an Englishtown track event under his belt, it's safe to say we haven't seen the last of this silver bullet—now with the ultimate goal of a being built as a "bad race car" that can double as a show car. "They say you can't do both, but I'm going to sure as hell try. I'll be rebuilding the engine over the winter with forged internals and more aggressive cams," Joe proudly stated. Joe credits the entire build to the support and encouragement from his wife and family. We can't wait to see more of his creative passion come through, and if you're a local at Raceway Park, be sure to check out this uniquely modified, quick beauty and keep your eye out for even faster e.t.'s!