Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
March 18, 2015
Photos By: Grant Cox

Somewhere in time it was decided that if you liked Fords you weren’t allowed to like anything else, and if you were a Chevy fan everything else was straight-up garbage. And don’t even try owning a Ford and a Chevy at the same time—that is sacrilege. We won’t include Mopar fans in this argument. Thankfully though, there are those capable of cross-marque respect. The ultimate respect for a car guy is for owners of an opposing marque to say they like your car. For Bobby Oberlander, when Chevy owners come up and say, “I really hate Mustangs, but man, yours is truly badass,” he knows he’s done something right.

Yeah, we love Mustangs, but a large part of the automotive population hates them. Hate is a strong word, yes, but Oberlander chose to let the haters hate when he purchased this 2007 GT as he was finishing up college. It was a low-mileage car, and Oberlander loved the color, so after a test-drive he had to have it. We’ve heard this story a million times, but Oberlander just wanted to do a few bolt-ons like exhaust, a cold air kit, and a tune. Famous last words.

Funny thing is, the salesman Oberlander dealt with (Lance Koerner) had a nitrous/cammed 2005 GT, and Oberlander couldn’t get that car out of this head. That’s when the rather modest list of modifications got turnt up. The short list of mods, with Koerner’s help, grew to a cam swap, and springs. And once Koerner pointed him to S197forums.com and its classified page . . . well, it was game on.

Oberlander educated himself on the intricacies of the S197 chassis, filling Koerner’s ears with questions like “What if I did this?” and “Could we do that?”

“What happened to just switching out the exhaust and leaving it alone?” Koerner would respond.

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Obviously, the guys did a little bit of this and a little bit of that because within a year the GT was making 349 hp and 342 lb-ft of torque at the wheels with Sho-ME Speed’s Wes Choate handling the tuning. By the way, all modifications up to that point were made in the driveway using jackstands and handtools.

Oberlander was content at that power level for a couple years before deciding on his next modification. However, he was always on the lookout for a good deal, scouring Craigslist and other online forums for used parts. His budget up to that point didn’t allow for new parts, so he had to wait for new goodies. He still had fun with the car, though, attending car shows and participating in local car clubs.

Inside, Oberlander’s GT boasts the stock leather, but with a painted console cover, a Speed of Sound dual pillar pod, an AEM boost controller and wideband, and an Aeroforce gauge in a Roush vent pod. By the time you read this, Oberlander hopes to have a built 4R70W transmission in the car. He doesn’t think the stock 3650 five-speed will last too long at this power level. He’s probably right.

Moving to the exterior, Oberlander’s GT earns respect from an exterior standpoint thanks to a Roush front bumper cover and chin spoiler, a ViS Racing carbon fiber cowl hood, a rear spoiler delete, a Shelby GT500 rear valance, and RaceStar Industries Dark Star big ’n’ littles.

In 2012, Oberlander upgraded his employment status and had a little more income for performance goodies. Still, old habits die hard. He continued scouring Craigslist for deals. One day he stumbled upon a new-in-box On3 Performance single turbo kit not too far from his hometown. “This got me thinking about going the forced induction route,” Oberlander says. As with all of the car’s mods, Oberlander educated himself on the kit and ultimately decided to take the plunge. Within a couple months the turbo kit was on the car, along with a boost controller and the requisite gauges. It didn’t take Oberlander long to realize his “cool-sounding cams” weren’t optimum with a turbo. He also took a chance with a local tuner. Here’s where the story goes sour.

Oberlander was running around with the base tune when he took it to the local guy for a custom tune. The numbers were really good—513 hp and 479 lb-ft of torque—but the short block ate itself that same day. Back home in the garage with his best friend Jake Welch the teardown revealed a destroyed block, broken rods, wrist pins pulled out of pistons, trashed heads, and the like. It was the gift that kept on giving. “This is when the learning curve really kicked in,” says Oberlander.

This setback sent Oberlander back to the drawing board. While we’re talking about Brand-X cars, more than one of Oberlander’s friends urged him to drop an LS engine between the GT’s framerails. Thankfully, that was not what he did. (You wouldn’t be reading about his GT here if he had gone in that direction.) Instead, he once again educated himself on how best to proceed. By this time he had a daily driver, so that allowed to take his time with the engine build and do it right. Plus, he knew it was going to be expensive, so he had to buy parts, allow his wallet to recover, and fill in the remaining blanks.

Oberlander acquired a Ford Racing Boss 5.0 modular block and dropped it off, along with all rotating parts and pieces with Todd Maschmeir out of Oak Grove, Missouri, to be machined and assembled. Once the short block was back in Oberlander’s hands, he and friend Welch assembled the top end with a pair of Ed’s Speed Shop Stage 3 CNC cylinder heads and custom cams, a Ford Racing intake and throttle body, and MSD coil packs. Oberlander took his time breaking in the new engine before going in for a custom tune. The Three-Valve boasts 326 ci with a Kellogg crankshaft, Manley Performance H-beam connecting rods, Diamond 2618 pistons, and ARP hardware. Oberlander’s GT makes envy-inducing horsepower thanks to an On3 Performance single 70mm turbo with a 50mm blow-off valve, and a 38mm wastegate.

He wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time with the tune. “I kept seeing ‘Tuned by Lito’ in forum member signatures, so I started asking him questions and doing my homework on him,” Oberlander says. Once they talked, Manuel Pazo sent Oberlander an introductory tune and waited on a few data logs to get it all sorted out.

“It didn’t take long to figure out this motor was a monster,” says Oberlander. The combination maxed out the MAFia-outfitted stock mass air meter on just 9 pounds of boost.

“I bought an HPX-E MAF and continued with the tuning process,” Oberlander tells us.

Tragedy struck when a follower broke at WOT. Oberlander feared all that hard work was down the drain and he would have to start all over. However, everything stayed in the head. After having Maschmeir check the heads, Oberlander put it all back together. But during the short downtime Oberlander added a return-style fuel system to the car in preparation for a switch to E85.

With the car back together, a tuning trip over to Vamp Racing in Grain Valley, Missouri, resulted in 789 hp and 875 lb-ft of torque at 17 pounds of boost, with Lito handling the remote tuning chores. Trying another pound of boost didn’t get the desired results, so into the boost controller they went. But that backfired when the boost hit 23 pounds before the overboost feature (set at 18 pounds) reined everything in. During that mistake, Oberlander learned that his combo was capable of making huge power. Before the overboost feature kicked in, the combo made 879 hp and 1,000 lb-ft of torque at the wheels at just 4,400 rpm.

“The car keeps getting better and better, and I love the fact that I have learned so much from so many great people,” Oberlander says. “I am proud that I can point to it as a whole and say I built it.”

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