Ro McGonegal
December 28, 2015
Photos By: Peter Linney

A fringe contingent of car enthusiasts has always loved getting their hands dirty. Not dirt dirty—greasy dirty. Hanging-over-an-engine-bay dirty. Their cars looked unconventional and were usually loud and certainly abrasive. The civilians often witnessed these free-thinkers in speed contests. Miscreants for certain, criminals at least, therefore condemned and categorized unfairly. And anyone wanting to do that dirt thing must surely be suspect of other nefarious thoughts or deeds.

For those pioneers, a modified car was their passion above all else. To them, it wasn’t a hobby; it was the reason they got out of bed every morning. The sentiment became a groundswell. It’s what got drag racing off the street and smack in the public eye. Above all, these souls were rebels, individualists defined by their philosophy and actions but usually by the cars they modified and drove as hot rods. Only in America, folks. And in Chula Vista.

To a great many, it is still the reason they get out of bed every day and put their feet on the floor. But the landscape has changed. Social media websites have seen to that. Word spreads ferociously, accompanied by images that are immediate and undeniable. Such constant scrutiny is terminally influential, firing the desire to outdo the competition, driving them to take the next step out.

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Nowhere is this more evident than in the S550 Mustang that Carlos Gomez shepherds. It sports equipment from a compilation of vendors that he uses at his KAR Motorsports in Chula Vista, California. Gomez got the S550’s gears turning at Fuller Ford (Chula Vista). He wanted to make it as much a looker as a tough-as-nails stomper, so he spent time on the fastback’s ability to make a lasting impression. Without disturbing an ounce of sheetmetal, KAR transformed the looks with graphics, outsized fender flairs, carbon fiber sheets, wide-wide 20-inch rollers, and distinctive front- and rearend treatments. Um, yeah, that paint isn’t exactly a shrinking violet, either.

But no matter how intimidating the Competition Orange Mustang might appear, it would have to talk the walk before another word was spoken. Looks are one thing. Ripping gears like a crazy man is another. Since the engine is endowed by the factory with premium internals, it was a natural for a forced-air infusion. Hellion Turbo, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has just the tool. For the 2015 S550 5.0L, Hellion markets a top-mount twin installation featuring 62mm Precision turbochargers, an air-to-air intercooler, a Turbosmart boost controller, and four-into-one tubular shorties. Typically this collection produces about 550 rwhp with just 5 psi positive manifold pressure, but a series of “bump-ups” can mushroom crazy output. At the 16 psi Gomez runs (the maximum for a stock block), the turbos typhoon 935 hp to the tires, requiring 95-lb/hr Deatschwerks injectors and a JMS ignition booster (24 volts, 44 amps). He said that the E2000 Turbosmart controller allows him to easily adjust the level of boost at will.

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For as much guff as the engine can give, Gomez decided to leave the Tremec 6060 (except for the MGW shifter), clutch assembly, 3.73 gears, and Torsen differential unenlightened. But he improved the already potent suspension and rolling stock, to set the stance and give it octopus grip. Rather than adopting traditional mechanicals, Gomez went with an air system, which provides adjustable damping and ride height, camber adjustment, and the necessary low-rider drop. The conversion includes an air management system (adjustable for height as well as pressure). Since he’d ordered the Performance Package, his S550 came with six-piston 15-inch Brembos in front and 13-inch single-piston brakes in the rear. Gomez deemed them more than adequate for Agent Orange.

A big part of the visual presentation is the rim and tire combination. Gomez shucked the original 19s and got himself some mondo Rennen R5 forged 20-inch modulars fitted with Pirelli P Zero rubber. The front hoops are 11 inches wide and carry 285/30 tires; at the business end, he adopted 13-inch-wide rims and 335/30 aspect-ratio skins.

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From the roof down, KAR dressed the Mustang. The company infused the roof with sections of carbon fiber style, split evenly (as with painted racing stripes) to match the pattern on the scooped and louvered Trufiber carbon bonnet. From there, the Trufiber wheel arches complete with visible screw heads and perimeter gaskets. KAR continued with this medium for the upper and lower grille sections. The company crafted a deep, multilayered front spoiler supported by link struts. In the rear, KAR included a Trufiber bumper (modified in-house) and accommodation for quad exhaust.

When all those carbon fiber hairs settled down, Gomez surveyed his charge. He loved the Competition Orange but thought that adding some Blue Pearl would “give it that pop!” So he did, but before he quit the outside, he added some carbon covers to the door mirrors and plugged in Diode Dynamics LED headlight bars.

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Though it is doubtful that the KAR S550 will be much more than a halo car that will likely not experience serious tarmac tests, Gomez knew the interior would have to be safety minded and well rounded. The equipment includes a Watson four-point roll bar and five-point Simpson harnesses on the OE Recaro seats. There’s more carbon fiber in there, too—swaths on the sill plates and more of it marching straight across the face of the dashboard. Happily, the Performance Package includes Recaro seats, which are real hard to improve upon. So he didn’t. But he did trim them with Katzskin leather.

But by now, he’s got emails to answer and doesn’t have the time. It’s late and Gomez wants to head for the door. “My favorite thing to do with this car is take it for a drive,” he says. “Even though it’s all modded, it still feels smooth and new. I can’t help but spool those turbos up and then let go, to hear the blow-off valves release and hear the turbos unwind.”

Yes, a passion above everything else. Carlos Gomez steppin’ out.

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