Ro McGonegal
December 11, 2015
Photos By: Peter Linney

Although the 2015 S550 represents the natural evolution of the S197 platform, it was the newly revived fastback design that attracted Sam Soto to this car in the first place. As owner of Stage 3 Performance in Oceanside, California, he was driven to make it a standout piece, an all-inclusive embodiment of his company’s talent. He’d be starting his build with a solid foundation, and his “main plan was to be one of the first to highly modify the S550 platform.” Good for Sam the man; great for the business (that tax write-off thing, you know?)

In brief, Soto’s object was “to make it my ultimate build. I’ve always wanted a Mustang like no other with enough horsepower to tear up the asphalt. It would be wide and fast but still be fun enough to drive anywhere and stand out from the rest at a show. It was going to be the vehicle I was going to use to advertise my company and the things I could do for my customers. With an adjustable suspension, it was all possible.”

Soto continues, “With the car being new, there just wasn’t much available for it. I ended up developing a more aggressive [fender] flare to complement the body, but still keeping the factory body lines and adding aerodynamics with many benefits like being able to fit wider wheels for a larger footprint with sticky tires to give the driver total control on the track . . . or for daily peace of mind.”

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As for that chassis enhancement, Soto was disposed to the dramatic. Having the car stand out at a show meant a full-on ocular assault with an adjustable system, the kind that comes from dropping your ride right down on its rocker panels. Instead of adopting the popular notion, Soto went for an Air Lift Performance system, a setup that provides adjustable damping and ride height, camber adjustment, and the coveted drop (more than 5 inches from the stock ride height). The conversion includes the 3H air management (height as well as pressure) system. Soto completed the package with matched Eibach tubular 35mm and 25mm antisway bars that feature three-way adjustability.

With the Mustang’s bones wrapped nice and tight, Soto looked for killer boots. Found ’em in the Triumph CY.X forged three-piece wheel collection, big ones. On the front, an immodest 20x11 partnered with Toyo DOT-approved 285/35 R888 gummies. The rear got crazier: 20x14s hitched to 315/30 R888s. Meaner-looking rollers would be hard to find, maybe even harder to stop. Soto put on R1 Concept 14- and 13-inch rotors and Brembo six- and four-piston calipers to burn off energy from the 3,705-pound pony.

In factory form, the 5.0L produces 435 hp at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. Clearly not enough push for Soto, not enough for gun fighting. He was thinking more along the lines of a rocket-propelled grenade. As the norm these days is to pile on as much as possible, Soto thought that combining compressed air with a juice kicker would make the bill, rattle the dudes a little. There was no reason to go beyond the original forged crankshaft and sinter forged connecting rods, or the 11.0:1 compression ratio; he could bring the force with a Vortech V3 supercharger with a nominal 8.5 psi positive manifold pressure and complete the system with an intercooler.

Got to have a streamlined exhaust tract to go with it, too, Soto thought. He began by swapping out he factory tubular manifolds for Borla stainless headers (1 3/4-inch primaries, 2 3/4-inch collectors) and merged them with a Borla system blowing through ATAK mufflers. He added a bit of insurance with a wet nitrous system. We don’t know if the juice was used to quantify total engine output or not, but Soto estimates at least 720 hp. Major drivetrain components include the Tremec six-speed (3.65:1 Low gear; 0.65:1 Sixth gear), the original clutch/flywheel assembly, and the centersection of the IRS fitted with a Torsen differential and 3.73:1 gears.

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Then it was time for Soto to develop the outward appearance and especially the Stage 3 fender flares cloaking those bulbous R888s. A smooth transition gives way to bolt heads visible, lending a bit of cheek, adding to the overall impression that works so well with the dark paint. He infused another Stage 3 product at the front of the car: its intricate race splitter (spoiler) and the grille delete kit, bookended by Diode Dynamic headlights. Soto went nuts out back, posting an APR GT-series carbon fiber wing on the deck and complementing it with a Stage 3 rear diffuser in place of the original bumper. On top of it all, he covered the quad-cam V-8, blower, intercooler, and nitrous solenoids with a sweeping 3-inch cowl hood. Part of the Mustang’s drama comes from its dark paint, specifically Deep Impact Blue, to which Wraptilian added its Blue Chrome wrap (actually 3M Certified Paint Protection Film).

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Though the interior is factory loaded with a heap of creature comfort, Soto couldn’t help but up the exclusivity quotient. To him, the seats are definitive, and in this case from Roadwire (Austin, Texas) featuring black leather paired with the friction of a suede insert to keep his butt planted when vehicle dynamics change for the drastic. The Mustang’s natural interior is rife with illumination, but the first thing Soto sees when he gets in is that Stage 3 carbon fiber gauge insert floating above the Navi screen.

So did Soto get it done like he wanted? He did. His breathing was slow and steady. He followed instinct. He took his time. Six months later he had Blue Steel.

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