Jim Smart
September 1, 1998

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Quite a few of us have been studying the '96-'98 Mustang GTs closely, pondering the potential of the SOHC 4.6L Modular V-8 and what this portends for the Mustang in the years ahead. Arizona's Bernie Burl wholeheartedly believes in this powerplant and proves it with this Laser Red '97 Mustang GT coupe.

Bernie gets behind the wheel and spins the engine quickly. With the sound of mellow combustion comes that of a Paxton supercharger, one of the first in the state to be installed on a modular V-8. Bernie slips the Borg-Warner T45 five-speed into First gear and eases out on the clutch. He gooses the accelerator and applies power through First and Second. Feel the torque.

The 4.6L SOHC offers a broad range of torque in stock form. This is where Bernie's Mustang feels different from a naturally aspirated engine. Summing it up, a stock 4.6-2V pulls smartly and effortlessly up to highway speeds. It's a smooth mill that wants to rev beyond six grand. But the rev limiter makes sure it stops there, reminding us Big Brother is watching.

Bernie wasn't satisfied with the 4.6 in stock form. It needed more. He looked to Paxton for pressurized induction air and a 70mm throttlebody, Flowmaster for the mufflers, Eibach for the springs, and his imagination for more. Low Grubb Ford provided the hands-on expertise. Behold the result: A late-model Mustang fun car just right for a Saturday afternoon on the flat southern Arizona desert. Bernie had the windows heavily tinted to help deal with the desert heat.

On the ground, he stuck with the stock stuff--Goodyear Eagles and factory five-spokes. Up front, tinted headlamp covers exude mystery, and the black "Mustang GT" lettering is a nice touch. Inside, you're wrapped in rich black leather and can tune in to Ford's Mach 460 sound system. For Bernie and his wife, Grace, it doesn't get much better than this. Or at least it didn't...

Since our photo shoot more than a year ago, the Burl's Mustang GT was totaled in a bad accident. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, and the Burls are just fine--which leaves these folks free to create a new Mustang experience, probably by the time you read this. Stay tuned.