Ro McGonegal
February 10, 2016
Photos By: Peter Linney

Stuff like this comes from out-of-the-box thinking and years of knowing what works and what does not. It pairs CEO with designer. Yup, product and marketing married there on Mt. Olympus. The project protagonist is Henrik Fisker, chief designer of cars bearing his name as well as those under the auspice of Ford Motor for many long years. The CEO is Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Motors in Van Nuys, California.

The Rocket Coupe was introduced as a concept at the 2014 LA Auto Show. Boeckmann says, “The response has been overwhelmingly positive—you can’t get better feedback than that two months of after debuting a car you helped build. I’m proud of Henrik’s amazing design and the team at Galpin Auto Sports (GAS) for the detailed performance work.”

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What Fisker so deftly provided was a compilation, an enchilada of sorts, inspired by the pony car cues of the Sixties and early Seventies, including those of the 1968 Shelby GT500 (Boeckmann’s favorite). Vestiges of all the pertinent relics were incorporated in the Galpin Rocket Coupe. To transform the Mustang, GAS formed alliance with GFMI Metalcrafters (Gaffoglio Family Metalcrafters, Incorporated), a diverse, full-service outfit in Fountain Valley, California, that originally did the prototype work for car companies, catering to insanely wealthy individuals and maybe God himself, but they did it in metal, not fiberglass or any other medium.

Times have changed. The medium has changed. Metalcrafters built most of the Rocket body with carbon fiber. The entire front clip is carbon. The entire rear clip is carbon. The passenger pod, including the doors and roof section, is assembly-line steel. Aft of the C-pillar, the flow is just as smooth and accommodating. Scoops behind the doors direct cool air to the big Brembos. There’s a deck spoiler, but unlike the rest of the car, it is understated, a thin lip rather than a brazen wing. Critics have ragged that the 2015 cars are about 80 pounds heavier than the year preceding. The carbon fiber pieces are much lighter than the metal, but there’s no mention of just how advantageous the miniscule fibers really are.

You know by now that we’re not talking hobby-class stuff here. It ain’t cheap and it ain’t easy. But the Gaffoglios are the best at this. What they created is visually exciting; the nose cone is more polarizing than a supercharger ripping through the hood. This car is the prototype, built mainly for showing off, but also as a proof for the design fit and finish.

Sleek and slippery, the Rocket’s wide body promotes more than smooth airflow. It cloaks the oversize wheels with unbroken lines, unlike the bolt-on flares that have become popular. The grille is raw carbon, the bumper carbon fiber. The rear bumper is carbon. Above it, block letters that spell out “Rocket” arc gently below the spoiler. Nobody’s going to mistake the Rocket for any other Mustang on earth.

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch, GAS swarmed the suspension and set the stance. The company changed the mechanicals and incorporated CorteX Racing coilover shocks but left the rest of the original chassis bits in place. The car was ordered with the Performance Package, which meant vented two-piece 15-inch rotors and Brembo six-piston calipers at front but instead of the 13-inch vented rotors and single-piston calipers at the rear, Galpin amended the shortcoming with another pair of 15-inch Brembos.

If the rollers appear a bit larger than stock, it’s because they are. GAS went for 21-inch rims all around with three-piece forged Henrik Fisker–designed wheels by ADV.1. Up front, the five-spokes are 10 inches wide. The rear barrels measure 21 by 12. High-zoot rubber, naturally: 275/35 followed by 325/30 PZero Pirellis.

Rocket maintains an unmodified drivetrain. The Getrag MT82 six-speed is fronted by an OE clutch/flywheel assembly. The independent rear axle holds a Torsen differential and 3.73:1 ring-and-pinion gears.

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As intended, the 5.0L produces 435 hp at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. That did not spin anybody’s bow tie fast enough, so the crew strapped on a 2.9L screw charger, an air-to-air intercooler, larger injectors, a boost controller, enhanced fuel delivery, and 10 psi of positive manifold pressure. Bassani long-tube stainless steel headers are trailed by a corresponding 3-inch-diameter stainless system.

The new 5.0 engine responds terrifically well to modification. Whenever one of them gets a forced-air auxiliary, power and torque expand exponentially. A stock cylinder block can handle approximately 900 hp, but beyond that threshold, sleeved cylinder bores are a necessity. GAS estimates the Rocket motor’s output to be 735 hp, more than enough moxie for this 3,729-pound car’s mission.

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With the body changes in order, Metalcrafters directed their attention to the paint. They chose what they call Eminence Grise (literally, a person who exercises power or influence in certain areas without holding an official position), concocted the mixture, and applied it in down there in Fountain Valley.

With the body changes in order, Metalcrafters directed their attention to the paint. They chose what they call Eminence Grise (literally, a person who exercises power or influence in certain areas without holding an official position), concocted the mixture, and applied it in down there in Fountain Valley.

“I love the 1960s American muscle cars,” says Fisker. “They are more sculptured, with more radical proportions and bold details, than European counterparts. My favorite Mustang is the 1968 Shelby GT500 that had this long hood and huge air intakes. It gave me butterflies the first time I saw it. We wanted to re-create that feeling with this car.”