Ro McGonegal
July 22, 2016
Photos By: Peter Linney

He wasn’t easy to catch, but we finally pinned down owner Salvador Meza to tell us why he is still not done with his nearly 1,000-rwhp GT500. It’s craaaaaazy!

Meza pulled in a deep breath and exhaled before saying, “The car does drive like a monster, although at idle she feels like stock when you’re driving like a regular human being. Once you go full throttle your head slams back into the Recaro seat and the car pulls like a freight train, only wanting to go faster. She handles and corners very well even though the 950 ponies tend to slew her sideways from time to time.”

Though he is just 24, Meza is no rookie. Early on, he cut teeth on a V-6 Mustang, then pumped up to 2002 and 2005 GTs. He began to get serious with a 2003 Cobra, the 2006 SRT8 Charger, and his daily squeeze, a 2012 SRT8 Grand Cherokee. Meza is probably a little freakier about his cars than most other Mustang drivers. He says he sees and hears with a different ear.

Meza was on the hunt for a 2011-2012 Shelby with low miles and a clean title. He found it down the block at an AutoNation Ford store. It had racked up but 500 miles and the dealer was willing the haggle. Meza bought it in 2013. His plan was the usual: keep it stock for about a year then slowly make modifications. “I should have knocked on wood because that is not what happened,” he says. Five months in, he had already swapped pulleys as well as the intake and the exhaust, X-pipe, and a 3-inch system with Corsa axle-back mufflers.

Then, says Meza the fatalist, “She was only making 520-crank/480-rwhp then and that is when the mod-bug bit me and I got horsepower thirsty.” He replaced the 2.3L Eaton supercharger with a 2.8 Kenne Bell blower and tingled when it spat 640 rwhp. He was on a jag that was just beginning to mushroom; he put a smaller pulley on the blower snout and hung long-tube American Racing headers with 2-inch primary pipes. Guidance, wisdom, and prepared parts are the produce of Derek Ranney at L&R Engines in Santa Fe Springs, California.

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“I realized that I was not going to stop until I had more power than 90 percent of the cars on the road. With cars coming with 600-700 hp from the factory, I wanted to have more than that.”

Meza went bigger, installed a 3.6L Kenne Bell, and got rabid. “It broke the 800 Club, topping out my stock block out at 830 rwhp. I knew the motor was tapped and I had a choice to make.”

Could he keep it at that level and still feel like he’d done all he could? Hell no. He went all-out again. “After some thinking of the benefits versus the downside, I knew I wanted to have one of the baddest Shelbys around.”

Ranney helped him realize this with a stronger rotating assembly and revised camshaft phasing (proprietary specs). L&R had already ported the heads, intake plenum, and throttle-body. L&R built the stronger short-block with the original cylinder case and adapted a forged rotating assembly founded on the original crankshaft along with Manley I-beam connecting rods (enhanced by ARP bolts) and Manley pistons. Up in Canoga Park at Addiction Motorsports, tuner Eddie Rios tweaked the PCM and pulled 950 hp from a 23-psi bag of tricks on pump gasoline.

To apply all that to the pavement consistently and reliably, the Tremec 6060 absorbs it from a McLeod RXT steel flywheel and 9-inch dual-disc clutch assembly and transfers to an 8.8 axle carrying 3.55:1 cogs on a limited-slip differential.

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Readying the chassis was simple. Meza kept the OE struts, the 34mm antisway bar, and the control arms and inserted an Eibach Pro Kit 1 1/2-inch drop spring set. In the back he combined BMR adjustable upper and lower links, Eibach Pro springs, and Viking Performance adjustable shock absorbers, but retained the 24mm antisway bar and Panhard rod.

Meza upped the rollers to 20 inches in diameter, fixing Verde 9-inch V20 Insignia hoops with Nitto NT555 275/40 rubber. On the traction side it is nothing less than 10x17 Weld race wheels with M&H Racemaster 325/45 slicks. For the 500’s task, Meza saw no reason to deviate from the vented 14-inch, four-piston Brembo front brakes or 11.8-inch rear two-piston calipers.

The GT already has a functional and stylish gut, so aside from that stack of gauges on the A-pillar, the shifter, and a smattering of carbon appliqués, the place is pretty much stock. Meza reclines (or hunches forward, depending) on a stock Cobra seat that flaunts eye-popping Roadwire leather/Alcantara suede covers.

For the sheetmetal, Meza was driven to change the original gray. He gave the project to Platinum Auto Body in Cudahy, California, where it was appointed it with a Cervini 4-inch cowl carbon hood and Roush side skirts and anointed with Ford Race Red.

“I love the feeling of just driving down the road, hearing the motor rather than seeing a work of art. Driving [it] is like getting to see a masterpiece . . . but actually physically drive it around. And when you park the car you . . . see the masterpiece.”

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