Ro McGonegal
September 27, 2016
Photos By: Brian Taveras

There is something to be said for an enthusiast who builds an outstanding car. We all like to see those results. But Eric Rockwell travels well beyond the anecdotes, the angst, and the expense of making the car. He practiced a little with a boosted 1999 GT and a 2001 Cobra before doing this 2013. As you can see, practice makes perfect.

In the friction department, we see pressure-cast HRE 20x9.5 and 20x11.5 FF01 wheels wrapped with Falken 255/35s and 285/30 Michelin Pilot Super Sports that are perfectly framed within the fender flares. Big brakes abound: 14-inch GT500 with four-piston calipers in front and 11.8-inch rotors with two-piston calipers at the back.

Rockwell has a penchant for driving his cars all the time, not letting them wallow in the garage waiting for the right time to ascend. No trailer queens here. No stockers here. The 19 year-old Rockwell wanted to do most of the changes himself. “I didn’t want to pay shops, so I taught myself how to do most of this.” He only had just so much capital to work with, but he successfully managed the project by using lots of “prestressed” parts picked from the pages of Auto Trader and the Internet.

Rockwell pulled the original plant and sold it. Why? He wanted stronger pieces inside his good motor. He picked up a 2011 block with a wrecked No. 8 cylinder and had the bore sleeved. He swapped in a forged Coyote crank and added Manley forged connecting rods with 11.5:1 pistons. Ed Thomas Performance Engines in St. Georges, Delaware, did the machine work and assembled the short-block. Rockwell upped the lubrication quotient with a MMR oil pump and put it under the stock pan. The cylinder heads and camshafts are factory equipment. He finished off the long-block and dropped it in the engine room.

Rockwell cogitated. He wanted some nervous numbers and he knew they would have to come from a power adder. He put a used Paxton Novi 2000SL blower on it. So that the boost could spiral up to 17 psi repeatedly, he augmented it with the Paxton air-to-air charge cooler as well. “Drives just like stock until you are in the boost,” says Eric.

Nourishment and elimination were equally important. Three Walbro fuel pumps are monitored by a Fore pressure regulator that maintains 55 psi. The mass air meter is stock. Waste gases are extracted by JPC stainless steel long-tube headers (now out of production) with 1 3/4-inch primaries blowing into a 2 3/4-inch Corsa system fitted with an X-pipe stent and Xtreme mufflers. Revolution Automotive in Rosedale, Maryland, an outfit renowned for its tuning savvy, pulled big numbers with a juicy 809 hp and 597.2 lb-ft.

To battle the torque, Rockwell put McLeod friction on the crankshaft-steel flywheel, RST twin clutch discs, and a corresponding pressure plate followed by the stock MT-82 Getrag six-gear transmission. Terminus is the original 8.8-inch axle with a Torsen differential and 3.73:1 gears inside it.

So what kind of pins has this Mustang got? Rockwell is very persuaded by that down-onna-ground. He modified the chassis with Air Lift Performance parts, adjustable on-the-fly to thwart potholes, steep drives, and Chevy road kill. Aside from this practicality, Rockwell says the car handles exceptionally well and that it is damn hard to tell the suspension is not purely mechanical.

The cockpit is basically as it rolled off the line but features leather Recaro seats, Schroth four-point harnesses, a navigation system that gets Eric Rockwell safely in and out of Colt’s Neck, New Jersey, when the sky is dark, and a boost gauge jutting eye-level from the A-pillar.

“The car drives like stock until you get into boost, then hold on!” he mock-cautions. “I drive it everywhere—rain, snow, or sunshine. It’s a daily driver. It’s right at home going fast or at a car show. The Paxton works amazingly well and has not let me down in snow or below-freezing weather. Air Lift was a great addition to the vehicle as it suited my lifestyle. I could have that low, mean look while not worrying about speed bumps. Just click a button and it will go up, no problem.”

Call it the febrile rush of youth. Call it I want to know just how much more is out there and how far I can go with it. Rockwell: “This winter the car is getting torn down again and I am putting on a CPR turbo kit and going for four-digit horsepower.” We like the way this young man thinks.

For the outside of the Mustang, Rockwell looked for wrecks with useable parts and in doing so came across a GT500 clip, including spoiler, and put them into service. He brought the parts together with a Cervini’s Stalker hood, RTR side splitters, and a Boss Performance valance. The Deep Impact Blue paint is original and in very good shape.

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