5.0 Mustang & Super FordsFeatured Vehicles
Paul and Rachel Dawson's '95 GT Convertible
Never Mind The Blower And The Nitrous--it's The Little Things That Made Us Shoot This Fox-4
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At shows or race events, we're often asked what it takes to get a car featured in this magazine--a simple enough question for which there's no simple answer. Granted, if your ride puts 1,000 hp to the rear wheels, looks like a modern work of art, handles like a slot car, all while nailing down 30 mpg, it's bound to get our attention. But sometimes it's the little things that make us reach for our camera gear.
Case in point is Paul and Rachel Dawson's '95 GT convertible. As we perused the Mustang lineup at last spring's J&P Performance customer appreciation show, we kept coming back to their car. Aside from its hunkered, ebony appearance, we were drawn by the labor-intensive minutiae found throughout the pristine engine bay and interior. We came to learn it had not always been this finely detailed. The Dawsons bought the 23,000-kilometer (about 14,000-mile) 5.0 convertible in 1997 as it seemed to be a better deal than buying, then modifying, a new one. This was because the lowered roadster already wore a Xenon body kit, a Classic Design Concepts light bar, 17-inch TSW wheels, iron GT-40 heads and intake, and an SN-93 Paxton supercharger, among other modifications. It wasn't exactly pristine, but how much abuse, the couple reasoned, could its previous owner have heaped upon the car in only 14,000 miles anyway?
Plenty, they quickly found out, as excessive blow-by, followed shortly thereafter by a seized engine, ruined the mood only days after purchase. In NASCAR parlance: "She blowed up real good."
In the process of rebuilding the engine, Paul and Rachel discovered it had already been rebuilt--but with sloppy machining that had resulted in tapered cylinder bores, relegating the block to the scrap heap. So, the reconstruction began with a good used block, bored 0.030-over for 306-inch displacement, then fitted with TRW forged pistons on polished and shot-peened stock rods. The stock-crank bottom end was firmed up with a stud girdle.
With its F303 cam and and Cobra 1.7 roller rockers, along with a C&L 73mm mass-air and FRPP 65mm throttle body, the blown combo should have been a ripper right out of the box. However, neither the shop that built the engine nor the owners could seem to solve some persistent tuning and driveability issues. It wasn't until the Dawsons met the Silva boys at Toronto's J&P Performance that things really came together. The brothers Silva soon had the timing and fuel issues worked out, and they also supplied an MSD 6AL ignition box and boost retard, along with a 150hp Compucar nitrous kit, perhaps on the theory that two power adders are better than one.
Once the engine was back in the car, Paul Dawson was finally able to concentrate on some instrumentation deficiencies he had noticed when he bought the car--despite the presence of a supercharger, the car had had absolutely no supplementary gauges to keep an eye on things. Between that and the need for nitrous controls, he decided to try his hand at some custom wiring and control panels, the results of which demanded our camera's attention and are visible in our interior shots.
Beginning with the instruments, Paul added Auto Meter Sport Comp water, oil, boost, fuel-pressure, and nitrous gauges, along with a K&N air/fuel ratio meter. Above the water-temp gauge on the A-pillar, he fitted a custom LED shift light wired to one of the MSD box's rpm- activation switches (set for 5,800 rpm). Day/night intensity of this shift light is controlled by the top left switch in the fabricated ashtray control panel. Beside the switch is a test button for the shift light, and beneath it are switches for manual fan override and nitrous arming. The panel beneath the CD player houses a boost-retard control and air/fuel ratio gauge, with a switch in between to select between left or right oxygen sensors.
The only performance measure-ment so far has been via a G-Tech in-car performance tester, which measured a quarter-mile of 12.3 at 121 mph. However, a postscript is in order. Shortly after our photo shoot, the polished ball-drive Paxton seen in our photos literally had a seizure. After a brief period of mourning, Paul and Rachel made plans to install a ProCharger during the winter. Based on their work so far, we're sure it will be a nicely detailed installation.
Horse Sense: The '94-and-newer Mustangs, such as the Dawsons' '95, are commonly know by their internal Ford code name, SN-95. They are also referred to as Fox-4s, as the more refined SN-95 chassis is a modified version of the familiar Fox platform.