Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
The story of Rob Ruska’s 1990 Mustang GT is more than skin deep
Color Me Bad
Unless your mom and dad stuck to utilitarian vehicles, you most likely have a love towards any cool cars they ever drove. If they drove mini-vans or giant station wagons…well, you might not have been in a rush to go out and buy one after getting your drivers license. However, as impressionable youth, if they drove something even remotely cool, that’s what we wanted once we were street legal.
If we did want a car just like mom or dad, most of us would have to settle for a car similar to what our parents had, but in Rob Ruska’s case, this is the car his dad owned. Yes, the exact one.
“I remember the day my dad brought it home,” Rob tells us about his dad’s 1990 Mustang GT. “I was 10 years old,” he adds. Both his mom and dad took the GT to track days at Watkins Glen. At 12 years old, Rob was the car’s crew, checking tire pressure, fluid levels, and the like.
Unfortunately, Rob’s dad Ivars Ruska was struck with cancer, and the car sat while he battled for his life. Eventually, Rob’s dad would lose his battle, and pass away on August 30, 2011. “Hours after my dad passed, I pulled the car out and did the most epic burnout in front of the house,” Rob says.
Having moved to North Carolina previous to his dad’s passing, Rob took the car back to tobacco road with him, and drove it for two months before tearing it apart. Being in the car industry all of his life, working in stereo shops, doing window tint and paint protection, and current partner and manager of Sunstoppers Lake Norman location, Rob knew he couldn’t leave the car the way it was. Rob initially just planned on an engine rebuild, and new paint, but like his dad, cancer had taken over a few key areas in the form of rust. To get the GT back in fighting shape, Retro Designs cut out the rusty shock towers, replacing them with good metal and smoothing the engine bay in the process.
To fix the faded and rusted Wild Strawberry body, Retro Designs got after the exterior, smoothing the body below the molding line, fitting the Cervini’s hood, and applying fresh paint. Instead of going back with Wild Strawberry, which his dad chose because it matched the flag of Latvia where Ivars was born and raised, Rob chose to change things up a bit by choosing a custom color combining a custom silver base with DuPont Hot Hues Candy Red. The result is simply amazing. Whenever Rob has the car at a show, the paint mesmerizes those in attendance, ultimately leading to the question, “What color is that?” And to us, the car’s SVE Series 1 wheel in Liquid gold is the perfect peanut butter to the body’s jelly. Up front are 18x9 examples with 18x10s out back, all wrapped in Nitto Invo treads.
Back to Rob’s initial plan of rebuilding the car’s tired engine, Rob added a Prestige Motorsports-built 347 with a sound as breathtaking as the car’s exterior. Prestige started from scratch to put together the car’s powerplant, and Rob backed it with a T5 transmission, McLeod clutch, Pro-5.0 shifter, and the car’s stock driveshaft. To help make the most of that 347, the 8.8 rearend has 4.10 gears in it, but Rob is thinking about a more street-friendly 3.55 in the future, along with an aluminum driveshaft.
Chassis-wise, the car needed plenty to make sure it was structurally ready for the newfound power. Up front, Rob added a Team Z Motorsports K-member with Maximum Motorsports front control arms and coilover springs, Bilstein struts, and Wilwood disc brakes. Out back, the Maximum Motorsports theme continues with the company’s adjustable upper and lower control arms combined with Bilstein shocks, H&R springs, and an Eibach sway bar. Even more strength comes in the form of a custom roll cage and Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors.
“The car is fun, loud, powerful, and handles like a dream,” Rob says of the finished product. “It also has that old school race car feel at the same time,” he adds. The car made its debut at Mustang Week 2016, where Rob met the right people to make it a regular at other big shows like Foxtoberfest and Ponies in the Smokies.
When we asked Rob what he likes best about his car, he says, “The history and story behind it, being my dad’s car.” We also asked him if it would ever be for sale, to which he answered, “Hell no!”