Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
September 1, 2002

Step By Step

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Dubbed the “nicest Mustang in Jersey” by Jimmy Vaccaro (of Super Stallions of the Net fame), John’s “84BEAST” is likely to stir the hearts of those looking to get into a square-light car. John says, “This could not have been possible without the support of my beautiful wife, Ann-E, and the time and extreme effort of Alfredo Bollatta from Valley Performance.” Others on his thank-you list are Brian Freedentag and Bobby and Robert Bowers.
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When Alfredo at Valley Performance initially installed John’s 347, it featured a GT-40 intake. That has been replaced with a Trick Flow Track Heat intake, which was ported by Alfredo. John credits him with making the car streetable, yet an animal at the same time. Since these photos were taken, Dentz Unlimited has carried out even more detailing chores under the hood. “It looks so good under the hood now,” John says. As it was, we thought it looked good enough for our photo shoot. By the way, John plans on adding a Vortech Aftercooler to the mix as well. Yikes!
After we originally ran John Richichi's feature in the April 2002 issue, he blew out the number seven piston's ring lands during a country road blitz through the gears. He said it was all good until he hit Third gear and heard what could've been easily confused with the sound of breaking glass. He immediately shut it down and took the car back over to Alfredo at Valley Performance. Alfredo yanked out the engine and sent the carcass over to Jack Merkel Performance in Kenilworth, NJ, where the R302 block was bored .060 over and treated to new bearings, Diamond pistons, and one new valve. John's existing crank, rods, Anderson Ford Motorsport B4 cam, Trick Flow intake, and Edelbrock Performer RPM heads were reinstalled. The heads received more port work and were port-matched to the Trick Flow lower. The engine now displaces 352 cubic inches and John says it feels just as strong now with a 3.33 pulley on it compared to before with a 2.95 pulley on the Vortech T-Trim.
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The interior is like new and is filled with a plethora of Auto Meter gauges on the A-pillar and within a Florida 5.0 gauge pod on the dash. Valley Performance rewired the dash using an ’86 wiring harness. Tronix in Freehold, New Jersey, installed the sound system consisting of a Pioneer CD head unit, Cadence speakers, and dual Pioneer amps.
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It's rare to come upon an earlier Mustang as nice as this one owned by John Richichi of Monroe Township, New Jersey. Most square-light ('79-'86) Mustangs seem to be in rough shape or they've already been updated with late-model bumper covers with matching sheetmetal and moldings. Even with the current trends in the Fox Mustang hobby, we hear a lot of people expressing the desire to have one of these cars and keep it in its square-light form. We have a feeling John Richichi's '84 GT will inspire those who've been on the fence about that early Fox-body purchase.

John got a jump on the rest of us when he bought the car from its original owner in 1994. "It was pretty much stock except for the engine, which had World Castings heads, an Edelbrock Performer intake, and a Holley 650 carburetor," John says. The car also boasted MAC long-tube headers, a Flowmaster two-chamber after-cat, a Hurst shifter, and a Ford Racing Performance Parts clutch. The short-block was barely broken in with 99,000 miles on it. When John retired it from daily driven status in 1996, the car had just 130,000 miles on it.

With this many trips around the block, the engine began to blow smoke, but the car was still fast and smooth. And it was in excellent condition overall. The paint was in great shape and the interior was good as new. Despite the car's condition, in the spring of 1997 John decided it was time for a total restoration (we still can't get used to the words "total restoration" in reference to Fox Mustangs).

Out came the engine and transmission, which allowed John to clean, strip, and have new paint applied to the engine compartment. During the down time, John hooked up with LaRocca's Performance for the installation of a used '91 stock-block with Edelbrock Stage II ported heads, a Vortech S-Trim, a Lunati blower cam, a Cobra intake, and an upgraded suspension featuring an 8.8 rear. In this form the car was capable of mid 11s in the quarter-mile. John left the original paint as is and drove the car through the summer of 1998. But toward the end of that summer, the rings within the used short-block began to show their age. John removed the engine to set the stage for bigger and better upgrades. While the engine and transmission were out, John had Carlson's Auto Body in Jackson, New Jersey, apply a Stage 4 paint job to the car. And he went a step further by adding a Cervini's 3-inch cowl hood and a Saleen wing.

With the mirror-like finish applied, John took the car home and kept it covered up in the garage. Then, in December 1998, the car was taken to Alfredo Bollatta at Valley Performance in Belleville, New Jersey. John and Alfredo discussed several ideas to set his car apart from every other Mustang on the road. The first plan was to bring the car's wiring harness up to par with the rest of the vehicle. Since the car is an '84, it was not wired for fuel injection, which meant most of the wiring was spliced in to make the components work together.

Alfredo spent long hours rewiring the car, which included using an '86 wiring harness that seemingly took forever to locate. With the new wiring, the car looked like a factory fuel-injected Mustang.

To make the most of the new EFI, John contacted Probe Racing Components for one of its Pro Street Fighter 347 stroker kits. John ordered the complete short-block, but with the horsepower level John was wanting, Alfredo suggested getting one of FRPP's R302 blocks.

After a two-month wait for the R302 block, the rotating assembly was taken out of the Probe-supplied block and reinstalled into the R302 block by B&B Machine Shop in Carteret, New Jersey. When the stroker was originally installed in the car in July 2000, it featured Edelbrock Performer RPM heads and a GT-40 intake, both ported by Probe. John also upgraded the blower from an S-Trim to a thumping T-Trim. In November 2000, he finished off the car with a set of chrome Cobra wheels that he purchased in June 1998 for the day when the car would be done. Nitto treads with drag radials out back fight for traction.

Why is traction such a hot commodity on John's '84? Off the trailer, the car made 502 hp on Crazy Horse's Dynojet. Through a short series of tuning tricks without the aid of an air/fuel monitor (which was down at the time), horsepower shot up to a humbling 544 ponies combined with 536 lb-ft of torque at just 12 pounds of boost. Now that's just not fair!

Horse Sense: To illustrate the fact that square-light Mustangs are hard to come by, we did two searches on www.autotrader.com. One was for '82-'86 Mustangs and the other was for '87-'93 models. The price and miles search was the same for each segment. The '82-'86 search turned up 25 cars, while the '87-'93 search found 138 possible purchase candidates. Moral of the story-if you want a square-light car, you better get busy. There aren't many left.