Tom Wilson
April 1, 2002
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: At first glance, Emile's car looks like another Mustang street machine with a few nice additions. But a second inspection reveals a serious, purpose-built device that's been carefully crafted for ultimate street performance. Stripped to a bare body shell during construction, Emile's Mustang is far beyond a kid's bolt-on car.

There are Mustangs for fun, Mustangs for doing the to-work shuffle, Mustangs to be seen in-and then there are Mustangs crafted just for driving. Emile Bouret figured he needed one of the latter. He didn't so much care if anyone noticed him in it-witness the subdued gray paint-and he didn't need to drive it to work, or even keep it close as his sole source of driving endocrines.

Custom engine bits include carbon-fiber valve covers, an air-to-oil cooler, a power-steering cooler, a three-row Griffin aluminum radiator, and a nice B&B-fabbed Tri-Flow 2 1/2-inch exhaust system Jet Hot coated from the long-tubes to X-pipe to tailpipes. Those long-tubes are collected in a flat, four-in-a-row arrangement for ground clearance. Originally, the mufflers were B&B carbon-fiber units that proved too noisy for street use. Currently, simple Walker two-pass "turbo" mufflers are onboard. Let's not forget the entire engine shebang is 1 inch lower and 1 1/2 inches back thanks to the Griggs K-member, as well.

What he did need was a tool to keep his race driving skills sharp.A budding pro racer who was also hearing the call of business, Emile wanted a car capable enough to support his hard-driving ambition when the need for money outsped the need for speed. In other words, he needed a readily accessible car in which he could practice when he couldn't log seat time at the track. Thus, superb handling along with crisp, potent power and excellent brakes were required. Naturally, none of this was supposed to cost too much money, and therefore Emile's existing '86 street car was volunteered for the job.

For years people have been turning to Griggs Racing when they wanted race-car handling from their Mustangs, and in due course Emile ended up at Griggs. There the Mustang was transformed, an operation requiring total disassembly so the chassis could be properly reinforced for the huge cornering loads the suspension would generate. Griggs' massive, labor intensive, full-length, through-the-floor subframe connectors went in, along with a jungle gym of small tubing to form new seat tracks, and larger-diameter pipes for a street-friendly rollcage. Lacking only the overhead bars of a full-on racing cage, the Griggs street cage and chassis reinforcements effectively negate the T-top chassis' natural Flexiflyer status.

The Ford suspension was discarded, replaced by Griggs' GR-40 system. This means a torque arm and Panhard bar in the rear, a tubular K-member in front, tubular control arms all the way around, and coilover spring/ shock units up front. Koni "yellow" dampers are featured, coupled with 400-lb/in springs in front and 350-lb/in springs in the rear. The only Ford suspension bits-late-model '94 Mustang spin-dles and hubs-were fitted, and the entire thing is bumpsteered using a Griggs bumpsteer kit and camber/caster plates.

Normally, this sort of car would have a Cobra brake or equivalent onboard, but Emile wanted to emulate as closely as possible the unbelievable stopping power of the Formula Atlantic cars he'd been driving. He opted for Baer Brakes' PRO+ four-piston Alcon system with 14-inch discs up front, and dual-piston, 13-inch slotted rotors in back. This huge stopping power is adjustable front to back with an underhood bias adjuster.

While the car was apart, some racy, one-off touches were applied to the vintage interior by Griggs. Notable of these was a carbon-fiber instrument cluster insert fitted with Auto Meter dials. We also noted an eclectic grouping of interior demon tweaks that quietly speak volumes about these cars' intent. Some of these are harmless fun, such as the toggle switch and push button for ignition and starter duties-others are more serious, such as the switches to disable the brake lights or all the exterior lights save the headlights. We did not find a compartment for moonshine. We did, however, encounter a custom, flat-floor section in the now inaccessible rear seat and hatch areas. This allows a full-size 17-inch Cobra R-sized spare, a gel cell battery, a veritable chorus of stereo speakers, and an electric fuel pump to occupy the space wasted on mere offspring by more mainstream Mustang operators.

Another extra special-read expensive-chassis fitment was the set of ultra-light Fikse FM-10 wheels. Like a tailored suit, Fikses are made to order. Unlike even the best suits, these world-class wheels are serial numbered to facilitate inspection, maintenance, and-should it be necessary-replacement. Emile's featherweight Fikses are 18x9.5 inches front and rear, and mount 265/35-18 Yokohama Nexus tires. This tire-and-wheel package alone is enough to bankrupt most Mustang projects, but it goes a long way to providing the sharp handling serious drivers live for.

That stereo, an Alpine disc head unit, is one major concession to street driving Emile has allowed himself. It sports two 8-inch sub tubes; a pair of 6x9-inch, two-door speakers; and two dash speakers, all Alpine amped. The rest is fairly business-like, including the Sparco Pro 2000 fiberglass seats, the Sabelt five-point harness-the stock three-point belts remain for daily driving-the MOMO steering wheel and shift knob, and a programmable shift light built into the dash. Even with the big stereo, air conditioning, and rollcage, Emile's ride scales a svelte 3,120 pounds, thanks no doubt to the light wheels, the suspension, the small battery, the 'glass seats, and other weight savers sprinkled here and there.

On the other side of the 7.8:1 power-to-weight ratio is an iron-block, aluminum-head 351 Windsor. Originally a Ford crate-engine development piece that was back-door purchased from Roush, the engine was rebuilt and upgraded by ESI in Santee, California, to its current 400hp status. This was done with the standard Ford crate 351 internals, including the stock bore and stroke, as well as a trick 750-cfm Holley from Winston Cup supplier Fuel Curve out of North Carolina. A Ford Racing Performance Parts programmable ignition box teams with the carburetion, which is augmented by a custom Griggs cold-air enclosure fencing in the round K&N air filter.

Formula car drivers are all over their gearboxes, what with a million rpm and no torque to work with. And while Emile's Windsor hardly lacks torque, he did opt for a T56 six-speed conversion, a Hurst short-throw shifter, 3.55 rear gears, and a custom-built Griggs 8.8 axle featuring Gold Track gears and axles.

Furthermore, Emile insisted we drive his creation, going well out of his way to bring the machine to us. What a treat! Until you drive a Mustang with a rock-solid chassis, supple suspension that moves in the right directions, brakes that arrest forward motion with ease, all propelled by a willing Windsor, then you haven't done it all yet.

Trying out some of our favorite winding local roads, we noted Emile's ride has way-cool, naturally aspirated power that can either be short shifted with little loss in thrust or run all the way until the useful shift light signals the rev limiter will show up in 200 rpm. The brakes are everything you'd want any time all the time, and the handling is nearly go-kart-like through the early non-airbag steering wheel. Distinct understeer ramps in just before the fronts give up; perfect for saving yourself when suddenly discovering you've been trying too hard. The beauty of the understeer is it can be easily tuned out with sway bars or shocks for track duty, unlike the nose-low, pig-like, corner-grunting with which stock Mustangs are bred at the factory.

We also discovered Emile's is a real street car too. The exhaust is tucked up tightly against the floorpan, so scraping and high centering are not problems, the noise level was entirely livable, and we loved the T-top openness now that it has been combined with a stiff chassis. Cruising or hammering on the back roads, this car gets it. Our only complaints would be the clutch is a bit heavy-selecting reverse in the T56 is still like weightlifting-and with California emission's regs being what they are, the carbureted engine is a registration dead zone that only fuel injection is going to cure.

The sad part for Emile is he needs to sell this great car to pump more capital into business. He's got a shoebox at home with $60,000 worth of receipts in it, but he knows this fantastic ride will go for far less than that. Too bad we don't have any cash!