Eric English
April 1, 2002

Horse Sense: With nearly stock brakes, Michael Pamintuan's choice of the Borbet Type A is tough to beat. Not only do the wheels look terrific, but also they virtually conceal the fact the car still sports rear drums. Too bad the Type As are out of production, but you get the point. On the other hand, the more open spoke design of Michael Koehnen's OZ Racing rims easily reveal the rear disc upgrade from Stainless Steel Brakes, though their 16-inch size is a nice balance with the modest-sized rotors all the way around. The bottom line? Large, open-spoke wheels should have correspondingly large rotors behind them. Give it some thought before bolting those 18-inchers over stock binders-that is, unless you dig the wimpy import look!

The introduction of fuel injection to the 5.0 Mustang scene in 1986 was the beginning of a performance era that even the most optimistic gearheads could scarcely have imagined. Think about the performance milestones that are continually being set, along with the hardware that's now commonplace. We're talking sub-seven-second e.t.'s and 200-mph trap speeds in Pro 5.0, eight-second passes on 10.5-inch tired Outlaw cars, the availability of a vast array of aftermarket cylinder heads, beefy blocks, stroker crankshafts, and the advent of 500, 600, and even 700hp "street" cars.

They aren't the latest speed parts, but Michael Koehnen's A-Trim and Edelbrock Performer work well.

Imagine being transported through time-from 1986 to 2001-and being overwhelmed by the above-mentioned items for the first time. You'd probably think you'd died and gone to 'Stang heaven, or at least been beamed to another planet. And while all this heady stuff gets most of the ink on these pages, many enthusiasts continue to enjoy a simpler and more affordable approach-you probably know them as bolt-on cars. We'd even opine that these rides drive a majority of the performance aftermarket, since it's high-volume production that represents real profit for a manufacturer. The point is, bolt-on cars tend to be overlooked in our modern age of excess. That's a shame, since in many ways they define what Mustangs are all about-good looks, outstanding performance, user-friendly modifications, and an affordable price.

Instead of another racer or big-horsepower street-car feature, we decided to bring you the Fox-chassis'd GTs of Michael Pamintuan and Michael Koehnen, both of whom hail from the Seattle, Washington, area. While we don't want to minimize the significant dollar investment these cars represent, neither of them is a break-the-bank effort that'll forever destine you to a fleabag apartment-or warrant a set of divorce papers from the spousal unit. Nor do they require lots of fabrication or custom installation items that only a first-class shop can make happen. The key to both cars was starting with a prime example of the breed, choosing a nice combination of parts, and spending the time and effort to make them shine. We figure if you play your cards right, a similar ride could be in your garage for noticeably less than the cost of a new GT. These are the sort of real-world Mustangs that are actually within reach for many of you.

We always laugh when we see a car advertised as "better than new." Sure, pal, the cigarette odor and curbed wheels qualify as a big improvement over assembly-line freshness-yeah, right. Well, in this case, we've found the rare car that qualifies. Michael Pamintuan purchased the bone-stock '90 GT in 1994 from a gentleman he describes as being "as anal and meticulous as I am." Those characteristics may or may not be appealing in-say-your boss, but you couldn't ask for a better combination in a previous owner. Just 13,000 miles had accumulated during those first four years, with a scant 6,000 more turning over on Michael's watch. He's a disciplined guy, too, limiting himself to one or two upgrades a year as his budget allows, but detailing the car to the nines all the while. In the absence of a bottomless bank account, here's proof that sweating the details can take you a long way.

During the years, the modest modifications have turned this GT into an eye-catching street profiler that does most of its damage at local car shows. Out of 29 events to date, Michael has made off with 19 First-Place wins. And the car's fun to drive too, courtesy of some well-chosen hardware installed by the crew at nearby Brad's Custom Auto.

For visual impact, Michael would have been hard-pressed to choose a better color out of the factory palate. With the Bright Red hue going for him, a few easy bolt-ons began to separate this one from the crowd. A Dugan's rear wing, an '83 GT hoodscoop, body-colored mirrors, and 17x8.5-inch Borbet wheels are the main players, while Maier sport springs help bring it together with the all-important ride height.

What could look better with a red topcoat than a factory red interior? The cockpit of Michael Pamin-tuan's GT ups the ante a bit with a B&M shifter for the AOD, Saleen white-faced gauges, and an Alpine CD system with 10-inch sub box. A chrome Hooker four-point rollbar is next on his to-do list.

But enough of the cosmetic stuff. What makes this car fun when the show is done? The number-one contributor is undoubtedly the Paxton SN-93 blower, which is the lone engine modification save for a set of MAC equal-length headers. A Bassani X-pipe and a Flowmaster after-cat system account for a bit more grunt and growl, while a 155-lph pump and Paxton regulator assure the proper amount of fuel gets to the force-fed powerplant.

Chassis upgrades consist of Global West engine compartment bracing and caster/camber plates, Factory Five upper and lower control arms, Koni struts and shocks, and the aforementioned progressive coils. Yokohama AVS Intermediates stick it all to the road, while the stock brakes have been augmented with Hawk friction surfaces front and rear. Yep, by any reasonable accounting, Michael Pamintuan's '90 GT truly runs, drives, and looks better than new.

The interior may not be the first place most enthusiasts lay out their cash, but it's a smart idea when you consider how much time is spent here. When Michael Koehnen plants himself inside, he feels the security of Corbeau buckets and Schroth three-point harnesses, while banging gears comes by way of a Pro-5.0 shifter. Auto Meter gauges monitor the engine vitals, though in addition to functionality, the cabin sports a few items that are strictly for visual and aural enjoyment-including custom carpet and rollbar padding, carbon-fiber trim overlay, and an Alpine stereo system

One of the great things about the automotive hobby is that it has something for everyone. Some are into the show thing, others are all about the go thing, and then there's everywhere in between.

Whereas Michael Pamintuan's '90 beauty leans toward the show-and-shine end of the spectrum, Michael Koehnen's '89 is a couple notches further up the performance ladder. Still, go-faster cars usually want the looks too-thus the Dugan rear spoiler, cowl hood, and OZ wheels. Raising the 'glass lid reveals a spotless and modified 5.0, though without the flashy details of its red counterpart. The original short-block remains, topped by ported factory heads that take their valvetrain cues from a B303 cam and Cobra roller rockers. A Vortech A-Trim leads off the intake side of things, feeding a BBK 70mm throttle body and an Edelbrock Performer intake. Additional fuel is supplied by a 190-lph pump and pressure regulator, while the products of combustion are swept away through BBK equal-length short-tubes and original pipes.

Michael originally began beefing his car for an occasional foray on the parking lot of an autocross, though these days the car is used predominantly for street enjoyment. Chassis mods help in both arenas, and include urethane bushings, Eibach springs, Monroe struts and shocks, Hotchkis caster/camber plates and control arms, and a Panhard bar. Of course, the flexible Fox platform had to be shored up to get the most out of the handling hardware, so BBK subframe connectors and a Dugan six-point rollbar got the nod as well. As sweet as it looks, Michael Koehnen's '89 may not be better than new in every cosmetic sense, but it surely captures more attention and is way more fun to drive some 12 years later.

The Novi 1000 kit for 5.0s is relatively new and retails for around $2,000. As delivered it will build 70 hp via 5-6 pounds of boost, but it can easily spin into the 8-12 pound range with the right supporting hardware. Those extra costs will start to approach the bill for the better-performing Novi 2000 system, however, so think long and hard before laying out the green. If you can delay your need for supercharger gratification, you'll likely be better off saving the extra $1,200-$1,400 for the Novi 2000.

With our two feature cars sporting entry-level supercharger kits from Vortech and Paxton, we figured the subject was worth a review. Michael Koehnen's ride sports a Vortech A-Trim blower, which first hit the scene back in 1991 and comes set to deliver 5-6 pounds of boost. Vortech's own testing has shown horsepower increases on the order of 60-70 at the rear wheels-certainly enough to put a big smile on your face.

It's tough to look at the A-Trim without touching on the next blower up the Vortech food chain, the S-Trim. This longtime favorite can be purchased for around $3,000 and provides a significant horsepower boost over the A-trim. Looking back to a test done several years ago by our former sister mag Super Ford, the S-Trim kit provided an impressive 116-horse kick at the rear wheels of a stock '93 LX. Thus the S-Trim actually provides significantly more bang for the buck-the extra grand in cost netting in the range of 50 additional horses. It's important to note the A-Trim can be upgraded to S-Trim specifications, though you'll end up spending about 500 bones more than if you'd gone straight for the S-Trim to begin with.

But, for enthusiasts who already have an A-Trim, or who can't resist the temptingly low price, it's nice to know the entry-level piece won't be completely obsolete when the need for speed continues to grow. The blower upgrade itself runs $697, while the H.O. upgrade kit PN 8C101-001 costs another $845 (which includes a T-Rex fuel pump, an MSD BTM, an aluminum discharge tube with bypass valve, and an eight-rib drive assembly that develops 8-10 pounds of boost).

We had guessed the heavy-hitting S-Trim might be Vortech's best-selling supercharger in the 5.0 ranks, but we were wrong. All these years after its introduction, the A-Trim remains Vortech's most popular-no doubt a product of an attractive price point around $1,900.

Over on the Paxton side of the fence, the ball-drive blower seen on Michael Pamintuan's GT is still available, though now wearing the SN2000 moniker due to improved bearings, seals, and output shaft. In general, though, Paxton is de-emphasizing the ball drives in favor of its gear-driven Novi series. As for entry-level supercharger kits, both the SN2000 and the Novi 1000 fall into the category and can be had for about $2,000. Paxton main man David Adams explained either will make in the neighborhood of 5-6 pounds of boost and should bring roughly 70 extra horses to the party. Unfortunately, we don't have our own dyno tests to add to the discussion, as the early ball-drive tests occurred before chassis dynos became commonplace.

David notes that the ball drive is fairly well maxed at the 5-6 pound boost range, as spinning it much faster can lead to reduced durability. However, if you know you'll be satisfied with the power level this unit provides, you'll appreciate the ball drive's easy installation (self-contained, no external oiling), quiet operation, and low-end boost characteristics. On the other hand, David makes no bones about recommending any 5.0 owner step up to the Novi 2000, believing it's "the last supercharger you'll ever need to buy." As with the Vortech S-Trim, the Novi 2000 likely represents better value than either of Paxton's entry-level units. For $3,200-$3,400, the Novi 2000 kit delivers 110 rear-wheel ponies in a streetable 8-10 pound boost configuration, but can be made to pump up to 25-30 psi. The kit includes lots of race-worthy hardware as well, so consider it a system you'll likely never outgrow.