Michael Johnson Associate Editor
May 1, 2002
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: The '82 Mustang GT was heralded as the return of the Boss.With155 hp from a two-barrel 302, it hardly seems like much of a powerhouse. However, the '82 GT was still able to sprint from 0-60 in 6.9 seconds. Also at that time, the new-for-1982 Z28 couldn't match this number.Nothing would-until the '84 Corvette was released.

There are not many of us who can say we still own the first Mustang we ever purchased, much less the first brand-new one. For most of us, it's a cycle. We buy a Mustang that's not exactly what we want, but we go for it. We invest time, money, and effort into a car that we didn't really want in the first place. After a while, we yearn for what we really want. So a plan is put in action to sever ties with the current Mustang and look for our perfect match.

For Joe Huerta of Gardena, California, this GT is exactly what he wanted back in 1982. He still owns it, though it's nothing like it was back then.

Joe's love of cars began while he was in junior high. Even though he wasn't able to drive then, he still read everything he could get his hands on. His dad fed the fire even more by taking young Joe to races. However, the story starts off on the wrong foot because Joe's parents bought him a '69 Camaro (the horror of it all) for graduation. Still, Joe persevered, working at his dad's body shop (Long Beach Truck Painting) to fix up the Camaro.

He was into road racing at the time, so he built the car with that theme in mind. He lowered it, added custom wheels and tires, a new engine-all the usual stuff. "It turned out OK," Joe says, "but the car was a gas-guzzler and sort of unreliable."

The show-car bug is responsible for the '82 being repainted four times and being stripped to bare metal two of those times. Save for the rear bumper cover (due to drooping), a new hatch, and a Cobra rear wing, the body is stock. Of course, the Dupont Chroma-One finish doesn't scream factory to us. However, Joe also added Pacific Auto Accessories fiberglass side skirts, rear spats, and SVO sail panels to make the GT stand out in a crowd.

In 1982, GM unveiled the new F-body, but it was too expensive for Joe's blood. That same year, he attended the Long Beach Grand Prix. "They always have a little automotive-expo dealie," Joe says. It was while at the show he saw it-a brand-new, silver '82 GT. Scoping it out, he liked what he saw. And he could afford it-well, not right then, but after saving for several months he was able to pony up the funds for the GT you see here. "I doubt anyone could have been as jazzed as I was the day I drove my GT out of the Pacific Ford dealership in Long Beach, California," Joe says. Not surprisingly, his Camaro was sitting on jackstands awaiting another tranny rebuild, so Joe cut his losses and sold it to double up on a few car payments.

The GT served as Joe's daily driver during a return stint to college. All the while he looked for potential mods he could perform on it. "Way back then there wasn't the huge assortment of parts 'Stangers have available now, so you really had to look to find good 5.0 parts," he says. He stuck to the basics at first by lowering the car and adding larger wheels, a free-flowing exhaust, underdrive pulleys, and so on. After graduating in 1989, Joe removed the "tired" 68,000-mile engine for a rebuild, and while he was at it he decided to clean up the engine compartment. Still working at his dad's body shop, he was able to do the majority of performance upgrades himself. While the engine was out, Joe had the heads ported and added a performance cam. It was about this time he started to show the GT, winning several trophies along the way.

In 1994, Joe decided to deviate from stock by adding fuel injection to the car. He pulled the engine once again for a freshening up and also upgraded to a roller cam, World Castings Windsor Jr. heads, and other performance goodies. As with most conversions of this kind, Joe had his share of tuning maladies, but in time those were all ironed out.