Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
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.

The GT packs 351 ci of Lightning Windsor with a Vortech S-Trim supercharger thrown in for good measure. Joe says he hasn't been able to get any dyno numbers yet, but you know this one's going to crank out serious power once the tuning wizards at Swanson Performance get the keys. Joe would like to thank his dad, Albert, and friend Danny Lopez for their help in the car's metamorphosis.

The turning point for Joe and his GT came when a friend started raving about the Windsor swap he had just performed on his car. Sure enough, Joe couldn't resist the urge to go for more cubic inches. In 1997, he was able to purchase one of the last Lightning short-blocks from Ford Racing Performance Parts. However, the swap wasn't that easy. He had to procure the remaining parts-headers, a new intake, and so on-to make the swap possible. By this time, Joe was no longer working for his dad, so it took a little longer in the transformation process. He was able to work on the car at his dad's shop in the evenings and on weekends. He also became pickier about what to add to the GT, and he began using the Internet to aid him in his quest for supreme performance.

"I'm by no means a rich guy," Joe says, "so I had to be careful with money and buy only what I could afford. For example, last year I bought used seats from a '97 GT and had them reupholstered. They look unique, and I've gotten a few positive comments." With this addition he gained power seats. "And not for a whole lot of dough," Joe adds.

It would be the summer of 1998 before Joe would finish the 351W. "It came out nice, the car had a ton of torque, and I was pretty darn happy," he says. Around this time he also added Baer brakes, 17-inch wheels, and whatever else caught his eye. But the train fell off the tracks once again when another friend took him for a ride in his blower car. Oh, yeah-Joe now had to have a supercharger. Of course, he took his time and finally located a used Vortech S-Trim kit. He had to massage the kit to make it fit his Windsor, but once everything was on the same page, the power delivery was well worth it.

Joe added reupholstered '97 GT seats to the interior, along with a MOMO steering wheel, an MGW shift knob, and a complement of Auto Meter gauges to keep track of what's going on underhood.

Yes, it was nice, but with this newfound power the car would get really out of shape when he hit the loud pedal. And, yes, it was time for more upgrades. Naturally, he looked toward the mainstream suspension manu-facturers and studied each kit on the market. After much research he decided to add a Maximum Motorsports torque arm and corresponding control arms and Panhard bar. Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable shocks and struts also found their way on the car, with H&R springs up front and Eibach springs out back. To finish up the exterior and shore up the handling aspect even further, Joe added MSW Motorsport wheels with corresponding Kumho treads. The suspension improvements proved to be the big-ticket item for 2001.

"I've had a lot of fun with this heap over the years, and I made a lot of friends," Joe says. He blames us magazine-types for planting ideas in his head as to what direction to go in next. Hey, Joe-we can't resist the urge either.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block FRPP {{{M}}}-6009-B58
Displacement 351 ci
Cam Lightning
Heads FRPP GT-40 aluminum
Intake 5.8 Lightning lower, Downs box upper
Exhaust Bassani 351W swap headers, high-flow X-pipe, Quiet Thunder mufflers with dumps
Power Adder Vortech S-Trim
Fuel System 255-lph in-tank pump, T-Rex external pump, ’89 GT fuel lines, Cartech fuel rails, 36-lb/hr injectors
Transmission TTC 3550, FRPP Cobra clutch and billet flywheel, Steeda Tri-Ax shifter
Driveshaft FRPP aluminum
Rearend 8.8, stock axles and Traction-Lok, 3.55 gears
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management ’93 Cobra EEC IV, Swanson Performance chip
Ignition MSD 6AL
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
Struts Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable
K-Member Stock
Control Arms Factory, PST bushings
Brakes Baer
Wheels MSW Motorsport 17x8.5
Tires Kumho Ecsta 712 245/40
REAR SUSPENSION
Shocks Tokico Illumina five-way adjustable
Springs Eibach
Control Arms Maximum Motorsports adjustable
Traction Device Maximum Motorsports torque arm with Panhard bar
Brakes Baer
Wheels MSW Motorsport 17x8.5
Tires Kumho Ecsta