Dr.Jamie Meyer
October 1, 2002

Horse Sense: The '96 Mustang GT was the first Mustang to carry the modular Ford engine into battle. Rated at 215 wheezing horsepower, it didn't fare well against LT-1 Brand-X weapons of the time. However, it did set the stage for the amazing level of modular performance we have from Ford today.

This was one of those rare moments when the 5.0&SF curse was caught on film. That is, if we ask to shoot your car for the magazine, you may suffer some sort of ill fate. In Jim Wagner's case, a pair of hardened, 33-spline, race axles from Moser snapped. Yes, both axles popped at the same time while we were shooting. Moser replaced the race axles under warranty, and after a bit of wrenching, Jim was back at the track. Just shows how effective the suspension works at getting more than 600 rwhp to the ground. In the front, Paul's Automotive Engineering [(513) 791-1087] installed a complete AJE coilover kit con-sisting of an AJE K-member, A-arms, and spring. The rear suspension consists of QA1 shocks, Lakewood control arms, and a Wolfe Race Craft antiroll bar. The six-point cage is from LA Engineering. Brakes in the front are from Wilwood, while the back binders are from Aerospace.

When Ford released the '96 Mustang GT, it was a rather peculiar car. The corporation hadn't sold a Fox-bodied car since the '79-'93 run had come to an end. In 1996, the only place you could find a 5.0 was under the hood of an Explorer. Yes, the dawn of the modular revolution was thrust upon Ford lovers the world over, and only a handful of people were ready for it.

Wow! Now that's a paint job! Multiple colors adorn the '96 GT that features a Cobra R hood, a Steeda wing, and Bogart rims.This car also pops the quarter-mile. With the old combination, 11.30s were the norm. Look for high-9-second or low-10s from this rock-and-roll show car.

Louisville, Ohio, resident Jim Wagner was one of those who stepped up to the plate. He bought his '96 GT in April of that year, and the car has been in a constant state of development ever since. Within a year, he had bolted a Vortech S-Trim blower to the 281ci 4.6. Simple bolt-on parts followed including a smaller blower pulley for more boost, rear gears, a full exhaust system, a bigger mass air, and drag springs, struts, and control arms. By 1999, the hot little mod machine was going 13.10s at more than 104 mph, and Jim was ready for a serious engine buildup on the car.

He brought the car to Sean Hyland in the summer of 2000. Sean's staff built the engine that is still in the car today. They also upgraded Jim's drivetrain with a Tremec TKO five-speed transmission and a new clutch. Jim had time for only one run before the car was whisked away to the paint booth at Customs Unlimited in Hartville, Ohio. On April 1, 2001, the car ran its first 11-second pass, an 11.90 elapsed time.

All was well and good until Jim started having problems with the way the car wanted to run. It wasn't smooth, it didn't snap when he punched it, and it just didn't feel right. You can add thousands of dollars of parts to a Mustang, but if the tune is off, the car is worthless. In the fall of 2001, Jim turned to Paul Faessler of Paul's Automotive Engineering in Cincinnati. Paul and his crew went to work trying to refine and perfect what Jim had brought them. The potential was amazing.

Everything you'd imagine a car of this capability would have is there in the interior-except for the leather seats and full power driver comfort goodies. Hey, a dude's got to have his tunes while he's kicking butt at the drags! The Hurst shifter is attached to a Tremec TKO five-speed. The Ram 50/50 Soft Loc clutch works with a Ram pressure plate to transfer the goods to an FRPP aluminum driveshaft, Moser spool, and Moser axles. Rear gearing is a modest 4.10:1.

"Paul's made this car run," Jim beams. "They took an active interest in making it go fast. Wiring problems were fixed, a completely new fuel system from fuel cell to injectors was installed, an 11-inch Ram clutch was installed, and the car was tuned with an Autologic chip."

With just these changes, Paul was able to get 495 rwhp and 432 lb-ft of torque. On his annual lap at the local dragstrip, the car turned an 11.3-second e.t. at more than 122 mph. Now, Jim was cooking with gas, and he entrusted Paul's once again to up the modular ante. During the winter of 2001, the blower was upgraded to Vortech's latest-the YT-Trim with eight-rib pulleys. This thing is a real bruiser compared to the street-oriented S-Trim. With just the blower change and a new tune on the chassis dyno, the engine's output leapt to 622 rwhp and 516 lb-ft of torque.

Testing on this latest combination has demonstrated that the 3,400-pound GT will go faster than 11.30. Just how much faster will have to be determined at a later date. The reason is, after just a couple "get acquainted" runs, Jim launched under full power and lunched the 33-spline Moser race axles in the rear. Not just one, mind you, but both axles on the same run! How's that for an axle snapper?