Eric English
April 1, 2004
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Most kids at the age of 15 have little experience wrenching on automobiles, and San Francisco Bay resident Ross Dehoney was no different some 6 years ago. But the high school student was in the enviable position of buying his first car prior to landing a driver's license, and he was drawn by the powerful package we know as a 5.0 Mustang. The original plan was to get into a strong-running and decent-looking car and simply enjoy the ride.

The '88 GT pictured here filled the bill nicely, and it was as stock as the day it left the dealer showroom-including the soft-shifting AOD. But, as have a multitude of enthusiasts before him, Ross soon fell victim to a case of Fox-body fever. He began modifying the car as quickly as any full-time student could ever hope to.

What Ross lacked in experience was compensated for with youthful enthu-siasm and a steady hand from his dad, Russ. The elder Dehoney is a knowledgeable car guy, but his tutelage technique is typically more along the lines of sage advice rather than actual hands-on help. "Dad would tell me how to do something," Ross says, "and I'd go do it myself." This mentoring style seems to have worked well, as the first project was a larger job than most newbies will tackle on their own-a swap from an AOD to a T5. Ross had quickly grown bored with automated gear changes, and a friend just happened to be going the other way by yanking a Ford Racing Performance Parts "Z" gearbox for a C4. It was a near perfect scenario, and the successful exchange also yielded a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch and Hurst shifter.

With the move from slushbox to stick shift, Ross immediately realized a complete transformation in the driving experience, which fueled more typical modifications. Under the hood, the long-block remains all-original, though plans are underway to make a change here soon. In the meantime, Ross gets his kicks from such items as a Holley intake, an Accufab 70mm throttle body, a Pro-M 75mm air meter, and-best of all-a Paxton Novi 2000. The blower is the big reason for Holley's 50-pound injectors, which receive their juice from a Walbro 255-lph fuel pump and yield decent driving manners thanks to an Autologic chip from R.A.C.E. Systems. The results have yielded 325 hp and 342lb-ft of torque on Apex Motorsports' Dynojet. These numbers seem solid considering the engine's stock nature and 117,000 miles.

Cosmetics for the '88 received an accelerated schedule when Ross was involved in a minor frontal fender bender. It may not have been a fortuitous event, but it did give an opportunity to make the best of an unfortunate situation. Rather than spend the dough for stock replacement pieces, it was an opportunity to pick up a Cervini's Stalker bumper cover and a 211/42-inch cowl hood. The damage didn't include any problems in the rear, but with a paint booth date in the waiting, it seemed the perfect time to add a Cervini's rear wing and LX taillights. Once installed, CG&E Autobody in Redwood City, California, laid down the custom-mixed blue metallic. The hue isn't far off the factory Bright Regatta Blue, but the original scheme came with the typical titanium accent below the beltline.

With street use in mind, Ross added a number of other components to assure the GT could make the most of the added underhood oomph. Out back, the stock Traction-Lok was rebuilt and augmented with a 3.73 ring-and-pinion, Moser axles, and a TA girdle/cover. For help in the corners, Koni yellows, FRPP springs, and Maximum Motorsports adjustable lower control arms are employed in the rear, while the nose end sees more Konis, Eibach springs, and Hotchkis caster/camber plates.