Michael Johnson Associate Editor
June 1, 2005
Photos By: Dale Amy

Working in the automotive performance industry, we can tell you working relationships really come in handy when horsepower goals are set in motion. Here at 5.0&SF magazine, increased horsepower is just a phone call away, with access to hundreds of manufacturers ready and willing (most of the time) to show us the capabilities of their latest performance widget. This access to the performance aftermarket makes those outside the box insanely jealous. Joe Mustang Owner may not be able to talk to the top dog at Superchargers-R-Us, but for those of us in the industry, talking to, and doing business with, the most influential people in the performance field is as easy as getting steroids from a BALCO rep.

One such industry insider who has relied on his business relationships to build a wicked Mustang is Joe "JC" Cascio. Long before he was an industry insider, JC was into Mustangs. He purchased his first Mustang at 17, an age when most of us were still pimpin' mom's Country Squire wagon. The steed was a previously abused '85 GT, and since JC didn't have the money to go away to school, he attended a local community college and enrolled in its automotive program. "I learned to work on cars," JC says, "mostly by fixing mine." The program really came in handy when it came time to rebuild the '85's engine, which JC accomplished while enrolled. "My love for Mustangs and cars in general was established at that point and I have never looked back," JC says.

Fresh out of school, JC started working at Strange Engineering in 1994, just after turning 20. But, JC decided he didn't want to continue picking the grease from under his fingernails, and he moved over to the sales department at Strange. He is now Strange's Assistant Sales Manager, and he is constantly on the road attending various events behind the wheel of the Strange Bus (as he puts it), including NMRA races throughout the year. "I have been on the road since 1998, the same year my son, Nick, was born," JC says. "Being on the road was tough with a newborn, so I decided a project car would be just the thing to keep me in the garage at home when I was in town," he adds. "At least that was the logical way of thinking at the time."

It was at the '99 Gatornationals NHRA race in Gainesville, Florida, that he would find his project in the form of this '89 GT convertible. It already featured Saleen ground effects and a price JC couldn't turn down. "When the race was over, I parked the Strange Bus at a friend's shop, and drove the Mustang home," JC says. "After explaining to my boss that I did not trade in the bus, I quickly returned to Florida to retrieve it," he adds.

"Since I had been around [the automotive industry] for a couple years," JC says, "I had made some friends in the industry." One of the first contacts he made was with the guys at Auto Meter, after seeing the company's carbon-fiber gauges at the PRI show. "I was able to get my hands on a set of them and after they went in the car, I was officially bitten by the bug and money started flying."

With the addition of the gauges, he decided to concentrate his initial customizing efforts on the interior. Next up was a pair of '99 Dodge Viper seats. "The seats fit the car perfectly and I have yet to see anyone else with them, other than Vipers." And, since the interior was initially red and white, and we all know how long that lasts, JC changed out the red and white for red and black. At that point, he felt he had a car worthy of cruising the avenue.