Michael Johnson
Technical 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.

But, JC found that you can only attend so many cruise nights before you find yourself at a light next to someone wanting to clear the carbon from the chambers, and at your expense. "I could only restrain myself for so long and soon found myself in pursuit of more power," he says. After learning lessons on his '85 GT, JC had a plan to start at the front with a new engine, then work his way back. He purchased a D.S.S. 358ci Windsor short-block, and then added Edelbrock Performer RPM heads with matching intake, a custom-grind Comp Cams camshaft, a C&R Racing aluminum radiator, and all the necessary 351-to-Fox-body conversion parts from Ford Racing Performance Parts. ASSC Racing in Lake Bluff, Illinois, handled the installation of the Windsor into the convertible. "It would not be the last time they [ASSC Racing] would see it in their shop," JC adds.

The list of parts that followed is a who's-who of the Mustang aftermarket. A TTC-Tremec TKO found a home in the tunnel with a McLeod clutch and scattershield. Hooker long-tube headers and Aero Chamber mufflers belch out the Windsor's raucous tunes. A call to Racecraft (Mark Wilkinson) landed a tubular K-member and front control arms. Chassis Engineering subframe connectors, upper and lower control arms, an antiroll bar, and a VRN Welding and Fabrication-installed S&W six-point rollcage makes sure JC's convertible stays tight. An Aeromotive fuel system feeds the hungry Windsor, while MSD, ACCEL, and NGK ignition components work together to light the fire.

Of course, since he is Assistant Sales Manager at Strange Engineering, JC would be remiss to mention all the Strange components on the car. JC's dropper features a Strange 9-inch rear housing with a Detroit Locker, a U.S. Gear 3.89 gearset, and Strange 31-spline axles. A Strange chrome-moly driveshaft connects the TKO to the 9-inch out back, while Strange single-adjustable coilover struts with corresponding shocks out back absorb the bumps. Hypercoil springs reside at each corner, while Strange four-piston calipers at all four corners bring all the madness to a halt.

With the upgraded brakes, JC needed new wheels, too. A phone call to Weld Racing yielded a set of KC Stars for the street and Alumastar wheels (big and littles) for track outings. Dunlop treads encase the KC Stars, while Goodyear Front Runners reside up front with Mickey Thompson E/T Drag slicks out back for maximum traction at the track.

For a power adder, JC talked to his buddy Jim Summers, who easily talked him into adding an ATI-ProCharger D-1SC supercharger with a three-core intercooler. "Since I drive the car using pump gas, the boost is limited to 12 pounds," JC says. After all, with all this work into the car, who would want to blow it up? To ensure that wouldn't happen, he again turned to ASSC and Larry Stauner for the installation and tuning of a FAST engine management system. "He [Larry] witnessed my wiring ability once and made me promise not to touch another wire on the car," JC jokes. "Larry at ASSC has had the car in the shop many times working out the bugs and has done a terrific job of tuning the car as well." At the '04 NMRA Joliet race, JC took advantage of the on-site Dynojet, where the car made 506 hp and 496 lb-ft of torque.

With all the relationships JC has made during the buildup of his convertible, the most important is the one he has with his son, Nick. "He is an important part of this car," JC says. Nick even made JC promise to keep the car until he is old enough to drive it, which will be quite a few years since Nick is only six years old at this writing. "He [Nick] is my assistant when I am working on the car and he has every interest in cars that a gearhead dad could hope for. I could not have dedicated so much of my time into this car if he wasn't interested in it." The car's license plate even reads "NX DADDY," which stands for Nick's daddy.

5.0 Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlock351 Windsor w/D.S.S. MainSupport SystemRotating AssemblyStock crankshaft and connecting rods, TRW forged pistonsDisplacement358CamshaftComp CamsCylinder HeadsEdelbrock Performer RPM, Crane Cams 1.6 roller rockers, Comp Cams valvespringsIntake ManifoldEdelbrock Performer RPMThrottle BodyBBK 75mmPower AdderATI-ProCharger D-1SC supercharger with intercooler, 4-inch pulleyExhaustHooker Super Comp headers, 3-inch X-pipe, Hooker Aero Chamber mufflers with turndownsFuel SystemAeromotive A1000 fuel pump, rails, lines, and fuel pressure regulator, 83 lb/hr injectorsTransmissionTTC-Tremec TKO, McLeod single-disc clutch, Ford Racing Performance Parts pressure plate, B&M Ripper shifterRearendStrange Engineering 9-inch, Detroit Locker differential, Strange Engineering 31-spline axles, 3.89 gears

ElectronicsEngine Management FastIgnitionMSD Digital 6, ACCEL 300+ spark plug wires, NGK spark plugsGaugesAuto Meter

Suspension And ChassisFront SuspensionK-MemberRacecraft Engineering tubularControl ArmsRacecraft Engineering tubularSpringsHypercoil, Strange Engineering coilover kitStrutsStrange Engineering single-adjustableCaster/CamberHP MotorsportsWheelsWeld Racing KC Stars (street), Weld Racing Alumastars (track)TiresDunlop Sport 5000 245/45/17 (street), Goodyear Front Runners (track)BrakesStrange Engineering, Wilwood Polymetrix brake padsRear SuspensionSpringsHypercoilShocksStrange Engineering single-adjustableTraction DevicesChassis Engineering upper and lower control arms, and antiroll barWheels Weld Racing KC Stars (street), WeldRacing Alumastars (track)TiresDunlop Sport 5000 275/40/17 (street), Mickey Thompson E/T Drag slicks (track)BrakesStrange Engineering, WilwoodPolymetrix brake padsChassis StiffeningChassis Engineering subframe connectors, VRN Welding and Fabrication-installed S&W eight-point rollcage