Tom Wilson
June 1, 2005

Read the magazines, talk to owners at car shows, or interview any open-track driver, and you'll hear a version of the oldest story in Mustanging: "I bought it as a street car, added some parts, and here we are at the racetrack."

Street, parts, track-new to old, it's the natural progression, and exactly the way Paul Mashouf and his '94 GT found themselves broken against a concrete wall at Laguna Seca. One of them made it, the other didn't, but the ride they had together was one for the ages.

Paul ordered his GT in November 1993 after reviewing the Camaros and the new SN-95-bodied Mustangs at the San Francisco Bay-area auto show. He figured the Camaros had the edge in the powertrain, but they had "a GM interior." He also knew a Camaro would be squeaking and rattling within a year.

Taking delivery in January 1994, Paul sported the newest Mustang around, which was enough to carry him for maybe four months, when he began adding parts. Living in the hill country around San Francisco, Paul recognized his Mustang's weakest area was in its suspension, so he bought a complete Saleen suspension and bolted it on. He also noted JBA had Shorty headers for his car almost immediately, so he added those, along with a throttle body and an MSD ignition.

In the course of three years, Paul wore through three different street-oriented suspension packages. Having just read an article about Griggs Racing and its replacement suspension system, he knew deep down that the track-engineered Griggs torque arm, Panhard bar, K-member, control arms, and associated pieces were what he needed to survive the severe duty he was dishing out. That, and white-knuckle, rainy-day track events had proven something other than bolt-on parts were needed to balance a Mustang for the knife-edged performance he was looking for.

While the cost of the Griggs gear was daunting, Paul recognized he had already spent nearly as much on bolt-ons, and there was no need to do it again and still have it not work. With Griggs Racing in nearby Sonoma, it was easy for him to stop by and take a test ride in the company's demonstrator coupe-a ride that clinched any doubts Paul may have had. This was in late 1997, when his daily driver GT had 117,000 miles on it. Knowing that Griggs was the place, Paul simply left his Mustang and picked it up a month later with it wearing a complete GR40 suspension.

Now living on the peninsula just south of San Francisco, Paul reveled in blasting his newly sharp-handling GT over some of the same roads used in the movie Bullitt. It turned out this twisty road work showed the chassis was willing, but the stock, 215hp '94 5.0 was weak. So Paul went back to Bruce Griggs to talk horsepower-engine building is a relatively unknown strength of Griggs Racing.

After kicking the idea around for a month, Paul and Bruce decided the best combination would be a high-torque, moderate-revving stroker Windsor. Using a Ford Racing Performance Parts Sportsman block, Griggs built an 11:1 compression, 5,500-rpm 408 for what Paul now realized would be his play car. He had been driving even harder with the Griggs suspension, and beating up the car with constant use, so he obtained another car for daily duty.

The 408 used good components for durability. An Eagle crank and rods, Ross pistons, Trick Flow Track heads, a Trick Flow intake manifold, a 262 Comp hydraulic-roller and full Comp valvetrain, ARP bolts, and a Canton road racing pan all went in. The crank, rods, and block were all cryogenically stress-relieved, and while no one can say the cryo treatment is the reason, this engine did last through three and a half years of relentless, pounding street, open-track, and autocross use. All told, the 408 and its supporting hardware produced 390 hp and 416 lb-ft of torque at the rear tires using pump gas-fully 360 lb-ft of torque was on hand at just 2,000 rpm.

To match the higher power, the Cobra R wheels, and the Cobra-spec PBR brakes all around, a six-speed (then) Borg-Warner T56 transmission went in the car the same time as the 408. The Traction-Lok was replaced with a Gold Track limited slip inside the 8.8-inch Griggs "hybrid" rear axle (uses 9-inch outer ends) that had been fitted earlier.

While the increasingly racy GT still retained its license plates at this point, Paul was clearly thinking of the track environment when he also added a Griggs six-point rollcage and a Fuel Safe Cobra R fuel cell. Curiously, he could never get more than 16 gallons into this supposedly 22-gallon cell. Later, it was changed to a standard Fuel Safe racing cell which did hold 22 gallons.

With nearly twice the stock power rating at the rear tires, more rubber and brakes were clearly necessary. New AFS wheels, 17x9.5-inch in front and 17x10.5-inch in back, were shod with Yokohama 032R rubber measuring 275/45-17 and 315/40-17, respectively. To help hold on to the new rolling stock, Moser Engineering axles with long studs were fitted too. Braking was increased by adding Brembo four-piston calipers and 13-inch rotors to the front.

With his old street car thus transformed, Paul hit the Shelby club and NASA open-track circuits with a vengeance, along with some SCCA Solo II autocrosses. Obviously, it was a whole new animal, one Paul found much more balanced and controllable, especially with the throttle. The power, which a now thoroughly jaded Paul reported as, "not the most horsepower in the world, but the torque started at 2,000 rpm and went all the way to 5,600 rpm. [It was] a nice powerband to work with...it just kept pulling, pulling, pulling." Referring to competitors with more highly strung small-blocks, Paul pointed out, "Others can't use all their rpm, especially on a track like Sears Point. This car would put it down, and just go. The other great thing was you didn't have so many gear changes."

After running the car a short while, Paul added a Griggs front bumper cap with larger fog and radiator openings, a carbon-fiber Griggs hood, an aluminum rear spoiler, and longer rear lower control arms. The longer "World Challenge" control arms required gas-axe surgery to the torque boxes, but gave an adjustable height pivot point and moved the instant center back a little. This gave Paul even better bite on corner exit, and allowed for adjusting that bite somewhat should power-on understeer be an issue.

Another change was swapping to Hydroboosted brakes, which took some engineering to fit in the '94 chassis. It was expensive, says Paul, and in retrospect he'd go with a manual brake system should he do it again, but at the time it gave the firm pedal necessary for track work.

This was when we first saw Paul's car during a visit to Griggs Racing. Turned loose on the street and even with a couple of open-track sessions in it, we found it easy to drive and hugely powerful-toward the knuckle-dragging end of the spectrum as a street car, but able to positively whip the turbo Porsches and Ferraris we lapped during our memorable open-track sessions. In short, it was an awesome piece for the serious enthusiast.

Next, Paul and Bruce decided to make a statement in the inaugural Open Track Challenge-the "Seven Tracks and Seven Best Westerns" week-long event, as the two dubbed it. Running in the Touring class, the car had to be driven all 2,000-plus miles (no trailering). To ensure success, the big Windsor was upgraded to near racing specs.

Opening the engine, which had always performed beautifully, Bruce decided that pump gas wasn't doing the 11:1 engine any good, so the decision was made to run nearly 13:1 compression and 100 octane for driving around and 110 octane on track. The heads were shaved for the compression gain, port-matched, and given a touch of bowl work. The valvetrain was also freshened.

With no room to carry the track wheels and tires, a custom trailer was fabbed. Paul assures us it's a proven 100-plus-mph device. Bruce says puffs of smoke come off the tires when they occasionally touch the ground during such antics.

We also ran the OTC in 2002 using our 2-ton, air-conditioned track project car, but the only time we saw Paul's car was on the grid. Most of the time he was eight seconds a lap faster and simply motored into the distance. So, beating us in the American GT class was like fishing with hand grenades, but Paul also was third of all Touring cars and 10th overall off everything there, which included hot stuff in the Unlimited (trailered) division. At such a competitive event, Paul came away from the OTC pleased with his car and the growth he made as a driver.

In fact, the OTC was when Paul decided he was ready for wheel-to-wheel racing. In early 2003 the car once again went under the wrench at Griggs for transformation into an American Iron Extreme car. A full cage was built, the racing fuel cell was put in place, a new Gold Track diff was installed, a Tilton pedal assembly with manual brakes and remote reservoirs replaced the Hydroboost, Sierra racing brakes went on, the interior came out, a Kirkey seat and a racing harness were carefully fitted, and the engine came out in the never-ending power search.

This time, prepped Trick Flow R-heads and new pistons went on, to arrive at more than 13:1 compression. A larger Comp cam and another valvetrain freshen-up were employed. The same, low, 5,800-rpm powerband resulted, and the electronic chip from Griggs Racing stayed with a 6,000-rpm rev limiter. The chassis dyno showed 460 lb-ft and 413 hp at the rear tires, with 380 lb-ft on tap at 2,000 rpm. It was a "big and flat powerband," Paul says. "It goes up, flat, then tails off. It's a square-wave powerband."

The same T56 gearbox remained, but all bearings, spindles, and hubs were renewed. Hoosier tires went on, and when weighed, approximately 450 pounds of street stuff had been removed. This included all insulation, along with unnecessary brackets, supports, and other metal parts.

Now the No. 49 car, it hit the AIX scene for the first time at Sears Point in June 2003. Paul finished Third-behind Bruce Griggs and Ross Murray. Probably due to the heavy Windsor, Paul was once again seeking better chassis balance. By season's end, the solution was 315 front tires. This meant seriously bending the front fenders, some spacers and 10.5-inch-wide front wheels, but the new front grip "was like, WOW!" Paul says. "What a transformation. It was like the car came together. Everything was now there. If you wanted push, it would push; throttle oversteer, you just step on the gas. It was really balanced."

By the end of the season, Paul was finally a bonafide race driver, with a Third-Place NASA AIX championship trophy to prove it. Now he was looking for a new driving challenge. That turned out to be SCCA ITE racing, but just as the '04 season began, Paul was tagged by a Miata he was passing at the start-finish straight at Laguna Seca. The Mustang turned into the wall at 130 mph, and when no one was expecting it, Paul's racing exploits, and his car, were dashed. Luckily, Paul was wearing a HANS device which was credited with saving his mobility, if not his life. As it was, his left leg was gashed by the dead pedal, and he received extensive, deep bruising, some cuts, and a concussion. But he walked out of the wreckage.

The damage to the metal was huge. The block was cracked in two places, the T56 and driveshaft were bent, and gears in the differential were squashed. The chassis and cage, while damaged, did their protective jobs, and will likely see the track again.

But not too soon, as the damage to Paul's racing budget was at least as extensive. So, we'll close what we're sure is just the first act in this street-to-race story. But you know there's more to come.

Tech SpecsEngine and drivetrainBlockFFRP 351 SportsmanCylinder HeadsTrick Flow R, portedIntake ManifoldTrick Flow TrackCamshaftComp CamsPower AdderNoneExhaust151/48-in MAC long-tubes, 3-in GriggsX-pipe, 3-in Hooker Aero Chamber mufflers, 3-in turndownsFuel PumpAeromotiveFuel Injectors36-lb/hrTransmissionTremec T56Rearend8.8-in Griggs Hybrid, Gold Track limited-slip

ElectronicsEngineManagementDiabloSport chip from Griggs RacingIgnitionMSD 6ALSD coilGaugesAuto Meter

Suspension and ChassisFront SuspensionK-MemberGriggs RacingSpringsGriggs RacingStrutsKoni double adjustableWheelsAFS, 17x10.5 inTiresHoosier, 315/40-17BrakesBrembo four-piston, 13.5-inRear SuspensionTraction DevicesGriggs Racing torque arm, Panhard bar, World Challenge lower control armsSpringsGriggs RacingShocksKoni single-adjustableWheelsAFS, 17x10.5 inTiresHoosier, 315/40-17BrakesBrembo 12 inChassis StiffeningGriggs Racing subframe connectors