November 21, 2006

Most of the time, we hear about potential feature cars before we see them. That scenario is sometimes like a box of chocolates-we're never sure what we're going to get when we see the car in person. Although we never guarantee a feature to anyone, when we heard of a '95 GT with an '03 Cobra front end, we definitely wanted a closer look. As is the case with most cars we hear about, Jason Carnes' '95 GT exceeded our expectations, and here it is for your viewing pleasure.

"I bought the '95 GT from a friend, James Johnson, in 2003," Jason says. The car still wore its original paint, but owning a body shop (Carnes Customs) has its privileges. Even worse, the engine had a burned piston, but it did have Edelbrock heads and intake, along with headers, a BBK throttle body, and a Powerdyne supercharger. With Jason living just a short jaunt from MV Performance's front door, Tim Matherly and Shane "Biggie Me" Cannon said they had a stock, forged-piston short-block available. Jason picked up the short-block and got to work. The next day the "new" short-block boasted Jason's top end and supercharger, and a TTC-Tremec 3550. He was off and running.

That night, however, Jason was mixing it up with a Camaro and he blew a head gasket. He called Tim Matherly, and Tim told Jason he might not have properly followed the cylinder-head torque sequence. The heads came back off and Jason made sure to follow Tim's instructions. He was back on the road again.

Then it was time for Jason to wave his magic spray gun with new paint. Auto Body Color in Bogart, Georgia, provided PPG Black for the car's stock body, except for a Shinoda Boss rear wing. With the fresh paint, he was all set for a show in Panama City, Florida, but he wanted MV's Tim and Shane to see the car before he left. Anyone who's visited MV Performance knows you just don't stop by-you stay and ask, "How's your mom and them?" By the time you find out everyone's mom is fine, it's dark outside and you're starving for some of Lisa Matherly's lasagna.

Well, Tim's not dumb-he's the first one out. But he was gone for only a few minutes when he came back in with the news he'd just caved in Jason's freshly painted door. "I, of course, thought he was joking," Jason says. Tim is known to kid around, but Jason found Tim's dually square into the door of his GT. A trip to Mustang Parts Specialties the next day netted Jason a door and a '96-'98 Cobra hood. Back at Carnes Customs, Jason fitted the car with the new door and hood, and he made the show in Panama City.

Jason's next mechanical mishap involved stuffing six people in the Mustang and heading toward nearby Athens, Georgia, for an evening of fun. With an already lowered Mustang, six people in the car meant it was just a few inches off the ground. Before the group made it to downtown Athens, the car's exhaust got caught up on a sewer pipe, which ripped the exhaust right off. "I bought a Flowmaster after-cat, a MAC H-pipe, and an MSD 6AL ignition, but I blew another pair of head gaskets," Jason says. Another MV Performance evaluation spelled some much-needed dyno time, and Tim was able to manipulate 384 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque from the Powerdyne-supercharged combination using his Mustang dynamometer. Tim recommended some engine work, judging by the serious blow-by as a result of the repeated blown head gaskets and hard driving.

"I took the car to Atlanta Dragway because-let's get real-what the engine builder tells you really doesn't stop you from acting like a fool," Jason says. The car ran a 12-flat at 121 mph, but Jason destroyed its rearend and bent the Tremec's output shaft. He spent the next few months figuring out which direction to go. After much deliberation, he decided to go full-tilt and add a Moser full spool, rearend girdle, and 33-spline C-clip eliminator axles, welded torque boxes, Metco upper and lower control arms, a Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum driveshaft, and a driveshaft loop. Since the transmission was out of the car as well, Jason went with a new clutch, a flywheel, Energy Suspension engine and transmission mounts, and BBK long-tube headers with a matching X-pipe.

That was the plan, but the car was still half-broken and sitting in Jason's driveway. So without a trailer in sight, he allowed his brother to drive the Mustang the short distance to MV's shop. As you know by now, nothing is ever a sure thing when it comes to Jason's GT, so it should come as no surprise his brother gave the car too much gas and, sure enough, around goes the car-right into a guardrail. All this happened right in front of Jason, so you can imagine the sinking feeling he had. This mishap took out the right-front fender and that side's headlight, and scraped up the front bumper cover and hood. "It had been raining, so my car was facing oncoming traffic, stuck in the mud, and stuffed up against the guardrail." Jason backed the car out of the mud and finished the trip to MV for the aforementioned upgrades.

Once MV finished the upgrades, the car was ready to go-except for the rearranged front end. Even before the guardrail mishap, Jason and his brother wondered how the car would look with an '03-'04 Cobra front end. Remember, Jason's Carnes Customs painted Jim Breese's NMRA Real Street car. They liked the results so they decided to graft a Terminator front end to Jason's '95. Obviously, the fenders took the most work, and Jason figures he and Jonathan have 200 hours into the fenders alone. What made the transition difficult was the '94-'98 cars are actually wider in the front when compared to their New Edge brethren. It sounds easy, but Jason basically cut the front edge off the '03-'04 Cobra fenders and blended them into the SN-95 fenders.

As if all that work wasn't difficult enough, Jason repainted the car black-one of the most nonforgiving colors in the book. The smallest imperfections stick out like a Camaro at an NMRA race. But, as you can see, the straight-as-an-arrow results tell the story.

With the Cobra front-end conversion done, Jason wanted the interior to match. After another trip to Mustang Parts Specialties, his truck was full of '03 Cobra interior components. With all that done and just two weeks before the NMRA World Finals at Bowling Green, Kentucky, Jason melted one of the Edelbrock heads with his pushrod combination. "What better time than two weeks before Bowling Green to change every wire of the car to a '97 Cobra wiring harness for a Vortech T-Trim'd '97 Cobra Four-Valve," he says. That's right-two weeks before we were set to scope out Jason's car, he swapped from a pushrod combo to a Vortech supercharged Four-Valve.

"After many sleepless nights and an upset girlfriend, I pulled into Bowling Green Saturday at 5 a.m., then back up at 7 a.m. cleaning the car in the hotel parking lot to get it ready for Michael Johnson and Steve Turner-and here we are."

Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlock '96-'98 Cobra aluminum Displacement284 ciRotating AssemblyCobra steel crankshaft, ModMax Racing H-beam rods and forged pistonsHeads'96-'98 Cobra, MV Performance-portedCamshaftsStockIntake'96-'98 Cobra, MV Performance-modifiedThrottle BodyStockMass AirPro-M Power AddersVortech T-Trim superchargerFuel SystemMV Performance-modified tank for twin Focus fuel pumps, 42-lb/hr injectors, stock fuel-pressure regulatorExhaustBassani Xhaust headers and off-road X-pipe, Flowmaster after-cat exhaust with stainless steel tipsTransmissionTTC-Tremec 3550, Ram clutch, Steeda Tri-Ax shifter, Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum driveshaftRearendStock 8.8, Moser spool, 33-spline axles, and C-clip eliminators, FRPP 4.30 gears

ElectronicsEngine ManagementMV Performance-tuned DiabloSport Chipmaster Revolution chipIgnitionStock Cobra, NGK spark plugsGauges'96 Cobra

Suspension And ChassisFront SuspensionK-MemberStockControl ArmsStockSpringsMV PerformanceStrutsLakewood 90/10Caster/CamberUPR ProductsBrakesBullitt 13-inWheelsFoose Speedster 18x9-inTiresNankangRear SuspensionSpringsEibach Drag Launch with airbag in right rearShocksQA1Control ArmsMetco Motorsports upper and lower control armsBrakesStockWheelsFoose Speedster 18x9-inTiresNankangChassis StiffeningMV Performance subframe connectors