Michael Johnson Associate Editor
July 1, 2006
If car shows were judged on exterior finish alone, Monica's GT convertible would still do quite well. The car features BASF RM Diamont paint, Boyd Coddington wheels wrapped in BFGoodrich treads, ABC Exclusive ground effects, a custom Superior Interiors convertible top, and a styling bar. Oh, yeah-to really make the car stand out, it has Pure Mustang Performance vertical doors.

Until we met Charlie and Monica Grandll, we thought car-show people were a different breed-now we know that's a gross understatement. We're more accustomed to talking to racers, so we know about their dedication and fanaticism. Take that dedication and add wax, mirror-like paint, a booming stereo, and more billet than an aluminum factory, and you have someone who eats, breathes, and sleeps Mustang car shows. By the way-they're just as fierce in the car-show area as racers are on the track.

Instead of changing head gaskets and transmissions, car-show people sweat it out waxing, polishing, and cleaning their cars. Instead of grease under their fingernails, car-show people have the latest high-tech polymers stuck in there. Transmission fluid isn't their choice of body aroma, quick detailer is. It's a different breed, but both take the same dedication. "I can sit there and look at that engine bay for two hours and come up with more things to do to it," Charlie says. "Every ounce of my energy is into the engine bay." Sounds like a racer, doesn't it?

Speaking of sitting around, that's how the Grandlls found the '95 Mustang GT convertible in June 1997. Charlie and Monica were driving by a Ford dealership in Monica's Probe GT when the white drop-top caught her eye. Charlie, however, didn't think paying a premium for the car in the summer was a good idea, and they decided to wait. "The car was still there in late fall," Charlie says. A deal was struck, and Monica had her Mustang. "If you ask my wife, she bought the car so I could enjoy another Mustang." Charlie was not new to Mustangs. He owned an '89 GT back in the day, but sold it in 1994 to help pay for Monica's cosmetology school.

The GT stayed mostly stock for a couple of years, receiving only a K&N filter and a pair of Flowmaster mufflers. After a short ride in the car sometime in 2002, Monica said the words every guy loves to hear: "Make my car louder and faster." Charlie says, "I asked what brought this on, and she said just go to it." It had been awhile since Charlie had cracked a Mustang magazine, so he hopped in the Explorer and headed to the newsstand to catch up.

Instead of throwing a bunch of parts at the car, Charlie first took it to the track to get a baseline. Talk about a rude awakening. "I found out a '95 stock 5.0 with an AODE wasn't going to set the world on fire," Charlie says. "My first pass was a mind-blowing 16.2 and the next two passes were both 16.4s." Sorry-we almost spewed our Mountain Dew in laughter. "That was the slowest I ever went down the quarter-mile in my life, and I used to own an '87 Z28," he adds.

Superior Interiors performed a two-tone leather conversion inside, and Charlie also slathered the inside with several UPR Products billet items. Auto Meter Phantom gauges are front and center and keep Monica and Charlie abreast of the mechanical events while the Art Carr AODE shifts itself into the next gear.

Fortunately, with his Mustang background, Charlie knew an answer to the car's speed issues were just a few phone calls away, but it would take some thought as to which direction he would take. He started with the typical bolt-ons and gears, and on a return trip to the track he was rewarded with a 15.2. "This was a step in the right direction," Charlie says. With a shift kit in the AODE, times dropped into the 14.8s.

Charlie knew he was getting somewhere, but he also knew that to get any faster he'd have to dive into the engine, so he and his technical advisor, Paul Riva, ran up cell phone minutes asking around. Charlie called Flowtech Induction's Ed Curtis, who Charlie refers to as the "camshaft guru of the modern era." Where does Charlie get this stuff? It must be a gift. He informed Ed he wanted to run 12s with the AODE. "Ed openly laughed, but he was willing to take on the job," Charlie says. With Ed's advice, Charlie bolted on a pair of Airflow Research 165cc heads, an Edelbrock intake, and one of Ed's Flowtech custom cams. The car responded by shaving a full second from its quarter-mile times-down to a 13.8 at 105 mph.

Assuming the role of Captain Understatement, Charlie realized the AODE was the car's biggest hindrance. Around that time, Art Carr Performance had a special on AODE transmissions, so Charlie ordered one. With the new transmission, the car responded with a 12.9 at 105 mph. "Mission accomplished," he says. He came home from that trip to the track and let Monica drive the car. "She pulled onto the main street and I told her to hit it. She slid the car sideways and never lifted." Eventually it straightened out. "What do you think of your 12-second car," Charlie asked Monica. "It isn't fast enough-order the Vortech tomorrow," she said. Did we say Monica's our kind of woman? Charlie's a lucky man.

That was in 2002, and instead of continuing the pursuit of speed the Grandlls' focus turned to the car's appearance. The convertible took on the life of a show car. They added a ground-effects package and were happy with the car's appearance, but they agreed something was missing. At the '03 Epping New Hampshire Fun Ford Weekend held near their New Boston, New Hampshire, home, they scored a Top 20 Mustang award, but that wasn't good enough for Monica-she wanted the 6-foot-tall Best of Show trophy.