Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
March 9, 2007

Horse Sense: Jim and his father, Jim Sr., custom-fabricated the shifter to fit the center console before smoothing it out and applying the flamed Harlequin paint scheme. They made a custom, mirrored firewall cover as well. Jim spent countless hours smoothing the Holley intake, A/C compressor, throttle body, driveshaft, and driveshaft loop before plating.

NMRA Best Engine, Fun Ford Weekend Best Engine and Paint, two-time Editor's Choice awards, three-time Fords at Englishtown winner, and numerous First place and Best of Show awards. Such is the resume of Cherry Hill, New Jersey's Jim Ricchezza and his '88 Mustang GT. It's easy to see why he's amassed so many awards and trophies, but one thing's for sure, it wasn't easy getting the car to this point.

Jim bought the car for an everyday driver in August 2000. "I started with the basic bolt-ons and got the car down to 13.50s on BFGoodrich drag radials," Jim says. Like every good Jersey Mustanger, Jim couldn't resist the urge to jug the GT with a 150hp shot of nitrous. Lots of tire smoke past the 60-foot mark and 12.20s later, the party-crashing head-gasket fairy came calling. "I decided to tear the car apart and make a wicked-looking street car," he says.

Since the family business involves automotive body and paint at Precision Paint and Collision in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, it's a no-brainer that Jim handled that aspect of the car. He straightened up the body, including under the hood, laid down PPG primer, then sprayed the engine compartment gloss black and the front half of the car blue to give the upcoming flames an outline. Jim then taped off the flame design and sprayed on the PPG Harlequin color-changing hue. Next, the flames were taped off and the rest of the body was sprayed PPG black before Jim added eight coats of clear to finish the exterior. "Me being so anal with everything on the car, it started to see the streets a lot less after the paint was done," Jim says.

Street excursions were even less frequent when Jim began to add more and more chrome engine components under the hood. Every winter he makes changes to the car to stay ahead of the show-going competition. During the winter of 2003-2004, he decided to make the car primarily for show. He stripped the GT's undercoating from the chassis, which took 48 cans of brake cleaner and a scraper. Why would someone do such a thing? Yep, you guessed it-so he could make the underside look just as good as the topside. The only time the underside of our Mustangs get treatment like this is when we drive them in the rain.

Jim didn't stop there, however. Abbots Plating chromed the driveshaft and loop, and Jim smoothed and sprayed the gas tank Harlequin, along with the springs and front crossmember, and he added chrome fuel-tank straps. Still not done, he made chrome subframe-connector covers, had the UPR antiroll bar chromed, and the UPR control arms powdercoated. Oh, yeah-the GT's exhaust is also Jet-Hot coated. And those additions don't even begin to tell the underhood or interior tale. What could be, or should be, painted, chromed, or powdercoated, was treated accordingly. Every component that uses nuts and bolts to attach to the car was removed and treated to some kind of paint, plating, or chrome.

For some reason, we've noticed the Mustang car-show scene has picked up recently. We have featured several landmark Mustang show cars in the past and we have plenty more to come. Until then, however, look to Jim Ricchezza's GT for inspiration. Just remember, while you're out in the shop polishing this and painting that, Jim's doing the same thing.

Owning a body shop has distinct advantages, such as getting to try out new tricks on other people's cars before applying them to your own ride. Obviously, Jim Ricchezza had plenty of practice before applying the paint to his '88 Mustang GT. Wearing PPG paint, Jim's GT features a black basecoat, followed with Harlequin flames up front that change from red, to blue, to purple, to gold. The superb paint does its thing over a stock body with additions such as a Cervini's Auto Designs 4-inch cowl hood, a '93 Cobra rear bumper, and Weld Draglite big 'n' littles with Mickey Thompson ET Streets out back for the occasional 11-second dragstrip pass.

Jim didn't neglect the interior of his GT, either. Notice the console treatment, which matches that of the exterior of the car with Harlequin flames over a smooth-as-glass surface. Check out the Auto Meter white-face gauges, the UPR billet trim pieces, the Corbeau A4 seats, and who can miss the Fieldsboro Welding-installed S&W eight-point cage. And though you can't see it here, the rear seat was reupholstered by East Coast Custom Upholstery to match the front Corbeau A4s.