Eric English
November 1, 2006
Photos By: Steve Turner

Horse Sense: James Barton's GT demonstrates how Mustang components from different genres can result in a cohesive look. A '91 chassis, a '93 Cobra body package, '01 seats, and Bullitt rims and calipers have every appearance of a first-class factory effort.

If the story of James Barton's '91 GT sounds like a ringing endorsement for the services of high-performance professionals, then so be it because this is his story. Traditionally more a vintage guy who was new to the "late-model" scene in the late '90s, James was smart enough to know that choosing a good shop to guide him in his quest for speed would be money well spent, and his location in South Florida soon led him to the crew at UPR in Lake Worth. To clarify, it would be a mistake to portray this GT as a hands-off open-checkbook sort of effort, for the owner has spent plenty of time and grunt in it himself. Rather, when technical skills and expertise were required-of which there has been plenty required over the years-UPR had James' confidence and ear.

Backing up a wee bit, in 1997 he decided to trade in his F150 pickup for something with a bit more get up and go-specifically, he was looking for a Fox-body GT. At a Ford dealer in Margate, Florida, James hit pay dirt when he explained his quest to the salesman, whose daughter was by chance looking to sell her own '91. The car turned out to be just the ticket, and James soon found himself with the keys to a nicely cared for, completely stock Mustang GT. The car served dutifully in this form for a couple of years, at which time he decided to step up to a full plate of horsepower. With the help and guidance of UPR's cast of characters at the time-Mark and Joe Mainero, Jeremy Martorella, and Bart Tobener-James eventually found himself with a wide variety of complementary bolt-ons. Great fun to be sure, but in time, he predictably found himself wanting for more.

We've chosen to dispense with the componentry details of this GT prior to 2001, for the current phase of the build essentially returned to square one. The idea was for a well-rounded car, dripping with horsepower, yet built with a good supporting cast. Jeremy suggested using an R302-based stroker from Keith Craft Racing for the heart and soul of the project, which turns out to sport a healthy 4.085-inch bore and 3.25-inch stroke for a total of 340 cubes. In preparation for a life under boost, KCR built the motor with an 8.5:1 compression ratio using dished JE pistons and a set of AFR 205s, which received the magic touch as well.

Huffing and puffing up to 15 pounds of boost into the Holley intake is a Paxton Novi 2000, formerly run on Jeremy's race car, that with a custom SCT tune at the hands of Chris Johnson netted an impressive 646 rear-wheel horsepower. Such numbers clearly don't come from a simple stroker/blower combination, but instead require such extras as the Bart Tobener-assembled fuel system with dual Bosch pumps, half-inch fuel lines, UPR rails, and Bosch 60-lb/hr injectors.

Backing the high-horsepower stroker is a Tremec TKO with a McLeod clutch, scattershield, and a Fidanza aluminum flywheel, while further back is a typically fortified 8.8 with 3.55 gears. Most underpinnings are likewise beefed, including a UPR K-member and control arms, Tokico Illumina dampers, and HAL front coilover springs.

With the mechanicals well in hand, James turned to Dave Bell for some show-stopping polish work, and to friend Ryan Munroe for a respray of the original Titanium Frost Metallic. Body prep and primer was done in James' garage, followed by a trailer trip to the paint booth for a skillful application of PPG Deltron. Once back at home, James dug into the reassembly and soon realized his goal of an incredibly subtle street machine that will surprise more than a few competitive-looking posers. Purposefully shunning the likes of a cowl hood and wild wheels, the look here is virtually all Ford, from the factory hue to the Bullitt wheels and Cobra-style body cladding courtesy of Cervini's. Look more closely and you'll notice the all-Ford theme extends to the competent four-wheel disc brakes as well, made up of '95 SN-95 hardware and Bullitt calipers.

Like most projects we report on, James' appears to be evolutionary in nature, with an intercooler setup on its way at press time. Yet regardless of future changes, the owner is ecstatic about the current combination, and gives full credit to those whose sage advice has shaped his course. Wasted time, money, and considerable headaches have been avoided, but in the end, the true benefit given by the pros is what James describes as a "thumbs-up experience." When all is said and done, we give James and his car two thumbs up.