February 28, 2007

In the Mustang world, there are cliques-fraternities, if you will. They're broken down according to body style and badging. We think it's a competitive thing, but for the most part, Fox guys hang out with other Fox guys. There is also the '99-and-up crowd, the Terminator people, and the "regular" Cobra crowd. Forming a small, yet still boisterous, fraternity is the '94-'95 Mustang crowd. They are the red-headed stepchildren of the late-model Mustang genre. They regularly bear the brunt of abuse from the Fox people, as well as the '99-and-up crowd for having overbearing computers, fat bottoms-meaning the car's exterior rear design-too much heft, and not enough power.

But with the right power professor, the SN-95 can graduate at the top of the Mustang class. This '95 GT made it to the right hands when it came to Everett, Pennsylvania's Troy Clark.

Troy purchased the car in March 2000. "It was completely stock down to the air filter," he says. The car's first semester revolved around looks. Troy dropped its altitude with a set of springs and tightened up the aesthetics with tinted windows and the current '99 Cobra wheels. A Cobra intake was installed onto the car during the second semester to bring up performance. A return trip to aesthetics class rewarded it with a Cervini's Auto Designs Cobra-R hood. Even with those additions, Troy's GT had barely passing grades; he needed honor-roll performance. Troy's buddy, Thad Cunningham from Icon Signs and Custom Paint, added matching graphics to the top and underside of the hood to make that happen.

Doing very well in aesthetics class for the 2001-2002 school year, the car headed for performance class to strengthen its street grades. Troy knew the car's performance needed to be on par with the exterior. That semester, the engine came out so the engine bay could be painted. While attending performance class, the engine received a Comp Cams 280HR camshaft, AFR 165 heads, and Vortech S-Trim. Accordingly, the performance grades surpassed that of aesthetics, so Troy added a Saleen ground-effects package; the GT emerged the next spring a much stronger pupil.

Thanks to the paint and performance classes, Troy placed at the '02 Fords at Carlisle show. "It's great to place at a big event such as that," Troy says. "There are some nice cars there every year." He was on cloud nine after the event, and the only thing equaling that high was his car's temp gauge on the way home. If you've ever owned a power-adder car, you know what that meant: a blown head gasket. Thanks to back-ordered parts, the downtime approached two months. Troy didn't twiddle his thumbs during that stretch. He held a front suspension study hall, so he and his buddy Ashley Snyder could add a D&D Motorsports tubular K-Member and control arms. Ashley had been called in before for previous tutoring, playing a huge role in the academic success of Troy's GT.

Troy's homework is to always think about the future. He plans to add bigger wheels, more graphics, and a Fox-body throttle-body conversion. For now, the 26,000-mile short-block only needs 11.3 seconds to take the quarter-mile test. Troy has already taken his final exam, earning a mechanical engineering degree. So what is the car's final exam? "I would really like a high-10-second timeslip," Troy says, "but to also keep the car show-worthy in the process." Like a diploma, a 10-second timeslip is just a piece of paper, but also like a diploma, it's the result of a lot of hard work.