Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
June 1, 2009

Horse Sense: We featured Johnny's brother, Jason Carnes and his '95 GT in the April '06 issue ("Frenetic Engineering," p. 150). If you don't remember, Jason customized the front fenders of the '95 to match-up to an '03 Cobra front bumper cover and hood. Truly testing his body working skills, Jason painted the car black, which makes the slightest imperfection stick out like a sore thumb. We didn't see any imperfections, so we featured it. We're still waiting on our own SN-95/New Edge Cobra front fenders, however.

We've learned that Georgia is actually two states--Atlanta and its suburbs.

Geographically, when talking about Georgia, any given location almost always turns out to be Atlanta, or a suburb of Atlanta: That's how big the city has become. There's Atlanta, and then the rest of Georgia. To test this theory, the next time you run into someone from Georgia, ask them where they're from. When they tell you the city name, and you look at them like they've sprouted a third eye, they'll follow up by saying, "Oh, it's just outside Atlanta." Then you'll have a pretty good idea of where they're talking about.

For this feature, we're concentrating east of Atlanta, in the Athens, Georgia, area--where you either like the Georgia Bulldogs or else. Johnny Carnes, from a small town called Watkinsville, owns this '89 Mustang LX coupe, and he didn't even have to go into the big city to get it this nice, either.

Nor did he start out his automotive exploits in as nice a car. "After investing more than $20,000 in a '95 Honda Civic, producing not two, but three blown engines, I decided to sell the car," Johnny says. After the Civic, Johnny knew he wanted to get back into the performance game, but this time it would be on the domestic side of the tracks. Mulling over his options, he took a ride with his brother, Jason, to MV Performance to get Jason's '95 Mustang GT dyno'd. Another friend was having his Mustang dyno'd, as well.

Watching the two Mustangs pound out V-8 horsepower, Johnny's wheels started turning--maybe it was a Mustang he needed. Of course, we'd be in huge agreement. Accordingly, MV Performance always has an abundance of Mustangs sitting in and outside of its Statham, Georgia, location. MV's Shane "Biggie Me" Cannon just happened to own an '89 LX coupe languishing on the property. The car had a good body, but that was about all it had going for it. "It lacked seats, carpet, front springs, a power steering rack, and had no engine or transmission," Johnny says. "I basically had half a car." However, he returned a week later to pick it up.

Now, let us set the scene for you. Johnny, Jason, and Shane show up at MV to take the car back to Johnny's Watkinsville hometown, roughly 25 minutes from Statham. "It had four flat tires, so we knew it was going to be a challenge," Johnny says. Unable to get the car on the trailer using human strength, Shane suggested using a four-wheeler to get the job done. Surprisingly for these three "southern gentlemen," the plan was working pretty well ... until the front bumper cover caught the lip of the trailer, pulling it clean off. The car was so low from the lack of front springs, there was no way it would cleanly go on the trailer. And unfortunately, when the bumper cover was ripped off, it creased both front fenders. "So much for the good body," Johnny said as all three laughed. "With pity on his face, Shane said he had another car just like it I could have."

The three were able to get that car up on the trailer,and back to Carnes Customs (www.carnescustoms.com), the body shop owned by Jason and Johnny. Once at the shop, Johnny started stripping the car, cleaning it as he went. "I knew I wanted a fast car," Johnny says, "because my friend Mike Riddling owned a similar car that blew me back in the seat when I rode in it." Not only did Johnny want the car to be fast enough to warrant trips to the dragstrip, he also wanted it to be his daily driver. As we all know, that's a tall order.

Once the reincarnation started, he and Johnny Riddling, Mike's brother, welded in a pair of subframe connectors, strengthening the factory torque boxes while they were at it. Remember Johnny's brother's '95 GT? Also, thanks to MV Performance, that car had a Four-Valve modular under the hood, but the car's former powerplant was no slouch, either. The car had a supercharged 306 prior to going modular, so that combination, along with many other parts and pieces from the '95, found its way under the hood of Johnny's coupe, but not before being freshened up by Johnny Adkins Machine Shop in Bogart, Georgia. The Metco Motorsports-armed 8.8 from Jason's GT also found its way under the LX.

All this time, Johnny and his girlfriend, Dru, were trying to decide on a color for the car. Finally they settled on Dupont Sunset Orange. Since Johnny is co-owner of a body shop, that part would be easy, or so he thought. The passenger-side quarter-panel turned out to be full of bondo, and that side's rocker panel wasn't any good, either. "I realized I would have to cut out the quarter-panel and rocker panel, and replace both panels," Johnny says. "After the endless hours of body work, it was time to lay down that beautiful Sunset Orange.

"With a fresh coat of paint blazing in front of me, I was anxious to finish the job," Johnny says. The engine was carefully dropped into place to keep from scratching the fresh paint, and a Tremec 3550 was sourced from MPS Auto Salvage in nearby Winder, Georgia, with an aluminum driveshaft between it and the fresh 8.8. Shane was able to set Johnny up with a Titanium interior to replace the ratty red guts. "Last but not least," Johnny says, "the car made its debut on a trip to MV Performance for a dyno tune, and then to the rim shop for some nice shoes."

It's fitting that the car would be rescued from MV only to make its first noises right back where its journey started. Johnny says the project took about a year and three months from when it left MV to return under its own power. "It was definitely a fun obstacle to overcome," Johnny says.

5.0 Tech Specs
Engine And Drivetrain
Block '95 GT
Displacement 306ci
Crankshaft Stock '95 GT
Rods Stock '95 GT
Pistons Speed Pro 0.030-in over
Camshaft Ford Racing Performance Parts F303
Cylinder Heads Edelbrock Performer RPM, FRPP 1.6-ratio roller rockers
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Performer RPM
Throttle Body BBK 70mm
Power Adder Powerdyne supercharger, 9 pounds of boost
Fuel System 255-lph in-tank pump, stock fuel lines and rails, 42-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust BBK Performance long-tube headers and X-shape crossover exhaust system, Flowmaster after-cat exhaust
Transmission Tremec 3550, FRPP King Cobra clutch, Steeda Autosports Tri-Ax shifter, aluminum driveshaft
Rearend '95 Mustang GT 8.8, FRPP 3.73 gears, Moser Engineering spool, 33-spline axles, and rear cover

Engine Management Stock '95 Mustang GT computer, DiabloSport/MV Performance tuned
Ignition MSD, FRPP spark plug wires, Autolite spark plugs
Gauges '95 Mustang GT dash cluster and gauges

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-Member Stock
Springs QA1
Struts Lakewood 90/10
Caster/Camber QA1
Brakes 13-inch, '01 Mustang Bullitt, Hawk brake pads
Wheels Foose 20x8½-in
Tires 255/35-20

Rear Suspension
Springs Stock four-cylinder Mustang
Shocks Lakewood 50/50
Control Arms Metco Motorsports upper and lower, antiroll bar
Brakes Cobra calipers, Powerslot rotors, Hawk brake pads
Wheels Foose 20x10-in
Tires 285/30-20
Chassis Stiffening Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors, reinforced and welded torque boxes