Michael Johnson Associate 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.