Michael Johnson Associate Editor
August 1, 2009
Photos By: Josh Rosoff
This may be just the second car we've seen from Jim and his family, but we've become accustomed to seeing nice work performed by their company, Precision Paintworks in Cinnaminson, New Jersey. The PPG Tangerine color was made fresh at the shop, and the Billet Specialties big 'n' littles are the perfect complement. The car just sits right, that's all we can say. Keep in mind that every panel except for the roof was replaced during the car's build.

Horse Sense: Jim's former GT was a regular car-show winner, and this new coupe is a true threat on both the car-show field and the dragstrip. He's won an Open Comp class race at a Buick versus Ford race at Atco, as well as Best Race Car and Best Engine awards at the NMRA Atco race.

The Mustang scene is diverse, and enthusiasts' wants and needs are cyclical. For instance, a person will build a show car only to get tired of constantly cleaning it. That same person will undoubtedly buy a race car so he or she can actually have some fun for once. Inevitably, the same goes for the other side of that coin. Many racers get tired of working their knuckles to the bone, and just want to sit around and drink cold beverages while at the track. However, they still want to be a part of the action, and a show car is their answer.

Fortunately, the Mustang lifestyle presents opportunity for both the show-car builder and the racer, no matter the venue. Especially lately, we've heard of people enjoying both sides of the fence and having both a show car and a race car. One person that has both a race car and show car in one Mustang is Cherry Hill, New Jersey's Jim Ricchezza. He deemed his former '88 GT ("Flame On," Aug. '06, p. 110) too nice to drag race, so he decided to build a car that would serve both duties in one package.

With the sale of the GT, he turned his attention to this coupe, which he bought off the Corral (www.corral.net). The car was silver with a primer hood, and Jim raced it in a 12.0 index class at Atco Raceway in Jersey. After a season in the 12.0 class, he wanted to go faster, but with his painting background, you know he wanted the car to look good doing it.

Out came the engine for freshening and increased horsepower. However, with the engine yanked, it was also a good time for Jim and his dad, also named Jim, to weld, fill, and smooth the engine bay. These guys couldn't leave all those holes in the engine bay and still sleep at night. While the engine bay was attended to, the 8.8 was removed from the car and sent to Rhodes Custom Auto to be checked for straightness, and to have the tubes welded and braces added for extra rigidity. When Rhodes was finished with the 8.8, it came back to Precision Paintworks in Cinnaminson, New Jersey, the family business, where Jim painted it using PPG Products paint. Then Jim's Uncle Ernie installed a Moser spool and 33-spline axles, and 4.88 gears.

To go along with the 8.8 going back under the car, Ernie also hid the brake lines, installed Aerospace Components disc brakes at each corner, and bolted in a UPR Products tubular K-member kit. Up next, Ernie assembled the 306 while Grove Auto's Jim Dunn stripped the car's wiring harness, installing a Painless Performance wiring harness in its place.

While all this was going on, every panel on the car, including the quarter-panels, were replaced. Evidently the car was rough, with pounds of body filler hiding under the seemingly innocent silver paint. Every panel except for the roof was replaced with either new or used straight panels to arrive at a smooth exterior. "With the body work done," Jim says, "My father and I custom-mixed the Tangerine color." Jim applied three coats of the Tangerine, followed by four coats of PPG clear. During the car's reassembly, the guys noticed the need to repair the quarter-window moldings. Since Jim had been down this road before he used more PPG products to make them good as new.

Since the exterior came out so well, and who would expect anything different from these guys, the interior also had to be brought up to "code." A stock interior just wouldn't do. Corbeau seats highlight the interior redo, but fresh black panels and carpet were also installed. One of Jim's trademark additions, good friend Bill Kirk hand-fabricated the custom center console before Tom Meers added the airbrushed graphics. Then Jim followed up with four coats of clear. "We have a one-of-a-kind console that looks phenomenal," Jim says.