Dale Amy
October 1, 2009
Photos By: E. John Thawley III
Stillen succeeded in building a SEMA show Mustang that attracts favorable attention without being garish. Best of all, this makeover also enhances its street reflexes and gives it a temperament perfectly suited to the daily commute.

Over the decades, I've come to the conclusion that the traits that make for an eye-grabbing show car do not necessarily translate into a practical street car, much as a Vegas showgirl may not always make an ideal wife (for long, anyway.) To do their jobs, show cars (and showgirls) tend to be more than a little over the top since they're built to steal attention from their equally showy peers. That and the fact that this role demands all the latest trick bling or physical enhancements can translate into high maintenance and, uh, poor driveability. Thankfully, the foregoing generalities can sometimes be proven inaccurate.

Over just a six-week span, this S197 was transformed from plain-Jane '07 GT into a look-at-me show queen destined for the glitzy, if not always glamorous, surroundings of the '07 SEMA show in Las Vegas. Certainly a looker, nearly two years later the two-tone coupe still sees show duty around Southern California, yet-defying the broad brush of my earlier crude preconceptions-it also now serves as daily SoCal transportation for Mike Ullrich.

It's no coincidence that Mike is the marketing coordinator for Stillen, the company that owns the GT and was responsible for its buildup in the first place. Stillen-which takes its name from company founder and noted road/rally/truck racer, Steve Millen-is a performance purveyor we don't see too much of east of the Mississippi, but it enjoys an enthusiastic West Coast following.

Mustangs are by no means Stillen's only vehicular subject, but the crew from California do have a generous catalog of performance and appearance parts for '05-and-up Pony applications, a number of which are engineered or manufactured in-house. This car's brakes are an example of the former. Mike Ullrich explains: "AP Racing six-piston calipers and two-piece, 14.75-inch rotors were utilized up front, while AP Racing four-piston calipers and [13-inch] two-piece rotors are used out back. The rear emergency brake is retained with CNC-machined brackets, brake hats, and cables. Both of these brake kits are the result of design and development right here in our Costa Mesa facilities. Stillen is the exclusive North American distributor of AP Racing..."

No surprise then that Stillen now offers these and other brake kits to any interested S197 owners. And as you may have guessed, the same goes for pretty much anything else you see on this car except for the custom two-tone paint. To duplicate the paint, you'll have to visit Airhead Customs in Corona, California.

Obviously that paint covers a few non-stock body items-some of which, including the front and rear spoilers, and two-piece mini-rockers, are parts of Stillen's own manufacture. Another cool touch is the center light grille, made by Street Scene to relocate the factory GT foglights closer together, not unlike early versions of the '67 Shelby Mustang. Surrounding that grille are Valeo/Sylvania HID headlamps. Street Scene is also responsible for the chrome taillight bezels, while XXR gets credit for its "006" 20-inch, gunmetal-finish rims.

It would be foolish to think that a company headed by a noted racer would leave its show car's suspension stock. No worries. Mike's GT rides on Eibach Pro-Street coilovers, teamed with Steeda's billet rear control arms, adjustable Panhard rods, heavy-duty upper strut mounts, and strut-tower braces. Meanwhile, the fixed-rate front and adjustable rear antiroll bars are Stillen's own pieces.

And no self-respecting show car would lift its hood to expose a stock engine. A peek between the fenders here draws the eye toward a polished version of Magnuson's intercooled, 112ci Roots supercharger/manifold kit, recognizable by its jackshaft that allows 180 degree rotation of the Eaton-built blower housing to permit front air entry. JBA titanium, ceramic-coated, short-tube Cat4ward headers and Stillen's own stainless axle-back exhaust complete the power mods.

Katzkin crafted the "Stillen"-embroidered seat skins in leather with suede inserts. This new upholstery, along with a little billet bling from SilverHorse Racing, a Stillen short-throw shifter, and Sony's XAV-W1 head unit with 7-inch touchscreen are all user-friendly interior enhancements.

Though some SEMA car cabins can rightfully be accused of being customized to the point of ergonomic impracticality, that's clearly not the case here, with "Stillen"-embroidered leather/suede seat covers, a Sony double-DIN audio head unit, and some billet trim from SilverHorse Racing providing upscale personalization without diminishing comfort or functionality. The GT's trunk, on the other hand, positively shouts its show-car beginnings, as it is quite literally lined with Sony-based audio gear that likely limits its utility to fairly genteel cargo. Bet the commute sounds good, though.

And so it can be done: As Mr. Ullrich will no doubt attest, an intelligently built show car can gracefully evolve into a great street car after all. That being the case, maybe I should start seeking a matrimonially-minded showgirl to shatter the rest of my foolish presumptions.

5.0 Tech Specs
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock aluminum
Bore 3.55
Stroke 3.54
Displacement 281 ci
Crankshaft Stock
Rods Cracked, powdered metal with floating wristpins
Pistons Hypereutectic aluminum
Compression Ratio 9.8:1
Camshafts Stock, variable camshaft timing
Heads Aluminum SOHC, three valves per cylinder
Intake MagnaCharger, cast aluminum
Power Adder MagnaCharger MP112, intercooled
Exhaust JBA Cat4ward short-tube, titanium, ceramic-coated headers with Stillen axle-back, stainless
Transmission Stock Tremec 3650 five-speed
Clutch Stock
Rearend Stock 8.8 with 3.73:1 gears and Superior axles

2007 GT
The polished presence of an Eaton M112-based MagnaCharger assures both show and street credibility. Other engine bay enhancements include Stillen's billet caps, and Steeda's upper strut mounts and strut-tower brace. The boosted Three-Valve sends 420 hp to the rear wheels.

Electronics
Engine Management Stock, with MagnaCharger tune
Ignition Coil-on-plug
Gauges Stock

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-member Stock
Control arms Stock
Springs Eibach Pro-Street coilovers
Struts Eibach Pro-Street coilovers
Caster/Camber Steeda HD upper strut mounts
Brakes AP Racing six-piston calipers, 14.75-inch rotors
Wheels XXR 006, 20x8.5
Tires Michelin Pilot Sport, 255/35R20
Rear Suspension
Springs Eibach Pro-Street coilovers
Shocks Eibach Pro-Street coilovers
Control arms Steeda billet, Steeda adjustable Panhard
Brakes AP Racing four-piston calipers, 13-inch rotors
Wheels XXR 006, 20x10
Tires Michelin Pilot Sport, 285/30R20