Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
June 1, 2010
Photos By: Paul Rosner

Clearly, the darkest period in the Mustang's performance history was '74-'78. There are some who will disagree, but that period's Mustang II was a shadow of its former self. Because they're still Mustangs, deuces still have a cult following, although many in the Mustang hobby barely acknowledge them as cars, much less Mustangs.

Fast forward 20 years and the birth of the SN-95 Mustang was supposed to be a triumphant event. It was supposed to help usher in Ford's modular engine program, which promised increased horsepower and greater fuel mileage over the Fox Mustang's pushrod combination. Instead the '94 still had a pushrod engine, but also an increased beltline, carrying a couple hundred pounds more than a Fox. We loved that car so much because it was mod-friendly and lightweight. We didn't want to see those characteristics fade.

Change, however, was in the air. A lower hood line meant a revised intake manifold, and a funky air intake system made modifications more difficult than with our beloved Fox Mustang. Add to that a more complex, less adaptable computer system, and the SN-95's debut stunted much of the Mustang's momentum heading into the new century. The modular engine finally made its debut in '96 in Two- and Four-Valve form, however, it made modifications even more difficult. For these reasons, the SN-95 Mustangs are known as the proverbial red-headed stepchildren of late-model Mustangs.

One person trying to change that sentiment is Romeoville, Illinois' Derek Kulach. What you're looking at here is a '96 Mustang GT, perhaps the most-underachieving SN-95 of them all. Ask any late-model Mustang enthusiast which model to avoid and I guarantee they'll say a '96 GT. Sure one can add bolt-ons to such a car, but there aren't many to choose from.

Derek wasn't that concerned with the lack of aftermarket support. He had dealt with that before with his T-bird Super Coupe. He solved that car's lack of power by swapping in a Lincoln Mark VIII Four-Valve engine. An engine swap was nothing new to Derek, and he had the same thing in mind for the GT.

He bought the car as a shell and went one step further by totally gutting the car. Again wanting Four-Valve power, he found a wrecked '03 Cobra, set the cars side by side in the garage, and swapped everything but the bodies.

He didn't leave well enough alone though before making the swap. Derek gave the engine a few more cubes with a 0.030-inch overbore with corresponding Manley pistons for a more boost-friendly compression ratio. The 8.5:1 compression ratio works perfectly with the engine's Kenne Bell supercharger, capable of putting out 20 pounds of boost.

Once Derek completed the swap, he turned to Bob Kurgan for tuning, resulting in almost 600 hp to the tires on pump gas. At US 41 Dragway, Derek ran the car down the track, resulting in a an 11.37 at 127 mph with an 1.80-second 60-foot time on Mickey Thompson E/T Street radials. With a changeover to Billet Specialties big 'n' littles with Mickey Thompson E/T Drag slicks, that time plummeted to a 10.68 at 132 mph with a 1.51 60-foot.

To live in that environment, Derek also upgraded the Cobra's T56 with a 26-spline input shaft and a SPEC Stage 3+ clutch with a '99 Cobra steel flywheel and an MGW shifter. Derek and his brother, Mike, swapped everything over to the GT's body. The only thing left from the '96 GT is the shell and the rearend. Having both cars sitting right next to each other made the swap less of a headache than having to track down the odds and ends needed to make it seamless.

Derek now uses the GT mostly for a weekend car, but he wanted to build a fast stick car. He wanted to be able to drive the car whenever he wants, and not have to worry about it.

Now the only thing Derek needs to worry about is automotive envy.

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