Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
December 3, 2010

In 2003, Kelly Sparks had just gone through a bad divorce. (Are any of them good?) She needed something to help get her mind right. She knew relatively little about cars, but Kelly soon discovered what many of us already know-the joy of Mustang ownership can make life's ills a lot better with just the turn of the key.

We've all had a bad day, only to make it disappear in a cloud of tire smoke. To many of us, owning a Mustang is therapeutic, helping us to make it through another day without ending up on the evening news.

"It was just the medicine I needed," Kelly says of her '03 Mach 1. She bought it new, and as mentioned, didn't know a lot about cars. Driving the car helped Kelly regain her identity, and after a brief time, back to a point in her life where she was ready to date again.

This time around she had two criteria that were important to her. First, the guy had to be taller than her at 5-foot, 10 inches. No word on if Kelly carried around a height-requirement sign, but it was a key factor. Second, he had to know more about cars than she did. "That was a tougher bill than I imagined," Kelly says. However, Kelly says she hit the jackpot when she placed a call to Joe Charles at Parkway Ford to get parts and advice for her Mach 1. Joe already owned a Mach 1 and knew the best upgrades to meet Kelly's need for speed.

One of Kelly's first wishes for the Mach was a gear swap, but she needed a shop to install the gears as well. A big proponent of MV Performance in Statham, Georgia, Joe recommended MV for the gear swap, so Kelly took her Mach to MV and Shane "Biggie Me" Cannon.

Up till this time, Joe and Kelly had never met, and since Joe and Shane are good friends, word got back to Joe that he needed to meet Kelly face to face. It just so happened that Kelly had ordered a K&N cold air kit from Joe, but with the kits being a group purchase, Kelly was on a waiting list. After hearing from Shane, Kelly's name moved way up the list to expedite a potential meeting.

With both Joe and Kelly seeming too impatient to wait for the cold-air kit shipment, she made the 60-mile drive to Parkway Ford to pick it up in person. "Of course, it wasn't that I was just curious what this guy looked like that I had been talking to on the phone," Kelly says. Kelly went to Parkway to pick up the cold-air kit and met Joe. They went out that weekend to a Mach 1 show; six years later they are happily married.

During that time, Kelly says the Mach has taken her on many road trips across the eastern half of the country, been responsible for her fair share of driving "awards" from authorities (two in one day is her record), scared her to death with a few near misses, and taken her to highs no drug could provide. "When I'm down, all I have to do is hop in and take her for a drive, and the day is suddenly better," Kelly adds.

Meanwhile, Joe's own Mach has earned the name Bigfoot because it's often mentioned in conversation but no one ever sees it. Since meeting Kelly, Joe's Mach has been a staple in Gene Wilson's place. Joe says it's almost ready for the street-please, we've all used those exact words, Joe-but he's fine with it since he gets to beat on Kelly's Mach whenever he wants.

And he's done exactly that, oftentimes with disastrous results. "For a while there, it seemed like every time I took her car to the track I broke it," Joe says. The first components to go bye-bye were a set of 4.10s, the stock Traction-Lok, and one axle. "Six-thousand-rpm launches tend to break factory parts," Joe says.

Unlike his own car, which he could let sit while getting new parts, he had to fix Kelly's car as it was her only mode of transportation. "I added Moser axles, Ford Racing Performance Parts 4.30 gears, a 31-spline Traction-Lok, and a girdle," Joe says. Next up in the trash bin was the 3650's input shaft, but it was replaced with a ProMotion Powertrain 26-spline replacement, along with a SPEC clutch and aluminum flywheel. Each time he broke something, Joe made sure to upgrade the failed components. "Before I knew it, her car was faster than mine had ever been, and mine was still down," Joe says jokingly.

It was about get faster. While working at Parkway Ford, and now at Gene Evans Ford in the parts department, Joe has the inside track on many FRPP goodies. While his car was down, Joe started gathering parts for when he could put his Mach back together. He had gathered enough pieces to put together a FR500C engine, but he still had several FR500 heads/cam/intake components from his own Mach. He decided to "donate" those HCI pieces to Kelly's Mach. The couple purchased an FRPP Aluminator, adding the FR500 pieces up top. Joe's buddy Paul Dishroon helped free the car of its original Four-Valve, and drop in the new powerplant.

In this form, the car made its debut at the inaugural 2010 NMRA Nitto Tire Peach State Nationals, where Joe averaged a 12.0 to win the True Street 12-second award. Before leaving MV, Tim Matherly tuned the Mach to 386 hp on MV's Mustang Dynamometer. However, Joe thinks the Mach's computer is holding back the tune above 6,800 rpm; he hopes to try a different computer, hopefully by the time you're reading this.

Describing her Mach's condition, Kelly says, "She's not clean because I worry about resale value. It's because she's part of the family and that's just how you take care of things that are important to you." Since Joe is known to wax the underside of his Mustang, this was surely a match made in Mustang heaven.

5.0 Tech Specs
'03 Mach 1

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Block Ford Racing Performance Parts Aluminator
  • Crankshaft FRPP Aluminator
  • Rods FRPP Aluminator
  • Pistons FRPP Aluminator
  • Camshafts FR500 high-lift camshaft kit
  • Cylinder Heads FRPP Aluminator, Boss 330 Racing-ported
  • Intake Manifold FR500
  • Throttle Body Stock
  • Mass Air Stock
  • Fuel System Stock w/SVT Focus fuel pump, and FRPP 34-lb/hr injectors
  • Exhaust Bassani Xhaust mid-length headers and off-road X-shape crossover pipe, MagnaFlow MagnaPack mufflers dumped in front of rear axle
  • Transmission Tremec TR3650 w/ProMotion Powertrain 26-spline input shaft, SPEC Stage 1 clutch, SPEC aluminum flywheel, Steeda Autosports Tri-Ax shifter, and FRPP aluminum driveshaft
  • Rearend 8.8 w/FRPP 4.30 gearset, 31-spline Traction-Lok differential, and axle girdle; Moser Engineering 31-spline axles

Electronics

  • Engine Management Stock computer w/Tim Matherly/MV Performance/DiabloSport tune
  • Ignition Stock
  • Gauges MSD shift light

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension

  • K-member UPR Products Pro-Series tubular
  • Control Arms UPR Products Pro-Series tubular
  • Caster/Camber Steeda Autosports
  • Struts Lakewood 90/10
  • Springs UPR Products Pro-Series coil-over
  • Brakes New Edge Mustang GT
  • Wheels FR500 replica 18x9-in
  • Tires Kumho Ecsta MX 245/40-18

Rear Suspension

  • Shocks Stock
  • Springs Steeda Autosports Competition
  • Control Arms UPR Products Pro-Series upper and lower
  • Brakes New Edge Mustang GT
  • Wheels FR500 replica 18x10-in
  • Tires Kumho Ecsta MX 295/35-18