Jerry Heasley
March 30, 2011

Horse Sense: David Pena still drives his ’01 Bullitt GT--now known as The Turbo Bullitt--to street meets, but his main focus is turning up the wick to be the fastest IRS/six-speed manual Mustang in the NMRA. He and his grandfather, Mario, are getting there with both engine and transmission rebuilds.

Upon my arrival, the Bullitt’s hood was missing. "My grandfather is bringing it," David Pena said with a bit of a worried look on his face. I had no worries from my angle of view. The custom-cobbled Logan sheetmetal intake was all the more visible--no hood removal required for photos.

I took the opportunity to stare at the Mustang’s exotic features, such as the individual LS1 coil packs angled high above each cylinder on top of the valve covers, out of which spooled MSD red spark plug wires. I also spotted the forward-facing headers routing their way to the turbo-charger, virtually hidden beneath the bumper.

The hobby operation responsible for creating The Turbo Bullitt is Southside Speedshop. On the edge of Hobby International Airport in downtown Houston, Texas, David and his grandfather, Mario, have painstakingly put together a Mustang with the goal to one day set the world’s record for an IRS, six-speed Mustang. The goal is more his grandfather’s as David is a little more modest. He says he wants to simply do well in the True Street class within the NMRA Drag Racing Series.

Of course, The Turbo Bullitt wasn’t an NMRA dream build at first. In 2006, David saw a Dark Highland Green ’01 Bullitt GT with black wheels and said, "Man, I want one of those." He tried to buy a stock ’01 Bullitt GT from a dealer in Houston. A salesman actually sold the car to another customer while David was looking at the Mustang. A rather rare specialty Mustang, the Bullitt had a one-year run of 5,582. David improved his chances a bit by setting his sights on the Dark Highland Green. Ford turned out 3,401 in this color, while producing only 1,818 in Black and 723 in True Blue.

After a few months, he got lucky and found another Dark Highland Green ’01 Bullitt GT for sale in Austin, Texas. This time he made the deal. It came with the hopped-up Two-Valve 4.6-liter, backed by a five-speed and an 8.8 rearend with a set of 3.27 cogs and a Traction-Lok. He says it was a fun car on the street, and even more fun on the strip after a little "intake and exhaust" work. However, one day the Bullitt shot a spark plug out of a head.

David admits his modified Bullitt was originally a street racer, and he got caught. "I was racing a Mach 1 and a cop pulled us both over. The Mach 1 took off--I got to spend the night in jail," David relates.

He didn’t lose his license but was on probation for a year. In between community service hours, David enjoyed shifting gears, but he learned his driving style often damaged the synchronizers on the Ford 3650 series five-speed manual transmission. Once he even broke a shift fork.

Graduating from street racing to the track dictated a heavier-duty transmission, so David moved up to a Tremec TKO 3550, and finally to a Tremec T56 six-speed with upgraded internals by Liberty Gear. With no synchronizers to worry about, David has a transmission he can count on under extreme use.

Last year, he finished eleventh in the NMRA’s True Street class. His best e.t. of 10.7 and trap of 134 mph with just 10.9 pounds of boost was on the old setup, cranking out just shy of 600 hp. In the latest trim, David conservatively estimates 800 hp at the tire. To get there, he ported the stock Bullitt heads and installed new cams atop a stroker assembled by his friends at Fastlane in Houston, Texas. In place of the old 74mm turbo with a cheap eBay intercooler, he and Mario installed an 80mm Garrett Turbocharger with a ProCharger front-mount ’cooler.

Basically, form follows function on this street racer, converted to potential IRS/manual-shifted record holder and NMRA true street racer. David Pena has business to attend to behind the wheel of his Turbo Bullitt. 5.0

After a few months, he got lucky and found another Dark Highland Green ’01 Bullitt GT for sale in Austin, Texas