Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
May 4, 2011

Horse Sense: Owner Alex Pappas offers thanks to many people for the way his bad-in-black project has evolved, "including my roommates for listening to me babble about cars all day, and my girlfriend, Jessica, for not getting jealous of my other lady.'" Sounds like Jessica is adapting well to the reality of life with a 'Stangbanger.

From a galaxy far, far away appeared an all-powerful Death Star under the command of Darth Gator (insert familiar iron-lung breathing soundtrack here.) Sorry--bad ’70s flashback. OK, so what we really have is a highly modded S197 GT coupe piloted by Alex Pappas, a student at the University of Florida, the home of the Gators. However, like something out of the Star Wars franchise, it’s dark, it’s menacing, and there’s certainly some force associated with it.

Like most good world conquerors, it came from humble beginnings. With the help of his parents, Alex bought this black ’06 GT in 2008, from a Hyundai dealership of all places. The two-year-old coupe had only 8,000 miles on the odometer and was, as Alex puts it, a perfect used car, though it had a decidedly non-Vaderish red leather interior that apparently took some getting used to.

It didn’t take Alex long to start addressing his GT’s bone-stock condition. "The day I got it home," he says, "I had the Eibach Pro kit ordered, as well as a Pypes H-pipe and the Borla Stingers. At the same time, I ordered a C&L intake and tuner from Brenspeed and painted the calipers red, and that was all for a few months." Not a bad start, we’d have to say, especially for someone on a university budget.

Budget or not, Alex soon scraped together sufficient funding for a used set of 20-inch MRR GT-1 rims and some appropriate skins. He also added a GT500 chin spoiler (later replaced by a complete Roush fascia) and picked up some used GT500 calipers and rotors for dirt cheap. He would return to this Shelby theme in a big way later on, but in the interim decided to address his GT’s handling with some Koni dampers and other suspension enhancements, which included Steeda front and rear antiroll bars and adjustable upper rear control arm. From BMR, he sourced the company’s rear lower control arms (with relocation brackets) and adjustable Panhard rod. The budget, we suspect, was taking a beating.

Meanwhile, he had somehow also saved his pennies for a Whipple 2.3-liter screw blower; atop his GT’s Three-Valve 4.6, it cranked out about 505 hp and 460 lb-ft at the tire. A summer of hard use followed, which may well have taken its toll on the factory bottom end. Alex noticed signs of low oil pressure and was ruminating a performance rebuild of the Three-Valve when he happened upon an online listing from a member of his local car club (Stang Force) offering a complete ’08 Shelby GT500 drivetrain for sale. Though initially skeptical, he had extensive conversations with the vendor, Bruce Dally. Bruce had performed a similar GT500 5.4 swap into his own S197 GT and convinced Alex that this was the way to go.

The first step, however, was to sell his 2.3-liter Whipple to help finance the swap. That done, it was off to Bruce Dally’s shop in Tampa, where the supercharged 5.4-liter engine, TR6060 transmission, PCM, smart junction box, main body electrical harness, and K-member--all salvaged from a wrecked ’08 Shelby--were transplanted into his GT over the course of a couple weeks. Says Alex: "Bruce was a great guy to deal with, and gave me a sleeper GT that has the capability of 650 to 750 reliable horsepower with the capability of more if I want to build it. Those are some things a built Three-Valve couldn’t do for me... Plus I got a six-speed to boot, still coming out with a lot less invested than if I had bought a used ’08 or ’09 GT500."

Still, even with all that, Alex isn’t done: "Definitely a blower swap in the future for this setup (Whipple 3.4? VMP TVS?), as I can’t seem to leave anything alone for long." In the meantime, he’ll just have to make do with a Shelby-powered GT that runs 11s and is black enough to easily serve as Lord Vader’s earthbound transportation. If all this was done on a student budget, what’s he going to do when he graduates?

5.0 Tech Specs

'09 GT500

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock ’08 GT500
Crankshaft Stock GT500
Rods Stock GT500
Pistons Stock GT500
Camshaft Stock GT500
Power Adder Stock GT500, with VMP 2.59-in pulley
Cylinder Heads Stock GT500
Intake Manifold Stock GT500
Fuel System Stock GT500 pumps, run by GT500 body wiring harness
Exhaust Lethal Performance X-pipe w/Borla Stinger after-axle exhaust
Transmission Stock GT500 Tremec TR6060
Rearend Factory GT 8.8-in w/4.10 gears

Electronics
Engine Management Stock GT500 w/SCT calibration
Ignition Stock
Gauges AeroForce Interceptor scan gauge, Auto Meter Cobalt boost, and Innovate LC-1 wideband

Chassis and Suspension

Front Suspension
K-member Stock GT500
A-arms Stock GT500
Struts Koni Yellow adjustable
Springs Eibach Pro Kit
Sway Bar Steeda
Brakes GT500 14-in Brembo
Wheels MRR GT-1, 20x8.5-in
Tires Nitto NT05 255/35R-20

Rear Suspension
Shocks Koni Yellow adjustable
Springs Eibach Pro Kit
Control Arms BMR lower w/BMR Panhard rod and Steeda adjustable upper
Sway Bar Steeda
Brakes Stock
Wheels MRR GT-1, 20x10-in
Tires Nitto NT05 255/35R-20

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