Tom Wilson
January 9, 2012

Too long ago we wangled a ride with the Blue Angels, the Navy's justifiably famous jet demonstration team. It was, as the resulting Super Ford magazine cover blurb put it, "The ride of your life," and for an event that lasted just one day, it generated a lifetime of memories. One of those memories was the public affairs officer telling us the real work was being done elsewhere by jets painted grey: "...All we're doing here is blowing smoke and looking good."

That thought went through our minds recently when we found ourselves on the now sadly quiet runways of the defunct Marine air station at El Toro, California. We'd seen the Blue Angels perform here more than once, but this time there was a totally different machine blowing smoke and looking good.

Unlike the glossy blue and yellow F/A-18 Hornets of the Blues, the Hess Motorsports demonstrator makes its point with an intriguing matte-brown finish, but with Hess Motorsports director of marketing Eric Cheney behind the wheel, the smoke show is just about as thick.

Eric's eagerness to waste a wide set of rear hides is nothing new. A regular in the SoCal Mustang scene, Eric has built his share of high-torque smoke generators, notably the first Falken drift Mustang that Vaughn Gittin Jr. put such big angle on. Today Eric works at the newly founded Hess Motorsports, which commissioned the S197 as an in-house demonstrator.

We've yet to drop by Hess Motorsports, but to hear Eric describe it, the new performance shop has a lot to demonstrate. Damian Hess has the funds to indulge his car-building urge, the result being a 20,000-square-foot shop filled with all the tools needed to build anything a high-end customer would want. "We have a four-wheel dyno, digital-readout lathes, CNC machines, a full 16-foot chassis table, all-digital hydraulic tubing benders, a chassis rotisserie, and downdraft paint booth..." says Eric, and he went on to describe a multi-engineer personnel line-up that had plenty of pro racing experience.

Even the building is "pretty baller," according to Eric. It turns out Hess' edifice was last a chic Land Rover dealership, so the shop walls are heavily mirrored and inlaid marble can be found under-tire. All slick to attract the pimp-my-Lamborghini crowd. And that's just the Hess herd is gunning for. Mustangs are cool and they're happy to build wild ones, but exotics are the big thrill at Hess, so be prepared to take your Mustang far above bolt-ons and a tune.

And a quick glance at the Hess horse shows it's no catalog car. The company started by tearing down the S197 donor to the shell, and then building it back as a streetable but road racy-to-drifting avatar. Power comes from a 5.0-liter Three-Valve, but muscled-up with all good internals and a Garrett twin-turbo get-up for whooshing into the 700hp range at the tires. Eric notes the combination was originally centrifugally supercharged and that did a fine job delivering the high-rpm horsepower he likes, but he's digging the twin-turbo power arrangement much better.

Obviously there's less tedium setting up the blower drive so it won't toss belts in the jagged world of drifting, where the driver works the throttle pedal like Joey Jordison's double bass drums. And even better, there's more torque. With electronic controls, Eric says he has full boost at a diesel-like 1,750 rpm and it stays there up to the 7,500 rpm redline. That bottom end hit goes a long way with Eric's job description--burnouts on demand--and generally gets a heavy car such as a Mustang up on its toes when the driver needs it.

Cooling the beast is done with a clone of Vaughn Gittin's drift-car cooling system. After a tiresome development process some years ago, the system can shed beau coup BTUs at low-vehicle and high-engine speeds. Hardware behind the engine includes a twin-disc Exedy clutch with billet steel flywheel (handles heat better than aluminum), a G-Force-prepped manual trans, a single-piece shaft from the Driveshaft Shop, cryo'd 4.10 gears, and a Torsen T2 diff, just like in Boss 302 Laguna Seca. Superior 300M race axles and welded axle tubes seem to be taking the gruff without complaint.

Of course, what everyone sees first is the paint. That's not a buzz-bomb finish, says Eric, but genuine Lamborghini Reventon chemistry, bought on the sly a quart at a time as Lambo wasn't hip on selling the stuff outright. Originally blue, the Mustang was taken down to bare metal without chemical dipping, a Snap-on Crud Thug doing the honors with its wire wheel. As for the brown hue, Eric said he originally wanted to go flat black, but it had already been done by the time they were ready to paint, so the much rarer Lamborghini paint got the nod. And rare it is, Eric figuring there are only 16 Reventon's that color, along with one Ferrari, a McLaren ... and now the Mustang.

You might guess one reason it's so rare is that the paint is bleed-for-it expensive, and you'd be right. Combined with the APR Performance widebody kit this is one bit of Mustang outerwear that installed will set you back the best part of $30,000. Such is the price of fashion. And that paint is a game changer. Once on, you can't wax it, can't color-sand it, and really don't want a chip or dent in it as any meaningful repair means a complete re-spray. About all you do to it is wash it.

At least the wide fenders cover the tires, so there isn't any melted rubber to deal with...

Horse Sense: It's not often that brown is characterized as cool, but one instance is the brown sound. This term is used to describe Eddie Van Halen's guitar tone on the classic Van Halen records. Replicating the brown sound is no easy task, much like the matte-brown Lamborghini Reventon paint job on the Hess Mustang.

5.0 tech specs

'08 GT

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Aluminum Ford Three-Valve
Bore 3.554-in
Stroke 3.800-in
Displacement 5.0 liters
Crankshaft Forged steel
Rods Forged
Pistons Forged aluminum
Camshafts Saleen-specific, blower-optimized
Heads L&R ported Three-Valve
Intake Stock
Power Adder Garrett twin-turbo
Intercooler Spearco air-to-air
Headers Garrett turbo manifolds
Exhaust Magnaflow
Transmission G-force street six-speed close-ratio manual
Flywheel Billet steel
Clutch Exedy
Rear Axle 8.8-in w/welded tubes, stressed-relieved 4.10 gears, Torsen T2 differential, and Superior racing axles

Electronics
Engine Management Ford w/Hess custom tune
Ignition Ford

Suspension and Chassis
Front Suspension MacPherson strut with stock K-member
Control Arms White line
Springs White line
Struts Tein
Caster/Camber Plates Ford
Brakes 15-in slotted and vented w/six-piston AP Racing calipers
Wheels VIP modular, 20x10-in
Tires Toyo Proxes T1R 285/30ZR-20 ultra high performance

Rear Suspension
Springs White line
Shocks Tein
Control Arms White line
Brakes AP racing 13-in slotted and vented disc w/four-piston caliper
Wheels VIP modular, 20x14-in
Tires Toyo Proxes T1R 345/25ZR-20

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