Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
May 29, 2012

If you're old like we are, you were around when Fox Mustangs ruled the world. New Jersey was Mecca, specifically Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, or simply E-Town. For us, Mustangs will always rule the world, but back in the Fox Mustang's heyday, there was a shop located within a mile of E-Town. It was LaRocca's Performance, owned by Jimmy LaRocca.

Talk about location, location, location! LaRocca's was well known for turning out some of the fastest Mustangs in the land, and is the stuff of legend in the annals of Mustang history. If you lived in the area, and wanted a fast Mustang, LaRocca's was where you went.

One reason to head to LaRocca's was the man that owns this Fox LX, Jimmy Chahalis. To those that know him, forget the Chahalis part--we call him Jimmy C. He was one of the main wrench benders at LaRocca's. Even after his time at LaRocca's, Jimmy continued working on Mustangs, but he would mostly just work on friends' 'Stangs.

He had no shortage of customers, either. Everyone is aware Jimmy knows Fox Mustangs like the back of his hand. He's forgotten more than most of us will ever know when it comes to Mustangs. He could probably build a 347 with his eyes closed and one arm tied behind his back. OK, so maybe that's slightly stretching the truth, but you get the picture. The reason his friends and customers follow him around is because he knows how to make power, and reliably. Whether it's in naturally aspirated form like in his old '86 GT, or in Mike Sadano's GT, or with a blower, it doesn't matter.

Of course, it's said the plumber has the leaky pipes. And that same is true for Mustang guys, as well. Jimmy was often too busy spinning wrenches on everyone else's Mustang to have a toy of his own, and especially something for his wife, Lorrie. but he was able to buy her a car as a fixer-upper.

"We purchased the car for $1,000," Jimmy says. "It was multi-colored with a ripped-up gray interior and holes in the floor," he adds. We're not the sharpest knives in the drawer, but that's not the best starting point. Jimmy would trade labor for parts to help offset the cost of building the car. After a few years of trading labor for parts, Jimmy took the car over to his wife's cousin, Albert Burd at Jamesburg Collision, to take care of the paint and bodywork.

When Jimmy and Lorrie got the car back, they heard the unfortunate news that Jimmy's customer and good friend Tom Niziolek had a terrible accident with his flawless '92 LX coupe. Jimmy offered to help Tom in any way he could with whatever Tom decided to do with the car.

However, just two days later, even more devastating news came when Jimmy was diagnosed with a rare form of acute leukemia and was hospitalized for six weeks. The news sent shockwaves through Jimmy's circle of friends. Jimmy was always wiling to help anyone, or lend a hand when it came to Mustangs, and here he was with such devastating news.

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Mustangs, obviously, were the furthest thing from Jimmy's mind, so his friend Mike Mohring (whom we call Big Bird) took charge, buying Tom's car with the thought of parting it out. Maybe Mustangs weren't the furthest thing from Jimmy's mind because he and Lorrie often talked about how easy it would've been to finish Lorrie's coupe with the parts from Tom's coupe. The fact that Lorrie's car wasn't done probably weighed heavy on Jimmy's mind, and not knowing the future he wondered if the car would ever be done.

On one of Mike's trips to visit Jimmy, they discussed Tom's car and how it could complete Lorrie's car. Mike said, "The car is yours." Jimmy was humbled by the gesture, but at that point, he didn't know what the future held. He didn't even know if he would be able to go back to work. Mike said, "With all the help you've given me throughout the years, the car is yours. Don't worry about it." Mike had the car at Jimmy's house before he was even out of the hospital.

"Once I got home, and on my good days, my son Trevor, daughters Taylor and Kaelyn, as well as Mike, Brian Friedentag, Stan Bachonski, and Mike Sodano helped disassemble Tom's car," Jimmy said. In the process, "Our car was built in a way we never imagined it would be," Jimmy says. Notice it had gone from Lorrie's car to "our car"? The car became something Lorrie and Jimmy could enjoy together.

Building the car enabled Jimmy to focus on something other than what he was going through. With his illness, the focus turned to the whole family, not just one person. Hanging out with the Chahalis family while shooting the car, you definitely feel the love they have for each other. However, even after all this, Jimmy gets it. "Even though the car makes Lorrie and I happy, we would give it all back if it meant Tom had his car again," he says.

"If it wasn't for our family, good friends, great doctors, and a lot of the racing community, I don't know where we would be today," Jimmy says. He is still undergoing treatment and on meds, which sometimes has adverse effects. Jimmy's able to work, but not at full capacity. However, true to form, he's working on a '93 coupe with a '04 Cobra engine swap. "I just want to thank everyone who helped us out along the way. We are truly blessed."

Horse Sense: The New Jersey Mustang community is a tight, family-oriented group of people. When news broke of Jimmy's illness, his drag racing friends held a benefit drag day at E-Town to help with medical bills.

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5.0 Tech Specs

'87 LX Coupe

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock
Crankshaft Stock
Rods Stock
Pistons Stock
Camshaft FRPP E303
Cylinder Heads GT-40X with 1.94/1.54 valves and FRPP 1.7 roller rockers
Intake manifold FRPP GT40 w/ Accufab 70mm throttle body, and Pro-M 80mm mass air
Power Adder Vortech S-Trim w/ 3.33-in pulley, and 11 pounds of boost
Fuel System 255-lph in-tank pump w/ Glenn's Performance 340-lph inline pump, FRPP 42-lb/hr injectors, Kirban pressure regulator
Exhaust FRPP ceramic-coated 15?8-in short-tube headers w/ UPR Products off-road X-shape crossover pipe, Bassani mufflers, Flowmaster tailpipes
Transmission Tremec TKO 500 w/ Centerforce Dual Friction clutch, g-Force shifter, Line-lock, and Hurst pistol-grip knob
Rearend 8.8 w/ FRPP Traction-Lok, and Moser 31-spline axles

Electronics
Engine management A9L computer
Ignition MSD 6AL w/boost retard
Gauges Auto Meter

Suspension and Chassis
Front suspension
K-member Stock
A-arms Stock
Struts Stock
Springs Stock
Brakes Stock
Wheels Chrome Pony
Tires 225/55-16
Rear suspension
Shocks Lakewood 50/50
Springs Stock
Control Arms Hotchkis
Brakes Stock
Wheels Chrome Pony
Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Street radial 255/50-16