Dale Amy
October 24, 2012

Though a lifelong gearhead and chronic tinkerer, Alex Ortner tells us he had no particular interest in Mustangs until a friend and associate of his--Jason Etter--purchased and started heavily modifying an S197 GT. Witnessing Jason's subsequent buildup apparently struck a chord with Mr. Ortner, a creative Detroit-area machinist, fabricator, and all-round mad scientist, whose previous work includes projects as diverse as vintage Can-Am race cars, a succession of custom Ducati motorcycles, and even a line of highly regarded attenuators for guitar amplifiers. How's that for diversity of interests?

Anyway, after watching and helping with Jason's build, and with some definite ideas of his own in mind, Alex bought a new Sterling Silver '10 GT coupe and launched into an upgrade project like a man possessed, designing, engineering and fabricating his way to what you see here in less than a year. Alex's overall design theme was inspired by FIA GT1-class road-racers, yet that track-star concept had to be tempered by the reality of using the invigorated coupe as his three-season daily driver (like most sensible beings, he shies away from piloting a hair-triggered, rear-drive musclecar through the icy, salty insanity of Michigan winters).

Bottom line? This project--which he labeled the GT/RR--had to remain reliable, completely civilized, and safe, while making quantum leaps in styling, handling and power. In setting such goals, Alex was clearly no different than most of us but, where that majority of us would turn readily to the aftermarket for bolt-on solutions, he relied primarily on his own innate design and fabricating skills. (By comparison, I have a hard time even fabricating an excuse.) While our normal practice is to weave a feature car's mods into some form of narrative, given the astonishing extent and variety of Alex's own personal handiwork, we just don't have room. So check out our Homegrown Remedies sidebar for his point-form list of the carefully crafted modifications and enhancements that you won't likely see on any other Mustang.

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There is one modification on the GT/RR, however, that hopefully will show up on many S197 GTs, and that's the machined-billet intake manifold that permits bolting a late-model Shelby GT500's Eaton M122 Roots supercharger to a Three-Valve 4.6-liter. Said manifold was a tag-team design and fabrication effort between Alex Ortner and Jason Etter. From Alex's otherwise stock Three-Valve, the result is a stout 450 rwhp.

As we write this, Jason (under the business name, Department of Boost, www.departmentofboost.com) is preparing to market the manifold for about $1,995, thereby making it possible to bolt readily available--and quite affordable--GT500 take-off superchargers and supporting hardware to any Three-Valve 4.6-liter GTs. (In fact, the manifold is said to accept any blower with the GT500 M122's bolt pattern.) The guys worked with Paul Svinicki of Paul's High Performance for ongoing dyno testing and tuning calibration, so the car runs with OEM civility. Our sidebar, Department of Boost, sets out the complete list of hardware used to supercharge the GT/RR (which served as development mule for the manifold and other Department of Boost projects).

We're in awe of the man hours--and skill sets--that went into bringing Alex's vision of a proper Mustang to fruition. But he was also smart enough to know where to draw the line so as to avoid completely reinventing the wheel. Meaning he happily turned to the aftermarket for products he felt worthy of his GT/RR. So there you have an admittedly compressed look at a rather amazing--and inventive--exercise in Mustang personalization. Alex sums up his GT/RR project--which of course continues to evolve--quite succinctly: "I find it devilishly satisfying to push the boundaries of what most people associate with Mustang..." They say the devil is in the details, so be sure to check out our sidebars.

Horse Sense: For GT500 owners, Department of Boost is also working on three stages of intercooler upgrades.

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