Drew Phillips
January 1, 2013

Sal Valdez was only a teenager when he first met Joe Gosinski, and he readily admits that his first impression of the late owner of Chicane Sport Tuning wasn't a positive one. "I didn't think much of him," Sal tells us. "As I got to know him more, I actually thought he was a jerk. If you went into his shop with cheap parts, he wouldn't install them. His motto was ‘buy the best and buy it once.' But when you're 18, 19, 20 years old and don't have much money, what are you going to do?"

Despite their initial differences, Sal and Joe became good friends thanks to their common passion for Mustangs. Sal also came to realize that Joe's stubbornness was because he cared deeply about his customers. "He'd rather not sell you anything and have you come back later to get something you really need," Sal recalls. "He didn't want to just take your money--he wanted you to have the same passion he did. He wanted you to feel how he did. He felt that way not just about his own cars, but about all of his customer's cars." Even with his newfound respect for Joe, Sal's meager income meant that he still couldn't afford the shop owner's services for quite a while. "I used to hang out at Joe's shop--not even having a Mustang at the time--just to harass him," he remembers. "I always told him I would come back with a Mustang and have him build it." Sal did finally end up buying his first Mustang right out of high school--a '99 V-6--but still couldn't afford to turn the car over to Joe's care. "It was a lot of fun, but I didn't do a whole lot of work to it."

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

After several years, Sal finally saved up enough money to buy a new Mustang. His plan was to simply turn the car over to Joe and tell him to run with it until the money ran out. "I had that much trust in him," he tells us. "Unfortunately we didn't make it that far." Sadly Joe never got the opportunity to build Sal his Mustang. On Christmas Eve in 2010, Joe was murdered at his shop, shocking the Mustang community. For quite a while Sal forgot about the idea of building a Mustang. After all, if Joe wasn't going to build it, then who would? Then he heard that one of Joe's former employees, Matt Bernal, was thinking about doing a Mustang project. Ford had originally approached Joe to create a Mustang for SEMA and had asked Matt if he wanted to continue with the project. He was up for it, but unfortunately didn't have the financial means to take on the costs that were associated with the build. That's where Sal comes in, thanks to his wife. "I wasn't going to buy the car anymore, but my wife said, ‘Why don't you let him build it as a tribute to Joe?' I was still kind of skeptical because I didn't know if I trusted anyone else to build the car."

Eventually Sal decided to partner up with Matt, and the Last Ride project was born. Initially the going was slow, as neither really knew where to start. After posting some design sketches in a few Mustang forums, though, various companies started to offer parts and services. "Most of the sponsors knew who Joe was, had worked with Joe, or had a relationship with him one way or another," Sal told us. "They read about what happened and wanted to contribute." One of the first companies to offer support was Vortech Superchargers, who provided its V-3 Si-Trim supercharger system, complete with an Airaid cold-air intake. Shortly after that, Doug Thorley headers contacted Sal, eventually contributing a set of its Tri-Y headers and an after-cat exhaust system. Interestingly, both companies also used Sal's car to develop produces for the Mustang's new 5.0-liter engine. Adding to the Mustang's power potential is an intercooler spray system from Nitrous Express.

In the handling department Sal kept it simple yet effective. A set of Saleen Racecraft N2+ adjustable coilovers as well as Hellwing Motorsports sway bars front and rear do the trick, providing an aggressive stance and optimal handling for both the street and the track. Baer 14-inch brakes with six-pot calipers and drilled and slotted rotors provide a necessary boost in stopping power, and sticky Falken FK452 tires are mounted at all four corners. While Sal knew that having plenty of horsepower and great handling was a good thing, he knew the looks of the car were even more important if it was really going to be a tribute to Joe. Yellow had always been one of Joe's favorite colors, so it was a must that it would be included in the look of the Mustang. "He liked sticking yellow on everything," Sal says. "He stuck it on black, he stuck it on blue--he stuck it on everything. Whatever color of car he had, he would put yellow on it." The bright color was incorporated throughout the entire car, from the BASF painted-on graphics (no decals here), to the six-piston calipers, to the Corbeau racing harnesses and rollbar.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Sal also knew Joe would have wanted the car to have an aggressive look. Fortunately Trufiber, based in Corona, California, heard about the car and wanted to get involved. Its carbon-fiber ram-air hood, front fascia, side skirts, trunk lid, and rear diffuser can be seen on the car. Vossen also provided a set of its CV3 20-inch wheels, which Sal painted black to match the rest of the car. RK Sport provided a carbon-fiber roof skin; a Boss 302 Laguna Seca rear wing from CJ Pony Parts completes the look of the rear. As a final touch, Silverhorse Racing offered to make a custom billet fuel door with the car, CNC machined with the phrase Last Ride. Inside the Mustang, the race theme continues with a seat of Corbeau LG1 seats in gray and black suede paired with the aforementioned matching yellow harnesses and rollbar. Sal also installed a set of pillar-mounted Auto Meter carbon-fiber gauges to keep tabs on the supercharged V-8, and added a custom digital shift knob with the Chicane Sport Tuning logo as a final touch.

After months of hard work and with the help of countless members of the Mustang community, Sal was finally ready to unveil his tribute to the automotive community. The car made its debut at the 2011 SEMA show in the Doug Thorley booth. "So many great companies pitched in to offer help and their services once they became aware of the purpose of this build," Sal tells us. "Without all of them, this car would not have undergone the transformation it did in the time frame that it did." With the car finally complete, we asked Sal what Joe would think of the Mustang built as a tribute to him. After a long thoughtful pause and a grin, he answered: "There'd probably be things that he wouldn't like about the car. He'd criticize it no matter what, just because he's a perfectionist. "He'd like the color on it and he'd dig the rims. I think he'd enjoy it."

Horse Sense: When Joe Gosinsky was tragically killed in 2010, his good friend and customer Sal Valdez decided to build a tribute car with the help of the Mustang community. The result is the Last Ride Mustang that debuted at the 2011 SEMA show.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery