Don Roy
November 1, 2006
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Mark Blankensop's 2002 Shelby Tribute Edition Mustang
You might think that living in Las Vegas is something reserved for casino workers, chicken ranchers and Gamblers Anonymous support people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take Mark Blankensop for example. Mark's day job is with the US Forest Service, where he has served as a Division Fire Chief for the past 30 years. That's a job which keeps him busy during the hot summer months each year.

One reason why Mark is happy to be in this city is his close proximity to Shelby International, Inc., the home to all of Carroll Shelby's operations. The company maintains a 300,000 square foot facility near Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

As a ponycar enthusiast, he's also happy that most Mustang and SAAC (Shelby American Automobile Club) shows and meets occur in the spring and fall to avoid the desert's oppressive heat. It seems, though, that this area of the country wasn't always as hot and dry. A couple of hundred years ago, this was a popular stop along the Old Spanish Trail trade route that connected Santa Fe and Los Angeles. The surrounding valley area contained artesian wells supporting extensive green areas, or meadows (vegas in Spanish), so the area became known as Las Vegas.

Speaking Of Water..
Let's jump across the country for a minute and meet David Hawkins, of Tallahassee, FL. This entrepreneur spent a good number of months negotiating for a Shelby licensing agreement and, at the beginning of 1999, the deal was sealed. With that, David's company, Mustang F/X, began producing kits for limited-production Tribute Edition Shelby Mustangs. The kit consisted of a number of vinyl graphics and emblems, including original-style lower side stripes, Carroll Shelby-likeness decals for the rear quarter panel, 3-digit front bumper numbers, Shelby signature decal for the deck lid, unique 'CS' fender emblems, 'Shelby' and 'CS' deck lid emblems, a serialized dash plaque and under-hood badge.

Car owners were able to order the kit from Mustang F/X and install it themselves or through a local shop. When all components were installed and correctly placed, photos could be sent back to David Hawkins for 'certification' of the vehicle. When that stage was achieve, the owner would receive a certificate, signed by Carroll Shelby and registered status on the Mustang F/X web site ( Although the licensing agreement with Shelby has now expired and the kits are no longer available, just shy of ninety examples are listed in the Mustang F/X Registry, and many of those are marked as having been autographed by the Grand Man himself.

A Strong Heart
In case you think that such vehicles would remain all show and no go, you need to look closely at the specifications on Mark's car. There's plenty of Go packed under the hood. It all starts with the usual 4.6-liter modular V8, however, once CP Motor Sports in Las Vegas got their hands on this pony's heart, it was never the same again. The transformation began deep within, courtesy of Manley Performance pistons, rings and connecting rods. Manley also supplied top-end parts like valves and valve springs. Ford Motorsport supplied a set of 30 lb/hr injectors and a 190 l/hr fuel pump to handle the requirements for go-juice.

All of this was in preparation for the polished, Vortec V-2 supercharger that sits atop the engine. It seems, though, that the blower's output didn't quite light the fire for this federal employee, who also added a ZEX dry nitrous kit, gated with a 75-shot nozzle. In combination with other acquisitions to improve circulation, such as Bassani's ceramic-coated mid-length headers, a Flowmaster cat-back system and K&N filter on the sharp end, control of the engine was supplemented with a Diablo Sport chip and a special blower/nitrous tune. While the bottom end of the motor is pretty bullet-proof, downtime is not something any of us look forward to.

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