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 (www.MustangFX.com). 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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A Stout Frame
Beyond the engine, Mark takes a balanced approach to performance and has reworked the chassis and suspension to his specifications. That portion of the development began with a set of Max-Cros subframe connectors, Eibach Pro-Kit springs and Pro dampers. Saleen was called on to provide the caster/camber plates that allow wheel alignment adjustments, as required. BBK upper and lower control arms help keep the rear end in shape, while their sway bars were used to flatten out the car during cornering. The SAAC events that Mark attends do have an emphasis on open track performance and this led him to revise the suspension a second time, in search of even more giggles. A Sean Hyland Motorsports tubular K-member and tubular A-arms replaced the heavier OEM components. Along with that came new Koni adjustable struts and shock absorbers, as well as a Strange Engineering coil-over conversion for the front end. An Optima battery has been relocated into the trunk, courtesy of a Taylor kit.

Responsibility for keeping the 'Whoa' in balance with the 'Go' falls to Pro-Racing and their brake kits. Thirteen-inch slotted rotors in the front are clamped, when needed, by dual piston calipers. The rear binders were also upgraded. Russel stainless-steel braided brake lines are used to maintain a solid feel and consistent response from the hydraulics. Bolted on to those rotors are 17 by 9-inch chromed Cobra R-style rims. BF Goodrich supplied the G-Force KD tires in Cobra-sized, 275/40R17 versions for all four corners. Keeping with the Shelby-inspired theme of the car, Mark replaced the wheels center caps with Shelby versions. Ford Racing supplied the needed pieces to have the rear axle 'built', including 3.73 ratio gears, rear axle girdle and driveshaft safety loop.

Inside the coupe, you'll find that safety is supplemented by a 6-point roll cage and 5-point restraints. When it comes to driver information aids, you'd swear that Mark got used to flying a plane at some time in his past. Auto Meter Lunar series instruments abound. The factory instrument cluster has been replaced with their special version, while a matching Monster tach, boost gauge, oil pressure, nitrous pressure and water temperature gauges keep the data flowing. A ScanGuage ODB-II code scanner, as well as a G-Tech Pro performance meter are present and accounted for. There's not much that's going to get by this driver! Well, that is unless he's listening to the tunes that can be pumped out by his Pioneer DEH-4600MP receiver unit. A pair of MTK Thunder 564 amps pump up the output and feed into JBL speakers in the front, Pioneer 3-ways in the back and a Bose Audio 12" subwoofer with its enclosed box in the trunk.

A Faithful Friend
There's little doubt that Mark Blankensop loves all things Shelby and he's not afraid to show it. He's added a few more Shelby bits on the exterior, including the quarter window scoops from a 1967 Shelby. The distinctive Banshee SR-71 hood and Ram Air system add a particularly aggressive edge to the car's stance, as does the Team Shinoda front spoiler. If it never rains in California, there's likely even less chance in Nevada, so Mark has replaced the windshield wipers using a delete kit from UPR, who are also responsible for the shortened antenna.

This car owner's enthusiasm is hard to hide... and hard to miss. For Mark Blankensop, his pony has provided a great deal of pleasure and gratification. "I enjoy going to car shows and Shelby American Auto Club meets," he told us. When you're busy fighting fires for a full season, you'd have a lot to look forward to enjoying this and other Mustangs in the cool, verdant meadows.

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Interior/Exterior
Mark Blankensop's 2002 Shelby Tribute Edition Mustang

Interior
UPR interior trim kit; 6-point roll cage; 5-point seat harness; Rear seat delete kit; Auto Meter Lunar erplacement instrument cluster, Lunar gauges, including monster tach, boost, fuel pressure, nitrous pessure, water temperature and oil pressure; Scan Gauge automotive computer; G-Tech Pro performance meter; Pioneer DEH-P4600MP receiver; JBL 5-1/2" front 2-way speakers; Pioneer 6" x 8" 3-way speakers; Bose Audio 12" subwoofers with enclosed box; 2 MTX Thunder 564 amps

Suspension
Eibach Prokit Suspension, lowered 1 1/2"; Koni adjustable struts and shock absorbers; Saleen caster/camber plates; Max-Cross subframe connectors; BBK upper and lower control arms, front and rear sway bars; Sean Hyland tubular K-Member, tubular A-Arms;Strange Engineering coilover front springs

Wheels And Tires
17" x 9" Cobra R Chrome rims; Shelby center caps; BF Goodrich G Force T/A 275/40R17 tires

Exterior
Mustang F/X Shelby Tribute kit; White 8" Rally Stripes; Team Shinoda front spoiler; Classic Design Concepts grille eliminator kit, side scoops; Banshee SR-71 Hood, Ram Jet system; Cobra rear spoiler; Window scoop from a 1967 Shelby; UPR windshield wiper delete kit; MGW Locking Gas Cap; AGE Taillight bezels; UPR short radio antenna

Specifications
Mark Blankensop's 2002 Shelby Tribute Edition Mustang

Engine
Ford 4.6-liter SOHC V8

Engine Modifications
Manley forged pistons, rings, connecting rods, valves; Polished Vortec V-2 supercharger, After Cooler System; Ford Motorsports 190 lph fuel pump, 30 lb/hr fuel injectors; ZEX nitrous oxide dry system, 75-shot; GT500 polished coil covers; Diablo Sport chip, tuned for supercharger and nitrous system; K&N Filter; UPR engine trim kit; Red Line Quick Lift hood struts; Canton Racing aluminum coolant expansion tank, billet radiator cap; Bassani ceramic caoted, mid-length headers; Flowmaster Cat-back exhaust, with 2-chamber mufflersand 3" chrome tips

Driveline
Ford Racing axle girdle with 60 bearing cap studs, 3.73:1 ratio ring and pinion, driveshaft safety loop

Chassis
Optima Battery, relocated to trunk; Pro-Racing 13" Disk brakes, front and rear, 2-piston Calipers with slotted rotors; Russell stainless steel braided brake lines

Numbers
425 RWHP, 415 RWTQ Best E.T to date: 12.45 sec