September 1, 2007

When the 2005 Mustang came out, there see-med to be a renewed interest by the mass media in all things Ford and Pony related. As far as the Mustang went, tons of print both physical and virtual was fostered on the new steed, how it combined the past with today's technological whiz-bang gadgetry. Amidst all the fanfare however, one could not help but wonder if the mainstream had decided to ignore just about every Mustang built between 1970 and 2005. Posters, advertisements and editorials hinted at it and some went as far to state that a lot of Mustangs built between these years were little more than afterthoughts. Clearly however, this was not the opinion taken by many die-hard Pony fans, including people like Francisco Martinez.

Growing up in Mexico, Francisco's family didn't even have a car, but being an impressionable young lad, the sights and sounds of automobiles would forever leave their mark. "I remember, even when I was about 10-12 years old, the American muscle cars that used to be brought across the border - Corvettes, Trans Ams, they were cool, but I always remember the Mustang." Francisco ultimately fell in love with the 1987-93 Fox 5-liter cars (man after my own heart -Ed) and swore that one day, he'd own one. Some years later, Francisco moved North to the United States and settled in the Detroit area. Although it was a bit of an adjustment in both culture and climate, Franciso forged his own path, ending up running a successful finishing business. When you're self-employed, the road isn't always and easy one to travel, but Martinez decided he wanted a toy and started putting money aside to get one. "My uncle, Salvador, is a big car guy. He was always buying and selling fast cars, so I guess you could say he encouraged me to go do it."

In 2001, after toiling and saving, Franciso took the plunge. "This [1990 Mustang GT] convertible came my way and it was a deal I just couldn't pass up." After waiting for so long to own one of these cars, the day Martinez picked it up was, understandably a very significant one for him. "It was a great moment. It was fast and it had some power. I'd owned a 1998 [Pontiac] Grand Am and then a supercharged GTP, but they didn't compare to the Mustang." Glad to have the car, Francisco kept it stock and drove it during the warmer months, making the most of any opportunity to cruise with the top down. A few years down the line and his uncle bought a 2003 Mustang GT which he started playing with, something that didn't go ignored by Francisco. "My uncle got this car. He was the one who educated me about exhaust upgrades, power pipes and superchargers - he got me hooked. I knew that was what I wanted to do to my car, so I started saving for some performance modifications."

His uncle hooked Martinez up with Dave Nelson of Nelson's Performance. "He's a great guy. I met up with him and I told him what I wanted to do with my car. I wanted to supercharge it. He gave a list, but also suggested suspension, brake and chassis upgrades to go with the increase in power I was looking for."

So a date was set and Francisco brought the white ragtop up to Nelson's shop for the work to begin. It was shortly after this however, that fate took a slightly cruel turn. "The first plan was to just install a Vortech blower on the stock motor - the car had only 14,000 miles on it when I bought it and was basically brand new, so neither of us figured there would be a problem." Not with the engine, but the supercharger itself it turned out. "I don't know what happened, but we bolted everything on and we were tuning the car on the dyno after the installation, the supercharger made a strange sound and before I knew it, the stock engine had cooked." Ouch. Life does take some interesting turns sometimes, but despite this outcome, neither Francisco nor Dave were deterred. "We had discussions. We talked about a new engine for the car. Dave suggested that we build something a lot stronger and I eventually settled on a 331 stroker." Taking his time, Francisco figured decided to build the car up in one fell swoop. Although that would require considerable time and expenditure, he figured it was the best plan of action. Nelson agreed. "We began working on it in July 2005 and it took until December to have everything ready."

The stroker motor features tons of good stuff like a forged 4340 crank and rods, Trick Flow Twisted Wedge Heads (CNC'd of course), a Holley Systemax intake assembly (port-matched), eight 42 lb Ford Racing injectors that get fed via the stock gas tank and Aeromotive A1000 external electric pump, MSD coil and control box, plus a good ol' centrifugal blower, in this case a Vortech S-trim with a 3.3-inch pulley. MAC 1 5/8-inch shorty headers and a 2.5-inch off-road pipe and mufflers get rid of the spent fumes. A Canton oil pan was installed down below for a more than adequate bath for the crank and 10W30 ensures every internal crevice is lubed as it should be - after the first blower incident, no chances were taken the second time around. A gearbox able to handle this power was of prime consideration, so out came the T-5 and in went a Tremec TKO 600. One of Fidanza's lightweight 16 lb aluminum flywheels and a McCleod Street twin disc clutch help Martinez put power to the pavement in his fortified convertible. A Steeda Tri-Ax is the tool of choice for rowing the gears, while the 8.8 has been improved with an Eaton posi and a set of Moser 31-spline axles, plus the obligatory 3.73:1 gears, courtesy of Ford Racing in this case. When Francisco actually had the car dyno'ed on the rollers, it pulled 551 horsepower and 484 lb-ft of torque to the Mickey Thompson 275/40-17 drag radials. Bearing in mind this is a convertible and a Fox one at that, those kind of numbers meant that a few chassis stiffening upgrades were par for the course (ever driven a Fox ragtop over railroad tracks?). Exactly.

For Martinez, frame reinforcements ultimately meant going with a roll cage - a four-point Steeda piece that added some backbone to the notoriously flexible frame. Steeda bits were also employed to take care of another of this car's shortcomings - the suspension - including replacing the rear control arms, while Tokico Illumina shocks and struts were employed to improve damping. Francisco also took the liberty of converting the car to all-disc brakes, employing Stainless Steel's 13-inch front and 11-inch rear disc brake conversion kit. With a custom SCT tune mastered by Dave Nelson, employed on the car's original EEC-IV processor, along with a Fluidyne aluminum radiator and Flex-a-lite fan, this is one gnarly five-oh beast that can run hard and fast all day long if need be. Although it took a number of months for the little Mustang to get done the way he wanted, as the saying goes, the best things truly come to those who wait.

As with any self-respecting Modified Mustang owner, Martinez felt the car should also incorporate its own custom cosmetic signature. To that end, he enlisted the help of Mark Marion at Marion's Custom Finishes in Waterford, MI, to sparkle up the exterior a little. What resulted was a subtle, but clean combination of white and Saleen style Fox stripes. Taking a slightly different route than many do with these cars, Martinez also decided to have a 2000 Cobra R style wing mounted on the rear deck, which gives this particular horse a rather unique look. Although Francisco confesses that he was "a little impatient" when the whole project began, by the time the car rolled out into the sunlight once a more, a year after the whole personalization program began, the lad was actually a pretty happy camper. "I went into Nelson's shop with $3,000 for a supercharger. By the time my car was done and on the road again, the total was close to $40,000, but you know what? When I got in that driver's seat and took it for a drive - I knew it was worth it." However, Martinez felt that there was still something missing - a little je ne sais quoi. "I felt the Mustang needed some custom upholstery. My cousin, Temo Chavez works at a shop here in Waterford and he got to work on it. He did the seats, door panels - everything. It now has custom leather and suede and he embroidered GT in the custom door panels - that's one of the things I really like about this car."

Although he's been delighted with his '90 ragtop, Francisco hasn't had a lot of opportunity to show it off. "My work schedule, being self-employed and stuff, means that I don't have much time to enjoy the car, but I make the most of it when I can." Having said that, he let his uncle Salvador take it to the Woodward Dream Cruise last year. "He took it out and went cruising up and down Woodward. The car got a lot of attention and people complemented him a lot. It's a nice feeling when you see that." Let's hope that Francisco himself can get this thing out to an event or two this year, as we feel, this is one Fox convertible that's most definitely worth a second look.

Francisco Martinez' 1990 Mustang GT

D.S.S. Racing 331 Stroker V8

Engine Modifications
D.S.S. Racing 331 Super Pro Bullet shortblock; with 2-bolt Main Support system; CNC machined; Scat 4340 stroker crank; Eagle H-beam rods; Pro X forged pistons; Trick Flow Specialities hydraulic roller camshaft; D.S.S. aluminum roller rockers; Trick Flow Specialities Twisted Wedge Heads; CNC machined and ported by D.S.S. Racing; ARP head bolts; Cometic gaskets; Holley Systemax upper and lower port matched intake assembly; Accufab 70 mm throttle body; Ford Racing 42 lb/hr injectors; Aeromotive A1000 electric fuel pump; Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator; Aeromotive fuel filters; Vortech S-trim supercharger; 3.3' pulley (set for 9 psi of boost); MAC Products' 1 5/8" shorty headers; MAC Products 2.5" off-road H-pipe; MSD billet distributor; MSD Digital 6 ignition control box; NGK sparkplugs; Canton 7-quart steel oil pan; Fram HP1 oil filter; Fluidyne aluminum radiator; dual Flex-a-Lite electric fans

Engine Management
Ford EEC-IV processor with SCT custom 4-program tune by Dave Nelson

Tremec TKO 600 five-speed manual gearbox; Fidanza 16-ounce aluminum flywheel; McCleod Street twin dual disc composite clutch; Sonny's 45.5" aluminum drivershaft; Moser 31-spline axles; Ford Racing 3.73:1 ring and pinion; Eaton Positraction limited slip differential

Steeda 4-point chromemoly rollcage

551 RWHP, 484 RWTQ

Francisco Martinez' 1990 Mustang GT

Custom white finish with Saleen striping by Mark Marion of Marion's Custom Finishes; 2000 Cobra R fiberglass rear deck wing

Custom upholstered seats and door panels by Temo Chavez; Steeda Tri-Ax shifter; Autometer 2 1/16" boost gauge; Autometer 2 1/16" fuel and oil pressure gauges

Wheels And Tires
Ford Racing Cobra R wheels 17x8" (f) 17x9" (r); Nitto NT555 245/45-17 (f); Mickey Thompson 275/40-17 (r)

Steeda adjustable rear control arms; Steeda comp springs (front and rear); Tokico Illumina adjustable front struts and rear shocks; SSBC 13" front disc brake conversion; SSBC 11" rear disc brake conversion

Special thanks to Dave Nelson of Nelson's Performance; Mark Marion of Marion's Custom Finishes and my cousin Temo Chavez