Huw Evans
December 1, 2008
Photos By: Patrick Hill

Amonster hit by anybody's standards, the S197 Mustang has brought new life to the hobby. People who probably wouldn't have considered a Mustang over some European or Japanese job before are now making the switch, and in good numbers, too (somebody we know traded in his Porsche Boxster for a new Pony and has never been happier). Although stock is nice, there are those who will tell you that modified is better; after all, that's a major part of the name of this magazine, and if we did a write-up on a stone-stock Mustang, we'd probably be taken away by a bunch of guys in white lab coats.

When it comes to white coats of paint, however, that opens up a whole realm of possibilities. Put it on a car and then add some blue stripes and you've got America's national racing colors. Do the reverse and the effect is the same, so come on you French Blues, Rosso Reds, and British Racing Greens, we'll take you all on. It seems we're not alone in our outlook. John Temple, of Temple Performance Cars, a Georgia-based outfit specializing in hot rides, sent down a pair of his LM500 Legend Mustangs for our Southern-based lot to sample (he's a brave man, that John). Although Temple stresses that each of the cars he builds can be ordered by the customer in any of the Ford Factory hues, we somehow feel that Vista Blue with White Stripes and Oxford White with Blue stripes just seem to work the best. On these cars, unlike so many "super" S197 Mustangs, the stripes are painted on rather than decals. So in five years, when your friend down the street has to replace his because they are cracking, yours will look as good as the day you picked up the car.

THREE FLAVORS
While Heinz may claim to have 57, for many enthusiasts three is just enough. Temple offers the Legend Mustangs in three flavors: the Series 1, the Series 2, and the Legend X. Our motley crew was given the chance to sample the former and the latter, so let's start with that.

Both the Series 1 and Series 2 look identical with the same exterior upgrades. A refreshing aspect about these cars is that the body mods are subtle. There's Temple's own fiberglass hood, which fits rather well and employs a '70-'71 Torino-esque scoop, and the scoops over the quarter windows offer a nice change from stick-on louvers and a rear deck spoiler. The replacement grille, with center-mounted driving lights, also looks at home on this particular package, as do the 20-inch Shelby wheels, which really pay homage to the originals found on '67 GT350s and 500s, long before somebody had the bright idea to remake Gone in 60 Seconds.

When you get in the Series 1, the pillar-mounted air/fuel and boost gauges, along with gingerbread on the center console and parking brake, might tell you this is just another tuner Mustang. But then there's a big red button on the dash. Turn the key and the engine won't start, but crank the key and then hit that button and whoa-hoa, the engine roars to life. The Series 1 uses the stock Mustang GT's Three-Valve V-8, but it has been given a shot of oats via an upgraded fuel system and a twin-rotor RoushCharger positive displacement blower (Series 2 cars are normally aspirated). Grab the cue ball handle on the top of that Hurst shifter and head out to the retro highway. Unlike a lot of S197s, this one has more of an old-school feel than just about any we care to remember. The Hurst shifter is a good choice for the T3650 gearbox and it works well. Snick into Second, Third, down again for the corner, and back up into Third--lovely. In terms of acceleration, the Series 1 has a good amount of go and is fairly relaxed about it; there isn't a whole lot of blower whine until you mash the throttle. Power is claimed to be 450 hp at the crank, but since we didn't dyno test the car, we were unable to verify it. The torque is really what it's about and, in this application, it does feel satisfying when you honk on the pedal. Further aiding off-the-line zoot are numerically shorter rear gearing options, allowing the blown motor to really get into its stride.

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Through The Turns
Temple does meddle with the factory suspension, but only a bit, installing slightly more aggressive springs and then tightening up the front end with a strut tower brace. As a result, the car rides well--no buckboard-like shake over bumps--but it's by no means a boat, either. Get into a quick corner (if you can find one) and it stays composed--it feels a lot like a Roush Stage 3, actually, a late-model Mustang of which this author is a huge fan. However, with smaller front tires than the Roush, the Series 1 has less of a tendency to tram on rough roads. Although nobody among our Southern lot was given a chance to go racing in the Series 1, yours truly felt that this car would do rather well on the road course. The Stage 3 Roush does, and similar personalities often share similar strengths. Those Subaru guys think they have it all figured out. Well, watch out, because the Mustang is coming. We've already eaten a few with a Stage 3 and I'm sure we could do it with one of these.

One option Temple does offer is a muffler delete package--the car comes with Bassani exhaust. While this does keep the catalytic converters, our verdict was that the sound was an acquired taste and not particularly to our liking, a bit coarse and rough, which we feel isn't quite in keeping with the Series 1's character. Maybe we're getting old, but unless it's a '60s Super Stock dragster or Trans Am car, mufflers sound better.

Verdict
Given the plethora of tuner Mustangs out there, it can often be hard to find the package that's really right for you. From our perspective, it seems a lot of folks are simply trying to do too much and bolt on too much stuff, which can actually detract from the excitement of driving these cars. Luckily, Temple Performance hasn't done that. Yes, there are other cars that pull in bigger numbers, but at the end of the day, numbers are just numbers--it's the real world that counts. I, for one, would like to try this car on the track, as I think it has a lot of potential. In terms of daily driving, it's a good car with just the right amount of panache, individuality, and painted-on stripes.

Goliath
First it was David, and then it was KITT. Now we need somebody to battle him because Goliath's back and he's now called the Legend X. It features much of the cosmetic upgrades of the other Legend cars but sports a Shelby GT500}-style front fascia and unique five-spoke wheels, staggered 20x9s on the front and 20x10s on the rear with sticky BFG tires. But it's the greasy bits that set this car apart. Under the scooped hood is a purpose-built modular V-8, stroked from 4.6 to a genuine 5.0 liters. Built by famed performance shop Livernois Motorsports in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, the engine boasts a forged steel crank and rods, forged alloy pistons, custom ported Three-Valve cylinder heads, dual high flow fuel pumps and a stout Kenne Bell 2.6L Twin Screw supercharger. It's a fearsome powerplant and needs a stout gearbox to handle it, so each Legend X gets a Tremec T-56 six-speed and dual-disc SPEC clutch. Power is said to be in the 650hp range. Comments from our lot on driving the thing revealed that it, indeed, was just dying to break loose and, in many respects, was a hooligan, the rear skins breaking loose at every opportunity. A four-point chrome-moly rollcage beefs up the chassis, and this car has Brembo four-piston front brakes with cooling ducts (probably just as well, because it's a bit of an animal). Temple claims it is track ready, but we think this car would be more fun at the dragstrip--a mile-long dragstrip. It has all the right ingredients to pack a serious punch; the question is, are you ready for it? Buy one of these, my friend, and you are going to have to walk the walk.

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The Details
Legend Mustang LM500 Series 1

Exterior

  • Complete Legend body package
  • Front splitter
  • Twin Scoop hood
  • Brake scoops
  • Rear window scoops
  • Rear deck spoiler
  • Custom radio antenna
  • Center-mount light grille
  • Client choice of colors for custom-painted dual racing stripes and rocker panel stripes
  • Interior

  • Billet interior accent package
  • Boost and air/fuel gauges
  • Push-button start
  • Hurst short-throw shifter
  • Chassis

  • Performance 1.0 springs
  • Shock tower brace
  • Engine

  • 4.6L Three-Valve V-8 with RoushCharger rated at 450 hp
  • Twin high-flow fuel pumps
  • Upgraded fuel system
  • Wheels & Tires

  • Carroll Shelby CS67 20x9 and 20x10
  • BFG P255/35ZR20 and P285/30ZR20
  • Options

  • Muffler delete package
  • One-piece driveshaft
  • Custom seating
  • Chassis stiffening and upgraded suspension
  • Performance gearing
  • ProCharger 500hp supercharger package