September 1, 2009
Ubly Dragway, in the "thumb" area of Michigan, was-and continues to be-a regular haunt for Iacobelli and his LX. This wheels-up photo was from the early '90s.


  • Ford AOD-E
  • Converted to 4R70W specs, with 2.84 First gear
  • 3,500-rpm stall torque converter
  • Baumannator control box


  • 8.8-inch axle
  • Eaton Posi differential
  • Moser 31-spline axles
  • 3.55 gears


  • Custom stainless headers from Diamond Fabrication; 1.75-inch primaries
  • Custom exhaust from Diamond Fabrication; 3.5-inch single tube from the turbo system, splitting into dual, 3-inch outlets from the exhaust manifolds
  • Twin Flowmaster two-chamber mufflers


  • Front: QA1 tubular K-member with Griggs coilover kit, SN-95 spindles, Tokico shocks
  • Rear: Stock, with Koni shocks


  • Front: Baer 13-inch disc, two-piston caliper
  • Rear: Baer drag kit, 10.5-inch rotor, single-piston caliper


  • Front: TSW Vortex, Hyper-Silver, 18x9
  • Rear: TSW Vortex, Hyper-Silver, 18x10 (custom widened)


  • Front: BFGoodrich G-Force Sport, P275/35ZR18
  • Rear: BFGoodrich Drag Radial, P305/35ZR18


  • Stock interior with replacement carpet, A-pillar gauge pod with Auto Meter boost and fuel pressure gauges, six-point rollbar


  • Repainted original Tropical Yellow with additional clear coat, HO Fibertrends 1.5-inch fiberglass cowl hood, '92-'93 "feature car"-type rear spoiler, smoked headlamp and taillight lenses

20 Years Of Mustang Tuning
Twenty years is a long time in any business. In the feast-or-famine world of performance car tuning, it's just about a lifetime. At 42, Lidio Iacobelli could hardly be considered old, but he's a granddaddy when it comes to Mustang tuning. He opened the doors to Alternative Auto Performance back in 1990. At the time, the 5.0L Mustang thing was in its infancy, as it took a few years for enthusiasts and the aftermarket parts industry to find one another. So, Iacobelli worked solo in his Mt. Clemens, Michigan, shop, doing performance work on all types of cars. But he was always a Blue Oval guy, having quit his job as a driveability technician at a Ford dealership to launch his business.

By the mid-1990s, the Mustang movement was in full swing and a reputation for precise, done-right-the-first-time tuning brought a steady stream of 5.0L Mustangs to his shop door. Since then, Alternative Auto has been primarily a Mustang tuning house, although Lightnings, Marauders, and others add spice to the mix. "The business evolved with the popularity of the Mustang," he says. "It didn't necessarily go looking for it at first, but it was clear we were doing some things that people wanted and appreciated, so that's where it went."

Tuning for Iacobelli was a self-taught art that he embraced and approached analytically. As the customers lined up, Iacobelli grew the business by bringing on additional tech-nicians. There are three wrench turners in the shop currently, including engine builder Mark Smielewski, who's been at the shop since 1996, as well as Jake Meisel and Shawn Stager.

"Quality tuning has really been the key to our success," says Iacobelli. "I think we've always been on top of the latest technologies, but tuning the cars so our customers get the performance they expect without driveability problems was instrumental. I drive every car before we hand the keys back to the customer, because I want to make sure it's right."

Alternative Auto outgrew its shop several times, expanding to take up more units in its original industrial park location to its current, 7,400-sq-ft facility in Chesterfield Township, at the northeastern edge of the metropolitan Detroit area. There's also an ever-present work ethic in the shop that we don't often see in other shops-and believe us, we've seen many a talented tuner close his doors because he couldn't keep the wrenches spinning efficiently. The atmosphere at Alternative Auto is friendly and cordial, but definitely all-business; it's not a hang-out for the technicians' buddies.

Iacobelli's combination of quality and workplace professionalism has created a well-respected, prosperous business that has outlasted most of the competition-and it's poised to continue doing so for the next 20 years.