Steve Temple
February 7, 2006

When we first spied an '05 Mustang prototype poorly concealed under a car cover, the bloodline was unmistakable. We didn't have to pull back the cloth and find the galloping horse logo in order to identify it as a thoroughbred ponycar.

Which is as it should be. Drawing from Ford's deep well of DNA is hardly unusual (the Ford GT is another case in point), but it does beg for a side-by-side comparison of old and new. Hence the restified '67 ponycar paired with the latest and greatest Mustang--the '05.

Comparing these two is like looking at photos of grandpa and grandson, each taken at identical ages. It's easy to spot the family resemblance between sire and scion, but the differences in eras are clearly evident as well.

The revered fastback ancestor hails from the free-spirited '60s, conjuring up images of Woodstock, bell-bottoms and mutton-chop sideburns. On the other hand, its progeny, the young Mr. Henry Ford Mustang III, if you will, is clearly a product of the iPod generation, where technology and tradition converge with an imposing presence.

One obvious trait our feature cars have is a boatload of mods. The '05 model, called the GT/R-CODE (R-Code being a nod to Ford's original perform-ance designation), was developed by Performance West Group, renowned for creating stunning image vehicles with real-world aftermarket upgrades. In other words, this isn't just some sort of concept, but a real-world ride with high-performance parts and killer looks to match.

Drawing on another comparison from the Ford family, think of the ultimate Ford performance vehicle and the Ford GT comes to mind immediately. But with a price tag of $150,000 plus, and a total of only 7,500 scheduled to be built during the next several years, most Ford performance enthusiasts have neither the finances to support this kind of extravagance nor the opportunity to own one.

Consider instead the new '05 Mustang GT/R-CODE. With its supercharged 4.6-liter V-8, five-speed Tremec transmission, and show car-inspired styling, this is the Ford GT for the everyman. Slip into the supportive seat with custom Katzkin upholstery, twist the ignition key, and awaken the giant that lurks just under the power bulge hood. Engage the silky smooth clutch, slip the shifter into First gear, and get ready for the ride of your life.

Drop the hammer on the 520 horses pumping furiously on the front side of the firewall and get ready to redefine the term "driving experience." Shift the gears at redline, and you can smoke the tires right up to freeway speeds, just like Steve McQueen's Bullitt in full pursuit mode. Then the giant 14-inch slotted and ventilated rotors at all four wheels from Stainless Steel Brakes bring the car to clenching halt.

Acceleration in a stock '05 is a healthy 5.1 seconds from 0 to 60 mph and 13.4 seconds at more than 101 mph in the quarter-mile. Supercharged and on street drag radials, it scampers to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds and runs 11.7 seconds at 117 mph.

Having all this raw power at your control and looking good at the same time--what a concept. This is the best thing since the big-block Mustangs burst on the scene nearly 40 years ago.

While the styling on the factory Mustang is near perfect, that doesn't mean it can't be muscled up a bit to create a special edition. Reflecting the extra beef under the hood, Xenon's body mods add more mass to the front and rear, but without getting swoopy or turning this all-American musclecar into import tuner trash. The treatment is tasteful and includes side skirts and panels on the door and rear quarters. No, you can't use those back windows anymore, so just check your side mirrors instead (as if you'll need to with this much power on tap!). There's also a three-piece spoiler bringing up the rear.

The front fascia was inspired by the Mustang concept show car. Anodized diamond wire mesh accents the grille and serves as the backdrop for the classic Mustang logo. A twin-nostril scoop on the RKSport custom hood provides additional clearance for the supercharger that force-feeds the 4.6 V-8, while reaffirming the presence of the brute power lurking below.

Finished in a custom-mixed Billet Silver applied by Mike Face, the body is comple-mented by a set of wheels inspired by original performance rims that were popular when the Mustang GT took the checkered flag at events around the nation. These new, lightweight, 20-inch alloys evoke all the nostalgia of the original, with the added benefit of 21st-century design and engineering, making them a true modern classic.

What about that old guy in the background? He's getting a bit long in the tooth, but does he still have the bite of a junkyard dog? That, and much more.

The '67 Mustang GT/R-CODE, also created by Performance West Group, epitomizes the concept of the restified high-performance grand-touring sports car. Thanks to a host of late-model mechanicals, it offers superlative performance in every measure. Putting it simply, about the only thing that dates back to 1967 is the body shell.

This GT/R-CODE is a showcase for the latest in performance innovation and development. The engine that is the heart of the GT/R-CODE is equipped with a Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharger that pumps up the volume of the modern 4.6-liter, Two-Valve V-8 to 500 pavement-melting horsepower, while retaining 21st-century efficiencies.

Additional features of the GT/R-CODE include a MagnaFlow X-pipe low-restriction dual-exhaust system that's capped off with large-diameter exhaust tips exiting conspicuously at the rear of the vehicle. The result is a snarling exhaust note that sets off car alarms as you rumble down the street. It's a rolling menace, ready to demonstrate that this rowdy senior citizen is large and in charge.

Balancing out the awesome power of the Mustang GT/R-CODE are new three-piston Tri-Power billet calipers from Stainless Steel Brakes that clamp down on 13-inch slotted and ventilated rotors at all four wheels, ensuring the Mustang GT/R-CODE can stop as quickly as it accelerates. The 18-inch rims have that Hurst look, but benefit from one-piece, lightweight alloy technology.

The brake upgrades are complemented by a thoroughly modernized suspension, making the GT/R-CODE a superbly balanced driving machine. At the front are tubular upper and lower control arms and adjustable coilovers from Rod and Custom Motorsports, as well as a power rack-and-pinion steering system. Two-inch drop spindles and a 1-inch sway bar keep body roll to a minimum on hard-over maneuvers.

Bringing up the rear is a DTS Ford 9-inch with a gusseted housing around the bulletproof Strange axles and carrier. Mustangs Plus supplied the reverse-eye, parallel leaf springs and the Spax rear shocks, along with a long list of other cosmetic items for this restification.

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One look at the Performance West Group '67 Mustang GT/R-CODE, and you know immediately this is no ordinary Stang. It has an absolutely menacing appearance, one that seduces you at first sight, daring you to climb into the cockpit and man the wheel.

Inside, it's familiar yet modern, with bolstered seats, a Hurst shifter, and color-keyed accents that are more modern than vintage. A quick twist of the ignition key reinforces this sensation, because the blown 4.6 engine snaps into life instantly with what can only be described as a vicious bark.

Slip the Hurst-shifter-equipped Tremec five-speed into First gear, release the Hays clutch, and tip into the throttle gingerly--because if you don't, you'll blow off the tires.

Merging onto the freeway, shifting each gear at the 6,000 rpm redline, the sound of the exhaust that reverberates though the vehicle is utterly primal. Forget about measuring for noise, vibration, and harshness, the Mustang GT/R-CODE was meant to be driven, and driven hard. Corners are no match for this chrome Pony, with its thoroughly modern coilover suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering, massive brakes, and staggered rolling stock.

Maybe the GT/R-CODE has some traces from the Falcon gene pool in its bloodline, but you'll be hard-pressed to find them. No, this wild stallion is a true Mustang in every sense. And as for its young grandson, that's a horse of a different color as well.

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