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1988 Ford Mustang GT - Back In Black
After putting in many years of hard labor into a customer's car, Bob Frontino winds up taking over the Mustang of his dreams.
How many times has a mechanic or builder worked on a customer's car, only to fall in love with it? It's a story that's probably all too familiar. One day, a patron comes in wanting nothing more than a set of pulleys for his or her all-original and showroom-fresh '88 Mustang GT. The car's factory paint still looks miles deep, and the pin-straight body looks better than the original ads. A week later, more mods are scheduled, and soon enough, superchargers and suspension work wind up making their way under the Ford's sheetmetal. Months turn into years as the customer's Pony works its way into the builder's heart.
So, imagine the surprise when Bob Frontino at Performance Associates in San Dimas, California, got a call from his longtime customer Terry Schroeder, who was buying a then-new '04 Cobra. To finance the Terminator, Terry had to part with his beloved '88 GT, so he offered it to Bob. The deal was so good, it was completed before it even started.
Without hesitation, Bob went to the bank, turned over the cash to Terry, and within a few hours was sitting in the Mustang GT of his dreams. "The car had always been garage kept, and the original paint still looked new," Bob says. "It felt great to buy the car that I had spent so many hours on. After many years of building cars for others, I finally had the opportunity to keep this one for myself. Since then, my son Vince and I have built a new engine and made other changes. Our goal was to also make the engine compartment as clean and neat as possible."
To get the project moving briskly, the Frontinos ditched the stock block and started fresh with a four-bolt Dart casting. With its eight bores set at a standard 4-inch dimension, the stout foundation was filled with a 3-inch Ford Racing Performance Parts steel crank. The arm was gently laid by the elder Frontino into Clevite 77 bearings and bolted into the main saddles with ARP fasteners. The Crower I-beam rods and JE pistons were all balanced for silky-smooth, high-rpm usage, and slid into their new homes by the junior Frontino. An aggressive Anderson Ford Racing B4 hydraulic roller cam was dialed in to nudge the Comp Cams Pro Magnum 1.6 rockers to slam 'n' jam the 2.02/1.60 stainless valves open within the Edelbrock Performer aluminum heads. Induction duties are left to a ported GT-40 lower and a Bennett box upper manifold. A good-ol' cog-driven Vortech T-Trim cranks out 17 pounds of boost and slings the big cfm down the Accufab's 75mm throat. With 50-pound injectors, the PMS-equipped EEC-IV has no problem keeping the fuel supplied. JBA 131/44 long-tube headers dump the vaporized Brontosauruses into a 3-inch x pipe system with SpinTech race mufflers. An LM-1 wide-band meter helps with tuning as this puppy get dialed in on the street and at the track.
Horsepower at the flywheel is estimated at around 700, and based on the car's current e.t. of 6.36 at 108 in the eighth, it's safe to say this 9-second-capable GT is definitely pushing over 600 hp at the wheels.
Hanging on for dear life behind the 302 is a reverse-pattern C4. The Dynamic 8-inch converter offers 4,500-rpm of stall speed, and the transbrake allows for some lightning-quick reaction times. A Hurst Quarterstick with a T-handle and an air shifter allows the driver to concentrate on keeping the shiny-side up while wrestling this seven-legged bull down the tarmac. Out back, a Currie 9-inch rear with Strange axles and spool is cogged with 4.11 gears. Controlled by the QA1 coilovers and stabilized by the Competition Engineering swaybar, the launches are as reliable as they are predictable.
At the other end of this full-frontal dragstrip blitzkrieg is a D&D tubular K-member with super-light Aerospace brakes and 90/10 Lakewoods with coilovers. When the Tree hits the green, the 28x10.5 ET Drags get planted, and short times are in the low 1.3s with a 1.32 best. To give you a visual, we'll let Bob explain how it feels going down the strip: "When releasing the transbrake, the car launches, and you lose sight of the track and see the sky. As long as the car goes straight, we usually have a good run. The car pins you into the seat and never stops pulling."
The all-original black paint was treated with only specialty waxes and other protectants over the years, so little work was needed to make the car look spectacular. To match the hatchback's swoopy lower bodywork, the topside was augmented with a Saleen rear wing and a Cervini's Auto Design 3-inch cowl hood. Red and grey stripes, applied by pal Jack Burr, also add a custom touch to the flanks of Bob's fighter. With all the time saved on the bodywork, many more hours were put into the rest of the car to make it look the part. For instance, the entire wiring harness in the engine compartment was hidden behind the inner fenders, and all the holes were filled for a super-smooth finish. They say it's the details that matter, and in this instance, they certainly do-and they go a long way.
Speaking of details, it appears that Bob and Vince are already planning their next move to get further into the low-sixes in the eighth-mile. An air-to-water intercooler packed with ice, some additional engine tuning, and a 10-point cage should get them easily and safely there. By the time you read this, these mods should have been completed and their next foray down the 660 may well be their quickest ever.
Incredibly, after all those years of working on the car, they still wind up turning wrenches under the hood. Only this time around, it's not for profit-it's for personal satisfaction. "To see this car transform from a stock 5.0 daily driver to a nine-second drag car is unbelievable," Bob says. "While making small changes at a time in the shop, I never thought it would come this far and be mine. Being able to build the engine and do all of the work on this car myself makes it all worth it." Indeed it does. Just don't let anyone else fall in love with it.