Frank H. Cicerale
June 1, 2007
Photos By: Paul Rosner

When Sir Isaac Newton shot a beam of light through a prism, he proved that light alone is responsible for the colors we see. The result of his experiment were the many different colors of light being refracted by the angles of the prism. This light refraction is obvious every time a rainbow is seen in the sky after a summer storm. Sunlight protracts light rays through small droplets of water in the air, and a rainbow appears. That beautiful arc of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet is also part of an old Irish tale of a leprechaun being stationed at the end of the rainbow with a pot of gold.

Dakota Wheeler had a rainbow and vision all his own, but his version of nature's light experi-ment had a leprechaun holding the keys to a wicked '93 Mustang at the end of it. Dakota works at a car dealership close to his home in Spring, Texas. Each day he goes to work and sees many different cars come and go. When he saw this particular Fox-body make at the dealership, it made an impact on him. "Back in 1999, this car was a trade-in, and it was sent to our wholesale lot," Dakota says. "I saw it and had to have it. At the time, it was black with chrome Pony rims."

The car's interior was mint, however the sheetmetal of the 6-year-old 5.0-liter LX was not. "The outside of the car had hail damage," Dakota says. "That wasn't a problem since repairing things like that is my profession."

With knowledge in his head, expertise in his hands, and cash in his wallet, Dakota turned the Stang into a rolling example of Newton's conclusions. Since sheetmetal repair is Dakota's forte, it was only natural that the Mustang's transformation begin on the outside. After installing a Competition Engineering six-point rollcage to meet safety specs, he worked his magic, repairing and replacing body panels as needed to rid the flanks of nature's shell damage. Once the body was smooth, he performed surgery on the passenger-side fender to incorporate a ram-air opening in the sheetmetal. The result was a clean yet functional inlet that gives the car a bit of attitude. Adding sex appeal is the Harwood 4-inch cowl hood that replaced the factory steel piece.

With the bodywork completed, Dakota shored up the chassis and suspension before hitting the Stang with the paint gun. With the cage already in, he welded in a pair of DND Motorsports subframe connectors. After doing a mini-tub job himself, it was time to install the suspension components. UPR lower control arms, coilover shocks, and a light K-member combine with Energy Suspension bushings and a Flaming River manual steering rack to suspend the front end and point it in the right direction. Complementing the front-end upgrades was a rear suspension overhaul that consisted of QA1 shocks and springs, Granatelli upper and lower control arms, and a modified Ford 8.8-inch rear. Speaking of the rear, Dakota massaged the housing by narrowing it 111/44 inches on both sides before welding on 9-inch ends and stocking it with 4.10 gears and Moser 31-spline axles.

The time came to break out the paint gun, and Dakota spared no expense. After completely undercoating the underside, he and David Silva of Dave's Designs spent a mere four weeks in the paint shop. After sanding the car, the pair shot it with PPG primer. With the base solidified, the Standox three-stage custom paint was mixed up and sprayed on the Mustang. Showcasing lime green paint with a 90-percent pearl offset by a House of Kolors Tru Blue pearl flame job, the finished product was covered with six coats of PPG clear. As an added touch, a 6.0-liter fender badge was painted on for aesthetic appeal, along with the installation of H.I.D. headlights from a Lexus IS300 and Boyd Coddington 18-inch rims. The shiny wheels are shod in Falken rubbers sized 225/40/18 up front and 315/35/18 Pirelli P-Zero shoes out back. The result is a retina-searing scheme that leaves a blind man begging for a second look.

This Pony wasn't meant to be all show and no go, however. "When I first bought the car, the original plan was just to have a fun street car," Dakota says. "Well, the motor didn't last long, nor did the T5 transmission. What had started out as a small project quickly developed into a full-blown overhaul."

Out came the expired 302 and in went a small-block with bigger biceps. Dakota had Eddie Conrad at Conrad Racing in Houston build a short-block that could take a lickin' and keep on tickin'. Eddie started with a Ford Racing Performance Parts block. He then prepped the block by honing, hot-tanking, and pressure testing it after he made sure it was OK for use by Magnafluxing it. Once the bullet was deemed acceptable, he punched out all eight cylinder bores to 4.00 inches. Combined with the 3.90-inch stroke of the FRPP billet crank, the final cubic-inch number settled on 393. Fly-cut Ross forged pistons ride up and down the cylinder walls, while Eagle H-beam rods swing on the crank thanks to Clevite 77 bearings. Sealing up the cylinders are Speed-Pro rings, and keeping the balanced rotating assembly in place is a Probe Industries main girdle. A Melling high-volume oil pump lubricates the moving parts, and a Canton windage tray and 7-quart pan make sure the oil is contained and not meeting the crank in high-rpm situations. Rounding out the go-power is a bunch of high-performance goodies. A Comp cams hydraulic roller bumpstick, featuring 0.565/0.574 intake and exhaust lift with 232/240 degrees of duration and a 112 lobe separation, moves the lifters and pushrods that are linked up to Comp 1.6 roller rockers. The rockers tickle the 2.10 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves in the extensively ported and polished Trick Flow aluminum heads. Topping things off is a Trick Flow intake manifold.

An Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump supplies the fuel to the 42-pound Bosch injectors, while a 75mm BBK throttle body and an Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe get the air into the cylinders. When the air and fuel is mixed up and compressed to 11.5:1, a full-on MSD ignition system receives the signal from the Accel Gen 7 fuel-injection system to light the ends of the NGK plugs. Emptying the combustion chambers of burnt-gasses is a job handed down to a pair of Hooker 131/44-inch long-tube headers that link up to a custom x pipe system and 3-inch exhaust system complete with Flowmaster mufflers. The engine combo provides honest-to-goodness 456 rwhp and 451 rwtq.

Backing the stroker small-block is an Art Carr-prepped AOD. Stocked with a full manual valvebody and a transbrake, the slushbox is combined with an Art Carr billet converter with a 3,800-stall speed. Finalizing the drivetrain is an aluminum driveshaft from the FRPP crew. Stopping power for the Mustang comes in the form of Cobra brakes, which can be found on all four corners.

With everything else worked over, Dakota couldn't let the interior go by the wayside. Working around the cage, he ditched the factory front and rear seats for a rear-seat-delete kit and a pair of Corbeau A4 buckets for himself and the lone passenger. A new headliner, carpet, door panels, and dash made their way into the cabin before the stock gauges and radio were tossed in favor of an aftermarket head unit and a host of Auto Meter gauges that can be found in a pillar pod and the Florida 5.0 gauge cluster. Keeping Dakota and the person riding shotgun planted in the seats are Corbeau five-point harnesses.

"The look and stance is what I envisioned from the start," Dakota says. "The car handles great and rides nice considering it's mini-tubbed."

While he has yet to take a stab at the dragstrip with the Mustang, Dakota is having fun cruising around and gathering attention just about everywhere he goes. "From the paint to the wider rear tires, this is just a mean, all-around Mustang that people won't forget," he says.

With twin turbos and lots of boost in this Mustang's future, Dakota must have ditched Newton's light experiment for his second law of motion. Defined as acceleration being produced when a force acts on a mass, it's only natural that this Pony will fly when the turbos kick in. We can only hope Newton cinches those belts down tight, because he's in for one heck of a ride.