Frank H. Cicerale
December 1, 2007
Photos By: Dale Amy

Most of you have heard of the Headless Horseman, the ghost who roamed Sleepy Hollow looking for his head. While the story may be a fairy tale, the town of Sleepy Hollow actually exists and is located in upstate New York.

If you drive north a little further and cross over into Ontario, Canada, eventually you'll run into another unique horseman, Robert Esposito, who doesn't have to look too far for his Pony, a rather sedate-looking, white '86 Mustang LX. While the Headless Horseman came out at night and had only 1 hp at his disposal, Robert's LX cruises at all hours with 576 rwhp at the tip of his sword. Despite its bone-stock appearance, the car hunts its prey with the heart of a lion.

"Thanks to my dad, I've always been into cars," Robert says about how his affliction with the speed bug started. "When I was a kid, he used to do a little road racing, so I was always at the track with him. Over the years, he has owned a whole bunch of different cars."

With the outline for the novel written, it came time to fill in the details. Robert broke out the pen and paper when he found his '86 Mustang LX. "Fast-forward to 2006, and my current toy was an '00 Suzuki Hyabusa, which I still have," he says. "I was searching for that perfect '86 coupe when I came across this nice, all-original '86 for sale. My wife was six months pregnant, so I knew the timing wasn't right-but I couldn't help it and called to see if the car was still available."

The Mustang, which was located in Las Vegas, Nevada, was just what Robert was looking for. After conversing with the lady who owned the car, Robert ran the deal past his wife, Helene, who gave him the thumbs-up. A few weeks later, the Mustang made its way across the border into Canada. It wasn't long before Robert and a few buddies started tinkering with it, though.

The 302 remained in mostly stock condition. Robert didn't touch the short-block at all, save for a fly-cut of the stock pistons, and he left the engine's displacement at the factory 302ci mark. The power-inducing features of this Pony come from the top half of the engine. Edelbrock Victor Jr. aluminum cylinder heads featuring 2.05-inch intake and 1.60-inch exhaust valves were installed, as were a Downs upper intake and a ported GT-40 lower. A set of 1.6-ratio roller rockers were added under the valve covers.

Robert's '86 Mustang LX is a modern-day example of the Headless Horseman. Stock on the outside, mostly stock on the inside, yet slinging a sharp sword, Robert's Pony cuts down anyone it chooses.

The big-ticket item was the installation of a Pony Down Stage 3 turbo kit. Showcasing a 70mm turbocharger, the hairdryer supplies the small-block Ford an astounding 12 pounds of boost, which is about all the stock bottom-end components can handle before quick and destructive fragmentation occurs. In an effort to stave off said carnage, Robert installed a 3.5-inch intercooler to chill down the air charge. The rest of the induction system consists of a BBK 75mm throttle body and a C&L 76mm mass air meter. A 255-lph in-tank fuel pump supplies the needed go juice to the powerplant via an Accel regulator and a set of 42-pound injectors. The MSD Digital-6 ignition box and corresponding coil lights the NGK plugs each time the stock '89 Mustang mass air computer tells it to. Tuning was done by Robert and friend Frank Sebastiano. Ridding the mighty little engine of its spent flatulence is a job taken care of easily by a pair of Pony Down headers, a Y-pipe, and a 2.5-inch exhaust system.

The interior of the Mustang is as Ford built it in 1986. While the interior reminds us all of the days of hair bands and tie-dye shirts, Robert fast-forwards to the present day each time the loud pedal is hammered through the floorboard.

The carriage behind these horses is the factory AOD automatic transmission, which now houses a Red Neck Racing non-lockup 3,200-stall converter. A B&M trans cooler keeps the tranny fluid temperature within reason, while a Lentech valvebody firms up the shifts. The stock 8.8-inch rear and 3.27 rear gears have been left untouched save for the Ford Racing Performance Parts rearend girdle. As for the suspension and brakes, minus the weld-in subframe connectors, the aforementioned underpinnings are left as Ford designed it back in 1986. The same thing goes for the brakes and the rolling stock. On the street, this consists of the factory 10-hole rims and 225/60/15 shoes. For strip duty, though, the wimpy rear tires are left on the side, and a set of Mickey Thompson 255/60/15s are bolted on for help in the traction department. Overall, the combination is good for 1.90-second short times and elapsed times in the 11.40s, with trap speeds approaching 125 mph.

Like the rest of the car, the "keep it stock" theme was carried over to the interior and exterior. "The car runs and drives like it just came off the showroom floor, and there are no noises or leaks," Robert says. "As for the racing technique, when the arms drop, I hit the gas and go."

Like the Headless Horseman, this Mustang doesn't stop until it has gotten its prey. Robert's Mustang just does it a heck of a lot quicker.