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06 Mustang - That's Amore!
Jim D'Amore III dances his version of the tarantella, one quarter-mile at a time.
To say that an Italian wedding is a "party" is a huge understatement. Besides great food--including a killer dessert table consisting of cannolis, Italian cookies, tiramisu, various other pastries, and espresso loaded with a shot or two of sambuca or anisette--there are also enough guests to populate a small city.
One of the staples of any Italian wedding is the playing of the tarantella. (For those of you "Medegans" who have absolutely no idea what a tarantella is, hit the local video store, rent The Godfather, Part I, and watch the first part of the movie.) Another thing exclusive to being Italian is having a nickname all your own. Somewhere along the way in the Bronx or in Brooklyn, there was Vinnie Bag a' Doughnuts, Lucky Luciano, and Goomba Johnny. It's just a way of life.
For Jim D'Amore III, being an Italian kid in Freehold, New Jersey, allowed him the experience of growing up as one of the boys. For starters, he already has his own nickname, as the crew at JDM Engineering, where he works, affectionately (or maybe not so affectionately) calls him Jimmy Threes. Throw in the want of a fast car (not an IROC-Z, though) and a love of good Italian food, and this 23-year-old is your stereotypical Italian kid--except in one area. While Dean Martin might have sung about one version of the tarantella and amore in the song made famous by the movie Moonstruck, Jim dances his own version every time he rips down the quarter-mile in his '06 Mustang GT.
If the name D'Amore sounds familiar, it should. Jimmy Threes' father is the owner of JDM Engineering, where so much modular magic happens. After previously owning a mint '93 Mustang LX and a wicked-fast 500hp Lightning, the younger D'Amore started "to drool justa like pasta fazool" when he laid his peepers upon the retro styling of the S197 Mustangs. "I bought the car because I fell in love with the new body style," Jimmy Threes says. "I also knew my dad wouldn't mind me getting it because I could use it to showcase JDM's stroker program for the newer Mustangs."
After picking up the car from Oasis Ford in August 2006, Jimmy Threes promptly drove the short trip from the showroom floor to the garage at JDM, where wrenches were spun, parts were installed, power was made, and the car was transformed from a little bambino to a track-bound hitman. The first task was giving the Three-Valve mod motor some muscles. Instead of going the forced induction route, however, Jim went down a different path, this one leading to a naturally aspirated powerplant.
To go fast in this trim, additional cubic inches are almost a requirement. With that in mind, the brand-new Three-Valve was pulled from the Mustang and taken to the back room for a major rework. The bore dimensions remained the same, but the factory crank was taken out and replaced with a 3.750-inch stroker piece. The increased stoke, when combined with the standard bore, has a cubic-inch displacement of 298, which is a bit larger than the stock 281ci. Manley connecting rods rotate on the crank's rod journals, while moving up and down the cylinder walls are eight JDM-specific pistons. The squeeze number comes in at 11:1, and keeping things sealed up within the cylinders is a set of Manley rings.
Once the factory oil pump and pan were bolted back on, the engine stand was rotated so the top end of the powerplant could be completed. The stock heads were removed and shipped off to the CNC machine, where a custom port job was performed. Once the proper amount of material was taken off of the heads, a set of 1mm oversized Manley intake and exhaust valves were installed, as were springs from the same manufacturer. The heads were then slapped back on the short-block. The induction side of things is pretty much how Ford designed it, as the stock throttle body was reused, along with the factory intake manifold. The mass air meter was ditched in favor of a JDM 90mm piece, and freeing up some of the inlet restriction is a C&L Racer intake pipe and JDM high-flow air filter.
All that extra would be just for show if there were no fuel and fire. The fuel system remains stock, from the pump all the way to the regulator and factory 24-pound injectors. As for the ignition, the stock coil packs still reside, though the computer was reprogrammed with a custom tune courtesy of dad Jim. The tune was uploaded via an SCT XCalibrator2 tuner, and a set of Autolite HT1 plugs now spark things in the combustion chambers. Whisking away the residue of each combustion event is a pair of JDM/Kooks headers, which dump into an x pipe. Things are quieted down by the combined efforts of a pair of MagnaFlow mufflers and a complete 2-1/2-inch Saleen exhaust system. A set of Saleen underdrive pulleys also frees up some cheap horsepower.
Jim then moved to the drivetrain, first replacing the stock two-piece driveshaft with a single-piece aluminum 'shaft. An eight-bolt flywheel is mated to a TCI converter, and all of the stroker's power is sent to the ground via a fortified 8.8-inch rear that showcases 4.56 gears, 31-spline axles, a Detroit Truetrac, and an LPW rearend girdle. A host of aftermarket front and rear suspension components ensure that all the ponies getting to the asphalt are used. A pair of Saleen springs replace the stock GT coils, and a sway bar delete kit from BMR eliminates that item from the front end. Out back, a pair of QA1 adjustable shocks work with a duo of Saleen springs and Metco ICM brackets to keep the hind end of the Pony planted upon launch.
For cruising on the street, the Mustang is graced with a set of 20x9-inch front and 20x10 rear chrome Saleen rims shod in Pirelli shoes, sized 275/35/20 forward and 275/40/20 aft. When it's time to do battle on the strip, the dress shoes come off and the track cleats go on. The high-performance digs consist of 15-inch Bogart GT rims on all four corners, with the fronts surrounded with skinnies and the rears wrapped in Mickey Thompson 275/60/15 drag radials.
While the mechanical portion of the car is somewhat unnoticeable, the outward appearance of D'Amore's Mustang couldn't be missed from day one. For starters, the car rolled out of the dealership dressed in Screaming Yellow. The retina-burning hue elicits numerous glances, so it was only natural for Jim to throw on some body components to enhance the sex appeal. After seeing his dad turn a customer's car from a basic Windveil Blue GT to a faux-Saleen, Jim decided to do the same with his, only in yellow. The Saleen front and rear fascia, as well as the side skirts, rear spoiler, and trunk lid, were all painted the car's yellow color by Saleen at its Michigan plant. Once the parts got to JDM's doorstep, they were carefully installed. The Stang was now dressed in full Saleen Extreme regalia. Inside, the stock black interior was kept, though the addition of a Saleen steering wheel gives the car a bit more flavor.
"I love the fact that the car is my everyday driver, yet I can swap the rolling stock around, go to the track, and beat up on the supercharged cars," Jim says. The claim is backed up with unquestionable validation. A routine competitor in the Fun Ford Weekend Street Stang class, Jimmy Threes racked up a class win in Belle Rose, Louisiana--as well as in Norwalk, Ohio, and Ennis, Texas--knocked down a best lap of 11.51 seconds at 115 mph, and still finds time to pick up the ladies when he gets off of work.
"The car still rides nice, even though some of the handling and ride-quality parts have been replaced or removed," Jim says. "At the track, the car hardly ever has traction issues. The street manners of the car are great, as long as I keep it under 75 mph. Above that, with the 4.56s, the car revs over 3,000 rpm."
Honestly, though, Jimmy Threes didn't build the car for its civilized manner. He wanted an enjoyable and lightning-quick daily driver. After all, that's amore. Now, let's dance!