August 1, 2008

Rewind the videotape to May 24, 1962. You find yourself on the outskirts of Cape Canaveral, where a couple of miles away, you see a rocket perched on a launch pad through your binoculars. After a long wait, the countdown ticks: 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. The rocket engines light, a roar shatters the Florida morning, and the rocket, with a space capsule on top, shoots towards space. It was a mere 46 years ago that Scott Carpenter, one of the original Mercury 7 astronauts, slid into his custom-made spacesuit, strapped into the Aurora 7 capsule, and hurtled into outer space, becoming the second man to orbit the Earth.

While his first name may be different, Steve Carpenter has a rocket of his own, though his is on four wheels. As general manager of Galpin Auto Sports, Steve knew that anything he did vehicular-wise would be put under a microscope by those in the industry. With a passion surrounding Mustangs in general, and the vintage Boss cars in particular, he set out to create a car that would serve to enlighten and inspire.

Steve bought his '06 Mustang GT brand-new and soon began its transformation from bottle rocket to moon ship. "I took the stock Mustang and wanted to make an old-school 302 street and road race car out of it," he says. "I tried to make it as original to the '69 and '70 Boss 302 cars as possible."

With Galpin doing most of the work, Steve oversaw everything. Knowing that a powerful rocket would be needed to get the heavier S197 on its journey, Steve enlisted the help of Jim D'Amore and the crew at JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey. The engine was pulled, and the wheels started turning. The stroke was enhanced with a JDM eight-bolt 3.75-inch stroker crank that, when combined with the standard bore-size Manley pistons pinned to a set of Manley rods, brings the cubic-inch figure up to 302. The squeeze number comes in at 10.5:1, which is perfect for the naturally aspirated combo that Steve had in mind.

After the short-block was sealed up with a Canton 8-quart road-race oil pan, a set of CNC-ported Three-Valve heads was laid down topside. Fitted with stainless steel valves, the heads were finalized when a set of Stage 3 cams from Comp were installed, followed by the stock intake manifold and throttle body. Freeing up some residual horsepower are Steeda underdrive pulleys, while a JDM cold-air intake frees up the inlet track for the incoming air charge. Lighting things off is a set of Granatelli coil packs, which receive the signal from the stock computer that was reflashed with a custom JDM tune. Shuffling out the hydrocarbons is a set of Bassani long-tube headers that link up with a pair of Bassani high-flow cats, mufflers, and a 3-inch exhaust system. All told, the engine thumped out 420 rwhp on nuts alone.

Next, Steve had the driveline shored up to handle all of the abuse he planned to throw at it, starting with the replacement of the stock clutch and flywheel with an RPS aluminum flywheel and carbon-fiber 10.5-inch clutch contained in a billet-aluminum housing. The gears on the stock five-speed are rowed via a Hurst shifter, while a one-piece JDM aluminum driveshaft links the engine/trans combo to the 8.8-inch rear that's filled with an Eaton posi and a set of 4.10 cogs.