Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
2002 Ford Mustang GT - Hot Rods On Hiatus
After A Long, Dry Spell Of The No-Horsepower Blues, Jim And Nancy Conners Finally Found High-Octane Fun Behind The Wheel Of Their '02 Mustang GT.
For some of us, driving and modifying cars is threaded into the very fabric of our lives. It's always there, whether blatantly present or in the back of our minds as a passing thought. For others, though, that kind of frivolity comes and goes like the tide, sometimes disappearing altogether. Once you've sampled the exhilaration you get behind the wheel of a hot car, however, it's just a question of when those feelings will resurface.
For Jim Conners of Jacksonville, Florida, adulthood had largely been spent handling a family medical crisis, which obviously took priority over his fun time behind the wheels of his numerous hopped-up rides. Midlife came and went, and it wasn't until a few years ago that things had finally settled into a normal rhythm again.
Jim, now 61, was feeling the urge to get behind the wheel and have some fun. After modifying his '89 F-150 pickup and hitting the show scene a bit, he decided that the Ford Ranger he was driving wasn't cutting it as part of the family fleet. Jim and his wife, Nancy, went to their local Ford dealer, Duval Ford in Jacksonville, and drove away with this Mineral Gray '02 Mustang GT. "I wasn't sure Nancy liked the Mustang," he says, "but now I think she likes it more than I do."
Well, it didn't look quite like it does now when they wheeled it off the lot, but it did perform admirably given its V-8 power. Jim, however, knew it could be better. A cold-air kit and underdrive pulleys were the first modifications to the colt, followed by a complete Mac Performance Products exhaust system from the headers to the tailpipes. The 20 or so horsepower that the Mustang picked up was decent, but still not what Jim was looking for. Let's face it, most enthusiasts want to be mashed into the seat when they hit the go pedal, and the meager mods, while fruitful, just didn't provide that heart-quickening thrill.
That's when the Vortech supercharger showed up. The S-Trim centrifugal blower boosted the intake charge and the horsepower, but by this point, the modifying bug had bit, and Jim wasn't stopping any time soon. A Fox Lake Power Products P-51 intake manifold was next on the list for the Two-Valve powerplant, and while the car was now putting out some major horsepower, the tuning wasn't quite to Jim's liking. That's when he took the car to HP Performance in Orange Park, Florida.
HP's Tony Gonyon gave the 4.6L GT a custom flash tune, and the car was running like new again. He also suggested Jim switch his 3.73 ring-and-pinion gears to a 4.10 setup, which Jim says woke up the supercharged steed quite a bit. The 4.10s worked better with the Mustang's 4R70W four-speed automatic transmission than the 3.73s, but with all of the power the horse was kicking out, the transmission itself needed some attention, so the HP crew installed an Art Carr unit with a 3,500-stall converter and B&M transcooler. A Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum driveshaft soon followed.
With Jim now able to blaze the Nitto 305/35/18 555 rubber at will, it was time to tighten up the suspension components, which were only designed to handle the stock 260 hp. To that end, the HP Performance crew installed a UPR tubular K-member and control arms along with coilover shocks up front. Supporting the 4.10-geared, Moser axle'd 8.8 rearend is a quartet of Mac adjustable control arms, and Eibach springs and shocks. The chassis was stiffened with Steeda subframe connectors, and a UPR driveshaft loop was installed for safety.