Pete Epple Technical Editor
August 1, 2009
Photos By: Kevin DiOssi, Justin Cesler
An '03 Cobra front fascia and Cobra R hood give the front of this '02 GT an aggressive look; the air-brushed flames set it all off.

There is no exact formula for producing big power. With the limitless amount of combinations, it's very common to see some wild street Stangs everywhere you go. It's not outside the norm to see 800hp GT500s,Terminator Cobras, and 500-600hp 4.6L Three-Valve GTs-all done with simple bolt-in parts.

Joe Donnelly from Land 'O Lakes, Florida, a computer consultant for Microsoft, is a fervent Mustang enthusiast. His love for fast cars started as a kid and grew into a passion. In 2002, Joe found himself looking for an American musclecar and he knew a Mustang was the only way to go. He originally wanted a Mineral Grey GT until a Zinc Yellow convertible grabbed his attention. Once Joe's new GT was resting comfortably in his driveway, that familiar itch started, and so did the performance mods.

Joe's convertible has seen many different combinations on the road to its current configuration, and it all started with a solid foundation. The first step Joe took in the name of big performance found him and his GT at Ramsey's Performance in Lutz, Florida, where a forged crank, CP pistons, and Manley connecting rods were installed, all in preparation for the Vortech supercharger that was soon to come. Once the blower found its home in the engine bay, it helped the Two-Valve mod motor lay down a healthy 390 rwhp. Times at the track were also promising as Joe was able to consistently rip off low 12-second e.t.'s while manually changing gears in the stock gearbox. "This combination was perfect for the track," Joe informs us. "I could run down almost anyone. It was great, but it just didn't have that neck-snapping torque I wanted on the street." So Joe's search for power led him down a different road.

Joe found himself back at Ramsey's Performance; this time the Vortech centrifugal was removed and a Kenne Bell Twin Screw blower was installed as its replacement. The 1.7L Kenne Bell offered Joe the instant torque he was looking for without sacrificing power or drivability. "The car made around the same rear-wheel horsepower, but there was a noticeable change in torque in the lower rpm range," Joe states. Once he became comfortable with his GT's power level, Joe added ported heads and Comp cams. With a little extra boost from the Kenne Bell, this Pony shot into the 500-rwhp zone, and 11-second quarter-mile times came with it.

Although Joe was happy with his '02 GT, he still wanted more. Ramsey's Performance was called into duty yet again, and the 1.7 Kenne Bell gave way to a bigger 2.2L KB. Along with the upgraded Twin Screw came much-needed upgrades to the fuel system, including dual 255-lph pumps, larger fuel lines and injectors, an SCT 2800 MAF, and an eight-rib pulley setup. With the tune in place, Joe's Pony was able to spin the rollers to an impressive 630 rwhp.

To hang with the big dogs, Joe took it to the next level with a 2.6 Kenne Bell supercharger and a totally new bullet under the hood. A 302ci stroker mod mill now takes up residence where the 4.6L once lived. The build started with a 302-inch stroker short-block from Modular Mustang Racing. A call to Fox Lake netted a set of its Stage-2 ported cylinder heads, with camshafts from Comp Cams.

Expecting big power numbers, Joe knew it was time to upgrade the rest of the running gear. An AOD from Freddie Brown Performance was called into action, along with a 4,600-stall FB converter. Power flows from the trans to a set of 4.10 gears that spin the 31-spline axles and Mickey Thompson ET Street radials. Aftermarket springs and 10-way adjustable Strange shocks and struts cushion the ride and handle weight transfer at the track

Under the hood lies 302 inches of modular Ford muscle. With the help of a Kenne Bell Twin Screw supercharger, the stroker mill produces a healthy 643 rwhp.

With the new driveline improvements in place and a new heart and soul under the hood, Joe's GT was once again strapped to the dyno for tuning. It spun the rollers to a ground-shaking level of power, cranking out 643 rwhp and 623 lb-ft of torque. With a delicate launch at the track, the new dyno numbers translated to big performance. After a 1.8-second 60-foot time, Joe clicked off a 10.60-second e.t. at over 134 mph

Rather than starting with one of Ford's ultimate beasts, Joe has traveled many paths, but the result is a transformed convertible GT that is now an incredible street-machine. Hard work and determination has definitely paid off, and there is no doubt that with a harder launch, 9s are in Joe's future.