Jim Smart
October 1, 2000

Interstate 10 spans the North America continent from Jacksonville, Florida, to Los Angeles. If you get on I-10 in Jacksonville and point your ride west, the terrain will change considerably as you cross the country. When you travel through the South, you will see lush, green foliage and feel the oppressive humidity during the summer months. In west Texas, green plant life gives way to rough and tumble desert and earth tones all the way to California. When you've been on I-10 for the better part of four days, you will pass through Tucson, Arizona, approximately 100 miles south of Phoenix. Tucson is a thriving desert metropolis that is small town yet large city. It is also a region rich in beauty and heritage.

Tucson is home to the Southern Arizona Mustang Club, the longest standing Mustang club anywhere. These committed enthusiasts have been practicing Mustang mania since 1965. It is an enviable record by anyone's standards, because few car clubs have the stamina to survive 35 years. Bernie and Grace Burl call Tucson and the Southern Arizona Mustang Club home. They call this Laser Red '96 Mustang GT Magnificent-magnificent because they took Ford's efforts and made them better.

The 4.6 SOHC V-8 first became a Mustang option in 1996. The Burls quickly learned that the 4.6 didn't measure up to the dated 5.0 H.O. pushrod engine it replaced. However, the 4.6 did have its benefits, such as smoother operation, overhead cam technology, a distributorless ignition, a free-revving style, and the potential to make more power. So Bernie fitted the high-tech mill with a Paxton supercharger, a 70mm throttle body, Flowmaster mufflers, and more. The result was a snappy powerplant to be respected. Because the Burls wanted a handler that didn't look like a 4x4, they fitted the GT with Eibach springs. Everything else was left stock.

Late-model Mustangs are proof that Ford is still giving enthusiasts a tunable platform to have fun with. It was true in 1996 and remains true in 2000. Buyers with a lot of disposable income have a wide playing field in which to work. For the Burls, it was a supercharger and a larger throttle body. Toss in a pair of Ford Racing Peformance Parts high-performance heads and hotter cams, and you have a solid performer ready for competitive pavement duty.

When you look at this sporty player, it becomes impossible to believe it was totalled in an accident shortly after this photo session in 1996. Thank goodness no one was seriously injured. The Burls learned, as do some of us, that your efforts can be snuffed out in a matter of seconds whenever you drive what you build. But this didn't deter them from buying and hopping up another new Mustang GT. Suffice it to say, the Mustang's performance reputation is safe on the streets of Tucson.