Tom Shaw
March 1, 2008

They say lightning never strikes twice in the same place, but one thing's for sure: Twisters do.

In Kansas City, Missouri, right in the thick of tornado alley, a new round of racy Twister Special Mustangs is about to stir things up. Tracing their roots back to the first generation of Twister Specials that were based on the '70 Mach 1, Kansas City's tradition of super-powered Mustangs is as thick and rich as a plate of KC barbecue. For 2008, the Twister Special story adds a powerful new chapter.

It has been 38 years since the original Twister Specials were created, and until now, the concept of a regional specialty Mustang was long overdue for a revisit. As before, the new Twister begins with Ford's top-gun Mustang and adds some high-impact graphics. But unlike the originals, which remained stock under the skin, the new Twisters make many improvements to the factory engine and chassis to kick the driving experience up to a higher level.

The new Twister will be designed and built by R&A Motorsports in Lee's Summit, Missouri. R&A has been building national champion Shelbys and high-end Mustangs since 1975.

The new '08 Mustang is the perfect vehicle to begin with. It has an unequaled blend of modern tech-nology and engineering carried forward in a package shaped by vintage inspirations. For those drawn to the Mustang GT but finding themselves craving more exclusivity and personal touches, the Twister may be just what the doctor ordered.

Grabber Orange '08 Mustang GT coupes and convertibles are converted into Twister Specials at R&A Motorsports.

The exterior starts with a Grabber Orange GT premium coupe (premium adds step-up interior appointments), then adds the Twister Special package. The familiar Twister tornado graphic is there, moved from the rear quarter up to the front fender, where it surrounds the GT badge. Along the side is a three-rib side stripe, done on a smaller scale than the originals.

Up front is a black chin spoiler and a custom blacked-out grille with Shelby-esque center headlights and the classic running pony emblem off to the side. The hood, which dispenses with the prop rod in favor of struts, is a lightweight widow's peak design with black graphics and accommodations for the functional Shaker hoodscoop that also bears an engraved Twister logo.

Aft is a ducktail spoiler with a logo stripe, blacked-out finish panel between the sequential turn signals, and a pair of C-pillar scoops.

The biggest mod is the Glassback, standard on all Twister coupes, which replaces the sheetmetal roof with a tempered glass panel. Convertibles get a logo lightbar. Big 20x8 1/2-inch Foose five-spoke mags with logo centers and 235/5 ZR20 Pirelli tires complete the exterior.

Together, the effect is striking. Coming or going, the Twister is a hot number. Its stance, thanks to a lowering kit, gives it a lower center of gravity for improved handling and an aggressive look in motion or at rest.

There are other mods that aren't visible at a glance. Underhood, the GT's 4.6L Three-Valve V-8 is fortified with a ram-air Shaker scoop, racing exhaust, and some tuning tweaks that deliver around 315 hp. If that's not enough, the Twister Special is being offered in five levels of performance, named for the Enhanced Fujita scale that measures tornado intensity:

EF-1. Base Twister Special. Around 315 hp.

EF-2. Adds steep gears (3.73 for five-speeds; 4.10 for automatics), a throttle body mod for better response, super tune, and a push-start button. Around 325 hp.

EF-3. All of the above, plus shorty headers, high-flow cats, front/rear sway bars, high-performance springs, shocks, and struts. Around 345 hp.

EF-4. All of the above, plus a Paxton supercharger, a one-piece driveshaft, and a driveshaft safety loop. Around 450 hp.

EF-5. A Supercharged 5.4L engine, a new transmission, a full rollcage, and a Bible. More than 500 hp. Only two will be made.

Inside has Twister floor mats, a logo on the passenger-side dash, embroidered headrests, and a personalized ID plate between the two center A/C vents. Ford options are available, including a Shaker audio system, heated seats, a Bluetooth phone connection, and so on.

The package dramatically steps up the Mustang's impact. Basic pricing for the Twister Special coupe/automatic is$42,770.72; coupe/five-speed, $42,425.72; convertible/automatic, $45,600.72; and convertible/five-speed, $45,505.72. Of course, extra options increase the price. Given the available equipment, you can spec out your Twister just the way you like it. That's a major change from the '70s, which were all identically equipped and were built with no aftermarket equipment.

Here's another big difference: the original '70 Twister Specials were sold only through the Kansas City sales district, but the '08s will be available from any Ford dealer and will carry a Ford warranty for the Ford parts. Ford obviously won't warranty the aftermarket parts it didn't manufacture, but it will stand behind the rest of the car.

Production will be limited to 96 cars, which is the same number as the original Twister Special Mustangs. Those 96 will be divided between coupes and convertibles, automatics and five-speeds.

The latest model is the hottest, most complete Twister Special yet. The originals had either four-barrel 351s or 428 CJs. The '08s have smaller displacement engines, but have power to run with the best of their vintage brethren and the chassis to leave 'em in the dust.

With the many design and manufacturing improvements built into today's Mustang, the strong restyling, and more extensive mods made to the engine and chassis, the '08s may be the most special Twisters yet. We suspect the 96 lucky buyers will think so.

Twister Special Package

  • Graphics package
  • Glassback roof (coupe only)
  • Functional Shaker with engraved logo
  • Blacked-out ground effect lowers
  • Widow's peak hood with mar-resistant textured black stripe
  • Chin spoiler
  • Centered driving lights grille with Tri-bar pony
  • Sequential taillights
  • Taillight panel
  • Ducktail spoiler
  • C-pillar scoops (coupe only)
  • Lightbar with Twister Special logo (convertible only)
  • The Original Twisters
    In late 1969, Ford's Kansas City sales district was looking for a promotion to kick off its '70 model year. Representatives approached the home office, which had been building a fleet of pace cars for a company that was constructing a group of new racetracks around the country. The pace cars were to have the 428 Super Cobra Jet/Drag Pack engines and a distinctive side stripe. When the racing corporation went bankrupt, Ford had a nice styling and performance package on its hands and nowhere to go with it.

    The promotional request from Kansas City came at just the right time. The styling developed for the pace cars was adapted to Kansas City's cars, which became known as the Twister Specials. All were Grabber Orange and were originally supposed to have 428 SCJ/Drag Pack drivetrains, but half of the 96 cars produced wound up with 351C four-barrels due to a shortage of CJ engines.

    Currently, 52 of the '70 Twister Special Mustangs are accounted for by the Twister Special registry. Four are known to have been totaled, and one was stolen and still missing.

    All the details are online at www.twisterspecialregistry.com, a Web site dedicated to Twister Specials and their background. Terry Fritts, owner of an original Twister Special, researcher, and long-time keeper of Twister knowledge, maintains the site. By the way, that's Terry driving the '08 coupe in our action shots.

    In 1985, there was a half-hearted attempt to resurrect the Twister concept with a model called the Twister II, but the effort was superficial and many Twister Special enthusiasts haven't warmly embraced those cars.