1995 'Bondurant' Mustang GTs
Running a performance driving school is a big deal. You need reasonably fast, but exceptionally reliable cars. If your school is in Phoenix, AZ, you need even more reliable cars in order to survive the triple-digit heat. So, when you need to build more than 50 such cars, you call for professional help and that's exactly what Ford did. A decade ago, when they supplied student cars to the Bob Bondurant racing school, FoMoCo enlisted Roush Racing to look after the conversion of the 1994 and 1995 GTs that thousands of students first learned to go fast in.
In 2002, the school switched to GM product and the remaining student cars became surplus. Folks at the Bondurant school advertised the availability of their Mustangs in a number of automotive publications. A couple of guys from California, Forrest Straight and Gary Goeringer, had previously been through some Bondurant courses and had driven the cars. Given a 20-year background in all things Mustang, they were interested. Early on, though, both figured that the asking prices would come down if they waited for a bit.
Now, something you need to know, of course, is that these cars were professionally built and professionally maintained. "Bulletproof" is a term that is often overused and under-deserved. That's not often the case, though, at Roush Industries. When production line cars arrived at the Roush facilities in Livonia, MI, they were completely disassembled and rebuilt by hand. The bodies were painted in proprietary Bondurant orange, originally made by PPG and no longer available. Roush engineers had designed new components specifically for these cars, including a torque arm and panhard bar. American Racing produced custom wheels for the cars. Roush installed all the expected racing goodies, like a 6-point roll cage, Eibach springs, specially-valved Monroe shocks and struts, Simpson 5-point safety harness, a Recaro seat, ATL 18-gallon fuel cell and Cobra-sized brakes.
Radical changes in the wheel camber were also necessary, but a set of commercial caster/camber plates wasn't going to do the job. Instead, Roush fabricators sectioned the strut towers, repositioned them as needed and then welded the pieces back in place. Batteries were moved back into the trunk and special provisions were make to handle the hot weather in Arizona. A larger radiator was installed, along with a redesigned fan shroud for the engine fan. Supplemental electric fans were also installed to keep the coolant in and get the heat out. The cars were fitted with engine oil coolers originally developed for the 1995 SVT Cobra R Mustang.
The engine internals were left amazingly stock, however, the driveline wasn't. A Tremec TR3550 5-speed manual transmission, fitted with carbon fiber blocking rings, replaced the original gearbox.
Greg Fraker was the Program Manager at Roush Industries for the Bondurant program. He told us that there were three main priorities driving the engineering work from Roush. They were safety, reliability and suitability. The first two goals should be pretty obvious when modifying cars for a performance driving school. The third goal is rather more interesting, in that some performance characteristics of the cars were improved explicitly to support the way the school teaches. Those significant camber adjustments attained by cutting and rewelding the strut towers is one example. The school used street tires on all their cars, so the extra labor investment was made to reduce long term operating costs by minimizing tire wear. Another area that was considered was the school's teaching of 'trail braking' technique.
By some estimates, the cost to Ford for preparation of each of the 55 cars ran up into the $25,000 range, possibly higher. The cost to the Bondurant school, supposedly, was one dollar each. However, once the build process was finished, the maintenance process began. Every car has a log book, similar to what the FAA require for aircraft maintenance. That book contains the complete history of the car, including maintenance actions, student 'incidents', repair details and costs and so on. When the cars were being sold off, after seven to eight years of use, some of the log books were eight inches thick.
In February of 2003, Forrest thought that they had waited long enough and phoned a contact at the school. From that conversation he learned that the cars had been selling, but not flying off the property. Conditions were right for a little shopping. By then, about one half of the original cars were left. He went through the log books of every car, talked with instructors about the cars and spent a day with the service manager, Ken Thom, who is now General Manager of the school. The two spent time track testing the most promising cars and, in the end, nine units were purchased. Most of those had been presold to other enthusiasts. Beyond the two you see here, one additional was kept for rental during NorCal Shelby Club open track events.
Both owners continue to use their cars for their original purpose - hot lapping around road racing courses. On the west coast, both the Northern California Shelby Club and the national Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) regularly organize track events, so both cars have regularly been exercised at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and California Speedway. Gary and Forrest have both been deeply involved in NorCal club operations for the past 20 years. Forrest currently is on the Board of Directors for the National SAAC club as well.
These brothers of the tarmac also race in vintage events in the Historic Trans Am series. Gary's 1968 Trans Am Mustang and Forrest's 1970 BOSS 302 Trans Am Mustang are regular favorites in the series. Each car has its own strengths, of course, but when asked about running in these orange GTs, Gary told us, "With the brake compound upgraded and with the stickier tires the grip in these cars is phenomenal. Although these cars [have stock engines and] can't stay with more powerful machines on the straightaways, they can stay with just about anything except a NASCAR stock car through the twisty parts. It's great to see the faces of drivers in cars with 300 more horsepower look into their mirrors and see you sitting on their bumper in the twisty parts!"
Future plans for these cars include more powerful engines, once the current ones get tired. Goals for that will include hitting the 300 rear wheel horsepower zone. Not going too crazy in this area will help maintain two important characteristics: high reliability and the ability to continue using pump gas. That will help make these former Bondurant machines reasonably faster, but still exceptionally reliable cars.
1995'Bondurant' Mustang GTs
Emission controls removed; 1995 SVT Mustang Cobra R engine oil cooler; Increased capacity radiator; Electric cooling fans; ASP underdrive pulley kit; Stewart stage one water pump; Densecharger Cold Air Intake; Pro-M Bullet Mass Air Flow sensor; Aviaid road race oil pan; Ford Racing A/C delete; MAC 1 5/8" unequal shorty headers, 2 1/2" Pro Chamber x-pipe, 2 1/2" Pro Dump mufflers
Tremec TR 3550 5-speed transmission with carbon fiber blocking rings; Custom steel drive shaft with safety loop; 3.55:1 rear axle ratio; Eaton TracLock differential; Pro 5.0 shifter
ATL 18-gallon fuel cell; front brake ducts added; battery relocated to the trunk; Halon fire suppressant system
PPG Bondurant orange (no longer available)
Reinforced rear seat delete kit; Recaro cloth seats; Simpson 5-point harness; Roush fabricated 6-point roll cage
Ford Racing bump steer kit, camber/caster plates; Maximum Motorsports lower rear control arms, solid steering rack bushings, front stabilizer bar bushings, 1/4" wheel spacers, delrin lower front a-arm bushings; Bilstein race valved shocks; Eibach springs, 800 lb/in front, 350 lb/in rear; Custom Roush-designed torque arm and panhard bar
Wheels And Tires
Custom designed American Racing 17 x 8" wheels with 255/40R17 Toyo Proxes RA-1