Amonster hit by anybody's standards, the S197 Mustang has brought new life to the hobby. People who probably wouldn't have considered a Mustang over some European or Japanese job before are now making the switch, and in good numbers, too (somebody we know traded in his Porsche Boxster for a new Pony and has never been happier). Although stock is nice, there are those who will tell you that modified is better; after all, that's a major part of the name of this magazine, and if we did a write-up on a stone-stock Mustang, we'd probably be taken away by a bunch of guys in white lab coats.
When it comes to white coats of paint, however, that opens up a whole realm of possibilities. Put it on a car and then add some blue stripes and you've got America's national racing colors. Do the reverse and the effect is the same, so come on you French Blues, Rosso Reds, and British Racing Greens, we'll take you all on. It seems we're not alone in our outlook. John Temple, of Temple Performance Cars, a Georgia-based outfit specializing in hot rides, sent down a pair of his LM500 Legend Mustangs for our Southern-based lot to sample (he's a brave man, that John). Although Temple stresses that each of the cars he builds can be ordered by the customer in any of the Ford Factory hues, we somehow feel that Vista Blue with White Stripes and Oxford White with Blue stripes just seem to work the best. On these cars, unlike so many "super" S197 Mustangs, the stripes are painted on rather than decals. So in five years, when your friend down the street has to replace his because they are cracking, yours will look as good as the day you picked up the car.
While Heinz may claim to have 57, for many enthusiasts three is just enough. Temple offers the Legend Mustangs in three flavors: the Series 1, the Series 2, and the Legend X. Our motley crew was given the chance to sample the former and the latter, so let's start with that.
Both the Series 1 and Series 2 look identical with the same exterior upgrades. A refreshing aspect about these cars is that the body mods are subtle. There's Temple's own fiberglass hood, which fits rather well and employs a '70-'71 Torino-esque scoop, and the scoops over the quarter windows offer a nice change from stick-on louvers and a rear deck spoiler. The replacement grille, with center-mounted driving lights, also looks at home on this particular package, as do the 20-inch Shelby wheels, which really pay homage to the originals found on '67 GT350s and 500s, long before somebody had the bright idea to remake Gone in 60 Seconds.
When you get in the Series 1, the pillar-mounted air/fuel and boost gauges, along with gingerbread on the center console and parking brake, might tell you this is just another tuner Mustang. But then there's a big red button on the dash. Turn the key and the engine won't start, but crank the key and then hit that button and whoa-hoa, the engine roars to life. The Series 1 uses the stock Mustang GT's Three-Valve V-8, but it has been given a shot of oats via an upgraded fuel system and a twin-rotor RoushCharger positive displacement blower (Series 2 cars are normally aspirated). Grab the cue ball handle on the top of that Hurst shifter and head out to the retro highway. Unlike a lot of S197s, this one has more of an old-school feel than just about any we care to remember. The Hurst shifter is a good choice for the T3650 gearbox and it works well. Snick into Second, Third, down again for the corner, and back up into Third--lovely. In terms of acceleration, the Series 1 has a good amount of go and is fairly relaxed about it; there isn't a whole lot of blower whine until you mash the throttle. Power is claimed to be 450 hp at the crank, but since we didn't dyno test the car, we were unable to verify it. The torque is really what it's about and, in this application, it does feel satisfying when you honk on the pedal. Further aiding off-the-line zoot are numerically shorter rear gearing options, allowing the blown motor to really get into its stride.