Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
December 1, 2005
Photos By: Dale Amy

If you are into cars, you have dreamed of building the ideal ride. When you get to play with that mental Monopoly money, you can spend as much as you'd like and everything would be just the way you wanted it. Well, suppose you had a wild idea for a ride, and your boss was willing to fund the car's creation. For many of us, it might just be a dream come true. For the team at Sutton High Performance, it was a mirage that began in the heat of the desert at the annual meeting of automotive excess, the Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association show in Las Vegas.

Last November the Sutton Team walked around the show and was treated to a number of '05 Mustangs dressed up to dazzle, and the car had just reached dealer lots, including the lot at SHP's parent company Sutton Ford in Matteson, Illinois. It struck Sutton's Jerry VanDerLinde that just building a blown Mustang wouldn't be enough. Building the first big-boost, high-powered '05 Mustang would be a great way to make a mark on the performance scene. All he had to do was convince Director of Operations Randy Mohrbach to convince Sutton Ford owner Nate Sutton to sign off on his wild scheme.

What Jerry didn't anticipate was how many hurdles they'd have to overcome. Doing something first is great, but it often takes a Herculean effort to do so. We scratched the surface of what it took to build this car in last month's issue ("Mission Possible," Nov. '05, page 48); suffice it to say there are more than 50 custom parts on this car. The modular aftermarket has been on fire for a while now, but at the time of the '05 Mustang's release, the car had several unique facets that had yet to be addressed.

Right off the bat, the Sutton crew realized their challenges. Last November most '05 parts were still in development, so there were no blower kits, flash tuners, cams, valvetrain parts, transmission swap kits, or fuel system upgrades. These roadblocks meant their goals of creating big power while maintaining the creature comforts would be quite a bit more difficult for Project 505's crew chief, Jerry VanDerLinde. Little did he know he'd be stripping a brand-new car down to the bare chassis, then reassembling by putting 300 working hours into three weeks. "Randy gave me the keys and said take her down to the frame," Jerry said. "It was kind of strange tearing apart a 120-mile car. The only things that didn't come out were the glass and the dash."

It was around the beginning of December that Jerry took the new GT down to the bone. Then he hauled it up to Paul's High Performance in Jackson, Michigan, for a suspension and chassis makeover. The Sutton crew had been impressed with the traction attained by Paul's naturally aspirated '05 drag car, so they ordered the works from Paul-cage, brakes, struts, shocks, springs, and antiroll bar-and that combination has resulted in impressive 1.38-second 60-foots.

Trying hard to have the car debut at the Bradenton NMRA race in March, Jerry had the aforementioned three weeks to get the car back together. In that time he, among many other things, had to build a harness to convert the car to '98 Cobra electronics, build fixed cam gears to lock out the variable cam timing, and make an '03-'04 Cobrashort-block fit in an '05 Mustang. Fortunately a Ford engineer steered them in the right direction on the fixed cam timing settings, and the '98 software proved far more compliant than the stock Spanish Oak. "That car is twisted in the head," Jerry laughed. "It thinks it's a '98 Cobra, but it was great to tune, and even though the tuning software is available for the stock electronics, I'm still not sure I'd want to use that on this car.

But with the car up and running just days before Bradenton, Jerry learned the hard way that an '05 timing chain cover doesn't quite match up to a Terminator block. There's a dowel hole that's left partially exposed by the later cover, and when you add some oil pressure and rpm to the mix, it creates a high-flow oiling system for the dyno room wall. It's many of these little learning experiences that had Jerry repeatedly going into Randy's office with hat in hand, asking for more money to make things work. "Overbudget" doesn't begin to explain this project, and they had little sponsorship outside of Vortech (thanks to a good word from Renegade racer Bob Cook), as most companies didn't take them seriously when they called looking for help.

We're guessing everyone will take the Sutton crew more seriously next time. On the car's first trip to the track, it laid down a 10.71 pass. With their original goal being a 10.99, the Sutton boys didn't know what to do. They said if they ever ran a 10.50, they'd park the car and be done. Of course we all know better than that. The fuel was already in the chamber and they couldn't resist changing their original goal of 10.99 to 9.99. Heck, they already blew the project's 505hp namesake (named because they wanted a 500hp '05) out of the water with more than 600 hp at the wheels. Why not shoot for the stars?

Since the car's blower system was completely custom, no intercooler was available at the time, so they made the move to Snow Performance's Boost Cooler methanol-injection system. Adding that system dropped the incendiary air-charge temps from 260 degrees down to 190 and yielded a 10.10 in the quarter. The Sutton boys were so close they could taste it. Despite running stock cams and fighting the stock spark plugs, they were on the cusp of fielding the first '05 Three-Valve in the nines. After hurting the short-block, they fixed some pistons, devised a way to run colder spark plugs, and installed high-lift cams.

Just days before our deadline, the Sutton crew decided to go for broke. Driver Tony Vece dropped the hammer at 5,000 rpm, banged the gears at 6,500 rpm, and at the end of the track he was rewarded with that magical time slip. It read 9.82/136 mph, making all the hard work and money worthwhile. They had achieved their original goal and a more. Thanks to a crazy dream, a ton of hard work, and a little of the dealership's budget, the Sutton High Performance team had etched their names in the '05 Mustang history books. Congrats, fellas!

5.0 Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlock '03-'04 CobraDisplacement283Cylinder HeadsThree-ValveCamshaft(s)StockIntake ManifoldStockThrottle BodyAccufab single-blade Power AdderVortech JT-Trim supercharger w/Snow Boost CoolerExhaustJBA long-tube headers, JBA H-pipe, JBA after-cat exhaustFuel SystemAeromotive A1000 pump, Sutton fuel lines, CPR fuel rails, and 60-lb/hr injectorsTransmissionDynamic C4 w/4,800-stall converter and a B&M Hammer shifterRearend8.8 w/Eaton differential, FRPP 4.10 gears, and Moser axles

ElectronicsEngine Management'98 Cobra EEC V w/SCT Xcalibrator tuneIgnitionMSD DIS-4, MSD coilpacks, FRPP wires, Ford spark plugsGaugesAuto Meter

Suspension And ChassisFront suspensionK-MemberStockControl ArmsStockSpringsPaul's High PerformanceStrutsPaul's High PerformanceWheelsWeld RacingTires Mickey ThompsonBrakesWilwood/Paul's High PerformanceRear SuspensionSpringsPaul's High PerformanceShocksPaul's High PerformanceTraction DevicesPaul's High Performance antiroll barWheelsWeld RacingTiresMickey ThompsonBrakesWilwood/Paul's High PerformanceChassis StiffeningPaul's High Performance subframe connectors