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.