Tom Wilson
September 1, 2006
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: While we struggle to pay for a single toy car on our writers' incomes, it never ceases to amaze us how much disposable money is floating around the U.S. economy. Should the Foose Stallion sell in the quantities envisioned, it would represent an annual business of $14 million.

Most Mustang stories are simple, but this isn't one of them. Too many companies and complex creative people are involved to bang the gears in a straight line from here to there. But it's an interesting tale of a fun, new car, and we'll begin at the current Ford Mustang with its refinement and return to core Mustang styling.

Because of the Mustang's broad appeal, it makes sense for specialty firms, such as Unique Performance of Farmers Branch, Texas, to tool up for meaningful volumes. Unique began as a musclecar restoration shop, but partners Doug Hasty, Chris Layne, and Richard Kearby have leveraged the current musclecar hysteria all the way into new musclecar construction. High-dollar, ground-up, big-block Camaro builds and other icons of the big-block era have emerged from Unique and, on the Ford front, Unique is building GT 500Es and GT 350SRs that are fully sanctioned Shelby American continuation automobiles.

While Unique is not a manufacturer on a scale with Ford, with its large assembly plants, armies of workers, and the capacity to design, build, and certify all-new cars from the ground up, Unique is more than three guys and a toolbox. The company's three partners are also partners in an insurance/staffing brokerage, meaning the company is generously self-funded if necessary for start-up or growth, and it has the oomph, people, and physical plant between itself and its partners to assemble the planned 3,000 Foose Mustangs per year.

Oh, yes, Chip Foose. By now he needs little introduction to automotive enthusiasts, thanks to the Overhaulin' television show. By nature generous and easy-going, Chip is gifted with a designer's eye and a businessman's talent for profit. The youngest person ever inducted into the Hot Rod Hall of Fame, Chip's formative years include a degree from the Art Center College of Design-the auto stylists model farm-and a hard stint with Boyd Coddington. Now firmly his own brand, Chip labors as head of Foose Design, which has teamed with Unique to build a line of Foose autos, including the Foose Stallion, the car we're ogling here.

Bringing the Foose Stallion out of the barn has taken some doing. Chip, of course, penned the Mustang's makeover, then worked with Tecstar, a Detroit-based OEM supplier, to develop the actual body parts. Tecstar also has the assembly duties for the main run of Foose Stallions, with Unique participating via engineering and marketing using a business plan to sell up to 3,000 Stallions per year at $38,000 per (more for convertibles, obviously).

For that money, the Foose Stallion buyer is getting a good-looking car with Foose's hot-rod flavor. Foose Design work can be found in the modified hood, side molding, revised grille, fascias, custom side-marker lights, side C-pillar scoops, and rear wing. The wheels are from-where else-Foose's wheel company; they're 20-inchers and carry BFGoodrich g-Force T/A KDW rubber on "racing-inspired coil springs." Braking is by our old friends at Baer Brakes; their EradiSpeed cross-drilled rotors are fitted front and rear, while Baer front calipers are optional. A modest power boost is gained from a JBA (more old friends) high-flow after-cat exhaust, a high-flow air filter, and what's called a premium-fuel engine-management tune. Power is estimated at 325 hp and Quaker State synthetic lubricants are used throughout.

There are a couple of options, aside from the Baer calipers: sequential taillights and graphics using DuPont's Hot Hues finishes. But the interior treatment is standard. It features embroidered seats and some trim detailing to the dashboard and bits about the cockpit.

Over the white noise of private-jet slipstream, we asked Chip how the Stallions would be sold. "Our plan is to build 3,000 of those each model year and we're looking for a choice number of . . . I think it's maybe five or four dealerships. The only place you'll be able to buy these is those four dealerships. And serial number one, like I said, will be sold today [at Barrett-Jackson] and I know we've got four other ones spoken for so far-one that will be given away by BFGoodrich, and two by Mac Tools this year. And the rest are up for everybody to buy."

That slipstream was courtesy of a Cessna Citation Doug Hasty insisted Chip use the weekend of the Barrett-Jackson auction in Phoenix. A typically atypical weekend for Chip, an episode of Overhaulin' was being taped and the Grand National Roadster Show was on in California-both of which Chip was obligated to. But Doug needed the Foose magic on stage 500 miles away in Phoenix when the Camaro and Foose Stallion went across the auction block, hence the private jet. And, yes, we tagged along to sample the auto-designer-as-rock-star lifestyle.

After touchdown in Phoenix, we got in the limo and were off to the Barrett-Jackson circus where Unique people picked us up in golf carts and whirred us directly to the Unique Performance trailer. Chip watched a drift show next door from atop the trailer for all of five minutes before greeting a long line of people who wanted to meet him.

That line might as well be infinite. No matter where he goes, people are waiting. A few want to do business, a few more appreciate the talent, and everyone wants a piece of the celebrity. As is normal with the stars, a handler is required. Should the official enabler be unavailable, an associate rises to the occasion, which happened at Phoenix. We asked what a normal workload was for Chip and were told he does about 20 interviews in a day, but our visit was an off day due to the excessive travel. The handler, Chip's licensing specialist, explained, "...two, three interviews today. He just had an autograph session in the Unique booth, then around 5:00 or 5:30, the Camaro-number one Camaro-will go on the block and the Mustang will go on the block for the auction, so he'll be back on stage at that time. There are press interviews already set up, and Jim Godfrey from the PR firm already got scheduled. Most likely he'll do another five on the fly-just people picking up interviews as he walks or at events. It seems you hardly recognize his face as there are so many microphones in front of him."

During our visit, he had interviews for TV, radio, and a photo shoot with us, not to mention meeting and greeting potential and established buyers of Unique Performance cars. And Chip was generous and courteous to everyone, to the point of frustrating his business associates who wanted him somewhere else.

For the auction, Chip rode onto the auction platform in the Foose Camaro, waving to the masses. Later, he was on the stand again for the sale of the Foose Mustang, the gray hardtop seen here. Chip was on the platform, along with the Barrett-Jackson auction folks, Unique honchos, and the press. Buying a bidding card at a B-J auction seems as good as having a backstage pass at a Stones concert-every sort of fat-wallet and ego-propelled social mixer pinballs around the auction platform in quantum-theory trajectories. It was bad enough with our camera gear and recorder; the video teams, wired together like a three-man stunt crew climbing Disney's Matterhorn, must have found it nearly impossible in that sea of margaritas and Hawaiian shirts.

More baffling than the crowd-or that every other guy is sporting a big stogie and all the 65-year-old-divorcees pushup bras-are the prices. Such is the cost of exclusivity and low serial numbers: The Foose Mustang sold for $155,000 to the founder of the Discovery Channel. The convertible sold for $81,000 at Barrett-Jackson's West Palm Beach, Florida, bash. But in a class where everyone has plenty of money, or at least acts like it, having the first of a limited edition is worth the price of entry.

We'll stick to the $38,000 version with a three-digit serial number-and from the looks of it, we'll enjoy the heck out of it.