Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
March 1, 2006
Photos By: Team MM&FF

The year 2006 will mark the 18th anniversary of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords. During its nearly two decades of existence, the magazine has seen more than its share of project cars come and go.

Some were true successes; some weren't. Some were stolen; others never lived up to their potential. We've had a few that spilled their guts on the track in the name of low elapsed time, and others that have held up to daily driving as well as track torture for years.

Whether you liked them or not, we went through the archives to dig up every cool car, truck, and/or lame-brained idea that we felt was recognizable. We had to access some rather unused brain cells to remember a few, as well as many of the details regarding them. We've listed them here in chronological order and given them a brief history and a report card of sorts to sum up the project.

Project vehicles have been an integral part of MM&FF's history as they have allowed us to test the numerous aspects of high-performance parts, and we pledge to further beat on our machines in the name of product scrutiny for years to come.

Official MM&FF Project Cars

Project Name: Excalibur
Car: '87 Mustang LX
Timeline: April 1992-July 1999
Goal: Project mule for late-model Mustang speed parts when the market was still in its infancy. Some of the legendary parts we use today were first seen in print on this car.
Result: First magazine project Mustang that was a legitimate street car to go in the 10s.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 10.21/131 mph
Biggest mistake: High compression with a supercharger on pump gas; others too numerous to mention (like low-buck retreaded radials).
Best move: Lowering the compression. Proving you could have a truly bad-ass, daily driver Mustang.

Many remember former Tech Editor John Hunkins' black and chrome LX with its cheapo red vinyl interior. Hunkins ordered the car as a stripped-out model to save weight. We're sure he earned a few gray hairs from the project, and it was a track-only car in the end, but to date, Excalibur remains MM&FF's quickest project car.

Project Name: Pit Bull
Car: '83 Mustang GT
Timeline: December 1994-February 2000
Goal: Low-buck buildup of a carbureted Mustang GT.
Result: An amazingly fun car to drive that cost little to build.
Grade: B+
Best Performance: 13.00/105 mph
Biggest mistake: Starting with a completely used-up T-top Mustang. Even with subframe connectors, we all thought parts were going to fall off every time we powershifted it.
Best move: Replacing stock exhaust system with headers and true dual exhaust; using Weiand Stealth intake; proving then-Tech Editor Hunkins completely wrong about carbureted performance.

This was the epitome of el-cheapo speed. We even reworked the factory emissions carb for maximum go. Too bad we started with such a pile.

Project Name: Code Blue
Car: '93 Mustang GT
Timeline: May 1993-August 1994
Goal: Platform to test the new 5.0 parts coming out, especially AOD transmission goodies.
Result: A hot handler that rode like a truck but went quick, and gave readers tons of blower tech when centrifugals were the hot, new thing. Low 12s with AOD; emissions-legal; when low 12s were fast.
Grade: C
Best Performance: 12.10/113 mph
Biggest mistake: Bone-jarring suspension.
Best move: Swap to then-new Edelbrock heads and intake to complement Vortech blower, and getting Nitrous Pete Misinsky to tune it properly.

Code Blue was at the forefront of 5-liter tech in its day, as we got to install numerous parts that were new to the then-budding market. It led the way for future project cars and was the first one we had with an AOD.

Project Name: The Horse With No Name
Car: '95 Mustang GT
Timeline: May 1995-June 1997
Goal: Platform to test all the new SN-95 parts.
Result: Turbocharged monster, emissions-legal daily driver.
Grade: B+
Best Performance: 11-second e.t.'s, 400-plus rear-wheel horsepower when that was considered a lot.
Biggest mistake: Too-stiff spring rate gave ride akin to a floor jack.
Best move: Combined wild Roush intake and Roush CNC-ported GT-40 heads with Cartech turbo (custom built and tuned by Job Spetter). Shinoda body kit (not seen here).

People feared the SN-95 Mustang's computer then as much as we feared the '05's a year ago. This car showed the 5-liter Mustang was still a legit threat, and the electronics were nothing to worry about.

Project Name: Superfly, Destroyer Of Hideous Camaros
Car: '97 SVT Mustang Cobra
Timeline: September 1997-Present
Goal: Emissions-legal, 11-second e.t.'s on motor; do-it-all daily driver; learn what makes 4.6 Four-Valve V-8 tick.
Result: Best E.T.: 11.95/114.03 mph; passes emissions anywhere; runs on pump gas; compliant suspension.
Grade: A+
Best Performance: Ran 11s at our shootout, then a week later was going 142 mph at Watkins Glen with only a tire swap.
Biggest mistake: Trying to go 11s on a road-race-inspired suspension.
Best move: Six-speed swap, Dave Jack-prepped heads, Paul's High Performance-modified intake.

Editor Campy's first-ever new car broke a lot of ground in Four-Valve Mustang performance (it also broke a lot of stock parts). Now with 30 more horses, we know we can significantly lower that 11.95 e.t.

Project Name: Stocker
Car: '87 Mustang LX
Timeline: July 1995-Present
Goal: To be competitive in NHRA Stock Eliminator competition and set the NHRA national record for the class.
Result: 10 NHRA national records and won class eliminations 13 times. Stocker currently holds the E/FI record at 11.35/116 mph.
Grade: A+
Best Performance: 11.08/118 mph (3,050 lbs) and 11.18/117 at 3,190 lbs (legal weight for E/FI). Best 60-foot is a 1.45.
Biggest mistake: Running wearable parts like a clutch disc and valvesprings too long. Second biggest mistake is having sloppy wiring (which has now been fixed).
Best move: Working with quality companies and people like Kuntz & Co., Jim LaRocca, Ryder, and G-Force Transmissions.

MM&FF Tech Editor Evan Smith has owned Stocker since it was three months old. He drove it nearly every day on the street from December 1987 to the summer of 1995. It had been stolen twice (while he was in college), and was turned into a Cobra clone in 1997. It is currently the longest-running MM&FF project car.

Project Name: White Trash
Car: '89 Mustang LX
Timeline: June 1998-November 2000
Goal: 10s, 1g handling, high pimp factor.
Result: 11.30s, 0.92 g, stupid fresh pimpness.
Grade: A
Best Performance: 11.33 at 127 mph
Biggest mistake: Too big of a cam, huge heads.
Best move: 351 swap, Baer brakes, Kenny Brown suspension.

This project started off with a nitrous-induced melting of its four-cylinder engine, but finished with a 351W and a hot suspension. Best of all was asking companies for parts for a project called White Trash.

Project Name: Pro Tree Mustang
Car: '83 Mustang GT
Timeline: July 1999-November 1999
Goal: To build a low-buck, Pro Tree Mustang race car for Open Comp.
Result: A car the owner does quite well with when he uses it.
Grade: Incomplete
Best Performance: 11.94/109.45. Numerous final and semifinal appearances, but no victories.
Biggest mistake: Agreeing to let a certain lovable, eccentric Staten Island-based freelancer do a project car.
Best move: Only ran in three issues before disappearing, so readers probably have forgotten about it until now.

NVO phone home.

Project Name: Bracket Brawler
Car: '86 Mustang GT
Timeline: March 2000-November 2002
Goal: To run NHRA Super Street 10.90 index.
Result: Car ran consistently under the index in actual competition.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 10.47 at 127 mph
Biggest mistake: 351W conversion. Most of the components for that engine just didn't fit to the author/owner's liking.
Best move: Deciding to calm it down and go bracket racing. The car (with the blower) was getting too expensive to be competitive heads-up, and racing paycheck to paycheck is no fun.

The Bracket Brawler started life as a timid 5.0, but went 9.74 at 140 mph with its fuel-injected and supercharged powerplant. When it became an MM&FF project car, the decision was made to enter the NHRA Super Street 10.90 index class, thus the Brawler's 393ci, carbureted setup was born. With a mild 0.550-lift cam, the car ran a best of 10.47, but we know there were easy nines in the combo with more cam lift and more rpm.

Project Name: Two-Tone Terror
Car: '82 Granada
Timeline: September 1999-March 2001
Goal: 10s in legal Street Renegade guise.
Result: 10.80s at full weight.
Grade: Incomplete, with an "A" for gumption.
Best Performance: 10.78 at 128 mph
Biggest mistake: Building a Granada.
Best move: Building a Granada. "I say, 'Granada.' Chicks say, 'My place.'"

Only MM&FF would have the cojones to build a Fox-chassis Granada for a prominent, heads-up racing class (the vehicle was known internally as "Ghetto Superstar"). A reader was so overwhelmed by TTT's beauty and performance that he bought it after its first race.

Project Name: Mad Max
Car: '88 Mustang GT
Timeline: May 2000-January 2001
Goal: 13s, reliable open-track performance and competitive autocross car.
Result: 13.80s, Second- to Fourth-Place finishes at various autocrosses in SCCA NY region, two open track days without failure.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 13.81 at 100 mph
Biggest mistake: None.
Best move: Leaving it stock.

STILL Sitting in driveway of new owner, five years later.

Project Name: Stone Pony
Car: '94 Mustang GT
Timeline: July 2000-February 2002
Goal: To build a 12-second daily driver that could also be used for bracket racing.
Result: Ran 13.0
Grade: B-
Best Performance: 13.0 at 108 mph
Biggest mistake: Not getting the correct converter and rear gear. package. The converter was way too tight, and that really hurt the launch. We also should have swapped the 3.73 gears for 4.10s or 4.30s.
Best move: Switching to Lentech AOD, installing Edelbrock heads and intake.

We sold it. New owner added blower and made 580 rwhp.

Project Name: 200-MPH Mustang
Car: '88 Mustang LX
Timeline: April 2001-Present
Goal: 200 MPH Daily Driven Street Mustang
Result: A work in progress.
Grade: Incomplete
Best Performance: Radar-verified 193 mph (with Vortech supercharged/TFS headed 5.0) in Silver State Classic Race (early '90s)
Biggest mistake: Sliding off course (after a rear control arm bushing worked its way out) while in the lead of an open road race from Mexico City to Acapulco; damaged passenger door and took us out of contention (finished Fourth).
Best move: Driving at 3 a.m. in the middle of the desert at 180-plus mph the day before the Silver State race. Crew chief Bernie Van Hamond was sitting on the passenger floor with no seatbelt and a flashlight in his mouth to read the boost and EGT gauges while tuning the Crane Interceptor. Roaring down the highway at 180-plus mph in the pitch dark (the lights did very little) on a wing and a prayer.

The project 200-mph Mustang is the same '88 LX that ran the race down in Mexico years ago. West Coast Editor Richard Holdener has been using it for stories since the early '90s and promises to finish it before the next millennium.

Project Name: The Fridge
Truck: '99 SVT F-150 Lightning
Timeline: September 2000-Present
Goal: To continually modify a '99 Lightning using typical aftermarket parts. First true goal was to run 12s, then 11s using the stock engine and blower, then to run 10s with a rebuilt engine.
Result: We hit the 11s with the stock engine and blower, and hit the 10s with a built motor.
Grade: A+
Best Performance: 10.999/120 mph
Biggest mistake: Leaving the stock engine internals on the quarter-mile at E-town after a fuel relay failed.
Best move: Installing a JDM Engineering engine with a Magnum Powers supercharger and the Level 10 transmission.

Using many aftermarket suppliers, MM&FF built a reliable, daily-driven Lightning that runs 10s. It still uses the factory A/C and has all the creature comforts, as well as the Level 10 transmission that was built in 2000. The Fridge is one of only a few Lightnings to have run in the 10s without the use of a KB blower and/or nitrous oxide.

Project Name: Mach VII
Car: '88 Lincoln Mach VII
Timeline: February 2001-April 2001
Goal: 13s
Result: Car stolen.
Grade: Incomplete
Best Performance: 14.90 (naturally aspirated trim)
Biggest mistake: Parking car on streets on Queens, New York. Never found perps.
Best move: Level 10 trans and converter/3.73s, Kenne Bell supercharger.

Death to all car thieves.

Project Name: Project Ice Box
Car: '01 Mustang GT
Timeline: February 2002-Present
Goal: Push the boundaries of 4.6 Two-Valve street performance.
Grade: A
Best Performance: 10.73 at 131 mph on ET Streets/10.9 at 133 in daily driver trim (radials all around, 3650 lbs). Emissions legal in 49 states (Vortech T-Trim not emissions legal in California), A/C still blows cold.
Biggest mistake: Coilover suspension not up to 621 rwhp on road course.
Best move: Patriot heads, Comp Stage 2 cams, CHP short-block, JDM tune-up.

Seems like there's no limit to 4.6 performance.

Project Name: Hot Handler
Car: '87 Mustang LX
Timeline: June 2002-July 2003
Goal: To build a low-buck 5.0 LX for use on the strip, street, and at open-track road course events.
Result: Car was completed and ran well. The 302 was rebuilt with the Summit Racing engine kit, including forged pistons, AFR 165 heads, E303 cam, and GT-40 intake. This combination made 286 hp at the wheels and 320 lb-ft of torque. It doesn't sound like much, but it was a blast on the street and track. The HP Motorsports suspension also worked great, as the LX had great handling.
Grade: B-
Best Performance: Never got tested properly.
Biggest mistake: Removing the power steering once the pump failed
Best move: Selecting the parts we did for the engine rebuild because the combination worked great and we got the results we expected.

Proving again you don't have to spend a ton of dough to have fun with a 5.0 Mustang.

Project Name: Frightning
Car: '86 Mustang LX
Timeline: May 2002-Present
Goal: Demonstrate benefits of good power-to-weight ratio: i.e., if our Lightning project could go 11s with bolt-ons, how quick could a light Fox-chassis car go with a blown 5.4 Lightning mill?
Result: 10.8 at 121 out of the box, totally stock.
Grade: A
Best Performance: 10.5 at 126 mph with completely stock long-block.
Biggest mistake: Wrong torque converter, inhibiting performance. Thinking blower motor would fit under 4-inch cowl hood--hah!
Best move: Having a car where the blower sticks through the hood.

When Frightning was dropped off in the MM&FF parking lot in 2002, it was in the worst shape of any project car in this magazine's history. Over time, though, we've given it a new life with a modern, modular 5.4-liter powerplant, new paint, and a new interior. We still plan to sort out the torque converter issue in the future and run some nines with it. Will it knock Excalibur off the throne? Stay tuned.

Project Name: Red Hot Chili Pepper
Car: '02 Focus ZX5
Timeline: March 2003-February 2006
Goal: Make a four-cylinder a respectable commuter.
Result: 13-second e.t.'s and a look that's not overly import.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 13.93/96 mph
Biggest mistake: 18-inch wheels with 215/40/18 rubber in New Jersey.
Best move: Precision Turbo & Engine turbo kit. It made up for all the Pepper's shortcomings.

We shoulda swapped in a V-8!

Project Name: Hooligan Hot Rod
Car: '91 Mustang GT
Timeline: October 2004-Present
Goal: First goal--10s with a stock long-block, Second goal--9s in full street trim.
Result: At 10.7/130 mph, it was quicker than modified Ford GT supercar tested on same day--and Hooligan still had the high-mileage, original stock long-block.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 10.33 at 133 mph
Biggest mistake: Using a stock block.
Best move: Turbo kit, Lentech AOD.

Two-piece engine blocks suck!

Project Name: Redheaded Step Child
Car: '96 Mustang GT
Timeline: October 2005-Present
Goal: Build a 300-rwhp, naturally aspirated non-PI-headed 4.6 Mustang.
Result: To Be Determined.
Grade: Project not finished yet.
Best Performance: 355 flywheel horsepower/364 lb-ft of torque to date.
Biggest mistake: None yet.
Best move: Too soon to tell.

We're proving there is hope for these cars after all.

Project Name: X-Rated
Car: '90 Mustang LX
Timeline: June 2004-Present
Goal: Run low eights on stock-style suspension and field a competitive car in a heads-up category
Result: Still a work in progress.
Grade: Incomplete
Best Performance: To Be Determined.
Biggest mistake: Estimating time of completion. Everything is custom made on a race car of this type.
Best move: Leaving the car in the hands of talented people who know what they're doing.

FROM DAILY driver to blown 11-second street car to (hopefully) an 8-second Stang.

Unofficial Projects

Project Name: Mean Mr. Mustang
Car: '87 Mustang LX
Timeline: 1987 to July 1992
Goal: Get a street-legal, fully equipped, fuel-injected, stock-compression Mustang into the 11s.
Result: Low 12s
Grade: B
Best Performance: 12.27/110 mph
Biggest mistake: Over-revving the engine.
Best move: Making it a project car.

Mean Mr. Mustang was never officially coined a "project car," but it had all the makings of one, and was one of the first forays into modifying a 5-liter in a magazine. Former MM&FF Editor Steve Collison (RIP) brought the car from the now-defunct Super Stock & Drag Illustrated magazine (where it was a project car) to MM&FF, but abandoned it shortly thereafter. He took the car with him when he quit MM&FF in the Spring of 1993.

Project Name: Cheap Speed
Car: '91 Mustang LX
Timeline: January 2003-October 2003

Former Associate Editor John Hedenburg picked up this clean hatchback after parting with the Bracket Brawler. Looking to avoid the tiresome maintenance that his former car provided, Hedenburg used tried-and-true bolt-on modifications to get the LX into the low 12s, all the while driving it to and from the track.

Project Name: Mr. Whipple The Wundercar
Car: '89 Mustang LX
Timeline: July 1994-December 1994
Goal: Hook up the wife's stock 5-liter with speed parts.
Result: Streetable low 12s
Grade: B
Best Performance: 12.55/110 mph
Biggest mistake: Never getting the car to run its potential in the quarter-mile.
Best move: Kenne Bell supercharger.

This AOD-equipped coupe received several modifications, including trans work and, most notably, one of the first Kenne Bell superchargers. It belonged to John Hunkins' wife, so modifications were kept to a minimum to maintain reliability and driveability.

Project Name: The Tiny Avenger
Car: '79 Mustang Coupe
Timeline: September 1996-December 1997

The Tiny Avenger was one of our first forays into the turbocharged 2.3-liter realm. We swapped an SVO motor into a light-weight Fox notchback and performed a few tweaks to the powerplant to boost power. Tiny Avenger was later survived by the short-lived, one-story Shiny Avenger, an '85 1/2 SVO. Try as we might, we just couldn't dig up a photo of the little coupe.

Project Name: ZX3-GT
Prior to the Red Hot Chili Pepper, Richard Holdener hopped up his '01 two-door Focus and achieved Mustang GT performance from the 2-liter mill thanks to a Jackson Racing supercharger. It eventually went 13.76 at 102 mph, but Holdener later installed a built Sean Hyland short-block and, with 29 pounds of boost, pumped out 514 hp.

Project Name: Procharged Pony
Car: '90 Mustang GT
Timeline: April 2003-Present
Goal: Testbed for various performance parts.
Result: 580 hp street car that still knocks down 19 mpg.
Grade: B
Best Performance: 11.43/124 mph
Biggest mistake: Though the D.S.S. Level 20 stock block won't bat an eyelash at our current power level, an aftermarket block would have allowed us to tinker with boost and other performance-adding parts. Question is, do we need more power in a street car?
Best move: A toss-up between the ATI ProCharger and the Ford Racing four-wheel Cobra R disc brake conversion. Both made hugely noticeable improvements.

Let it be known that this car actually belongs to your author's wife, who has let him modify a perfectly good 5-liter Stang into a high-performance, high-maintenance project car. Yes, your author has pretty much assumed ownership, but the wife still drives it on occasion, at least when it's not laid up for some stupid reason. The '90 GT will burn rubber through the first four gears and pass emissions in New Jersey. Now that we have a sturdy 8.8 beneath it, we need to see how fast the supercharged 331 D.S.S. stroker will go, so stay tuned for more on this ride.

Giveaway Cars

Project Name: Cyber Stallion
Car: '89 Mustang LX
Timeline: February 2000-June 2000
Goal: Bolt-on giveaway car
Result: We gave it away.
Grade: A
Best Performance: No strip testing.
Biggest mistake: None
Best move: Making a reader happy.

Cyber Stallion was a joint venture between MM&FF and Brothers Performance Warehouse. We took a timid LX, threw a slew of bolt-ons at it, and dressed it up with a Cobra body kit and some shiny, new blue paint. We could not locate a photo for this car, but it looked similar to Code Blue, except for some Cobra ground effects pieces and chrome Cobra R wheels.

Project Name: Code Red
Car: '87 Mustang LX
Timeline: July 1995-May 1996
Goal: BBK giveaway build-up car.
Result: 341 supercharged rwhp
Grade: A
Best Performance: Never drag tested.
Biggest mistake: None
Best move: BBK InstaCharger install.

MM&FF has given away quite a few cars on its own (including Code Blue, which you read about earlier). Code Red was built in conjunction with the folks at BBK Performance Parts. While Project Code Blue went to a reader down South and The Horse With No Name got shipped to the winner in California, Code Red--built in California--naturally went south a few exits of MM&FF World Headquarters to a reader in New Jersey.

Project Name: Electric Banana
Car: '95 Mustang GT
Timeline: April 1998-August 1998
Goal: Test bolt-on parts on an SN-95 Mustang.
Result: Nearly 300 hp to the wheels.
Grade: B
Best Performance: Never flogged at the track.
Biggest mistake: None
Best move: Edelbrock package.

MM&FF joined up with Brothers Performance Warehouse to test some new parts.

Project Name: Ped Project
Car: '95 Mustang GT
Timeline: February 2000-June 2000
Goal: Use the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog to build a 12-second street car for famous NHRA Funny Car driver.
Result: We accomplished all our objectives.
Grade: A
Best Performance: 12.98/111.88 mph
Biggest mistake: None--you can't go wrong with any of the modifications made to this thing.
Best move: Kenny Youngblood-designed paint and graphics.

We take full credit for all the racing success Tony Pedregon has enjoyed. He won his first NHRA Funny Car race in Ennis, Texas, after meeting Editor Jim Campisano. After the MM&FF project buildup, Pedregon won the NHRA Funny Car title driving for John Force. Need we say more?

Project Name: Pro 5.0
Car: '88 Mustang GT
Timeline: May 2001-June 2002
Goal: Build a killer, high-horse street machine as a subscription sweepstakes car.
Result: Over 500 rwhp with a LaRocca tune.
Grade: A
Best Performance: 526 rwhp
Biggest mistake: Stock block kept car from reaching full potential of blower/stroker engine combo.
Best move: LaRocca tune-up, ATI ProCharger on Central Coast Mustang 342.

Project Pro 5.0 was a giveaway car that was donated to MM&FF from Pro-5.0 Shifters. In its previous life, the '88 GT had seen road-course duty and toured national Ford events for years as a display for the shifter company. You could actually sit in it and bang imaginary gears if you wanted to. When MM&FF got hold of it, we dropped in a 342ci motor from Central Coast Mustang, topped it off with an ATI ProCharger, and gave it a unique Motor City Auto Body paint job. The craftsmen at Sony Mobile Audio installed a hot stereo complete with a custom enclosure, and then we gave the car away to a lawyer from Ohio.