Frank H. Cicerale
August 1, 2008
There's Nothing like organized chaos. Tag along as we start a Mustang metamorphosis with our Project Ice Box.

There comes a time in every person's life when change abounds. Whether puberty hits, the wedding bells toll, or the college tuition bill comes in the mail, human beings face change. By nature we are adaptive, so change is accepted, and often we thrive in the new environment. The same thing can be said about our cars. While the looks, power, and other modifications we make may be one person's cup of tea, those things might be different from your own personal preferences when you pick up the car second or third-hand.

That same theory can be applied to any project car. Oftentimes, we run into cars that have been changed around each time to suit the current owner's vices, or the same car, owned by the same person, sees different variations to its being. The ability to adapt our cars to our whims at any particular time is what keeps the hobby thriving.

A high-profile example is our own '01 Mustang GT, Project Ice Box. Since its inception, the car has been transformed from a stock, 13-second, Two-Valve Mustang GT to a supercharged monster that lays down 621 rwhp thanks to a CHP stroker, a Vortech blower, a set of Patriot heads, a JDM tune, and a pair of Comp Cams bumpsticks. As with any project car, it's a rolling test mule for the aftermarket's latest parts. In simpler terms, project cars, at least most of them, get changed a lot. It doesn't mean the parts that come off are bad; it's more about what's new.

During Ice Box's tenure here at MM&FF, the exterior has also been improved upon, namely with the installation of a Cervini's Stalker body kit and a set of aftermarket wheels.

While we weren't in the market to change the looks of our SN-95, the constant pummeling of New Jersey roadways, combined with a few off-track excursions during road-course testing, wreaked havoc on the aftermarket body components. In short, we messed them up bad. Despite the quality of Cervini's pieces, we don't know of any body parts that can stand to be smashed. The front bumper had a huge piece missing-we blame many curbs and a dirt hill-and the left-hand side skirt said sayonara (former editor Campisano will have to explain that one), but at least the awesome-looking hood was intact.

Even the wheels have seen the effects of the salt and grime on the roads, as pitting has abounded. About the only thing that was relatively untouched was the aforementioned heat extractor hood and rear wing. We couldn't let our beloved project car waste away into the land of the unsightly, so thanks to Roush Performance and Motor City Auto Body (Newark, New Jersey), the Project Ice Box makeover began.

Instead of ordering replacement Stalker body components from Cervini's, we decided to go with a different look-again, not a knock on Cervini's, we just wanted a change. We didn't go all Joan Rivers on the car, but we did decide to pull off the torn-up parts and replace them with a Roush body kit, accompanying wheels, and side-exit exhaust system. We're keeping the Cervini's hood and giving the car color-not through the vinyl graphics the car was graced with beforehand, but with a set of contrasting stripes on the hoodscoops (think vintage Olds 4-4-2).

As with any bodywork project, getting the car in and out of paint jail can be an arduous task. Our lives were made a lot easier thanks to Manny Costeira and the crew at Motor City Auto Body. Before the car was left in the knowledgeable hands of the Motor City pros, we decided that not only would we add the stripes to the hood and (obviously) the color to the unfinished Roush components, but we would respray the entire car as well.

Before we turned a wrench, wielded a spray gun, or installed a body component, we checked out the parts that Roush shipped to us. For starters, the kit can be ordered in two different versions-one coming with the rear wing and the other without. We chose the kit with the rear wing. We got the 411 from Eric King, a customer service representative at Roush Performance, who previously served duty installing the parts in the shop on the cars Roush built for sale. "The body components are made of a urethane material that is similar to the factory body component's hardness," Eric says. "The front fascia is a bit thicker, but for the most part, the Roush components were molded to be a factory-style part."

Our kit came with the front bumper and included a foglight kit, a set of side skirts with exhaust openings, a rear wing and pedestals, and right -and left-side rear valances. "The more parts we offer, the better business will be for us here at Roush," Eric says. "The body kit is very popular, and has always been one of the products we offer that has been in high demand. All of the parts can be ordered separately or, obviously, together as a kit. We have two different kits simply because some people like the Roush wing, while others like the factory GT wing, or they go with the wing-delete option."

One thing we couldn't get away with was keeping the exhaust system that was already on Ice Box, as the Roush body kit requires the use of its side-exit exhaust system, which is not part of the body kit. "The kit is only offered to be used with the side-exit exhaust system," Eric states. For those wondering if there will be a kit that doesn't require the side-exit exhaust, you're up a creek without a paddle, as there are no plans to offer a body kit that doesn't require the side-exit system. "The exhaust is more of a styling cue that Jack himself wanted than it is for performance," Eric says. "The system is offered with two types of mufflers depending on the customer's sound choice, and while it will pick up some power over the factory exhaust system, like I said, it was a performance part that was designed more with styling in mind. Also, the exhaust is a 50-state emissions legal system."

Since Ice Box's wheels had seen better days, and, more importantly, we were installing a Roush body kit, it was only natural that we went with a set of 18-inch Roush-emblazoned wheels. The chrome five-spoke wheels are of the '03-'04 design. The '01-'02 wheels had the Roush name in raised letters, while the '03-'04 rims have the name laser-etched into the wheel. The raised-letter wheels have been discontinued, so we received the laser-etched set. Sizing for the rims came in at 18 inches, and we transferred the nearly new Nitto tires from the old rims to the new ones. "Our 18-inch wheels clear just about anything," Eric says. "They clear our 14-inch big brake kit fairly easily. The only thing that may need to be done is the addition of a 3/8-inch or 10mm rack spacer to clear a larger sway bar. If the stock sway bar is still in use, then the factory steering rack spacer will be adequate."

With all of our questions answered and with parts in hand, we drove Ice Box to Motor City to let the transformation begin. Disassembly began with the removal of the front bumper and front inner fenderwells. The rear bumper was removed next, followed by the lone remaining side skirt and the rear wing. In addition, the wheels were taken off to facilitate removing the tires and transferring them to the new Roush rims.

With the old parts off of the car, the crew at Motor City set about fitting the new front bumper and side skirts. "You want the new parts to fit like factory parts," says Motor City's proprietor Manny Costeira. "You don't want a fitment problem after the parts have been sanded, primed, and painted. If there's a fitment problem, you're going to have to press on the parts, and that will cause the clear to crack."

We Couldn't install a Roush body kit and not run Roush wheels. Thanks to salt and other things taking their toll on the finish of Icebox's shoes, we nabbed a set of chrome, Roush-etched 18-inch rims. Stay tuned as we put all of the components on and recoat Ice Box's flanks with vibrant white paint.

The only possible hang-ups revolved around the rear wing and the rear valances. The rear wing requires some work mounting it to the stock trunk lid in place of the Stalker wing. The bigger problem surrounds the rear bumper, or the lack thereof, for that matter. The rear valances install on the bottom of the factory bumper, which has long since disappeared from Ice Box. Luckily, we were able to source a rear bumper.

Once the new body components were fitted, they were sanded and primed to take out any blemishes and problems on the surface. By the time our deadline hit, Ice Box was ready to roll into the paint booth. The plans call for a respray of the entire car in a vibrant white, with the tops of the hoodscoops being shot in a graphite grey. Throw in the new body components and shiny new rims, and Ice Box will look quite stately.

Check back next month as we close the deal on our beloved Mustang's metamorphosis. We'll detail the application of the paint and everything that goes into making the car one slick-looking piece of machinery.

A New Set Of Bolt-OnsWhile The ultimate price of any sort of bodywork lies in the amount of labor put in and the condition of the car when you drop it off, the least we can do is give you the 411 on the cost of the parts from Roush. Included with the following list is everything needed to transform Project Ice Box to Roush status.

PART PRICE
Roush body kit
(front fascia kit, left/right side skirts,
skirts, left/right rear valance,
wing with pedestals and
all mounting hardware)
PN SM01-1K001-AA
$865.75
Roush chrome 18-inch rims
18x9 PN SM03-22232-SAC
18x10 PN SM03-22243-SAC
$595.70
Roush side-exit exhaust
PN SM01-4K000-V8
$936.00