"All I wanted to do was run 12s," Don Jones says. Are you chuckling yet? Nearly every gearhead can remember saying, "I only wanted to run (fill in the blank)." And before long, the project that once had simple goals was suddenly 8.50-certified with a built motor and race suspension. Such was the case with Don Jones' '02 GT convertible.
"I can still remember when I bought the car. It was a gloomy winter day, and for some reason, it spoke to me," says Jones. "I knew that a Cobra made a ton more sense than a GT convertible did for going fast, but something about that car told me it was the one," he adds.
In his younger years, Jones owned some proper muscle cars, like a '71 Mach 1, a Boss 351, and even a '69 F100 with a 429 and a Muncie four-speed. Despite the sweet iron, he got his real thrills as an avid motocross racer and later as a motorcycle drag racer. But when family ties fell upon the young racer, he hung up the helmet.
That is, until several decades later when his son moved out and Jones had an abundance of free time. When boredom set in, the racing bug bit again, only this time his wife requested that his chariot be four-wheeled.
"My wife Peg has always been supportive of my hobbies, which I'm thankful for, so when she asked for a compromise that I race a car instead of a motorcycle, I happily obliged," Jones says.
Yeah, he said race. That's right, despite buying a Two-Valve convertible, racing was in his future. A chance encounter with another sales associate at the used car dealer during the purchase of his GT would forever change Don's path. "The salesman showed me a calendar of Mustangs that a co-worker had on her wall, and she just happened to be the wife of AED co-owner Drew Wallace," Jones said. "She gave me Drew's number and a week later, I was at the shop in search of a 12-second timeslip."
I know a ton of people look at me like I'm crazy because the car could easily run 9s with a few more mods.
Drew and the AED crew added a Vortech V-2 Si blower with a Paxton front mount air-to-air intercooler kit. The smog-legal setup easily put Jones into the 12s, but only for a dozen passes before the dreaded "tick" suddenly ended the fun.
"That tick ended up being a bad piston, and after the motor was pulled, we discovered it wasn't even the original, but rather one from a Lincoln," Jones said. So instead of an OEM rebuild, he handed over the reigns to AED with the premise that he wanted to go bracket racing.
"Going all-out is nice, but I wanted to bracket race since it's a ton of fun, there are many classes, and there's nothing closer than index racing—it's a thrill," Jones says.
A FRPP low-compression Aluminator short-block was the foundation for the new propulsion, topped with Patriot PI heads and Hitech Motor-sports Stage 2 blower cams. A FRPP 70mm throttle body was called into play, as was a custom fuel cell with stainless steel braided lines, a Weldon 2025A fuel pump, a FloMax card-style MAF, and a catted exhaust system. The setup passed smog and still killed it at the track.
As anyone will tell you, power is only half the battle, so the silver bullet became a testbed for chassis tuning. Tons of different suspension components and various geometries were tried before AED settled on a UPR K-member and coilovers up front, along with Racecraft adjustable upper rear and lower arms.