The old saying "Getting to the top isn't the hard part-it's staying there" is definitely true. Being known as the standout is only as good as how long you can be remembered. Case in point, it seems like yesterday when Pro 5.0 racer Don Walsh Sr. went 10s in his white GT, Steve Saleen released the SR-351 Mustang, and Les Baer shocked the Pro 5.0 world with his revolutionary '96 GT. They all created waves at the time, and they were certainly on the top of the heap. As time passed, however, their accomplishments became a faded, distant memory.
So when Ernie Aldrete wanted to build an eye-catching Mustang that everyone would remember for quite some time, he went straight to the top, or more precisely, to the top of his '04 Mustang GT.
This slick 'n' smooth GT intently watches you with a Cobra front cover and a honkin' hoods
While all of his friends concentrated on crazy paint jobs, 1,000hp engine combos, and 24-inch wheels, Ernie spent many nights at his Oxnard, California, home focusing on the most overlooked part of any SN-95 Mustang-the roof. Aside from a convertible body style, Ford didn't bother to offer Mustang enthusiasts a sunroof, T-roofs, or the Targa-top option from 1994 to 2004. Ernie thought it was only logical to go for the gusto and incorporate a fully functional open-top roof onto his GT. It wasn't an easy proposition, but as he says, "I took it over to my buddy Steve Kurz at Star Paint and Body. I asked him what he thought about cutting off the roof and making it functional without the use of a kit. It took a bit of planning and work, but we were able to come up with what is now my Targa top."
Now before you go out to your garage and fire up the Sawzall, take a step back and think about what Steve took into consideration with this project. For one, it needed to have a propor-tional look, so cuts were carefully planned well in advance. Having a drum-tight, leak-free top was also a requirement, so OEM-style seals were used. Also, to maintain the vehicle's rigidity with the roof section removed, a set of subframe connectors were installed. Once all the metal was cut, trimmed, and finished with a factory appearance, a Cobra front bumper cover was bolted into place while a hoodscoop was molded to the factory lid. Everything was then slathered in PPG Dark Shadow Gray and European Black, with many more layers of clearcoat on top to protect the finish and provide the shine. The two-tone scheme really makes this '04 GT pop, and with a set of funky-fresh '03 Cobra wheels dipped in chrome, the total look oozes with power and commands respect.
Speaking of power, let us tell you about what motivates this fake snake. Under that fully ventilated hood lies the original 4.6 that's been tweaked from the original 260-horse rating to about 345 hp, according to Ernie. The mostly stock twin cammer breathes easier thanks to Granatelli Motor Sports components that are used throughout the car. A GMS upper plenum, a 90mm mass air meter, and a cold-air kit take care of the induction mods, while shorty headers and 2.5-inch pipes out back muffle the flatulence. Also sourced from the Italian Stallion were an underdrive pulley kit, a high-voltage ignition coil set, and a GMS Fuego programmer. In all, it makes for some real fun street action with little to no side effects such as excessive fuel consumption or poor driveability.
Building a standout in the crowded herd of Mustangs is certainly not easy. Just about everything has been thought of, including vertical-door systems, 500hp engine packages, and even body kits. As a matter of fact, these items are practically available over the counter these days. But when we see something as interesting as a Targa top, it certainly catches our eyes. That's why we have to commend Ernie and his '04 GT for being a true standout. But the question still remains-what will people come up with next to set the golden standard?
The stock 4.6L single-cam mill plays host to a slew of bolt-ons by Granatelli Motor Sports
This super-clean Targa roof conversion was performed by Ernie's friend Steve Kurz of Star
Back here, the clean look comes from the flat decklid and the smoothed rear bumper cover.