Not many of us can say that we still have our first Mustang, but La Jolla, California's Charles Weller is one of the few who can. Nearly 20 years after driving it off the dealership lot, Chuck's Mustang looks as good, if not better than the day it rolled off the assembly line, and it runs a little harder now too.
"In high school I started a computer consulting business," recalls Chuck. "I got involved in computers at a young age (self-taught), and I started building computer systems and networks, along with tutoring users before I was even of legal age to drive a car-my dad would drive me to jobs. It was this business that allowed me to save money, and with the help of my parents, put enough money together to buy my Mustang during my last year of high school."
Chuck also drove his faithful steed every day to college at the University of California at San Diego. When it was time to go to law school, he finally was able to retire it from daily driver status and make it his weekend thrill ride.
As with most 5.0L enthusiasts, Charles modified his Mustang with the usual bolt-ons. Having grown up in San Jose, California, Chuck tells us that the best speed shop in town was Charlie's Mustangs, a group of hard-core road racers that would often take Chuck to the track with them.
"I remember one particular time on a hot August day in 1995, we were flying around Sears Point in my buddy's supercharged road-race Fox-body Mustang. (This buddy happened to be one of the guys who also worked at Charlie's.) He had an S-trim Vortech with a full Griggs Racing suspension and big Wilwood brakes on all four corners. I was amazed at the level of grip the car had and the overall acceleration we experienced around the track. After that day, I was completely hooked," says Chuck.
Chuck tells MM&FF that he still has the videotape that was recorded from the roll bar of said Mustang that day. "Flying around a track for a full twenty minutes at full kill beats going down a dragstrip for just 9 or 10 seconds at a time any day of the week. It's a pure adrenaline rush," exclaims Chuck. That's also how Chuck was introduced to Griggs Racing. From then on, it was all about the corners, from Sears Point, to the Auto Club Roval, to Willow Springs Raceway.
With help from Brian King of Runamok Racing, Chuck upgraded his Mustang with Griggs Racing's GR40 suspension and chassis components. The front suspension consists of Griggs' tubular K-member and A-arms, and Koni coilover shocks and springs. At the stern, Griggs' torque arm, panhard bar, and World Challenge control arms locate the 8.8-inch rear axle, which has been fortified with a DPI Racing Products Platinum Track differential, 31-spline shafts, and cryogenically-treated 3.55:1 ring and pinion gears.
Chuck had a local chassis shop handle the chassis stiffening, which consists of a Griggs Racing World Challenge frame kit, cut and welded into the floor of the car. Supplemental Global West subframe connectors were also installed and tie into the Griggs frame kit.
Obviously, improving the braking potential of the Fox-body would be paramount if Chuck was to dice it up on the road course, and to that end, a Griggs 4on4 brake system was installed. The system features a quartet of four-piston calipers, as well as 13-inch front rotors and 12-inch discs out back. The 17x9 front and 17x10 Cobra R rims fit without any issues. Yokohama AO32R rubber in size 255/50/17 works quite well when it comes to exercising the Mustang's lateral grip-Mickey Thompson drag radials are employed these days, though, as the Mustang has been known to light the road race rubber up in Fourth gear.
With the chassis and suspension sorted out, Chuck spent a number of years figuring out the best engine combination.
"I did the usual bolt-ons and put on a Powerdyne supercharger, followed by a Vortech S-trim," recalls Chuck. Engine displacement increased at one point to 317 ci, and then to 351 cubes of Windsor power. Chuck tried a couple of 351 setups, including a high-compression, naturally aspirated one, but it was hard to beat the added thrust that comes from a power adder.
In August of 2004, Chuck endured a major set back when a fuel-rail bracket broke under boost. "The car turned into an instant fireball." The insurance company said it was a total loss, but Chuck not only had a significant amount of money invested, there was also a personal 12-year relationship with the Mustang, which could not be replaced.
Flexing his skills as an accomplished attorney, Chuck was able to get a suitable settlement that would allow him to rebuild his pride and joy, starting with a fresh repaint of the factory Medium Titanium Metallic two-tone paint. Chuck also added a Cobra R/SVO fiberglass hood and Saleen wing. The front and rear bumper covers were swapped for '93 Cobra pieces, and the GT cheese grater taillights were ditched in favor of clear LX aftermarket pieces.
From the snug fit of the Sparco bucket seats, Chuck's hands rest comfortably on the Momo competition steering wheel, while his eyes are directed towards the A-pillar-mounted TurboSmart eBoost2 electronic boost controller, and the column-mounted FJO Racing Products air/fuel monitor. Behind the scenes, Snow Performance's Safe Injection system quietly monitors the water/methanol system.
The interior has also been significantly modified with an eight-point rollbar, five-point harnesses, and two Halon fire systems-essential to preserving this Fox from further peril. The controls for the NX wet nitrous oxide system are housed where the ashtray once resided, though the system hasn't been activated in a long time. Finally, a Pro 5.0 shifter stirs the cogs in the Viper-spec T56 six-sped gearbox.
Under the hood, the engine was pulled and replaced with a Kuntz and Company-built 408-cube bullet. Based on an FRPP 351 block, the Scat/Oliver/JE rotating assembly was topped off with Stage 3 ported Trickflow High Port cylinder heads from Total Engine Airflow, and a custom Comp Cams solid-roller profile actuates the Jesel shaft-mount rocker arms and Crower lifters.
The 408 was fitted with a Vortech YS-trim centrifugal supercharger and a Reichard Racing billet upper intake manifold, with a Trickflow 351 lower intake. At this point, Chuck realized how important the aging Fox-body was to him, and seeing that there was much newer technology available, he set the Mustang aside and bought another high-powered ride to get his thrills in on track. That didn't stop him from continually refining the Mustang though, and his search for the perfect Fox-body Mustang led him to the turbocharger that presently sits beneath the hood.
Domestic Performance and Restoration in San Diego, California, fabricated the turbo system, based on a GT47R 88mm ball bearing turbocharger, and an air-to-air intercooler. The Reichard upper intake manifold was flipped to the driver's side to reduce the number of twists and turns on the cold side, which often lead to poor throttle response, and increased turbo lag and intake charge temperatures. As for the exhaust, the downpipe descends beneath the unibody where it splits into two 3-inch pipes featuring straight-through mufflers and complete 3-inch tailpipes. Yes, you can have you torque arm, panhard bar, and tail pipes, too.
Chuck, who performs all of his own engine management tuning via an Accel Gen VII DFI computer, tells us that the turbo is much easier to tune for pump gas than the supercharger. They're also quieter, which makes for a nice street car. The tuning issue becomes important when you live out West, as the majority of the states are stuck with a mere 91-octane at the pump.
Not wanting to feel the hit in the pocket book for race gas every time he drove the car, Chuck installed a Snow Performance water/methanol injection system. "The methanol injection system has been modified to work with a three-gallon fuel cell in the car, "says Chuck. "It's a dual-nozzle setup with a progressive controller and features several fail-safe mechanisms, including a real-time flow monitor and electronic wastegate valve that is activated if the flow of methanol falls below a preset amount. A low-level warning light is not enough."
One of the benefits of owning a car for so long is that you have plenty of time to work out the bugs and find the weak links. Over time, everything has been engineered to the point of overkill. "I don't want anything to break, overheat, or fail, so every component is beefed up beyond what is necessary, with a large margin of safety factored in," comments Chuck. "You can drive this car over 100 miles in the heat of southern California and beat on it all you want, and it won't miss a beat or overheat.
What's probably more impressive is the power that this combination has generated. At 20 psi of boost, the turbocharged 408 Windsor has laid down a startling 1,055 rwhp and 1,013 lb-ft of torque. Chuck tells us that it will put down over 1,000 hp during back-to-back pulls with no cool down-a benefit of the water/methanol injection system.
"I found a combination after all these years of trial and error that starts right up every time no matter how long it sits, and it idles perfectly. I can drive by a cop and not get hassled, and you can have a nice conversation inside without having to yell," says Chuck.
It sounds like the verdict is in.