Subtle touches set Mark James' GT apart from the crowd. A Cervini's C-500 hood hints at th
Horse Sense: Based in Sacramento, California, Mark's engine builders, HCI Motorsports, specialize in high-performance late-model V-8s. That's not unusual, but it is unusual that HCI [(916) 643-2291; www.hcimotorsports.net] offers a one-year warranty on all its race engines. How cool is that?
This new Mustang really is something. For a lot of us true-blue Ford fans, it took some getting used to. For a lot of other people, the car struck a chord that made them want to see what this whole Mustang thing was about. For a longtime Chevy guy such as Mark James, it took more than the new styling to interest him. A friendly nudge from his wife, Freda, got him to take an '05 for a test drive. What he found was a pleasant surprise.
"In the middle of 2005, my wife was surfing the Internet, saw the new '05 Mustang GT, and fell in love with it," Mark says. "I have never been a Ford guy, and I could never understand why anyone would want a little 4.6 engine. My wife talked me into going for a test drive. I remember getting inside and turning the key. The interior looked so '60s, the car sounded similar to a real car. It made me feel at home for the first time in 20 years."
There's nothing much to give away the car's performance intent here, save for a pair of Ke
To say he was pleasantly surprised is actually an understatement. That 4.6 felt better than he imagined. The car salesman got a scary ride, and the next day, Mark convinced Freda to trade in her Volvo S40 for the new Mustang. That's a supportive wife.
Naturally, Mark's next move was subscribing to 5.0&SF. In our pages, he got a look at the Shelby GT 500 and had a furious fit of buyer's remorse. He really wanted a GT 500, but couldn't see paying the adjusted dealer markup-inflated prices on the top-dog S197. Since he already had a GT, he decided to build it up until it made more than 500 hp for less than a GT 500. [Glad we could be a bad influence!-Ed.]
With a sudden horsepower obsession on boil, Mark contacted Aaron Tachiban at Throttle Stop Performance [(916) 780-4646] in Roseville, California, to begin mapping out a plan to outdo the GT 500. The first idea was installing an '03 Cobra engine, but Mark had fallen for the surprisingly torquey Three-Valve 4.6, so he wanted to maximize the existing Three-Valve and mimic the torque hit of the Shelby's Eaton-blown 5.4. "At that time, the Kenne Bell blower wasn't available for the '05 GT, so I put my name on the list," Mark says. "While waiting for the blower, Aaron suggested that I upgrade the small-block, so we solicited the help of Travis Gilbert and Cole Cutler at HCI Motorsports, as they hold some land-speed records and know Ford engines well."
Mark had a factory GT 500 side stripe modified to let people know his GT makes 50 more tha
While waiting for the engine's construction and the arrival of the fresh-from-development blower kit, Mark gave the car the looks to go with its impending power. Aaron added Tokico dampers, H&R springs, Kazera wheels, and Toyo tires. Autocraft Painting sprayed and installed the Cervini's gear, which was finished off with GT 550 graphics, courtesy of JC Graphics. We think you'll agree that the results give the car an aggressive look without going over the top.
The over-the-top mods were saved for the engine compartment. Knowing Mark wanted to take the Three-Valve 4.6 well beyond the Four-Valve 5.4 in the GT 500, the HCI Motorsports crew screwed together a rugged short-block. After cleaning the stock block, they filled it with Probe-forged pistons, Scat H-beam rods, and a forged Cobra crank. Topped off with the stock heads, cams, and intake, the engine is warranted for up to 800 hp, which is good since Mark's plans have gotten more aggressive-are you surprised?
"The engine and the Kenne Bell blower went together as if they were meant to be from the factory," Mark says. "The car was producing 550 hp on a 91-octane tune. This was a safe place to be while the motor was breaking in." Or, a safe place to wait until Mark turns up the wick to his new goal.
Mark says the car handles great and has an awesome torque curve, meaning it's great fun on
"I need to take a bit of time to let the wallet swell back up before I begin Phase 2," he says. "That includes a Viper T56 six-speed transmission, Brembo brakes, subframe connectors, a strut-tower brace, an adjustable Panhard bar, and so on. I would also like to add 60-lb/hr injectors, a bigger fuel pump, and an eight-rib conversion to hit that magical 800hp target."
We're guessing the idea of saving money versus buying a GT 500 is out the window now, but making more power than one shouldn't be a problem. The real moral to the story is Mark says he has converted to Fords for life. "Something is just sick when a 4.6 engine can produce 800 hp with ease."