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A Girl and Her Pony: Krista Knowles’ Mighty 2017 Mustang

If there’s one thing, guys who love cars dig, it’s girls who love cars. Being able to share one’s automotive passion with a lady who also knows her stuff, can turn a wrench, and dump the clutch like a champ when the tree lights up is a beautiful, if not somewhat rarefied thing. Krista Knowles is one of those women. She’s fun, fresh and has one mean modified Mustang!

Krista was born in Pasadena, California and spent the majority of her childhood in Rosemead. Her upbringing was what most might call apple pie Americana. Krista was in the band at Rosemead High and was part of the drill team, and her brother excelled at baseball and football. Her father owned and ran a small tool wholesale business called Logan Supply, while her mother was a stay at home mom.

Krista’s love of cars traces back to the very day her father began his business. Inside the warehouse where he was going to set up shop, the previous owners, an elderly couple, had left behind a gold 1967 Mustang 289ci automatic coupe in perfect condition. When Krista’s father inquired about the presence of the car, the man said he just couldn’t be bothered with it. “It goes with the warehouse,” he affirmed.

Krista had just turned sixteen and had recently received her driver’s license when this seemingly unbelievable occurrence transpired. She lobbied passionately for the car and seeing his daughter’s enthusiasm, her father allowed her to have it.

Krista, second from left, some friends and her beloved ’67. (Photo courtesy of Krista Knowles.)

Krista drove the classic Mustang throughout high school. “I loved it. It was a really solid car, and boy, it went all over the place with me.”

By the time of her graduation though, the Mustang had developed some issues, “It would overheat a lot,” Krista recalls, “and I’d have to stop on the side of the road periodically to let it cool off. It really made me mad.”

Seeing that a successive car was in order for his daughter, Krista’s father bought her a brand-new Ford Escort GT, a bit of a step down from the stylish look and feel of the old Mustang, but a car Krista was nonetheless excited to have. “It was loaded, and more importantly it was reliable.”

Krista went on to attend and graduate from the nursing program at Pasadena City College and began her career in nursing. She got married, and at about the same time, the Escort started showing its age. She traded it in for a brand-new Honda Civic, but she and the car weren’t long for each other. “I just didn’t feel it. It was so blah. I kind of hated that car!”

The birth of Krista’s son saw her trade the Honda in for a roomy and safe Ford Explorer, but the whole time she owned it, the idea of having a fun, sporty car as in her teen years was nagging at her.

Krista Knowles’ 2017 Mustang GT Premium Fastback 5.0L. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

Fast forward to 2017. With her son grown, and Ford has finally introduced a Mustang with all-wheel independent suspension, Krista felt the time was right to pull the trigger. And pull it she did on a Race Red 2017 Mustang GT Premium Fastback 5.0L at McCoy & Mills Ford in Fullerton. “I considered the Shelby GT350, but I really wanted a car that I could modify to my own tastes as opposed to just buying a factory hot rod,” Krista says.

Krista’s Mustang left the factory virtually loaded except for a manual transmission instead of an automatic, but the car wouldn’t remain stock for long “I literally drove the car off the dealer lot and straight to a tint shop, and then had a custom Magnaflow cat-back exhaust with x-pipe installed.”

This Mustang is one sleek looking car with all of the numerous modifications. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

Krista drove the car for a bit, and then brought the car into a shop, PK Auto Design, this time for BC Forged HCS02 matte and gloss black 19″x10″ and 19″x11.5 staggered wheels with a set of Michelin Pilot Sport 285/19r35 and 325/19r35 tires.

Next came a host of suspension upgrades which included KW Variant 1 coilovers, Maximum Motorsports front caster and camber plates, and front-and-rear Eibach 35mm and 25mm sway bars.

Satisfied with the car’s handling, she next focused her attention on the Mustang’s engine and drivetrain.

The business end of Krista’s Pony, with the Whipple screw, carbon intake and plenty of other upgrades. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

She had the Coyote V8 modified with a state-of-the-art Whipple Gen 3 W175FF 2.9-liter Stage 1 supercharger tuned to 11psi with a Foster SC Mods Stage 4 sound tube kit, intercooler, oversized heat exchanger, 132mm billet throttle body, 72 lb. injectors and a carbon fiber cold air intake. A Shelby GT350R coolant tank was added to aid the cooling system.

The Getrag MT-82 transmission was augmented with a McLeod RXT twin disc clutch with an 8-bolt aluminum flywheel, a McLeod adjustable, hydraulic throw out bearing and slave cylinder, and a Steeda heavy duty braided clutch line. An MGW X-spec low profile, short-throw shifter topped off the transmission.

A Driveshaft Shop carbon fiber driveshaft with a Stifflers Driveshaft safety loop and a Steeda IRS Differential Bushing Insert System was installed. Driveshaft Shop 300m axles with Porsche 930 joints replaced the factory parts.

The nice rear end detail work including the airbrushing by MadMic. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

It was clear that stopping this beast would require more than what the stock brakes could deliver, so Krista had Baer Eradispeed front and rear drilled, and slotted rotors with Brembo 6-piston calipers added.

To stiffen the chassis, a variety of modifications were fitted, including a Steeda Extreme G-Trac K-member brace, and BMR billet aluminum vertical links with spherical bushings.

Knowing that she would be regularly taking her Pony to the track, Krista purchased a pair of Forgestar F14 rear 17″x10.5 matte black drag wheels with Mickey Thompson ET radials, and to allow for safe jacking of the car to install the wheels, Steeda FB Ultralite low-profile chassis jacking rails were installed.

Finished with all of her mechanical upgrades, Krista turned her attention to the Mustang’s aesthetics and the goal of reducing the car’s sprung mass.

The Icon Composites carbon fiber Iconic rear wing. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

The exterior of the car received Icon Composites carbon fiber chin spoiler, Iconic wing, and mirror covers; Anderson Composites carbon fiber rocker panels and hood vents; and Trufiber carbon fiber fog light bezels, upper and lower grille, and rear valance.

A custom airbrushing to the trunk lid, radiator cover and radiator extension covers was done by MadMic.

The Mustang’s interior, showing the Shelby GT350R steering wheel, carbon fiber look dipped parts and other accoutrements. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

Inside the car, a Ford Performance GT350R Alcantara and leather, red and black steering wheel replaced the OEM one, and MAK Performance hydro carbon fiber style dip covered the center console door handles and steering wheel inserts. American Car Craft trims replaced all the factory speaker trim and dash bezels. A brushed stainless-steel dead pedal and an SR Performance, aluminum clutch pedal extension, finished off the interior aesthetics.

Interior lighting was replaced with Diode Dynamics LEDs, while the headlights were given an ESG halo kit. A grille glow lighting kit the last touch.

Race Red Rhona’s pretty face. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

You’d think that this vast array of modifications would mean that Krista’s Mustang, dubbed Race Red Rhonda, would be finished, but you’d be wrong. “I’ve learned a great deal throughout the process,” Krista acknowledges. “I’ve learned to have patience with parts on back order and experienced parts not fitting as advertised or breaking. I’ve also learned to do serious research, from reading user reviews of products to talking to owners and getting their opinions and experience.”

Krista continues, “I’ve also gleaned a lot about myself. No matter how well things look, I tend to see how they could be improved. I’m a perfectionist and throwing in the towel isn’t an option – ever.”

When asked what her plans for the future are, Krista answers readily, “More power! I haven’t had the car dynoed yet, but the estimate I’ve been given is 650 horsepower. I’ll be adding Injector Dynamics 1050 injectors and a Lund tune for E85 gas to up the ante.”

Race Red Rhonda’s rear flanks. (Photo by Rob Finkelman.)

Continuous additions notwithstanding, Krista admits that she is happy with the way the car is coming along. “She became my version of a race car. What had once been a pipe dream is now a reality. It’s been an amazing transformation. She just looks so good! My only complaint is finding a safe place to park this devil. Have to keep her safe from grocery carts and door dings!”

Krista has shown the car a bit in local Southern California shows such as Fabulous Fords, and even took the first place at Mustangs After Dark in the Ultra Modified category. She plans to attend more shows in the future and is already registered for the 2019 Ponies at the Pike show.

As for the track, Krista and Race Red Rhonda can be found at the Irwindale drag strip nearly every week. “I love it there. People come up and check her out. It’s so cool!”

Reflecting on this nearly two-year odyssey, Krista looks to the bigger picture. “I’ve always loved cars. I think they are an extension of us in a way. Some people may not understand, as to them, a car is simply a way to get them from point A to point B. To others though, it’s a passionate hobby. Most of all, it brings like-minded people together. I’ve met some truly wonderful people just because of my car.”

Roll on, Race Red Rhonda. Roll on…

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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