California Special: Nichole George loves racing her GT/CS S550

Nichole George grew up like many other car enthusiasts: in the garage working on the car with dad. Her father/daughter project was a 1968 Mercury Cougar that was built with track days in mind. As the build progressed, Nichole’s dad became scared to race it, “The more I asked if I could drive it the more he said no. So I got my own car.”

That first car was a 2000 Mustang GT convertible. It was followed by a 2014 S197 Mustang GT, which led her to the car she daily drives today: a 2016 California Special Mustang GT.

2016 Mustang GT California Special | Photography by Nicole Ellan James

Nichole had been gravitating towards the 2016 Mustang for some time. She loved it in White and shared that she bought the car on a whim, “It was a holiday weekend, and I thought, why not go stick my nose in there and check the mustangs out?”

As luck would have it, Nichole found the car she was looking for at a local Ford Dealership and fell in love with the S550 during a test drive. “The sales guy was rude, and I was not having it,” Nichole said. She left the dealership and found another version of the car she wanted at a different dealer. “I went on another test drive and fell in love all over again.”

Immediately after she purchased the car in September 2017, she went to the Irwindale Drag strip to see what her new 5.0 S550 could run. Two weeks later she began modifying the vehicle.

“I was tired of watching the guys have all the fun,” Nichole said. “I also wanted to build a better relationship with my daughter, she is about to race her junior dragster in the coming months.”

Nicole George and her S550

Her goal with the S550 build has been to create the best street/strip Mustang possible. “Ford did a great job providing an awesome platform, and I want to take it to the next level. It wasn’t long ago that having a 12-second street car was fast. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a 9-second street car!?”

The first upgrade Nichole performed was a C&L cold air intake. A Lund Racing Tune followed shortly after as well as IRS Bushing and Steeda lockout kit.

Today, the 5.0-liter Coyote is hooked to a 6r80 transmission and utilizes an 8.8-inch rear end. The car wears a set of Purple Haze IRS Drag Spec Baer Brakes with JMS Avenger Series Wheels wrapped in drag radials.

Under the hood, modifications include a JLT oil separator, ‘18 GT manifold, 47-lb injectors, Hedman long-tube stainless steel headers, and the car features Steeda and BMR suspension components.

The most laborious modification for Nichole to commit to was converting to E85 fuel. “I was so worried I would damage the car. It took me a year and a half to get over that.”

In total, Nichole’s S550 makes 480 horsepower and 400 ft-lbs torque.

“We were pretty intent on dipping into the 11’s with the stock configuration. We opted for a two-step from MSD and a trip to a local converter specialist in hopes that he could modify the OEM Converter Core.”

The MSD two-step on her S550 greeted her with challenges. “MSD did not make one to fit the 16 5.0-liter, so I had a friend help us with a new wiring harness and make it work. The first 600 miles were great. Then the first MSD went out.”

According to Nichole, the MSD would light up as if it was working though it was not. The MSD was swapped out for another unit that worked briefly until the car had started to run poorly. 

“At this point, I had to cut into the wiring harness of my coils, it’s an expensive and risky job, but it was the only way to remove this MSD. With how expensive it was to me, I had Damien at LBM undo all the work and get the car back to me the way it was before the MSD two-step had been added.“

Nichole shared that during this time she wanted to get the converter upgraded, and it took the shop a few weeks to tell her there was nothing they could do. “That was a costly waste of time and money. It had been four months of hassle and stress. I wanted to get rid of the car and throw the white flag up, but I didn’t and got the car is running better than ever with the wiring back to normal.”

Days after the MSD two-step issue had been resolved, the camshaft sensor and position sensor went out on the car as a result of the wiring mishap. “In short, the converter could not be modified to the two-step harness interference. It was a really bad decision that cost us time, money and frustration. Next time I will do better research and listen to my peers.”

“I do not know if I will ever be finished or just constantly keep improving and going faster,” Nichole said. She added her future plans for the car include a supercharger from Edelbrock.

Nichole currently daily drives her S550. She takes it to car shows occasionally but is much more interested in drag racing and races it just about each week. Nichole has competed in the 2017 NMCA Mustang Madness and was the 10th place overall season winner. She had won three Match Race Madness race event wins, was runner-up in the IDRC index 12.5, and finished the Summit Series Pro division in 10th place.

“I would like to pass this car down to my girls someday so they can run it when they are 16. This car has brought my family together and helped me make new friends, and enjoy racing all over again. The Adrenaline rush I get from it is something I will never give up on.”

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About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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