Let’s be real; we have all thought about buying a project car someone else has already built. On the one hand, it’s cheaper and more accessible, on the other you never know the skill level that assembled the build. But sometimes you get lucky, such as Martin Stan Lee did with his 2003 Ford Mustang Mach 1 project car.
Martin shared he bought the Mach 1 in April of 2017. At the time, it was 75-percent complete and had a basic forged 4.6-liter short block with its stock heads, stock cams, and stock intake manifold. It also came with a modified On3 turbo kit with a Precision 7675 turbo, massive fuel system, Cobra T-56 transmission, and some suspension work.
“Since my previous race car was a Cobra, I wanted to go with a 4v modular build again,” Martin told Power & Performance. He added, however, the car had a ton of issues that needed to be addressed.
“For starters, the McLeod RST clutch was slipping, the rear upper control arm bushings were shot, the rear brake lines were both leaking and not keeping pressure, the ABS delete block was malfunctioning, one wastegate was stuck open, and the rear coil overs were not set up correctly. There was literally no suspension movement on the rear, terrible drivability issues, the list goes on and on” he said.
Martin said he addressed the significant issues first. Next, he upgraded to a McLeod RXT clutch and a 26 spline input shaft and swapped out bushings in the rear, relocated the mounts on the rear coil overs, swapped out ABS delete blocks, and added brand new brake lines on the back. Finally, Martin upgraded the On3 wastegates to Precision units and got the car retuned.
“At that point, it was making 860 rwhp and 800 lbs-ft torque on 26psi boost,” Martin said. “The car was fun but still not fast enough to me.”
Martin looked at the dyno graph and determined the stock cams were struggling at around 5700 rpms and there was too much back pressure from a single 3inch downpipe dump.
To remedy the issue, Martin said: “I had Todd Warren spec me some cams specifically for my set up.” He added PBK Motorsports installed the cams, valve springs and retainers in Arizona for a very reasonable price.
Next, Martin had Rudd Performance Motorsports fabricate a 4inch down pipe for the car, “they did an amazing job considering the amount of space they were working with.”
According to Martin, after those upgrades and the retune at the same 26psi boost level, the car put down 1040 rwhp and 1070 lbs-ft torque.“Needless to say, I was satisfied. My struggles now are traction. And I have a plan of suspension upgrades to deal with that soon,” Martin said.
He added he is still wavering on if he wants to keep the six-speed or switch to a TH400 transmission. “I know it would be faster with an automatic, but I do love banging gears and having decent highway mileage.”
The car has been in its current state for approximately five months. Martin said he drives it almost every weekend and shows it reasonably regularly at local car shows.
“I remember as a kid, in 1999 when the first New Edge Mustangs showed up, I was instantly in love,” Martin said. He added that his favorite part of the build is the way the car looks.
Martin replaced the stock front bumper with a Terminator bumper, which allowed for over double the surface area exposed for the intercooler. Additionally, the stock Mach 1 wing was removed and replaced it with a Saleen S281 version.
What this build has taught Martin is that “racecars break. It’s just part of the game. The car is a constant struggle honestly. At this level, you eventually find all the weak links, but thankfully the engine and transmission seem to be doing fine.”
He added he has gone through two Precision turbos due to the oil drain not being routed correctly and had some random loose ground wires that caused electrical issues.
“Yes, every time something breaks, I kick myself in the ass, curse the world, and ask myself why I’m doing this. But I know why. There is nothing in the world that feels equivalent to extreme acceleration, and I love that feeling.”
- Engine: 4.6L forged short block, Todd Warren custom turbo cams, everything else stock
- Power Adder (If present): Precision 7675 Gen 1 Turbo
- Transmission: Cobra T-56 with 26 spline input shaft
- Rearend: 31 spline Truetrac diff, Moser axles, 3.31 gears
- Horsepower/Torque Numbers: 1040 rwhp / 1070 lbs-ft
- Chassis/Suspension: SVE full length subrame connectors, QA1 tubular k member and A arms, QA1 bumpsteer kit, Strange coil overs and 10 way adjustable shocks (front and rear).
- Brakes: Stock Mach 1 equipment
- Tires/Wheels: Front- Weld RTS 15 x 4, Mickey Thompson Sportsman front runners. Rear- Weld RTS 15 x 10, Hoosier QTP 28 x 10
- Exterior (Paint, wrap, aero, custom bodywork, etc.): 2003 Cobra front bumper, Saleen S281 rear spoiler
- Interior: Triple gauge pod (coolant temp, wideband, boost), Touch screen JVC stereo
- Driveline parts (rearend, clutch, driveshaft, etc.): McLeod RXT clutch, 26 spline input shaft, stock Terminator Aluminum drive shaft, Truetrac diff, Moser axles.
Photography by Charles Siritho