Like most enthusiasts, Craig Mauel’s tastes have evolved over time. Now a DoD contractor living in Jacksonville, Florida, Mauel has been a fan of Ford’s pony car since his youth, but his core game plan for performance changed as the years passed.
“When I was young, I remember looking at the Fox body Mustangs and telling myself that I would own one someday,” he recalls. “The SN95s came out soon after, but I didn’t like the look of them as much. Then Ford released the New Edge body style and I was determined to own one.”
In 2003, Mauel made that dream a reality when he scooped up a 1999 GT. While he was excited to finally have the keys to his own V8-powered Mustang, he admits that it wasn’t really a standout example when he took delivery. “It was nothing special – cloth seats, a five speed gearbox, no hood scoop, 16-inch pony wheels, and white stripes,” he says.
But over the course of the next decade and a half Mauel would continue to wrench on the car, progressively elevating its capability as his tastes and knowledge expanded along the way. “I had an idea of how I wanted to build it when I first got the car, but that has evolved over time,” he tells us. “Since I bought the car, I’ve modified just about every piece of it, and many parts have been changed out several times.”
Today his 1999 GT bears little resemblance to the unassuming low-option coupe he snagged all those years ago. Crucially, it also has the performance to back up the aggressive look. Here’s how it all came together.
Exterior And Chassis
“Not surprisingly, some of the first modifications to the car were ‘03 Cobra wheels, “4.6” fender emblems, and a cat-back exhaust,” Mauel quips. “I also wanted the Saleen look, but to keep it clean. I replaced the 35th Anniversary fender emblems with pony emblems like the 2000 Saleen came with, but I’ve never claimed the car to be a real Saleen, so I didn’t bother with the replica stickers, plaques, and emblems as an attempt to build a clone.”
Mauel says the bodywork continued to change as he honed in on an aesthetic that suited the car. “For several years, the car had a ram air style hood but I could never really convince myself that I liked the look,” he explains. “Then I picked up a 4” cowl hood which really set the look that I was going for.”
But while the aero bits and purposeful stance help give the car an eye-catching aesthetic, it’s the unusual shade of paint it wears that really resonates with Mauel. “The color of the car is probably my favorite part – I think it’s one of the best blues to come on a Mustang,” he says. Atlantic Blue was only available for three model years (1998-2000) and real 99-2000 Saleens in Atlantic Blue are extremely rare. I have heard that they only made eleven of them.”
Turning our attention to the chassis, Mauel bolstered the Mustang’s braking capability by swapping out the GT’s front brake components for the setup from a 2003 Mustang SVT Cobra, which clamp down on 13-inch cross-drilled and slotted Brembo rotors.
The suspension has seen its fair share of attention too, with factory K-member and A-arms replaced by PA Racing tubular hardware, while Strange 10-way single-adjustable struts are paired up with Strange 12-inch 150-pound coilover springs. Out back TRZ Motorsports supplies the double adjustable upper and lower control arms, Viking double-adjustable shocks are matched up with Viking 12-inch 150-pound springs, and a TRZ Motorsports spherical bushing setup replaces the factory rubber pieces. Maximum Motorsports’ full length weld-in subframe connectors are also on hand to bolster chassis rigidity.
The cabin of Mauel’s GT is all business, with Kirkey Pro Drag race seats and RaceQuip harnesses keeping occupants in safe and secure during passes down the drag strip, while the rear seat has been tossed for weight savings with a custom seat delete kit.
Engine vitals are monitored by way of an AutoMeter Lunar series instrument cluster, an AutoMeter Lunar series Monster tachometer, an AutoMeter boost gauge, an AutoMeter coolant gauge, and a PLX Devices DM6 wide band gauge.
A Maximum Motorsports six point roll cage with swing out door bars brings both chassis rigidity and an added measure of safety. “I added a cage last year to make the car NHRA legal to 10.0, and hoping to see some deep 10 second runs with the newest setup,” he notes.
Under The Hood
“I did the 4v swap in 2006 after going through a couple centrifugal supercharger combos,” Mauel explains. “At that time the four valve swap wasn’t very common, but there was more power potential. The first 4v in the car was from a 2003 Mach 1 was naturally aspirated and made 328rwhp/344tq. The car was very fun to drive, and sounded great too.”
But it wasn’t long before he was ready for more power. “I later pieced together a Vortech S-trim and fabricated a custom intercooler setup in my garage,” he says. “This setup made 488rwhp/402tq and ran high 11s in the quarter mile.”
Fast forward to today and the car is now sporting a fully built four-valve motor sourced from a 2003 Cobra. “The engine failed a leak down test and was torn apart to discover that it had fried seven of the eight pistons,” he tells us.
“I took the entire longblock to Excessive Motorsports/Modular Head Shop in central Florida for a full build including better pistons, higher compression, ARP everything, TSS billet oil pump gears, ported heads, valve job, bronze valve guides, and replaced valve seats. The longblock also received MHS stage 3 blower cams and I sold the S-trim to buy the JT-trim. I also added a Cobra Engineering head cooling mod for the extra insurance. I have basically addressed every common issue that Terminator owners face.” The current setup is now churning out 632 horsepower and 542 pound-feet of torque at the wheels.
In 2012 Mauel also swapped out the Tremec T-45 gearbox for a T-56 unit after the horsepower started to exceed what factory transmission could handle. “Since the car will now see more track time, a 4R70W is currently being built with full manual valve body and trans brake,” he notes.
These days Mauel’s GT is anything but a garden-variety Mustang, and folks are taking notice. Along with scoring a Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords Editor’s Choice award and being featured car in Mustang Driver magazine, Mauel says the car has amassed a number of local car show trophies in recent years, most of which have focused on that potent mill nestled in the engine bay.
“Next modifications include a ported 6” short runner Mach 1 intake to increase higher RPM horsepower and switching from 93 octane to E85,” he says. “We’re hoping to see well over 700rwhp.”
For the time being though, Mauel says he’s pretty stoked with how this decidedly long term build has progressed. “With the race blower and a Procharger Big Red blow off valve vented to atmosphere, the car sounds like a jet and demands attention everywhere I take it,” he tells us. “It’s not the most comfortable car to drive these days, but I take a lot of pride in the car that I built (with a lot of help).”