Rumbling into his high school parking lot, Jonathun Catapano was cool as hell, like an email, and his Fox Body Mustang was still timeless, like a letter. There were only a few of the legendary machines with a parking pass at his campus, but the staying power of these cars was evident, even in the late ’90s.
It’s so loud and bright, you see people’s heads spin around and you can’t be at a stoplight and not have a conversation about it. — Jonathun Catapano
“I’ve owned this car for 26 years, ever since I was 16 years old. It is my first car. I saved up all my money in high school, cashed in some savings bonds my grandparents gave me, and my father gave me a small loan,” Jonathun says of his 1987 Mustang GT. “My father found the car in New York. He purchased the vehicle sight unseen for me from an Auto Trader ad and drove it down to Virginia where I lived at the time. I drove it throughout high school and college, modding it with the traditional bolt-ons the best I could along the way.”
A Ride Along Turned Into A Passion
He initially wanted an IROC Camaro, but a ride in a friend’s 1993 SVT Mustang Cobra showed Jonathun the error of his ways. From there on out, a Fox Body was all he wanted. Having driven this car throughout high school and college, it eventually fell by the wayside as life happened, and other interests appeared. However, he never let go of the car, as he always dreamed of bringing it back as a ‘magazine build’ and one day possibly passing it on to his progeny. Finally, one day, his father inspired Jonathun to focus on the Fox Body again.
He set out to bring the car back with the powertrain from another iconic Mustang variant — the 2003-2004 SVT Mustang Cobra. Ford’s Special Vehicle Team bestowed these snakes with supercharged, four-valve 4.6-liter engines backed by TREMEC six-speed manual transmissions, and independent rear suspensions. When they were under full throttle, the supercharged engines under the hood delivered immense thrust and a unique hiss, which inspired Jonathun to overlook other swap options.
“That Eaton whine,” he recalls. “The first time I heard an ’03 Cobra fly by, I was hooked. I couldn’t afford one, but knew I could one day get my hands on a motor. Plus, I think the four-valve motors are one of the most attractive motors Ford made with those massive valve covers.”
Though the idea had crossed his mind, it was a sad turn of events that moved the project forward. Jonathun wanted to share the experience of bringing the car back with the person who supported his Mustang dream from the beginning.
The First Phase
“It wasn’t until 2013 that I was in a place where I had the time and money to start working on the car again. My father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, so I was looking for a project I could do, or semi-do, with him, so the Fox Body was the perfect fit,” Jonathun says. “I purchased a wrecked 2004 Cobra from Rob Bowen from the Parts Farm in Lyons, Georgia, and began Terminator-swapping the Fox Body. I swapped everything from Kenne Bell to K-member, including the T-56, the rearend, the wiring, the PCM, and even the New Edge interior. With that swap, the car made 750 horsepower, and I drove it around for only 100 miles.”
Unfortunately, the fuel pump died, and Jonathun took the car to a shop, but the project stalled. After switching shops, it bogged down again. Along the way, however, they had smoothed the engine compartment and replaced the factory frame rails with a tubular arrangement that tied into the Maximum Motorsports roll cage for improved structural rigidity.
“The tubular front end shaved some weight and added some really nice lines in the engine bay that are different than anything I have seen before,” Jonathun explains. “Plus, it gave me more room for everything and a clean slate to work from.”
In addition to the freshened front end, they widened the body, molded the side skirts, flush-mounted the glass, smoothed the bodywork, and applied fresh paint.
“I officially got the car back in October of 2020, and I was so over the project that I let the car sit in my garage for two years untouched. The only thing I did was have the motor built in 2020 so it would be done when I was ready to build the car,” Jonathun says. “My father passed away in October of 2022, and this was the one project we never finished. So I decided that it was time to finish the car, and that’s when things took off.
Revitalizing The Fox Body
Eventually, he turned to his friend Brandon Hitchins who had just opened his shop, Sick Motorsports. The pair had a similar mission in mind for the project, and they set out to revamp the car with a focus on the little details.
Among the most striking upgrades is a completely custom twin-turbo system, based on hot- and cold-side tubing created by RoundFab, to support a pair of mirror-image Precision turbochargers shoving 26 pounds of boost through a Wilson Manifolds throttle body into a Hogan sheetmetal intake and into the aforementioned Terminator engine. The engine is stroked to 5.0 liters and fortified with a Kellogg crankshaft, Manley rods, Diamond Racing pistons, and Kurgan Motorsports supercharger cams.
“Having turbos in the fog light openings for the power and clean lines I wanted, there is no ‘kit’ for that,” Jonathun said. “Plus, having cutouts and a full exhaust required it all be custom made.
Controlled by a Holley HP EFI tuned by TKM, the turbo combo blasts out a whopping 1,158 horsepower, which travels through a Tick Performance Level 4 Magnum six-speed manual transmission actuated by a Tick Performance short-throw shifter. It is joined to the engine via a QuickTime bellhousing that shrouds a 26-spline McLeod RXT clutch. It feeds power via a custom steel driveshaft to an 8.8-inch rear end filled with a Detroit TrueTrac differential, G-Force axles, and 3.55 gears.
Underpinning this potent combination is a suspension bolstered with a Maximum Motorsports K-member and A-arms, which secure Ridetech struts and springs. In the back, Strange double-adjustable shocks work with Ridetech airbags and Full Tilt Boogie Racing bushings. Maximum Motorsports subframe connectors work with the aforementioned cage to provide a solid foundation.
A Show Stopping Fox Body
All told, this is a speed machine that looks every bit the part of a show-stopper. Whether it is on the show field or cruising the streets, it turns even more heads than it did when Jonathun pulled into his high school parking lot all those years ago.
It’s so loud and bright, you see people’s heads spin around, and you can’t be at a stoplight and not have a convo about it,” Jonathun said. “I get lots of questions all the time, which is what I love about seeing others take it all in.
Of course, with a car as well-turned out as this one, the real question is if it is truly finished. The answer is what you might expect.
“They are never finished, but I’m living in that 95-percent-finished area,” Jonathun said. “There are some things I want to change and update, but for the most part it’s done and I’m ready to enjoy it!”