It’s a project that’s taken a year and a half to complete, cost almost double it’s original budget, and caused the owner dozens of sleepless nights. And it’s this one-of-one wide-body, Alpha Male Ford Mustang crankandpiston.com has been invited to drive. No pressure then…We cannot display this gallery
The first sign that this is not your av-er-age Mustang comes shortly after Franz slides into the awaiting Recaro and blips the throttle. The idling 5-litre V8, already rumbling the concrete beneath us, unleashes an almighty roar, building from a low, menacing growl into a furious bellow that, I swear, causes the shuttered doorway next to us to flex. It’s a note of raw, muscular anger, polished to savage perfection by the aftermarket exhaust pipes. A note that Franz can’t help laughing at before giving the throttle another heavy blip.
It’s no surprise the Simon Motorsport co-founder is keen to show off his latest creation in flamboyant style. After all, it’s a project that arrived with the car in April 2015, was launched in prototype form at that year’s SEMA show, and has taken a scarcely credible 16 months to complete thanks to one spiralling issue after another. To see the wide-body muscle car on which he’s spent nearly a year and a half and more than a printable amount of money developing finally ready for its regional launch is clearly a major relief to the man himself.
“You can imagine, huh?”, he laughs. “I know it takes a long time to develop such a thing, but realistically a project like this, without hiccups, should take four to eight weeks, maximum. Unfortunately my plans got really screwed up” – owing to a build partnership that went sour – “and the dream turned into a nightmare.”
Like the engine note still echoing round the shop floor, the aptly named Alpha Male Mustang is particularly visceral to look at. And yet beneath the carbon fibre side skirts, bonnet scoop, modified front and rear bumpers, and 14 other lightweight components that make up the bodykit lies a stock, 2016 5.0 Ford Mustang. A base that Japanese specialists Rocket Bunny and Liberty Walk have, apparently, never officially used for their own high profile designs. Franz’s reasoning? Well, commercially, with Ford importing Mustangs into the Middle East for the first time and the consequent rise in customer interest that brings with it, seemed a no brainer. But more so than that, he just wanted to do ‘something crazy’.
“I just loved the way the new Mustang looks, and I think it inspired me to create something special. Something nobody had seen before. Of course that’s easier said than done. But I’ve been working closely with [Seattle-based designer] Rob Evans and we initially went big, very Shelby GT 350 style: the Eleanor ducktail spoiler was originally twice as large. But I felt that was too much. I want something crazy, not something stupid.”
Nailing the final design though proved fiddlier than either Rob or Franz expected, with at one stage more than 30 bodykit templates on the table. Doing ‘something crazy’ is all well and good, but doing so without said kit falling off in an expensive shower of carbon fibre and shame is quite another. Hence those sturdy looking Rocket Bunny-esque bolts on the over-fendered rear wheel arches, and additional air vents and carbon fibre winglets across the flanks and bumpers. Curiously though, the greatest headache was the fuel filler cap, the turret of which is attached separately so the cap can be opened manually with a twist. “I hate the way, on most bodykits, the fuel cap is cut out, which ruins the lines,” Franz explains before relating a story about the Alpha Male’s first fuel run. It ended with the fuel cap in his hand, ripped completely free from its mountings.
“Like the engine note still echoing round the shop floor, the aptly named Alpha Male Mustang is particularly visceral to look at”
With the engine still idling and threatening to derail our conversation, I have to ask what modifications have been made beneath the surface. Cue another savvy grin from Franz.
“There are a few changes, most of which I’ll have to keep to myself for the moment as it’s not been on the dyno yet. We discussed adding either a supercharger or a turbo conversion, but it’s a beauty queen. You’re not going to drag a car like this, so why bother? What I can tell you is that, today, it probably sits at around 500bhp and there’s more torque now too. So yeah, it’s much quicker than a stock 5.0 Mustang.”
It’s this last comment that segues the conversation in the direction I’d hoped. I’ve been politely waiting for a gap in the conversation to ask for a go behind the wheel. The stock, sixth generation 435bhp 5.0 Mustang GT I have driven; its modified, 500bhp wide-body Alpha Male equivalent I have not, and I’m aching to see how $25K-worth of bodykit and engine tuning have affected the drive. Another smile from Franz as he asks me to open the shutters and alights once more to roll the brute out into the yard, emerging just seconds later with the remote control to the air suspension in-hand.
Almost immediately, I wonder if I’ve made a mistake. Turns out, during our conversation, the already slammed suspension was not even in its lowest setting, Franz duly showing me just how close the bodykit comes to rubbing those candy red AMP forged wheels: you could stick a playing card in the gap if you have the attention to detail and patience, but very little else.
He can’t be serious, can he? Drive a one-of-one edition modified Mustang with an elongated – and lowered – carbon fibre front splitter, limited turning circle and barely any ground clearance at all? He is.
He’s also got another surprise in store for me. This particular Mustang was imported straight from the United States with a six-speed manual. A prospect I’d normally be salivating over were it not for the fact that the tweaks made beneath the bonnet has left the V8 “a bit rough” on the idle. A tentative touch with the clutch will stall the engine. Go too far the other way and I risk lighting the rear tyres and potentially shredding the bodywork that surrounds them.
“He can’t be serious, can he? Drive a one-of-one edition modified Mustang with barely any ground clearance at all? He is.”
The opening few kilometres of our drive out of the industrial park are consequently done through gritted teeth and with ever-whitening knuckles: every few metres, an errant clunk or low rumbling has me paranoid that part of the Alpha Male bodykit is kerbing itself on the asphalt. Every few metres I check all three mirrors to make sure I’ve not left part of the wide-body behind in my 31kph ‘haste’. Every few metres, I’m convinced that this $75K creation is about to betray me.
Franz, riding shotgun next to me, is clearly amused, which somehow is making things worse, but takes pity on me at the first set of traffic lights by raising both the front and rear suspension arms remotely (ah, there’s that rough idle). A press of the button and the rear suspension arms extend, causing the front end to nod before they too are lined up. In all honesty, it’s a bit of a faff, and even Franz admits that the prototype system has suffered more glitches than he’d expected. It will probably be swapped out soon.
Raised to not quite full ride height, the visual difference is not as tangible as the sensation from within, but it’s enough to give my tension filled jaw some respite at least. For the first time since we left, I can start to relax and actually enjoy the ride. Turns out that air suspension is really quite comfortable. As is the cabin.
Despite the menacingly reworked exterior, the interior feels and looks like it’s been plucked at hoc from a standard Mustang (which I suppose it has). The Recaros, and Performance Pack triad of gauges are an exception, but Ford’s solid build quality remains intact, and the aluminium flick switches linked to the climate control offer a charming parallel to the swatches of leather upholstery. If I can ignore the almighty high-pitch emanating from the air suspension generator mounted in the boot – again, prototype – I can almost tricky myself into believing this is a standard Mustang. That is until Franz tells me to drop a couple of gears and nail the throttle.
Holy sweet mother…
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