The term gentleman driver is not well known outside automobile racing circles, but it is, in fact, one of the oldest phrases associated with the hobby/sport. More than 100 years ago members of affluent families who wanted to race their vehicles (instead of being properly chauffeured around town) basically bought their way into the growing sport by either purchasing race cars outright or having specially-built racers constructed to suit the needs of the track and environment. The practice continues to this day, with privateers who fund their own racing schedule, usually participating on the “under card” of a major race and against other similarly funded competitors.
But the gentleman racer’s concept of a made-to-order race car reaching the common man didn’t really happen until the 1960s. Although for years folks could order any type of car with as many factory options Detroit could dream up, everything changed with the dawn of the muscle car era. The ability to walk into any of the Big Three’s dealerships and order a big-block–equipped, radio-deleted, stripped-down and carpetless rocket ship without even a single hubcap meant anybody could immediately become “the fastest car in the valley,” at least until someone else showed up with the latest factory offering.
While the gas crunch of the early 1970s tamped the sales of these cars in the showrooms, the desire of those to be able to order a monster motor in a brand-new car has never waned. Detroit has flirted with the concept over the years (think the 1987 Buick GNX, 1995 Corvette ZR1, or 1999 Ford Mustang FR500), but in the past few years there has been renewed interest in not only bringing technology and style back to the car buying public but a whole lotta horsepower, too.
Very few vehicles have been around for more than 50 years in one shape or another that can compare to the Mustang. Recently an examination of the Mustang’s storied history brought together some of the most recognized names in the automotive industry to build and offer a truly unique vehicle for 2017: the Hurst Kenne Bell R-Code Mustang.
The project started with Larry Weiner at Performance West Group in Bonsall, California, a company that is no stranger to building one-off contemporary hot rods that consistently backs up their award-winning design with a performance aspect that demands attention. Performance West is the company manufacturers turn to when they want to create a living, breathing car out of an over-the-top idea-a car that can then be shown and promoted around the country.
For this particular project, the factory suspension was left intact, but a set of Hurst lowering springs was added to change the attitude of the Mustang as well as altitude. A set of 20×9 and 20×10 Hurst Stunner wheels (chrome plated with Hurst gold paint highlighting the spokes) were wrapped in Nitto 265/35ZR20 and 305/30ZR20 hides.
The fastback’s exterior was dressed head to toe by Performance West with performance goodies that tells you this ain’t no stocker. The side splitters under the rockers are wider than stock and have small winglets at their ends. A custom rear wing and diffuser was added, as were a custom front fascia and new upper and lower grille surrounds (with urethane honeycomb mesh inside custom frames). The Daytona-type front splitter (with adjustable Heim joint–operated uprights) is a race course recommendation-not really for street use unless you live on an airstrip tarmac.
The hood, which now opens with the help of stainless steel gas-charged struts, was reworked for two reasons: aesthetics and function. The twin fresh-air hood inlets help cool the beast beneath: a 3.2L Kenne Bell twin-screw, liquid-cooled polished supercharger (outfitted with Kenne Bell injectors, fuel rails, a 4 1/2-inch inlet tube, and KB’s Mammoth 168mm throttle-body) that, with just 10 psi, boosts the 5.0L Coyote motor’s stock, albeit respectable, 435 hp to a very impressive 750 ponies (at the engine) with California-spec 91 octane fuel. That magic happens with the fact that it has a CARB EO, making it street legal in all 50 states and Canada.
Even though Kenne Bell creates some pretty impressive dyno numbers with this Coyote-unique kit, keep in mind the unit used for this project is KB’s “entry level” 3.2 system. The company also has three larger kits available, with the 4.7 unit capable of producing well over 1,500 hp without you ever having to pop the heads off the motor!
Customizing continued with Hurst Gold valve covers. Hurst exhaust components by Flowmaster include a 3-inch stainless cat-back dual exhaust system with a crossover pipe and dual quad 4-inch stainless double-wall tips finished with the Hurst logo. The original six-speed Ford transmission stayed in place, although a short-throw Hurst Comp Plus cue-ball shifter with reverse lockout was added to aid in gear selection.
Once the drivetrain was figured out and body mods completed, the coupe was painted by Rounsville Auto Body in San Bernardino, California, with PPG’s basecoat/clearcoat Envirobase paints. After interpreting the initial drawings for the car, artist/pinstriper Lil Louie (San Bernardino, California) laid out the car’s graphics for Rounsville to follow in a classic 1960s design: dual Hurst Gold stripes down the hood, over the roof, and back past the decklid. Louie also added all of the other Hurst and Kenne Bell graphic logos seen throughout the vehicle.
Inside the Mustang you’ll find highly bolstered Recaro high-back racing seats covered in pearl-white and black Katzkin Tuscany leather, with additional Hurst logos embroidered in place at the neckline. The door panels and console lid are stitched to match the seats, and the balance of the interior is highly appointed factory Ford fare.