The quest to make a modern ride stand out from the crowd can be a tricky path to navigate. These days, bone-stock factory offerings can be shockingly capable in nearly every aspect of measurable performance, and toying with the delicate balance between performance, reliability and comfort that an automaker’s engineers have established for a vehicle can have some element of risk.
But for enthusiasts like Ron Cody, that’s never really been a deterrent. You see, he got his start modifying cars during an era when car companies left customers with no choice but to look to the aftermarket for a higher level of performance.
Ron would work his way through a varied roster of different project cars before joining the fraternity of Blue Oval fanatics, but an ’01 Mustang GT convertible he bought in 2009 would seal the deal. “That really opened me up to the Mustang world and the endless modifications that could be done to these cars,” he said. (Photo Credit: Jason Reiss)
“I bought my first car in 1992 when I was 17,” Cody told us. “It was a 1983 Buick Regal. Growing up in Philly, I was mostly into cruising while blasting my music at extreme levels, so my first few cars had stereo systems worth more than the vehicles themselves.”
I’ve never really had a plan for the car – I just wanted it to be fast, look cool, and be somewhat unique. — Ron Cody
Over the years, Ron’s taste in cars and his desire for performance evolved, eventually leading to this; his sinister-looking 2012 Mustang GT coupe, a car which has garnered enough recognition from the car community to be used as a display vehicle for the 2016 and 2017 Philadelphia International Auto Shows. But don’t assume that just because this S197 sports a low, mean look that it’s a victim of form over function. This Mustang can go every bit as well as it shows.
Joining The Fray
Though Cody’s early enthusiast leanings focused more on the soundtrack to the journey rather than how quickly he got there, the go-fast bug would eventually find him, too.
The side profile of Cody’s GT gets its sleek look from a Street Scene front fascia and side skirts, while the Mustang’s factory black paintwork is nicely offset by the Rohana RC22 wheels, which received a custom powdercoat treatment from Vibrant Finish. An adjustable Air Lift Suspension allows Cody to drop the car to the ground when parked and raise it when more ride height is needed while he’s cruising around on the less-than-perfect roadways of Pennsylvania.
“It wasn’t until a few years and a few cars [after the Buick] when I bought a 1991 Eagle Talon that I became really interested in the performance aspect of a car,” he said. “Since then, I’ve had several cars that I’ve enjoyed customizing. Some of those cars included a few Mitsubishi Eclipses as well as a 1995 Dodge Avenger in which I installed many mods including a body kit, TVs, coilovers, and a custom turbo kit with a manual-transmission swap.”
A Cervini’s hood with heat extractors gives the Mustang's look some added aggression while helping expel hot air from the engine bay. The rear bumper and spoiler come from Saleen. The exhaust system gets a volume increase by way of a Heartthrob muffler-delete kit, while the custom tailpipes are flanked by a Saleen diffuser.
It wasn’t long before Cody heard the siren’s song of the Blue Oval and the vast aftermarket available to Mustang enthusiasts.
“My first Mustang was a 1998 V6 that I bought through eBay – yes, eBay,” he recalled with some humility. “I only got to enjoy it for a few months before deciding to sell it. My second Mustang was a stock Mineral Grey 2001 convertible GT that I bought in 2009.”
The driver and front passenger in Cody’s GT are snugly held in place during performance maneuvering by a pair of Cipher racing seats, while gauges from Aerosport and Prosport help Cody keep tabs on the engine's vitals. Under the hood a JLT cold air intake channels atmosphere into a VMP TVS 2.3-liter supercharger, while 47 lb/hr fuel injectors from Ford Performance ensure the Coyote is properly fed.
This time the wrenching started to take on a stronger focus in the form of performance capabilities. Cody would play on the Mustang’s strengths, adding a full exhaust system to let the 4.6-liter modular roar, a Vortech V2 supercharger to add some haste to its pace, and an array of bits and pieces from the likes of Saleen, Roush, and SVT to bolster the car’s overall aesthetic.
“This was a beautiful car that really opened me up to the Mustang world, and the endless modifications that could be done to these cars,” he explained.
Since car audio was originally Cody’s path into modifying cars, it’s no surprise to see a burly aftermarket stereo on hand here as well. The JVC touchscreen head unit is amplified by a 1,000-watt Pioneer amp, while the enclosures for the Pioneer subwoofers in the trunk were designed for quick removal when Cody heads to the track, where he’s posted a personal best e.t. of 10.99 at 132 MPH, despite some issues with the MT-82 manual gearbox.
While the ’01 GT had satiated Cody’s appetite for performance and style, his aspirations had continued to expand over the years. As 2011 was drawing to a close, he was ready to move on to an entirely new project.
“In January of 2012, I got the itch to mod something new, so I traded my 2001 GT for a brand new base-model 2012 GT,” he said. “The only option I wanted was the Brembo brakes because I knew I would likely change out many of the optional parts.”
Impressed with the car’s performance right out of the box, Cody would initially focus on the car’s aesthetic, swapping over to a Street Scene front fascia and side skirts, along with a Saleen body kit for the rear, and added a custom stereo system to give his tunes the proper thump. But it wasn’t long before the urge to make the car faster shifted his focus.
Being only 20 minutes from Maple Grove Raceway, I was frequently able to run the car down the strip. — Ron Cody
“Being only 20 minutes from Maple Grove Raceway, I was frequently able to run the car down the strip,” he explained. “With just a pair of drag radials a FRPP tune, I recorded a best time of 12.09. However, since speed is addictive, I later decided to up the car’s power.”
Cody would install a VMP Performance Stage 2 supercharger kit that brought the Mustang’s output to 594 horsepower at the rear wheels, and he would later post a personal best e.t. in the manual gearbox-equipped GT of 10.99 at 132 mph.
The Street Scene front fascia and splitter allow for plenty of airflow to the Afco dual-pass heat exchanger, which in turn helps keep the blower running efficiently. Cody says that he was well aware ahead of time that he would be modding the then-new Mustang when he started looking for one to buy, so the Brembo brake package ended up being one of the few options he considered necessary.
While that kind of pull is certainly impressive, Cody says his favorite modifications designed to improve handling rather simply boosting engine output.
“One of the most noticeable additions I made to the car was an Airlift Performance suspension,” he explained. “Having the ability to cruise low when I want, raise it high when I need, slam it when parked, and cut a 10-second quarter-mile pass, is just – excuse my language – way f*ckin’ cool!”
Like most performance projects, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not Cody is done with the Mustang yet.
“In the five-plus years that I’ve owned this car I’ve invested a lot of time, work and money into it that I will never get back, but I have zero regrets and I love how it has turned out,” he told us. “I’ve never really had a plan for the car – I just wanted it to be fast, look cool, and be somewhat unique. I’m also proud to say that all of the work except for the paint and clutch install was done by myself and my son, which was most of the fun.“
While the bodywork and additional horsepower certainly bolster this Mustang’s desirability, Cody says that the Air Lift Performance adjustable air suspension is perhaps his favorite mod of all, as it provides a way to change the car’s ride height on the fly, allowing the car to look low and mean when cruising and parked, but also be quickly raised to clear speed bumps, steep driveways, and all the other potential dangers that low cars face.
So what’s next? It should come as no surprise that Cody has yet another project in the works.
“I’ve recently purchased – or should I say ‘rescued’ – a 1987 Mustang GT T-top that my son and I are going to restore to its former glory,” he said. “We’ve created a YouTube channel called Beastly Garage to document this process. Although we don’t expect many people to watch, it should be an interesting experience for both of us.”