Since that day, I have only ever owned Fords! — Sai Li
Like many, Sai Li got his start in the automotive world at the tender age of 15 when he bought his first car — a 1986 Camaro. At that time, with help of his brother in law John, they built a mild, 383-cube stroker engine utilizing all used parts found at various local swap meets.
After graduating high school, Sai decided to sell the Camaro for triple the price of what he bought it for and bought his first Mustang, a Competition Orange 2004 Mustang GT with a turbo onboard. From that point on, the itch for Fords was set in. “Since that day, I have only ever owned Fords!” he confessed.
After campaigning the 2004 for a while, he sold it for a 1995 GT. After the release of the Coyote-powered platforms in 2011, Sai saw its potential and knew he had to get onboard. Sai then sold the ’95 and bought a brand-new, black 2012 Mustang GT in December of 2012. His first goal for the new ride was to run low-11-second e.t.’s in naturally aspirated form. A few bolt-ons later, Sai ran an 11.0 at over 120 miles per hour. He then decided he needed more power. As such, he bolted on a small, wet nitrous kit and now was running in the 10.20 range.
Not particularly fond of nitrous, Sai returned to his turbocharged roots. He then bolted on a twin-turbo setup from ON3 Performance. Thanks to its ease of installation, Sai knew a turbo setup is what belonged under his hood. The first outing with the new twin-turbo setup took place at Bradenton Motorsports Park where he ran a 9.60 at 143 mph. Sai’s car was at the point to where he needed to upgrade most of the suspension components and the transmission.
A typical S197 GT can weigh nearly 4,000 pounds. While Sai’s car still retains much of the factory interior, he removed the rear and passenger seats to shed some weight. The aluminum Kirkey race seat adds protection for Sai both on and off the track.
Knowing its capability and potential, Sai knew he would need to upgrade many of the stock components. Sai swapped the factory 6R80 six-speed automatic transmission in favor of a Turbo 400 from CRT Transmissions. Sai and Brett Lasala installed a PTC 3,500 stall speed converter, Derale transmission cooler and a new aluminum driveshaft from Shaftmasters.
After running mid-9s Sai was long overdue for a roll cage. He tasked TIG Vision to install a 10-point chrome-moly cage that was certified for 8.50 e.t.’s. While the car was at TIG Vision, the team there also installed a parachute and a Kirkey race seat for added safety. Once completed, it was time to show the chassis and suspension some attention. UPR Products supplied the control arms, driveshaft loop and rear anti-roll-bar for this S197. Sai installed Strange Engineering shocks up front complimented by Viking drag springs. Out back the GT boasts Viking adjustable shocks and Eibach springs.
From Then Till Now
Sai beefed up the factory 8.8-inch rearend with a Strange Engineering spool and Strange 35 spline axles, but no upgrade is complete without a set of eye catching wheels and tires. Sai wanted to keep the true integrity of a street car. Without utilizing any wheel tubs, he installed a set of 15×10-inch Champion Billet wheels and 15×4-inch front runners, all wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber. Stopping power for this S197 is provided by a complete drag-race brake kit from Aerospace Components.
At last, the car was ready to handle the gobs of power Sai was going to throw at it.
Sai really liked the Avalanche Gray color scheme on the Shelby GT350, an option not available during his car’s model year. He chose to wrap it in a similar gray vinyl from Avery.
Next, it was time to do a little engine freshening and an upgrade of parts. Sai tore the engine down and sent the block off to Modular Performance Solutions for some much-needed performance upgrades. MPS installed Darton sleeves and a beefier crank support. Upon return, Sai installed new Manley I-beam rods and forged pistons, both capable of handling lots of boost.
The factory heads were sent off to Bret Barber in Tuscon, Arizona, for a little massage work and installation of the custom ground Comp Cams and new Manley valves. Finally, Sai needed to upgrade the fuel system to obtain more than 30 pounds of boost produced by the pair of twin 67mm turbochargers.
He installed a Holley EFI Sniper intake, ID1700 injectors and a Walbro 465 fuel pump regulated through an Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator. Once the engine was complete, it was time for a dyno session for the tune. Sai is known throughout the country for his tuning abilities, and has tuned everything from Pro Mods to imports. Dyno numbers on Sai’s car yielded more than 1,500 horsepower with just over 1,300 lb-ft of torque.
A New Look
Everyone has black cars, I needed a look that no one else had. — Sai Li
The latest and greatest upgrade for Sai was the color.
“Everyone has black cars, I needed a look that no one else had,” he said.
Rather than paint it, he decided to task Tailored Tint in Safety Harbor, Florida, to wrap the vehicle. The color of choice? Avery dark gray, a very similar tone to Ford’s Avalanche Gray on the GT350.
“I went with this gray because I have not seen one S197 in this color, and I am extremely pleased with the attention it gets,” Sai said.
The twin-turbo Coyote platform has become one of the most proven combinations for street/strip action. Many late-model Mustang owners still drive their cars on the street, so dependability is a must. Sai has the ability to tune his setup for as little or as much power depending on the requirements of the situation.
2012 Mustang Specs
• On3 Twin 67mm turbochagers
• CRT Turbo 400 transmission
• PTC 3,500 converter
• Holley Sniper EFI
• Full Avery Dark Gray wrap
• UPR Products suspension
• Tig Vision roll cage
• Champion Billet wheels
• Aerospace Components brakes
“I am a competitive racer, but I like to stick to events in and around Florida,” Sai added.
He has done a little winning with this car over the years all while in its various stages of life. In 2012, he won the 11.50 index class at the FL2K race at Brandenton Motorsports Park. In October of 2014, another triumph came in the way of winning the Forced Induction category at Orlando Speedworld Dragway for the annual VMP Shootout. He also notched a victory during the highly competitive NMRA season opener at Bradenton Motorsports Park in March of 2017.
Competing in a hotly contested class full of heavy hitters didn’t intimidate Sai. Consistent high-7-second passes at nearly 180 miles per hour carried him to victory. Sai plans to keep on campaigning his turbocharged machine around Florida and at the annual Mod Motor Nationals at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
With the grudge scene hot and heavy in the sunshine state right now, you may just see the Gray Ghost hurting a few feelings!