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GT Greatness

A FPV GT that raises the bar for late-model Ford modification and presentation

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

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At a glance...

  • 03 FPV GT
  • Big cams, forged pistons and aftermarket rods
  • Eight throttle induction and Haltech management
  • Alcon brakes
  • Custom pearl paint and leather trim
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Modifying a car has become all too easy these days. Spend some dollars on wheels and suspension, give the engine a few bolt-ons, bung on some fibreglass styling and – voila! – you have a modified streeter. No need to crack open the engine, no need to do anything with the interior and certainly no reason to splurge on a custom paint job.

Well, Joe Russo (aka Big Joe) is here to show what can be achieved if you’re willing to go all-out.

Joe is a Ford fan from way back and a string of modified blue oval products has served him well over the years. But, really, he always craved a GT. That day of fulfilment came in 2003 when Joe picked up a brand-spankers Blood Orange FPV GT – 290kW of Boss glory.

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Joe was pretty impressed by the new GT but thought it was important to give it a few mods to keep pace with the rival Holdens. At the time, nobody had much experience tuning the Boss 290 engine but Joe struck gold when he approached Sydney’s Autotech Engineering. Spiro and the team were thorough and careful in their approach, treating it to a high-flow exhaust, cold air induction, under-drive pulleys, a lightened flywheel, shortened diff ratio and engine management changes. These mods gave a conservative 260hp (191kW) at the wheels, 13.2 second quarter mile performance and near-factory refinement.

At the same time, Joe had given the car an effective visual boost and the machine was pretty well known in the Ford camp. Recognising this, Autotech Engineering, Haltech and DC&O decided to sponsor the car with their products and services. And Joe was only too happy to participate!

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The engine has since been rebuilt by Autotech Engineering and includes Aries forged pistons (maintaining the standard compression ratio), Scat rods, a heat-treated crank and full balancing. The DOHC heads are also ported and stuffed with an aggressive set of custom cams and firmer springs.

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The crowning glory are the eight 50mm DC&O throttle bodies which give the race look while ensuring near-zero intake restriction. The conversion was relatively complicated because it involved swapping from electronic throttle control to a cable set-up – a new pedal assembly was required as part of the conversion.

The worked 5.4-litre V8 spits its exhaust gasses through a custom twin 3 inch exhaust with a pair of canon mufflers visible at the rear. Custom 4>1 headers are employed up front.

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A Haltech E11 programmable ECU is configured as a stand-alone management computer working with Haltech supplied igniters for direct-fire ignition. Spiro from Autotech Engineering says the standard injectors are up to the job but a Walbro high-flow pump is required.

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With all the good stuff, Joe’s Boss engine has delivered between 470 and 500hp (345 – 368kW) at the wheels on a range of Dyno Dynamics chassis dynos – and it is known that even more could be extracted with a more aggressive tune. Remember, the engine still runs the standard compression ratio (which allows the use of pump fuel) so there is a lot of flexibility for further power.

Not that it’s needed.

The factory five-speed manual is holding up okay but, so far, five driveshafts have gone to heaven. A Mal Wood shifter, Xtreme ceramic clutch, billet flywheel and a 4.11:1 diff complete the driveline mods to date.

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Transferring torque to the pavement are Nitto 235/35 and 275/30 tyres fitted on 20 inch Raven alloys. These hide a tasty brake upgrade compromising Alcon six-pot front calipers and 383mm discs while the rear uses four-pot Alcons with 343mm discs. Braided lines and high-performance pads are incorporated as part of the upgrade.

With a whole lot of time and money invested in the mechanicals, Joe hasn’t let the body escape major modification.

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The body has been draped in sensational orange pearl which is based on a Lamborghini colour. Splashes of custom pearl black on the bonnet, wing, bumper aprons, fog light area and side window surrounds add to the appeal. And the body kit? Well, it’s the standard FPV set-up - it just looks different thanks to the new colour.

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Open the door to a standard FPV GT and it’d be easy to conclude there’s no need for modification. But that’s the wrong attitude in a car like this. Joe has treated the standard seats, door trims, console, steering wheel and other trim pieces to colour-coded orange leather and stitching. The sound system has also been started again from scratch with a JVC DVD and LCD monitor, front splits, 6 x 9s, an amp and 12 inch sub. JB Hi-Fi can be thanked for the sound set-up but a more extravagant system is soon to be installed.

As you might imagine, Joe no longer uses the car as a day-to-day runabout (it’d be a disaster to get a stone chip in that custom paint), but he does enjoy it as a weekend ride. He also gets some kicks from car shows – at the time of writing, his GT has been entered in only two shows and has claimed three trophies!

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You can appreciate why this car is a trophy magnet when you look at the attention to detail. The immaculately presented engine bay (with full colour coding, braided hoses, a stainless radiator tank and valley cover), the all-new interior and work-of-art paint job are guaranteed eye catchers.

When you combine this level of presentation with a fully performance built engine you’ve got one awesome GT – and a refreshing change from the norm. But just wait until the car enters its next stage of development. Joe’s plan is to change the body colour (nooo, please don’t!), upgrade the sound system, install a tricked auto trans and rebuild the engine to suit forced induction. The goal - 1300hp (around 950kW) at the wheels!


Autotech Engineering +61 2 9897 1378

Joe would also like to thank the team at Autotech Engineering, Haltech, DC&O, RSV in Granville, JB Hi-Fi, Big O Tyres and Wayne the trimmer!

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