Words and photos by: Jonathan Salmi
At first glance, you might not notice just how much work has gone into Neil Griffin’s 2015 Mustang GT. To hear Neil tell it, that’s just the point. A professional mechanic, he set out to build himself a car that was uniquely his own but wouldn’t look DIY. A car that he could drive and enjoy on a Sunday cruise, at a local meet, or at the drag strip. A bit of a sleeper that might be overlooked until the time slips were printed. He’s succeeded. On the surface, the car almost looks like it could be stock, maybe just a rare trim. The modifications are actually extensive and that list is only growing.
I met Neil at the top of a parking garage in Chicago early one morning. We’ll leave the exact hour out of it for now, but suffice it to say it was an indicator of his dedication. Having arrived first, I knew well before he made it to the top level that he was on his way up. The telltale growl of a 5.0 liter Ford V8 accelerating up the ramps reverberated throughout the structure and it was the first indication that this was no ordinary Mustang. That growl was courtesy of his Roush axle-back exhaust and Heartthrob x-pipe.
“You want me to drop it?” he asked after parking. The car, which Neil affectionately calls Dorothy, rides on an Airlift Digital V2 suspension and the height is adjustable at each corner individually. Lowered fully, the car is absolutely slammed on its 20×8.5″ Niche Milan wheels and any notion of a stock car vanishes. In a nod to his attempt to maintain a clean, factory appearance, Neil concealed all the necessary wires and hoses by running them through the body of the car. The wiring is tied into the factory fuse box under the hood, further concealing the extent of the modifications.
I started photographing the car while Neil and I talked. He’s been into American muscle as long as he can remember. His other car is a 1988 Camaro IROC-Z. He used to race that car but laughs that “it was not very fast.” That is soon to change as he just finished building a 383 stroker for the IROC. When the opportunity arose to build another domestic muscle car, Neil knew he wanted to do it himself and do it right. After buying the Ford, he joined the 815 Mustangs club, where he met other like-minded enthusiasts. Besides loving the cars built here, Neil is a proud patriot. I asked him if he wanted to remove the American flag hanging from his rearview mirror for the photos and he wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m an American, man. I’m proud of this country.”
Under the hood, you are immediately confronted with the massive cone filter of the Roush intake and engine bay plastics which are painted to match the car. MNK Customs in Mokena, IL, did the paint work and they also laid a silver-leaf coat on the intake manifold cover. The wiring for the suspension and custom audio (more on that later) is installed cleanly. The finished product, like much of the rest of the car, looks like it could, or should, have come that way from the factory.
Inside the vehicle, the modifications are as thoughtful and well-executed as outside. The steering wheel is out of the new GT350; it’s a subtle change but one Mustang aficionados are sure to appreciate. A Lund Racing nGuage racing rests in the center pod and the speakers have all been replaced with JL Audio C5 speakers. In the trunk, there’s a JL subwoofer enclosed in a custom box. It should come as no surprise that the visual effect is one of a factory option.
No Mustang is complete without some effort put into drag racing. To that end, in addition to the intake and exhaust, the nGuage came with a 93 octane performance tune. Neil drove the car to a 12.1-second E/T at Byron Dragway in October 2016. He certainly isn’t done there. Neil’s winter project is the addition of a Stage 2 Procharger kit which is waiting patiently in his garage to be installed.
It’s the balance between performance and style that really sets Dorothy apart. In the Mustang world, one often sees extremely fast race cars or dedicated show cars you’re afraid to drive. Neil has succeeded in building a car that is equal parts comfortable daily driver, weekend cruiser, and drag strip bruiser. Look for an update to this feature in the spring of 2017 when he goes racing again.
2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium (aka Dorothy)
Ruby Red Tie Coat
5.0L V8, 6-speed automatic
Wheels and Tires
Niche Milan 20×8.5, gloss black
Nitto NT555 Extreme 255/30R20 front
Nitto NT05 255/30R20 rear
Roush axle-back exhaust
Roush 101mm cold air intake with custom drilled front grille
93 octane tune from Lund Racing
Airlift Digital v2 with top-mounted tank
Engine bay plastics and intake manifold cover painted by MNK Customs, Mokena, IL
5% tint on all windows
Head lights and tail lights tinted by American Graphics
Black-out badges from CJ Pony Parts
GT350 OEM steering wheel
JL Audio C5 Comp 3-way speakers front
JL Audio C5 Comp 2-way speakers rear
JL 12TW3-D4 subwoofer
Custom stealth enclosure by Mobile Concepts, Mokena, IL