Rip & Tear
Charles Cartrette’s Fox is ripped straight out of 1989, but inside it’s all 2007 GT500
By Steve Turner
Like the music we love, the cars we love are often cemented in our formative years. Much like the moment when you learn to appreciate the opposite sex, the moment when cars catch your eye sticks with you. Whether you are an early bloomer who had to have a room full of car toys, or someone that didn’t appreciate them until your driver’s license was on the horizon, it is the cars you first considered cool that stay in your heart.
Along those lines, when you finally drive a truly fast car it will stay with you like a first kiss. When the power plants you in the seat like never before, that flutter in your heart is hard to forget.
“…My first car was a ’68 Fastback I drove to school. Then after high school I bought a new ’93 Reef Blue coupe and owned it eight years. It was the longest time I have ever owned the same car. I modded it to death. That was back when Vortech was just hitting the Mustang scene,” Charles Cartrette explained. “I have had 45 Mustangs since I was 17. I have had five Terminators and even an Aluminator Coyote, but still go back to the Fox. I guess it’s the feeling you get in the car. They are basic in every element, yet you can feel every ounce of power in the car. My Coyote made over 700 horsepower and it was fast, but a 500hp Fox feels faster. Plus, they just look cool and never seem to go out of style.”
It is clear that your author and the owner of this striking LX have a lot in common. To say Charles Cartrette is a fan of Fox Mustangs would be an epic understatement. He loves these cars, and for the past several years he has expressed that passion via a series of amazing project Foxes. Debuted one after the other at Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, these cars have attracted our cameras every year.
“That isn’t intentional by any means. Over the last few years I have gotten bored with my cars after I get done with them. I enjoy the build, but get bored with just driving them,” Charles confessed. “Between Mustang Week 2013 and 2014 I owned a high-horsepower Coyote that I planned to take to Mustang Week 2014, but felt the Coyote was already well-represented and I just wanted another Fox.”
Once again, at this year’s Grand Strand gala, Charles stopped us (and lots of other Fox fans) in our tracks. How could a car possibly top his prior efforts? Simple, with a complete Shelby GT500 drivetrain and interior swap. A swap so comprehensive it fuses the entire floorpan, firewall, and wiring harness from a donor 2007 Shelby GT500.
“I look at every Mustang as a blank slate. I can see a car in terrible condition where others would walk away, and I see a finished product. I hate duplicating and copying others’ ideas. I look to try new things that are seen in the SEMA-level cars. I used to do mini-trucks back in the day, and that evolved to a level that left nothing that hadn’t been tried. With Mustangs, there is so much that hasn’t been done yet. I have so many ideas in my head on stuff to try, but I often people are not ready to see it, or even accept it, until it’s done on a larger scale,” Charles said. “When I build a Mustang I like to push the envelope. Like I have said a 1,000 times, you can only be on top with a car one time. Once it is shown, the initial wave is done. Bring the same car out the next year and it just gets ignored; The been-there, done-that attitude. So you gotta aim high and be ready to ride the wave as it happens or you will be left with old news at the next show.”
For many car enthusiasts, there is simply nothing cooler than an engine swap. Moreover, there is something compelling about blending the best facets of newer Mustangs with their predecessors. It just works.
It works even better when you swap in one of the most powerful Mustang engines ever—the supercharged Shelby 5.4-liter engine—into a Fox Mustang. As with any of Charles’ projects, he didn’t stop with just a stock engine. That just wouldn’t do. No, he took it to the next level with a Kenne Bell supercharger and a custom tune from JMS Chip & Performance. When ramped up with 19 pounds of boost and race gas, it puts down 750 horsepower to the Mickey Thompson drag radials.
Now, unlike many of his past projects, this one actually came to Charles in progress. The previous owner had done the heavy lifting of swapping the floorpan, firewall, wiring harness, and drivetrain. That set the stage for Charles to do what he does best, which is adding those little details that really set a car apart from the crowd.
“When Fox500 came up for sale, I had never considered it. I had followed the build and saw the heart and soul Jason Hall put into the car. I knew it was hard for him to sell the car with him not finishing it completely due to unfortunate circumstances. So, I made a call, and next thing you know I own the car. I planned to just drive it and finish off some stuff. That’s where my Mustang ADD kicked in. I knew I would never be happy with it if I let a lot of the small things slide by,” Charles said. “So, I stripped the interior. I loved the color on the car, but I wanted fresher paint and some body issues fixed. I also have never liked flat black in the engine bay. So I had the car repainted and the engine bay smoothed and painted to match the body color. I redid the interior with a few more mods and changes and have a lot more plans for it inside in the future. Then came the motor. After the engine bay was painted, the actual engine looked out of place. So, I started taking it apart to repaint and polish everything on it.”
“Long story short, I found a broken timing cover and it snowballed. I tore engine apart and painted everything and did some upgrades as well. When painting the car, I intended to keep it all blue as it was beforehand. I can’t stand the idea of having a car that someone else might pull up beside of me at a light in the same car and color, so I went ahead and came up with a paint scheme,” he added. “The tears are the old-school design. The topcoat of paint is tearing off to reveal the Shelby underneath. Ghosted Shelby snakes and stripes add to the affect. Some like it, others hate it, but this car was built for my personal taste, and I wanted to enjoy the car for years to come. I promised Jason when I got the car I would continue to build on the car and would take it to a new level. It’s a one-of-a-kind car; I wanted it to get addressed in every area so it could truly represent what the car was.”
No matter how the car got to this point over the course of its three-year transformation, the GT500 Fox is downright amazing. Having seen a few engine-swap cars in our day, we haven’t seen many taken to this level. Not only is the engine swap clean and detailed, but the matching interior swap takes it to another level. Throw in the full functionality of all the creature comforts, and this project is a home run.
“On forums it’s 50/50. The new look is love-it-or-hate-it. In person, when people see it they like it. The paint pops so well against the graphics and it flows well. People are drawn to the car by the paint. Then they see the motor and think it’s just a typical swap,” Charles said. “Then they see the dash and interior and the questions start getting asked. That’s the part I love. People look at the car then come back again to look at it more. Most don’t believe it when you tell them it has a GT500 floor pan and firewall. They think just the dash was swapped.”
It’s not a real surprise that most people love this car. What’s not to like about it? However, it’s one thing to enjoy seeing a car like this, and it’s quite another to drive a one-of-a-kind Fox like this. With the power of a fully modded Shelby GT500 in a lightweight Fox coupe, this car really pegs the fun meter.
“I gotta say I have had a lot more powerful cars, horsepower-wise. Driving this car is a blast. The drag radials aren’t for looks. It needs them badly. It goes sideways in Fourth with ease. I’ve had the Terminated, turbo Foxes and this car pulls as hard, if not harder,” Charles said. “Having all the torque of the Shelby 5.4 topped with a KB 2.8H Stage 3 blower and other mods in a Fox chassis is crazy. The TR-6060 tranny shifts perfectly with the Cobra Jet setup. The few people I have taken for a ride in it smile for a few minutes before they tell me to slow down. It starts like a stock car and idles perfectly. I gotta thank JMS for the perfect tune.”
It’s hard to think this car could get cooler, but Charles is not ready to leave well enough alone. He plans to mini-tub the car and stroke the engine over the winter. He’ll certainly need the wider tires to harness that extra power.
“Having all the creature comforts of a Shelby really makes it worthwhile. If you close you eyes you will think you’re in a Shelby. The level of detail that Jason and his buddy took to get the floor pans in right so it sits like a Shelby makes all the time worth it. At this point the car has three years into its build and it will continue to evolve,” Charles said. “It will soon have a X275 chassis work done to stiffen car up on the underside to prevent any unnecessary twisting. Maybe I’ll add mini-tubs, a 2000-watt show system, a sumped fuel system, and new door panels that will looks like GT500 units. It never stops. The car will continue to evolve… until I get bored with it.”
He has since sold the car to concentrate on a blown Boss 302 and a modded Lightning, but we can’t help but wonder how Charles plans to follow it up…
The Mod List
Block: 2007 GT500, iron
Crankshaft: 2007 GT500
Rods: 2007 GT500
Pistons: 2007 GT500
Camshafts: 2007 GT500
Cylinder Heads: 2007 GT500
Intake: 2007 GT500 intercooled lower
Power Adder: Kenne Bell 2.8H Mammoth
Fuel System: 2007 Shelby GT500 w/ twin Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pumps
Exhaust: 2007 GT500 manifolds, X-pipe, and Borla after-cat
Transmission: Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual w/ SPEC twin-disc clutch
Rearend: Terminator IRS w/ 3.55 gears and Strange axles
Engine Management: 2007 GT500 PCM w/ custom JMS Chip tune delivered by an SCT handheld
Ignition: 2007 GT500 w/ NGK spark plugs
K-member: UPR Products
A-arms: UPR Products
Struts: Strange 10-way adjustable
Springs: UPR Products coil-over
Brakes: New Edge GT
Wheels: Billet Specialties
Springs: Fox four-cylinder
Control Arms: Steeda upper and lower
Brakes: New Edge GT
Wheels: Billet Specialties
Tires: Mickey Thompson