The range of available S197 Mustangs has become almost dizzying these days. The most basic ones of all are the V-6 coupes and convertibles that are, luckily, available from almost any car-rental agency.
At the other end of the spectrum is likely the most extreme form of the current platform which would be the 540hp Shelby GT500KR that you can buy new right off the showroom floor or order at any Ford dealer. While you'll need to be prepared with well more than 100 large in your pocket, these monster Shelbys are there for the choosing nonetheless.
Tucked nicely in the middle of the spectrum is Dean Palmer's Shelby CS8-a car that Shelby has also developed for those with a taste for overall balance. That's not to say the car's a wallflower when the gas pedal is introduced to the carpeting, but when looking at the particulars, we like how the sense of evenness comes into the spotlight.
In the interest of the aforementioned overall equilibrium, not much needs to be done to the current 4.6L Three-Valve engine to make it a real powerhouse without going overboard. The beauty of this engine is that it responds to supercharging as well as any other out there.
The basis here is a Paxton Novi 2200R augmented with an intercooler. Attached to the blower and its polished case is a pulley sized to produce 12 psi of boost. Supporting pieces include CPR fuel rails and a pair of '05-'06 Ford GT supercar fuel pumps. MagnaFlow exhaust provides added breathing ability, made up of a Tru-X cat pipe and a 2.5-inch Magnapack after-cat system. With proper electronic tuning and the added insurance of a Fluidyne radiator, Dean has 420 rwhp and 362 lb-ft of torque under foot, which is respectably close to 500 hp at the flywheel. Visual updates under the hood include painted engine components and braided fuel lines
You can't have balance if the powertrain is making big power and the chassis isn't brought up to snuff to keep everything in check. That's not a problem here as the CS8's underpinnings are a nice menu of bits to consider for any S197. To start, the Brembo brakes are straight from a GT500. They put the stop to 20-inch Shelby Redline wheels, which are made by American Racing. Joining the car to the pavement are BFG Comp T/A KDW skins, which are 285/30ZR20s all around.
The suspension components are all Progress pieces and include rear lower-control arms, front and rear antisway bars, a coilover system, and a rear Panhard bar. Inside the 8.8-inch axle is a Torsen T-2 limited-slip differential and stock 3.55 gears.
So if the car runs as well as you'd expect with all these goodies, it has to look the part as well. The CS8 visuals look great and keep balance without going overboard. The Shelby items include a GT500 rear fascia and lettering; a CS6 hood, grille, and front fascia; billet hoodpins and engine caps, and painted stripes. Cervini's rear quarter-window covers and a billet fuel door round out the look.
With the new 2010 Mustang getting a major interior makeover, updating '05-'09 S197 cabins isn't a bad idea either. That's been done here with custom CS8 leather, Alcantra seats, and billet interior trim pieces.
Keeping Dean fully informed as to what's going on with the car are six additional Auto Meter Cobalt gauges housed in a dash-mounted triple-gauge pod and an A-pillar triple-gauge pod. Vitals kept track of on the dash include coolant temperature, oil pressure, and oil temperature. On the A-pillar, supercharger boost, fuel pressure, and exhaust temperature are monitored. A Pioneer navigation head unit with a custom sound system also make this car a very nice place to spend time.
Clearly, Dean's CS8 is quite the ride. It's certainly beyond the average Mustang, but not so crazy in any one area that things fall out of balance. Some cars are over the top mechanically and others visually. This car is neither. Instead it's well-adjusted in all areas. If only everything were that way.