Wait...a supercharged Ford Mustang on Super Street?! Can this year end already?! Before you click that exit button, hear me out... I'm not a big domestic guy myself, let alone a Mustang fan (aren't they the guys that are always spinning out of control leaving car meets?). Anyway, this particular 1999 model is something special and something I came across in the flesh last year at Tuner Evolution Puerto Rico. Yes, Puerto Rico—that tiny Caribbean island 1,000 miles south of Florida that most wouldn't assume would have a thriving car scene. In actuality, there are some serious builds there, many of which come in the form of high-powered drag and street cars; however, there's a small minority of legit grassroots time attack builds, for example this boosted fourth generation Mustang owned by Bryan Santiago.
Now, I normally don't look twice at a Mustang but Bryan's overall styling looked more like a Phoenix Yellow Integra Type R, or a something I'd typically see at our very own Super Lap Battle. The aero appeared to be functional and geared for circuit racing, not just for show. Upon closer inspection, I discovered some familiar brand names such as Voltex and Volk Racing—the ZE40 wheels simply look perfect on this car. It's taken an entire year to finally bring you this story of what's perhaps the most relevant Super Street feature to wear the Mustang badge, and I truly hope you can appreciate Bryan's uncanny ability to blend Japanese time attack with his American-made sports car (in Puerto Rico of all places!).
TUNER EVOLUTION PUERTO RICO RECAPS
1-ON-1 INTERVIEW WITH BRYAN SANTIAGO
How'd you fall in love with cars?
My dad has always been a car guy from the V8 and NASCAR era, so my brothers and I inherited that. The spark ignited when my big brother arrived one day with a brand new Phoenix Yellow 2001 Acura Integra Type R. That was a big moment I remember. At that point, I'm pretty sure we started to live our lives around cars. Those days were different from now... There was no time or money for dyno tuning and getting your hands on Toda Racing VTEC Killer cams was the next best thing. Those were the really cool days and that's when I immediately fell in love with the car scene.
Your bro picked up the Type R, but what was your first project car?
I picked up this exact Mustang when I was 16. It started life as a bolt-on car with wheels, springs, exhaust, body kit and a nitrous system, this was 2003. I daily'd it for about four years, then I got my hands on a Dodge Neon SRT-4 in 2005. I decided to make the Mustang a drift car because drifting was booming in those days. I stripped the interior and put a supercharger in it, but the project was placed on hold due to lack of funds because I was putting all the money into the SRT-4 doing street and drag racing. Eventually, I crashed the SRT-4 while street racing, in fact, it's a total miracle that I'm still alive, and the Mustang funds became available once again... Haha!
A miracle you're still alive? Care to explain what happened?
This was 2010, I was racing a 10-second Mitsubishi Evolution X. We were trapping at least 160mph in that race. Like every race with a FWD versus AWD, the Evo pulled a car on me on a roll. As I hit fourth to fifth gear, I started to catch it from behind, but the straightway had just ended. When I hit the brakes, my car let go of the rear and I ended up in the barrier. Luckily no one got hurt and I walked away without a single scratch. The Evo got me by half a car. "I almost had him..." in my Paul Walker voice. Haha! But in all honesty, I only have one recommendation to everyone out there, don't do it. I haven't street raced since that day.
Point taken and glad you left the accident unscathed! Have you ever owned a Japanese car?
When I was in college, I used to work in my big brother's car shop called Speed Technology Puerto Rico (STPR) that specialized in Japanese cars. That's how I learned how to work on cars. He later went on to merge the company into what is now Fiebruz Motorsports, one of the top high-performance shops in Puerto Rico. At around 2017, my brother and I had the opportunity to buy a 2013 Scion FR-S. The car had a built turbo engine and version 1 Rocket Bunny widebody. Just how good is the FR-S chassis? It's why I enjoy Japanese cars so greatly. Apart from that, I own a 2018 Championship White Honda Civic Type R, which I know will inherit full track duties very soon.
What do you enjoy most about the Mustang over Japanese cars you've driven?
It's a completely different car from any Japanese car. It's a relatively heavy car, the engine is unnecessarily big, but yet it's a very simple car. I'm just a car guy that enjoys all types of cars regardless of the manufacturer; it would be a waste of life if we don't allow ourselves to drive and own any type of car.
Tell us the backstory on what inspired this JDM and time attack-themed Mustang?
It wasn't until around 2009 where I started to pay attention to the Mustang. At that point, I was really into following Super Lap Battle in the USA, Rev Speed's Tsukuba Battles, and later World Time Attack Challenge in Australia. My intentions were never to make the Mustang for time attack. I mean, it is an old Ford chassis, the same since 1979, and it had a pre-historic rear live axle suspension. To make matters worse, the car was a 3.8-liter V6! I know, kill me... It's a horrible recipe for road racing, but I took it as a challenge because I wanted to learn myself.
What were some of the core changes you made to make it road race ready?
The first thing on the agenda was to swap everything that didn't work for time attack. I had already sourced a modular V8 engine and transmission and it was a simple swap. I also got lucky and found an independent rear suspension from a 1999 Mustang Cobra to swap out the stock live axle. Next step was the engine swap, but I decided to weigh the car first with the V6. To my surprise, the car ended up having a good weight balance. With the independent rear, stripped interior, tubular suspension and supercharged V6, the car weighed just over 2,800 pounds, minus the rollbar, and a 50/50 weight balance. The V6 engine and transmission weighed 120 pounds less and sat further back than the V8, so the V6 stayed.
Is it safe to call your car the "JDM Mustang"?
I actually hate the fact that people call it a JDM Mustang. Haha! Seventy percent of breast implants sold in the U.S. are manufactured in Brazil and just because a woman has breast implants from Brazil doesn't mean she is Brazilian, right? So, I guess it's the same with the Mustang. Just because it has Japanese parts doesn't mean the car is Japanese.
Interesting analogy, but I get your point! Let's talk about those JDM parts though. Obviously, a brand like Voltex didn't make a wing for your car, right?
The aero components were by far the most challenging modifications. I mean, just Google "'99-04 Mustang body kit" and you'll see what I mean. So, since there are no nice off-the-shelf body components for my car, I decided to make my own or source aero from cars that could be similar in body structure. For example, I looked through the Voltex catalog and wrote down all the car applications that a Type 2 GT wing was available for. I was in my third year of medical school and every day at 11:00am I'd go to the mall next to the hospital to get food carrying a measuring tape, which just so happens to be the same one I would use to measure my patients calves to rule out a lower extremity deep venous thrombosis. If I saw a car in the parking lot that was in the Voltex catalog, I would measure the trunk and write down the measurements, looking for the most similar trunk to my Mustang. Yes, I most definitely looked like a crazy person, but it is a true story. My Type 2 GT wing is a true bolt-on for a Mitsubishi Evolution VIII and VI.
I understand you put together the chassis-mounted front splitter yourself?
Yes, I remember I was finishing my fourth year in medical school when I started to work on the front splitter. It was a challenge because not only did I not know exactly what I was doing, but also, I didn't have too much free time due to the hospital workload. I usually got off from the hospital at 9:00pm, drove home and started working on the car and finished around 2:00am, then got some sleep and woke up to be at the hospital again at 7:00am. It took me like 120 hours to complete the front splitter, with lots of trial and errors. Looking back at it I just laugh about it, because I truly enjoyed those days.
The Volks look perfect on the car. Any special modifications to make them fit?
Amazingly enough, a hidden talent of the SN95, 1994-2004 Mustang is that they can accommodate really wide wheels and tires in the front and rear with the stock body. Even though the rear wheels are 18x12-inches, the car can still accommodate 1-1.5-inch wider wheels at the rear and still keep the stock body. You have to do some work on the inner panels, but it is very possible.
Word on the street is that there's a funny story behind the wheels...
Back when I was in the process of ordering the wheels, I contacted Makin Industries and they had the ZE40 in the same specs that we were looking for. Later found out Rywire was building the white widebody S2000 for SEMA and was sourcing ZE40s in 18x10" and 18x12". Luckily, I got the last set a couple of days before. I think I probably delayed the S2000 build due to the waiting time of getting a new set of 18x12 ZE40s...
I'm sure Ryan at Rywire didn't mind too much. Haha! How has your car been received among the Mustang community and your fellow Puerto Rican car enthusiasts?
Mustang community hates it, and I get it. I mean it goes against all of what V8 enthusiasts believe in: power, torque, drag racing, V8 sound—all the things that my car doesn't have. I actually enjoy the comments they make. I think overall the Puerto Rico car community has received it very well, especially since the import scene on the island is huge.
I've never test drove a V6 Mustang, let alone one like yours. How does it ride?
My little brother also has a Mustang, a S197 2005 Ford Mustang GT, and his focus is also road racing. He has it in the Netherlands and tracks it at the Nurburgring every year. Compared to his, my car feels a lot lighter and more responsive at the front, and thanks to the independent rear suspension it rides less bumpy. My car feels very well balanced. Understeer is nonexistent, and there is a slight oversteer, but not enough to kill the crowd when leaving the car meet. My V6 is not a good engine, but it's not a bad engine either. It's seen nitrous and boost, has handled a lot of track time and street racing, and still, the engine turns like new and has never had any problems.
What's been the major difference from a nitrous V6 to a supercharged V6?
The nitrous system was fun, and that's about it, haha! The centrifugal supercharger gives you a nice linear powerband. I can go more aggressive on the pulley setup, but for the road course here in Puerto Rico, 300whp is enough to have fun.
Speaking of the road course, you have one!
Puerto Rico is a small island that measures 100x35 miles. A couple of years ago, we used to have four road courses, but the bread and butter on the island is drag racing. As of 2020, we only have one road course left.
What's next for the project?
I think the Mustang is going to get retired now and be placed in a nice garage where I take it out once in a while. Engine swap could be in the far future, but for now I'm going to shift my focus to newer and bigger projects cars. I've just graduated from Internal Medicine residency and I'm sure my good days of car tuning are about to begin.
Congratulations and we look forward to seeing what you come up with next, Bryan!
PUERTO RICO CAR FEATURES FROM SUPER STREET ARCHIVES
- To this day, this 650whp Evo VIII is one of the nicest builds to ever be featured from Puerto Rico.
- Another Evo feature from ten years ago, this one with 550whp and APR aero.
- All-wheel-drive is the name of the game in the PR as we take a look back at this Subaru WRX STI featured in Turbo Magazine in 2006.