James Dounis "LariatPSD" Shares His New 2011 GT500 With Team RPM
By Scott Jensen / Real Performance Mustangs
Photos taken Scott Jensen
This is the story of how RPM (Real Performance Mustangs) Member James Dounis ended up finally getting his dream car, a 2011 GT500.
James has been a Mustang enthusiast from just about birth. His parents brought him home in the '67 Mustang Coupe that currently resides in his garage. Even as a child James thought it was one of the coolest vehicles on the road, just behind the the General Lee and K.I.T.T. In the summer of '88 that Mustangs restoration was completed with a gorgeous coat of Deltron Flame Red paint. Sadly not long after, a disgruntled jerk decided that the car would look better with a key scratch down the length of the driver's side. His father didn't want to go through the expense and effort to fix the car again, so it was locked it away in the garage.
Fast forward 10 years. The SN-95 Mustangs had just come out and James was in love with the new design and the way they began recalling some of the styling ques of the classics. He had ridden with buddies with 5.0's and was in love with the idea of lighting the tires on a whim. James had to have one but with no real credit history to speak of he was pretty much railroaded into leasing his first Mustang, a used 95 GT 5.0. James had big dreams but no money, so the mods stayed few. A year later he was badly rear ended by a Civic, totaling the car
He immediately went right back out and bought a Laser Red '98 GT. James threw all of the simple horsepower and handling bolt-ons he could at it and participated at the local Mustang club track event at Pacific Raceways. He instantly became hooked, and nothing else in life was more important than getting back to the track.
Meanwhile, his father decided to get rid of the '67. James couldn't let the jewel from his childhood get away, so he worked 7 days a week for a good portion of summer to raise the money to buy it. This car was to get tucked away for a grand plan to restomod it in the future.
Then one cold morning James decided to warm the GT up in the driveway before heading to work, and left it running and ran inside for a moment. When he came back out, the driveway was empty and he could hear the Magnaflow mufflers four blocks away as a thief made off with his baby. The car was located 3 weeks later stripped of its wheels and stereo, and had been beaten, flogged on, and jumped. It was a total loss and James was devastated. How was he to go to the track?
With his insurance check in hand, James began to search for something to fill the void. A Cobra perhaps? He stumbled across a highly modified Black '96 Griggs GR40 Cobra in Portland. What's Griggs? James soon found out. He bought the car and took it straight to Brad's Custom Auto to get it looked over. It was fully outfitted with the Griggs track suspension including the Torque arm, K member, adjustable Koni coil overs at all corners, and even Brembo Gran Turismo brakes. They informed him that this car had many times its book value spent on suspension alone and was in fantastic shape for its age. It took quite a bit of seat time at the track to shake his old habits learned from years of driving the GT, and learn how to make this car really shine on the road course. Once this was accomplished, the Griggs suspension would reward him with consistent, confident, high speed cornering bliss, and will easily run with the likes of Corvette ZO6 and Porsche 911 RS America. For several years James enjoyed knowing that there were very few production vehicles that would keep the Cobra in sight on a road course even though it only made 313 RWHP.
James had been reading the glowing reviews of the new GT500 and began to revisit that dream that he had of owning one. Then he saw it on ebay. All black with no stripes dressed in the SVT Performance Package; it was love at first sight
James began to look around the area for a GT500 that he could test drive. The goal was to know if the GT500 would be able to compete with the Griggs Cobra. Between the uncooperative weather, unavailability of cars, or dealers that flat out wouldn't let him drive one, it was looking bleak. Several weeks went by and he got a call from Scott Creason of Ford of Kirkland telling him that a Black/Black stripe delete GT500 with the SVTPP is scheduled for the dealership. Upon arrival at Ford of Kirkland, Scott didn't hesitate to toss him the keys. Being an unbroken in car, James took it easy on the test drive, but he could tell that there was tremendous potential available.
James is a little more critical about the handling of this car than most, as he is still so in love with the surgical precision of the Griggs suspension. He is thrilled with what Ford has done with the steering on these cars. According to James: "The car will instantly respond to your inputs, planting and turning faithfully, giving a surprising amount of feedback. Grip is outstanding and balanced much better than you would expect a nose heavy car with a staggered fitment tire and wheel package to have. The body stays remarkably flat as you throw the car into turns. Without a doubt, Ford has done a very good job juggling the spring/damping, lighter engine, and EPAS steering to inspire the driver to push harder. Moving to the rear suspension there is much to be desired. The body isn't quite as well controlled, and the rear of car doesn't communicate its intentions to the driver nearly as well as the front. When you are done tearing through a turn, you are actually surprised that the rear didn't come loose, as there is really no indication of where the edge of adhesion will be. In warm weather the new Goodyears grip exponentially better than the old F1's did. Grip at ambient temps below 60 degrees is frightening, leave the traction control on."
"Full throttle blasts make you giggle every time you do them, particularly when you are lucky enough to have the tires up to temp and can get them to hook in 2nd gear. The rear will squirm however, due to the spongy rubber bushings and and flimsy control arms that are shared with the GT. Most of the time, the tires cannot handle the load and come loose causing some awful axle hop." All this can easily be remedied with the installation of a Griggs Torque Arm, which he is highly considering.
"The engine is wonderful. The exhaust has a surprising bark for stock, and supercharger whine is almost nonexistent which is equally surprising, especially when you consider that there is a factory open element cold air kit. The whole car and drivetrain have been refined to the point where it doesn't feel as fast as it really is. This may be the last of the bigger cubic inch motors for the Mustang and I love the fact that that the motor will handle more boost without breaking a sweat. Ford tuned the car very agressively from the get go, putting down 507 rwhp/480 tq bone stock down to the paper filter. John at Horsepower Ranch managed to wring another 10 hp out of it with a tune, but was eager to see a smaller pulley installed and likely a 560+ hp pull."
James went on to say "The interior is a terrific leap ahead for Mustangs. The suede inserts in the seats, the steering wheel the shift and e-brake boots are a nice touch, but I miss the multitude of adjustments and the thick bolsters that the 03-4 Cobras had. And heated seats? Not even available. The dual climate control, Navigation, and SYNC work very well and are easily customizable to the user's taste. Everyone is well aware of the MyColor and customizable ambient lighting, but I did not know about the adjustable shift light and tone. The SVT in the middle of the tach will light up at the driver's selected RPM. Furthermore, the entire tach will turn red at redline, as will the fuel gauge when you are running on vapor."
James has a good sized wish list started and it will probably grow as time goes on. The lights and windows will be getting tinted soon at Brand-X Customs. He is trying to find another pair of 20 inch rear wheels to install on the front as he's not really a fan of the staggered wheels or the aggressive rake from the factory. He is also considering going with another Griggs suspension to bring the rear under control, particularly if he adds more power. As far as power is concerned, James have a 2.60 pulley installed by spring time and perhaps in a couple of years, consider swapping to a TVS blower.
James is happy to have a car that can continue the legacy that was planted by his father with the '67, refined by the '98 GT, and honed with the Griggs Cobra.