Remember the 2000 movie Cast Away, where Tom Hanks flies around the world setting up branches of the overnight delivery service FedEx? His character lived all over the world, always improving productivity in one location before moving on to the next outpost.
Then one foggy Christmas Eve (where’s Rudolph when you need him?), Hanks’ management career began a four-year hiatus when his airplane crashed in the Pacific, during which time he stabbed fish with sticks, lost 40 pounds and befriended a volleyball named Wilson.
Watching Cast Away in the theater, Jim Garrett realized the first 20 minutes of the movie were the closest he would come to getting his own life captured on film. He had just retired early from a 27-year career with FedEx that had moved him and his wife to Toronto, Honolulu, Sao Paulo, Scottsdale, Memphis, Orlando, Virginia Beach and Folsom, California, to name only a few. Like Tom Hanks, Jim had been the guy upper management called when a district needed special attention, but the desert island part of the movie was just Hollywood imagination.
“I was lucky enough to have an equal number of takeoffs and landing while working for the company,” Jim joked.
He’s also been lucky enough to have owned a long string of high-performance vehicles. The list is an eclectic one, proving that either the man has broad interests or an incredibly short attention span. It includes several Chevrolets (a ’65 Corvette with 327 V-8 and a ’67, ’68 and ’69 Camaro), a 330-horse Sunbeam Tiger (“a monster to drive with that short wheelbase, but fun!”), a ’56 Ford resto-mod pickup, a ’60 Mercedes-Benz 190SL roadster and “a lot of foreign stuff.” Jim has put a few miles on some exotic two-wheelers as well, such as his BMW RS1000, Kawasaki Z1, a couple of British BSAs, a Norton Golden Commando and a ’93 Harley Fat Boy.
“Nothing could beat that Kawasaki in a straight line when it came out,” Jim recalls. “I ran it at the dragstrip a lot. My Fat Boy had some serious grunt by the time I finished modifying it – more than 100 horsepower at the rear wheel!”
Jim’s most powerful foray into performance mods came when he bought a 2003 Saleen S-281 in Florida and had it shipped directly to HP Performance in Roswell, New Mexico, a company whose name is synonymous with aftermarket turbochargers. He had originally signed on for a single turbocharger, but when the owner told him by phone about a new twin-blower system Jim agreed to the upgrade quicker than you can say “overnight delivery.”
With its all-new plumbing and a good tune, the S-281 put 488 horsepower and 570 foot-pounds of torque to the rear wheels with virtually no boost lag. Jim added a color-matched, powdercoated rollcage and hit the dragstrip. A few months later, during a Fun Ford Weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway’s quarter-mile, Jim threw caution and a lot of motor parts to the wind while attempting a personal best time. The twin-turbocharged V-8 was trashed.
Not one to repeat himself, Jim and his engine shop built a beefy, normally aspirated engine to install in the Saleen – the idea being to generate as much horsepower as before without forced air. Before the Loctite was even dry on the new V-8, Jim saw a 2005 Mustang GT at his Ford dealer and his attention deficit disorder kicked in.
“We put the new engine in the Saleen one day in December of 2004,” Jim recalls, “and I sold it a week later. Then it was ‘Merry Christmas to me’ and I bought a Satin Silver ’05 coupe with an automatic transmission.”
Having enjoyed the crisp handling of Racecraft suspension on his ’03, Jim immediately ordered and installed Saleen’s performance-engineered springs, shocks and bushings for the ’05.
Like a lot of fifth-generation Mustang buyers, Jim was blown away by the new car’s vintage look, so he pieced together a unique appearance package that would enhance the ‘60s musclecar appeal. He took off the GT’s standup wing and replaced it with a three-piece wraparound spoiler from CDC. The tail panel lost its faux gas cap and was painted black to recall the early Mach 1 treatment.
Jim thought the GT’s foglamps were too large and that the grille was just begging for a ’65 corral with bars. With nothing in the aftermarket to suit his taste, Jim bought a reproduction set from a catalog and located the appropriate large-hole wire mesh to back it up. A set of Hella halogen driving lights were tucked away under the front bumper for extra illumination.
“People think the grille took a lot of engineering and hard work on my part,” he remembers. “The truth is: I spent a little time getting the mesh in place, but the rest of it bolted up with very little trouble.”
With nostalgia on his mind, Jim pored over wheel options to replace the stock 17-inch Ford rims. He wanted something that people had not seen since the ‘60s, but it had to be a design that instantly recalled the Mustang from that period. Wheel Vintiques provided the solution with a model that closely mimicked the Magnum 500s Ford fitted to so many 1969-’72 Mustangs. Jim chose 18-inch diameter wheels, then wrapped them in BFGoodrich T/A 255/55ZR18 tires. (The combination increased his rolling circumference, a modification that gives speedometers and modern electronic brains fits, but a local shop programmed the new information into the computer.)
Why the taller sidewall when the trend today is more wheel/less rubber?
“The Mustang just doesn’t look right with rubber bands wrapped around its wheels,” Jim explains. “Besides, I’m an old man and the ‘butt factor’ was greatly improved with the taller rubber. This new set perfectly complements the car with its lowered Racecraft suspension.”
The greater rolling circumference would ordinarily kill acceleration times, but Jim switched to a 4.10:1 rear axle ratio and installed a 3,000-rpm stall speed TCI Street Fighter torque converter.
Painter Joe Cheek gave the car its distinctive two-tone look, spraying Tuxedo Black over the top half of the light silver body – the two colors separated by a Tomato Red pinstripe. The black-out treatment was also applied to the twin mirror housings. The cherry on top of this tasty sundae is a pair of “GTA” badges that mind knowledgeable Mustangers of the single year (1967) Ford distinguished GTs ordered with automatic transmissions.
“Silver looks really nice in the showroom,” Jim told us, “but it can be really ‘blah’ when it’s sitting next to a red or blue or yellow car at a show.
“I’ve given other cars the two-tone treatment, so I was confident the Mustang would look great with the black layer added.”
Just three months after Jim began creating his GTA, Saleen released its Series VI twin-screw supercharger. Jim was among the first customers to receive one through the parts department, but learned the hard way that Saleen had not yet configured its blower for anything other than cars with manual transmissions. Different shops worked for three months with Saleen’s in-house engineers to program the computer before Jim complained directly to Steve Saleen in writing about his problem. Two days after receiving the letter, Saleen flew one of its interns – a graduate student from MIT – to Knoxville, where Jim picked him up at the airport.
“I was really pleased with the way the company eventually handled my complaint,” Jim said. “Their guy pulled out two laptop computers and spent an hour and a half in my garage with the car. I bought him lunch and put him back on the plane.
“The engine has run great ever since, and by ‘great’ I mean 375 rear-wheel horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque with only four pounds of boost. I could go a lot higher, but I like being able to fill up with pump gas.”
Jim only upgraded the engine parts Saleen recommends for its supercharger installations, which included 39-pound Cobra injectors, Flowmaster mufflers and a 2.5-inch X-pipe. The addition of the front-mounted intercooler meant losing the Hella lights, and Jim replaced the Mustang’s stock aluminum hood with Saleen’s composite, twin-grille model. Intake flow was increased with a JDM cold-air kit and a 90mm mass air sensor.
At the time of our photo shoot, the GTA’s interior had only received a single – but super-slick – modification. Jim sacrificed his two center air conditioner outlets, and popped in Autometer boost and fuel pressure gauges for a mod that looks like it came from the factory. There were no other changes when we captured the interior with our cameras, but Jim told us recently that he’s gone all-out and given his seats new red-and-black leather upholstery. His wife also made a liner for the Mustang’s trunk from reproduction ‘60s plaid mat vinyl.
Maybe we are biased, but it sounds like Jim is spending his time away from FedEx a lot better than Tom Hanks did.