6 Days at Heffner Performance (Winter 2009/2010)             

Follow up article (February 2010) Chip takes his GT to the Road Course

Follow up article (March 2010) Chip at the mile.

562 gallons of gas
4500 miles, (2250 miles each way)
10 nights in hotel rooms
6 days at Heffner Performance


Long before I purchased a Ford GT, I decided that if I ever acquired one, I would leave it stock and unmolested. A perfectly stock vintage muscle car is always more desirable than one that has been modified, unless it’s a Pantera.

The first two cracks in my unshakable resolve I justified to myself by saying that the car was designed to have these 2 items in the first place. They were the Ford Racing transaxle cooler and the Ford Racing short shifter. But soon, my fellow owners regaled me with tales of how much sharper and crisper the car ran with the Heffner pulley and tune. Nobody will even know it’s there, it’s not even visible. And hey, that 65 pound stock muffler is a real brick hanging out behind the rear tires and blocking airflow through the engine compartment. We’ll go ahead and get that cool Accufab exhaust system because the stock muffler can easily be reinstalled. The car will handle a lot sharper with Alex’s (T&A) custom-built 3-way adjustable Penske coilovers. Kip Ewing’s carbon fiber stuff looks really sharp, got to have that. Shadowman’s sub-woofer relocation gets rid of that ugly speaker enclosure between the seats, and on and on. Where the hell is that stock Ford GT today? It’s packed in boxes and stored away in my garage cabinets and on my closet shelves.

So much for leaving her stock. It appears that most Ford GTs, like Harley-Davidsons, are modified and become reflections of their owners. The Texas Mile at Rally IV was a real eye-opener. The effects of heat and humidity kept even the 4.0 L Whipple supercharged GTs from cracking the magic 200 mph mark. Enough of this incrementalism. I'm not getting any younger, I'm going to go all the way while I'm still solvent. And for me, after 4 years of ownership, observation, and investigation, the holy grail of Ford GT engine upgrades resides in Sarasota, Florida. A geographically undesirable 2250 miles away from my home in Scottsdale.

For as long as they have existed, men have always enjoyed spending time in the company of other men who are able to do extraordinary things. Those rare individuals who are capable of consistently performing at a level the rest of us couldn’t achieve on our best day. Guitar players fantasize about sitting in for an evening with Eric Clapton, golfers dream about playing 18 holes with Jack Nicholas, and young baseball players wonder what it would be like to turn a double play with Alex Rodriguez at shortstop. When it comes to turbocharging the latest examples of the world’s supercars, Jason Heffner is the High Dalai Lama. And spending a week at Heffner Performance watching Jason and his team of highly skilled professionals transform my yellow GT into the 33rd Heffner Twin Turbo GT built, was a real fantasy vacation for this gear head. In my 53 years I have never met an individual who’s achieved his level of success and international reputation who is as mellow, amiable, an unassuming as Jason Heffner. His four employees are John Walker (who did most of the work on my car), Thomas Fox, Aaron Miller, and Zachary Caruso.

So instead of shipping my car, I loaded it into my Trailex and made the three-day trek to Sarasota, Florida. Jason and his crew could not have been nicer as they endured an endless series of questions and inquiries from me about how and why things worked, and how they were built. Being there and watching it all happen was half the fun of acquiring a Heffner TT. Work on my car actually started a couple weeks before my arrival when master fabricator/welder/machinist Aaron Miller started building headers and many other custom components. Garrett turbochargers along with a host of other parts were ordered well in advance and awaited my arrival. I had specified 4 additional options to be added to my twin turbo package. An automatic halon engine compartment fire extinguisher system, Accufab throttle body, bumper delete, and race catalytic converters. (I hope to get this car past the Arizona emissions Nazis)

My lust for one of Jason’s cars started back in February, 2008 with the “ZERO TO 200 AND BACK” article on the cover of Car and Driver magazine that featured Ray Hoffman’s yellow Heffner TT GT annihilating all of it’s competition. The Heffner Twin Turbo GT won that shoot out recording a 0 to 200mph time of 18.9 seconds on very sticky Hoosier A6s. To put that in perspective, it takes the Bugatti Veyron 26 seconds to go from zero to 200 mph.

This ridiculous level of performance is not delivered in a temperamental or unreliable package. The Heffner TT GT starts up and drives around town just like a stock car. When you lift the clamshell, everything looks like it was installed by the factory. The stainless steel parts gleam like chrome, all of the welds are flawless, the workmanship is remarkable, and the finished product is a work of art.

Other than the Texas Mile, where Jason’s cars easily topped 200 mph during the hottest and windiest conditions at midday, there is no practical reason for me to own this car. Even with a very mild 91 octane tune and equipped with catalytic converters, it put out 841 HP on the dyno. Fill the tank with C16, reflash the computer, and it’ll put 1050 HP to the ground. Like an 18 inch d**k, that may be statistically significant, but good luck finding a place to use all of it.

The engine compartment is so beautiful, and the car so capable, that merely possessing it is reward enough for the time, travel, and expense, of my trip to Sarasota. As a final bonus, it sounds really bitchin’. So it’s all good right? What is the downside? Well, it’s not cheap. At low RPMs, the car actually has less horsepower and throttle response is not as immediate in the lower one half of the rpm range. The power comes on in a smoother more gradual manner than the supercharged GT and is more controllable when driven conservatively. The biggest downside is the self-control necessary to stay out of trouble and keep the front end pointed forward with well over 800 hp on tap.

Below are a series of photographs that will allow my fellow members to join me during that week with Jason Heffner.

Some purchases can only be properly viewed as a reward for a lifetime of hard work, setbacks, risk-taking, and long hours. I believe a James Purdy and Sons shotgun or double rifle, a brand new personal aircraft, a Bentley convertible, and any of Jason Heffner’s twin turbocharged supercars would rightfully qualify. If you’re interested in one, give Heffner Performance a call at (941) 359-0900.

Thanks Jason. My week at your shop was a very bright spot in an otherwise difficult 2009. All the best.