Attention Grabber: Julie Shugarman’s Paxton Powered S550

Julie Shugarman is not a newb in the world of Mustangs. When she bought this beautiful 2017 Mustang GT in April of 2017, she was upgrading from a 2015 EcoBoost. After searching online for a used GT, and suffering letdown after letdown when cars that piqued her interest fell through, she came across a base model Grabber Blue Mustang GT at a Ford dealership in Smyrna, Georgia. She said she knew it was the one at first sight, and didn’t even bother to test drive it before the purchase. It’s been a project ever since! She immediately installed wheels, and added decals, body modifications, lowering springs, and an exhaust in the first month.

Photography by Garrett Reed.

“I absolutely loved my EcoBoost,” Julie told us. “It had quite a few modifications done to it. However, my boyfriend had a supercharged GT and the sound alone made me really want to upgrade. I knew I could never get my EcoBoost to be as powerful as a boosted GT, so it was time to trade it in and start with a fresh slate.”

But even prior to owning her Mustangs, Julie loved cars.

“My mom will always say I’ve been into cars since I could walk. I would play with matchbox cars and carry them in the pockets of my overalls. None of my family has really had the passion for cars as I do, so we’re still confused on how that came about, but even before I could drive, I was obsessed with cars. My dad would take me to the auto shows every year in Chicago at McCormick Place and I would fall in love with all things fast and on wheels. My neighbor let me learn how to drive a manual on his 1991 Honda CRX when I was 13. I would constantly collect all the brochures at car dealerships to pick out my favorite cars. It’s been the one hobby I’ve never grown out of or stopped enjoying in 35 years.”

The Road to Racing

So even with her EcoBoost, Julie enjoyed hitting the track on the west coast, where she resided before relocating to Georgia. Once in Georgia, it was only a matter of time before the GT came into her life.

She had once dabbled in drag racing, but she wasn’t seriously interested in motorsports until 2014 during her time spent living in Arizona. There, she became friends with competitors in NASA-AZ, and would attend to spectate. After being given the opportunity to get into the passenger seat to ride along, Julie decided she wanted to learn the ropes.

“I took the courses for HPDE classes from there on out, and got discouraged at first due to spinning out a few times, but as I got more seat time, I got more confident and I was addicted.”

Seeing as Julie prefers curves to straight lines, her GT was built with the road course in mind. So what exactly has Julie modified on this Grabber Blue beast?

The Build Begins

“The car was originally going to be built for naturally-aspirated power,” Julie told us. “I was looking to have maybe 550 horsepower maximum as an N/A Mustang.”

The build originated with the typical bolt-on modifications: intake, exhaust, tune, etc. When Julie learned that the combination only put down 412 horsepower to the rear wheels, she decided N/A might not be the best route to take. The decision led her to CJ Pony Parts’ Bill Tumas.

“I did want to add some type of boost, but remain N/A in a way,” she explained. “We talked about putting a nitrous kit on it, so we went that route.”

Unfortunately, installation issues hindered a year of testing, and Julie was once again on the lookout for a new course of action. Early this year, Julie happened upon a used supercharger kit and enlisted the help of Powerlab Performance in Lithia Springs, Georgia, for the installation. After being tuned, Julie still wasn’t impressed by the power level, which was determined to be around 587 horses at the wheels.

“I felt defeated, and almost wanted to part the vehicle out and start from scratch again,” Julie remembered.

Paxton Power!

Just when she was ready to throw in the towel, Julie was introduced to Brian Ellis from Vortech Superchargers at the 55 Years of Mustangs meet in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I had expressed my dissatisfaction with my current setup, and Brian had mentioned how he would love to have me look into a Paxton or Vortech kit,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if that was the route I wanted to take at that moment so I had said I would think about it and get back to him.”

What was supposed to be an N/A monster has turned into a supercharged beast, and I couldn’t be any happier with the Paxton kit! – Julie Shugarman

A month later, after diagnosing an issue with the current kit, a bit more power was found (607 rear wheel horsepower to be exact), but it still wasn’t quite enough for Julie’s high-horsepower taste.

“I thought to myself, if I could find a buyer for my current supercharger, I would just sell it and go Paxton. It was the last chance I was going to take before ultimately deciding to part my car out. It must have been fate because I found a buyer fairly quickly and that put the ball in motion. I called up Brian and placed an order for my Paxton 2200SL kit with heritage gearset, 3.48 pulley, and Maxflow Race blow-off valve, and away we went!”

Vortech tells us that the Paxton 2200SL supercharger features 76% adiabatic efficiency, meaning that less heat (equaling durability) is generated, drive power is reduced, and more net power is produced by this supercharger. Also, Paxton supercharger systems are about half the weight of many competitive systems, and who doesn't love weight reduction?

Once again, Julie visited Powerlab for the installation, and the team there did the tuning as well.

“The tears nearly fell from my face when he announced the numbers after the dyno: 712 rear wheel horsepower and 539 lb-ft of torque! I never in my life thought I’d own a car with that much power, with so much more room to grow.”

Since that dyno session, Julie has also switched to E85, and tells us that the car feels super strong. They’ll be dynoing it again soon for updated power numbers.

Attention Grabber

To change her Mustang’s appearance up, Julie decided on KPMF Morpheus wrap on the roof, decklid, and side mirrors. She also added a Cervini’s C-Series lip, Renegade DRL LED grille, aftermarket rear diffuser, and VIS Racing custom-painted carbon-fiber hood. The hood has its own backstory: Julie bought it used and damaged, not knowing if it would be salvageable. She credits the shop responsible for the cosmetic modifications, SSR Collision of Cumming, Georgia, with the restoration of the hood and the custom paint job.

SSR Collision also installed a Scott Drake wicker bill with custom hydro-dipped plexiglass by Hrdrodypz in Kennesaw, Georgia, and CDC Outlaw side skirts.

Velgen VF5 wheels in Gloss Gunmental were chosen for all four corners, and are wrapped in Nitto G2 tires up front, and Michelin Pilot Super Sports in the rear.

The interior was overhauled starting with custom gray alcantara and leather seats with embroidery by JPM Coachworks. Custom hydrodipped dash pieces, a 10.4-inch Android “Tesla” radio, and custom alcantara and leather steering wheel, along with Autometer 58mm Boost Gauge round out the list of modifications inside.

No Garage Queen

But as we told you before, this beauty doesn’t sit in a garage.

“I do not do anything competitively right now, but typically I run in a HPDE 3 or 4 class depending on the track. I’ve now been on Talladega Gran Prix Raceway in Munford, Alabama, five times, and each time I had something new to test out on the car. With the power level from the Paxton and the suspension work done, next on my bucket list is to hit Road Atlanta and Barber Motorsports Park within the next year so I can add them to my belt. I have each track printed out on a decal and put on my windshield as a little memory of where I’ve been. I typically drive it to and from the track. My plans within the next two to three years is to turn it into a full-blown track car — gutted and caged — and have a truck and trailer so I can unleash a little more on the track.”

But Julie also daily drives the GT, and she says that even heavily modified, it’s a comfortable and fun car on the daily.

“The benefit with having a centrifugal supercharger is that the majority of power builds up top. This car is my daily driver so it’s nice to be able to enjoy it safely on the roads when going to and from work, but also enjoy spirited driving through the mountains and on track. I’ve tried to build this car as balanced as I could by attending to brakes, tires, suspension, and power, all while making it aesthetically pleasing to look at.”

With just about every piece of the Mustang modified, Julie tells us it’s hard to decide which facet of the car is her favorite, but circles back to the way it sounds.

“Between the Paxton blower with the heritage gears, the whistle from the blow-off valve, and the rumble from the LTH exhaust, it’s a perfect mixture of what raw power sounds like. It catches so much attention rolling down the street because it sounds like a jet from the front with bald eagles screaming from the back.”

Julie recently won an award for Best Lady Driven car at Clean Culture ATL Stadium Showcase this past September, pictured in the bottom right.

“I couldn’t be any more thankful for everyone involved especially the companies that I’ve worked closely with — CJ Pony Parts, Vortech Superchargers, Velgen Wheels, LTH Exhaust, CDC, Powerlab Performance, Hydrodypz, SSR Collision, and BlackVue.”

“What was supposed to be an N/A monster has turned into a supercharged beast, and I couldn’t be any happier with the Paxton kit!”

Julie Shugarman's 2017 Mustang GT Modifications

Injectors: Injector Dynamics 1050X

Pump: JMS Boost-a-Pump

Intake Manifold: Upgraded 2018 manifold

Headers: LTH Exhaust

X-Pipe: Custom made by Powerlab Performance

Mufflers: LTH Exhaust TruDual cat-back

Pipe Size: 2.75-inch

Supercharger System: Vortech Superchargers

Head Unit Model: Paxton 2200SL with Heritage Gearset

Pulley setup: 3.48

Boost: 10.5 psi

Intercooler: Paxton Air-to-Air

Blow Off Valve: Maxflow Race

Tranmissions: Stock MT82

Clutch: SPEC Stage 2

Gears: 3.31

Front Shocks/Struts: Koni Yellow Sport Adjustable

Front Springs: Steeda Extremes

Sway bar:  Pedders Full Sway Bar Kit

Rear shocks: Koni Yellow Sport Adjustable

Rear springs: Steeda Extremes

Sway bar: Pedders Full Sway Bar Kit

Brakes: Brembo 6-Piston front/stock rear

Wheels: Velgen VF5 in Gloss Gunmetal (10-inch front, 11-inch rear)

Tires (Front): Nitto G2 (275/35/20)

Tires (Rear): Michelin Pilot Super Sports (295/35/20)

About the author

Stephanie Davies-Bardekoff

Stephanie Davies got her start in automotive media while studying at Rutgers University and eventually landed at Roush Performance outside of Detroit, where she now resides. She writes for various automotive outlets, works with rescue dogs, enjoys driving her Roush-charged Coyote-swapped 1992 Fox body Mustang race car, and is convinced that absolutely nothing in the world beats a sunny weekend at the track.
Read My Articles

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