Justin Cavallucci Builds First 460-Swapped S197 Mustang

“First” carries a lot of weight. Be it the first comment on a new video, or something as significant as walking on the surface of the moon, it’s still “first.” It only fits that today’s spotlight is on Justin Cavallucci’s 2007 Mustang: the first — and one of very few — road-going 460ci swapped and carbureted modern Mustangs. 

Cavallucci has always wanted a Mustang, and when the clutch blew out on his Audi, a beat-up daily driver, he opted to get something he would be proud to drive. 

In February 2016, Cavallucci took notice of a listing for a 2007 Mustang at a Ford dealership. “It was in near-perfect condition, tastefully modified with a stock GT 8.8 rearend already installed, and aftermarket shifter,” he said, adding that he bought the car that same day. 

Behind the wheel of his “new” car, Cavallucci noticed the mufflers were loose as he drove home from the dealership. Without any prior experience working on cars, he bought a jack and jack stands, and fixed the mufflers. 

“After getting over the fear of climbing under a car for the first time, I found peace working underneath it and have been chasing that same calm feeling every chance I get,” Cavallucci said. As a result, working on his S197 has taught him everything he knows about cars today. 

“I never knew how far the build would get and never imagined it would be this far,” Cavallucci said of his Mustang, which he affectionately named the Black Pearl. 

Zach Stout Photography

“I have never been to tech school or taken a class on how to modify cars. I learned through trial and error and have been the first to make a few modifications to the car,” Cavallucci said. 

Mods to the Mustang started relatively simple: changing the ignition coil box and spark plug wires, and adding an axle-back exhaust. He quickly progressed to more extensive modifications like installing the first N2MB WOT Box on the 4.0-liter, development of the first turbo manifold for the 4.0-liter, and the first street-driven 460ci engine swap.

“I have a lot of pride that I have built this entire car myself,” Cavallucci said. He added that it has never been taken to a mechanic for anything. 

“When the clutch went out and I had never done it before? I dropped the trans for the first time and changed the clutch. It ran perfectly for 30,000 miles. When I wanted to install 4.10 gears? Done, ran great for 40,000 miles,” Cavallucci said. He noted the only time he has gotten help with the car was for things that require two people, like aligning the new engine with the motor mounts.

Zach Stout Photography

Like many other V-6 owners, Cavallucci reached the point where he had to choose between forced induction or an engine swap if he wanted more power.  

“When I originally did the turbo setup on the 4.0-liter engine, I did it because I wanted to have one of the most powerful 4.0 V-6 Mustangs in the world,” Cavallucci said. 

Like any new product in development, the turbo setup had its flaws. “I almost sold the car and picked up a Shelby GT500,” Cavallucci said, adding that he had grown tired of how unreliable the turbo setup was, and he wanted something that he wouldn’t fear was going to blow up at any given moment.

“It was winter, and I had not driven the car for nearly a month, but when I took the car out, feeling the power behind that little V-6 immediately spiked my interest again.” 

Cavallucci didn’t want to give up the added power the turbo gave him, but he did not want to mess with the potential electrical nightmare that is a Coyote swap, so he opted to perform an engine swap with the 460.

According to Cavallucci, the 460 big-block/385 series platform still has a strong backing of parts that came out in the early 2000s. The 429/460s came in Ford vehicles for 29 years, which has made stock and aftermarket performance parts easily accessible.  

“I consulted a few new friends of mine and figured out how I wanted to do the 460 swap. I set a build cost estimate — then doubled it to be safe — and bought the majority of the parts I needed.” 

According to Cavallucci, the 460 swap has been running since May 4, 2019, and he has put nearly 1,000 miles on it. It took Cavallucci 65 days in a parking garage to complete the swap. 

Zach Stout Photography

Selecting a transmission to back the 460 was the hardest decision Cavallucci faced. “I couldn’t justifiably buy a manual transmission knowing it would be so much more expensive to build, and knowing that I would eventually turn to an automatic when I am making more power down the line.” 

Cavallucci said he plans to stick with the C6 three-speed transmission until the car goes above 1,500 horsepower.

Another challenge he faced was finding a set of long-tube headers. “There arent any long-tube headers for this swap because it’s still being innovated. I picked up some Fox-body 460 swap headers and luckily the passenger side fit, but the driver side needed to be completely re-fabricated,” Cavallucci said. 

At the time of this writing and to the best of Cavallucci’s knowledge, his car is one of three running S197 Mustangs fitted with a 460 swap. Of them, Cavallucci says one is a track monster that is rarely street driven due to it lacking a cooling system, and the other belongs to a friend of his. 

“There is no other car like it in the world,” Cavallucci said. “The car gets attention, the good and the bad, everywhere I take it. Everyone loves seeing a carbureted modern Mustang.” 

Cavallucci tries to take his beloved Black Pearl out every week and shows it as often as he can. 

“Seeing how curious and happy it makes people is one of the greatest aspects of having the car, so taking it out more makes me happier. The car serves as proof of concept, in an attempt to get more people interested in the 460 platform again, especially in Mustangs.”

According to Cavallucci, the only drawback of the 460 swap is that it is costly to drive on the street. “Big-blocks aren’t the most ‘gas-friendly,’ so I have to refuse a few shows because of how far away they are. I look forward to getting a trailer for it so I can take it wherever I want.” 

That said, Cavallucci said if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t change a thing. “The car has become perfect in my eyes, and it has been a learning process since day one. I am still modifying the car every day, making changes, and adding different parts that were never meant to be there.”

Zach Stout Photography

Cavallucci has been documenting the build process from the engine pull to its completion. The videos, available on YouTube, go into detail about how to get specific components to work. 

One of the things Cavallucci learned from the build was that his life is meant to be spent around cars and how to spend half — or more — of his paycheck on his car each month and still get by. 

The best part of the build is how much love has been put into the car. “Even if something happens to it, it will always be one of the biggest things to have ever happened in my life. If I did not get it, I would be a completely different person today. It changed my life and gave me something that will stay with me forever: knowledge and drive.”

Cavallucci says the car will never be finished, and he intends to work on it until the day he can no longer pick up a wrench. His future modification plans include the addition of a full tube chassis, fiberglass body, door-slammer ground effects, and 2,000+ horsepower. In the immediate future, he plans to add a set of turbos, upgrade the heads, add a new cam and intake manifold, and build the transmission. 

Justin’s Special Thanks:

-Zach Stout Photography – (@STOUT.ZS) for taking the awesome shots of the car

-Taylor Fryer for being a lovely model to work with

-Everyone who has supported the build of the car from the day I bought it to where it is now

-Summit Racing for dealing with my crap and taking all my money

-My prior apartment complex for letting me literally build a race car on their property

Build Specifications:

  • Engine: Big-Block Ford 460 (stroked to 514ci), TRW Pistons, Custom Grind Comp Cam, Edelbrock Performer RPM Intake Manifold, Holley EFI with Dual Sync Timing Control Distributor, Custom Lexan Scoop
  • Power Adder: N/A for now
  • Transmission: C6 3-Speed Automatic
  • Rearend: Built Ford 8.8
  • Other Driveline Parts: Custom RPC Driveline 2000-hp Driveshaft
  • Horsepower/Torque Numbers: 450 horsepower/500 lb-ft torque (crank)
  • Chassis/Suspension: Full suspension, lowering springs, Tokico shocks, SR Performance upper and lower control arms, AJE tubular K-member
  • Brakes: Powerstop Z26 full brake kit, Cadillac electric vacuum assist pump
  • Tires/Wheels: Rears: Racestar 15×10 and Mickey Thompson ET Street S/S Tires; Front: Bullitt 18×9 and Sumitomo Tires
  • Exterior: Eleanor hood, MMD louvers, MMD ducktail spoiler, GT bumper, homemade diffuser
  • Interior: Kirkey driver seat, Corbeau passenger seat, Racequip harness, TCI Outlaw shifter, custom X-brace

Photo gallery


About the author

Nicole Ellan James

As an automotive journalist and avid car enthusiast, Nicole Ellan James has a passion for automotive that is reflected in every aspect of her lifestyle. Follow Nicole on Instagram and Facebook - @nicoleeellan
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