Bob Gooden was 17 years old when he fell in love for the first time. And when he turned 50 last year, he thought it was finally time to make his move: He bought his beloved Ford Mustang.

Bob Gooden was 17 years old when he fell in love for the first time.

She was curvy, with a sophisticated purr. Heads turned wherever she went.

Gooden thought of her often over the years. And when he turned 50 last year, he thought it was finally time to make his move: He bought his beloved Ford Mustang.

Technically speaking, it was Gooden’s wife, Marcia, who bought that much-admired car. She purchased a black, $50,000 2010 Ford Mustang GT 500. Before her husband even saw it, the car was whisked to California. There, it was ramped up with a design developed by automotive legend Carroll Shelby.

“We had talked about it, but I was surprised she actually did it,” Bob Gooden said.

Over the course of several months, the brake system was changed, and the suspension was swapped out. A new radiator, similar to the kind used under the hood of NASCAR engines, was installed. It was upgraded to six-piston brake calipers and the standard drive shaft was replaced with a lightweight aluminum one. The engine performance was increased from the standard Mustang’s 540 horsepower to 750 horsepower.

“There aren’t many of these riding around the roads,” Gooden said.

In all, it made for a rare and fast machine. Fewer than 500 Mustangs are upgraded with the Super Snake treatment each year.

“It’s a beast to drive, knowing you have that much horsepower,” said Gooden, who was waiting for the rainy spring to pass before getting his car out of the garage much. “It handles really well.”

Perhaps too well? You can only come off the line so quickly while driving down busy town roads.

“It’s not going to be used for that,” Gooden said, adding that he mostly plans to bring his Mustang Shelby to car shows and cruises. “It’s one of a kind.”

And that’s why the Mustang gets preferential treatment over Gooden’s daily driver: a Honda Civic. While the rain-splattered Civic sits outside on a recent wet day, the Mustang stays covered up inside a spotless garage stall. It gets wiped down after a drive and brought to professional mechanics for regular oil changes.

And just like that traditional Mustang caught Gooden’s eye as a boy, his new tricked-out version is catching plenty of attention, too.

“When I took it to the car club, there were a lot of people looking at it,” he said.

Likewise, he recently stopped in at Rock River Ford, where he bought the original Mustang, and “it cleared the showroom floor.”

A longtime fan of Mustang and the former racer Shelby, Gooden says his 50th birthday present gives him the chance to be a part of automotive history.

“Shelby’s been doing this for 60 or 70 years,” he said. “He’s a legend.”

Rockford Register Star