A Family Affair: Jason Eberle’s Turbocharged 1989 X275 Mustang

At the American Muscle Car Show in 2017, I stumbled across a car that caught my eye first with its stunning paint. As I got closer to the car, I discovered the solid execution and impeccable assembly and attention to detail paid throughout the build. I couldn’t figure out whether it was a car destined for class racing, but unfortunately, the owner was nowhere around at the time, so I snapped a few photos of it—seen below—and carried on with my day.

Then I went to the 2019 Yellow Bullet Nationals, and lo and behold; there was the same car on the starting line in the X275 class. I made it a point to head out into the pits later that day and track it down to find out details, which is where I met the father-and-son team of Jason (son) and Joe (dad) Eberle. Along with fabricator Justin Giardini, the trio make up the team behind JE Customs Race Cars.

We chatted for a while, and I found out that they built the car from scratch in their Pennsylvania shop, and we discussed the idea of shooting a feature on it later in the weekend. I managed to catch a couple of solid shots of it on the track, but that evening, Jason got tangled up in an unfortunate on-track incident with another racer and crunched the nose and left quarter-panel on the car.

We’ve stayed in touch since then, as Jason has kept me up-to-date on the car’s rebuild, and I recently made it out to the shop to check out the car. But the story starts long before this car—the hook for this motorhead was set about as early in life as he can remember.

“Man, I guess it goes all the way back to my grandfather. He had a ’39 Plymouth rumble-seat convertible, and when I was six years old, we used to go up there and ride in the back seat. That’s basically where it starts. My old man’s always been restoring cars, so it’s always been around,” says Jason.

“I remember working on lots of different cars. One of the things that got me going with fast stuff, my dad used to be a little crazier when I was younger. I remember him pulling in the garage one day and doing a massive burnout in the garage bay, so much smoke that I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. I just thought that was cool, and everything starts from there.”

At 31 years of age, Jason is of the prime age to have chased excitement in sport compact cars rather than domestic muscle, but we can see that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree in his case. Joe’s lifelong fascination with all things Mopar and V8 muscle rubbed off, although Jason doesn’t necessarily share his Mopar affliction. Joe, a collision repairman by trade, allowed him to ride dirt bikes and help in the garage, getting dirty and learning hands-on. Even today, Joe works side-by-side in the shop with him, restoring muscle cars with a strong leaning toward Mopar machines.

His dad gave him his first car, a ’95 Firebird, which offered him a taste of the V8 life with the 275-horse LT1 engine, but he wasn’t allowed to modify the car at all, eventually selling the car at 18 years old. At the time, Joe and a partner were buying wrecked cars, repairing them, and selling them off at a profit. They came across a busted-up 2004 GTO—with the 350-horse LS1 engine—rebuilt it, and Jason moved further into the gearhead life with an intake and exhaust installed on the car. But he wasn’t working on cars for a living yet.

“At that time, I was a carpenter. When I graduated high school, I built houses with my best friend,” he explains.

Shop Details

As Jason grew older, he sold off the GTO, then they ended up building a 1,200-horsepower Trans Am street car, and he started expressing more of an interest in fabrication. Like many of the fabricators I meet, he’s somewhat self-taught, with influence from others guiding the process.

“We bought a TIG welder, and I went to town. Then I met Justin, who had a fabrication shop and was welding for ten years before I met him. He was welding intercoolers and manifolds, bench-welding all day. He was able to teach me the welding side of things, and it helped me get a jump over the regular person trying to learn how to weld on their own,” says Jason.

In his case specifically, the influence came from Justin, who is one of the most talented welders I’ve ever met. One look at the three-year-old merge collector feeding the turbo on this car details Justin’s talent.

This newfound interest in fabrication led the pair to start working on more ambitious projects, taking in basic rollbar installations and other types of business as they continued to hone their skills. All the while, Joe was in the background, ready to lend a hand or advice when necessary. And paint all of their projects to perfection.

“All that stuff is self-taught, asking people lots of questions on how something should be, and being very meticulous when you’re building a chassis and setting suspension points. It’s all about taking your time to do it right,” he explains.

The 1989 Mustang in these photos started from a shell; they cut the body off and built the chassis, then dropped it back on top. Although Justin had built a chassis at his previous job, it was not of this caliber. Jason and Justin had been installing rollbars and doing other fabrication jobs for people for a couple of years, but the Mustang was the most ambitious project they had undertaken to that point.

When I saw the Mustang at that American Muscle show, it had just been completed, and Eberle hadn’t even started the engine yet. Back then, there was a turbocharged and intercooled small-block Ford engine between the fenders, and as you can see from the current photos, it now sports an LSX-based Chevrolet engine, which is a massive undertaking.

“We brought the car home from American Muscle, we went to start it, pulled a spark plug, and the threads came with it. I took the head off, and it needed head gaskets,” he explains.

“I got frustrated, pulled the engine out, fixed it, and sold it, and we decided to go with Anthony DiSomma of DiSomma Racing Engines. That set us back a year right there, the expense to put together the billet-head LS engine we have. It’s so we can run all the Fords over with the LS, ‘cause no one in X275 really has ‘em. They’re all Fords.”

Not only did he swap the engine, but he also made a bunch of other changes to the car before I finally saw it again at the track, including the shift from gasoline to alcohol fueling. Then, the wreck at Yellow Bullet and subsequent rebuild, which set him back yet again.

“I was racing Dennis Moore. I was ahead of him with no way to see behind me. It felt like a little push from behind; he slid sideways into me and hit my quarter-panel. It sent me across the track, and I wasn’t able to get it back into shape. I had no clue what was happening. I was decelerating, and then I was going sideways across the track,” he says.

While performing the necessary repairs to the car, he also took the opportunity to change some other things up, installing the new floater-style rearend from Marty at Merillat Racing. Today the car is being tuned by well-known racer Frank Soldridge of PSI Speed Inc., with chassis guidance from Jamie Miller and Ron Galbreath at Afterworks Hot Rodded Shocks.

The Next Generation

One notable thing going on in Jason’s life right now is the impending birth of his first son, Jaxson, with his partner, Ashley. With nine weeks left to go until her due date, I wanted to know from her perspective what it’s like to be a part of this business-building and racing craziness.

“I love watching and learning hands-on with racing. Our first date, we were in his garage sanding his cage to prep for paint, and from there on, I knew how much I enjoyed being with Jason and the love he had for racing,” says Ashley.

The Mustang made its 2020 competition debut at the first Street Car Shoot Out race at Cecil County Dragway just last weekend, and even with a baby on the way, Ashley isn’t afraid to do what it takes to help the team.

“With the virus and me being laid off and pregnant, there’s only so much I can do, but I was out there wet-sanding the race car to get it ready. Even in the 90-degree weather, I’m still the one to walk him up to the line, prep him for his races, and take videos. I support Jason with his business and racing because we are a team,” she says.

Even though Jaxson’s still cooking in the oven, she mentioned ongoing household discussions about a junior dragster in his future.

“I especially can’t wait to watch Jason show and teach him exactly what Jason’s father has taught him over the years. I love the family bonding we have at the track and at home,” she says.

Jason considers himself as exceptionally lucky to have Ashley for a partner, as she’s quite understanding of the demands that the business and racecar put on his time, and he realizes that he’ll need to make some adjustments once the little guy shows up.

“She knew what it was when she met me. With my son on the way, I’m going to work out night time to come home and spend time with them. I’m excited about that,” says Jason.

Balancing the needs of building a business, competing in a demanding race class like X275, and building a family all at the same time is not a challenge for the faint-of-heart, but Jason Eberle has demonstrated that he’s not afraid of change. With only 25 full passes on the car ever and power that matches the top competitors based on the speeds shown at the track, I believe that 4.20s are not far off for this talented team. It’ll be fun to watch as he sorts out his racing program; I expect to see big things out of the JE Customs shop in the future!

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