DEARBORN - Driving enthusiast Charles Siritho’s life has taken some pretty tough twists and turns over the past few years, but rather than simply crash and burn, this aspiring automotive photographer and race driver set some lofty goals for himself. A close friend of his sent us the following letter to tell us the story of how accomplishing one of his goals – owning a new Mustang EcoBoost – has inspired Charles to even greater achievements:
“Hello, Ford Performance! To friends who know him here in Arizona, Charles Siritho is a lot like the new Ford Mustang: bold, confident, optimistic, free, and full of aspiration. In fact, his story embodies the spirit of the Mustang to its core, and I’d like to share it with you:
Charles first laid his eyes on the new EcoBoost S550 Mustang in 2014 at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale auction in Arizona. The unusual display there featured the car on its side which prompted him to look closer at this all-new Mustang. The car’s four-cylinder turbocharged engine caught him off guard, the independent rear suspension intrigued him, the race-inspired interior was alluring and the price was reasonable – but the design of the headlights and tail lights were like nothing he had ever seen before: a combination of modern American and European styling that truly seduced him and made an unforgettable first impression.
The car embodied his desires – it was mature, it was something he would be proud to arrive in for business meetings, it would be proof that he had worked hard and his perseverance had never wavered. It would also mean the 1989 Nissan 240SX he daily drove in Arizona without air conditioning and occasionally called home could live out its days as the dedicated track car he had always intended it to be. Charles knew at that moment a new Mustang EcoBoost was not only an attainable goal but would be a major accomplishment and something he desperately longed for at just 23 years old.
The son of an aircraft mechanic and a dancer, Charles was born in San Antonio, Texas. He lived in 15 different states before his childhood concluded in a small town in Idaho where he became zealous about a career in photography, along with work in the automotive hobby. He left Idaho in 2009 to attend the Universal Technical Institute in Arizona, where he began to flourish and made great strides in his photographic skills. He also got involved in drifting.
The adrenaline Charles experienced at drifting events quickly escalated his passion for all things automotive into an obsession that consumed nearly every dollar he made. Being resourceful, he relied on his photography skills to make ends meet.
‘I did everything to make a drift event, whether it be for gas or tires,’ Charles said, adding ‘the addiction became so bad that I had no money left to live on.’
And so a downward spiral ensued: After a period when he wasn’t being offered any paid photo jobs, he soon found himself transient and forced to live out of his 240SX while searching for any and all job opportunities. Despite his dire life circumstances, Charles remained consumed with driving and developed a desire to someday drive professionally for a race team.
‘I put what I could in storage, had packed up a half-broken bag with enough clothes to get by, and bounced around for three and a half years,’ Charles admitted. ‘I would literally go book photo shoots and then set up my computer up at someone’s house just so I could edit a set of photos and get money for gas or for food.’
Meanwhile, Charles’ driving skills continuously improved and he became talented enough to earn a few sponsorships for competition, but he was unable to meet some financial requirements so the opportunities he had found often resulted in constantly taking the car apart.
‘I soon realized I needed certain things to compete,’ he said, adding, ‘I kept trying to think of a business plan for my photography but I was just so distracted by the situation I had put myself into with my driving that I couldn’t think straight. I was spending money in the wrong marketing areas and getting frustrated.’
Unwilling to give up his driving dream, Charles managed to amass over 12,000 hours on racing simulators and strived to set lap times as close to the real-world records at each course in the simulator. He also found a way to compete in a 2012 VegasDrift Grassroots event where he earned a fourth-place finish, and followed that performance with a first-place finish in 2013 at Myrtle Beach Drift.
Within days of seeing the S550 Mustang EcoBoost at the January 2014 Barrett-Jackson auction, Charles launched Murica Motorsports, an idea he developed with his longtime friend, Keith Johnson, that materialized into an automotive high-performance modification shop. However, his hopes for that business evaporated once he learned of his father’s passing on February 7, 2014. Faced with his father’s funeral expenses at the same time he was trying to launch a business all while still being homeless and consumed by drifting, Charles became overwhelmed. As a result, he was unable to fully dedicate himself to the business venture and relinquished his part of ownership to his partner at the start of 2015, which also meant he had to vacate the place he had been staying.
‘I was thinking this was really it for me,’ Charles said. ‘I was going through my whole phone contact list and on the verge of crying and freaking out when I came upon the name of a guy I knew, Donnie Schrader, who was with ‘Caliber – the Wealth Development Company’ in Scottsdale, AZ. The company manages investments backed by hotels, apartments, offices, self-storage, commercial and single-family properties, so I thought to myself: ‘This is the perfect guy to call!’ So I did. I asked him if I could stay in one of his company’s hotels, and he said yes – then offered me a job. That moment forever changed me and shaped my life.’
Charles secured his own apartment within four months of starting his new job at Caliber and finally had a stable place he could settle into and call home. His next goal was to buy a new car and in March of 2016, after a lifetime of driving used imports and lusting after exotic cars, Charles became the proud owner of a 2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost.
‘When I realized I could afford the car, it empowered me and made me motivated to work harder,’ he said. ‘My colleges supported me and wanted to see me buy a car so the Mustang uplifted everyone’s spirits. Owning the car is positive experience all the way around. The independent rear suspension is probably the best thing Ford could have ever done with the car. Plus I love the manual transmission; it’s like butter, the throw is perfect and the clutch is perfect because it has a good feel to it and it isn’t hard to handle either.’
The EcoBoost Charles purchased is fitted with the Premium Performance Package and the Redline (red stitching) option. ‘It's equipped with everything I expect of a sports car,’ he said, adding that ‘I even think the EcoBoost is an overall better deal than a GT.’
Within days of acquiring the car, Charles took it to a nearby racetrack and started filming his experience. The footage captured, along with commentary, became the first video he produced with his friends for what has developed into a business he calls ‘The Function Factory’ – an automotive media production firm concept centered on racing and the car culture.
Charles says he felt good about his decision to buy the car, and the strong following it has in the car community has fueled his desire to get more involved with the brand because – like Ford – he wanted to ‘go further.’ His dream to professionally drive has not evaded him, and in pursuit of that goal he has modified his Mustang with a carbon fiber body kit to resemble the GT350R. He’s even added a special shot of rainbow flake for a killer look that goes to the next level with a wrap design composed of multiple layers. The completed look made its debut at SEMA 2016 and made a profound first-impression on attendees. It’s a truly unforgettable sight.
‘I specifically wanted to do layers of vinyl to give it depth as well as keep as much detail in the design as possible.’ Charles said of the chrome designs wrapped around the car. ‘The body kit, the wheels and the graphics wrap all work together to show everything that’s going on in my mind. It’s a design I’ve wanted to do since I was young, and I’m glad I was able to do it on a car that people would want to drive every day.’
Charles daily-drives his eye-catching EcoBoost and shares that he often forgets how much attention it draws, but is reminded when he notices people are staring at him, following closely, or when he receives random thumbs-up or honks while driving: ‘The wrap creates endless conversations at gas stations,’ he said, ‘and it’s made it impossible to just get gas without talking to someone about the car.’
Common questions he encounters include inquiries of how much horsepower it makes or how fast it is: ‘It’s hard to give them an exact number because of all the modifications that were added to the car,’ he said, ‘so I just give them the rundown of how it’s a turbo four-cylinder EcoBoost and what that means.’
Charles has had the car for a year and has enjoyed sharing his passion for it with those around him. He is thankful for the friends he works with at The Function Factory as well as at Caliber for all the support they have given him, as well as the help he’s received from the many aftermarket suppliers and companies that have had a hand in customizing his car. Since Charles bought his Mustang EcoBoost he has never looked back, and strives to put his difficult past behind him.
‘I have learned many life lessons that could never be taught and met some incredible people,’ he said, ‘and now I am focused on creating a life with financial freedom that will involve racing, media and the lifelong ownership of my Mustang.’
After accomplishing his dream of EcoBoost ownership, he has set his sights on competing in the Pirelli World Challenge, preferably in an S550 Mustang, and says he is taking steps to earn an SCCA license and gain the proper accreditation to race at that level.
‘I have done everything that I set out to do,’ Charles said. ‘My EcoBoost represents who I am as a person: it's loud, extravagant and an aggressive go-getter. It's what going further really means’!”
Editor’s Note: One of the most popular features on FordPerformance.com and in our Fast News e-newsletter continues to be "Ford Fan Spotlight," where readers can send in their own reasons why they're fans of Ford Motor Company. You know who they are: Ford "superfans;" grassroots Ford racers; unique Ford vehicle owners; loyal Ford enthusiasts; notable Ford club people; special Ford families; and/or any avid supporter of Ford, Ford vehicles, Ford motorsports or Ford Performance who deserves a little bit of special recognition.
All you need to do to get you, your car or candidate considered is to send in a brief description (200-300 words or less) and a few photos (in .jpeg format, preferably 300 dpi) of a person (full name and hometown, please) and vehicle that you think Ford Performance should feature (and why) in the "Ford Fan Spotlight" for an upcoming installment of Fast News and posting on FordPerformance.com. Then email it to: AskTFR@Ford.com. Should you wish to send a video, you simply need to post it on www.YouTube.com (preferably 1-2 minutes long) and send in the link, along with a brief description, to that same AskTFR@Ford.com email address. We'll choose one submission each week.