Naturally-Aspirated Shootout - Natural Causes
We rip up the Raceway Park quarter-mile with seven ruthless, naturally aspirated strip-scorchers.
From the August, 2008 issue of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
By Frank H. Cicerale
Photography by MM&FF Hit Squad
"Man, that thing sounds gnarly. What's under the hood--a blower?"
"Well then, how much sauce are you running?"
"Not a lick. That power-adder stuff is for wimps!"
These days, it's easy to make an inordinate amount of power with the help of nitrous, a supercharger, or a turbo. Even Ford figured it out, as no less than four late-models featured a blower. The boys in blue have offered turbo models, too, but the majority of performance Mustangs still rely on naturally aspirated power.
For many, building a solid N/A combination brings great pride, as selection in cam, head port design, valving, and intake become oh-so critical. To make 400-500 streetable horse-power without those aids or exotic parts, however, is a much more difficult task. The answer to going fast with a naturally aspirated setup comes down to the combination of the parts chosen, the size of the bullet under the hood, and the package in which the engine is laid.
With that, the time has come for another MM&FF shootout, except we'll do it sans sauce or forced induction. While turbos, blowers, and nitrous are all cool, the allure of nothing more than a Mustang running on muscle transcended our love for all things power adder. To prove there are those in the Mustang community willing to go fast without the help of what can be considered the steroids of the Mustang enthusiast market, we set out to find the baddest, most sensible N/A cars out there.
The result was a mix of shootout participants, with entries ranging from a serious Fox, to a Four-Valve '01 Cobra, to a stroker S197. Throw in a couple of Windsor-powered notchbacks, a 302-based Mustang GT, an NMRA-legal Factory Stock car, and an equal breakdown of automatic and manual transmissions, and the variety of different ways to make horsepower minus a turbo, blower, or nitrous oxide was astounding. Three of our participants even drove their cars to the track.
For starters, two out of the seven cars that attended showcased a carburetor; one sported a high-compression, iron-headed 306; while another Fox-body slung a 311ci motor topped with a stock-spec cam and E7 heads. There were two notchbacks that packed Windsor punches--one measuring 410 ci and the other a whopping 418. While dropping in a supersized 351-based engine in a Fox-body with a thumping camshaft and aluminum heads is nothing new, that one of them had a carb on it added even more allure to the deal.
While the pushrod contingent was strong, so were the modular contestants. A pair of Three-Valve S197s were in attendance, both equipped with a set of aftermarket cams and ported heads. The differences lied in the transmissions and the fact that one sported a stroker engine, while the other remained at stock displacement. Throw in a basically stock Four-Valve N/A Cobra, and the disparity between all of the contestants showed just how many different ways one can make loads of power on Mother Nature alone.
While the elapsed times may not have been as quick as some of those seen in our other shootouts, any time an N/A car can break into the 10s, all while being kept street-legal, it's quite a feat. For the record, in the following charts, everyone's best shootout run is in red.
If Eric Fischer's '92 coupe looks familiar, it's because his Stang has graced MM&FF's pages before. Both his car and his brother Bill's '88 coupe (which also participated in our shoot-out) were feature cars in the Sept. '04 issue. Heck, they even made the cover!
When it came time for our naturally aspirated shootout, Eric was all for it, and came to the track loaded for bear. Packing a 418 Windsor backed by a 4R70W automatic, Eric was the only participant able to dip down into the 10-second zone (he drove brother Bill's car as well). Not only did he get there, but he also did it consistently, and that was after driving the car to the track.
"One of our goals that we have held true to is that we always drive the car to and from the track," Eric says. "That means it must be civilized and reliable enough to make it back and forth, and maybe even stop at Burger King on the way home."
While the ultimate goal is to run 10.0 and cruise back to the homestead, on this day, Eric's 10.36 was more than enough to distance himself from the rest of the competitors. "I really didn't think we would be the quickest in the shootout," he says. "I honestly thought we would be at the bottom of the field, and that we were more like a couple of field fillers. There are so many fast Mustangs now, I didn't think we had that good of a chance.
"One of the biggest changes we made to the car was to run it on Mickey Thompson drag radials. I originally bought them so that I would have a tire that was more rugged on the street than the bias-ply ET Streets." Lo and behold, the switch to the radials yielded a 60-foot time of 1.401 seconds. From that point on, there was no stopping the hard-charging pushrod engine. It sounded good and ran like a champ all day long.
"With the way the converter works, it was better for me to leave at an idle than to footbrake the car," Eric says. "For some reason, the car 60-foots better when I leave off of an idle as opposed to giving it any rpm. Plus, with the car using the '95 computer, I set the shift points within the computer, so I just put the car in Drive, left the starting line, and let it do its thing."
|Car:||'92 Mustang coupe|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,174 lbs|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams; 244/246 intake/exhaust duration, 0.580/0.585 intake/exhaust lift, 109 LSA|
|Intake:||Ported Edelbrock Victor 5.8 EFI|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Accufab 75mm throttle body|
|Computer System:||'95 EEC with EEC tuner|
|Ignition:||MSD distributor, MSD coil, FMS spark plug wires, Autolite 3924 spark plugs|
|Transmission:||4R70W four-speed automatic|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Precision Industries Stallion 4,000-stall converter|
|Launch RPM:||Idle (950)|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||10.320/128.49|
It was a 1-2 sweep for the Fischer brothers at the N/A shootout, even though Bill's car had some interesting clutch problems throughout the day. Bill got stuck at work, so Dad had to drive the car to the track. Thanks to Mr. Fischer (pictured) for making the drive.
Bill's brother Eric did the racing duties in anticipation of some mid- to low-10-second slips. The best he was able to muster, though, was an easy (if you can call it that) 10.98 at a thundering 131 mph. While the trap speed indicates a car quicker than Eric's First-Place ride, the '88 coupe's clutch slipped badly.
"We have yet to figure out the cause of the problem, but the symptoms were that [the clutch] would slip while under full power," Eric says. "It's a brand-new clutch, so there's no reason for it to slip like it did. The only way I could get it to work was to slowly walk it off the line, and when I did that, it held through all four gears.
"On the first run, I left where we normally would with the car, at 4,800 rpm, and it proceeded to spin through the clutch in all of the gears. I talked to a couple of people who were there, Evan Smith included, and they all said to keep the clutch as cool as possible and to shorten up the burnout and such. I finally got it down pat when we ran the 10.98. I left at an idle and just walked the car off of the starting line. Since I was able to do so without heating up the clutch, I powershifted the rest of the way down track. That was key, because once I got the car off the line, I was able to apply full power."
Regardless of the problem, Bill's car was yet another example of how displacement is king when it comes to N/A motors. Holding the claim to the second-largest displacement engine at the shootout (a 410ci Windsor), the Tremec-backed mill made enough power that, if the clutch problems were nonexistent, should have pushed this flyweight Fox-body deep into the 10-second zone.
|Car:||'88 Mustang coupe|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,030 lbs|
|Built/Tuned By:||Self and brother Eric|
|Heads:||TEA/M2 Race Systems-prepped Edelbrock Victor Jr.|
|Camshaft:||Camshaft Innovations; 232/242 intake/exhaust duration, 0.600/0.589 intake/exhaust lift|
|Intake:||Edelbrock Victor Jr.|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Pro-Systems HP950 carb|
|Ignition:||MSD 6AL, MSD coil, MSD two-step, MSD spark plug wires, Autolite 3924 spark plugs|
|Transmission:||Tremec 3550 five-speed manual|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Ram clutch|
|Launch RPM:||4,800 (idle on the day of the shootout due to clutch problems)|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||10.430/131.70|
Known for his wicked-fast Mustangs, Justin Burcham of JPC Racing brought a horse of a different color to the N/A shootout--the NMRA-legal Factory Stock '93 Cobra clone owned by Mike Washington. While Mike looked on, the much lighter Justin dumped the clutch and rowed the gearbox to a Third-Place finish. Before we get into the details of the Fox-body, a bit of background information on the class this car was built for will not only serve to inform, but to amaze.
Factory Stock is designed for 302 or 4.6L engines, with a maximum displacement of 313 ci. Only original-manufacturer cylinder heads are allowed, and they can't be ported (unless they are Two-Valve heads). Throw in a camshaft requirement of a max valve lift of 0.480 inch, and you can see that those fancy aluminum heads and whopping camshafts are not allowed between the shock towers. What that basically means is that Justin had to go as fast as possible with a stock-spec cam and E7 heads.
Looking for maximum performance and a 10-second timeslip, however, we found out that Justin and Mike made some alterations for our event, effectively taking it out of true Factory Stock trim. "We changed the car around a bit to try and get it into the 10s," Justin says. "We put on a pair of slicks and took 100 pounds out of the car. If we had more time between the NMRA race in Georgia and the day of the shootout, we probably could've lightened the car a bit more and gotten closer to a high 10."
Knowing that makes Justin's 11.10/120-mph blast that much more impressive. After standing the car up high on his first crack at things, he aired up the tires, raised the rpm chip to the limit, and got the car to whoa down enough to spend the entire day in the low-11.1-second zone. "The car honestly could have used a bit more gear," Justin says, "but we're happy with how things turned out." Who needs aluminum heads, right?
|Car:||'93 Mustang Cobra clone|
|Weight w/Driver:||2,836 lbs|
|Built/Tuned By:||Rich Groh Racing Engines/JPC Racing (Glen Burnie, MD)|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams; stock specs|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Holley 70mm throttle body|
|Computer System:||Stock with DiabloSport chip|
|Ignition:||MSD Digital 7|
|Transmission:||Hanlon T-5 five-speed manual|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Centerforce clutch|
|Rear Gears:||Gears? What gears?|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||11.040/121.45|
James D'Amore III
'06 Saleen S281
We had stroker pushrod engines as well as stroker modulars at the shootout. Either way, cubes ruled, and the extra displacement that JDM Engineering's Jim D'Amore III was afforded in his Three-Valve-powered Saleen got him into Fourth Place. Jim had previously run well into the low-11s in decent air, and was looking for a bunch more with the air being even better. That wasn't the case, however, as a converter that was a bit too tight caused a bog off of the line, killing e.t. in the process.
"With the old converter, I was able to footbrake the car to 3,000 on the starting line," Jim III says. "At that engine speed, the car ripped off some great 60-foot times, and that was when I ran my best. We switched to another converter, but it ended up being way too tight, and I could only stall the car to 2,500. I tried everything short of standing on the brake pedal, but it wasn't holding anything more than 2,500 before it started to slide."
Either way, Jim used the common steps of ported heads, big cams, and cubic inches to rip off a best elapsed time of 11.30, with a trap speed of 118 mph--not bad for 298 cubes, all of which were driven to and from the track without even a change of tires.
Having run the car in the FFW Street Stang class, Jim has seen his fair share of success on the track. He said it best, though, when we asked him what he likes most about his Mustang. He said, "To quote the great Ricky Bobby, I just want to go fast."
|Owner:||James D'Amore III|
|Driver:||James D'Amore III|
|Car:||'06 Saleen S281|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,476 lbs|
|Engine:||298 ci stroker Three-Valve modular|
|Built/Tuned By:||JDM Engineering (Freehold, NJ)|
|Heads:||JDM CNC-ported Three-Valve|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams; 0.540/0.560 intake/exhaust lift|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Stock GT500 throttle body|
|Computer System:||Stock with JDM Engineering tune|
|Ignition:||Stock with Autolite HT0s gapped at 0.030 inch|
|Transmission:||TCI Super Street fighter 5R55S five-speed automatic|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||TCI 3,500-stall converter|
|Rear Gears:||Ford Racing 4.88|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||11.150/119.00|
David Stauder showed up with the other Three-Valve-powered Mustang in our shootout, and shifted his car into Fifth Place. David came the furthest to compete, as he and his white S197 hail from the great state of Florida. Unfortunately, the long trip had its effects on the car, as evidenced by the datalog and the resulting spark-plug damage.
After motoring to an 11.89 at 112 mph, David lit the scoreboards with an 11.94, but was missing a few ticks on the speed charts. Slowly but surely, the car lost more and more mph. When David downloaded the runs, he came to a conclusion. "On the second pass, it went lean at the top end of the track," he says. "The weather at Englishtown caught me off guard. Running on the ragged edge in Florida really takes on a different meaning in New Jersey. When I got home, I went to Tony's place [HP Performance], and we were able to diagnose the problem. First, I had too hot of a plug in the car with the HT2s I was using. Second, we found out that the stock fuel injectors were maxed out. With the tuning software I have, I wasn't able to see what the injector duty cycle was. Both of those things, combined with the ram air on the car, and the engine just wasn't getting enough fuel."
While David was able to stay in the high-11-second zone, he feels that he left a bit on the table. "We changed the injectors to a set of 39-pound pieces, went to Gainesville Raceway a couple of days after the shootout, and went an 11.89 at 114 mph--in worse air, to boot," he says. "If I had the car running properly at Englishtown, there's no doubt I could have run much better.
"The track the day of the shootout was just flat-out awesome. I dropped the clutch at 6,000, and the car just dead hooked."
No matter, David still gave it all he had, and he did quite well in the process.
|Car:||'06 Mustang GT|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,566 lbs|
|Engine:||Stock 4.6L Three-Valve modular|
|Built/Tuned By:||HP Performance (Orange Park, FL)|
|Heads:||Boss 330 ported Three-Valve|
|Camshaft:||Anderson Ford Motorsport N-43|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Stock GT500 throttle body|
|Computer System:||Stock with an HP Performance tune|
|Transmission:||Stock five-speed manual|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Stock clutch|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||11.898/114.00|
To say it has been a long time since Chris Winter took his '89 Mustang GT to the track is an understatement. "I was going to use the car to race in EFI Renegade in 1999," he says. "They changed the rules so many times, I gave up on the car, and it sat for 10 years."
With the N/A shootout being announced, Chris wanted to bring a car, but didn't know which one. Thanks to his friends, he was able to muster up the parts and pieces to ready the Fox-body for battle. "We stayed late and worked pretty much seven days straight to get the car ready to run," he says.
Unfortunately, Chris made only one run, with the result being some decided engine damage. While he cranked off a 12.25 at 114, Chris knew there was something wrong with the 306ci powerplant. "I took it easy at first and left off the footbrake because I wanted to see if everything would survive," he says. "I hit the 1-2 shift, and she was pulling like an animal. All of a sudden, the car kind of got lazy midway through Second, and when I hit the 2-3 shift, it just laid over."
Upon inspection and a subsequent compression test, Chris found that six cylinders measured 150 psi on the compression gauge. The other two didn't even move the needle. "Basically, it all stemmed from the car sitting as long as it did," he says. "The valvesprings were supposed to have 250 pounds of seat pressure, but in actuality, 8 out of the 16 had only 180 pounds. The clearances are extremely tight in this motor, and the pistons have a huge dome on them. When the engine got warm, everything expanded, and the pistons kissed the number 3 and number 6 cylinders' exhaust valves enough to bend the heads on them. They weren't closing all the way, which is why I had no compression in those cylinders."
While it may have been a one-shot day for Chris, it wasn't a total waste of time. "Now that it's together, I'll go to Englishtown with it on Wednesday nights and just have fun. I was planning on leaving off the transbrake at about 4,000, so when the heads get repaired and are put back on the car, I'll take it out and see what it does." That's what it is all about.
|Car:||'89 Mustang GT|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,150 lbs|
|Built/Tuned By:||Crazy Horse Racing|
|Heads:||World Products Windsor SR (iron)|
|Camshaft:||Comp Cams; 0.660 intake/exhaust lift|
|Intake:||Edelbrock Victor Jr.|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Holley 750 carb|
|Ignition:||MSD 6AL, MSD Blaster 2 coil, MSD distributor|
|Transmission:||Performance Automatic C4 three-speed automatic with transbrake|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Performance Automatic 3,800-stall converter|
|Launch RPM:||4,000 (footbraked on day of the shootout)|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||12.256/114.76|
Marianne Costa was the lone Four-Valve representative in our shootout. A regular attendee at Raceway Park, she shifted her way into Seventh Place with her Zinc Yellow Cobra. "I originally had a '95 Cobra," she says, "but I wanted a newer one to take the strain off of my '95."
Sporting nothing more than a tune, gears, an exhaust system, and a set of sticky tires, Marianne made up most of her time in the early part of the runs, ripping off some impressive short times. Her first run was the best of the day, as she slipped into the 12-second zone with a 12.96. Her best trap speed came on her last full run of the day, where she recorded a terminal velocity of 107.75. She came back around for another try but smoked the clutch in the burnout box. "I came to race, and I was pushing the car hard all day," Marianne says. "The clutch felt weird, but I didn't have a problem launching the car and powershifting it until that last run. I think it's a curse of some sort. I went to the final round in the Trophy class at the Fords at Englishtown race last year that Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords covered, and I ended up breaking the rear. Here, I smoked the clutch, although I was going to replace it anyway."
Overall, Marianne represented the Four-Valve crowd well, and once she replaces the Ford Racing Performance Parts clutch with a beefier Centerforce unit, she'll be back at the track in no time. "I think I'd be happy living next door to the track," she says. "There's nothing like the smell of burnt rubber in the morning." Amen to that!
|Car:||'01 Mustang Cobra|
|Weight w/Driver:||3,514 lbs|
|Engine:||Stock 4.6L Four-Valve modular|
|Built/Tuned By:||Pro Dyno (Charlotte, NC)|
|Carb/Throttle Body:||Stock throttle body|
|Compression Ratio:||Stock 9.85:1|
|Computer System:||Stock with Pro Dyno tune|
|Transmission:||Stock five-speed manual|
|Shifter:||Ford Racing Performance Parts|
|Torque Converter/Clutch:||Ford Racing Performance Parts|
|Rear Gears:||Richmond 4.33|
|Best ET/MPH to Date:||12.961/107.78|