It has run 8-second passes with street tyres and a full exhaust, now its new owner is intent on going even quicker!
Once upon a time, drag racing had a class that many people into doorslammers thought was a dream come true. Near stock- bodied American muscle cars that looked like street cars, only fitted with big, fat slicks. Cars capable of towering wheel stands and running the quarter in a little less than nine seconds, using nothing more than cubic inches, carburettors and gasoline. Yup, Super Stock was a fan favorite.
Back in 2000, Ford fan Rod Harvey decided he wanted a piece of that action, but with a twist. Known for fastidious, nay, fanatical attention to detail, Rod wanted not just to own the country’s quickest Ford that resembled a street car, but the top Super Stock car that was actually street driven. A tall ask for sure, but those who know Rod and his long association with Terry Bowden were certain it would happen.
At the time, Terry was involved with Super Stock as the crew chief on the class-leading Chevelle, a solid eight-second campaigner. But that deal was coming to an end, so Terrance jumped in with both feet, importing a late 1990s Mustang that had suffered a light frontal impact and had only 4800 miles on the odometer. Rod relates with glee that “people couldn’t believe it when we started to cut it up”.
Chassis Man Makes it Hook
Terry’s Chassis Shoppe is a busy place, knocking out many of the country’s top race car and street rod chassis. This is mainly due to Terry’s ability. Lots of people can weld but he’s a master at packaging. What he does is fit 10 pounds of stuff into a five-pound envelope and make it look like it’s supposed to be in there. The first step was to strip the near new car to complete nothingness. The floor pan from behind the front seats, all the way to the boot floor including the wheel wells, was surgically removed with a plasma cutter. Then a pair of huge slicks was rolled underneath so Terry could fabricate the chromoly chassis rails between them with room to spare. The roll cage was then added. The rulebook dictates where certain bars must be placed, but the bars are remarkably unobtrusive inside the car. Everything is tucked in as close to the roofline and pillars as possible. From the A-pillars the tubes disappear through the dash where another pair connect up to shoot forward to mount the Mustang front struts.
The rules only declare the cars must retain the stock front suspension, not all the extraneous factory sheet metal that it used to bolt to. This opened up a lot of space up front, which would come in handy once the massively proportioned powerplant was in place.
With the lightened and strengthened front end in place, Terry moved back under the rear of the munted Mustang and started work on the four-link suspension. A nine-inch housing was narrowed to the correct width and stuffed full of unbreakable Strange Engineering components. This assembly was then hooked up to the four-link and a pair of Koni coil-over shocks. Only four more things were required to make the ’Stang a roller, and these were supplied by Arrow wheels, 15×4 at the pointy end, 15×14-inch fat f#%kers out the back.
Wrapping the Package
Now the Mustang was rolling again, tin work commenced. Terry rolled up a pair of big tubs and an aluminium floor that covered up all that brilliant engineering. All the tin work was then polished to a mirror finish. Two lightweight bucket seats were fitted to the remaining steel part of the floor; the factory headliner and door panels went back in, so did the dash once it was relieved of all the factory gauges and radio. Although weight is always a concern in drag racing, the doors kept both the electric windows and the power mirrors.
The Mustang’s console was also retained, although the factory shifter was given the heave and it was replaced with a more business-like B&M item.
Lots of Auto Meter products and a myriad of switches to control various functions went back into the blank canvas that was the dash. It now resembles a space shuttle, rather than the land-locked missile it is. There was very little body work to do. The bent front panels were replaced with new 1999 sheet metal, and the front bumper and hood scoop are the only fibreglass on the car. All the glass is stock and the boot lid still opens up on factory hinges. A couple of coats of blue paint and the car was ready to receive the all-important power train.
The engine’s power band required a three-speed transmission, so in keeping with the all-Ford theme, a C4 was chosen since the bigger and stronger C6 is also considerably heavier, and sucks more power to drive. Jim’s Performance Transmissions supplied the trans supposedly capable of handling the big block’s output. Well, most of the time, anyway. Supplying the grunt to truly test the transmission was a Tico-built 498ci large block Ford. Starting with an SVO block, a steel crank and some alloy rods, a pair of ported Pro Stock-style Yates aluminium wedge heads were added, and a matching sheet metal tunnel ram with two massively reworked
As is currently the usual setup in normally aspirated powerplants, a BG400 fuel pump feeds the fuel into the carbs, while an MSD 7AL supplies the spark to kick combustion off. To finish the process Terry built a set of uber-cool stepped headers with trick merge collectors to dump the severely singed mixture into the atmosphere.
Somewhat unusual at the time was the dry sump oiling system that’s used to control oil flow. Not only does it make power while keeping the motor alive, it also enables the engine to sit lower in the chassis. An aluminium radiator equipped with two electric fans keeps the motor in a comfortable operating range, either coming up to a Christmas tree or while waiting in New Zealand’s biggest Friday night parking lot, Queen Street.
It was quite a sight for Auckland’s Friday night revellers, an eight-second Mustang cruising the main road, often in tandem with Mark Bardsley’s nine-second street-driven Camaro. The car was also a hit at the drag strip. Rod was running nine-second passes within five goes and became the car to beat, ruling the class with 8.7-second runs and robot-like reaction times. After a few years of domination, Rod and Terry decided to take on the challenge of import racing and the Mustang was put on the market.
New owner John Hickman, runs a trucking company from New Plymouth, and is partial to fast Fords. When he spied the Mustang for sale in a magazine, he was already most of the way through building an outrageous street and strip 700hp Ford Pop, a project that continues to this day. Upon spotting the ’Stang, though, he was on the first available flight to Auckland. “The initial attraction was that it was capable of being street driven; I like to take it to street drag events in Wanganui and New Plymouth as well as drag strips. I can take it racing and do it all myself. All week I tell people what to do and it’s nice to be able to not have to do that on my limited time off.” John didn’t just leave the car as it was purchased though. It all came apart once he got it home. “We just wanted to tidy a few things up, back to how it would’ve been when it was first built.” Everything that could be unbolted from the chassis was, the whole front end was sent to HPC to be coated. The exterior was covered in a gorgeous custom shade not too dissimilar to a bourbon and coke, and the absence of stripes and sponsor logos cleans up the car’s lines immensely.
The big engine was further enlarged to 520ci, “Because I’m a bit fatter than Rod,” (who isn’t?), and the C4 trans got the biff, to be replaced with a Chuck Mann-built TH400 equipped with all the fruit. Converter stall speed is about the same at around 4500rpm, and it seems John’s calculations were on the money, as he has so far equalled Rod’s best time in the car, despite limited opportunities in it.
“I want to beat Rod’s best time,” John says. “I’m a pretty busy fella; I don’t get as much time to play as I’d like, but the Pop is going to be my radical street car. I’ve bought a Caddy for a cruiser and this is gonna be my quarter-mile ride. We will keep it as street legal as we possibly can, we are staying normally aspirated, and we’re racing in Super Sedan. But apart from those few adjustments to compensate for my size, we’d be legal for Super Stock class if it still existed. And we will run faster than our present best of 8.7 at 157mph.” Despite the limited time he gets to run the car, I wouldn’t bet against it.
John Hickman – 1999 Ford Mustang
Age: A bit over 50
Occupation: Trucking company MD
Previously owned Cars: 1933 Ford sedan
Dream car: Still dreaming
Length of ownership: Approx. 7 years
ENGINE: 520ci big block, originally built by Tico Race Engines in the USA, Ford SVO block, steel crank, aluminium rods, Yates Pro Stock-style wedge heads, T&D shaft rockers, Jesel belt drive timing, custom built, sheet aluminium tunnel ram, two 1450 Dominators fuelled by Barry Grant pump, MSD 7 AL3, custom-built stepped headers, three-inch mufflers and tail pipes to rear, aluminium radiator with electric pump and two electric fans
DRIVELINE: Modified Turbo 400 with 4500 stall built by Chuck Mann, Grinner billet trans brake, Ford nine-inch diff, Strange 35-spline axles, spool, 4.56:1 ratio
BRAKES: Mustang discs on front, Ford drums on rear
SUSPENSION: Mustang struts, Koni coil-over inserts, four-link rear.
WHEELS/TYRES: 15×4 and 15×14-inch Arrow Wheels, Michelin XZX front tyres, Rear: Mickey Thompson 33×21.50-15LT street tyres or Goodyear slicks
PERFORMANCE: 8.7 seconds at 157MPH, 8.8 seconds with street tyres and full exhaust.
Words: Trevor Tynan Photos: Adam Croy