May 1, 2003

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Our combatants. It takes real men to race in conditions like this. Nitrous Pete (left) and Jim D'Amore are two such players.
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Under Misinsky's hood, the modifications are easy to see. The nitrous solenoids, single-blade throttle body, Metco pulleys, and Aftercooler reservoir are in plain view. More hidden are the Billet Flow idler pulleys, which prevent belt slippage, Kooks headers and bypassed power steering pump.
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Nitrous Pete runs space saver spares to take about 75 pounds off the nose of the car.
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Except for the K&N filter, Nitrous Express line and the lack of a guard for the blower, this could be any stock Cobra. But Jim D'Amore's SVT monster makes 592 lb-ft of torque from 2,800-4,600 rpm.
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Not exactly what we'd call a super clean installation in Nitrous Pete's Cobra. On the positive side, the manual valve body AOD-E from Level 10 Transmissions worked flawlessly in the Misinsky Cobra. Gary Bell of MA Audio was the man behind the stompin' stereo and DVD system, which consists of a full array of MA Audio speakers, subwoofers, amplifiers, and a custom kicker box design which takes the place of the rear seat.
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D'Amore mounted his nitrous controls in front of the Pro 5.0 Power Tower shifter. Wiring is for the Horiba air/fuel meter used to aid tuning.
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Rollcage and harnesses differentiate Nitrous Pete's Cobra from D'Amore's convertible.
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Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. D'Amore yanked his headlight out for the second pass and picked up over two-tenths and half a mile per hour.
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Nitrous Pete brought a handful of custom-burned Diablosport chips.
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Space saver spares rid the nose of unnecessary unsprung weight.
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Nitrous anyone? D'Amore's setup...
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...and Nitrous Pete's.
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Space saver spares rid the nose of unnecessary unsprung weight.
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Nitrous Pete brought a handful of custom-burned Diablosport chips.
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This wasn't your typical Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Shootout. This was little more than a good, old-fashioned East Coast street race. We rented Atco Raceway to give you official elapsed times, but we would have been better off having it at the Hole in Newark.

The idea was exciting: Take the two quickest '03 street Cobras in captivity (conveniently located less than 90 minutes from our office) and pair them up for a dragstrip brouhaha. In the Red corner was Nitrous Pete Misinsky, a mainstay in the Mustang hobby since day one. He used to terrorize the Garden State in a nitrous-slurping '71 Mustang, but when the EFI craze took off, he jumped right in. Pete has won numerous sanctioned events, a whole lot more under cloak of darkness, not to mention the NMCA Limited Street championship in 1997 (winning 11 of 12 races).

Pete has been away from full-time racing for a couple of years; despite his success, the financial considerations put quite a strain on his bank account. It also diverted his attention away from his shop, PJ's Performance in Vineland, New Jersey. But the '03 SVT Cobra grabbed his attention in a big way. It was not long before the red coupe you see here was in his possession and headed for the kind of abuse only a hyperactive, gear jamming, straight-for-the-jugular guy, like Pete, can subject it to.

Going against Nitrous Pete on this day (in the Grey corner) was Jim D'Amore, former boxer, procurer of impossible parts and currently one of the foremost experts in the country when it comes to tuning Modular Mustangs and Lightnings. As proprietor of JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey, D'Amore is responsible for many of the quickest 5.4 Lightnings in the world, with his own capturing the crown in our 13-way Shootout in the February issue. To the best of our knowledge, that black truck (10.50 at 128 at 4,680 pounds) is the quickest full-bodied street Lighting in the land.

When the '03 Cobras hit the street, it was D'Amore who pitched in and helped get our SVT test car to go 11.6s at 119 when the other magazines were still trying to figure out how to make them go 12s. That he knows what he's doing is evident by the fact the convertible you see on these pages ran a best of 10.92 before our event at a race weight of over 4,000 pounds. Not a bad daily driver!

In the weeks leading up to the race, there was plenty of smack being thrown down, accusations of cheating, and general mistrust amongst the competitors. The phones in our office were ringing off the hook--is this legal, is that legal, does he have this on his car, and on and on. You'd have thought the race was for $100,000 bucks. No, there were no greenbacks involved. Hell, this was for something more important than money--it was for bragging rights. And in this Garden State brawl, that was everything.

Of course, this being a glorified street race and dealing with the characters involved, things didn't exactly go as planned. The rules (such as they were) called for factory six-speed transmissions, so naturally Nitrous Pete showed up with a manual valve body automatic and a lockup converter. Do we send everyone home and hope the readers don't mind a blank cover? Not likely.

Since we were attempting this in the middle of winter in New Jersey, the temperature was a robust 24-degrees Fahrenheit when we arrived at the track that fateful morning, with the windchill giving us single-digit thrills. The temperature climbed to a balmy 28 by the first time shot, and hit a positively toasty 32 degrees peak during eliminations. (You always know you're in trouble when there is ice in the burnout box.) Would there be enough heat in the track for the cars to run safely? Would the starting line have enough bite to hold a stock Cobra (let alone two cars with a combined 1,100 rear-wheel horsepower or so)? Atco Raceway's Joe Sway Sr. did a remarkable job of prepping the track. After one or two passes the track was ready for serious action.

Don't even ask us about the nitrous situation. Can I run it? If he's running it, I'm running it. Who was hiding what? His blower's not stock. Did I mention we were freezing our lug nuts off? Before the day was over, we saw Joe Amato from Downs Ford Motorsport and, from the "Where Are They Now?" file, "Radical" Craig Radovich. The only guest missing was Rod Sterling from The Twilight Zone.

Meet The Meat
Since Nitrous Pete showed up at the track before D'Amore, we'll tell you about his red ride. Actually, there's not a lot to tell, at least when it comes to the engine. Everything from the oil pan to the cams is Ford-factory issue. The only change here is a Billet Flow oval throttle body.

So where does the power to run 10s come from? Boost, baby, and lots of it. Twenty-three psi on the day of our test, to be precise. How does Pete do this? He employs Metco pulleys to get the numbers up and Billet Flow idler pulleys to ensure the belts don't slip. On this day, those belts were tighter than a clam's butt. On the dyno, Nitrous claims the idler pulleys were worth 30 hp by themselves.

Normally, this would generate extreme heat and blower speeds that would be fatal. To combat the former, Misinsky rigged up a Vortech Aftercooler reservoir, filled it with ice and water before every run, and pumped it through the factory intercooler to bring the charge temps down. As for the latter, Pete admitted turning the factory blower at that rpm was a certain way to grenade it and would neither recommend nor try it again. But drastic times do, indeed, call for drastic measures, and the frigid H2O allows the Eaton 110 to make more than just heat at that boost level.

Tuning comes from a stock ECM and an assortment of Diablosport computer chips. The red Cobra has 50 runs on the dyno to get it tuned to the max and Pete showed up at the track with a handful of them for altered states of tune, including different levels of nitrous--more on this later.

Also helping the Cobra on its way to the 10-second zone are Kooks headers with 1 3/4-inch diameter tubes, breathing into an PJ's Performance custom-fabricated 3-inch, catalytic X-pipe and Flowmaster 3-inch, cat-back exhaust. All told, Pete claims a resounding 680-rear-wheel horsepower at 740 lb-ft of torque with an 80-shot of spray. (Pete feels these numbers may be a bit exaggerated because the tires were spinning on the chassis dyno.) A neat trick was Pete's bypassing of the power steering, which may have increased effort quite a bit, but it did the same for the horsepower level.

Aside from how mind altering that power level is, what does that say about the robust nature of the factory Cobra short-block?

Misinsky channels all this into a Level 10 Transmissions-built AOD-E with a manual valve body and a Precision Industries lock-up torque converter (9 3/4-inch, 2,400-rpm stall), which then makes its way to a fortified IRS with a 3.73-geared Eaton diff. PJ's sells a kit designed to quell the wheel hop so often endemic to independent rear-equipped vehicles. It includes harder durometer bushings and different shocks (Pete's car also has subframe connectors.). The bottom line is despite the prodigious torque, horsepower, and Mickey Thompson E/T street tires, there was no IRS failure on this day (for either car).

Inside, the car gets a bit more radical. A Tony's Metal Crafts rollcage and M&R harnesses keep the occupants safe at speeds over 130 mph. A not-so-tidy job (Okay, it looks like a hack job!) was done fitting the B&M shifter and numerous toggle switches to the console. Total weight is 3,760 with driver.

In the trunk was the ubiquitous N2O bottle that helped give Pete his nickname, not to mention the battery. The solenoids under the hood read Compucar. Misinsky was admitting to an 80-shot by the end of the day, which gave him a 5-mph increase in trap speed.

While Nitrous Pete's Cobra looked every bit the part of a racecar (wiring everywhere, cage, space-saver spares in lieu of skinnies, decals everywhere, passenger-side headlight deleted), Jim D'Amore's convertible Snake looked much like a cruiser ready for a night working the Jersey shore--which at 4,011 pounds (with driver) it does quite adroitly. We're talking full-sleeper mode, folks. If you pulled up to this at a traffic light, would you think it 10.90 capable?

D'Amore arrived with all accessories fully functional, his Mineral Grey metallic machine presenting a stark contrast to Misinsky's over the top coupe. Jim raced it with stock, heavy front wheels and tires, the battery under the hood and (as per the rules) a factory six-speed gearbox.

Like his opponent, D'Amore saw no reason to mess with the factory long-block and it has held together without incident despite serving as an on-going test mule for JDM Engineering's line of '03 Cobra parts. Among these that were on the car the day of our test are full-length JDM/Kooks 1 3/4-inch headers, a 2 1/2-inch JDM catalytic X-pipe and raucous mufflers and tailpipes, single-blade throttle body and pulley system. The upper pulley measures 2.8 inches, the lower 4.16; peak boost is 20 psi, but it then falls to 17.5.

A set of 50-pound MSD fuel injectors and a JDM-modified mass air meter feed the beast, which allowed D'Amore to run it without any chip during our Shootout. (This allows his customers to bring their cars in for warranty work without fear of reprisals if the dealers discover a chip in the EEC-V.) That is the extent of the underhood mods, which in turn have delivered 508 rwhp at 6,100 rpm and 592 lbs-ft of torque from 2,800-4,600 rpm-enough to push this behemoth to 10.92 at 125 (1.60 60-foot) sans nitrous. For our battle, D'Amore went to the good folks at Nitrous Express for one of its single-stage wet systems.

The only modifications to the driveline of the convertible is a Centerforce clutch and a Pro 5.0 shifter. The entire IRS is factory issue, down to the 3.55 gears, save for a pair of QA1 shocks. A set of 26x10 M&H ET streets on Weld wheels gave D'Amore's ride grip on the cold starting line.

Inside, D'Amore had temporarily mounted his expensive Horiba meter atop the instrument panel to keep tabs of the air/fuel ratio, especially important for his forays into the nitrous zone.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road
When it came time to duke it out, we had one lane available to us. After a few cars had gone down the track to put some heat in the surface, Nitrous Pete pulled to the line (he removed the headlight after our cover photos were taken). He eased into the throttle, but still spun badly. The car recovered fairly well, going 11.404 at 127.61. This despite a 1.917 60-foot time.

Then it was D'Amore's turn. His ragtop hooked a little better (1.826 60-foot), spun hard on the one-two shift, but still responded with an 11.48 at 123.19. He reported a peak of 21.5 psi from the blower, but just 17 psi through the traps. While both cars were well off their usual high-10-second pace, this was an auspicious beginning, especially given the dubious condition of the track. A mere eight one-hundredths separated the pair.

It was at this point we asked the contestants to remove their bottles from the trunk. We should have done so before the first run, but it slipped our minds. For round two, we would eliminate the possibility of any chicanery (yeah, right). Back to the line was Pete's red missile. Again, he walked it out of the hole, but got into the power quicker. The 60-foot mark came up in 1.879 seconds, still barely better than a stock GT. But it didn't tell the whole story. The eighth-mile came and went in 7.35 seconds at 102.07 mph, en route to an 11.191 at 128.66. (For the sake of comparison, Pete's car typically 60-foots at 1.60 with the automatic. Such a short time would have propelled him easily into the 10-second zone--the mph alone is enough for low 10s.) The boost read 23 psi, according to the driver.

Then it was the Grey Ghost's turn. Again, D'Amore had him covered in the 60-foot (1.782), but then problems arose. On the one-two gear change, D'Amore's left leg got caught behind the steering wheel, keeping the clutch engaged. He ran a remarkable 11.278 at 123.68 despite the incident--again eight-hundredths slower than his adversary--but the clutch came back smelling sickly. The big question now was would it hold up the rest of the day.

The answer, unfortunately, was not likely. For round three, Pete again went first and for the first time on this day went solidly in the 10s (despite a mediocre 1.71 60-foot time). He cleared the traps at 10.868 at 128.79. D'Amore's car didn't fare as well. As we feared, the clutch was slipping and the car slowed to an 11.435 at 124.34 (1.90 60-foot).

With the specter of a blown clutch (not to mention frostbite) looming, we allowed the men to warm their nitrous bottles. It was time to pull out all the stops. For the first run on the juice, Pete claimed an 80-horse shot. Despite a more leisurely launch (1.727 60-foot), he was flying down the Atco quarter-mile. On the bottle (and with a different chip), he ran a 10.546 at 133.78 mph.

After a lengthy cool down, D'Amore gave it one last desperate try. Unfortunately, the rest didn't help. The clutch was a goner, it could not harness the extra magic contained in the bottle. His e.t. dropped off to 11.66, despite a 125.20-mph speed.

The day over, we crowned Pete "King of the Cobras"--at least for this day. D'Amore is already building a black coupe more capable of corralling those stampeding ponies, and Nitrous Pete just switched to a Kenne Bell twin-screw supercharger.

We almost felt guilty about having the Shootout on an afternoon when there was so little bite on the line, but the end result was every bit as competitive as we had hoped, despite what turned out to be quite different vehicles. I guess we'll have to try this again. Once our fingers and toes (and the track) thaw out, that is. Stay tuned.