Robin Lawrence
December 1, 2005
Photos By: Todd Ryden

I am a little jealous. While I am not complaining about my '05 Mustang, I get to drive it only on short trips. Other than a few squirts down the quarter-mile, I don't get a lot of seat time. Now that the cars in 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords magazine are into the nine-second zone, the amount of equipment required-five-point harness, three-layer pants and jacket, helmet and neck brace, along with fireproof gloves-desensitizes the driving experience. I remember how much fun it used to be to drive a Mustang on the street. As we make performance improvements, we get farther and farther away from the fun factor that made us fall in love with these cars. Every so often, I steal the keys to my son's '91 hatchback. It reminds me of why I love these cars so much.

As I said in an earlier story, I always wanted to take a Mustang on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Everyone loves a road trip. So many times while on the road to or from a race, I wish we had a little extra time to enjoy the trip. We are in such a hurry to get to the race or get home, all we see is interstate highway in the dark. I can remember when I was 8 years old going on a family vacation in a new '65 Mustang (Thankfully, I won't have to ride in that back seat again). All this wanderlust gave me the idea to take my Real Street Mustang on the Hot Rod Power tour in August 2004.

After talking to Editor Turner, I was convinced I needed to make the trip. I was surprised when Steve asked me to write about what we had to do to the car and our experiences on the Power Tour. If you have never heard about the Hot Rod Power tour, you certainly must not be reading Hot Rod magazine or watching Speed Television. The Tour has been around since 1995. Covering 1,200-plus miles over six days, the HRPT usually kicks off where it ended the previous year. Because of the poor reception last year in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the '05 tour kicked off from Miller Field in Milwaukee. Sadly, we don't have room for the whole sordid story here, so please check out our Web site for all the dirty details.

Makin' ChangesAs you might expect, we will need to make a few changes to the car. Normally, the car is set up to cover the quarter as quickly as possible. Longevity, driveability, and gas mileage are not priorities there, but driving 1,400-plus miles, we need to ensure we have no problems along the tour.

One reason to go on the HRPT is to showcase the streetability of the parts we use in Real Street. I didn't want to damage any of our current race parts. So while some parts were changed to preserve our race parts, others were changed for safety and reliability.

There will be a lot of different priorities with our engine. I had to concentrate on keeping the engine cool. Our experiences had been limited to the quarter-mile. With the thought of stop-and-go traffic, combined with extended periods of idling, I had to make some big changes.

After looking over several previous articles I decided to give the guys at Evans Cooling a call. At first I checked out its Web site at I was amazed at the different products that were offered. They work with heavy equipment down to intercoolers for supercharged systems. Steve Pressley recommended we install a larger accessory drive pulley to spin our Edlelbrock water pump at 25 percent over crankshaft speed. As we were running a Paxton H.O. series accessory pulley at the time, we just switched to the standard Paxton pulley. We looked into a smaller grooved pulley, but Dan Garn informed us we had the smallest grooved pulley that March made. At the same time, we removed the large alternator pulley and installed a stock size. With all the low-rpm driving, I wanted to be sure the alternator kept the battery charged.

Evans provided a larger aluminum radiator that had two 1-inch cores. We also filled the system with its unique coolant. I must say, this stuff really works! We had no cooling problems whatsoever during the Power Tour.

While I believe my race short-block would have held up for the 1,500-plus miles, I really didn't want to add any wear or tear to the custom pistons. Car Shop in Moline, Illinois, prepped a stock short-block that I would run on the HRPT. The '93 5.0 had low mileage and only needed to have new bearings and rings installed along with honing the cylinders and polishing the crankshaft. Just for good measure, they also balanced the entire assembly to ensure our ride would be smooth.

Because the '93 engines used hypereutectic pistons, I was cautious while on the Tour. I borrowed a set of Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads from Craig Baldwin. Craig had stepped up to a new set of Trick Flows for the '05 season so he offered me the set he ran in 2004. The only modification we made to the heads was to remove the inner valvesprings. As you know, we run a lot of spring pressure in the Real Street Class.

The balance of the engine components were stolen from the engine we ran for the first half of the year. The intake is a Trick Flow Street manifold with the injectors changed from our usual 72-lb/hr units to small 50-lb/hr units. I felt we would not need the extra capacity since most of our driving would be between 2,000 and 2,200 rpm.

The Jesel shaft rocker arms along with the Paxton Novi 1200 Supercharger are the ones that we race. Rumors of special impellers with tight clearances would be put to rest given the extreme conditions that we would encounter.

Driveline changes were made in the name of economy. We used a Fidanza Aluminum Flywheel, along with a Clutchmasters Stage 3 clutch setup. The clutch disk has a Kevlar lining, and the pressure plate is a diaphragm unit with an aluminum pressure ring. This clutch is exactly what we use in competition.

For the Power Tour, we installed a new Tremec TKO 600 transmission. It's the same transmission we race in Real Street. Our race transmissions have Fifth gear removed and modified synchronizers. Motive Gear provided a 3.70 gearset to replace the 4.29 Pro Gear we race with. Of course, we installed this on our Detroit Locker carrier.

Things got a little interesting with the chassis. I know that many components were capable of making the Tour. I replaced the front struts with an old pair I had on the shelf. I also changed the front springs to ones rated at 175 pounds. The ride height was set higher for additional ground clearance. While the car looks like it had all-wheel drive, it sure keeps from scraping things as we drive on the street. In the rear, I added 111/42-inch spacers provided by Racecraft. I installed the cheapest set of NAPA shocks I could find.

We used 275/60-15 Nitto drag radials on our existing Weld Racing wheels. They were a tad taller and filled the wheel openings a lot better than the 26x10 Mickey Thompson Slicks we are required to run in Real Street. I must say, the Nitto tires worked well. We encountered rain on the Nashville-Birmingham and Birmingham-Tallahassee legs of the trip. Even while trying to impress the guys from Hot Rod, in the rain the tires had grip. I am going to get some for my son Kyle's car.

The brakes were not so easy. During the construction of the car, the guys at Strange Engineering said the drag-race brakes should not be used on the street. I like the Strange brakes and was disappointed to learn they don't offer any street-type brake kits. Our friend Jim Schenk from Car Shop did some research for a brake kit that would work for our application. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a street brake setup for the symmetrical housing ends we had used on the 9-inch rear axle. Jim was able to convince the guys at Wilwood to assemble a kit that would have the vented rotors and work with our housing ends. We used an off-the-shelf front kit that also utilized vented rotors. I was disappointed when installing the brake kits, as all the paperwork that accompanied the parts had disclaimers that these brakes were "not for street use."

I met the nice people at Baer Brakes on the tour. I never realized that Baer makes brakes ideal for our setup. In hindsight, I would have been better off using brakes from Baer.

I probably should have spent more time on the fuel tank. No fuel gauge, and a 10-gallon capacity made me nervous. We would approximate the amount of time we traveled to plan our gas stops. We had no speedometer, so we could only figure mileage from running with people who had them.

At the suggestion of Kyle from Aeromotive, we installed one of its fuel pump controllers on our Aeromotive Eliminator fuel pump. We have heard about problems with high-horsepower cars using high-flow pumps. It seems they were burning the pumps up within several hundred miles. We thought the Power Tour would be a good test of the fuel controller. We had no problems in the 1,500-plus miles on the Power Tour. With these results, I will run the controller while I race. The reduction in pump activity at low rpm should keep the fuel cooler while driving to the lanes.

In race trim, we use a 16-volt battery. For the Power Tour, I installed a 12-volt battery and had the alternator checked on a test stand. With an electric fan, I wanted to be sure that we were good to go.

World Ford Challenge was barely over and I was ripping the car apart in the garage. I had about two weeks to get the car ready for the Hot Rod Power Tour. After dropping off the '93 short-block at Car Shop, I got to work on changing the suspension and brakes.

The first thing I did was change the gear on our Detroit Locker center section. The installation of the springs, shocks, and struts went pretty quickly. I tore down the engine I raced at WFC to get the parts that I needed to complete our Power Tour engine. The weekend before we had to leave, I drove my truck and trailer to Orlando. I would be leaving them at Jay Meagher's house to await my arrival. I had purchased a one-way ticket back to Chicago. Bruce Hemminger was kind enough to pick me up at the airport and haul me to Racecraft, where he would hand me off to my son-in-law Tim for the trip home. Want a fun weekend? Leave on Friday night, drive to Orlando, then fly back on Sunday. Needless to say, not much work was done on the car that weekend.

Once Car Shop completed the engine, I assembled it in about five hours. No rings to file, woohoo! The suspension and brakes were complete, and I was waiting for the Nitto Drag Radials to show up. I dropped in the engine and trans with no problems. We used the same Bassani exhaust that I race. I did install my spare steel driveshaft instead of the aluminum piece.

Our schedule was to leave on Saturday, June 4, for the kickoff in Milwaukee. My copilot, Ricky Best from Paxton Superchargers, was due to arrive in Chicago at 6 p.m. on Friday. I still had not solved a charging problem or wired up a brake-light switch. The harness for Ricky also needed to be installed.

At about 3 p.m. I left for O'Hare to pick up Mr. Best. As it's a three-hour trip each way, I knew the rest of the day was shot. At this point, Ricky is getting to know my dark side. I have been told I have a tendency to get a little "short" when faced with certain situations. This would come out several times along the way. Ricky deserves a lot of credit for tolerating seven days with me. (No wonder he hasn't returned any of my calls.)