KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
June 1, 2009
Photos By: KJ Jones
There's definitely a ton of cool in having a 9-second '07 Shelby GT500 with a Performance Automatic Super Comp AODE transmission (just like the PA trans/Precision converter combo in our T-top coupe) that can pull a trailer down the highway at 70 mph/2,800 rpm in Overdrive. (We know the federal towing speed is 55 mph, but when you need to make time ...) With cooling help from a huge front-mounted oil cooler, the transmission ran at a stable 150 degrees for hours each day, and the transbrake launched and shifted consistently during the dragstrip passes.

We're sure many of you agree that stout performance (i.e., lots of horsepower) probably ranks as Numero Uno on most 'Stangbangers' lists of Top 5-or maybe even Top 3-must-have qualities for street/strip Ponies. Of course, when it comes to putting Mustangs on the dragstrip, "the quicker (a 'Stang covers the quarter-mile), the better" tends to be a unanimous sentiment among the really hard-core members of the 'Stang Nation. And with this being the case, we're seeing more and more "street" Mustangs packing upward of 700 strip-ready, back-tire horsepower nowadays, clicking off 9-second e.t.'s with little effort.

As evidenced by the large number of 'Stangs that turn out for the NMRA's True Street class at nearly every event on the tour, 'Stangbangers dig creating and owning real-world Ponies that fly, but don't need a trailer to be carried to-and-fro or a parts-laden support car following closely behind it, just in case. In True Street, the Mustangs must have valid registration and insurance, the drivers must have valid licenses, and both must complete a lengthy street-cruise, then survive three, back-to-back dragstrip passes-without opening hoods, changing tires, or making any adjustments whatsoever.

Our first introduction to Hot Rod magazine's Drag Week came in 2004 when the magazine's editors announced their concept of a street-driving/drag-racing endurance contest for high-powered vehicles that, in our opinion, would be the most-difficult test of street/strip cars that anyone had ever experienced. Naturally we wanted in on this type of challenge, as we thought that it smacked of being a perfect opportunity to show the world what an ultimate street/strip Mustang is all about. And with that idea motivating us, we went about building our T-top '86 notchback in an effort to meet the challenge head on.

The heart and soul of Paul Svinicki's Drag Week Shelby is this Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum, 5.4-liter, TVS-supercharged, 605hp Aluminator engine, featuring a shot of Zex nitrous oxide for good measure. "We wanted to take out Ford's baddest, fastest road car on this deal, that's why I chose a Shelby and made just a few little changes to make it stone-dead reliable," says Paul. "Since Ford Racing now offers the complete install package (plug-and-play wiring harness) for updating Shelby GT500s and any other 'Stangs with Aluminator engines like the one we're using, and with the Aluminator being 38 pounds lighter than the stock engine, the Aluminator swap somewhat helps compensate for the additional weight we're carrying with the loaded trailer," (about 1,500-2,000 pounds).

Drag Week is a test that centers on driving your car to and from five different dragstrips over the course of five days, racing the car at each track. Now, before you go saying, "where's the challenge in that," you need to understand that Drag Week covers nearly 1,083 miles (not including the quarter-mile track blasts ... and however many driving-while-lost miles are amassed during the tour) of rural roads, towns, small highways, and major freeways, and participants are strictly prohibited from towing their cars from track-to-track. Also understand that Drag Week contestants can't have friends following closely behind carrying parts, tools, or other items that are needed for making it through the week, and oftentimes, drivers are jockeying cars with 1,500-plus ponies to the event.

A car competing in Drag Week-be it a Mustang or some other ride-has to be built right in order to successfully complete the test; and its driver (and passenger, for that matter) has to have not only the physical stamina to make it through five grueling days and nights of driving, navigating, loading and unloading racing equipment (from the trunk or a tag-along trailer, which are permitted), racing for a low e.t., and maintaining an e.t. average, but he also has to have the rock-solid mental state to keep pushing when things aren't going well, or especially when his exhausted body is screaming halt. Keeping an even keel during Drag Week really is critical to going the distance.

We had high hopes and great intentions of taking our T-top coupe out on the inaugural Drag Week tour in 2005, but unfortunately, we didn't complete the build in time to make it happen. As a consolation for missing the event with our own 'Stang, Associate Editor Mike Johnson rode along with Justin Burcham that first year, and Uncle Robin Lawrence documented the trip in his spanking-new '05 the following year.