Brad Bowling
September 1, 2006

Speaking of Fox-bodies, two hatchbacks caught my attention. Jody Akers' '93 was painted a spectacular Candyapple Red and had been updated with a 306-inch supercharged engine, Cervini's Cobra R hood, Cobra R chrome wheels and clear taillights. On the other side of the lot, Travis Ford's black '90 GT with flames made the ground shake as it parked, its 408 cubic inches, Canfield heads and C4 transmission making it a threat on the street or strip.

Rusty and Ann Welch, of Churchville, VA, showed a very unusual modified Fox, although you might not know it at first glance. The couple bought their first and only Mustang - a white four-cylinder convertible - new in 1987, drove it for a decade until the powertrain expired around 130,000 miles and parked it for five years. The droptop went from lawn ornament to show car after Rusty bought a 225-horsepower crate motor from Ford, installed 3.08:1 gears in back and popped on some later 16-inch Mustang wheels. "I didn't want to turn it into a hot rod," Rusty told me. "We just hated to see such a good car deteriorate after we had enjoyed it in its first life."

The family aspect of the Mustang show circuit was in evidence everywhere. Jon and Lisa Moles drove their pair of red Ponys from Roanoke - his an '88 hatchback whose 'NOSTPNY' license plate gives away the GT's addiction to juice, hers a '97 Cobra with sidepipes, lowered suspension and warning 'HER SNAK' on the front and rear Virginia tags.

Jim Broome and his daughter Jennifer modified a '93 coupe that gives new meaning to the term "attention to detail." Jim told me that every panel was replaced with new factory pieces during the build, and that he expects around 525 horsepower once his Vortech-fed V-8 is dialed in. Look for Jim and Jennifer's red notchback in a future issue of Modified Mustangs.

In the same way that some pet owners start to look like their dogs, Mustangers often build their cars to reflect their personalities. Kitten Rudman, from Pigeon Forge, TN, displayed her white-on-whiteon- white '98 convertible that had a definite feline look to it. Imagine the most content Persian cat sitting in the sun wearing a Cheshire grin and you have a good idea of purrin' Kitten's demeanor. This kitty can scratch, though. In addition to white Cobra wheels, billet grille, custom spoilers and hard tonneau, Kitten's convertible has a supercharger and 3.73:1 gears. (I suspect it would be wearing white tires if someone made a set.)

As is always the case, four-eyed Foxes were in short supply, although stockers from '79-'86 outnumbered modifieds at the Johnson City show. Eric Hughett drove from Seymour, TN, in his very clean silver '85 GT hatchback that featured a 302 with Trick Flow heads, 750cfm carburetor, nine-inch rear, four-wheel disc/five-lug conversion, four-point rollbar and Weld Prostar wheels.

With so much awesome iron around, I wondered what criteria a judge could use to fairly evaluate cars in the modified class.

"Everything about judging the modified class starts with workmanship, condition and cleanliness," Susie Siefert told me. If that name sounds familiar, you probably read the article I wrote about her in the June issue: "Five-Oh Susie." The limo driver with the raspy voice and awesome '92 convertible recently became the first woman to be named head judge of MCA's modified class. "Points accumulate from there, based on how difficult they are to perform - three for simple mods, five for minor work and eight for each example of major modifications."

I asked her if uniqueness was a factor in assigning points. For example, what if you have three nearly identical fourth-generation coupes with scissor-style doors, but the fourth Mustang has been tastefully converted into a sporty two-door station wagon?

"A judge must be consistent from car to car and not allow a personal bias to change his evaluation. A red car doesn't get more points than a black car, and whether or not a judge likes the two-door station wagon idea better than scissor doors should have no bearing on the final score because both mods receive eight points toward the total score. All things being equal between the cars, that wagon owner might have a better shot at a trophy if he entered a Popular Choice class. That's where a unique idea is most likely to win out."

The show weekend started out with scattered storms and lightning on Friday, but we enjoyed a hot, rain-free Saturday and Sunday. By the time the awards presentation began on Sunday, many of us had lobsterlike glows despite the abundance of shade trees on the college campus.

FTRG has changed a lot in 30 years, as has the rest of the hobby, but Memorial Day weekend proved that one thing remains the same in East Tennessee: with the level of work and care this club puts into its events. Max Epps must be proud.