Evan J. Smith
March 1, 2008
Photos By: Wes Allison

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UTI's Sacramento campus took home the gold in the '07 Q Motor Oil/Hot Rod U Collegiate Power Challenge, scoring 325.13 points.
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Team Torque from Houston came to the party with this sporty Black Jade Green '92 Mustang GT. This Stang stopped the best, with a distance of 117 feet, and it ran through the cones in 6.33 seconds, which was right in the middle of the pack.

Who knew school could be so cool? Well, for students attending UTI (Universal Technical Institute), school is very cool. Not only does UTI offer degree courses in many types of automotive, diesel, motorcycle, collision, and marine technical programs, including Hot Rod U, but each year, students get the opportunity to compete head-to-head in an all-out "you build 'em" performance shootout called the Q Collegiate/Hot Rod U Power Challenge. For 2007, students built Fox Mustangs, so our interest was piqued.

Sponsored by Q Motor Oil, Summit Racing Equipment, Ford Racing Performance Parts, Comp Cams, Nitto Tires, Lincoln Electric, AMP Performance, Planet Color, and Tremec, the challenge pits five UTI campuses against each other, and students and instructors are expected to build vehicles within a strict set of guidelines. FRPP supplied engine components such as the Boss block, 347-inch rotating assembly, and cylinder heads. Teams got a budget of $10,000 from Summit Racing, and they could also choose one power adder, although a sense of street-ability had to be retained. Each Mustang also had to be fitted with the necessary NHRA-required safety equipment and eight-point rollcage at minimum.

The contestants for this year's challenge hailed from the UTI campuses of Sacramento, California; Houston, Texas; Norwood, Massa-chusetts; Rancho Cucamonga, California; and Orlando, Florida.

Before any wrenches were turned, however, seven Mustangs were procured from AMP Performance and, using a lottery system, the teams picked which car they wanted to build. Once the Stangs were selected, the five exteriors were straightened and sprayed using Planet Color's wild hues. Only then were they distributed to the teams.

Essentially, these Mustangs were built from the ground up, just like any MM&FF reader would do with his or her project. This included selecting the best power adder, building the engine, selecting and installing the drivetrain, building the rollcage, wiring the vehicle, and then tuning the combination to make maximum power--all within a reasonable budget. Students wishing to get involved were offered the oppor-tunity to work on the race vehicles, and according to the instructors, many did.

Yet another challenge to the teams was preparing their Mustangs to fit both magazine editors/drivers--namely 6-foot 2-inch Tom Wilson, who handled the slalom and braking, and your author--me, editor of MM&FF--who stands just 5-feet 7-inches tall. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was.

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Team Sacramento
Sacramento's '93 LX had the Shelby GT-350H look, and it powered to a best of 11.81 at 127 mph in the quarter-mile on Nitto 555 R Extreme Drag tires. The LX also sported a Nitrous Express kit, a Zoom clutch, and Hooker 1-3/4-inch headers.
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The FRPP Boss 347 was topped with Z304 aluminum heads, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold, a Holley 80mm throttle body, a Lightning 90mm mass air, and a K&N filter. Each vehicle also had a Comp Cams camshaft and relied on the EEC IV computer with aftermarket tuning.
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The Interior was spartan, with lightweight plastic seats and aluminum door panels. This car also had a fabricated dash and a unique tach mount.
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Tom Wilson handled driving during the slalom and brake testing. The veteran journalist and road racer blistered through the cones with precision, and during the brake test, he hauled the black Stang down from 60 to 0 with great control.

Each team had just under one year to plan the build, order the parts, and complete the project. Amazingly, all five teams showed up at the UTI Sacramento campus ready to rock. Once in northern California, the action kicked off with each of the five phases of the Q Collegiate Power Challenge. They included rear-wheel horsepower; 60-0 braking; 600-foot slalom; quarter-mile drag test, and subjective judging. Scoring was based on 90 points for a win, 80 for Second Place, 70 for Third, 60 for Fourth, and 50 for Fifth. Addition-ally, there were potential points deductions for overspending and/or for breeching the rules.

Upon arriving at the UTI campus, the first thing I noticed was the cleanliness and size of the facility. Students behaved in a professional manner, and I saw brand-new equipment everywhere. I also noticed how many accredited factory programs the school offered, including Ford's FACT.

After our UTI tour, Wilson and I inspected each Mustang and saw the build quality was quite impressive. There were many variations in how each team attacked the problem; however, every group relied on nitrous for extra motivation. We found a few things needing correction, such as a sticking throttle on one Stang and a lack of a shield on one fuel sump, but overall, each car was done well. With tech out of the way, the vehicles were fired up and moved to the in-house chassis dyno.

On dyno day, UTI provided an amazing open house for students, faculty, and anyone who wanted to stop in--and hundreds attended. Famed announcer Army Armstrong called the show with a remote microphone and did interviews all day long. Each team had 30 minutes on the dyno, and the energy in the room built with every car. I was amazed to see how much ingenuity and team spirit went into each Mustang. As the final mill cracked off, the emotions were flying higher than the rpm of the screaming Boss engines. Taking top points in the dyno test was Orlando's Hurricane team with 633.91 proud ponies. But did those bold numbers come at a cost? Time would tell.

We awoke bright and early the next day and headed to Sacramento Raceway for the driving portions of the challenge. Wilson was up first, and he performed the braking tests in each vehicle. Braking and slalom were done in the shutdown area on Sacramento's quarter-mile, but the rough surface gave Wilson fits. Cold conditions and the rough road caused some lockup, but tall Tom modulated the pedal to keep the Mustangs under control. The best stopper in these conditions was Houston's GT, which went from 60-0 in 117.02 feet.

Next, Wilson tossed each Stang through the cones as quickly as he could. This time it was the Cucamonga crew that had the best setup, as a time of 6.23 seconds garnered the team top points. Interestingly, all five Mustangs scored well, with the slowest time being 6.57 seconds from Norwood's Dyno Crushers.

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Team Norwood
Students from Norwood, Massachusetts, built this tough-looking and quite unique '90 roadster Mustang for the competition. The Ballistic Blue Pony didn't make the most power on the dyno, but it did record the quickest e.t. and top mph during the strip shootout, mustering an 11.80 at 130 mph.
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The 347 Boss engine was fed by an Edelbrock Victor 5.0 intake, a Nitrous Express shot of juice, and was tuned with SCT software. BBK headers and Summit Racing mufflers channeled the exhaust, while an MSD ignition provided the spark for the 91-octane Shell fuel that each car ran on.
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Norwood's open-top Stang was fun to drive and the most comfortable car of the bunch. The craftsmanship was top-notch, and this scored well with the judges.
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The light tail end of the roadster Stang put Wilson to the test, but he was up to the task. He also masterfully modulated braking in the non-ABS system to stop the GT from 60 mph in 129 feet. Underpinnings included Strange dampers, Granatelli links, and Air Ride rear airbags rather than coil springs.

While corner-carving is fun, everyone was waiting for the quarter-mile mayhem to begin. Finally, it was my turn to slam some gears, and I wasted little time. Each car was allotted three runs, so I had to make each launch and gear change count. Despite the sticky Nitto tires, planting 440-600 hp was going to be a challenge. Sacramento's crew gave me a sticky track, and I was off.

Rancho's SoCal Crush SN-95 clocked a best of 12.14 at 122; then it was off to the roadster of the Norwood Dyno Crushers. This car fit me like a glove, and in it I performed the best, clocking an 11.80 at 130 mph.

The first sense of drama occurred when I hopped in Orlando's machine. Damage to the engine on the dyno finally took its toll, as WOT resulted in a huge backfire and subsequent fire in the carb. It was exciting, to say the least, but with the power greatly reduced due to a suspected blown head gasket, all I could do was nurse the car to a non-nitroused 14.85 at 102 mph. Hey, at least the car finished the competition. The drama continued with Houston's GT, which had trouble sustaining an idle. Nevertheless, I feathered the gas, heated the tires, and laid down a 12.17 at 112 without the juice. My next attempt, with the juice turned on, resulted in the intake blowing clean off the engine, bending the stock hood, and ending my day with that car.

Last up was the Sacramento Gold Rush, and with 600 proud ponies at the wheels, it had a shot at dragstrip supremacy. Three tries resulted in a quarter-mile best of 11.81 at 127 mph for this strong-running Stang. The car was tricky to drive because of the shifter-mounted nitrous activation and 4.30 gears, which meant I had to use Fifth gear. With 3.73s and a WOT switch, this car could have run well into the 11s or in the 10s for sure.

After completing a cold day at Sacramento Raceway putting five awesome Mustangs through their paces, the scores were recorded and the tally was completed. When the smoke cleared, it was the Sacramento Gold Rush team taking the championship and the trophy.

We found it very cool that each team proved victorious in at least one aspect of the competition, but overall consistency paid off for the home team. The event was a total blast for all involved, and we can't wait to see what's in store for 2008.

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Q Collegiate Power Challenge Results
TeamRWHP60-0 BrakingSlalom1/4-mile/mphSubjective pointsTotal Points
Sacramento Gold Rush600.14119.79 ft 6.37 sec11.81/127.7130.13325.13
Norwood Dyno Crushers588.78129.99 ft 6.57 sec11.80/130.2531.63309.63
Houston Team Torque441.62117.02 ft 6.33 sec12.17/112.4229.56304.56
Rancho Cucamonga SoCal Crush441.62130.21 ft6.23 sec12.14/122.3833.69298.69
Orlando Hurricanes633.91130.26 ft6.26 sec14.85/102.3125.81290.81