Frank H. Cicerale
April 1, 2009
Photos By: Michael Galimi

Daylight was waning as Johnny Lightning fired up his Kenne Bell-blown orange Lightning for one last shot at the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park quarter-mile. The track was sticky, the air was great, and he was ready to let it all hang out. After all, he couldn't let the Lightning be outdone by the venerable Terminator Cobra and the new darling child of the SVT camp, the GT500.

As his Lightning rolled into the burnout box, everyone knew something big was going to happen, either good or bad. The truck tortured the rear tires, building a copious amount of heat for the utmost in stickiness and need for traction. Then Lightning inched towards the stage beam ever so carefully, getting in as shallow as he could for the greatest amount of rollout, and a bigger running start. The switch was flipped, and just after he brought the rpm up to the desired level for launch, Lightning matted the loud pedal. The truck squatted, then lurched forward and hiked the front end hard. At the 60-foot mark, the tone of the blown mod mill changed from mean to downright angry, and the orange hauler took off like a rocket. The truck wandered a bit at half-track, but Lightning never pulled his foot off of the throttle. He was going for broke, determined to either light up the scoreboards or blow it up in the process. As the truck streaked through the finish line cones, the boards lit up--9.56 at 141 mph.

Johnny Lightning's "hero" pass was just one of many story lines at the first-ever SVT Supercharged Shootout. Throw in a 9.43-second GT500, a bunch of wicked-quick Cobras, and one fragged 5.4L GT500 powerplant, and the day was filled with excitement, quick times, blazingly fast speeds, and high-octane fueled fun.

We put the call out for the baddest '03-'04 Cobras, '07-and-up GT500s, and '99-'04 Lightnings. Each car (or truck) was required to have the stock-style suspension, a complete interior, and an original-style engine. That meant the Cobras had to have a Four-Valve 4.6L mod motor, the GT500s the 5.4L Four-Valve behemoth, and a Two-Valve 5.4L Triton motor in the Lightnings. Only Roots or twin-screw blowers were allowed, any transmission was allowed, and the vehicles had to be street appearing.

Before we check out the results, let's glance at the lineup for the three teams invited to knock the ball out of the proverbial park.

Team GT500
Before you get your shorts in a knot, we are putting the GT500 first just because it's the newest addition to the SVT stable. As is common knowledge, the GT500 showcases a 5.4L Four-Valve mod mill that is topped with an Eaton Roots-style supercharger. While a hefty car to move, the extra valves and cubic inches help the GT500 knock down serious elapsed times in spite of the weight. Of the three GT500's that came to our shootout, one went with an aftermarket overdrive transmission, while the other two were banging gears. The blower choice was spread between a stock Eaton supercharger (that ran very well we might add) to a pair of large-by-huge Whipple 3.4L blowers. Even though some serious power would be transferred down the driveline, only one of the GT500 competitors chose to swap out the stock 8.8-inch rear for a beefier 9-inch. One thing that was prevalent was the willingness by these GT500 owners to cut up their brand new cars and install a full-on rollbar to make them NHRA legal. All told, the GT500 group ran as we expected--fast.

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Nelson Whitlock
Aston, PA
'07 Shelby GT500

Nelson and the Evolution Performance crew are synonymous with GT500 performance, and came to the shootout loaded for bear. The car Nelson and Fred Cook hauled to Raceway Park is the same one that has recorded numerous milestones, including being the first GT500 in the 10s, 9s, and 8s. With the rules set, Whitlock and the crew had to swap out the twin-turbo setup the Snake had used to run in the 8s for a 3.4L Whipple Gen II supercharger. Aiding in helping Whitlock navigate the quarter-mile, the stock six-speed was deep-sixed in favor of an automatic. Whitlock opened the shootout with a stout 9.50. After the pass, Cook remarks, "I don't know if we can go any quicker. The air is going to go away later on, but we will give it a shot." Give it a shot they did. After blowing the tires away on the second run, Whitlock came back with a 9.63. He went up for his final run of the day looking to go fast or go home beaten and broken. The tires were heated, the GT500 staged, and Whitlock slammed the hammer down. The Shelby screamed through the lights, running a 9.43 at 149 mph, taking home the top GT500 spot. But would that 9.43 last against the rest of the competition? Keep reading to find out.

SHELBY SPECS
Year: 2007
Model: GT500
Owner: Evolution Performance
Driver: Nelson Whitlock
Engine: 330ci Four-Valve modular built
  by Boss 330 Racing
Transmission: Automatic
Clutch/Converter: Secret
Supercharger: 3.4L Whipple Gen II
  twin-screw
Boost: 21 psi
Weight: 3,828 pounds
Exhaust: 17/8-inch American Racing
  long-tube headers, custom
  cross-pipe, and 3-inch
  exhaust
Tuner: John Lund (Lund Racing)
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 9-inch, 3.73 gears,
  Moser spool, 40-spline axles
Best e.t./mph: 8.890/160.00 (turbocharged)
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.552 9.438 149.30
2 1.581 9.504 148.89
3 1.659 9.623 149.40

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Ted Lewchuk
STE-Catherine, Quebec
'07 Shelby GT500

When Ted Lewchuk lifted the bonnet of his GT500, we were astounded when it came to the blower of choice. Instead of, say a Kenne Bell or a Whipple, Lewchuk kept the stock Eaton compressor aboard his 5.4L Four-Valve monster. Evidently the stock blower didn't impede Lewchuk's performance, as he ripped off more than a few quick passes. Piloting the GT500 equipped with the stock six-speed manual transmission, Lewchuk opened with a 10.66, which is stout considering the factory supercharger. He made three other passes, with his last pass of the day barely eclipsing the opening 10.66. We were left to wonder just how quick Lewchuk could have gone if he had used an aftermarket blower.

SHELBY SPECS
Year: 2007
Model: GT500
Owner: Ted Lewchuk
Driver: Ted Lewchuk
Engine: 330ci Four-Valve
  modular
Transmission: Stock six-speed manual
Clutch/Converter: Stock
Supercharger: Stock Eaton Roots-style
Boost: 12 psi
Weight: 3,918 pounds
Exhaust: 1¾-inch American Racing
  headers with catted cross-pipe
  and MBRP axle back
Tuner: John Lund (Lund Racing)
Rear: Stock 8.8-inch with 4.10
  gears, TrueTrac differential,
  and Strange axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.610/131.00
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.509 10.653 125.73
2 1.493 10.666 125.78
3 1.529 10.696 125.53

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Gregory Kordis
Boxford, MA
'08 Shelby GT500

It has been a while since we had to break out the cleaning equipment for a mess on the track at a shootout. Unfortunately for Gregory Kordis, he was the one to make us whip out the brooms. Kordis only made one run, and it was an expensive one at that. He left the line, and as the Shelby blasted down track, everything seemed just fine. That was until he hit high gear. All of a sudden, the motor laid down, started breaking up, and a plume of death smoke emanated from underneath the car. The result? A broken rod that did a fair amount of damage to the engine as well as the oil pan. "When the engine builder put the motor together, he said that we should change the factory rods with this power level," Kordis explains later. "I told him if it gets through October, then great. If not, we will replace it with a built aluminum piece. I guess I can get the aluminum engine now." While he only made one pass, with the engine eating itself up in the lights, the 10.65 at 121 certainly indicates this Shelby would have made a stab for the 9-second zone if it stayed together.

SHELBY SPECS
Year: 2008
Model: GT500
Owner: Gregory Kordis
Driver: Gregory Kordis
Engine: 330ci Four-Valve modular
Transmission: Stock six-speed manual
Clutch/Converter: Stock
Supercharger: 3.4L Whipple twin-screw
Boost: 21 psi
Weight: Not measured
Exhaust: 17/8-inch Kooks Custom
  headers with Kooks 3-inch off
road cross-pipe, MagnaFlow
3-inch axle-back, and
Dynomax Bullet Mufflers
Tuner: Livernois Motorsports
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 8.8-inch, 3.31 gears,
  stock differential, stock axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.656/125.00
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.887 10.656 121.18

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Mike Matarazzo
North Caldwell, NJ
'03 Cobra

Team Terminator Compared to the GT500, the Terminator Cobra is at a bit of a disadvantage in the powerplant department. While the Cobra still features a modular engine topped with Four-Valve heads and an Eaton supercharger, the Cobra gives up a bit of displacement with its standard-fare 4.6L engine. The advantage given to the Cobra comes in the weight department, as the Cobras were on average 300-500 pounds lighter than their newer brethren. The blower of choice varied between the cars, though no one chose to retain the stock compressor. One car showcased a Kenne Bell, another a Whipple 140, and the third a Whipple 3.4. Interestingly enough, only one Cobra owner chose to keep the stock six-speed transmission, as the other two went to automatics that aided on both consistency and ease of use. Of note, each of our Cobra contestants swapped over to a solid rear axle setup in place of the factory IRS. It goes without saying what can happen with an IRS when a serious amount of grunt is put through it and applied to a super-sticky racing surface.

If Mike Matarazzo's name looks familiar, it should. One of the stalwarts in the early days of Mustang heads-up drag racing, Matarazzo has been a routine contestant in our shootouts. While he could have brought his killer GT500, he decided to bring old reliable instead, that being his '03 Cobra. Matarazzo was the first down the track, and set the stage with his slowest run of the day, a 9.86. The automatic-equipped Terminator showed its consistency over the course of the next three runs, as he equaled his best run of the day, a 9.73, twice. The 60-foot times were within one-hundredth of a second, and the Cobra was aided by the fact that it checked in as the lightest car at the shootout.

SNAKE SPECS
Year: 2003
Model: Cobra
Owner: Mike Matarazzo
Driver: Mike Matarazzo
Engine: 281ci Four-Valve modular built
  by Walsh Motorsports
Transmission: Automatic
Clutch/Converter: PTC
Supercharger: 3.4L Whipple twin-screw
Boost: 23 psi
Weight: 3,382 pounds
Exhaust: Bassani headers and
  cross-pipe, Dynomax mufflers
  with turndowns
Tuner: Walsh Motorsports
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 8.8-inch, 3.55 gears,
  spool, Strange axles
Best e.t./mph: 9.730/142.45
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.463 9.730 142.45
2 1.469 9.730 137.06
3 1.457 9.810 140.37

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Francisco Reyes
Dale City, VA
'03 Cobra

Francisco Reyes came to the SVT shootout with a car capable of mid-9-second laps, and got set to hang the hoops and see what kind of times he could record at the fabled New Jersey quarter-mile dragstrip. Packing a Kenne Bell 2.8L huffer, Reyes boiled the hides and lined up for a stab at the track. He let go of the transbrake button in the aftermarket slushbox, and after negotiating the first 200 feet wagging the rear end, motored to a 9.81 at 143 mph. Confident he could better that run, Reyes gave it another go, but at the 1,000-foot mark, the Terminator laid over and ran a 10.27 at a noticeably off-pace 117 mph. After a subsequent inspection, it was found that a vacuum line kept popping off, causing the lack of power. After trying three more times, it was clear that the line would not stay on, and Reyes was forced to settle for the 9.86-second pass.

SNAKE SPECS
Year: 2003
Model: Cobra
Owner: Francisco Reyes
Driver: Francisco Reyes
Engine: 281ci Four-Valve modular built
  by Springfield Custom Auto
  Machine
Transmission: PA Performance automatic
Clutch/Converter: PA Performance
Supercharger: 2.8L Kenne Bell twin-screw
Boost: 24 psi
Weight: 3,406 pounds
Exhaust: Headers, 2-inch MAC
  mufflers, and 3-inch exhaust
  system
Tuner: Johnny Lightning Performance
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 8.8-inch, 3.70 gears,
  spool, Moser axles
Best e.t./mph: 9.590/147.03
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.484 9.815 143.03
2 1.527 10.272 117.00
3 1.524 16.450 45.46

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A.J. Tata
Copiague, NY
'04 Cobra

A.J. Tata brought the only '04 Terminator, and was the only one who didn't swap over to an automatic. Instead, he laid in a Liberty TKO600. Tata, who's Cobra was a former MM&FF cover car, threw himself into the back seat on the first run--literally. "When I dropped the clutch on the first run, the brackets holding the seat in place broke, and I literally went into the back seat," Tata remarks. "It caused me to pull my hand off of the shifter and my foot off of the throttle." After swapping the passenger seat into the driver side, Tata made another go at it, and proceeded to bang the gears in the Snake to a 10.19 at 137. With the third run being a bit slower than he liked, Tata lined up for one last blast, and at the top of Second gear, threw the blower belt off. Either way, a low 10-second pass in a stickshift car is nothing to shake a stick at--pun intended.

SNAKE SPECS
Year: 2004
Model: Cobra
Owner: A.J. Tata
Driver: A.J. Tata
Engine: 281ci Four-Valve modular
Transmission: Liberty TKO600
Clutch/Converter: Spec Stage 5
Supercharger: Whipple 140ax
Boost: 22 psi
Weight: 3,654 pounds
Exhaust: 15/8-inch MAC headers,
  MAC 2½ Prochamber
  mufflers, MAC 3-inch cat-back
  exhaust
Tuner: Joe Lausardo ({{{Mustang}}}
  Magic)
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 9-inch, 3.89 gears,
  spool, Moser 35-spline axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.191/137.01
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.480 10.191 137.01
2 1.587 10.449 135.88
3 1.616 10.691 134.{{{62}}}

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Johnny Lightning
New Providence, PA
'02 Lightning

Team LIGHTNING If there was one vehicle in our supercharged shootout that was at a sizeable disadvantage, it was the Lightning--or so we thought. On paper, the Lightnings should have been a step or two behind both the GT500s and the Cobras. With the lightest truck coming in at a svelte 4,300 pounds, the lightest Lightning was still 500 pounds heavier than the heaviest GT500, and 700 pounds than the heftiest Cobra. No matter which way you cut it, 4,300 pounds is a lot to get moving, not to mention the aerodynamic disadvantage. While the Lightning is helped out by the inclusion of a 5.4L Triton mod motor, the powerplant is handicapped in a sense by the Two-Valve heads. In an effort to try and level the playing field, we allowed the Lightning crew to remove the tailgate and the passenger seat, if they chose to do so. All but one competitor yanked the passenger seat, and half of the Lightning owners removed the tailgate. The Kenne Bell blowers seemed to be the supercharger of choice with the Lightning crowd, as three out of the four entrants ran one. There were no manual trans conversions since the trucks came standard with the 4R100 overdrive trans. When all was said and done, though, the Lightning trucks weren't at as big of a disadvantage as we thought they were. Not bad for trucks that weigh more, have different weight transfer characteristics, and less valves.

If you read the opening, then nothing more needs to be said about the exploits of Johnny Lightning at our SVT Smackdown. The proprietor of Johnny Lightning Performance wasn't going to let anyone else beat him, so after opening with a stout 9.87, Lightning started playing with the tune and the boost pressure to try and run even quicker. After three passes resulting in a traction-limited pair of 10-second runs and another 9-second rip, Lightning went for broke on the last run. By now you know he went a stellar 9.56, but to do so Lightning swapped the upper pulley to jack the boost level up. The result was a bright orange flash that proved the supercharged behemoth known as the Lightning can hold its own against the nimbler Cobra and GT500.

TRUCK TECH
Year: 2002
Model: Lightning
Owner: Johnny Lightning
Driver: Johnny Lightning
Engine: 360ci Two-Valve modular built
  by Johnny Lightning
  Performance
Transmission: JLP aftermarket automatic
Clutch/Converter: Precision Industries
Supercharger: 2.8L Kenne Bell twin-screw
Boost: 23 psi
Weight: 4,268 pounds
Exhaust: Bassani/JLP Competition Race
  exhaust
Tuner: Johnny Lightning (Johnny
  Lightning Performance)
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 9.75-inch, 3.55 gears,
  TrueTrac differential, stock
  axles
Best e.t./mph: 9.510/143.00
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.371 9.565 141.49
2 1.382 9.874 135.82
3 1.398 9.943 134.11

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Bob Walker
Upper Black Eddy, PA
'01 Lightning

Bob Walker's black Lightning has appeared in MM&FF shootouts before, so it came as no surprise that the SVT special would run as well as it did. With 9-second capability on tap, Walker came close to cracking the barrier, but missed by just a bit. While nowhere in the realm of reality as Johnny Lightning, Walker's 10.14 best showed that even without the truck on kill, the heavy vehicle could hang with even the best Cobras or GT500s. Walker's two best runs of the day came right out of the gate, before traction issues resulted in worse 60-foot times and the resulting worse elapsed times. Like Lightning, though, Walker's truck was one of two that sported an oversized displacement with a killer set of heads and some thundering camshafts.

TRUCK TECH
Year: 2001
Model: Lightning
Owner: Bob Walker
Driver: Bob Walker
Engine: 360ci Two-Valve modular built
  by Johnny Lightning
  Performance
Transmission: JLP aftermarket automatic
Clutch/Converter: Precision Industries
Supercharger: 2.6L Kenne Bell twin-screw
Boost: 20 psi
Weight: 4,310 pounds
Exhaust: Bassani/JLP Competition Race
  exhaust
Tuner: Johnny Lightning (Johnny
  Lightning Performance)
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 9.75-inch, 3.55 gears,
  TrueTrac differential, stock
  axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.{{{100}}}/136.00
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.409 10.146 130.{{{90}}}
2 1.428 10.278 129.05
3 1.575 10.470 127.07

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Brian Kimmel
Brambleton, VA
'99 Lightning

Brian Kimmel showed up with his '99 Lightning, and the Whipple-blown monster held its own quite well. Unlike the two JLP-prepared trucks, Kimmel's Lightning showcased the stock engine measurements. In addition, Kimmel's hauler was quite consistent, as its two best runs were within .003-second of each other. After opening with a 10.46, JDM's Shaun Lacko and Kimmel dumped some weight and changed the upper blower pulley for some more power. Once done, the truck flew to a pair of 10.31s. Oh, and in case you're wondering, even without the passenger seat and the ballast, the truck still weighed in at a hefty 4,690 pounds, making it the heaviest vehicle in the shootout. Imagine what the truck could have run if it was 1,000 pounds lighter? Mind bending, isn't it?

TRUCK TECH
Year: 1999
Model: Lightning
Owner: Brian Kimmel
Driver: Brian Kimmel
Engine: 330ci Two-Valve modular built
  by JDM Engineering
Transmission: Brian’s {{{Truck}}} Shop 4R100
  automatic
Clutch/Converter: Precision Industries
Supercharger: 3.4L Whipple twin-screw
Boost: 24 psi
Weight: 4,690 pounds
Exhaust: 1¾-inch Kook’s/JDM
  long-tube headers, Magnaflow
  mufflers, 3-inch exhaust
Tuner: Jim D’Amore
  (JDM Engineering)
Rear: {{{Ford}}} 9.75-inch, 3.73 gears,
  stock differential, stock axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.315/137.84
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.484 10.315 131.84
2 1.492 10.318 131.82
3 1.523 10.414 130.77

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John Hawryluk
Atlantic City, NJ
'02 Lightning

John Hawryluk rolled the dice and made the trek from A.C. to R.P. for some quarter-mile slots. The silver '02 Lightning was prepped by JDM Engineering, and showcased the foundation for some serious power. The stock-displacement mod mill was fortified with a set of Comp Cams bumpsticks lying atop Patriot heads. Thanks to the Kenne Bell blower, the truck powered to a string of 10-second times. While the hauler didn't run as well as Hawryluk would have liked (it has dipped into the 10.60s before), Hawryluk was the only competitor who drove to the shootout. For that, we give him mad props.

The Full Monte
During the shootout, we rotated which team went first, starting with the Cobras. Each competitor was instructed to make at least three runs, though the option to make more hits was there. While the attrition was kept to just one car, it was a biggie to say the least. When all was said and done, the GT500 did come out on top, but thanks to the 9.56 by Johnny Lightning, it wasn't by much. At least one of each of Ford's factory supercharger flyers made it into the 9-second zone.

PLACE DRIVER TEAM BEST E.T./MPH
1 Nelson Whitlock GT500 9.438/149.30
2 Johnny Lightning Lightning 9.565/141.49
3 Mike Matarazzo Cobra 9.730/142.45
4 Francisco Reyes Cobra 9.815/143.03
5 Bob Walker Lightning 10.146/130.{{{90}}}
6 A.J. Tata Cobra 10.191/137.01
7 Brian Kimmel Lightning 10.315/131.84
8 Ted Lewchuk GT500 10.653/125.78
9 Gregory Kordis GT500 10.656/121.18
10 John Hawryluk Lightning 10.722/126.46
SHELBY SPECS
Year: 2000
Model: Lightning
Owner: John Hawryluk
Driver: John Hawryluk
Engine: 330ci Two-Valve modular built
  by JDM Engineering
Transmission: Brian’s {{{Truck}}} Shop built
  4R100 automatic
Clutch/Converter: Precision Industries
Supercharger: 2.3L Kenne Bell twin-screw
Boost: 20 psi
Weight: 4,574 pounds
Exhaust: Kook’s headers, MagnaFlow
  mufflers
Tuner: Jim D’Amore
  (JDM Engineering)
Rear: Ford 9.75-inch, 3.73 gears,
  TrueTrac differential, stock
  axles
Best e.t./mph: 10.{{{600}}}/127.00
LOG BOOK
Run 60-foot E.T. MPH
1 1.562 10.722 126.46
2 1.554 10.750 125.71
3 1.576 10.797 125.58