Pete Epple Technical Editor
August 23, 2010
Contributers: Marc Christ Photos By: Team MM&FF

Our idea was simple-take a group of late-model Fords, just like many of you own, and offer the opportunity to compete in yet another MM&FF shootout, this one combining road course, dragstrip, and a subjective portion of the competition, to be judged by our staff. With three distinct portions of the event laid out, we set up and finalized the rules, and the stage was set for the first-ever MM&FF Triple-Threat Throwdown (TTT).

This shootout was open to any '79-newer Ford, with any Ford engine/power adder combination. The rules were based around "real" street cars (not race cars) running on DOT-legal tires (for at least one of the two racing events). They also had to be registered and insured, and NHRA-legal for the quarter-mile times they ran, and we wanted drivers who had some on-track experience. Being fast on the dragstrip is one thing, but flying around a road course takes driver training, plus a good amount of skill. A competition like this is no place for first-timers. Even one of our aces managed an off-track excursion (more on that later).

With over 30 submissions, the selection process was extremely difficult. There were all types of Stangs: a ton of GT500s, some SN-95s, fewer S197 GTs (we expected a ton), and even fewer Foxes, which was a disappointment. After narrowing it down to the six Mustangs best suited for the competition (and our story), we headed to Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida. Contestants traveled from as far as Baytown, Texas, and Richmond, Virginia, to take part in one of Muscle Mustangs' famed shootouts.

Hit the Track
The TTT began on the famed quarter-mile. Competitors had five attempts to rip off their runs, and we took the best three times, which were then averaged to get each driver's finishing place. Once we were finished at the strip, we headed to the road course where drivers had two sessions (five laps each session) to clock their quickest times. Again, the three best times (from any session) were averaged to achieve the final score.

Throughout the day, the MM&FF staff poured over the entries to score each car in seven areas, including exterior appearance, uniqueness, wheels/tires/stance, interior appearance, underhood appearance, driveability, and creature comforts. Each section of the competition was weighed equally, with 60 points going to the best performing car in each category: dragstrip, road course, and the judged section. The Second Place finisher in each category received 50 points, and so on.

And it didn't take long for the drama to start. On this hot day in Florida, the horsepower and the sweat was oozing. Not long after the first few quarter-mile runs, there was a driver substitute (which was allowed) that produced the best e.t. of the day, along with thrashing in the pits, tire swaps, and a wiped-out clutch. At first, drivers struggled to get in the 11s, but by mid-afternoon many had broke the 12-second barrier.

Over on the road course, which is somewhat small in nature, especially for high-powered cars, the Mustangs tore it up, recording some amazing times and providing some great action. We used our MSD G2X to record lap times and our Canon cameras to capture the on-track antics-of which there were many. Our road course winner showed us how much he likes to play in the mud, and tire issues combined with some minor body rub/damage almost sidelined another competitor. In the end, the competition was very close, actually closer than we anticipated.

By sundown we had completed a full day of racing, both the straight and twisty kind, and all six cars survived, at least enough to be driven home. We had a great group of people and couldn't have asked for more. The first Triple Threat Throwdown was a success, and we're already planning the next shootout. Please be sure to let us know what you think by sending an email to marc.christ@sorc.com. Enjoy!

1st 140 Pts. (Tie)


Don Gress and Frank Perez
Sometimes a competition is so tight that there's no way to declare a clear-cut winner. That was the case with our First Place tie. Don Gress and Frank Perez both showed up with their "A" games and brought the goods. Though we would love to name a single winner, it just wouldn't be fair. So the first-ever TTT ends in a tie.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver4,105 pounds
EngineStock 5.4L long-block with 2.8L Kenne Bell
SuspensionQA1 double-adjustable shocks and struts, Cobra Jet rear springs, Steeda upper and lowers, stabilizer bar, Panhard bar, and sway bars
BrakesStillen/Brembo six-piston fronts, drilled and slotted rotors, Shelby front brake cooling kit
Wheels And Tires
DragChrome-plated stock wheels, with 255/45ZR18 Goodyear F1 Supercar tires up front and 315/40ZR18 NT05R's in the back
Road CourseGT500 replicas wrapped in Hoosier A6 rubber, 285/30ZR18 up front and 295/30ZR18 in the back
AdvantageHaving 748 rwhp on tap
Disadvantage"I would have liked a little more practice on the road course. Plus, the Kenne Bell made it feel like my throttle was an on/off switch."
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
11.940/119.54
Road Course Average
1:14.64

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Don Gress Palm Coast, Florida '08 Shelby GT500 There's no doubt that Don Gress' '08 GT500 is exactly what we were looking for when we created this event. Not only does it look as good as most GT500s, with a slew of body mods and a snake airbrushed under the hood, but it also packs big power and a customized interior, including a detailed rollbar. Having owned numerous Mustangs in the past, Don purchased his GT500 only after watching the movie I Am Legend, in which Will Smith tears up the streets of New York City in a red GT500.

Don's GT500 features Maximum Motorsports and Steeda suspension and chassis-stiffening components, custom airbrushing, and a Kenne Bell 2.8L polished blower. Don chose Nitto NT05R drag radials for the strip and Hoosier A6's all the way around for the road course. With a TunersInc tune, Don's Shelby made 748 rwhp and 683 lb-ft of torque.

After he made a few low 12-second passes, Tony Gonyon of TunersInc (Orange Park, Florida), made a couple of adjustments with the tune, changed the plugs, jumped in, and knocked off an 11.38 at 126 mph. Though he only made one pass, this was the boost that Don and his Snake needed to top the list in the drag racing portion of the competition.

On the road course, however, Don couldn't quite match up. His previously untested wheels for the road course were rubbing his front brake calipers, which caused Don to take it a little easier in the turns. In the judging portion, though, Don cleaned house. He scored a 168, putting him at the top of two of our three events, but not quite enough to be out front alone.

1st 140 Pts. (Tie)


Frank Perez
Baytown, Texas '92 Mustang LX

With only 458 rwhp and 440 lb-ft of torque, Frank's Vortech-powered notch was one of the mildest in the power department, but what it lacked in grunt, it more than made up for in functionality and appeal. It was the only Fox-body in the competition (we had very few to pick from), so it had to put on its big-boy pants against 750-plus-horsepower GT500s. And did it ever.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver3,340 pounds
EngineStock-block with Coast High Performance's 347ci Streetfighter kit, Vortech Sc-trim, AFR 185's, a custom cam from FTI Custom, and a Trick Flow intake
SuspensionUPR K-member, Tokico coilovers and adjustable front sway bar, Maximum Motorsports uppers and lowers
Brakes'99 GT front and rear brakes with drilled and slotted rotors
Wheels And Tires
Drag18-inch CCWs with 235/40ZR18 Nitto NT555s up front and 255/50R16 M/T Drag Radials in the back
Road Course17-inch Cobra R replicas wrapped in Kumho XS 245/45ZR17s
AdvantageLight and nimble
Disadvantage"It does not make 800 rwhp like cars of today."
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
12.010/116.06
Road Course Average
1:11.01

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On the dragstrip, Frank had a few issues. He'd hoped for 10s or 11s, but was only able to pull off a low-12-second average. Frank and his crew swapped the M/T ET Streets for a pair of M/T Drag Radials after only the first pass. After all, Frank placed Third in the quarter-mile portion of the competition with a 12.01-second average.

On the road course, Frank put crew member Reggie Newman behind the wheel. On a set of 245/45ZR17 Kumho XS rubber, fender-rubbing issues peeled a quarter-inch off the left front tire during the first session, but he still laid down one of his quickest lap times. The Fox also spit the power steering cap onto the track, which was never found.

For the second session, the crew moved one of the rear Kumhos to the front and put the 18-inch BFGoodrich Drag Radials on the rear. To follow was a crowd-pleasing drift performance by Reggie, resulting in a bent left front-fender lip, but they didn't care-it was good enough for Second on the road course. "I guess I'll be on the phone with Latemodel Restoration when I get home," Frank said of the bent fender.

Frank's coupe also placed Second in the judged portion of the contest, but not because your MM&FF staff are all marks for Fox-body Mustangs. It had everything you could ask out of a Triple-Threat contender-style, power, and badass appeal. Heck, it even made the entire trip from Texas (including the competition) with a baby seat strapped in. Oh, and it rolls on 18-inch CCW pucks. Pimp.

3rd - 120 pts. (Tie)


Don Rositch and Rich Vollberg
It was crazy enough to have a tie for First, but to have another tie immediately following was baffling. And we thought our scoring system was flawless. Another tie resulted from an unbelievable road course appearance by Don Rositch in the Performance Autosport GT500 and an all-around solid showing by Rich Vollberg and his fiery red GT500.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver4,170 pounds
EngineStock 5.4L long-block with 2.8L Kenne Bell
SuspensionGriggs Racing GT40TT autocross/open-track system
BrakesGriggs 4 on 4
Wheels And Tires
315/30-18 Hoosier R6 tires on 18x10.5 Jongbloed 505s
AdvantageRoad course animal
DisadvantageRoad course animal
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
12.430/116.76
Road Course Average
1:04.05

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Don Rositch Richmond, Virginia '07 Shelby GT500 The team from Performance Autosport in Richmond, Virginia, rolled into Gainesville Raceway ready to go. Mark LaMaskin and Don Rositch made the 740-mile trip and rolled off the trailer fully prepared to attack the twisties, with Rositch ready for the driving duties.

The GT500 is owned by John O'Donnell, and has seen many rounds of performance and cosmetic modifications on its way to its current state. The stock suspension has given way to a full Griggs Racing suspension. An SLA suspension with drop spindles now resides up front, and the stock GT500 powerplant is supported by a tubular K-member. The rearend is held in place with a Griggs torque arm and Watt's link, and a set of coil-overs support the body and handle the dampening duties. The original Vista Blue exterior has given way to a sleek black paint job, and the addition of a glass roof lets in a little extra light.

Even though the dragstrip was our first event, Performance Autosport's GT500 rolled off the trailer ready for the road course. Performance Autosport focuses on all aspects of handling, and elected to only make the necessary three quarter-mile passes-on DOT road race tires at that! With a 12.43-seconds quarter-mile average, Rositch raced to Fifth position in the drag portion of the event.

On the road course, Performance Autosport put on a show. Rositch wheeled the '07 GT500 around the Gainesville road course to a three-lap average of 1:04.05 seconds-almost 7 seconds better than the closest competitor. He even dipped in the 1.03s, which is as quick as we've seen on the G-ville track. Unfortunately, Rositch showed us his aquatic skills as he tried to turn the GT500 into a submarine in an off-track excursion in the second session. After leaving the track surface, Rositch slid into about 22 inches of standing water from a rain storm a few days earlier. The only damage was driver ego.

When the edit staff took to judging this GT500, O'Donnell's Snake came away with 150 points, placing it Third in that category.

3rd - 120 pts. (Tie)


Rich Vollberg
Jacksonville, FL '09 Shelby GT500

NMRA True Street racer Rich Vollberg is all over the place with his GT500. He won the 12-second class in True Street at Bradenton, and then we saw him competing at NMRA Atlanta-now he's in an epic MM&FF shootout. The stripe-delete GT500 has extra boost via pulleys, a JLT cold-air intake, and an SCT tuner helps it make 552 rwhp and 548 lb-ft of torque. Suspension mods include a slew of BMR components, as well as Tokico D-Spec shocks and struts.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver4,125 pounds
EngineStock engine and supercharger, 2.6-inch pulley, JLT cold-air kit, tune
SuspensionBMR sway bars, adjustable uppers and lowers, and Panhard bar; Tokico D-Spec shocks and struts; H&R springs
BrakesStock Brembo
Wheels And Tires
Drag315/35R17 M/T ET Streets on stock '04 Cobra wheels
Road Course20-inch Super Snake wheels with Nitto NT555s, 275/30ZR20 fronts and 285/30ZR20 rears
AdvantageConsistency
DisadvantageStreet tires on the road course
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
11.946/119.07
Road Course Average
1:11.05

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On the dragstrip, Rich was a little shaky at first, but he was able to lay down a couple of high-11-second passes for an average of 11.946, just 0.006 of a second slower than Don Gress. This was good enough for Second in the drag racing portion, but there were still two more events.

On the road course, Rich wheeled his 3,875-pound sled to an average of 1:11.05, enough for Third, even though he was on Nitto NT555 street tires, compared to other competitors who were running competition tires. Since Rich ran drag radials on the dragstrip, he could have opted for a competitioni tire, but didn't. That might have been the difference between Third and First.

When it came to the judging portion, Rich's GT500 didn't fare as well as it had in the other two events. With a mostly-stock underhood and a pretty stock interior, it placed Fourth in that portion of the competition-still good enough to tie for Third. Rich's GT500 is probably more like our readers' rides than others in the competition, making it a fan favorite.

5th - 70 pts.


Joe Nelson
Jacksonville, FL '03 SVT Cobra

When we put our feelers out for competitors, we expected a bunch of Terminator Cobras. Unfortunately, we were only able to come up with one that fit the bill. Joe Nelson and his company, JoeBob Motorsports, have transformed his '03 Cobra into a well-rounded machine. The only modifications to the engine are a ported blower, an SCT mass air meter, a tune, and a shot of juice.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver3,915 pounds
EngineStock long-block with a ported Eaton and a dry shot of juice
SuspensionStock with IRS brace and solid mounts, and custom subframe connectors
BrakesStock
Wheels And Tires
Drag275/40R17 M/T Drag Radials on Cobra R clone wheels
Road Course245/45ZR17 Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires on stock wheels
AdvantageIRS and nitrous
Disadvantage"I probably should have brought competition tires."
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
12.280/122.30
Road Course Average
1:11.12

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Joe was feeling a little under the weather on the day of our event, and that combined with a wheelhop issue held him back on the dragstrip. Once he found his groove, though, he was able to pull off low-12-second timeslips. Everyone had issues on the strip, Joe's were just magnified by the wheelhop.

On the road course, the Terminator felt right at home. With its IRS and a few JoeBob suspension tricks, Joe hustled around the course for an average of 1:11.12-enough for Fourth. And the gap between Second and Fourth was only 11 hundredths of a second! Joe didn't bring competition road race tires; unfortunately, it made a difference in his overall score. Like Rich Vollberg, different tires could have turned this competition around.

Against a tricked out Fox-body and modded GT500s, Joe's stock-looking Cobra struggled under the microscope of the judges. Though it is definitely cool and something we would all want to own, it fell short compared to the competition, scoring only 140 points.

Overall, Joe made made a valiant effort. We were just disappointed that the second lightest car (with two power adders) wasn't able to sneak in a higher score. But, as they say, the truth is in the numbers, and Joe's numbers just weren't enough.

6th - 40 pts.


Jack Maurice
Jacksonville, FL '06 Mustang GT

Jack Maurice and his '06 GT had the cards stacked against them from the beginning-not because his car is any less cool, but because the Three-Valve is a few steps behind the blown Terminator and the GT500's 5.4L. Jack's GT features a stock engine with FRPP Hot Rod cams and a Saleen supercharger, and so it at least has the GT500 beat on weight. With 8 pounds of boost, the GT made 442 rwhp and 402 lb-ft of torque. Jack also upgraded the shocks and struts to Tokico GT500 takeoffs, and lowered it with Vogtland springs.

The Rundown

Weight W/Driver3,925 pounds
EngineStock with FRPP Hot Rod camshafts and a Saleen Super Shaker blower
SuspensionBMR Panhard bar and lower-control-arm relocating bracket, FRPP Shelby GT500 lower control arms, GT500 shocks and struts, Lakewood adjustable uppers
BrakesStock with drilled and slotted rotors
Wheels And Tires
Drag195/80R16 Bridgestone Ecopias on Crown Victoria spare wheels in the front and 255/50R16 BFGoodrich Drag Radials on S197 V-6 wheels out back
Road Course285/40ZR18 BFGoodrich T/A KDW tires on 18-inch Cragar S/S wheels
AdvantageLots of traction ...
Disadvantage but no traction in the stock clutch
Quarter-Mile Average Et/Mph
12.520/115.32
Road Course Average
1:35.25

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On the dragstrip, Jack didn't do too shabby. He managed a 12.79, a 12.48, and a 12.29. He was lowering e.t.'s with each pass and it looked like he was going to get in the 11s when disaster struck. In the burnout box, Jack either failed to get the tires wet or the Three-Valve simply overpowered the stock clutch-either way, it was fried. Neither Jack nor our crew caught it in time, and he smoked what was left. He still averaged 12.52, but unfortunately, it was the slowest of the bunch.

With nothing to lose, Jack and his son, RJ, mounted their other set of wheels and tires. On the road course, though, Jack was only able to limp around.

His average is hardly worth mentioning, but Jack's positive attitude and determination is. He hit the track, and even though the car mowed through the clutch with any application of power, he pulled through and avoided the DNF. On top of that, he drove it to Gainesville from Jacksonville, and even limped it back home with the fried clutch. "I knew it was just a matter of time before the stock clutch had to be replaced," Jack said. "I just hoped it wouldn't happen here."