Jack Ryan
October 1, 2002

Kentucky's Mark Van Meter was tired of bracket-style racing in his modular Mustang, so he thought long and hard, took a deep breath, and jumped headlong into heads-up. Having made that decision, he could have started off in a lesser class, but instead immediately set his sights on Street Renegade, where these days a person needs to shoot for the high 8s to run with the big dogs. He's not there yet, but is closing in fast, having run 9.54 at 138 mph in shakedown form--with factory heads and intake, and with various ignition-related bugs yet to be squashed at that time. A recent change in engine management systems has Mark primed for a trip into the 8s.

A realist, Van Meter knows that being among the first to campaign a modular in Renegade--or any other form of heads-up racing--will not be without its challenges.

But we get the impression he's not one to shrink from any challenge, as this is a guy who made the frightful financial commitment necessary to start his own highway/bridge heavy construction firm in the early '90s, back when the economic picture was anything but rosy. He's since built it into a thriving business, and we have no reason to doubt he'll have any less success with his race car.

His recipe for success contains nothing but the best ingredients. We may as well start with the Cobra cammer, built by the modular pioneer himself, Sean Hyland. Hyland started with one of his beefy short-blocks, one having time-tested internals combining the factory steel crank with rods and 10.5:1 pistons from Manley. The factory head/intake combo chosen--and fully ported--by SHM is of pre-tumbleport '97 vintage, and the heads are fitted with a quartet of SHM's blower-grind cams. These have .452 lift and 225-degree duration (at .050-inch) on the intake sticks, and .474 lift and 235-degree duration on the exhaust. The blower of choice is Paxton's Novi 2000, and the whole package has just been switched to Motec engine management, a system that seems to have finally cured the high-rpm ignition breakup that had been plaguing the car in earlier configurations. This ability to light spark in the upper rev range has also sparked a big increase to 780 hp on the chassis dyno. Said power gets to the wheels through a Performance Automatic C-4 currently fronted by a 6000-stall converter from Continental.

It was soon discovered that running the high-revving cammer with a 3.25-inch blower pulley spun the Novi 2000 to the point of cavitation, so a bigger and slower 3.5-inch pulley was substituted. The result? Boost actually increased from 28 to 30psi.

One system that has Mark particularly enthused is his Racepak V300 data acquisition system which, he says, is not only an invaluable monitoring and tuning tool, but is also phenomenally simple to install. Racepak's system is unique in having "V-Net" technology which enables signals from all sensors to be transferred over a single cable, as well as having dedicated gauges that, aside from displaying in both analog and digital fashion, can also perform recall, playback and warning functions.

Aside from what we might think of as the normal suite of engine sensors, Mark's system even encompasses a blower pulley speed sensor which can detect and log belt slippage.

But the icing on his sensory cake has to be the system's rear shock-travel sensors which, Mark insists, have given him a really quick handle on suspension tuning.

Now might be a good time to talk about that rear suspension, which hangs from a chassis made strong by a cage and other stiffening components from Freddie Horn Race Cars out of Greensville, Ky. The setup combines Afco coilovers with Anthony Jones Engineering control arms, locating an 8.8-inch filled with 4.10 gears, and a Mark Williams spool and axles. Up front, it's all AJE--K-member, arms, and coilovers--teamed with Wilwood discs, which can also be found behind the big Bogarts out back.

Mark asked us to pass along his appreciation to chassis builder, Freddie Horn, crew chief, Troy Vance, Greg Stapp for his help in scaling the car, and to Scott Beer at SHM for his patience in wrenching the various changes made to date. And in case you think Mark hasn't already developed some real affection for his modular renegade, he also wants to thank, "my wife Ginger for putting up with me and our third child (Renegade #64)."

For reasons known only to their rules-makers, the NMRA allows only EEC-based engine management systems in Renegade, but as good as the EEC is, it simply wasn't engineered for the kinds of rpm a 780-hp cammer with 4.10 gears will twist out in a quarter-mile. So for the immediate future, look for Van Meter exclusively in Fun Ford events.

Redder than a fire truck, and with a full Saleen aero kit and wing contrasting with a Steeda cowl hood, his blown modular ride shouldn't be hard to spot. It'll be the one without pushrods.

0211mmfp_01z Ford_mustang Front_view0211mmfp_02z Ford_mustang Left_rear_view0211mmfp_07z Ford_mustang Front_view0211mmfp_03z Ford_mustang_cobra Engine_view0211mmfp_05z Ford_mustang Wheel_view0211mmfp_04z Ford_mustang Interior_view0211mmfp_06z Ford_mustang Interior_view0211mmfp_08z Ford_mustang Gauges0211mmfp_09z Ford_mustang Rear_view0211mmfp_10z Ford_mustang Engine_bay0211mmfp_11z Ford_mustang_cobra Engine_view