December 3, 2002

They said it couldn't be done. They said he was wasting his time. But Brad Heuwagen (who is better known by his middle name, Tyson) knew better. He eschewed most other opinions, and simply trusted his instincts. Win or lose, he'd be the better man after this experiment. He'd be more knowledgeable, and with any luck he'd have more speed for less cash. That was the plan.

Tyson, whose business, Tyson Racing, specializes in building swing arms, frames and custom parts for Quads and ATVs, decided to get into the Mustang game, albeit with a different approach. By using a limited amount of new parts and lots of used stuff, he assembled one mother of a silver Fox. It's powered by a mostly stock 5-liter engine that's fed by a Holley carburetor and boosted by a Turbonetics T-76 turbocharger--and it is fast.

When you think "turbo," you may think big bucks, but it's not the case with this project. Believe it or not, the Silver Bullet has run well into the 9s at 145 mph, and it does so for a total cash outlay of under $5,000 in parts!

It all began a few years ago with the purchase of an '87 Mustang LX that Tyson called "rolling junk." He found the car on the east side of Detroit and he picked it up for about $500. He then stripped and repainted the coupe in bright silver. Meanwhile, he scored two 5-liter engines for $750, and he sold one of them for $500. The engine he saved was disassembled, cleaned and then finally reassembled using mostly stock parts. Tyson had the stock rods reconditioned and he had the crank and pistons checked out, too, but he took the opportunity to slip in an Erson cam with .600-inch lift and 238 degrees of duration.

The stock heads were bolted back on, but with 1/2-inch ARP heads studs to hold them firmly in place. The EFI induction was tossed aside and an Edelbrock Victor Jr. and Holley 750 was installed. Once the engine was together it was bolted in the car and Tyson began fabrication of the homemade turbo system. He customized a set of BBK short-tube headers and mounted them backwards on the engine. Next, a Y-pipe was created to mate the two banks of the engine and a single pipe was fitted to send the exhaust gasses up to a Turbonetics compressor, which was mounted at the front of the engine bay on the passenger side.

"I built the turbo kit myself with a T-76 turbo that I traded some parts for. I also used an intercooler that was off a diesel, but I had to modify it to get it to fit. Finally, I finished routing the inlet hoses up to the carb," Tyson explained. "I also used the big Aeromotive EFI pump, but I only run it at 8 psi. The fuel system also has a Mallory boost sensitive regulator that adds 1 lb. of pressure for every 1 psi of boost."

Other important components include a MSD ignition, but Tyson uses no boost/timing retard. Instead he dials in the desired amount of ignition timing, which is usually between 20-25 degrees total. The powerplant is backed by a warmed over AOD that was prepped by Sam at USA Transmissions in Westfield, Mich., and the converter is a 5000-rpm stall by Dacco. Tyson normally leaves the line close to peak stall, which helps to build the 18 psi of boost needed for hard launches.

Sticking to his tight budget, Tyson fitted the interior with fiberglass seats and a 6-point roll bar (a full cage is now in place), Auto Meter gauges and a 5-way harness. Lastly, he installed the used B&M ratchet shifter that he found at a swap meet for $5 and the interior was complete.

Underneath, Tyson and his friend Steve Pennywitt built a custom K-member and a set of rear control arms. They also fabricated their own rear anti-roll bar, which wasn't that difficult considering that Tyson fabricates parts for quads and off-road vehicles for a living. And due to the budget he kept the stock shocks, struts and springs, but stuffed the 8.8 with 3.73 gears and Moser axles. The LX rides on polished Center Line wheels with Mickey Thompson ET Street tires in the back and street skinnies in the front.

With all systems operational, Tyson and crew headed over to Milan Dragway in Michigan for the initial test. And after sorting out the usual bugs, the LX clipped off a 10.80 in the mid-120 mph range. "I never intended to run in the 9s." he says. "We only figured it would go mid-10s, but the 10s came pretty easy so I kept working on the combination."

Soon Tyson upgraded to a set of TFS Street Heat heads, which he got for $950 and he upped the boost to over 20 psi. By the time we met up with Tyson at the Fun Ford Weekend event in Norwalk, Ohio, the combination was running well and producing consistent 9.80s at 138 mph, and it was still streetable, as was proved by running in the Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords True Street Challenge.

"I don't use it on the street that much, but it does drive OK. It's easy to drive," Tyson stated, "if you keep out of the boost. It's easy, that is, but when you nail it, it goes ballistic."

According to Tyson, "The hardest part about getting the car to run well is getting the fuel delivery system right. People say it won't work because the fuel delivery is tough to dial in and no one wants to tune a carburetor with a turbo; so there aren't many people you can turn to. I tuned it by driving it on the street, by going down the track, and by reading the plugs and watching the EGT. Everyone has his own theory on EGT, but I don't like to see more than 1350 degrees. That way I know it is safe," he added.

Since meeting Tyson in Norwalk in 2002, he has turned up the wick and installed an air-to-water intercooler and the ET has plummeted to a new best of 9.60 at 145 mph. Unfortunately, after a few passes at those speeds, the AOD checked out and is now on permanent leave. Rather than fix it, his plans call for a 2-speed Powerglide to be installed over the winter, along with a new Dart block and some better rotating parts.

Tyson has certainly proved his point about turbos, carbs and small budgets. He proved how to go fast on the cheap, but he wants to go even faster and he knows the stock parts will eventually give up the ghost. This is why the strong block, steel crank and good rods and pistons will get installed. He can then hop up the boost and he'll continue to run in True Street, and if he keeps the T-76, he'll even try a set of drag radials and give the NMRA Drag Radial class a shot.

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Brad Heuwagen calls his '87 LX the Silver Bullet, his friends call him Tyson. His Mustang showcases a serious low-buck approach to low ETs and big mph.
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Amazingly, the engine combination consists of a stock roller block that is fitted with an Erson cam, TFS heads, an Edelbrock Victor Jr. and a Holley 750. Incoming air is compressed by a single Turbonetics T-Series turbo to the tune of 22 lbs. of boost.
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Aluminum wing, vanity plate and a sump in the tank says "race" but you'd never guess the full potential of this Stang from looking at it.
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Turbocharger is a T-76 from Turbonetics. Tyson traded a few parts to a sand drag racer in exchange for the turbo.
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Air is compressed to a maximum of 22 psi and then fed through a customized intercooler and into the carb bonnet. According to Tyson, the carb, intake and heads are box stock.
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Spartan interior has only the essentials such as a tach, the basic Auto Meter gauges, lightweight buckets, roll bar and a well worn B&M shifter.
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Tyson's LX is clean and simple. It has a smooth silver paint job with tinted windows and Center Line Auto Drag wheels. A cowl hood and sheet metal wing give it the racy look.
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LX has polished Center Line wheels at each corner with skinnies in the front and Mickey Thompson ET Street tires providing traction.
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Brad Tyson took the simple approach and has enjoyed great success. In the future he plans to add a Powerglide transmission and better engine parts, including a Dart block and a stronger rotating assembly.
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The new goal is to run quicker and faster, perhaps in the 8s.