Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatured Vehicles
Mark Miller's muscle Mustang bucks the drag racing trend and heads for the turns at the nearest road course
While the majority of Mustang maniacs get their kicks at the car show or at the dragstrip, there are quite a few individuals who expect more from their vehicle than just straight-line speed. These people talk of lap times and lateral g's, and are more interested in things like camber and roll center than they are with 60-foot times or winning Best of Show. Royersford, Pennsylvania's Mark Miller is just this type of individual. He yearns to burn corners in his Mustang GT.
Mark purchased his pristine pony in 1994 with a mere 30,000 miles on the clock. At that time the '89 GT was modified with the usual bolt-ons, along with a Kenne-Bell supercharger. The car won at a few shows, but it was Mark's experience on the road course that convinced him a Mustang was the way to go.
Miller frequently assaulted various road courses with his Trackmasters (www.trackmasters.com) buddies while piloting a '93 Escort GT. "I realized that a highly modified Mustang could beat the mega-buck BMWs, Porsches and Ferraris, so I stripped the '89 down to its bare chassis in my garage and three years later, I had the open track Mustang of my dreams," noted Mark.
Since this was going to be a track-only ride, a lot of work went into dismantling it. The carpet and all four original seats were ditched in favor of some shiny silver paint, a pair of backside-hugging Corbeau Forzas and five-point harnesses. The door panels were chucked as well, and Mark added some sheetmetal to fill up the various holes left by the window mechanicals that had been removed. The stereo and HVAC systems were replaced with a custom 10-point rollcage and a Halon fire system, and the gutted dashboard received a set of Auto Meter Phantom gauges in both the cluster and the owner-fabricated center console.
Up at the front of the car, the supercharged 5-liter engine was removed to make way for a thundering, naturally aspirated powerplant. Mark had Doug Meyers at Automotive Machining Services in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania, install the Crower 3.300-inch stroke crankshaft into an R302 block, along with CP forged aluminum pistons and Crower rods. Buttoning up the bottom end is a Canton road race oil pan, and Crower was sourced for the custom solid roller camshaft, which features a 270/286 duration and .574/.558-inch lift.
Mark performed his own porting on a set of Edelbrock Victor Jr., aluminum cylinder heads and added Crower 1.6:1 roller rocker arms along with a stud girdle to make sure that the 2.05 intake and 1.60 exhaust valves are steady and reliable at the 7,500-rpm redline. Mark had enjoyed his Mustang's fuel injection, so rather than go with a carburetor, he opted for an Edelbrock Victor 5.0 EFI manifold and an 80mm BBK throttle body.
The EEC-IV mass air system was traded in favor of a Motec speed-density fuel injection system. Siemens 55 lb-hr injectors match the incoming airflow, and are supported by an Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump and regulator, which sips the Union 76 110-octane fuel from the 21-gallon Fuel Safe gas tank. MSD was sourced for the distributor, coil and ignition box, and Mark had Second Street Speed in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, optimize the computer's air/fuel/spark timing to produce an asphalt ripping 481 hp and 447 lb-ft of torque.
Having an open-track car allows for some liberties, one of which was the exhaust system. While shooting Mark's Mustang at the famed Watkins Glen road course, we have to say it sounds like nothing short of a Winston Cup car. This wail is attributed to the Pro Mustang 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers and custom 3.5-inch H-pipe, which exits out the sides of the car just behind the doors.
The rest of the driveline consists of a Pro 5.0-shifted, Tremec 3550 five-speed gearbox that utilizes a Ram clutch and aluminum flywheel to send power back to the stock 8.8, which has been fortified for track duty with Strange axles, a 3.73 gear and a DPI Torsen limited-slip differential. Mark also installed Ford 9-inch housing ends on the 8.8, which is supported by Koni coilovers wearing 250-pound springs. Griggs Racing's panhard rod, torque arm and lower control arms offer far superior handling than the stock four-link setup, and Griggs was also sourced for the subframe connectors as well.
Up at the front end, a Griggs tubular K-member and control arms were bolted in, and matching Koni coilovers are employed, although they use a stiffer 450-pound spring rate. Maximum Motorsports caster/camber plates allow for superior alignment adjustments, which help this pony turn and burn with the best of them.
Mark wanted his Mustang to really stand out on the track, and although it would accomplish this with its great handling characteristics, he wanted it to look the part also. This entailed a complete makeover starting with Cervini Auto Design's Cobra kit, which included a new rear bumper cover and side skirts. A Saleen-style wing ads downforce (something that this Mustang can actually use when doing 150 on long straights), and a Cervini's 2.5-inch cowl-induction hood removed even more weight from the already light stallion. A Cervini's Stalker front bumper completes the makeover.
Body modifications notwithstanding, the real kicker came when Mark decided to go retro with the paint scheme, as he laid three coats of the very vivid Grabber Blue along with some flat black trim.
By far the most important part of any car has to be the tires. They are what make the automobile useful, and vehicle performance can vary greatly from tire to tire. In keeping with the cheap to repair theme, Mark went for the tried and true Cobra R wheel. Their 17x9.5-inch diameter allowed him to stuff 275/40 Hoosier meats under each corner and the RS-303 tires, which feature a semi-treaded design, enable the galloping pony to lap the Glenn (Boot included) in 2 minutes, 11 seconds. "That's fast enough to beat most cars under $100,000," said Mark. Miller estimates he has about $30,000 invested in his Stang; a far cry from what you'd pay for a Porsche 911 Turbo.
Mark also frequents Summit Point and Lime Rock Park, where you'll catch him running with his Trackmasters Open Class counterparts. On the road course trimming one's elapsed time down requires apex annihilation. That and a fast Mustang gets the job done.