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Eye On The Prize
The racers may come from the Big Easy, but they make Super Street Outlaw very seriously.
New Orleans, a.k.a. The Big Easy, is home to one of the largest parties--Mardis Gras--along with many other carnivals and festivals. In addition to the many celebrations, the town also features some of the best cooking and traditions. The Big Easy is home to a hardcore pair of street-legal drag racers that will travel anywhere with their Mustang to compete against other cars with "real 10.5-inch tires."
Their names are Carlo Catalanotto and George Gallegos. They combined their efforts to field a '93 Mustang in the NMRA's wild and tough Super Street Outlaw class. It is a category that oftentimes features 32 cars and any car can win on any weekend. Small-tire racing is not for the weak, as these Mustangs are tough to drive and the wheelman is not just along for the ride. Needless to say, there is a lot of stabbing and steering going on in 7 seconds.
For many Mustang Shootout fans, the name Carlo Catalanotto has been around for quite some time and he collected the FFW Street Outlaw '97 championship. Catalanotto cut his teeth in this business on the tough match race circuit down South where he drove everything from 6-second Pro Street/Pro Mod cars to low 8-second small-tire cars for several different car owners. The name of the game in high stakes match racing is to do more with less and one of their money makers was a '69 Camaro running 8.20s on real 10.5-inch tires. It is no surprise that the 28x10.5 tire requirement in NMRA Super Street Outlaw is what attracted him to the class in the first place.
His partner and team owner, George Gallegos, is a longtime friend and after watching Catalanotto drive his own Mustang (dubbed Baby Blue) to a fourth place finish in 2000 in NMRA competition he decided Carlo was the perfect guy to have drive his Stang. Together they would build one of the most colorful Mustangs to hit the class and is quickly becoming one of the most talked about cars, too. "In 2001 I ripped my Mustang apart to keep up with the changing times in SSO. While the car was in the chassis shop Gallegos asked me at lunch if I would drive his car in NMRA competition," says Catalanotto.
Believe it or not, the car in the pictures began life as a '93 Mustang GT. In 2001 it featured a ladder bar suspension and a "fun" 401ci engine with a couple of hits of nitrous. Catalanotto rode big wheelies and eventually ran 8.50s. The combination was simple and consisted of a good set of Canfield heads, but was still a street-type engine with big compression and a roller camshaft. These guys are competitors and they wanted to be more than just a great looking ride in SSO.
By the start of the 2002 season they switched to Yates cylinder heads that noted head porter Larry Meaux worked over. Low compression pistons were added, as well as a Vortech Z-trim supercharger with a custom air-to-water aftercooler mounted inside the car. A FAST fuel injection with twin MagnaFlow fuel pumps were selected to control and feed the new blower engine. They also added a Funny Car cage and tried to remove some weight. It was a failed attempt, as the extra safety and speed equipment kept the GT at 3,380 pounds with driver.
By year's end, a ProCharger F3R blower was added to the mix and noted SSO chassis builder Mike Duffy had modified the suspension to try and get it working properly. Catalanotto finished the season by running 8.07 at 177 mph, a number they knew was not indicative of the horsepower their engine was capable of producing. They actually slowed the blower speed down to try and keep the 10.5-inch slicks from getting blown away.
Catalanotto explained, "We knew that the engine made too much power for the chassis. It was not built to hook a 1,700 hp blower engine, but rather an 1,100 horsepower nitrous engine." After many discussions with Duffy they decided to tear apart the entire car in order to be a contender. The team needed to focus on dropping the weight so they could get to the 3,150-pound minimum as well as on upgrading to a 25.1d chassis certification. A 25.1d chassis is required by the NHRA rules for any vehicle running over 180 mph, one of the goals of Gallegos. Other goals were to run deep in the 7s and, of course, to win.
Super Street Outlaw competitors make one straight run while another hit will just send the tires up in smoke. A good suspension is the key to being consistent. Duffy took delivery of the car over the winter of 2002-03 and stripped all of the suspension components. He wanted to work with new parts that were designed for SSO usage. The cage was upgraded to 25.1 specs, too. Out back, custom length ladder bars designed strictly for small tire racing were installed. Also, one of Duffy's custom 9-inch rearend housings replaced the 8.8 unit. Strange brakes all around stop the car from the 180-mph blasts and get help from a Stroud parachute. Up front Duffy used a PA Racing K-member and A-arm kit to get more weight off the nose. Custom Santuff struts and shocks were designed for this project. 28x10.5-inch slicks can be quite temperamental with 1,700 plus horsepower and each suspension component is critical.
Under the hood the engine remained largely the same save for a few components that Dakota Racing Engines upgraded. An RDI aluminum block was selected in large part because Duffy gave them instructions to get more weight off the nose. The aluminum block netted a 70-pound savings over the iron one. A new camshaft from Cam Motion was also added to the mix. The same ProCharger F3R blower was retained and now produces around 35 psi of boost to make an estimated 1,700 hp. A Dynamic two-speed Powerglide with a Neil Chance torque converter are critical components in transferring the horsepower to the 3.70 rear gears.
The car is officially a '93 GT, but in an effort to save weight Gallegos decided to rip off the GT skirts and make it an LX. He also wanted to have a fresh paint job since this was no longer a streetcar and now a purpose-built racecar. After a base white paint job was completed they delivered the Stang to Kal's Kustom Graphics. It took Kal almost 100 hours to airbrush the wild, unique scheme. If you noticed, each side of the car is a different color and design. The checker board on the back of the car was done to hide a little mishap with the wall when an oil line broke on the top end, which sent Catalanotto into a nice 175-mph sideways skid. They escaped with only scrapes on the rear quarter-panel.
Due to the extensive list of modifications and upgrades the car did not debut until mid-summer at the NMRA-Joliet race. The setting was perfect. NHRA's premier facility was hooking hard and just about anyone who is somebody in SSO was on the property. There were 30 cars in the field and Catalanotto did not get to make a pass until the final round of qualifying. A faulty fuel injector would not allow the car to start up and kept them in the pits. Literally the first hit on the new chassis combination produced the car's best time to date, a 7.91 at 178 mph and put them fourth in the field. While it takes most SSO racers several months of testing to run in the 7s they did so on the first pass. The car hooks hard too and has gone as quick as 1.28 seconds in the 60-foot and has a best of 5.09 in the eighth-mile.
"Besides having a great car we could not do this without the help of a great crew. I want to thank Pat Layus for his years of hard work not just on this car but with all of my racecars. Another guy who is a big part of the team is Darryl Steimly. Of course, it would not all be possible without my wife Jama and son Nino for letting me go racing all the time either!" said Catalanotto. The team was also the first 7-second Super Street car in Clash of the Titans competition. The 2004 racing season will be spent chasing the NMRA championship. The team will also have a Pro 5.0 car that will run on a limited schedule. It will be a busy year as they tour the country and you can bet they will always have their eye on the winning prize.