Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
July 29, 2004

Every 16-year-old should have it as good as Winona, Minnesota's Damon Dais. Damon dreamed about blasting down Main Street in a hot piece of American muscle--either his '77 Ranchero or his '64 Comet. But, as happens with many of our first cars, Damon's turned out to be pieces of rusted-out crap. While on the fast track to realizing his goal behind the wheel of the Comet, Damon pulled up the carpet and discovered more holes than Enron's defense strategy. He had already put together a nice little 289 to go between the rails, but after seeing the light--and this '79 Mustang Pace Car--he decided to cut his losses. He traded the two rusted-out hulks and $2,500 for the car you see here.

When Damon bought the car, it had the original TRX wheels and tires, a junkyard 302, and a C4. It had been restored inside and out. Damon says it didn't run badly with the junkyard engine in it, but it ran much better with the built 289 under the hood. As a matter of fact, the car ran 14.60s with the 289, which featured an Edelbrock Performer intake and a Holley carburetor. The 289 had undergone a stock rebuild at the time, but Damon added 351 Windsor heads, good pistons, and a 125-shot of juice. These improvements lowered times into the 12.20s.

The '79 Pace Car was probably the first collectible Fox-body Mustang.Damon's Pace Car was repainted in the original colors and features thecorrect graphics package. A 6-inch cowl hood and Weld Draglites weren'ton the option sheet in 1979--at that time a cowl hood was for Chevys--andyou would've definitely been a trendsetter if you had Draglites backthen. Damon knows his car is authentic because he once had the dashpadout and on the back were the words "Pace Car."

As do most juice junkies, Damon used the nitrous every chance he got, and eventually he burned a piston. Lawson Racing's Jerry and Erik Lawson rebuilt the 289, changed the pistons, cleaned up the block, and did a valve job on the heads. Those relatively simple changes netted 11.60s the next time out. Of course, Damon wanted more, so he went back to the Lawsons for a stock-block 342.

Horse Sense: As he was becoming more and more serious about making his Pace Car faster and less street-worthy, Damon found the need for an enclosed trailer. No stranger to trades, he traded his Harley Davidson motorcycle for an enclosed trailer before he ever had a truck with which to tow it. As of this writing, Damon has a V-10 Ford truck for the towing, but whenever he sees a nice Harley, he wishes he never had to make that trade.

The new 342 entailed stuffing a stock 5.0 block with a Scat stroker crankshaft, Eagle rods, Ross pistons, and file-fit moly rings. Instead of reusing the Windsor heads, Damon stepped up to Air Flow Research's 205 aluminum heads along with an Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake and a Holley Dominator 750. Nitrous remained the power adder of choice, with the addition of an NOS Sportsman Fogger 200hp system. Damon finally realized his nine-second goal at the end of 2002, even with a slipping C4 transmission. Oh yeah, he also got the boot from the track for not having his nine-second license.

In 2003, Damon thought the stock-block was living on borrowed time with the power he was making, so another trip to Lawson Racing netted him an FRPP R302 block mated with the components from his existing combination. That's the trim the car was in when we photographed it at the '03 Joliet NMRA race. A little more reliability and tweaking of the nitrous resulted in Damon's best time to date with a 9.76 at 140 mph--good enough to be crowned the King of Joliet with a Wild Street win at Route 66 Raceway.

Damon's goal for 2004 is to get kicked out of the track for not having a parachute on the car, mandatory on all cars running 150 mph and faster. That speed usually entails eight-second timeslips as well. Of course, he's still holding out for that winning lottery ticket. If that happens, he'll definitely need a parachute because he would be making the quantum leap up to Pro Stock. He might need the entire lottery check to keep pace in that class.