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Kenny Shaw’s 1991 Fox-Body Ford Mustang Keeps Getting Faster with the Help of His Friends
Four to Great!
Kenny Shaw of St. Augustine, Florida, has owned his own landscaping business for the past 16 years. While the mowers pay the bills, his real excitement during the last quarter-century has come from different internal combustion engines, those found in high-performance Mustangs. Kenny has built several over the years—each one faster and more purpose-oriented than the one before—thanks to his friend Tommy Taylor, who owned more than 60 Mustangs in the past and was instrumental in getting Kenny involved in the sport.
Kenny acquired his first Mustang back in the 1990s while he was in the military, a 1973 Mach 1 Fastback. It was fun, but it didn’t take long before he replaced it with a quicker 1981 T-Top. After that it was a 1995 Mustang GT, a car whose engine and driveline he describes as “Velcro,” since they were in and out so often. Along the way, Kenny credits his friend Ronnie Smrekar with sharing the performance tricks he needed to get each of those Ponies galloping at speed. “Ronnie helped me pull a lot of horsepower out of what I had,” Kenny says.
Together they worked on each other’s 351-equipped, Fox-bodied cars, using their synergy to create the best combinations. Kenny says, “Neither of us had a bunch of money so the goal was to make the cars faster on a budget.”
Whenever Ronnie was able to upgrade with new parts, Kenny would repurpose the old parts, installing them on his car. Kenny smiles when he says, “Although everything was virtually the same, Ronnie’s old parts eventually made my car quicker and we could never quite figure out why!”
Kenny’s current car is this silver 1991 Mustang, originally a four-cylinder hatch with automatic and air. He purchased the car from a friend who also happened to have a stock 351 block, a perfect solution to the tired four-banger. Over time and after quite a few performance tweaks, the modified motor and five-speed pulled the car through the traps at 10.69 and 132 mph. While that was quite an achievement, more and faster was always the goal.
Kenny took it to the next level, purchasing a 351 R-block from well-known Florida performance tuner Tony Gonyan. The team from Express Engines in Deland, Florida, assembled the engine using a hot rodder’s dream sheet of upgrades, beginning with a Bryant Racing billet crank, Carillo rods, 10.5:1 JE pistons, a Comp Cams hydraulic roller cam, and TFS High Port heads designed especially for larger nitrous systems. Aspiration on Kenny’s engine begins with a port-matched Victor Jr. intake that holds an 850 AED Performance carb and a K&N filter. Fuel delivery is critical in a nitrous motor, and Kenny jokes that he gets about 1 mpg when his foot is in it. The air/fuel mix uses a recirculating system that centers around a thirst-quenching Aeromotive 1000 stealth fuel package with a pump mounted in the tank and the regulator and filter located on the passenger-side front fender. He squeezes out extra horses thanks to Outlaw 110-octane racing fuel purchased at the track. Lighting the high-octane brew is a combination of MSD 6AL electronic ignition and Blaster coil, followed by maximizing the scavenging effect with Kooks 1 7/8-inch wrapped headers that flow into a Summit 3-inch system using an X-pipe and a pair of Dynomax mufflers. Temps stay in the green thanks to an aluminum four-core radiator with an electric fan that Kenny adapted from a 1995 Mustang GT.
The engine initially dyno’d at 591 hp at the crank. When the first 175 shot of nitrous was installed the numbers jumped to 652 hp at the wheels. Even more gains came later when the Wilson Plate Nitrous kit went in, upgrading from a 175 shot to 225 and orchestrated by a Progressive nitrous controller. It allows Kenny to leave softly enough to minimize wheelspin on the line with the controller smoothly adding more nitrous as traction increases. Typically it’s 50 percent on launch with 100 available after the first second. He is estimating that the new changes have brought the totals up to around 740 hp at the wheels. Managing that power is a thoroughly rebuilt Turbo 400 three-speed auto with a reverse valve body, a 3,800-stall speed, and a Cheetah SCS shifter, all assembled by JW in Rockledge, Florida. It’s connected to a steel driveshaft with heavy-duty U-joints, fabricated by the Drive Shaft Specialists in Jacksonville. So far the combination has proven bulletproof.
Planting that power was the next challenge, beginning with rigidly mounting the engine and trans to the body. The buildup occurred with Kenny’s friend Forest Eickert, who assisted with the installation of the all-new suspension, replacing the original 90/10 drag struts with a tubular front end, manual steering rack, and castor/camber plates, then incorporating UPR springs and Strange adjustable coilovers on all four wheels. The 16-way, Viking Performance adjustable rear shocks allow precise tuning of the car’s launch characteristics.
To ensure that the suspension had a rigid platform to operate from, subframe connectors and a full rollcage reinforce the body. Getting down to where the rubber meets the road, an 8.8 rear with 4.10 gears and Moser axles spin 28-inch-tall tires that seem to be the right combination, allowing the car to really hook up on the track. The 15x10 rear rims are Race Star Industries black chrome holding 295/55-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street tires running about 14 psi. Up front, slim 17x3.5 Race Stars are wrapped in 26x5.0 -17 Moroso rubber. Kenny wisely incorporated new Mach 1 front disc brakes to manage the higher speeds. With all the changes in place and when the track is properly prepped, the Mustang now launches by lifting its left front wheel.
Finishing touches outside include a 5-inch cowl induction hood, smoked head and taillights, and a Cobra rear wing. Inside, a pair of black cloth Corbeau seats fitted with RCI five-point harnesses keeps driver and passenger secure. A full complement of Auto Meter gauges monitors underhood activity, and a Cheetah SCS shifter controls the Turbo 400 automatic. You won’t find any stereo, air conditioning, or power steering on this Mustang. If it doesn’t make the car go faster, it’s simply not part of the plan!
How did all the changes affect the time slip? At the NSRA Spring Break Shoot Out in Bradenton, Florida, the car turned a 9.40 and 147 mph before being sidelined with a broken throttle cable. Is Kenny pleased with the current performance package? You bet! He says the car is just about right.
“In reality, I am at the top of the list for what’s going on around here. So, for what we do, it’s fine. The motor has been together for the last three years I have been beating the crap out of it at 7,500 rpm, and it is still holding together! I don’t want to mess with success, but if I do tear it down, I will probably raise the compression and change the cam.”
Kenny is a very fortunate guy. He sends special thanks to his wife, Trish, “ because she never complains or gripes at me for all my Mustang antics!”