November 11, 2003

Jerry Hollingsworth's '79 Indy Pace Car is an enigma. Look under the hood and you'll find a 305hp '97 Cobra 4.6 engine. The Jenks, Oklahoma, NAPA parts store owner has spent the last couple years "cracking the 4.6," and in the process, creating the most complete "changeover" that Ford or anybody else has seen to date.

Apparently, there have been some racing vehicles with a swapped 4.6 DOHC, but nothing like this '79. The race cars didn't need things like air conditioning and ABS braking, but Jerry built his Cobra-powered '79 Indy 500 Pace Car replica for the street with full use of the amenities.

Although his '79 looks like a Pace Car, mechanically it's a '97 Cobra because that was his goal. Even the electronic instrument cluster is '97 Cobra. Ditto for the suspension, wheels, ABS braking, T45 five-speed transmission, and Traction-Lok 8.8 rear axle with quad shocks. Everything fit, with no cutting required. When Jerry dropped the body over the Cobra engine/transmission, the shifter came right smack dab through the middle of the original four-speed's shifter opening.

Jerry's journey began a couple years ago at the Mid-America Shelby show in Tulsa. He had a '79 Indy 500 Pace Car Mustang as well as a wrecked '97 Cobra. Why not, he figured, take advantage of the Cobra's 305 horses? Why not build a trick Fox? Somebody had to have dropped the 4.6 DOHC into different Ford cars, right? Mainly, he needed to know what computer would run the combo.

Jerry recalls, "There were three guys there from Ford SVT, including Bill Martens from marketing. He said it was too high-tech for him, but he gave me some leads at Ford Racing. So, I called Ford Racing and they said 'No, it can't be done. You can't deprogram the antitheft device out of the computer.' "

Apparently, if you bypass the antitheft device, the 4.6 will run 1 ½ seconds, then shut down. So, why not keep the antitheft device intact? The trouble is you have to wire the device into the existing steering column of the older vehicle. This means pulling all the antitheft devices off the Cobra and installing them into the transplant car. Then, you need the key with the correct computer chip to match the antitheft. Jerry didn't get an ignition key with the wrecked '97 Cobra.

For a slick 4.6 DOHC transplant, Jerry needed what wasn't available--a computer with the antitheft device disabled. Jerry checked with various chip vendors, learning only that no other computer on the market would run the 4.6 DOHC.

As you can see, Jerry has solved this problem. Apparently, he is the first enthusiast to do so. At this year's Mid-America show, Bill spied Jerry's '79. He didn't make the connection, but Jerry remembered Bill and asked, "Do you remember me? I'm the guy who wanted to put a Cobra engine in a '79 Pace Car, and I was asking about the computer. Well, this is the product of that conversation."

Bill gave credit where credit was due, acknowledging that this '79 was the most "complete changeover" SVT had ever seen. They had some racing vehicles, but nothing like this.

How did Jerry make the 4.6 DOHC run without the antitheft device? At Tulsa, he kept his secret to himself, but agreed here to divulge how it's done.

Jerry owns a NAPA auto parts store and a NAPA auto-service center in Jenks. He knew a 75-year-old customer, a former employee of McDonnell-Douglas in Southern California, who had patents on fuel injection and oxygen. "One day he tells me he put a V-10 Viper engine in his experimental airplane," Jerry tells us. "So, I asked him how he ran the V-10, and he said he was using a 3.3 Dodge Caravan computer. All you have to do is look at the pin-outs and wire it up the same way. Then it will run the engine just fine."

At his NAPA store, Jerry has access to all the manuals and literature. He knows cars and he knows parts. Immediately, he went to the Lincoln Mark VIII, one of the first Fords to be powered by the 4.6 DOHC. In 1996, the antitheft device just blinked the lights and honked the horns; it didn't "talk" to the computer. But in 1997 and thereafter, if the computer thought the car was being stolen, it wouldn't allow the car to start.

The pre-'97 Mark VIII computer, with some minor pin modifications, will run the DOHC 4.6. The good news is you can buy these computers direct from Ford for about $100. And, if you're lucky, you might find one at a salvage yard for a fraction of that price.

Thanks to a hobbyist, we now have the keys to the DOHC kingdom. You can swap the DOHC 4.6 into a vehicle, either for racing or for the street, using the full amenities. The '79-'93 Fox-body is, by Jerry's proven calculations, dimensionally the same as the SN-95 Mustang.

"I had guys at the show say they've been wanting to do this but didn't know if it would fit," says Jerry. "I said, yeah, it fits and everything bolts up. You don't have to cut a thing."

No doubt, we'll be seeing more 4.6 DOHC swaps in the near future.