Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
March 1, 2001

Step By Step

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P65387_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Passenger_SideP65388_image_largeP65389_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT EngineP65390_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Interior
The floorboards are aluminum as is the entire interior, which Racecraft went to great lengths to fit and finish all the “tin” work around the interior components. The exception is the floor beneath the driver seat, which must remain steel to comply with the SFI/NHRA 25.1C safety specifications.
P65391_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT EngineP65392_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Driver_SideP65393_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Passenger_Side
The foundation for the front suspension are custom Racecraft A-arms, a Racecraft K-member, and a Strange steering rack. Santhuff struts designed to Racecraft’s specifications for the Pro 5.0 chassis are one-off pieces that lower the front with 200 lb/in coilover springs. Over the years, Wilkinson has changed the design parameters of these struts. Past examples Racecraft used were too tall and provided too much travel. The ASSC front struts are 2 inches shorter and allow only 3 inches of travel.
P65394_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT ElectronicsP65395_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Datalogger
Jim keeps tabs on the engine and chassis functions with this Auto Meter datalogger.
P65410_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Interior
Carbon fiber is lighter than fiberglass and stronger than steel, which are certainly advantages, while the only disadvantage is the extreme cost of this high-tech material. For example, Mark Wilkinson prices the body package at around $4,000.
P65411_large 1996_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Passenger_Side
To keep rubber off the inside of the trick carbon-fiber wheel tubs, Tim Huston (right) recommends “Pledge! Coat up the inside and the rubber falls off.”

You need only take a quick look at this car to realize how outrageous a state-of-the-art Pro 5.0 car has become. The names involved with this car shouldn’t be new to our regular readers, but the performance level obtained by this team, with shocking brevity, has astounded even the experts in the field of 5.0 Mustangology. If there is a Midwest dream team, this is it, with Tim Huston the owner, Larry Stauner the tuner, Mark Wilkinson the builder, and Jim Summers, the wild man who dreamed the damned thing up.

We’ve covered the exploits of the Chicago-based hot shop ASSC Racing for years now, featuring its customers’ cars as well as “Big Red,” the Pro 5.0 GT that Jim has campaigned over the last several years with an ever-increasing level of performance. We will remind you that Jim’s GT was the first-ever 10-inch-tired Street Outlaw Mustang to break into the eight-second zone at the Norwalk Fun Ford Weekend in 1997. From there, the red GT went on to be one of the most feared Pro 5.0 cars in the country, racking up wins and top qualifying honors at several events. But things change, and Jim and Tim Huston, who owns ASSC Racing, found themselves outgunned as the new-age Pro 5.0 cars of Les Baer, Brandon Switzer, and Billy Glidden began to take over.

In response, Big Red was updated as quickly as possible, but it soon became apparent that a former street car turned mid-seven-second race car was just not going to cut it in two areas: consistency and safety.

Unbeknownst to the rest of the 5.0 Mustang world, a secret alliance was forming between Jim, Tim, and Mark—all within shouting distance of Chicago. It wasn’t because they had lost faith in their Big Red GT, but because Racecraft had the makings of a serious Pro 5.0 car at the shop, “in stock, no wait” as the saying goes. And, as Jim likes to put it, “Timmy was sick of us blowing the tires off the car and losing races. He stepped up—he wants ASSC to be the dominant team in all of this stuff!” The ’96 GT was a car that had been abandoned by one of Mark’s customers, and it was perfect for what Jim had in mind.

So, with Tim footing the bill, Mark and his staff manning the torches, and Jim calling the shots, the new car began to take on a whole new form. Now, we don’t want to say these guys got a little carried away, but Mark (who has built the last two Les Baer Pro 5.0 cars) is known as a genius amongst the Pro 5.0 elite. And, with the energy that Jim provided to the project, absolutely nothing was held back from the final product.

Luckily, the ’96 GT had only a skeleton of tube work done within the shell of the bodywork. That minimal starting point was the inspiration for what was to follow. The final product is, of course, a 25.1C chassis that is SFI-legal for sub-7.50-second passes—and, yes, the car has already invoked that chassis certification! The chrome-moly tubing contains hundreds of reinforcement “points” coming together to create a flex-free chassis, the likes of which had never been imagined only a few years ago.

Described by Mark as his “fourth-generation four-link,” the ’96 GT’s rear suspension is custom-designed for the rigors of Pro 5.0 racing. Basically, his design has brought the intersect point (or “instant center” for those of you playing along at home) closer to where Mark has scienced is the ideal locale. He hedged that somewhere between 50 and 60 inches lies the true instant center on these cars—more information will require you to buy one of these things and discover the answer for yourself. The 125-pound rear coilover springs house Strange adjustable air shocks. These are pneumatic by design and not the electronic units used on Mark’s previous Pro 5.0 cars. The rear is a custom Racecraft housing with a Strange Ultra Case holding shotgun-drilled Strange 40-spline axles, a Strange spool, and 4.71:1 gears spinning 33x16 Goodyear slicks mounted on Bogart rims.

What really separates the latest generation of Pro 5.0 cars from the past is the front suspension. Specifically, it is the ability of today’s chassis masters to lower the car safely and accurately, which allows better aerodynamics in the car for top-end speed and downtrack safety. Racecraft has been at the forefront of this revolution, and the creativity and influence of much faster drag-racing classes certainly shows through in this stunning ASSC example.

Once the chassis and suspension was squared away, it was time for Mark to do the remainder of the body. Here, again, ASSC Racing separated itself from the pack by going with an entire carbon-fiber body package which, to the best of our knowledge, is the only one currently active on the Pro 5.0 circuit today. Carbon-fiber pieces on this car include the entire front clip, the hood, the deck lid, the rear bumper and valance, the doors, the seats, the dashboard, and—something especially rare—the rear wheel tubs.

In total, Mark has 1,750 hours in the car, with the majority of his work hidden from view except when the car is disassembled for maintenance. Some of the artistic touches on this car include the fuel tank, the water tank for the Spearco intercooler (contained in a Racecraft housing), the tubing from the ProCharger supercharger to the intercooler, the tubing from the intercooler to the intake, the CNC-cut motor plates, the chrome-moly Racecraft driveshaft, the custom Racecraft stepped headers, and all the tunnel work to mount the Liberty five-speed transmission.

As Mark puts it, “The car went out of my shop turnkey. It went from the shop to the track.”

The motor that demanded all of this attention is a Fast Times work of perfection, comprised of only the finest starting material and topped off with loads of attention from Jim’s fuel system and Speed-Pro tuning expertise. The 400ci mill consists of a 9.2-inch-deck FRPP block, a Bryant billet-steel crank, GRP aluminum rods, Brodix Neal race heads, and a Wilson Manifolds’ Yates cast intake modified for fuel injection and to house the octet of 160 lb/hr injectors. The supercharger is the D-3MR race unit, which supercedes the D-3M ProCharger. Inhaling 28 pounds of boost, the motor is easily making in excess of 1,700 hp.

Bucking the trend to fly in your own clutch man from race to race, Jim has taken to the task of setting up the six-finger Ram clutch for each run. This includes adding a counterweight to each finger to match the “hit” of the clutch to the track and power conditions. Jim, who has been working with Les Baer on his blown Pro 5.0 car, is obviously a quick study. “I learned everything from Les. With this car, we just drove through the clutch once, backed it down, and everything has been fine since then. It’s a ton of work to maintain [the Pro Stock transmission] after each round, though.” The clutch and flywheel are housed in a Trick Titanium bellhousing.

Debuting at the NMRA’s Byron, Illinois, race, the first full pass laid down by this beauty was a mind-numbing 7.50 seconds with a 1.135-second short time! Then at Cordova, Jim went all the way to the finals running 7.50s with ease against several of the nation’s top guns. Best eighth-mile times have been a whopping 4.75 seconds at more than 157 mph! Simply put, this car half-tracks as well as any car in the history of Pro 5.0. At the last Fun Ford race of the season in Ennis, Texas, the Midwest dream team put all the pieces together and laid down the quickest supercharged pass in Pro 5.0 history— a 7.268 at 192.59.

After reviewing this story, you will undoubtedly be asking yourself the same question we did: What’s coming in Pro 5.0? Our sources tell us the first tube-chassis Pro 5.0s will begin to appear in 2001. This move has been made almost mandatory by new SFI/NHRA chassis certification safety rules. They have also been pushed by stunning Pro 5.0 cars such as the new ASSC Racing masterpiece, so consider this story a preview of what’s next.

Horse Sense: To give you an idea of how hard this car hits, ASSC’s data-acquisition system has already measured 2.3 g’s on the g-meter during launch! There is no problem with consistent 1.13-second short times, with a best of 1.09 seconds for the 3,050-pound Pro 5.0 car after only 10 runs!