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The quickest and fastest 4.6L-powered Terminator on the planet...and probably the cleanest too
The Midnight Monster from Montana
For over a century, mining has been an economic cornerstone of Montana; in fact, the state motto, Oro y Plata is Spanish for gold and silver, which refers to two of the precious minerals that gave rise to the state’s’ nickname, The Treasure State.
But we’d argue Montana has been hiding an even greater treasure; a serpent as midnight as obsidian with a heart of silver. Rumor has it the serpent’s onyx coat is so dark and so mesmerizing that countless men have been lost in their reflection—it’s so intriguing you can’t help but stare, but look too long and you too could fall victim.
Montana is known for big skies and open spaces, not wicked-fast cars, but this 2003 Cobra isn’t just putting the Treasure State on the map, it’s rewriting the recipe for success in the 8.5-small tire shootout classes—no big block and no nitrous? No problem.
Never heard of the Midnight Monster from Montana, you soon will...because to the best of our knowledge, this is the quickest 4.6L powered Terminator Cobra on the planet; oh yeah, and it set those records on a small tire, too.
“When the owner, Jack Sucilsky approached us about building a reliable 9-second drag car, we had no idea it would end up where it is today, I just knew whatever state it ended in, it had to be done the AED way,” co-owner of AED and builder of this Cobra, Drew Wallace laughingly said.
In case you were wondering what the AED way is, it’s all-out speed wrapped in understated excellence.
This is the type of car you can’t take your eyes off of. It’s drop dead gorgeous, magnetic and sinister, all in one. You can’t help but stare, but it’s more than lust, deep down you’re scared to look away for fear it might strike—just ask those who’ve lined up against the silent assassin at small-tire events. Look too long and it’s gone!
“People don’t know how to take it, I mean, it has power windows, carpet, stock bodywork, it’s quiet, and the factory paint looks nearly new,” Drew said. In fact, with the hood popped some don’t even know what they’re staring at. “We’ve had people ask us if it’s a Hemi, if it’s something exotic or even something from an import...in reality, it’s just a little 4.6,” Drew said with a smile.
To know the owner, Jack, and the builder, Drew, is to know perfection. Neither would admit it, but their commitment to perfection has no ends, and even in its current state, they’re still searching for more. But before we can look forward, we must take inventory of how we got here; from a bolt-on, auto-swapped 10th Anniversary Cobra that rolled into AED back in 2010 to its currently sinister status.
“Jack wanted something that ran reliable 9s, and after ditching the IRS, adding a TH400 and tuning the positive displacement blower setup, I only drove it to the end of the parking lot before Jack called and said it wasn’t going to be enough, we needed more,” Drew said.
And like that, the hunt for serious e.t.’s was on, which started with a new bullet from Accufab Racing. Rather than go with a bigger 5.4 or 5.8-based motor, they decided to stick with stock displacement and instead, focused on efficiency.
“We decided to have the heads ported by Livernois Motorsports and paired those with custom-spec Accufab Racing cams, which were then mounted to a stout bottom-end from Accufab Racing with Billet I-beam rods and JE pistons,” Drew explained.
In keeping with max efficiency, they kept the compression up (10:1) and partnered the wicked motor with a 76mm Precision turbo, a Hogan Racing intake manifold, Accufab 90mm throttle-body and a custom AED turbo kit with a laid-down FMIC all crafted by AED. An ATI damper and a Meziere electric waterpump were added, as was the F.A.S.T. XFI standalone system all under the notion of harnessing all that power.
Since the Cobra was still a street car and drivability was nearly as important as outright performance, they kept pleasantries like the power windows, hydroboost, and basically everything but the A/C. They also added a Powerglide transmission with a 5,600 rpm stall and a Gear Vendors overdrive for solid launches and tranquil highway cruising—the setup was good for a best of 5.23 at 141 mph on 275 radials.
As you know, horsepower isn’t the only thing that gets you down the track in a hurry, which is why the midnight monster may look composed up top, but it’s got a lot going on beneath the surface, including a Strange third member with 3.70 gears, Strange 35-spline axles, ⅝-inch titanium studs with billet lugs, Enterprise Motorsports custom housing and upper control arms, Chris Alston’s Chassisworks lower control arms and anti-roll bar, along with Santhuff coilovers.
Up front is a Racecraft chromoly K-member and A-arms, custom AED mid plate, and AFCO coilovers to help keep everything buttoned down. Let us not forget the wicked Lamb Components drag brakes hiding under the Bogart wheels that roll on ceramic bearings. Other go-fast necessities included a Racecraft rear wing, a custom Enterprise Motorsports cage and rear parachute mount with its Stroud parachute, the Kirkey race seat, Stroud harnesses, Racecraft steering wheel on the factory column that’s mated to a Racecraft tubular steering shaft and rack.
“The first turbo setup did really well, but after maxing out the 76mm and the injectors, instead of dialing it back and just having fun at events, we got the genius idea to rebuild it, and run in the Outlaw 8.5 class at the Super Nationals in Las Vegas...who’s idea was it again to make more power on a smaller tire,” Drew laughingly said.
As you already know, making the jump to the small tire class and pushing even more power through a setup with even more limitations isn’t exactly easy, but in proper AED fashion, they set out with an eye for efficiency.
“We ditched the air-to-air intercooler for an air-to-water setup for better weight distribution and cooling, and we rebuilt the turbo setup around a bigger 88mm Garrett GTX turbo so that the turbo was mounted up front, the exhaust poked through the fenders, and so you wouldn’t see very much piping under the hood,” Drew said. He’s right, look at that bay and tell us where the charge pipes are?
Along with the bigger snail and new turbo setup, some other go-fast bits joined the party too; like reversing the direction of Hogan intake, and a custom laid-down radiator (more on that later).
Like most builds, they thrashed to the very end before making the drive to the Super Nationals in Vegas with only hours to spare, arriving at the track without any testing under their belts and very little sleep. In the end, despite the odds, they unknowingly built a contender out of the little 4.6 that could.
“We arrived at the track only having idled the car into the trailer, we weren’t even sure if the 88mm turbo was even going to spool at the line with only a 4.6 and no nitrous assist,” Drew said.
The Cobra had never been on the dyno or even scaled; they did that and made test-hits in the TNT lanes in order to check the tune before going rounds. What they found was a maxed-out fuel pump because the new turbo setup was ready to party. Thankfully John Urist of Hellion Turbo loaned them a Weldon 2445A pump, the next size larger so they could race in the morning.
“In the morning we made our first full pass on low boost and went from a previous personal best in the 5.20s straight to 4.96—as we began feeding in more power we realized that even with the big pump we couldn’t give it enough fuel on top end, so we backed it down to 28psi and let it fly, instead working on the short track times,” Drew said. As you know, in the 26x8.5 small tire racing world, only a handful of people have been that fast on such a small tire, regardless of the powerplant, which makes the feat of doing so on such a small motor that much more impressive. To put that into perspective, on that pass they shut the car off at the eighth-mile and still coasted to a 7.8-second quarter-mile time...how’s that for fast?
But we digress; when he said, let it fly, what he meant was that on the morning of the race, after realizing that they were not only down on power because the fuel system couldn’t keep up with the demand of the engine on kill, but the street car amenities of the Cobra meant it was over 200 pounds heavier than most cars in the class. So what did they do? They did what had to be done to stay competitive.
“On the morning of the event, we decided to ditch the radiator, alternator, cooling system, and accessories to try and get it down the track quicker—we dropped 80 pounds and were still overweight,” Drew said.
After rescaling the car just minutes before entering eliminations, Jack hit the staging lanes and went rounds until ultimately facing the number one qualifier in the semi-final round; a seasoned racer with a wicked-fast, ultra light, big-cubic inch small-block Ford powered race car. “We continued to tweak the tune and the suspension all the way until the last round, and ultimately we lost by a tight margin—we went a 4.81 to his 4.80,” Drew said.
It was bittersweet; as they unknowingly built a real contender with power windows, carpets and a mini-mouse of a motor; and yet, they knew that with the proper injectors and a more aggressive tune they might have walked away with the W.
Fast-forward the clock some months and they found themselves thrashing for another big West Coast, small-tire event; same story, missing parts, and late-nights. Except, this time, they had to repair an oil pan when the car went skyward on the first test hit. Nonetheless, they backed up their Vegas run in eliminations with a 4.73 at 154 mph thanks to bigger injectors and an upgraded XFI system, which, as we mentioned, makes it the quickest 4.6L-powered Terminator Cobra on earth...on a baby 8.5-inch tire no less.
“Funny thing is, we could easily take 250 pounds out of the car and go even faster, but then we would need a bit more cage work and we would be tearing apart such a nice car,” Drew said.
Sure, the car has plenty more left in it, but at what expense? For AED, while they’re always searching for more, anything beyond its current state, and the car loses one of the very things that makes it so unique, it’s perfect aesthetics.
Speaking of perfection, which as you’ve noticed, is a common theme here; while you may think that Drew’s favorite part of the car is its killer looks or serious speed, in reality, what makes him happiest is seeing it launch straight. In fact, he takes the most pleasure in the subtle things most wouldn’t notice, like how the car requires very little steering input going down the track or how after a 100-foot wheelie it landed back in the center of the groove—he lives for the nuances, the small things and the difficult ones required of a car at this level.
Perhaps what makes this car so great is that the owner and the builder sweated the small stuff, settled for nothing less than perfection, and stuck to their guns of race car performance with show-car aesthetics—it wasn’t easy, but then again, how does the old saying go; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?
“I joke with my wife that AED stands for Adversity Every Day, and if you’re into building and racing fast cars, you know exactly what I mean,” Drew said.