Courtesy of John Buscema
May 1, 2001
Contributers: Courtesy of John Buscema

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
P67370_large Ford_Mustang_Racecar Front_Driver_SideP67371_large Ford_Mustang_Racecar Interior
All the heavy street niceties are gone in John’s racer, replaced by simple panels and no less than 11 Auto Meter instruments. Some of the specialty items being monitored include transmission, differential, and intercooler temperatures, plus the level in both fuel cells. Because a co-driver is carried, the instruments can be spread across the dash. In the center is a rally-style computer for figuring the average speed during the race, as well as a Smart Tire monitor. The monitor keeps track of internal tire temperature and pressure while underway, along with providing low-pressure and over-temperature tire alarms.
P67372_large Ford_Mustang_Racecar Rear_Axle
An off-the-shelf part playing a significant role in John’s car is this Steeda five-link rear suspension. This $1,149 retail design eliminates the stock control arms in favor of Steeda’s heavy-wall steel arms in addition to adding an adjustable Panhard rod for lateral location. The stock Ford suspension binding is banished thanks to parallel upper and lower control arms, and the longer Steeda upper arms minimize pinion angle changes from full compression to full droop. A combination of metal rod ends and urethane bushings keep the system streetable while offering race-car control. At “normal” enthusiast speeds the combo provides good bite off the corners without axle hop, reduces brake dive, and generally makes things much more stable—something John is definitely seeking.
P67373_large Ford_Mustang_Racecar Interior_Seat_Brackets
Behind the passenger seating area is the generously large 12-gallon reservoir for the supercharger intercooler. John figures a larger tank of water—actually ice at the beginning of the race—stays cooler longer. A separately switched pump controls coolant flow and is not turned on until after the race starts. Also notable are the massive, double-tube seat mounts. Such substantial mountings are good insurance against high-speed, multi-flip accidents that can fail lighter seat hardware.
P67374_large Ford_Mustang_Racecar Fuel_Cell
It takes plenty of fuel to run at wide-open throttle for 90 miles, and believe it or not, John has stuffed two 20-gallon fuel cells in his chassis. Fuel is burned from the main tank first, then additional fuel is pumped in from the secondary cell. The primary cell is a modified Cobra R part featuring an internal fuel sump fed by two low-pressure, in-tank pumps. From the sump, a Sean Hyland 1,000hp pump delivers fuel to the engine. The advantages of this system are the tank can be run low on fuel without starvation, and hard cornering will not uncover the fuel pickup.
With no A/C on board, John fitted an A/C delete kit. To mate with the SHM eight-rib pulleys, a special eight-rib pulley was fabricated for the A/C delete pulley.
Custom spring and shock rates, along with custom spring perches and shims, are part of John’s success. Understandably reluctant to divulge specifics about his suspension, John says only that he has had his suspension designed by the same engineer that does Steeda’s suspensions. All settings, including these custom parts, are specific to John’s car.
John’s high-rpm airflow strategy shows best in the upper intake manifold. There the intake runners were lopped off to tune the manifold for high-rpm breathing. The change reduces inlet restriction at high rpm, increases plenum area, and kills lower-rpm power. John isn’t worried about the latter.
Brute horsepower is mandatory for high-speed open-road racing, and John gets much of his right here, from a T-Trim Vortech supercharger, aftercooler, and racing bypass valve. All are unmodified Vortech parts. To drive the hungry Vortech, Sean Hyland Motorsport eight-rib pulleys—including the harmonic damper—were fitted. And special attention to the intercooling has paid off. Notable intercooling system features include the oversized reservoir, along with the removal of the coolant radiator to draw air ducted from a foglight opening. Sealing the air path from foglight to radiator reduced aerodynamic drag and increased cooler efficiency.
Seen here during construction of the upper intake tract, the Four-Valve modular is basically a Sean Hyland standard supercharged assembly. SHM moved the compression down from the normal 10:1 to 9:1 in deference to the long, open-road races; otherwise, the engine uses SHM’s Stage II cams and ported heads, forged pistons, and other goodies. Engine management is by Motec.
Because John races only at high rpm, he has the luxury of configuring his engine’s air path strictly for high-rpm power. The first step was fitting the larger single-blade throttle body from FRPP. This also meant grinding out the throttle-body mounting pad to a single large oval matching the new throttle body. Other grinding was involved in port-matching all the mating surfaces in the inlet tract. IMRC delete plates were also used.
Experience in 1999 indicated John’s exhaust system was too restrictive, so he moved to a full 3-inch X-pipe and long-tube design for 2000 and later. The mandrel-bent X-pipe was built up from a Dr. Gas universal kit and is the same as used on IROC cars.
The headers are from Sean Hyland and feature a 13/4 - to 17/8-inch step design on the primaries. The collectors measure 3 inches of course.
To improve cooling without increasing aerodynamic drag, Evans Cooling components have been fitted. Central to this is 100-percent Evans NPG coolant, which is not water-based, boils at a toasty 370 degrees, and requires only a 4- to 7-pound radiator cap. This reduces the risk of a blown hose and subsequent accident. Best of all, high coolant temperatures are usable, and the threat of steam pockets is reduced because no local boiling takes place. Another advantage is the hotter coolant more efficiently transfers heat via the radiator, allowing a smaller radiator for a given amount of cooling.
Driveline vibrations have proved troublesome at 190-plus mph, and with John diligently calculating all gear ratios and tire speeds, it was decided a carbon-fiber driveshaft was necessary to handle the 9,408-rpm driveshaft speed! This blurring speed is reached using 3.73 final drive gears, 0.62:1 Sixth gear in the T56 gearbox, and 5,833 engine rpm. The custom driveshaft is from Precision Shaft Technologies. Besides being lighter, this driveshaft is also safer because it will shatter before pole-vaulting the car should it come loose.
Extended high-rpm running has caused some oil issues in modular engines. Some say the oil builds up in the heads; others claim windage is a concern at the front of the oil pan. Either way, increased oil capacity and control are important, which John addressed with a 7-quart Canton road-racing pan and wind-age tray. The pan uses the stock oil pump pickup—slightly modified for fitment purposes—but supplies a diamond-shaped trap-door sump for a more positive oil supply.
Evans also has a new line of water pumps, including one for the Cobra engine. It’s shown at left, with a stock Ford pump at right. The high-flow, cast-aluminum impeller on the Evans pump certainly looks as though it will move coolant, while its larger, 3/4-inch-diameter bearing better withstands high-rpm use. An air bleed is also supplied, for easy “burping” of the cooling system. Another cooling-system improvement was gutting the thermostat and modifying the thermostat housing to improve coolant flow.
Unfortunately, we don’t have the space to detail John’s aerodynamic program, but it is extensive. Here we can see the blocking off of the grille, followed by the aluminum air diverter bringing air from under the car to the radiator. John has worked hard to reduce and redirect underhood air, and his exterior streamlining tricks include removing the outside rearview mirrors, cleaning off the drip rails and paying attention to the windshield moldings. Air dams and side skirts are also used to limit undercar air and allow a minimum of downforce generators. The result has been 200-mph-plus clockings on just 550 hp.
Not surprising considering the power on tap, John had clutch problems in earlier years. This dual-plate McLeod clutch has put paid to that. Weighing only 20 pounds, the McLeod helps reduce overall vehicle weight and allows faster engine revving. John has detailed the installation with safety-wired bolts, and he says the ability to retain the stock throwout bearing is a big plus, as there is no room underhood for the clutch master cylinder a hydraulic system would require.
Wheels and tires are vital at ultra-high speeds, which is why John runs Kinesis forged wheels. Their combination of CNC machining, hand assembly, forged construction, and 100-percent quality control does not make them inexpensive, but they do provide the quality assurance needed in a Mustang moving 292 feet per second.

Of all the crazy things to do with a Mustang, open-road racing has to top the chart. Run on rather straight desert roads closed off by the highway patrol, these events are marked by rocket-like speeds for up to 90 miles. There may be no wheel-to-wheel competition as the racers are flagged off in intervals, but the call of 200-mph averages means only those with steel nerves and ice water in their veins—and intercoolers—need apply.

John Buscema fits that description right down to the ice water. He has put together one of the best-engineered specialist Mustangs we’ve seen, specifically to run like the rest of us only dream about. Featured in our April 2000 issue (“Unlimited Goals,” p. 58), the Mustang is chock-full of interesting technicalities, which are what we’re zeroing in on here.

To reach and maintain three times freeway speeds, John has had to pay special attention to aerodynamics and build plenty of reliable power, as well as fabricate a safe, predictable-handling chassis. What’s intriguing about John’s Mustang is his combination of attention to those details that matter in open-road racing—some of them rather subtle—and reliance on proven, off-the-shelf Mustang power builders that give reliable if not mind-bendingly large power.

Absolutely primary to any high- speed effort are top-quality tires. John has come to trust DOT-legal Michelin Pilots, saying they are one of the few tires the tech inspectors will approve for 200-plus-mph speeds. An even more ultra-speed-rated “Pilot Cup” Michelin is on the way, and when it arrives, John says he’ll likely run it. Also with an eye on safety, John insists on Kinesis-forged aluminum wheels. Lovingly crafted to sail through rigorous industry dura-bility tests, the Kinesis are plenty stout.

Because they are forgings, they’ll bend some rather than snap as would a casting. This can mean keeping the tires inflated during “a big off,” and that can mean retaining at least some control when any at all could be critical. Not as easily obtained is the racer’s most desirable commodity—testing. Duplicating the 200-mph airflow and long stretches of wide-open throttle running are basically impossible. Efforts at obtaining wind-tunnel and high-speed track time are underway and should pay off handsomely.

In the meantime, John works his way forward one race at a time. Data acquisition systems have helped, but they are not full substitutes for track time. Still, with clockings as high as 206 mph, John is obviously doing something right. More engine development with Sean Hyland, along with the ongoing aerodynamic tuning, means 220 mph might be seen this year. That’s flying!

Horse Sense: Not many racers have their own Web sites, but John Buscema does: