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Les Baer's Pro 5.0 Race Car '95 GT
This Mustang One-Ups The Competition. But Is It Too Much For Pro 5.0?
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Note: No type of automotive racing, especially drag racing, is immune to the progress of technology. What starts off small and affordable is bound to evolve into a huge, high-dollar deal. That is the case with heads-up Pro 5.0 drag racing. While it has always required money to compete in this class, it was still known as "amateur" racing, for lack of a better term. Les Baer has changed all that. His new race car has upped the ante to true big-money proportions, and that evolution is the subject of this story, as is a comparison of the car to Doug Mangrum's street car turned 7-second race car.
Where do you start with a car like this? Let's start with the fact that this thing was built with one purpose in mind--to dominate Pro 5.0 racing. There are no compromises with Les Baer's latest Mustang, and no excuses as to why it's so fast. The majority of the pieces on this car come from classes of drag racing that go much faster than the typical Mustang. You simply don't learn about a chassis, clutch, and nitrous system like this at your typical Mustang race.
The first question is, "Why would a guy who won the Pro 5.0 championship in '97 in a car running eights, want to build a new car?" Les' answer deals with the "slipperiness" of the SN-95 body style and his feeling that some of the top runners were forcing his hand. While the aerodynamic advantages of the new body have yet to be confirmed, the cutting-edge chassis has already paid dividends. This state-of-the-art piece was constructed by Mark Wilkinson at Racecraft Inc. in Streeter, Illinois. As for price, well, if you have to ask...
Let's get this out in the open right now: This Mustang has been through tech inspection by Fun Ford Weekend, as well as World Ford Challenge officials, and has been deemed legal by both, much to the discontent of the other Pro 5.0 contenders. If you intend to win in Pro 5.0, you will likely have to go through Les.
Starting with a theft-recovered '95 GT, Mark went to work with a torch in one hand and an FFW rulebook in the other. The chassis and suspension are where other competitors are crying foul. Mark left the stock front frame rail, firewall, and radiator support intact as per the FFW rule book. The controversy comes in everything between these points, which is all chrome moly tubing. The K-member is a custom piece that ties the stock framerails together with the coil-over suspension and Lamb struts. What makes this entire setup legal is that every addition to the chassis retains its "stock attachment points."
The cage is a maze of tubing designed to keep Les safe and make the Mustang go straight, a formidable task with the estimated 1,400 hp trying to make it do everything but. The rear of the car is tubbed to make room for the 33x15-inch Goodyears, and covers a 9-inch Ford rear with complete Mark Williams internals, including 40-spline axles, a spool, and 4.71:1 gears. The suspension is a four-link with a wishbone locator and computer-controlled Koni coil-over shocks on a timer which softens the grip as the car goes down track. "What people don't understand is that in these cars, weight is a big issue," explains Les. "At 3,000 pounds, we can really tear up some stuff. So we had to put the 40-spline axles in the rear after we started spinning the teeth off of the 35-spline pieces."
The body is made up of Hairy Glass NHRA templates for the front clip, doors, and hood. The interior features a Hairy Glass composite dash and a full array of Auto Meter instrumentation. The removable dash allows for quick access to the Liberty and quick between-round clutch adjustments.
The motor is the same 417 ci of automotive art (by Jim Kuntz) that has seen a lot of action in Les' '82 GT. Starting with a 9.2-inch-deck Ford Motorsport block, Jim filled it with a forged Scat crank, GRP aluminum rods, and 15:1 Venolia pistons. State-of-the-art technology in the bottom end dictates setting the ring tolerances up with a loose fit to allow for expansion and superior seal when the spray gets turned on. The heads are Kuntz's Yates castings with 2.125-inch titanium intake valves, 1.70-inch exhaust valves, and flow 380 cfm on the intake at .700 inch lift. The cam is a Comp Cams stick with the expected top-secret designation for profile numbers. Jim picked it with Les' horsepower estimates and rpm range in mind. The crank trigger and ignition are MSD.
Up top, you'll find a custom sheetmetal intake that demanded the fitting of an off-set distributor to ensure runner straightness. The top of the intake is fed by twin Dominators flowing 1,050 cfm of atmosphere each. On the sides of each intake runner is a pair of NOS Fogger nozzles installed and flowed by Dale Vanzian of NOS. The Foggers sit side-by-side with the first unit jetted for 300 hp and the second unit set up for a conservative 100 hp. A BG400 fuel pump supplies the motor while a BG280 pump pulls fuel from a separate fuel cell under the hood.
The Liberty five-speed tranny dictates a 100-pound weight penalty in most classes. Les launches at 6,800 to 7,200 rpm, and he grabs the gears at a teeth-chattering 8,500 rpm. The clutchless Liberty has become very popular over the last two seasons because by properly adjusting the hit of the clutch, racers can leave the line on full power and the clutch will absorb the initial shock to the tires (thus allowing for massive amounts of nitrous right from the launch).
Then, the tires gradually hook up completely for top-end rockin' and rollin'. "[Setting up] the clutch is the key," says Les. "Right now Doug [Mangrum] has the clutch figured out, but I'm closing in on the setup. It's a fine line on the counter weights and static pressure. It was too fine with the '82, but this car is better."
Tuning the Mustang between rounds is aided with a fully computerized Race-Pack computer, which tracks engine rpm, clutch slippage, exhaust gas temperatures for each hole, driveshaft speed, and g-forces. This data gives Les the insight into when the tires are spinning, when the car is laying down, and numerous other things to ease tuning.
Les has just started getting used to his latest doomsday device, much to the chagrin of the competition. It has gone faster every time out. Les expects 7.60 to 7.70s on one stage in '99, and God knows how fast it'll go with a full pass on the second stage. Les would like to extend special thanks to his wife, Karen, who makes it all possible. Others who have helped the cause are the "Spaghetti Man" for the wiring, Fletcher's for the paint, MSD, NOS, Jim Kuntz, and of course, Mark Wilkinson.
We've run stories on the baddest 5.0 Mustangs in the country. Doug Mangrum's car is currently the quickest, but there's no doubt that Baer's is the baddest of the bad, and will prove it very soon. The question is, will this car elevate the Pro 5.0 class to new heights and previously unknown fame, or will the class suffer as the competition gives up at the sight of the "Baer Maximum" Mustang? One thing's for sure, this isn't a little hobby anymore!