James Lawrence
February 1, 2000
Photos By: Rob Kinnan

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The year was 1988. When Doug Mangrum took delivery of the world's fastest Pro 5.0, it was nothing more than a bone-stock, 14-second 5.0 GT--leather interior, power windows, and all. It was fun. Working at a Ford dealership, and having previously street-raced a wide variety of fast collector cars (like a Shelby GT500KR convertible, a GT350H, a '68 428 Cobra Jet, and an '86 Buick GN) Mangrum wanted a little more scoot from his comparably tame 5.0, so he called up Tommy Vaughn Motorsports and ordered an off-road H-pipe, and a set of Flowmasters.

Fast forward to 1998--Ennis, Texas, Fun Ford Finals. Doug and crew chief Ray Crow are setting up the second stage of NOS Foggers for the Pro 5.0 final round matchup against Les Baer. A maze of solenoids, wiring, and braided steel lines wrap around the hulking Hogan sheetmetal intake, and dual Holley Dominators atop the 8,000-rpm, 383ci, SVO short-block. Once the final clutch adjustments have been made on the Liberty five-speed trans, the tubbed & ladder-bar'd GT is rolled to the starting line by the "Flashpoint" crew, it's big 33x15 Goodyears sticking to the pavement like flypaper.

The starting line combatants represent the present and the future of Pro 5.0. In the left lane is Doug Mangrum's '88 GT, a car that went from mildly modified daily driver to full-scale speed demon, after years of experience, testing, and tuning--and all on a strict budget. For Doug, burning a set of pistons meant the '88 could be down and out for a month or more. There was, after all, no budget for a spare motor. The suspension is nothing more than a simple ladder bar arrangement.

In the right lane is Les Baer, one of the nicest and most courteous competitors on the Pro 5.0 circuit, and his '98 Cobra. This is a different animal, with a lift-off, wind-cheating fiberglass front clip, a Pro Stock-style four-link, altered front-suspension geometry, fabricated K-member, removable fiberglass dash, computer-controlled coil-over shocks, a RacePack computer, and enough chrome-moly tubing to build twenty normal race cars. For this race, Les has selected his "big gun", the Jim Kuntz-built 417, leaving his spare 412ci bullet in the trailer.

Side by side, burnout to burnout, the advancement of technology and big money has never been more apparent to Pro 5.0. While Doug's GT came from humble origins, Les' '98 was constructed ground-up from a clean sheet of paper with a "cost-is-not-an-issue, build-it-to-the-edge-of-the-rules" attitude. On this day, at least, Doug's old-school GT has the edge, traversing the beams in an unbelievable 7.71 seconds at 184 mph, to Les' 7.73/183. Unfortunately for Doug, Les is quicker on the tree and goes home with the winner's spoils.

Back when Doug first bought his now-legendary '88, he was a part-time street-racer. After only a few modifications, the 5.0 fever caught him full force and he began a full-scale assault on the 13-second zone. Working with Kenny Brown, Auto Werks, Kevin Coder, and Brian Wolfe on and off over years, and driving the GT daily, his elapsed times dropped to 12.50s (naturally aspirated). By 1991, the elapsed times dropped to 11.70s, with the addition of a single-stage NOS wet system, but Doug decided he needed to step up his combo to be competitive at the first 5.0 shootout race in Gainesville, Florida.

"I put in some 12.5:1 Speed Pro pistons," Doug recalls. "Heck, I didn't even balance the motor--just threw 'em in there and let 'em rip. Without a rollbar, rollcage or anything, I went out and qualified number three with a low-11-second pass. Pulled a 4-foot wheelie!" But after seeing Stormin' Norman's and Nitrous Pete's 10-second cars, Doug knew that he needed more power. But he was smart about it.

Power doesn't do you much good if you can't stick it to the track, so Wolfe Racecraft was commissioned to install mini-tubs, a roll-cage, and ladder bars to try and fit a 29x12-inch tire under the fenders. With this chassis, Doug ran a variety of engines, but then he got serious, eventually running a 9.13, at the Las Vegas Showdown at Sundown. It was around that time that Doug was hired to drive Richard McFarland's "Hooked" car for the '93 season in Pro 5.0. Since he had a paid-for ride, Doug decided to sell the GT. Near the end of that same season, Doug's driving gig fell through, and he stayed out of 5.0 racing for the next two years.

Then came a phone call: His old car was for sale, and next thing Doug knew, he was plunking down the cash to get his '88 back, and was on the phone to Keith Kraft to inquire about building a 7-second-capable Pro 5.0 combination. Kraft figured Doug would need about 1,200 hp to run the number, so he came up with 383 inches of small-block Ford (4.030-bore x 3.750-stroke) housed in an SVO four-bolt block with a Scat billet crank, GRP 6.080-inch rods, and JE Pistons. The compression ratio is dubiously listed as "very high." Competition Cams got the call for the bumpstick (over .750 lift, over 280 at .050). Yates C3 heads were ported by Tom Cox, as was the original Yates cast manifold.

On the dyno, the combination made over 750 hp without nitrous. NOS provided a two-stage Fogger plumbed into a Hogan sheetmetal intake. Doug Mangrum ran the first ever Pro 5.0-legal 7-second pass at the Houston FFW event with a 7.99/169, using the Yates cast manifold and single-stage Fogger. Since then, he's run a best of 7.71/184 with the Hogan and two stages of spray. Doug told us that he lost a bit of power with the sheetmetal intake (at least naturally aspirated) but that he gained it back in better fuel distribution (especially under nitrous), which allowed him to more effectively use the second stage of nitrous. With this "Killer Kraft Combination", the GT has set the world on fire. It's not aerodynamic or high-dollar like the Les Baer's, Dennis Ramsey's, or Jon Yates' Pro 5.0 cars, but it's deadly effective. With a simple roll-cage and suspension, for now, Doug is running quicker than anyone out there. But how long will that last?

"I think the car can go 7.50s with the 400ci motor that we are planning to build, and with a new set of heads that Tom Cox is doing. We're going to make a few changes and modify the Hogan intake. Our motor is two years old, and believe it or not, I've never burned a piston or a spark plug. Ray and I work by stepping it up little by little. Learning the combination has been the key. I don't have the money that he [Baer] does. I am fortunate to be running as fast I am."

From humble beginnings sometimes come the biggest heroes.

To Read About The Les Baer Mustang Mentioned In This Story, Click Here