James Lawrence
June 1, 2000

Step By Step

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P91790_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Passenger_SideP91791_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT Passenger_SideP91792_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT EngineP91793_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT Interior_DashboardP91794_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT Driver_SideP91795_large 1989_Ford_Mustang_GT Nitrous_Bottle

If you want to run with the big boys in Pro 5.0 or Outlaw, you'll need a set of serious race cylinder heads. For this, you call Ron Robart. Ron, who has owned and operated Fox Lake Power Products since 1993, specializes in CNC porting heads and big airflow. Not incidentally, he also has one quick mutha of a Mustang, this beautiful '89 GT.

It all started when Ron was working at Trick Flow with Rick and Mike Smith in 1988, helping port cylinder heads and intake manifolds. In fact, Ron got to do the grinding on the very first set of TFS Street Heats that ever existed. According to Ron, his experience at Trick Flow was incredibly useful. "I learned port design and airflow. We tried to make every set just a little better, by figuring out tricks that worked and the ones that didn't." During this time, Ron also was helping Rick and Mike with their race car, and he really got the itch to build his own.

But starting his own cylinder head shop in 1993 took all of Ron's time and resources. He never wanted to have a multi-million-dollar company, he just enjoyed the science of making heads that made huge horsepower. "I didn't want to set the world on fire, I just liked what I was doing at Trick Flow, and that's why I did it on my own," Ron says.

As the years passed and Ron's reputation grew, he decided that he had enough breathing room, money-wise, to start playing with a race car, and at the same time develop a rolling business card. Along came word of a killer '89 GT owned by a gentleman named Dave Schneider in Joliet, Illinois. Ron decided to purchase the car in January of 1996; it had no motor or transmission, but it was ready to roll beyond that. "The rolling chassis already had a 10-point cage. TRZ had built one of their early stock-type suspension setups; it had an 8.8 rearend with Moser components, a 31-spline spool, 4.56 gears, and M/T 28x10.5s. The car was straight black, and the rest of it was complete, with fuel system, gauges, and battery already in the trunk. It was a good car to start with," Ron says. The previous owner had already gotten the car to go 10.80s with a 347 stroker and a small shot of nitrous, but he wanted to start his own business (ironically, a tae kwan do school). Ron picked up the GT for a $5,500 song.

Ron's original goal with the car was to run a 10.50 with 308 cubes, a stock-type short-block, flat-top pistons, and nitrous. This was back in 1996 when the performances of today were little more than a small, pea-sized dream. Ron told us that he liked showing off the performance of his cylinder heads by using a small motor. "I always liked the idea of running a tiny little motor--basically a stock-type motor with flat-top pistons--and still run awesome with big-time airflow."

His comprehensive experience with TFS Street Heats made them a natural for Robart's fierce combination. These aren't your father's Street Heats. Says Ron, "We built these as a special set. They have rolled over 16-degree valve angles. We did that to get a 36cc combustion chamber, so we can get up to 12.5:1 with a flat-top piston." According to Ron, he started out with a set of bare castings in which the only machined surfaces were the deck and head bolt holes. He CNC Stage 3 ported the intake, and gave the exhaust a J302-type port design. Final figures for these Street Heat heads are flow numbers of 320 cfm at .650 lift on the intake, and 230 cfm at .650 lift on the exhaust side.

The short-block is nothing special. How about a Mexican block, Boss 302 steel crankshaft (3.000-inch stroke), Eagle rods, and flat-top JE Pistons? Cam Motion ground a custom mechanical roller cam (about .650 lift and top-secret everything else) to help this little motor rev to about 8,000-8,500 rpm. With the small-combustion chamber (about 35-38cc) and the flat-top pistons, the motor ends up at around 12.5:1 compression. As for the intake manifold, Ron got it done cheap. "I didn't want to spend much money. I picked up a port-matched Victor Jr. from a swap meet for $125 and touched it up a little bit," he says. On top of this is a Holley HP 950 carb and an NOS big-shot plate with a 200hp jetting. The trans is a TCI powerglide with a Transmissions Specialities 8-inch convertor that stalls about 5,500 on spray. This combination was good for 9.57 at 144 mph. And from only 308 ci!

With the popularity of the True Street-type events, Ron got a crazy idea last year to run True Street at his local Norwalk Fun Ford event. Now he tells us, "This was when people were running 9.70s-9.80s. I knew I could go faster. All I needed was a horn and windshield wipers because we basically have a street car, with license plates and insurance, even!" Ron made a few changes to his combination, just in case some competition showed up loaded for bear.

First up was the paint. He and his family had it with the plain black, so Ron had a local paint shop repaint the car three days before the FFW race. The painter clearcoated it with a blue pearl along the bottom of the car. In the horsepower department, Ron felt that with a few changes, he could put the car into the 9.20 range. He fully ported the Victor Jr. (literally cutting the intake into pieces and using about three pounds of weld to straighten and modify the runners), added a Barry Grant Gold Claw 825RT, and installed an O'Malley Nitrous plate with two stages (250 hp first, 150 hp second).

The week before Norwalk, in testing, the Fox Lake team went two separate 9.47s at 143 with a 1.45 60-foot time, on only the first stage of nitrous. They were ready. First up was the 30-mile drive, which was no problem. Ron came back and changed the tires, and got protested because of his coilover rear suspension, but was ultimately deemed legal. The first pass out of the box was a troubled 9.76 at 142 because he forgot to purge the nitrous system. "The nitrous didn't hit till about 300 feet out. It left really soft. So, of course, the next pass I know I would step it up--traffic went fine, the car was cool...I go up to the line and do it again!" The GT ran a 9.84/143.2 with forgetting to purge the system, with a lousy 1.66-second 60-foot. "After the second pass, the officials came calling because someone dropped antifreeze all over the track. It turns out we lifted a head gasket which caused the lower radiator hose to break. Our day was over."

From a fun standpoint, Ron couldn't be happier with his '89 GT. It's a great rolling testbed for his killer airflow products, and it's also a relaxing break from running a growing business. Ron has plans to keep racing for 1999, but he can't compete in True Street anymore because of a rules change which outlawed coilover rear suspensions. You will be able to find Ron in the Wild Street Class, a 30-mile ride-and-drive, at the World Ford Challenge, Ford Motorsport Nationals, and the NMRA Battle at Bowling Green events, trying for a low 9-second average.

Says Ron, "We should run consistent low 9s at 145-146 mph with both stages activated...might go faster, but no promises...don't know how much the second stage is going to pick it up. It should run in the 8s with only 308 ci, but you know how that goes."