Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
January 1, 2001

Step By Step

View Photo Gallery
P100590_large 1995_Ford_Mustang Front_Driver_SideP100591_large 1995_Ford_Mustang Engine
Feeding air to the Explorer-sourced GT-40P heads is a Holley SysteMAX II intake. The Holley’s Texas-sized intake runner volume affords a broader powerband than others on the market. According to Tom, “Even though other intakes may be comparable at the upper-rpm range, when you shift to the next gear, it may take you out of the intake’s powerband.” Even so, during the winter Tom will be testing a couple different intakes— as well as cylinder heads—to go even quicker in 2001.
P100592_large 1995_Ford_Mustang Rear_Passenger_SideP100593_large 1995_Ford_Mustang BatteryP100594_large 1995_Ford_Mustang Front_Driver_Side
One reason why Tom chose to run an AOD is the automatic doesn’t hit the tires as hard as a five-speed car. Tom says the key to winning in the Pure Street and Pure Stock ranks is “Weight distri-bution and suspension. The one who can get the greatest grip out of the hole and carry it through will win.”
P100595_large 1995_Ford_Mustang InteriorP100596_image_large

The first time we saw Tom Payn's NMRA Pure Street racer we thought What is this guy thinking? His race car of choice-an SN-95-in a class tailor-made for Fox coupes? Is this dude nuts? And what's this Lentech business on the side of the car? Is he actually running an AOD in this thing? This guy's not using common sense. Then the revs come up and he rips off an 11.50-something, while his T5-grippin' Pure Street brethren bang away in vain. All this and Explorer heads thrown in the mix as well.

Impossible you say? A World Ford Challenge Pure Stock victory and a string of NMRA Pure Street wins say it's more than possible. What differentiates Tom's car from the others is his use of an AOD transmission. At one time, no one in their right mind would ever think about running an AOD in any kind of drag Mustang. But Tom's slushbox is not your average AOD. Lentech Automatics [(877) LENTECH] custom-built an AOD, incorporating a change that Tom had in mind. We have no details about what the change is, but whatever it is we'd say it's working well. The regulating factor with the transmission setup is the converter. Tom chose a 9-inch 5,000-stall unit from Lentech to keep him from blowin’ off the tires at launch.

Residing ahead of the Lentech AOD is a stock-block 306 featuring a stock crank, Eagle rods, and Wiseco pistons. The valvetrain is made up largely of Comp Cams products, including the well-within-the-rules camshaft. Tom chose the immensely popular GT-40P heads—even though more exotic heads are Pure Street-legal because their bottom-end torque capabilities help get him out of the hole. The heads were ported by Jeff Kobylski (a chemistry major in college) at Modern Cylinder Head [(810) 465-2811] in Mt. Clements, Michigan.

This year Tom (a Troy, Michigan, native) has gotten out of the hole on most of the Pure Street pack, proving he's the one to beat in the class. As of this writing, he has been truly defeated only once this year-at the NMRA's tour through St. Louis at Gateway Raceway in early August. Twice, he has been DQ'd for not meeting minimum weight requirements. The first time was at Columbus where his hood flew off in the final against Jarrod Richards. The second time was at the Ford Motorsport Nationals where he miscalculated the amount of fuel on board. In both instances he ran quicker than the opposition.

At the NMRA Byron, Illinois, race, Tom had his hands full. After swapping to a set of 4.56 gears and a 5,000-stall converter, he figured to have the competition covered. Evidently, his Pure Street brethren didn't get the e-mail because they put Tom in the fifth qualifying position. In a series of events that Tom refers to as luck, he would again march his way through eliminations by cutting down the tree in each round. His average R/T was in the 0.480 range. He would take the win over Jeremy Embry with an 11.66 at 116 mph to an 11.67 at 116 mph. Tom's 0.493 light got him out ahead of Jeremy's 0.759 wake-up call, and Tom wouldn't look back on his way to victory.

So what can we take away from this story? We've learned that if it goes against conventional wisdom, the results aren't always bad. By applying yourself, working hard, and applying simple theories to racing, you too can have something in common with Tom Payne-victory.

Horse Sense: When the hood of Tom's car flew off in the final at the Columbus NMRA race, it took out the windshield and the back glass, and ripped the hood hinges off. Interestingly enough, he didn't have to buy a new hood. The Age Classic Design hood, even though it reached the same height as the timing lights, required only minimal repairs by Tom's body man and friend, Rich Mahut.