Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
April 1, 2002

Step By Step

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P119090_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_GT Front_Passenger_Side
Stop wondering! It has the power to back up the good looks. Mark Van Meter’s Cobra has already hit pay dirt with a 9.54 e.t. at more than 138 mph. And that was with only limited testing. Could this car rough up Renegade with consistent 8.90s? You’ll have stay tuned (or get to the track) to find out. The good looks come by way of the gorgeous factory lines of a ’98 Mustang with Saleen ground effects, a Steeda hood, and a Saleen wing, all covered in bright red.
P131486_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_GT Engine
The modular powerplant is all Cobra with heavy Sean Hyland Motorsport influences. The 289ci bottom end is fortified with a Cobra block, a forged-steel crank, 10.5:1 Manley pistons, Manley rods, and SHM rings. The production ’97 Cobra heads are race-ported by SHM and fit with 37mm intake and 35mm exhaust valves, which carry the load under the direction of SHM blower grind camshafts. The cam’s intake numbers of 225 degrees of duration at 0.050 and 0.452-inch lift and exhaust numbers of 235 degrees of duration at 0.050 and 0.474-inch lift. The rocker arms are Cobra units working with SHM dual valvesprings. There was a ported Cobra intake at the time of our pictures, but Mark has already installed an SHM sheetmetal unit to work with the Ford Racing Performance Parts oval-port throttle body. The boost to make all 690 rwhp come to life is provided by a Paxton Novi blower making 28 psi.
P131487_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_GT Interior
Freddie Horn gets the nod for having the bulk of the chassis structure on his résumé. NHRA legal chrome-moly cage-work can be seen inside. Through-the-floor subframes are hidden underneath the full race car interior. The Hurst shifter is connected to a Performance Automatic full-race C4 transmission with a 6,000-stall Continental converter.
P131490_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_GT Rear_Driver_Side
This lightweight modular (2,940 pounds) gets 1.30-second short times thanks to Freddie Horn’s attention to detail. The front suspension is all Anthony Jones Engineering goodies. AJE K-member, A-arms, and the AFCO coilover AJE front strut make this a great handling car. The 8.8-inch Ford rear holds Mark Williams 35-spline axles, spool, and 4.30 gearing. Rear suspension consists of the Wolfe Race Craft adjustable upper (with spherical bearings), Wolfe lowers, Wolfe anti-rollbar, Intrax springs, and AFCO adjustable shocks. Brakes are by Wilwood and are backed up by the Simpson parachute to make sure Mark can stop safely. Meanwhile, the Racepak data acquisition system is in place to aid in suspension tuning.
P131491_large 1998_Ford_Mustang_GT Trunk_Fuel_Cell

When you think of modular Mustang racing, you think of all the talented competitors who strap on their slicks and head out to FFW, NMRA, and WFC for a little action. If you're really attuned to the sport, you know the special modular classes at these venues are run under an open comp-style eliminator. This arrangement allows for a pro-tree, handicap start, unlike a heads-up class where the light turns green and the winner is the driver who gets to the finish line first. Racers such as Joe Stewart, John Mihovetz, and Mark Walker were pioneers by entering their modular Mustang in heads-up competition against their 5.0 pushrod forefathers. Today, the Tymensky family, J. R. Granatelli, and especially Bob Cosby have raised the bar even higher for modular performance in the heads-up circuit. Mark Van Meter of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is just one of a wave of new modular racers looking to work their way into heads-up Mustang classes previously the sole domain of the 5.0 pushrod cars.

As Mark explains, "I have been racing in the modular class the past year and a half and did not like the bracket-style racing. I wanted to compete in a heads-up class where the faster car wins. I decided that I would build a Renegade car because I had enjoyed watching them over the past few years, and I liked the challenge of building a 4.6 to run their nine-second speeds."

Picking up a clean, used, '98 GT started Mark on his path to modular greatness. The car was stripped and sent to Freddie Horn Race Cars in Greenville, Kentucky, where the chassis went through the necessary upgrades to put up with several years of pounding on the Mustang heads-up scene. Freddie added what Mark describes as an Outlaw-style cage with lots of reinforcements throughout the unibody frame of the Mustang. Typical chassis-shop fare, including brakes, a driveshaft loop, and a parachute mount were added before the car was shipped to Sean Hyland Motorsport in Canada for the new engine combination. Meanwhile, Outlaw racer Sammy Vincent helped guide Mark on parts selection.

Sean and the boys up north added a serious 4.6 Cobra mill along with a Performance Automatic C4 race transmission. The final package was tuned and returned to Mark one week before the amazing NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Mark hustled that week to get the car ready for the race. Because he had chosen to have the FAST EFI management system installed (which is illegal in NMRA Renegade at the time of this writing), Mark entered the car in the Modular Muscle class. Unfortunately, he suffered a belt-throwing problem, which kept the car from running anywhere near its true potential. SHM took the car back to Canada and cured the belt-throwing problem. Mark then brought his pride and joy back to its home state of Kentucky.

On a local Saturday night test-and-tune session, the '98-GT-turned-Saleen-Cobra ran a string of mid-9s with no failure whatsoever. The best pass that night was a promising 9.54 e.t. at more than 138 mph with consistent 1.30-second 60-foot times. Mark reports the car has been shipped back to SHM for more upgrades that should follow the release of the '02 FFW and NMRA rule books.

The future looks bright for this car. Obviously, if you are going to campaign a modular Mustang in any class in 2002, you better have a serious bankroll and a talented crew behind you. From this promising start, it looks as though Mark has those two aspects of Modular racing covered. Could a modular car come out and win in Renegade? We have always thought the big-headed, four-cam cars were the hot ticket in Renegade—if you could keep the tune in place and the blower from going through the hood at 8,500 rpm! Mark may well be onto something, but the '02 season will surely test this car to the limit. If he does win with the modular, or even challenge the top teams, you may see a shift of power in Ford racing to the modular engines. Regardless, the testing continues, new parts keep coming out, and it sure is a good time to be running a modular.

Horse Sense: What heads-up class does your modular Mustang fit into? There are several classes at FFW, NMRA, and WFC that your overhead-cammed 'Stang will rock. Buy a rule book, check out what other mod racers are doing, and get your high-revving butt to the track. The author has a good feeling the first modular Real Street car just might get a ton of exposure.