5.0 Mustang & Super FordsFeatured Vehicles
1996 Saleen Mustang - Pops' Star
Wren "Pops" Vanderpool Is Back And Ready To Take On The Stars Of Outlaw
Horse Sense: There have been several wrecked Mustang race cars in recent years. Wren's crash-to-new-car story holds one of the quickest turnaround times we've seen. He crashed his Saleen in May and had the new car out testing by October.
Tragedy befell 61-year-old Wren Vanderpool at the '01 Columbus, Ohio, NMRA event. Hot off a series of 8.30 test passes in his Saleen-turned-Outlaw Mustang, he launched his car in the second round of eliminations, only to be immediately crossed up. The result was one Saleen totaled into the wall, some bruised ribs, and an instant identification for the fans that Pops Vanderpool was one more wild and crazy Outlaw driver thrown into the fray. Wren started planning his next Outlaw car even before the Saleen was crushed into the size of a coffee table.
The new car was going to have a better chassis, while being lighter, lower, more stable, and ready to take on the elite cars in NMRA's most demanding class. The car you see here is the creation that came from the Columbus demise. It is more car than Wren had ever imagined and, perhaps, more car than anyone in Outlaw is capable of handling at the time of this writing.
Wren had done great things with his '96 Saleen Mustang. Paul's Automotive Engineering in Cincinnati, Ohio, had taken it from an amazing street car to a 3,500-pound Outlaw slugger. It was a tremendous start for Wren as the experienced '60s NHRA Super Stock driver rediscovered heads-up drag racing. The new '01 GT didn't start as a street car, and Wren makes no excuses about how far he wants to go.
"I've been inspired by Jim Summers and Mike Murillo," the oldest man in Outlaw drag racing says. "Mike's a nice-talkin', good kid. But I want to beat him. I thought 8.20s would do it, but these kids are running 7.80-7.90s. I might have to take Viagra to beat 'em!"
Enter Jim Summers and Mark Wilkinson, tested veterans of the Mustang wars at Fun Ford, NMRA, and World Ford. Wren needed a chassis and Mark delivered. Using what they could from the crashed Saleen, such things as the interior, the glass, the trim, the engine, the transmission, the intercooler, and the fuel/water cell were salvaged. The plan was to use the motor that Paul's had put together, with a trip through Fast Times to get the new car up and running. Once everything was sorted out, Pop wanted to move into something a little nastier.
Jim Summers shook down the car at our photo session, where half-track passes revealed it was already quicker than 99 percent of the Outlaw cars in the country. The first full hit produced a 7.91-second e.t. at 176 mph (3,000 pounds) with what Jim freely admits is a "stupid safe" tune. And remember-this is with the 347 "training wheels" motor!
Once the season starts and Wren mixes it up with what he has already, watch for this team to make the move to a 400-inch small-block wearing Brodix Neal heads-the same combination ASSC Racing used to crack the 6.90-second barrier with Tim Huston's Pro 5.0 car. As Jimbone describes it, it's "400 cubic inches of pure ass-whoopin'! It's an easy 1,600 horses."
Wren will have a lot of family cheering him on as he looks to run mid-sevens at NMRA. He's most thankful to his wife, Devitos. All totaled, his immediate family has 14 Mustangs, ranging from street cars with nitrous to his son Larry's nine-second, '95 Cobra R ("R You Kidding?" July '01, p. 119). We're just glad Pops is back, and badder than ever.