Dale Amy
September 1, 2002
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: The secret to this car's 10-second performance is light weight. The coupe-or notchback-body style is the lightest of the Fox platform, and throwing out all but the bare essentials has dropped this one to 2,700 pounds-about the same as a stock Focus.

If this car were art, it would be of the minimalist school. All nonessential niceties such as carpet underlay, insulation, inner bumpers, heater, air conditioner, power-steering pump, and brake booster have been discarded in pursuit of performance. Power adder? What power adder? This is just good, old, pounds-per-horsepower, small-block engineering at work. And work it does, to the tune of 10.95-second e.t.'s at 122 mph-and that's in fully smog-legal trim.

Edelbrock's Victor 5.0 intake was certainly not designed with emissions in mind, but Kurt modified this one to accept the ministrations of the factory EGR system. Likewise, all other smog bits are in place on or behind the Trick Flow-headed 347, so it breathes deeply-and cleanly. Current owner Tom Thompson plans to add nitrous and go gunning for the nines.

Of course, the '88 LX wasn't always this quick, but it does seem to have led a no-frills existence right from its start as an Arizona Department of Public Safety police sedan, a role from which it was rescued in 1994 by Kurt Vesely at an auction. By then it had amassed 92,000 (no-doubt hard) miles in pursuit of evildoers and all-night doughnut shops across the wide-open roads of the desert state.

Ah, but life wasn't about to become any easier in civilian duty. From the frying pan to the fire, as they say-an axiom that might have particular relevance in the scorching Valley of the Sun, where Kurt put the ex-cruiser into service shuttling back and forth to work for a couple years. Then his son used it during his senior year at high school (and we all know how hazardous that duty can be, don't we?). In the process of rectifying the various cosmetic boo-boos inflicted upon it during its Kojak-with-a-Kodak days, Kurt got to know the guys at Phoenix's All Mustang Performance fairly well. This association paid off when he got the itch to go drag racing-or, yet another semester in the school of hard knocks for the formal-roof Fox. That's when the white notchback's life became even more arduous, starting with a weight-loss program that saw all its aforementioned comfort and convenience appendages amputated for the cause. It's a lot cheaper to lose weight than add horsepower.

You won't catch us pedaling a car in Phoenix without air conditioning, but tossing it out-along with the rest of the HVAC system-sure helped this car's crash diet. So did yanking out the steering and brake boosters, and with the notchback now so feathery, they're not really needed anyway. Who knows-with all this emphasis on automotive anorexia, maybe the eight-point cage is aluminum. Or maybe not.

But weight loss can only take the e.t. down so far, so a 347 was commissioned, built around the stock short-block, bored 0.030 over, crammed full of Eagle rotating and reciprocating parts, and topped by 10.5:1 Ross pistons. Combustion takes place in the chambers of Trick Flow Street Heat heads, but the byproducts don't go straight to atmosphere because Kurt had a specific mission. "I wanted the car to be fully street legal, and I wanted to see how fast I could go with all emissions controls intact-so it still has the EGR valve with custom plumbing for the Victor 5.0 intake, which had no provision for it, and [still has] the air pump, solenoids, and cata-lytic converters. The car passes [Arizona's tough] I/M-240 smog test with flying colors." The Sierra Club would be proud.

Having put the former interceptor through duty as both commuter and occasional racer during the span of seven years, Kurt went off on another tangent in 2001 and decided to build himself a replica of a '64 Thunderbolt to play with. The Mustang had to go to pay for this new toy. That's when Tom Thompson, owner of All Mustang Performance, stepped up to take title, having fallen for the sedan's simplicity and cleanliness. He also liked the little lightweight's heavyweight punch.

Busy running his two Phoenix-area speed shops, Tom leaves quarter-mile driving duties to one of his technicians, the no-doubt accurately nicknamed Johnny "Redline" Grum. Too far from events staged by the sanctioning bodies we're familiar with back East, the car is now a weekend warrior in West Coast PSCA competition, and has occasionally been known to defend its honor in Phoenix's thriving late-model Mustang street scene. Though it may be long since retired from the force, this old cop car's still on active duty.