Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
February 1, 2003

Horse Sense: Robin Lawrence has been to every NMRA event where Factory Stock has been a class. He is the only racer with perfect attendance in this class.

Hours and hours of refinement go into each run on an NMRA Factory Stock car. Uncle Robin Lawrence has one of the tops in the business as it has busted off a best of 11.79 at 114.68 mph. That came with a 1.574-second short time on BFGoodrich Drag Radials. Koni drag struts, AVO shocks in the back, HP Motorsport caster/camber plates, Mega Bite double-adjustable upper control arms, and an antiroll bar give the car the hook. HP Motorsport frame connectors and a Metal Crafters (Monmouth, Illinois) cage keep the chassis tweaking in check. BFG D/Rs measure 275/60/15 in the back.

We're not really sure who started the joke about Robin Lawrence (the Factory Stock flier whom you see here) and James Lawrence (well-recognized founder/owner of the NMRA) being related. However, we're sure that once you take a look at how fast these F/S cars are, the joking will stop. Oh, sure, you may not think that low 12s or high 11s in the quarter-mile are fast. They probably aren't-if you have a good set of ported aluminum heads on your 5.0 Mustang coupled with a juice system and a matched intake and cam. But once it hits you that the F/S cars get it done with none of that, you will begin to realize just how serious Uncle Robin Lawrence and his F/S brethren are at getting a car from point A to point B faster than you'd think possible.

A Kirkman Composites 5-inch cowl hood and the stock, muscular lines of the LX notchback get the job done for this F/S favorite. Bright red paint adorned by sponsor and contingency logos set off the Monocoque and Weld rims.

When you look at F/S, think NHRA Stock Eliminator with less equipment. Racers are limited to a stock cam, GT-40 heads (if you want to take a weight penalty of 300 pounds), a Cobra intake, short-tube headers, no power adder, and drag-radial tires (yeah, no slicks allowed). The magic begins to happen right off the starting line, such as 1.70-second short times on drag radials with a 3,300-pound car making around 310-350 rwhp! Impossible, you may think, until you see more than 10 F/S cars do that at any NMRA race. Most of these guys are gear-banging freaks-they like their five-speed T5s pro-shifted and light. Making the power, getting it to the ground, and doing the whole thing with so little equipment is the name of the game. No, you won't find a group of Mustang racers who are much more hard-core than those who try F/S.

Robin Lawrence is one of the best. He liked the class the day the rules were introduced in 2000 by his nephew-uh, we mean NMRA founder James Lawrence. The vision was a low-cost class that offered relatively stock 5.0 and modular Mustangs the chance to experience big-time, heads-up thrills on a pro-tree. The concept has worked, and Robin, along with dozens of other racers, make up the core around which F/S has flourished for the last two seasons.

Robin's first 5.0 came in 1984 in the form of a new GT. From there, he graduated to the EFI '88 GT and easy mid 13s. In 1990, he performed one of the first four-cylinder-to-V-8 conversions in the country. And by 1994, he had started construction of an Outlaw-type black '91 LX notchback that saw heavy action in NMCA's B-EFI class from 1996 to 1997. Robin had planned on running SSO at NMRA, but he realized the class was quickly becoming more than what he wanted to get into. He began racing F/S at the class debut in Columbus, Ohio, in 2000. From that point on, it has been a F/S whirlwind for Uncle Robin as he's tried to stay on the cutting edge of this grassroots class.

The '88 notch you see here was actually his daughter's daily driver during high school. He had converted it into a 5.0 car with an AOD for her. Once Robin got the car, he swapped heads, cam settings, exhaust, suspension, gears (4.10s), shifter, ram air, and a few other little tricks. It ran 13.48/100.45 in qualifying, but the class at Columbus was dominated by Joffre Lafontaine and Gabe Large who were running 12.90s. From that point on, the car has been a rolling testbed for all Robin's theories and breakthroughs with the F/S rule book firmly in his mind.

The interior is straightforward, stock, and clean, with an Auto Meter Ultimate Playback tachometer, Hurst line-lock controls, a Jerry Bickle Brake pressure gauge, and a Hurst shifter in place. The Liberty pro-shifted T5 (a $600 piece) is connected to a Clutchmasters Stage I (non-high-rev) clutch and aluminum flywheel. From there, a Quarter Master custom aluminum driveshaft and Ford 8.8-inch rear take the power. A Strange 31-spline spool and Superior Axle and Gear gear axles carry 4.30 gears.

The first real evolution of this class-taking it from a simple bolt-on class to one that required a true dedication-was marked by cylinder-head preparation (not port work, but valves and valve job configuration), exhaust, cold-air kits, pro-shifted transmissions, and traction on the class-required drag radials. The class experienced a second round of evolution during the '02 season by way of race-prepped short-blocks, including low-tension rings for decreased friction and super lightweight pistons. This type of bottom end can mean as much as a 20-25hp difference on the chassis dyno. The next movement in F/S seems to be the mastery of the launch, with racers concentrating on weight bias and transfer and suspension efficiency.

The stock, 0.444-inch-lift '85 GT camshaft has been degree'd in the block to a secret configuration not revealed by Uncle Robin. The valvesprings are from Pro Power and the stock lifters have 115,000 miles of street use. The "MA" casting Cobra intake (no porting, remember) works with a 70mm Holley throttle body, a 73mm C&L mass air, a BBK cold-air system, and a K&N air filter. Machine work is handled by the Car Shop (Moline, Illinois), and all assembly and testing is done by the Boy Wonder himself. The whole she-bang is worth 381 horses and 413 lb-ft of torque on the engine dyno, and 332 horses and 367.7 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels on an SAE-corrected Dynojet chassis dyno.

The downside to all this amazing performance with minimal parts is that what the racers do have is often stretched well beyond its limits with regard to use. Simply, the breakage has been unreal in F/S this year with transmissions, clutches, rear gears, and rear centersections taking the brunt of the abuse. The motors seem to be holding up quite well, but as Uncle Robin puts it, "It's not very pretty right now. It's bloody mayhem with parts going away."

Robin has been a true ambassador to this class. While his fellow competitors may not like him giving up so many trade secrets ("Taking Stock," Sept. '02, p. 157, and "Tuning In," Oct. '02, p. 160), they do greatly appreciate his passion and dedication to the most basic of 5.0 heads-up classes. His work ethic in testing, driving, and competition is something from which all Mustang racers could learn a great deal-and that will win more friends, and races, than all the money in the world.

As for the future of F/S, Robin thinks the 11.70s in good air will be common for most of the class, not just Justin Burcham and himself. And people in this class will catch up to him quickly (especially if he keeps giving us his secrets). Weight bias, optimized shift points for each gear, transmission and rear gear ratios (which are both affected by environment), and a growing F/S class are all things that Robin sees for the future of this class. For a competitive 12.20 F/S car, Robin says you'll spend from $16,000 to $19,000 on top of the price of the car to get there. For a cutting edge, 11.60-capable F/S, look to add at least $30,000 to your favorite hot rod. And, remember, this is the entry-level class.

So, again, please stop thinking that Uncle Robin and his "nephew" James are related. They both love the NMRA Factory Stock class-and Mustangs in general-but other than that, they're just going to keep their family secrets to themselves.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock
Cylinder Heads {{{Explorer}}}
Intake Manifold Cobra
Camshaft Stock
Power Adder None
Exhaust Bassani 1 3/4-in short-tube
  headers, Bassani X-pipe, and
  DynoMax Bullet mufflers
Fuel Pump Holley in-tank,
  Vortech T-Rex inline
Fuel Injectors 30 lb/hr
Transmission Liberty pro-shifted T5
Clutch Clutchmasters
Rearend 8.8-in with Strange spool and
  Superior 4.30 gears
ELECTRONICS  
Engine Management EEC IV with PMS
Ignition MSD Digital 7, Holley Annihilator
  spark plug wires, and
  Motorcraft spark plugs
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
Springs Stock four-cylinder
Struts Koni
Wheels Weld
Tires Mastercraft 165R-15
Brakes Stock
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Stock {{{Mustang}}} {{{GT}}}
Shocks AVO
Traction Devices HP Motorsport
  antiroll bar
Wheels Monocoque
Tires BFGoodrich
Brakes Stock