Dale Amy
February 1, 2003
Take off the chute and you could drive this eight-second rocket-sled past a whole squadron of squad cars without so much as raising an eyebrow. With a 2-inch H.O. Fibertrends cowl hood and not much else, Lee Howie's '93 LX has the understated appearance of a fast street car-which, since it drives 30 miles for every WFC Wild Street and Fun Ford True Street event, we suppose it is. A warp-speed street car, that is.

Horse Sense:
With the help of a Weldon pump, Russell lines, custom rails by Precision Turbo/Ray Jordan, and 160-lb/hr injectors, Lee still supplies nourishment to more than 1,700 ponies from his stock fuel tank.

You don't have to be a candidate for Grecian Formula to remember a time when 8.20 would have been a competitive pass in Pro 5.0. Likewise, it wasn't long ago that most competitors in Fun Ford's True Street class, or WFC's similar Wild Street, were having trouble staying in one piece long enough to endure the obligatory 30-mile road cruise and then make three back-to-back passes in anything much under the 10-second range. Well, history doesn't stand still and neither does the sport of Mustang drag racing.

Those in attendance at last May's WFC5 will likely remember an understated black '93 LX hatchback that was quietly-and we do mean quietly-knocking off seemingly effortless low-eight-second e.t.'s in Wild Street qualifying, on the required DOT-approved tires, and suffering no apparent ill effects after having just played commuter through 30-odd miles of St. Louis thoroughfares.

That blitzkrieg-quick Fox belonged to Lee Howie, and to our eyes, it sure doesn't give many visual clues of being an 8-second car. What's a car that will run 172 mph in the quarter supposed to look like? We're not sure, but we have an idea it should be a whole lot more, well, obvious than this. Lee, who operates Howie Automotive [(614) 836-9730] in Groveport, Ohio, takes great amusement in the fact that people seem to mistake his turbocharged missile for something akin to a 13-second car. "At a recent race in Bristol," Lee relates, "the tech official asked how quick the car was. I told him 8.20, and he politely informed me that the track was quarter-mile, not eighth-mile." Even worse, at a Quick 8 Shootout in Kentucky, a patronizing track official in the staging lanes actually asked Lee if the LX was the tow vehicle for his race car. When Lee assured him that it was in fact his race car, the official warned him that it had better be able to run a 10-flat, or better. We hope said official was suitably humbled.

The rest of the Wild Street field at WFC5 was certainly humbled, as the ebony hatchback continued its eight-second sweep throughout eliminations, with the nearest competitor-in the absence of perennial favorite Willie Figueroa in the UPR car-nearly a second slower. This repeatable low-eight-second performance is even more impressive considering it results from a mere 306 ci of Bennett-built small-block, in a class that often reverts to larger displacements in the hope of lower engine stress.

You'd assume it would take a fair bit of boost to make 306 inches produce a reported 1,720 flywheel horsepower, and you'd be right. Lee turned to Precision Turbo & Engine for a PT91 turbocharger, which spins about 26 psi through a Spearco/PTE intercooler on its way to a ported Edelbrock Victor 5.0 intake fronted by Accufab's 90mm throttle body. Heads are old-style Trick Flow Street Heats, with a 2.08/1.60 valve package, and ported by Bennett Racing, which also supplied the cam of hush-hush specs. Regardless of speed, a Wild Street or True Street ride is nothing without reliability. No chances were taken with bottom-end strength, as the project started with a nearly invincible Ford Racing Performance Parts R302 block stuffed with Ross 8:1 pistons and Oliver rods, rotating an L.A. Billet Kryptonite crank. A Powerglide from Grady's Performance takes the hit through a 10-inch Continental converter, with 5,000-stall speed, and sends it on to a 4.10-geared rearend.

Power is one thing, but getting to the ground through DOT tires is another. WFC's Wild Street class is fairly liberal when it comes to chassis and suspension configurations, but Fun Ford's True Street class-where Lee regularly campaigns-has rules that are a lot more restrictive when it comes to modifications. His chassis is largely a project of Patterson Performance, a firm that supplied its own K-member, control arms, and sway bar up front, as well as the rear control arms, traction devices, chassis-stiffening hardware, and rollcage. As dictated by the Fun Ford rules, the layout is conventional-no ladders bars, four-links, or even coilovers are permitted out back. Lee uses QA1 springs and dampers to suspend the 9-inch, and he has AVO counterparts up front. So far, the combination is working to a best 60-foot of 1.32 seconds.

Follow the preceding formula and maybe you, too, can build a 8.20-second Wild Street car. What we haven't mentioned is that this one weighs a beefy 3,457 pounds with Lee strapped in, thanks to retained niceties such as power windows and door locks. Like you, we're wondering why Lee does that.