Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
March 1, 2003

Horse Sense: While Spence may have the faster Mustang in the Hart household, his wife, Vicki's car graced the pages of 5.0&SF back in the Feb. '01 issue ("Super Cuts," p. 46).

It goes without saying-most guys wouldn't want to turn their wives' daily drivers into race cars. That's because the ladies aren't driving anything worth putting on the track. Take the spouses of the 5.0&SF staff for example. Editor Turner's wife drives a four-door Focus. Race car? Not in the real world! Tech Editor Houlahan's wife (at least we think it's in her name) drives a new Explorer Sport Trac-that is, when it's not at the body shop getting yet another onceover due to an accident just four months into ownership (not her fault, by the way). And Mrs. Johnson drives a '95 Maxima-hardly a performance car at that time in its lineage, although lately the Maxima has taken on a performance slant with its 255 hp and available six-speed transmission.

None of these daily drivers would make a good race car, much less be able to mix it up with the highly competitive NMRA Drag Radial class.

If you didn't know better, you could easily confuse Spence's hatch for a card-carrying member of the gears, pulleys, and filter crowd. But that would be a gross underestimate of the power lurking beneath the H.O. Fibertrends 4-inch cowl hood. Even we could make money on the street in Spence's car (did we say that out loud?). But its main mission is to do battle on the dragstrips in Drag Radial action, especially in NMRA competition. For 2002, Spence finished third in points after a strong season in BFGoodrich Drag Radial. Doh! We almost forgot-Mmmm, Bogarts!

But Spence Hart has a different story to tell. His wife, Vicki, drove the '90 LX hatch you see here every day-that is, until the car was paid off. "She handed me the keys and said 'have fun,'" Spence says. Almost instantly, a Vortech S-Trim found its way under the hood to keep the D.S.S.-filled stock-block company. With an AOD in the car, he ran a best of 10.18 at 135 mph. However, in a Michael Johnson-esque string of bad luck, Spence broke three consecutive engines.

He decided to get serious by adding a Ford Racing Performance Parts A4 block that still resides in the car today. He then enlisted the services of Dave Kogan at Pat Musi Performance to build upon the A4 and install the best parts available to make it live under copious amounts of boost-24 pounds to be exact. Spence wanted a killer short-block, and that's what he got-the A4 was filled with a Sonny Bryant crank, Manley billet rods, and Venolia pistons. The accompanying 9.5:1 compression ratio meant the short-block would easily be boost-ready.

Though we don't hear about many Mustang racers utilizing Pat Musi powerplants, Spence Hart relies on 306 ci of (insert robust Jersey accent) Pat Musi Performance-built power. PMP's Dave Kogan started with a Ford Racing Performance Parts A4 block as a base, then added rotating assembly components such as a Sonny Bryant crank, Manley billet rods, and custom Venolia pistons to arrive at a boost-friendly 9.5:1 compression ratio. Total Engine Airflow ported Spence's Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, while an Anderson Ford Motorsport BS-6 cam works with FRPP roller rockers to actuate valve events. A ported Trick Flow R lower intake plays host to a Vortech Mondo Cooler aftercooler, which cools air pumped up by a Vortech YS-Trim supercharger capable of pushing 24 pounds of boost.

Spence then added an Anderson Ford Motorsport BS-6 camshaft, Total Engine Airflow-ported Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads and R lower intake, and a Vortech Mondo Cooler water-to-air aftercooler. The Mondo Cooler cools the Vortech YS-Trim-fed air tremendously before it's digested by the engine, thus greatly enhancing horsepower capabilities. A Dynamic Pro Tree 2 Powerglide transmission plays host to a TCT 5,300-stall converter that sends power back to a 3.55-geared, Moser spool-and-axle- filled 8.8 rear. All these components keep the red hatch's nose pointed up all the way down track for what used to be at least seven passes before it would blow a head gasket.

But that was 2001-a big learning year for Spence in NMRA Drag Radial competition. Since adding the Vortech Mondo Cooler for 2002, he ran well all year, with runner-up performances at Bradenton and Columbus and a semifinal appearance at Bowling Green's NMRA finals. For his hard work and determination, he finished third in points for 2002.

But Spence's racing season didn't end there. At a Fords at Englishtown event, he busted out an 8.99 at 155 mph while competing in the D.O.T. Radial class.He bested his quickest time by more than two-tenths by switching to a UPR coilover kit up front, changing around the car's rear suspension geometry, and adding a fresh Mike Murillo tune-up. He also relocated the Vortech YS-Trim to the driver side. With these changes Spence gained not only an 8-second pass, but also more consistent low-1.40-second 60-foot times.

The interior could almost pass for that of a street car, but one look at the Rhodes Custom Auto Works eight-point cage let's you know it's a little more serious than just a 13-second wannabe. Spence's daily grind involves working as an auto technician/auto assembler at Rhodes in Townsend, Delaware. The company builds custom cars ranging from early street rods to late-model street machines. Spence relies on various Auto Meter gauges and an Atomic Banana EGT sensor to keep him abreast of what's going on while he clicks the Winters shifter into high gear.

Not bad for borrowing the wife's car.