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

Horse Sense: NMRA Pure Street cars run high 10s at more than 127 mph with 311-or-fewer cubic inches, a 0.500-inch-lift hydraulic-roller cam, mildly ported top-end components, and no power adder. EFI cars must weigh 3,100 pounds, while carbed cars pack on another 150 pounds. John believes a competitive car would cost around $30,000 to build, if you want to get in the game.

It certainly takes a little something extra to be a champion. In John McGowan's case, it took a year of testing, tuning, building, and finally racing, to become the king of NMRA's Pure Street class.

John assembles his own race motors, thank you. Mike Janis of Jan-Cen Racing Engines (Elma, New York) did the machine work. The 311-inch mill is built around a Ford Racing Performance Parts 302 "R" block with four-bolt mains and loads of strength. A stock crankshaft is mounted in the block, and 10.5:1 Ross pistons with Childs & Albert rings swing in a 4.060-inch bore by way of steel Crower Sportsman rods. John did the AFR 165 heads in-house at P&J Speed Shop (they flow 300 cfm on the intake and 200 cfm on the exhaust at 0.500 inch lift). The cam is a custom-grind Comp Cams unit with a max lift of 0.500 inch (the class limit). Rocker arms are 1.6 aluminum roller units from Crower. Add it all up and you have 418 raging rear-wheel horsepower.

Based out of North Tonawanda, New York (a suburb of Buffalo), John's P&J Speed Shop [(716) 694-6363; www.pandjspeedshop.com] serves the local power hungry with all the hot horsepower they can handle. It also acts as John's base of action from which he and his better half, Stephanie, have campaigned the most dominant Pure Street Mustang during the last year.

John used to run IHRA's Top Sportsman and NHRA Super Gas, but he sold all the hardware to help finance a chassis dyno for the shop. Something funny began to happen when he opened his doors to local performance junkies. More and more of them were showing up in 5.0 and 4.6 Mustangs at some stage of buildup. And the products-which he still markets to Ford vehicles-were flying off the shelves.

John's '92 LX hatch is hunkered down for speed. The sponsor and contingency stickers cover color done up by Body Lines Graphics (North Tonawanda, New York). The hood is a VFN 5-inch piece, which complements the SN-95-style front air dam-lending itself to good aerodynamics. Rims are Weld Aluma Stars with M/T skinnies and 26x10-inch slicks (the class maximum). The front suspension consists of QA1 aluminum struts, Granatelli drag springs, stock control arms, and an AJE K-member. Brakes are by Aerospace. QA1 shocks are in the back along with MAC springs, South Side Lift Bars, Wolfe Race Craft upper control arms, and a Maximum Motorsports antiroll bar installed by the guys at G-Force Race Cars (North Tonawanda, New York). G-Force also did up the mild-steel six-point bar and installed the Competition Engineering subframe connectors. The car hooks-its best short time has been a 1.46-second blast.

Regarding the start of his Pure Street career, John says, "I wanted to go Pro 5.0 racing in the beginning. But that deal got out of hand real fast. There was a rules change that left the car on which we had started on the sidelines at best. Looking back, I'm glad it happened that way. I couldn't have afforded it." John chose Pure Street for many reasons, the most important being that he could afford to build the car, maintain it, and still get to all the races (a strong message to those of you considering the move to heads-up competition in a nationally run sanctioning body).

John was looking for a naturally aspirated class to show off his engine-building and chassis-tuning skills. He also wanted a class that his customers could relate to since these cars are basically built using mild street combinations surrounded by a hard-core drag-racing mindset. And he wanted a class where he could run a carburetor, since his background is with the nonfuelie set. He also enjoys taking out that extra aggression on the competition with a stick-shifted car, maximizing the fun factor involved in racing heads-up. John estimates that 90 percent of this class runs a stick. If you want to see some talented drivers, just watch these guys work their magic down the track.

Inside John's machine, you'll find the six-point bar, RCI racing seats, an Auto Meter tachometer, and a brace of FRPP gauges. The line lock is from Hurst and the shifter is the classic Pro-5.0 unit. John is one of the most recognized dealers of TTC Tremec (that's his car in all the company's ads). As such, a TKO II transmission, pro-shifted by the legendary transmission king Bangin' Bob Hanlon at Hanlon Motorsports, works with a Centerforce Dual Friction clutch and flywheel. A McLeod blowproof can surrounds the moving parts for safety. Denny's Driveshafts (also of North Tonawanda, New York) made up one of his severe-duty, chrome-moly shafts with 1350 joint ends. It connects the power to a Ford 9-inch rearend with an aluminum Strange centersection, 4.56 gears, and 35-spline Moser axles.

By 2000, John had completed the car and competed in the Byron, Illinois, and Bowling Green, Kentucky, NMRA races. But 2001 was his season. He won the points, a handsome amount of prize money from the NMRA, and contingency cash from his various sponsors. He is quick to thank Stephanie, and to acknowledge the incredible support he gets from all the folks at Tremec, Will Baty at Centerforce, Bassani Exhaust systems, Rick Spurling at Air Flow Research, and Cliff Stephen, who helps prepare the car between races. Additional help comes from Hanlon Motorsports, Dyna-blade Air Tools, G-Force Transmis-sions, Jan-Cen Racing, KS Auto, and John's dad.

As John headed into the World Finals, he clung to a scant five-point lead over Gene Hindman. As it turned out, the championship was settled after a legendary burndown session in eliminations. John wasn't able to repeat as champion, but he did prove last season was no fluke.