Michael Johnson Associate Editor
March 1, 2004
Photos By: Dale Amy

From competitive body builders to those of us simply trying to stay in shape, everyone knows it takes a lot of dedi-cation to keep from looking like the Michelin Man. Working out and eating healthy are two of the easiest ways to keep your metabolism raised. To maintain that healthy lifestyle, it is said you need to spend at least 40 minutes a day doing some sort of exercise. And, no, a lunch hour spent doing curls at the table in your favorite pig-fat establishment doesn't count. You must constantly work out and motivate yourself to stay at it, or you'll become the same size as Marlin Brando, the later years.

One NMRA racer who knows how to hit the weight room-OK, garage-is Waterford, Michigan's Mark Whitney. Maintaining the muscle under the hood of his '87 LX is top priority, while his fellow Pure Street competitors provide all the motivation he needs to keep him there.

"It all started when I was about 14 years old," Mark says. "My family owned several Mustangs and I knew I had to have one." Mark had to impatiently wait a couple years until he came of driving age, but constant bugging of his dad resulted in the decision to give Mark his own Mustang project car. The two looked at almost 75 cars before deciding on an '87 LX hatch. "If he only knew how long the project would really last," Mark says. That same car is what you see here, although it has gone through several changes since Mark took title of it.

The LX had just ticked over 50k miles when Mark became its owner. He began by adding Flowmaster mufflers, an off-road H-pipe, 3.55 gears, a GT interior, space-saver skinnys, and Lakewood traction bars. "With some performance mods under my belt," Mark says, "it was time to take it to the track." After additional track tweaking, he was able to get the car into the mid 13s on sticky DOT treads. "I then raced in local bracket events such as the High School Nationals and some all-Ford races," Marks says. "I really enjoyed racing at the track, and I knew I had to make the car faster."

With the urge to go faster, Mark's dad taught him the basics of engine rebuilding, using the stock 5.0 as a guinea pig. "During the rebuild," Mark says, "we swapped out the E7 heads for a set of lightly ported 351 Windsor heads. We ported the stock intake and added roller rockers, a Ford Racing Performance Parts E303 cam, a mass air meter conversion, and short-tube headers." However, these parts didn't remain long since at the time FRPP-er, Ford Motorsport-began introducing performance parts of its own. "Once the parts became available, I added a pair of J302 aluminum heads, a GT-40 intake, a 4.10 gear, and long-tube headers." With this combination, Mark got the hatch into the mid 12s on slicks.

Two events helped Mark decide which direction he wanted to go. The first was the '94 Motorsport Nationals at Maple Grove. The sight of Stormin' Norman, Racin' Jason, Steve Grebeck, and Billy Glidden racing down the quarter-mile left an indelible mark. The number of Mustangs at the Motorsport Nationals was overwhelming. "I couldn't believe so many modified Mustangs could be in one place," Mark says. "And, after attending the '98 World Ford Challenge, I knew I wanted to start racing on a more serious, heads-up level."

Luckily for Mark, the NMRA was the upstart Mustang racing sanctioning body on the block. He attended quite a few races as a spectator, but he then began looking for a class in which to race. "In 2001 I decided Pure Street was the place for me," he says. To his short-block, Mark added ported Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, a Holley SysteMAX II intake, and a custom cam. He finished 2001 with 11.40s at more than 120 mph and "was hooked."