Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
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."

For 2002, Mark went back to the garage for more muscle. He bored the block 0.030 over for 306 ci, then he ported the Holley intake and added a pair of Hooker long-tube headers, a custom X-pipe, a Flowtech Induction camshaft and valvetrain components, and Diamond pistons. The newfound muscle helped Mark achieve two goals he had set for himself for 2002-to finish in the top 10 in points and to break into the coveted 10-second zone. "After fighting computer issues through the beginning part of the season," he says, "I became one of a handful of Pure Street racers to run in the 10s." He also finished the season fifth in points.

For 2003, the car received its current suspension and cage combination, along with a hit of weight gainer to pack on an NMRA-mandated extra 50 pounds. Actually, Mark simply returned the interior to stock with the exception of the front seats, and reinstalled the stereo system complete with CD player. It was a year of ups and downs. The chassis worked well, but key drivetrain components didn't hold up long enough to further performance enhancements. Mark set the Pure Street mph record at the Reynolds, Georgia, race, but that's when attrition set in, hampering his year and relegating him to a Ninth-Place finish in points.

With the Pure Street performance bar raised substantially toward the end of 2003, it's safe to say Mark will be spending another winter in the garage. His garage workout should be available for viewing in Spring 2004.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock
Rotating Assembly Stock crank, {{{Probe}}}
Ultralight rods, Diamond pistons and rings
Displacement 306ci
Cylinder Heads Trick Flow Twisted
Wedge, Thomson Automotive Racing Engines-ported,
2.02/1.60 valves, Comp Cams rockers and valvesprings
Camshaft Flowtech Induction/Comp Cams, stock lifters
Intake Manifold Holley SysteMAX II, self-ported
Throttle Body Accufab 75mm
Mass Air Pro-{{{M}}} 77mm
Ram Air March Performance
Exhaust Hooker long-tube
headers, custom-made X-pipe,
DynoMax Bullet mufflers
Fuel System Walbro 255-lph
in-tank pump, stock lines and fuel rails,
30-lb/hr injectors,
Accufab fuel-pressure regulator
Transmission {{{Liberty}}} pro-shifted
T5, SPEC Stage 3
clutch and pressure plate,
Hurst Competition Plus shifter w/custom handle and MOMO knob
Rearend 8.8, welded axle tubes, Strange Engineering C-clip
eliminators, Moser spool,
4.56 gears, Moser 31-spline axles
ELECTRONICS
Computer Stock, Autologic chip
Ignition MSD 7AL, coil, and plug wires, NGK plugs
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member AJE Racing
Control Arms Granatelli Motor Sports tubular, poly bushings
Caster/Camber Plates QA1
Springs Granatelli Motor Sports coilovers
Struts Strange Engineering adjustable
Wheels Monocoque Racing MD5
Tires Mickey Thompson ET front
Brakes Aerospace Components
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Stock
Shocks Strange Engineering adjustable
Traction Devices UPR antiroll bar,
  Southside Machine lower control arms
,UPR double-adjustable upper
control arms, spherical bushings
Wheels Monocoque Racing MD5
Tires Mickey Thompson
  26x10 ET Drags
Brakes Aerospace Components Drag Disk kit
Chassis Stiffening Competition Engineering
subframe connectors, Reiter's
Metalcraft 10-point cage, welded
and braced torque boxes