August 1, 2004

It was a hot and humid Saturday night in Syracuse, New York, during the summer of 1994. I was enrolled in an intensive five-week gross anatomy course at the Upstate Medical Center, and, as was my routine, I had just finished a late-night session with my study group in the cadaver labs. While my thoughts were full of medical terms for every artery, vein, muscle, and nerve of the human body, there was only one thing on my mind-street racing. It was close to midnight, and I knew the street freaks would be out in force that night. It didn't take long to prove that hypothesis correct.

I caught up with the street crowd on one of four different designated areas off Erie Boulevard, just in time for the feature event. I was standing in the bed of someone's pickup that night watching it all unfold. Somehow, two groups of racers had come out of the crowd of 300-500 people and decided they were going to race at the same time. I remember thinking how many nights I had stood out in the street, listening to the negotiations, wishing someone would finally just give in and race. And here we were trying to decide which race to watch.

Vinnie DiFlorio was an up-and-coming street hero during that time, and his black notchback was getting ready to do battle with a trailered, big-block Chevelle. There were cars and people everywhere in that little side lot, and two other Mustangs-both low-12-second bolt-on/nitrous cars-were to square off at the same time. To our right, the Mustangs were going through their routines-burnouts, purging their nitrous systems through the intake, and deciding who had which lane. To our left, the deal was the Chevy got the hit but no nitrous. Vinnie's ride was good for low-11s on the mill, and with the sauce it was anybody's guess. Man, the big-block sounded mean as the burnouts got underway.

The street that was chosen that night was a four-lane road with a rather wide median. It wouldn't have mattered-all four of these guys were going to race. Suddenly, the headlights were on both Mustangs to our right. Bam! The race was on. Then, as if orchestrated by the NHRA, the main event-big-block Chevy versus nitrous-stuffed 5.0-went down at the same time from our left. I was looking back and forth as if it was some sort of sick, high-octane tennis match, trying to decide who was winning each race. The white notchback was going to beat the purple GT by a nose, but the main event was close. Within 10 seconds of the start of both races, they passed by the screaming crowd of street junkies in a simultaneous, 120-mph quartet of high-rpm tenor. Vinnie had pulled out a win, and another big-block musclecar had fallen to the new king of the street-the small-block Ford.

That's how it was back then, but, wisely, the local authorities have shut down most of those activities. While street racing still goes on, thankfully the real action is at the track. As for Vinnie, he's busy competing in MOM's Racing, an organization I initiated while in graduate school to give street racers an opportunity to enjoy their style of racing at a local dragstrip, away from civilians. And, as he was on the streets of Syracuse, Vinnie is a dominant player at MOM's Racing.

In 1989, Vinnie bought his '88 LX notchback at a local auction for $7,200. It came with cruise control and power locks-that's it. You could order Mustangs without air conditioning and other heavy options then, which really set the lightweight LX trunk models apart. Vinnie has done nothing drastic to drop weight, but even with a mild steel cage and a heavy, iron 351 engine up front, the car weighs in at only 3,020 pounds with driver. Still stock and with 15,000 miles on the clock, the Mustang was good for 14.20s at close to 100 mph with the stock 2.73 gears. With the typical gear, slick, and nitrous additions, the car was a 12.50 thorn in the side of anyone who wanted some action. But Vinnie quickly tired of filling bottles every Saturday night (and Sunday morning), so he began planning his next big move. He went for a cheap 408-inch stroker kit in a stock 351 block, and he topped it off with heavy, iron Trick Flow Street Heat heads. With a Tremec five-speed to increase the fun factor, the car ran 11.40s on pump gas and no sign of the spray.

It was about this time that Vinnie began experimenting with the nitrous system he had onboard (about the same time the above story took place). But after one too many shots of the good stuff, the weak six-cylinder-rod stroker kit decided it had had enough good times in the LX. The catastrophic engine failure finally sidelined the LX.

It took a couple years for Vinnie to recover from that meltdown, but he's back with a new edge. His current combination is based on a solid Eagle rotating assembly, Edelbrock Victor aluminum race heads, and a Dynamic C4. As for performance, it's right there-10.20s on muscle, and a best e.t. of 9.48 at 142 mph (1.32-second short time) with a 150hp shot. The car is good for 9.70s with the 100hp "stun" setting.

As for the future of this ride, Vinnie will be happy to put on some new brakes (he says his legs shake at the end of the nitrous passes with the stock brakes), a wing for looks and top-end stability, and more nitrous. Long-term, look for this thing to be wearing a turbocharger someday. Until then, Vinnie is just happy to have had such a successful run with this car. From the street to the track, Vinnie says to "always bet on black!"

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock 351 (’77 vintage) w/FRPP
reinforcement girdle
Displacement 408 ci
Cylinder Heads Edelbrock Victor
Camshaft Comp Cams, 0.700-in lift
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Super Victor
Power Adder NOS Big Shot Plate System (100-150 hp)
Exhaust Kook’s 2-in primary long-tube
headers w/3.5-in collector, Dennis Raulli
custom exhaust featuring
Flowmaster mufflers
Fuel System SX pump and SX regulator
Carburetor Holley 1,025 cfm
Transmission Dynamic C4, 9.5-in
Precision Industries converter (3,500-stall)
Rearend 8.8 {{{Ford}}} w/Strange spool,
33-spline axles, and 4.10 gearing
ELECTRONICS
Ignition MSD
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member D&D
A-Arms D&D
Springs D&D coilover
Struts Lakewood {{{90}}}/10
Wheels Weld Drag Lites
Brakes Stock
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Stock
Shocks Lakewood 50/50
Traction Devices Southside Machine
upper and lower control arms/lift bars
Wheels Weld Drag Lites
Tires {{{M}}}/T 28x10.5
Brakes Stock
Chassis Stiffening Dennis Raulli 12-point cage w/subframe connectors