Tom Wilson
November 1, 2004
Photos By: E. John Thawley, III

Horse Sense:
Maximum is not the kind of place that throws around a bunch of money and has contractors do everything. When it came time to make its new in-house race car beautiful, the company rented a paint booth and turned to employees Chris Artac, Luka Dugandzic, Ron Horowitz, and Sean Dinneen. Great job, guys. It's one fast chassis, and the same stuff any Maximum street or track customer would buy

Some people believe in a circle of life-the idea that what goes around comes around. Tough to say if they're right, but we do know Jack Hidley's Fox hatch has come, gone, and returned, in a manner of speaking.

Jack's street car, you see, is the yellow American Iron racer gracing these pages, but since he bought it, the car was stolen, stripped, recovered, and bought from the insurance company by Jack's night and weekend employer, Maximum Motorsports. It's also been completely rejuvenated by the company.

What Maximum Motorsports owner Chuck Schwynoch was looking for when he bought the rather used ex-Hidley Fox was a testbed for prototyping Maximum Motorsports' gear. As Maximum is primarily in the Mustang chassis and suspension business, this naturally meant going racing in NASA's American Iron series, and so the midnight oil began to burn in Maximum's San Luis Obispo, California's shop.

With the car stripped nearly to a bare shell by the thieves, Maximum took the car down the rest of the way, then sprayed on epoxy interior paint and bolted in a custom rollcage. Next up was Maximum's standard Maximum Grip Box-its headlining suspension kit for street cars. This includes everything to transform a Mustang into a sure-hooved handler, including a torque arm, a Panhard bar, lower control arms, and an adjustable sway bar in the rear, along with a tubular K-member with an extra two-point brace, tubular control arms, a sway bar relocation kit, adjustable tie-rod ends, caster/camber plates, and a solid steering shaft at the front end. Urethane sway bar bushings and end links went in, along with coilover shocks all around, aluminum steering rack bushings, and the all-important subframe connectors.

For those following our own 5.0&SF open-track car, this chassis and suspension combination is essentially identical to what we have under our car. In other words, it's one fast chassis, and the same stuff any Maximum street or track customer would buy.

Because it was destined for the track, Bilstein shocks and struts with Maximum's proprietary race valving were selected, along with race-rate Hypercoil springs. Another substitution was Maximum's adjustable length, aluminum, rear lower control arms. These feature rod ends at both ends-that's where the adjustment comes from-the better to square the axle to the chassis. They weigh only 2.5 pounds apiece, they do not have provisions for the stock rear sway bar (they work with the Maximum bar), and with dual rod ends, they are definitely a race-car piece. For rolling stock, Maximum selected its usual Konig Villain rims in the near-universal 17x9-inch configuration. They are shod with the American Iron spec tire, the Toyo Proxes RA-1.

Maximum has more than suspension tricks up its sleeve, however. It has been working on a clutch quadrant and adaptation of the stock clutch cable to rectify that common Mustang fault. Therefore, the new racer received Maximum's clutch quadrant, universal clutch cable, firewall cable adjuster, clutch pedal height adjuster and clutch cable insulation kit.

Inside, a Kirkey aluminum road racing seat was fitted, along with Crow harnesses, a MOMO steering wheel with removable hub, a manual steering rack with a 15:1 ratio, a Pro-5.0 shifter, and Auto Meter instruments. Also sans assist is a prototype Maximum manual brake conversion system, connected to StopTech front calipers and two-piece, 13-inch, floating rotors, along with Baer PBR-based rear brakes and Hawk race-compound pads all around. Supporting pieces are Maximum's hub-centric wheel spacers in the rear and Gorilla open-ended lug nuts. Tech inspectors appreciate those because they can easily confirm thread engagement that way.

If you're wondering about a "floating" rotor, it's a rotor with a lightweight aluminum hub and a separate iron rotor, the two being bolted somewhat loosely together with wave washers in the system to stop rattling. The float accounts for the dissimilar heat expansion and thus reduces stress cracking. An in-cockpit Wilwood brake bias adjuster allows fine-tuning the braking as the fuel burns off.

With the company's emphasis on suspension and chassis development, Maximum has purposefully not gone overboard on engine power. For another thing, the American Iron rules call for a 9:1 hp to weight ratio, and beginning this year, a 9.5:1 lb-ft of torque per horsepower limit as well. At a post-race weight of 2,983 pounds, the Maximum racer is allowed 314 hp and 331 lb-ft of torque, as measured at the rear wheels.

In reality, the car has delivered 288 hp and 323 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels using a basic 306ci, stock-block engine. Major pieces inside are Keith Black pistons, Eagle rods, Edelbrock Performer cylinder heads port-matched to an Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold, an Edelbrock aluminum water pump, and "all the usual blueprinting and balancing," according to Maximum.

One place Maximum goes against the tide is in the air filter, as the company has stuck to the stock OEM paper element because it likes the way it filters air.

There's little exotic in the driveline, either. A McLeod aluminum flywheel and aluminum pressure plate combined with a McLeod solid hub disc make up the clutch. They hand the power to a World Class T5 transmission, a locally built aluminum driveshaft, and an 8.8-inch rear axle with 3.55 gears and a Torsen T2R differential. This last piece is a pricey but necessarily durable and effective road racing unit.

Just a glance at the photos shows not all is stock in the bodywork department. The fenders have been reshaped, but no metal was added or deleted in the hand-forming process. Other Maximum fabrication work involves the front splitter and the towering wing. The work of Jack Hidley, the wing mates a commercially available airfoil section to hand-fabbed end plates and vertical supports. Not knowing from which angle, what quality, or how much air he'd have to work with, Jack put a wide range of adjustment into the assembly.

Knowing it simply wouldn't be a race car without some carbon fiber on it somewhere-not to mention reducing front axle weight-a Maier Racing carbon hood and front fascia were fitted. The whole was then sprayed custom-blended Maximum Motorsports Yellow and given its blue accent stripes.

To date, the new, eye-poppingly bright car has made but two track outings. Piloted by a hard-charging Mike Crout-cher, the car has sat on the pole, contested for the lead, started from the back of the grid due to an incredible string of weird events (a mini-tornado carried away parts during maintenance in the pits, the floor jack broke, the computer randomly spit out 10:1 to 18:1 air/fuel ratios, the upper radiator hose was cut-you get the idea), stripped Third gear (what else is new?), and shown good promise by contesting the lead given half a chance at the start.

While we're sure Mike has different ideas when the green flag waves, the point of this car is not necessarily to dominate the NASA circuit. As a testbed, the car is entered only in selected races and does not carry state-of-the-art horsepower, so it's not expected to run for the championship.

Yet, the competitive juices flow. By the second event, the Edelbrock intake was removed in favor of a Holley SysteMAX II. This traded a bit of torque to get the rear-wheel horsepower to more than 300, and, the crew at Maximum pointed out, despite whittling on it where they dared, the Holley intakes still weighs more than the Edelbrock.

Another change was removing the manual steering rack in exchange for a power rack. Maximum started with a 20:1 rack, but Mike found it too slow. So a 15:1 rack was immediately installed, and while the effort and speed were OK normally, if the car got out of shape, there wasn't enough leverage in the system to hang onto it with all the bumping around. In effect, there was too much feedback coming through, so they went to Maximum's new power-steering pump kit. It is a performance-oriented power-steering system with adjustable assist (the system provides constant volume, adjustable pressure), a remote reservoir, and a power-steering cooler.

Chuck lamented that other changes added weight. A cool suit went in for Mike, along with a 10-pound on-board Halon fire system and cooling ducts for the rear brakes. These ingest through a NACA duct in the passenger quarter-window, split into two hoses, then pass through the floor of the car to the inside of the rear brake discs. This lowered the rear brake temps 100 degrees to 1,100 degrees and brought up the front brake temps from 900 to 1,100 degrees, says Maximum, so it seems this simple change brought some balance to the system.

As for the big rear wing and all the adjustment-right in the middle did the trick. Jack was pleased to see the aero package was well-balanced front to rear as evidenced by the "aero" chassis setup not differing much from the straight "mechanical" arrangement.

Engine overheating was an initial concern, but adding a new hole in the front bodywork in the "LX" area of the hood did the deed. And, yes, the car has tested chassis parts. These include revised Bilstein valving to the front struts (a success) and a new chassis setup that helped get that pole position and shows that new Maximum engineer Austin Dowdy will make a great contribution to the team.

Now, let's see what comes around to whoever stole the car. Personally, we're hoping for revised bodywork.

5.0 TECH SPECS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Stock 5.0
Cylinder Heads Edelbrock Performer,
ported, 2.02x1.60-in valves
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Performer RPM/Holley
Camshaft Comp Cams; mild,
but proprietary
Power Adder None
Headers BBK long-tubes
Exhaust Dr. Gas X-pipe, MagnaFlow
mufflers, DynoMax tailpipes
Fuel Pump Walbro 155 lph
Fuel Injectors 24 lb/hr
Transmission Tremec/Borg-Warner
World Class T5
Rearend 8.8-in, 3.55 gears,
Torsen T2R limited slip

ELECTRONICS
Engine Management Stock EEC IV
Ignition Stock
Gauges Auto Meter

SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member Maximum Motorsports tubular
Springs Hypercoil/Maximum Motorsports
Struts Bilstein/Maximum Motorsports
Wheels Konig Villains 17x9-in,
21 pounds each
Tires Toyo Proxes RA-1, 275/40R-17
Brakes StopTech 13-in floating calipers,
two-piece rotors Hawk HT10 pads
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Hypercoil/Maximum Motorsports
Shocks Bilstein/Maximum Motorsports
Traction Devices Maximum
Motorsport torque arm, Panhard bar,
tubular lower control arms, adjustable
sway bar; deleted upper control arms
Wheels Konig Villains 17x9-in, 21 lbs each
Tires Toyo Proxes RA-1, 275/40R-17
Brakes Baer 12-in PBR calipers and rotors,
Hawk HT10 pads