August 29, 2011

Horse Sense: For being a relatively small state, Maryland has several dragstrips from which to choose, including Maryland International Raceway, Cecil County Dragway, 75-80 Dragway, Mason-Dixon Raceway, and Capitol Raceway. That tells us drag racing is alive and well in Maryland. No wonder so many racers come from that neck of the woods.

When Mark bought the car, it was bone stock, but with the addition of only 3.55 gears and a K&N filter, the 49,000-mile car ran a 13.89 at 101 mph

Hobbies are much more fun when you have friends who are into the same things, especially if they involve Mustangs. If you were the only person in your area with a Mustang, it wouldn't be as much fun, right? While that may be the situation for some people, it's different for Mark Hicks and Randy Walker. Together (but not together, if you know what we mean), the Pasadena, Maryland, duo makes for double trouble at the track and on the street with their unassuming Mustangs.

The two met when Randy's '00 GT blew a ring land after a year's worth of 8 pounds of boost. Problem was, Randy lives in an apartment complex, and he was sure his landlord wouldn't appreciate him rebuilding the engine in the parking lot. He obviously needed garage space, and he wasn't sure how long it would take to get the car back on the road. Thankfully, Mark offered the garage space and even lent a helping hand in getting Randy back behind the wheel.

Mark is the owner of the '89 LX hatch seen here with Randy's '00 GT, and the car boasts a Horsepower by Hermann-built 347 and a Performance Automatic C4. In other words, Mark could understand what Randy was going through because he had been around the block with his LX. Mark bought the hatch from the original owner who was a female, a fact given away by the pink stripe on the moldings. The stripe has sort of grown on Mark, and we're not really sure how to feel about that. While most people wouldn't think a car with a pink stripe around it would be quick, it takes Mark only 9.5 seconds to prove them wrong.

When Mark bought the car, it was bone stock, but with the addition of only 3.55 gears and a K&N filter, the 49,000-mile car ran a 13.89 at 101 mph. With those times, Mark knew he had a runner on his hands, but after missing Third gear a few too many times (he needs our map to Third), he added a Performance Automatic Competition C4 transmission. He also installed an NOS 75hp dry nitrous kit, a pair of Edelbrock Performer heads with a matching intake, a Ford Racing Performance Parts E303 camshaft, 1.6 roller rockers, and a 65mm throttle body. With these upgrades, the car ran 11.90s at 115 mph-with a step up to 150hp nitrous jets, it ran 11.70s at 118 mph. Roughly 400 runs and 30,000 miles later, however, the engine hung three rods out to dry.

After a talk with Hermann Stolzenberg, Mark decided to go the carbureted 347 stroker route, and he hasn't looked back. Without the juice, and after Hermann ported the heads and added a new Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake, the car ran a best of 11.86, basically equaling the performance of the previous combination on the juice. Of course, everyone knows nitrous is addictive, so in went the 150hp jets, with 10.80s as the result. With suspension changes and 225hp jets, the LX hatch with the pink stripe now runs 9.50s at 140 mph.

Meanwhile, when Randy was faced with rebuilding his '00 GT's engine, he had to become creative since the modular aftermarket wasn't what it is today. Randy contemplated scrapping the modular engine plan and going back to pushrod power. He even went so far as to purchase an '89 coupe from a friend, but says, "I just couldn't get into it and eventually sold it. My drive to do something different motivated me enough to stick to building up the modular engine. The fact that everyone kept telling me it couldn't be done motivated me even more to be successful."

Off went the stock modular block to Charlie's Machine Shop in Glen Burnie, Maryland, to clean up the bores, especially the cylinder torn up by the ring-land failure. Charlie's fitted the block with an '01 Cobra crankshaft, Manley rods, and a custom set of 18cc-dished Ross pistons. The original PI heads were sent to Shannon Wheeler at DTA Performance for a port-and-polish job, and before the heads were reinstalled, a pair of Houston Performance blower cam regrinds found their way into place. Knowing the capabilities of his new Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger, Randy skipped reinstalling the stock plastic intake and instead added a Bullitt intake.

Noting the potential power of the combination and seeing the performance of Mark's LX, Randy also replaced the stock five-speed with a Performance Automatic Competition C4 transmission. Mark pitched in to make the PA C4 mate with the New Edge's transmission crossmember. Another technology throwback came when Randy added a return-style fuel system with a Weldon 2025 fuel pump, 42-lb/hr injectors, and UPR fuel rails.

It's a good thing Mark offered the garage space, because it took more than a year to get Randy's car running again under its own power. But, once back on the road, a trip to Kauffman Motorsports allowed tech expert Dave to tune the car in less than an hour. All the hard work and time was definitely worth it, as the car pounds out 515 hp and 555 lb-ft of torque. Its durability almost matches that of Mark's car, with a couple years worth of mid-10s at almost 130 mph.

Both Mark and Randy are known to frequent Maryland dragstrips, of which there are around 130 or so (just kidding, but there are a few). So if you see these two unassuming vehicles pitted together, don't let their exteriors fool you. These two friends and their Mustangs are definitely double trouble.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery