Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
October 24, 2006

Most of us take freedom for granted. We get up each morning, take a hillbilly bath, hop in the Mustang, and go to work. Freedom is a given. The harsh reality is we don't give it a second thought until we hear the national anthem at a race or a sporting event. For those couple of minutes we reflect on those who've died to give us the freedom to live how we want in a democratic society. For Mark Kane, a U.S. Army Senior Drill Sergeant stationed at the Home of the Infantry on Sand Hill at Ft. Benning, Georgia, freedom is his job. Not only does he serve our great country to keep us free, but his main duty at the time of this writing was also to train soldiers in support of the war in Iraq, an effort to free the oppressed Iraqi people. Furthermore, Mark was in Iraq at the time of this writing.

Though not all of us share the same workplace dangers as Mark does, one thing we do share with him is our mode of escape and freedom of expression at the wheel of a 5.0 Mustang.

Mark came of driving age in the 5.0 Mustang's prime, the late '80s. "I bought my first Mustang in 1988," he says. "It was a green and silver GT." Mark owned that car for 15 years, which could be some kind of record for 5.0 Mustang ownership. When the '03 Cobra came out, however, he decided to give himself a present. "There was only one problem," Mark says, "I became fanatical about the Cobra and I never really enjoyed the car." The car racked up a mere 2,800 miles in two years.

In search of a Mustang he could really enjoy, Mark looked for a clean '87-'93 coupe. He wanted something he could have fun with and raise Cain at the dragstrip. He found the holy grail of Mustang coupes-a silver '91 example with a black interior. He won the bidding war and the coupe was his. "The modifications started with some interior and engine upgrades at my buddy Mike Mathis' shop," Mark says. Mike Mathis owns Great Auto Care and Performance Center in Phenix City, Alabama. All was well until Mike kept talking about a certain '91 black coupe at his shop with just 54,000 miles.

The black coupe's owner gave Mike full rein on the modifications, along with a blank check. The car featured a D.S.S. 331ci Super Pro Bullet, AFR 185 heads, a Holley SysteMAX intake, a Performance Automatic AOD transmission, 4.30 gears, a narrowed rear to take advantage of mini-tubs, Moser axles, Wolfe Racecraft and QA1 suspension components-you name it, the car had it. The black coupe made 385 at the tires, but when it came back from the dyno session, it received a two-stage nitrous kit. After receiving the nitrous kit, the car sat at Mike's shop for nearly eight months. During this time, Mark was content to stick with his silver coupe and continue modifying it, all the while maintaining its daily driver status.

The problem was, Mark's '03 Cobra lived a pampered life tucked away in the garage covered with comforters and a custom flannel car cover. And, he already had his fun car with the silver coupe. He didn't need another car, but then Mike told Mark the black coupe was for sale, and the price was right. "That night I crunched the numbers, and the bottom line was I needed that car," Mark says. "The only problem was how do I tell my overly supportive wife, Irene, and beautiful daughter Karissa I bought another Mustang." The following morning Mark went to the bank to get a cashier's check to buy a Mustang he'd never seen. "So I'm buying a Mustang I don't need, I'm getting ready to be kicked out of the house, and I haven't even seen or driven the car yet."

Mark rode with Mike to get the car from the shop that was setting up the aforementioned nitrous system. "I was anxious to finally see the cool black coupe with the perfect stance," Mark says, "but my first glimpse was filled with disappointment. The car was covered with dust, dirt, and greasy fingerprints." Furthermore, while the car was at that shop, it was treated to several imperfections at the hands of shop techs dragging air hoses along its panels. The upper intake was on the passenger-side floorboard, and the rest of the engine compartment looked disheveled. "I was close to walking away from the deal," Mark says, "but Mike reassured me it would be worth my while." The car earned the nickname "Blackie" as it was pushed into Mike's shop after being towed there at Mark's expense.

Mike put the car back together and took it for a trial run. "Mike called me at work and said, 'After you drive Blackie, you're going to throw rocks at your silver coupe,' " Mark says. Now that's saying something. But when Mark drove Blackie, he wholeheartedly agreed and was once again fired up about his new purchase. With Blackie fully operational, it was sent to Johnston Body Works in Phenix City to remove the air-hose imperfections, and Mark detailed everything from bumper to bumper.

To make the coupe his, Mark added a QA1 front suspension, a Flaming River manual rack, Aeromotive fuel rails, and a separate fuel system for the new Nitrous Express Gemini plate system. At the '05 NMRA Reynolds, Georgia, race, Mark entered the car in Wild Street, but 15 minutes before the Wild Street cruise, Blackie's alternator went south. A mad dash to the Justin's Performance Center trailer secured a 130-amp alternator and a pair of borrowed wire cutters and crimpers, but Mark still missed the cruise. NMRA officials allowed Mark to run the three required passes, but Blackie wasn't having any of it. The car once again lost power, thanks to a broken locking tab on the power connector for the new alternator.

What was that about throwing rocks at the silver coupe?

Horse Sense: D.S.S. Racing Engines' Level 20 blocks undergo numerous blueprinting processes in the name of increased strength and durability. The oil gallery plugs are threaded, as are the freeze plugs la Boss 302 blocks, the bores are CNC 60-degree offset chamfered to improve airflow, and stroker blocks are CNC clearanced to make way for increased stroke crankshafts and rods.

Tech SpecsEngine And DrivetrainBlockD.S.S. Racing Engines Level 20 Race-prep blockDisplacement 331 ciRotating AssemblyCast steel crankshaft, 4340 forged H-beam rods, D.S.S. Racing Engines forged Pro-lite pistons, ductile-iron piston ringsCamshaftComp Xtreme EnergyCylinder HeadsAirFlow Research 185cc, stud-mount, 61cc combustion chambers, Comp Pro Magnum 1.6 roller rockers, upgraded 7/16-in rocker studsIntake ManifoldHolley SysteMAX IIThrottle Body70mmMass Air MeterPro-M BulletAir IntakeMAC cold-air pipe, K&N Engineering filterPower AdderNitrous Express Gemini plate kit, adjustable from 125 to 600 hp, purge kit, bottle heater, separate fuel system for nitrous kitExhaustFRPP short-tube headers,FRPP off-road H-pipe, Dynomax Ultra Flo mufflers with turndownsFuel SystemHolley 255-lph fuel pump, Aeromotive fuel rails and regulator, FRPP 30-lb/hr injectorsTransmissionPerformance Automatic Street/Strip with Overdrive and manual valvebody, B&M Hammer shifterRearend8.8, FRPP 4.30 gears, Moser 31-spline axles with Drag Racing stud upgrade kit

ElectronicsEngine ManagementStock computerIgnitionMSD 6AL, Three-stage retard, FRPP distributor and 9mm spark-plug wires, MSD coil, NGK iridium spark plugsGaugesFRPP tachometer, Auto Meter oil, coolant-temp, and air/fuel-ratio gauges

Suspension And Chassis Front SuspensionK-memberQA1 tubularA-armsQA1 tubularSpringsQA1 175-lb coiloverStrutsQA1 adjustableWheelsWeld Draglite 15x311/42-inTires165R15BrakesCross-drilled and slotted rotors, Hawk brake padsRear SuspensionSpringsQA1 350-lb coiloverShocksQA1 Pro-Street system coiloverControl ArmsStockWheelsWeld DragliteTiresBF Goodrich Drag Radial 325/50-15BrakesDisc conversion, Hawk brake padsChassis StiffeningCompetition Engineering subframe connectors