Brad Walker
June 15, 2007
As Shane demonstrated during our photo shoot, nitrous cars can be brutal. If we remember right, a seven-grand nitrous launch actually launched the exhaust system right off the car. It's cool stuff for magazine editors, but bad news for the car builder/owner. Still, this is one of the most well-worked nitrous street cars you'll ever see. Shane was nice enough to include a thank-you list in his tech sheet. In it, he thanks his grandparents, his wife Amy, his daughters, Jeff Thomas, Rob Incoa, Jay Nelson, Trip, Ben Dorn, and all the guys that run the Smack Down events with him.

Horse Sense: Nitrous kits come in all forms-from basic bolt-ons to custom manifolds plumbed for more than 500 horses of nitrous-oxide assistance. For stock 5.0 and 4.6 Mustangs, a basic 70-150hp bolt-on kit costs between $500 and $700, depending on the manufacturer and options. Trust us-nitrous is the cheapest path between two points you'll ever experience.

The simple economics of building hot rods has made nitrous oxide a common denominator for thousands of enthusiasts around the world. Once you've worked your way through the basics of going fast-free-flowing exhaust and intake, acceleration-specific gearing, sticky tires, and so on-you begin looking for options. At some point, you'll have a heads/cam/intake package, and then it's on to the power adders. Or you can choose to go for the power adder from the beginning. But to graduate from Hot Rod University, you only have to try nitrous oxide. Sure, you might take on the graduate studies of a supercharger or turbocharger, but everybody should experience nitrous oxide first-hand at least once on their own project build.

One guy who is never getting away from nitrous is Lima, Ohio's Shane O'Connell. When Shane bought his car, it had 30,000 miles on the clock. He added an exhaust system and 17-inch rims, and everything seemed right in the world. That was until he got his clock cleaned one night at the local hotspot. With the image of the other guy's taillights burned into his subconscious, Shane set out to make sure he wouldn't lose the next speed contest. He immediately ordered gears, a shifter, and every bolt-on he could find. By the time the credit cards stopped smoking, the car was a 12-second streeter with 47,000 miles.

These days, 12-second e.t.'s only last so long, and Shane knew it. He had Jeff Thomas build him a 331-inch small-block topped with an Edelbrock head and rpm intake. A steeper set of 4.56:1 gears kept the now-stroked 302 at the top of its game, but Shane found that keeping stock T5s together wasn't easy. Jay Nelson put together a pro-shifted T5, and things were back on track. With a purpose-built suspension, the car was good for 11.67 on motor at this point.

Jaz seats, Auto Meter gauges, an Auto Meter tachometer, a Steeda shifter, and a Wild Rides eight-point 'cage are used to enhance the interior of Shane's 10-second car. The G-Force trans gets pounded through a SPEC Stage 3 clutch and pressure plate. An FRPP aluminum driveshaft sends the goods to the awaiting 8.8-inch rear.

But 11-second e.t.'s aren't what they used to be, so Shane had his crew pull the engine again for another round of updates. This time, he was getting rid of all the street stuff. A call to Bennett Racing netted a set of Trick Flow high-port heads-custom-ported by the shop's engine crafters-along with a matching camshaft. Typical of most Bennett customers, Shane wasn't privileged with the cam specs. If we know Jonathan Bennett, it's a serious, high-winding solid-roller that has more than 0.700-inch lift with a lot of duration. Shane also installed an equally serious Edelbrock Victor intake manifold. A G-Force five-speed also found its way into the car, taking any guesswork out of the job of changing gears.

At about this time-with the addition of a seriously ventilated 331-Shane began looking at his options in the nitrous oxide systems market. Dared into the idea-we kid you not-Shane ordered a Nitrous Xpress plate kit and added it to his combination. Once a matching, full-length Kook's exhaust system was installed, the car was trailered to Alternative Automotive where proprietor Lidio Iacabelli custom-tuned the entire combination. Shane's first pass on muscle alone netted him a 10.92 e.t. at 124 mph-an outstanding run for a car that was designed to run with the juice.

The clean and simple Wild Strawberry GT has only a Cervini's hood and a Saleen wing to give something away. Weld Drag Lite rims should've come as an option on '90 GTs, as they're the ubiquitous rims of choice today.

During the winter of 2005, Shane upgraded the fuel system to a complete Aeromotive version with feather-light hoses and nickel-plated fittings. That's another good lesson that we can all learn from him: invest in a good fuel system early, and it will continue to serve you for years to come. He also added 42-lb/hr injectors and had Lidio work over the tune one more time. In a late 2006 test session in Milan, Michigan, the car responded with a 10.24 e.t. at 133 mph. Ironically, his best short time, a 1.51-second effort, came on a 10.45 pass, so the car has more potential still left in the combination. The 10.24 pass came on only a 100 shot of nitrous.

"Motor passes are boring now," Shane says. "I now have a World Products block, so I'm thinking about a 363 or a 347 big bore-that would be a 4.125 bore with the 331 internals. I'll have a FAST box and an automatic. I'm going to put a Performance Automatic C4 in it. I think it'll run 9.20s on the jug."