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'86 GT AIX Racer - Mission Accomplished?
Despite The Success He Has Enjoyed In American Iron Extreme, Bill Daffron Assures Us He Isn't Finished Yet
Horse Sense: Ed Salter of G-Stream Downforce Engineering developed the effective aerodynamic devices on Bill Daffron's '86, though we have word that the company has since been sold to Competition Performance Products. CPP will assume the manufacturing of the operation, while Tiger Racing [(626) 967-6796; www.tiger-racing.com] is the new product distributor.
Similar to the majority of our readers, Northridge, California's Bill Daffron has been a car fanatic most of his life. Such sentiment doesn't mean cars have always taken center stage, however, for other interests and responsibilities have taken priority at times-sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.
Bill tells us he ran some IMSA road race events in a Porsche 914-6 in the early '80s, but largely gave up gearhead tendencies for the better part of 20 years. By 2000, the itch to turn fast laps was returning-autocrossing his Lightning pickup and his wife's Roush Mustang wasn't meeting the need. You can guess what happened from there.
With a more serious intent, Bill began searching for a good road race candidate. Having long since been a convert to the Blue Oval, a Mustang was the easy choice. The '86 GT he ended up with led an interesting life, originally having been used as an Eibach test car and later modified for competition in SCCA A-Sedan. Whatever the direction that would eventually be set, Bill determined his early ventures would be along the line of club track days. At such an event put on by the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC 27), the near-stock 5.0 grenaded and spilled its guts all over the California Speedway tarmac. With his figurative tail between his legs, Bill was now at square one, and commiserated with friend and former NASCAR wrench Glenn Bayer about what road to take for the near future. Glenn encouraged Bill to get involved in NASA's American Iron West series, and it wasn't long before the two hatched the idea of competing in the top category-American Iron Extreme.
The first step was to get the car back under its own power, so Bill turned to Mark DeGroff for suitable motivation. The result is a 383ci stroker small-block based on a 351W production block and an internally balanced forged-steel Eagle 3.75-inch crank. JE pistons swing from Probe H-beam rods to complete the stout bottom end. A set of Edelbrock Perfomer heads received Mark's port and prep, and were matched to a Victor Jr. intake. Directing the 2.02/1.60-inch valve events is an Isky solid-roller featuring 0.640-inch lift and 284/294 degrees duration. The Carb Shop massaged a 750-cfm Race Demon specifically for the application. It receives plenty of fuel via an ATL cell, a Holley electric pump, and -8 braided lines.
With the new engine belting out plenty of oomph, Bill blew three transmissions in quick succession before arriving at the gearbox that lives in the car today: a Jerico four-speed built by Hightower Racing Transmissions in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. Before entering AIX competition, Bill also beefed up the suspension and installed Brembo brakes in front.
The learning curve during the first season in 2002 was steep, but Bill and his team-including Glenn, Mark Plautz, B&D Racing, and sponsorship from Galpin Ford and Garrett Custom Trailers-had enough success to remain encouraged. Along the way, new friends were found, among them were Chuck Schwynoch and the rest of the Maximum Motorsports crew. They went above and beyond to assist in trackside setup, even though the company's own items weren't fitted to the chassis. That changed for the following season in 2003, as a catalog's worth of Maximum Motorsports components were installed. The year was largely spent dialing in the new combination.
Up front, we now find Maximum's tubular K-member and control arms, caster/camber plates, tubular sway bar, and Maximum/Bilstein coilovers. In the rear, the setup consists of Maximum's heavy-duty torque arm, a Panhard bar, adjustable control arms, an adjustable swaybar, Maximum/Bilstein coilovers, and a custom-built 8.8 with full-floating axles and Wilwood brakes. Driver extraordinaire Ross Murray entered the picture as a co-driver in 2003. Bill gives him credit for advancing his own driving skills as well as the team's success.
As the AIX season dawned for 2004, all seemed right for Bill and company. Their Mustang was ready to compete in a big way, with a talented driving duo, a hard-working crew, and topnotch equipment. An exciting season boiled down to the last race in Las Vegas, where Bill and Ross brought home the AIX West Championship. This success has proven to be the biggest thus far for the Mustang, yet it seems to still have the potential to repeat its championship ways. In 2005, Ed Salter of G-Stream Downforce Engineering developed the carbon-fiber front splitter and rear wing you see in the photos, with the owner reporting a big improvement in overall performance. The Mustang barely missed a repeat championship, in part because Bill missed several races in favor of racing a new interest-retired NASCAR stock cars.
At the '06 AIX West season opener at California Speedway, Bill hit a slick spot on the track and ended up in the tire wall, necessitating cosmetic surgery on the car that took most of the season to accomplish. With Luis Couarrubias, Bill fitted Maier Racing fiberglass front fenders and rear quarter-panels, providing cover for new steamroller rolling stock. CCW three-piece wheels measure a monstrous 17x11 inches on all corners and mount Hoosier or Kuhmo rubber in 315/35-17 sizing. Once all the bodywork was done, a searing shade of Dupont Hot Hues known as Scarlet Fever from DeAngelo's Automotive Coatings was applied.
Despite the long delay, Bill found himself able to qualify for the NASA Nationals at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in September 2006, and he shipped the newly renovated car there with high expectations. As fate would have it, clutch problems sidelined the GT for much of the testing and qualifying sessions; under full race conditions, Bill was still learning the track. Despite this handicap, he finished Third in class at the Nationals, a feat worthy of considerable respect.
As the '07 season approached, Bill suffered another setback in his repeat championship quest, this one much more personal than any other. A heart attack reared its ugly head, though we're happy to report the outcome has been favorable. Call it a wake-up call in favor of a healthier diet, but the good news is that doctors were so pleased with Bill's recovery, they gave him a green light to participate in the first race of the '07 season. That one is recorded in the books as another victory. As we go to press, Bill led the points tally for the AIX West Series. Plans are to run a modest schedule of events for 2007-enough that it's plausible another championship could be in the cards. Here's wishing the best to Bill for a season of health-and racing success.
Befitting of a pure racer, the cockpit on Bill's '86 is stripped of everything that doesn't relate to the business at hand. The rollcage is one of the few remnants from the car's A-sedan days, a custom panel plays home to a full complement of Auto Meter gauges, and a Sparco seat keeps Bill or Ross planted in front of the Momo wheel. Inside is the Accusump oil accumulator, transmission cooler, and battery.
As disappointing as it was to stuff his GT into the tire wall at the '06 season opener, Bill Daffron capitalized on the mishap by taking the car to the next level-functionally and visually. Maier Racing fenders and quarter-panels now cover enormous CCW/Kumho rolling stock, while DeAngelo's Automotive Coatings helped with the Dupont Hot Hues in Scarlet Fever.