Paul Rosner
March 1, 2008

Nearly all of us have an addiction to our cars. For those reading this, it's probably a Mustang. Enthusiasts' rides range from mildly modified daily drivers to mega-horsepower show cars to all-out, rocket-fast race cars.

The Matusek family has experienced each of the above with racing roots at the forefront of their family history. Steve Matusek has reached the plateau of performance with his latest creation, following the same path as his father, John.

John was a car fanatic from the onset. After emigrating from Hungary to the U.S. in the '60s, he learned the English language from reading Hot Rod magazine. John's passion led him to a career as a mechanic at a Ford dealership; he eventually opened his own shop where his racing roots began. John toyed with a '56 Mercury before moving on to a '32 Ford Bantam with a fuel-injected 427 Cammer motor. He then went to front- and rear-engine dragsters.

Throughout the '60s and '70s, the Matusek family looked forward to their annual family vacation at the U.S. Nationals. To say racing is in their blood is an understatement. In 1994, they turned their love of the sport into a family business, Aeromotive Fuel Systems. Their most recognized race car is the '70 427-powered Maverick they campaign in ultra-competitive NHRA Super Gas and occasionally in Open Comp-style racing.

Today, Steve and Aeromotive Project Engineer Brett Clow can enjoy the limelight after spending nearly two years building one of the most amazing vehicles we've seen on the quarter-mile pavement.

Steve Matusek's dad John (left), drove 427-cammer-powered dragsters in the '60s and '70s. Now he's a crew staple at68 years old. Every year, John treated the family to a summer vacation on a trip to the U.S. nationals. He never imagined he and the kids would someday race there.

Steve's idea was to use an attractive, high-profile body style with a powerplant consumers could relate to, so he chose an '07 Shelby with a Four-Valve modular engine. He chose a 5.4-liter aluminum engine from the Ford GT-not only for its potential, but so it could easily fit in several sanctions without many changes other than weight. The block is set up in full-race, dry-deck condition with no oil or water passing through the engine for maximum strength.

VT Engines in Michigan did the initial machining with Duttweiler touching up the tolerances before letting the boost loose. JE Pistons are mounted on MGP connecting rods and attach to a Kellogg forged-steel crankshaft. Steve and Brett aimed for a 1.6 rod-to-bore ratio so the engine is actually destroked to around 324 ci with about 11:1 compression.

The most work in this project probably went into the Ford GT Four-Valve heads. To perfect the port design, Brett made hundreds of trips between Kansas City, Missouri's Noland's Head Service and Gore Performance. Once Steve and Brett got the numbers they were looking for, Jesel designed special rocker arms and trick cam followers for the industry's first set of solid-roller camshafts from Comp Cams. The Duttweiler-spec cams are nested in bronze bushings and are probably 0.050 bigger than any other camshaft used in this type of engine. The Comp Cams titanium valves and beehive springs ensure the engine will survive at the 9,200 rpm it typically sees on a quarter-mile pass.

With all the custom port work completed, the heads were sent to Wilson Manifolds to have a custom intake designed and manufactured to utilize every cubic centimeter available. The CAD-CAM upper and lower intake was fully CNC-machined from solid pieces of aluminum. Only the upper plenum box was welded for a 110mm throttle body.

The next challenge was the timing. A modular engine of this magnitude needs eight coil packs and a bolt of lightning to keep them energized. "That's why we chose to run a distributor," Steve says. "Innovators West stepped up to the plate and hit a home run with a custom crankshaft-driven distributor/dampener system that fits in the stock water-pump location." An MSD-8 box, wires, and distributor complete the ignition system, which works seamlessly with the F.A.S.T. tuning software and Racepak datalogging system.

Looking under the front of the engine, the trick crankshaft-driven MSD distributor is visible. Innovators West has pioneered a kit that includes an SFI dampener and all the brackets to mount the distributor in the stock water-pump location. The belt to the right is for the Petersen oil pump and Aeromotive fuel pump combo. The other is for the Mezierre water pump for the aftercooler.

The fuel system needed Aeromotive to pioneer an industry-first, crankshaft-driven mechanical fuel pump that piggybacks on the end of a Petersen Multistage industry-standard, crankshaft-driven oil pump. The new Aeromotive pump (PN 11107) mounts on the end of the Petersen pump for maximum space and simplicity. Rounding out the combo's pumps is a Meziere water pump, which sends a veritable river through the aftercooler to keep the temperatures in check since coolant doesn't flow through the engine block itself. Meziere also supplied the quality starter.

Their choice of power adder is, of course, turbocharging since the engine is of small displacement. During the first few dyno pulls, the flow number from the twin 76mm turbochargers amazed even the skeptical eyes of turbo wizard Kenny Duttweiler. Precision's Harry Hruska proved his tuning expertise with some 1.03 60-foot times resulting from initial tweaking recommendations.

A 10-inch dual-disc clutch and pressure-plate setup from Ram sends all that turbocharged fury to a Liberty five-speed transmission. The power is handed off to the custom Larson Race Cars-fabricated rearend, which hands it to the pavement via the Pro Stock-size Mickey Thompson slicks. The wicked, patented wishbone rear suspension goes with the SFI25.1C chassis, which is good down to a 6-flat e.t.

The car has been out for three events as of this writing. The first was an NHRA divisional at Topeka for the initial shakedown passes. Next the Matusek family went to the U.S. Nationals where they went a couple rounds, won Best Engineered Award, and recaptured the index for BB/AT Competition Eliminator class at 6.70 at 209 mph. "You can't imagine how exhilarating that was after visiting the event religiously as a child," Steve says.

The next stop was the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. This was the first time competing heads-up with a pack of 6-second hot rods. To the amazement of all in attendance, they laid down a 6.54 at more than 215 mph; it was the quickest run in NMRA Pro 5.0 history. Unfortunately, with just over 10 passes on the car, they shook the tires in the first round and didn't back it up.

The Matusek family will definitely be a force to be reckoned with in 2008-no matter what class they are in.

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINGauges
BlockRacepak UDX/Logger Dash
{{{Ford GT}}} aluminum 5.4-literExtreme
Displacement 
324ciSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
Cylinder HeadsFront Suspension
{{{Ford}}} {{{GT}}}/Cobra Four-Vave,Chassis
aluminumLarry Larson Race Cars, SFI
Camshafts25.1C
Comp Cams solid-roller, topA-arms
secret specsLarry Larson Race Cars, custom
Intake ManifoldSprings
Wilson Manifolds, custom CNCHyperco
two-piece aluminumStruts
Throttle BodyStrange Engineering, double-
Wilson Manifolds, 110mmadjustable
Power AdderWheels
Precision Turbo, twin 76mmWelds, spindle-mount
ExhaustTires
Stainless Works Bent, custom-Mickey Thompson
welded by Larson Race CarsBrakes
Fuel SystemStrange Engineering
Aeromotive custom crankshaft,Rear Suspension
oil-pump drivenSprings
TransmissionHyperco
{{{Liberty}}} five-speed (Extreme)Shocks
ClutchKoni electronic w/ programmable
Ram, double 10-in disctimers
RearendChassis
9-in, custom sheetmetalLarry Larson Race Cars, custom
welded by Larry Larson, Strangewishbone
Engineering 4.11 gears andTraction Devices
spool, 40-spline gun-drilled axlesLarry Larson proprietary
 Wheels
ELECTRONICSWelds, {{{Magnum}}} bead-locks
Engine ManagementTires
F.A.S.T., custom boost tablesMickey Thompson
IgnitionBrakes
MSD-8 Series w/ customStrange Engineering
crankshaft-driven distributor