Paul Rosner
April 1, 2008
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

Horse Sense: Among the trick gadgets on Mike's Dark Star is a dual-bottle fire-suppression system that is set off by either the driver or a crewmember via a remote switch at the rear of the vehicle, next to the power off. Additionally, the steering wheel has three buttons: One is for the transbrake, one deploys the parachutes and dumps the boost from the engine at the completion of a run, and the third deploys the chutes when Mike needs to straighten up the car if the Mickey Thompsons spin faster than the race car is traveling. With 10.5W meats and close to 2,500 hp, it happens often.

Twenty years ago, nobody would have believed that a small crew of Mustang racers would grow to become a self-sustaining entity large enough to support several heads-up racing series or countless magazine titles. Its worldwide fan following is hungry for the next superstar personality whose newest nasty Pony innovation blows away creations from the past.

Longtime readers may recall one of the most flamboyant racing personalities to have his corral of prize Ponies grace our pages on many occasions: Texas superstar Mike Murillo. Each of his sick street stalkers were given pet names such as Silver Bullet, Nightmare, and Cracker. Overshadowing them all was Star Car, the icon of Mike's racing career.

The engine compartment in Mike Murillo's new ride is devoid of any indication of a power adder, a supercharger, or a turbocharger feeding rear-facing headers. The venerable small-block was replaced with a Kotzur-built, 541-cube big-block with Trick Flow aluminum heads. The small fuel cell carries more than enough for a couple burnouts. A full-throttle, 6-second pass down the quarter-mile, as well as a radiator and fan assembly that Vintage Air squeezed next to the cell, aid in displacing some of the weight gain from the big-block powerplant.

Mike won five FFW Outlaw 5.0 championships from 1994 to 1999. He is absent only the '97 title because of another one of the sport's pioneers, the Cajun Kid Carlo Catalanotto. In 2001, Team Murillo broadened its sights to the NMRA Super Street Outlaws, finishing in the runner-up spot in the first season and conquering the field in 2002 for the team's sixth national championship. In addition, the Murillo freight train powered its way to two Clash of the Titans Championships and a WFC title before retiring from competition in 2003.

Most of the people we feature are racers who have nurtured their prize Pony into showcase form with years and years of upgrades and alterations while plummeting down the proverbial e.t. ladder. However, sometimes the performance jump requires a fresh start. This is one of those cases.

For those who never saw Star Car, let us introduce you to its evil twin, Dark Star. Mike bought the Chuck Samuel-wheeled Tommy Z chassis that narrowly missed becoming the first 200-mph Pro 5.0 car. For two years, the sight of an empty shell deteriorating in the corner of the shop tormented Mike-he still swears he could hear ghost blow-off valves sneezing in the night during late dyno sessions. His wife, Lisa, finally insisted that it would be best if Mike were to get back into racing-she was tired of him pacing around the house every weekend as his passion for competition ate away at his sanity.

The oiling system comes from a Peterson Fluid Systems wet sump with the oil and vacuum pumps stacked together. Mike made a custom filler cap for the valve cover with a built-in vacuum gauge to monitor the engine's internal pressures during dyno runs.

In his search for a viable builder, Mike stumbled upon a small shop in Austin, Texas. Bill Buck Race Cars displayed equal enthusiasm to revive the Murillo championship legacy. The outdated and fatigued 25.5 chassis needed to be upgraded to meet the SFI 25.2 chassis specs, good for e.t.'s down to 6.30 in the quarter-mile. Some of the chrome-moly tubing that required new crossbars or gusset bars to be welded were replaced, and extra floor tubing was added. Bill Buck went beyond just adding the SFI upgrades to the passenger capsule: He fabbed new A-arms for the Santhuff front-spindle assembly and Strange carbon-fiber brake bracketry. The Tommy Z rear four-link suspension was retained except for the custom antisway bars and rearend housing. Buck's unique rearend housing accepts dual sets of twin-piston Aerospace calipers to keep from rolling through the beams when the boost shoots to the moon during prelaunch.

Mike says he is quickly learning that all his experiences in the sport will be rewritten. The 8.2-deck, 359-cube turbocharged setup that he used to conquer the world went to the wayside, and a monster RDI 460 block, bored and stroked to 541 cubes by Kotzur Racing Engines, now fills the fender wells. A Scat crankshaft was cross-drilled for added oiling, and nitrided to help it survive the volatile pressure the of 25-plus pounds of twin-turbocharged boost. A set of GRP connecting rods with low-compression JE pistons, an Innovators West dampener, and a JW flywheel complete the rotating assembly. A Comp Cams solid-roller crankshaft actuates a bulletproof Jesel valvetrain in the Kotzer CNC-ported Trick Flow A460 heads.

Mike knew it would take a big-block to handle the massive boost of making nearly 2,500 hp. Displacing the excess front weight lead to the slick idea to move the twin Precision GT47 88mm turbochargers to the trunk. Ricky Salazar and Justin Bloomer fabbed the headers; trick 3 1/2-inch oval NASCAR-style exhaust; and the 5-inch tailpipes exiting just under the chute, which make this car look as though it's rocket-powered.

The oiling system comes from a Peterson Fluid Systems wet sump with the oil and vacuum pumps stacked together and a beltdriven Aeromotive fuel pump attached. Stacking all the components as one serves as the ultimate failsafe system: If the combo loses oil pressure, the fuel stops at the source, instantly shutting down the engine. Rick Squires from STS Turbo supplied the oil-return pump, required to return the oil that circulates through the turbochargers back into the oil pan, along with some valuable turbocharger tech.

On the exhaust side, Ricky Salazar and Justin Bloomer fabbed a set of stainless, 2-inch headers with 3 1/2-inch collectors attached to trick 3 1/2-inch, oval, NASCAR-style tubing. They're routed back to the truck where they transform into 3-inch turbocharger-inlet tubes. The twin Precision GT47 88mm turbocharger downpipes have a 5-inch diameter and exit from the rear of the car under the license plate to give a rocket-propulsion appearance.

Mike's intake manifold is a Kotzur Racing Heads port-matched Trick Flow manifold, a Murillo Motorsports upper elbow, and a set of 212-lb/hr injectors connected to the fuel rails with a Turbosmart pressure regulator. Ricky and Justin also fabbed and welded the intake tubing, which routes to a custom Bell Intercoolers-designed, ice-filled intercooler with two outputs, one to each turbocharger. A built-in Meziere water pump assures constant flow without losing prime in the intercooler. Turbosmart provided air-override wastegates and blow-off valves, meaning the car has an air-cylinder-operated actuator that works with the boost controller for precision power application to ensure it stays stuck to the racing surface. Additionally, it allows the boost to be manually dumped from the system when necessary. Mike says the guys not only do a great job putting out quality work daily at Murillo Motorsports, they did all the work to the race car on the side.

The engine management system features an MSD ignition system with Big Stuff 3 for programming the fuel and ignition mapping. All the wheel speed, driveshaft speed, rpm, and other valuable tuning data is captured via a Racepak V300 datalogging system. According to Mike, the system has virtually unlimited capabilities-it just depends on how many sensors you want to invest in and how much data is useful for tuning.

Just as they say, "Once you learn to drive a stick, you never forget," Mike didn't forget how to pilot a race car in his five-year absence or how to find the winners' circle. Aside from a handful of "1-teen" 60-foot times, they hadn't tested the car much as of this writing. However, we don't expect it to take much saddle time for Mike to get up to speed and knock out some 6-second e.t.'s.

We'll be looking for the Dark Star to light up the winners' circle by mid-season at a 10.5W race near you.

Mike says he picked up nearly 1,300 hp from his 302-based, championship-winning combination, so choosing a Bruno/Lenco-type transmission seemed to be the best choice. The Bruno attaches a torque converter to a Lenco three-speed manual tranny, making it easier on the crew, since they don't have to disassemble, maintain, or tune a finicky clutch. Mike initiates the gear-change manually via the Liberty shifter. This actuates the air-shifted Lenco, leaving no chance of miscue and plenty of time to drive the car.

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINELECTRONICS
BlockEngine Management
RDI 460Big Stuff 3
DisplacementIgnition
514ciMSD distributor and coil
Cylinder HeadsGauges
Trick Flow A460Racepak Digital Dash
Camshaft 
Comp Camps solid-rollerSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
Intake ManifoldFront Suspension
Kotzur Racing Heads port-A-arms
matched Trick Flow manifoldBill Buck Race Cars
w/ Murillo Motorsports upperSprings
elbowHypercoil
Power AdderStruts
Two Precision GT47 88mmSanthuff double-adjustable w/
turbochargersspindle assembly
ExhaustWheels
Stainless 2-in headers withWeld
3 1/2-in collectors, 3 1/2-in ovalTires
to 3-in turbocharger inlet tubes,Mickey Thompson
5-in downpipesBrakes
Fuel SystemStrange dual-piston carbon fiber
212-lb/hr injectors, customRear Suspension
rails, TurboSmart regulator,Springs
Aeromotive beltdrive pump-Hypercoil
driven from Peterson oil pump Shocks
TransmissionAfco double-adjustable
Bruno/Lenco three-speedWheels
RearendWeld
Bill Buck Race Cars 9-inTires
housing, Strange spool, 3.70Mickey Thompson
gears, Moser 40-spline axlesBrakes
 Twin Aerospace dual-piston
 calipers