Paul Rosner
December 1, 2008
Photos By: Steve Turner

Horse Sense:
As smitten as Editor Turner was by Sean's sano race car, he was disheartened to hear that the Lemon Drop was formerly a bolt-on street car featuring Electric Red paint and black interior. It happens all the time that clean street cars turn into race cars, but if you're considering doing the same, at least think about starting with a worn-out four-cylinder car.

We've lost touch with the good old days when leather-jacket tough guys only needed their fists to conquer the bad elements of society-a day when bad boys were a lot less violent and a bit more glamorous. Guys like James Bond were portrayed as debonair, sophisticated, cool cats. Sipping on a martini by the pool, surrounded by a plethora of bikini-clad babes was a big part of their image. The martini is a cocktail recognized by the small, inverted, cone-shaped glass it's served in with one or several floating olives. The Cosmopolitan and Manhattan are probably the most popular martinis epitomized by the rich and famous.

Regular people are helping the 'tini to make a comeback. Martini bars can be found along the coastlines all around the country. Sean Lyon has always worked in the family business running Italian restaurants. However, he has always dreamed of having a place on the bay where his customers could enjoy his favorite martini, the Lemon Drop, while overlooking the ocean. Hence, Uncle Ernie's in Panama City, Florida, was born, featuring specialty pasta, fresh seafood, and, of course, a second-story martini bar overlooking the sunsets on the bay.

Sean and childhood friends Mark Bittle and Adam Day emerged on the Mustang scene in a Lemon Drop-colored '88 coupe that they raced in the first Spring Break Shootout and many other events throughout the '90s. Then Sean sold the car in '98, taking 10 years off to start Uncle Ernie's, while Mark and Adam opened Panhandle Performance in Lynn Haven, Florida.

Well, 10 years later, the Lemon Drop has returned. This time it's a '93 coupe, armed with a state-of-the-art SFI 25.5 chassis from Dave Zimmerman of Team Z Motorsports and prepared to take on the top dogs in the Drag Radial class in the NMRA. When he bought the car, it was a mint 700hp street Pony with a Vortech-blown 347, but long hours kept him out of the seat, so Sean decided to make her a full-blown race car to compete in out-of-town events, guaranteeing entire weekends of fun in the seat.

The Lyon crew consists of driver/owner (left to right) Sean Lyon; Panhandle Performance's gurus Adam Day, who does the head porting and installations, and Mark Biddle, who handles the engine building/dyno tuning; and Dave, Team Z Motorsports' fab and chassis wizard.

What was once a passion the three amigos shared turned into a successful performance car builders' dream shop. Mark structured the groundwork for building the perfect Lemon Drop 'tini. He mixed up a poked-and-stroked 8.2-inch deck 302 Dart engine block sporting a Bryant forged-steel crankshaft, GRP connecting rods, and a Ross 8.5:1 compression that checks in at 353 cubes.

Adam took on the next job, seeing how much air they could feed to their bulletproof bottom end. He fit AFR 225 aluminum heads with 2.08-inch intake and 1.60-inch titanium exhaust valves and a durable Jesel valvetrain. Both the heads-the Trick Flow R lower intake and Reichard Racing high-flow CNC upper unit- were treated to his personal porting recipe for flow.

It was agreed that the 88mm turbocharged setup currently dominating the Drag Radial class was nearing a series rule pounding, so an 85mm Precision turbocharger got the nod with support from an Accufab 90mm throttle body and Bosch 160-lb/hr injectors to feed the beast. Sean's old car was a terror in the FFW series for more than five years with Mark tuning. Mark is now looking forward to opening a new chapter in the performance record books with his turbocharged Pony.

The new Lemon Drop recipe looks like it could turn out to be a hit-and soon become a crowd favorite. Although Sean Lyon hadn't been in the seat for nearly 10 years, he suited up for a handful of 8-second passes in the car's maiden competition. We expect to see Sean running with some of the big dogs in the NMRA Drag Radial Class.

Panhandle Performance wanted the 85mm Precision turbocharger nestled between the core support and the bumper cover to keep as much heat as possible away from the engine. Team Z Motorsports custom-fabbed fully heat-wrapped stainless steel headers to keep the underhood temps at a minimum and contain the heat to accelerate flow. Team Z Motorsports owner Dave Zimmerman did an awesome job incorporating flanges into the body of the car so all tubing attaches to both sides, making one of the cleanest tubing installs we've ever seen. It's kind of funny; if you lean over the front of the car when the hood is open, there's no hint of a power adder in the engine compartment, even though the reverse headers and wastegates are a dead giveaway. Reichard Racing makes a simple-looking upper manifold that attaches to a Trick Flow R lower manifold. Simple-looking yes, but don't be fooled, it's CNC-machined from a solid block of aluminum, can flow over 400 cfm per runner, and can be ordered with an intercooler built into the lid.

5.0 Tech Specs

Engine And Drivetrain
Block
Stock aluminum
Dart cast-iron 8.2-inch deck

Displacement
353ci

Cylinder Heads
AFR 225, aluminum

Camshaft
Panhandle Performance custom- spec Lunati solid-roller

Intake Manifold
Trick Flow R lower, Reichard Racing CNC upper manifold
Throttle Body
Accufab 90mm

Power Adder
85mm Precision turbocharger

Exhaust
Team Z Motorsports stainless steel 17/8-inch primaries

Fuel System
Aeromotive: fuel rails, lines, fuel pump, and regulator

Transmission
Performance Automatic Racing, Pro Mod Powerglide

Converter
Neal Chance Racing Converters, 10-inch Pro Mod bolted together with aluminum drive cover
Rearend
8.8-inch factory with 9-inch ends and brackets jig-welded by Team Z Motorsports; Strange Engineering 3.55 gears, spool and 35-spline axles; LPW Racing Products cap support cover

Electronics
Engine Management
Big Stuff 3, Racepak data logger, NLR AMS-1000 boost controller

Ignition
MSD-7 ignition, distributor, and HVC II coil

Gauges
Racepak Digital Dash

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension

Chassis
Team Z Motorsports, SFI25.5

A-arms
PA Racing, K-member and A-arms

Springs
Hypercoil

Struts
Koni, double-adjustable

Wheels
Monocoque Drag Racing

Tires
Mickey Thompson

Brakes
Strange, two-piston

Rear Suspension
Springs
Hypercoil
Shocks
Strange Engineering, double-adjustable

Chassis
Team Z Motorsports, stock-type, Strip Series 2 with coilover brackets

Traction Devices
Team Z Motorsports antiroll bar

Wheels
Monocoque double bead-locks

Tires
BFGoodrich 325-50x15-inch Drag Radial

Brakes
Strange Engineering, two-piston caliper