Jerry Heasley
July 7, 2010

James Draughn was a sergeant in the military, but in his civilian duties, he's still packing major firepower in his garage. James' stable includes a '93 LX coupe with 404 rwhp and an '08 GT500 Shelby with an incredible 724 rwhp. Better yet, both cars run on 93-octane pump gas. He is gearing the latter "for the mile," and the former, dubbed by his builder Chris Carroll as "The Nasty Little Coupe," will be his "quarter-miler." Carroll has come up with a name for the Shelby, too. "Pretty Insane" is an accurate description of this Shelby.

Actually, running the standing mile can be beyond pretty insane in ultra-high-performance cars. Shifting gears in a street-legal ride until the speedo approaches 200 mph is not for the feint of heart. No stranger to danger, James didn't hesitate. He drove his Shelby from the Houston environs southwest to Goliad, Texas, to compete.

"I did two runs. The first run I was highly apprehensive. I was nervous as hell: I'm not even going to lie. The whole idea of going that fast in a Mustang, I expected to be bouncing all over the road," James explained. "Much to my surprise, I eased it out, I didn't launch it hard or anything, I even had a problem with Third gear. I went out the back door at 174 and change. The car was pinned to the ground like you wouldn't believe. I would love to give the thumbs up to Ford and what they did with that car because I truly expected to be all over the road in a Mustang."

The real drama came on the second run. With his right foot to the floor in Fifth gear at about the three-quarter mark and the tach at six grand, James heard a "horrendous pop." "I looked up in the rear-view mirror expecting to see smoke and parts going everywhere, and I lifted," James said. He coasted across the finish line at 163 mph.

What was the pop? Some people think he hit the rev limiter. Others think it was a backfire. The good news is that the car is fine. He passed on future runs because he drove the vehicle there from Houston, but he will return with the car on a trailer next March when his current tour of duty (with a contractor) in Afghanistan runs out. He has no doubt his GT500 can hit 200 mph in the mile.

We first met James at Mustang Week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He drove his Grabber Orange GT500 to the event. We arranged to shoot the Shelby and its companion LX on our next trip to Houston. First, James pulled off a tour of duty with KBR to Iraq. "The whole idea was obviously I was going to make some good money," James said. "However, I believe in supporting the military, and for every civilian, that is one extra soldier you don't have to have over there."

After 10 years in the army, from 1994 to 2004, James has become a valuable civilian in service to contractors assisting the military overseas. Remuneration gives him the means to build some hot Mustangs.

"It's kind of funny. The other thing I was able to experience is that the amount of contractors in the Mustang community is crazy," James added. "I've met some of my really good trustworthy car friends from out there."

While overseas, James' parents found a '93 LX coupe for sale on the side of the road. He gave them the go-ahead to pay the $2,700 to purchase the coupe, originally an automatic 5.0 H.O. On his return, James got the build going. "It was running, but definitely a project car," he said. "The motor crapped out when they pulled it into Slater's Auto Works in Humble, Texas. Chris Carroll went to work on the engine."

The car had rear-end collision damage, so James chose Phil Bauman Paint & Body, also in Humble, to do this work. He admits he relies on the shops to do the mods and says he is an annoying customer. He orchestrates the projects by "popping money" into them. He credits the shops for taking pictures and video to send overseas for progress reports.

The LX recipe was simple: 400 rwhp in a fast street car with amenities like A/C and heat. James knew Chris Carroll as a formidable racer and builder in the area. Boring and stroking a Ford Racing Boss 302 block, Chris built a naturally aspirated 347 with "good compression (10.6:1), a decent cam (custom grind), and good heads (AFR 205s)."

Chris calls this 347 "a proven combination that we've done several times" and one that "seems to be the one making the numbers." The build met James' horsepower expectations, as the dyno showed 404 to the rear wheels and 375 lb-ft of torque. Chris says this power makes the LX a solid 11-second quarter-mile car, say 11.40s, and low 10s on nitrous. "With the 150-shot, we made a hair over 520 and 542 on torque," he added.

The full specifications on the LX reveal a highly customized '93 model. Yet, the car still looks like a vintage LX. Meanwhile, the Shelby is virtually a stock ride except for "monstrous" power and the few suspension upgrades. "When they were putting the [turbocharger] kit on, I had them put on the BMR rear adjustable suspension components-the lower control arms and the Panhard bar," James said.

The Shelby gets its awesome power from the stock supercharged 5.4, compound-boosted by Hellion's twin 61mm turbos with intercooler and supporting mods. "I opted to keep the blower on," James said. "A lot of people argue to take the blower off, but with the turbos feeding into a supercharger, the car is a monster." Meanwhile, the whir and purr of the 5.4 at idle is misleading. "You drive that car and don't put your foot in it, it's just like driving a stock GT500," James elaborated.

Both cars are in a constant of upgrading. James calls them "ongoing goals." He just might get as much fun planning and dreaming of what the next mods might be as he does from lighting the firepower at his disposal today. He's already talking about a T76 Hellion turbo kit with a tubular K-member on the LX, and he's trying to decide whether or not to go to coilovers all around on the Shelby ...

5.0 Tech Specs
'93 Mustang LX
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Ford Racing Boss 302
Crankshaft Eagle chrome-moly
Rods Eagle chrome-moly H-beam
Pistons Probe forged
Camshafts Custom grind (trade secret)
Power Adder NX Nitrous Kit, 150 shot
Cylinder Heads AFR 205
Intake Manifold Edelbrock EFI Spyder w/Pro-M mass air, 70mm Professional Products throttle body
Exhaust BBK 1 3/4-in long-tube headers, MAC Prochamber (modified), DynoMax mufflers dumped over the rearend
Transmission TKO-600 with SPEC Stage III clutch and FRPP aluminum driveshaft
Rearend 8.8-inch w/4.10 FRPP gears with a 31-spline Traction-Lok and Moser 31-spline axles

Engine Management
Ignition MSD Digital 6
Gauges Stock

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-member Stock
Struts Lakewood 70/30s
Springs Stock
Brakes Baer Brakes, 13-in rotors
Wheels True Forged Victory, 18x7-in
Tires Nitto 235/35-18
Rear Suspension
Shocks Stock
Springs Stock
Brakes Baer Brakes, 12-inch rotors
Wheels True Forged Victory, 18x10.5-in
Tires Nitto 305/35-18

5.0 Tech Specs
'08 Shelby GT500
Engine and Drivetrain
Block Stock iron-block
Crankshaft Stock forged-steel
Rods Cracked forged-steel I-beams
Pistons Stock
Camshafts Stock
Power Adder Hellion Turbo Systems twin 61mm turbos with intercooler, Abaco DBX MAF, stock Eaton supercharger
Cylinder Heads Stock aluminum
Intake Manifold Stock cast-aluminum
Fuel System Stock with 80-lb/hr fuel injectors
Exhaust Stock cast-iron manifolds with no mufflers
Transmission Stock TR-6060 six-speed manual
Rearend Stock 8.8-inch with 3.31 Traction-Lok

Engine Management
Ignition Stock coil-on-plug
Gauges Stock

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
K-member Stock, modified with BMR adjustable upper and lower control arms and Panhard bar
Struts Reverse-L independent MacPherson strut
Springs Stock
Brakes Brembo 14-in vented and crossdrilled disc
Wheels True Forged Chicane, 20x9-in
Tires Nitto 265/35-20
Rear Suspension
Shocks Stock
Springs BMR lowering springs
Brakes Baer Brakes, 12-in rotors
Wheels True Forged Chicane, 20x10-in
Tires Nitto 305/35-20