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.