Wes Duenkel
January 3, 2011

Mr. Shannon's classroom is loud, hot, and smelly. While this could describe freshman chemistry, Mr. Shannon's classroom only seating for one student, and it's located on the right. That's because his students are budding road racers and Randall Shannon's classroom is a fat-tired '86 Mustang.

As a high-performance driving instructor, Randall and his Fox instantly gain his students' respect and attention. After all, the consequences of not paying attention or forgetting your homework are expensive at best-and painful at worst.

Randall caught driving school fever in 1997 when the purchase of his brand-new Mustang Cobra included discounted tuition to the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. The driving bug bit-hard. Over the next four years, Randall and his Cobra spent 34 days attending 18 different driving schools. His track-day desires rubbed off on his wife, too.

"We were in two different classes so we could share the Cobra," Randall recalls. "As we both moved up in classes and speed, our instructors suggested we make the Cobra safer with a rollcage and proper seats."

Randall was hesitant to cut up his Cobra and compromise its streetability. "This is when I started thinking about a dedicated driving-school car. What would be my goals of building a dedicated driving-school car? Two things influenced my design thinking: What I had seen and learned over four years as a driving school student in the '97 Cobra, and discussions of do's and don'ts from Internet sites such as Corner-carvers.com."

Because of the enormous knowledge base and aftermarket support for the platform, Randall chose a Fox Mustang as the basis for his school-car project. He located a rolling-chassis '86 GT hatchback in the fall of 2001 and started building. Randall recalls, "I wanted to do things right the first time. That meant making my plan and planning my work." After what seemed like doctorate-level research, Randall settled on four goals: safety, reliability, low maintenance, and fun.

To satisfy Randall's first priority of safety, the Fox hatch has a stout rollcage with plenty of tubing to keep walls and other cars away from its occupants. The driver and passenger are held securely in carbon-fiber seats with five-point Simpson seatbelts, and protected with a halon fire-suppression system.

Over the years, Randall saw too many people turn their weekend from driving school into wrenching school because their cars were unreliable. Randall wanted to spend his time in the car rather than under it, so he overbuilt many aspects of the car. After all, less stress on the car means less stress on the driver.

Rather than build an engine to maximize horsepower, Randall focused on torque with a Ford Racing 392-inch crate engine topped with an Edelbrock intake and Demon road racing 750-cfm carb. To keep the oil and water inside the engine rather than on the track, Randall pampered the Windsor with an oversized radiator, oil cooler, Canton road-race oil pan, and Accusump. He reasoned that since the big Windsor made its power down low (over 400 lb-ft from 3,250 rpm), there was no need to spin the engine beyond 5,500 rpm. Randall backed up the 392 with a stout Tremec TKO II five-speed and Currie 9-inch rearend. To eliminate electrical gremlins, all the electrical connections were soldered.

With reliability comes low maintenance. "I didn't want to rebuild my engine every year," Randall explains. A high-torque engine that's easy on cranks, rods, and bearings was also easier on his wallet. Even the massive tires Randall chose (295- and 335-wide Kumho V710 front and rear) keep his tire bill manageable because they slide less and last longer.

The choices Randall made to achieve his first three goals of safety, reliability, and low maintenance easily satisfied the last: fun. With 421 hp and 449 lb-ft of torque moving just 3,069 pounds, how could it not be? The car's balanced handling and strong braking assures the fun doesn't stop at the end of the straightaway, either.