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.

The only thing Randall enjoys more than driving his attention-grabbing track car is teaching. Randall shares an interesting viewpoint that stems from his years of instructing: "Generally, most instructors think the best students are women. There are several reasons for this. 1) Women have fewer preconceived ideas on how to drive quickly; 2) Women listen better; 3) Women don't have anything to prove; 4) Women may not be as competitive; 5) Women smell better."

Women or men, the most important task Randall stresses to his students is to look ahead. After learning about Randall Shannon's track car, they may also want to keep an eye on their mirrors for this black, white, and yellow Mustang.

Heel-And-Toe Homework

Randall has been asked a number of times what is the hardest thing for a beginner or intermediate student to learn regarding driving quickly on a road racing track. Without hesitation, his answer is heel-and-toe downshifting.

A quick web search for heel-and-toe downshift will yield thousands of hits, including how-to videos, so rather than explain how or why it's important, Randall shares three tips to get you heel-toeing like Boris Said.

1) "One of the keys is to consistently place the right foot in the same, correct position on the brake pedal for the heel-and-toe downshift. The challenge is to position the right foot on the brake pedal in such a way that you can roll your foot over to the right and blip the gas as the clutch is released. If the foot placement is inconsistent, the downshift will not be smooth.

"In order to position the foot in the same spot on the brake pedal, I installed an aluminum 1x1-inch angle bracket to act as a 'fence' at the left edge of the brake pedal. This keeps the foot from being too far to the left in order to reach the throttle."

2) "The second tip is to move the brake and gas pedals closer together so that when the braking foot's left side is against the 'fence,' the right side of the foot is in the perfect place to roll over to the right and blip the gas pedal. I installed a wide aluminum throttle pedal cover and positioned it to the left side of the pedal."

3) "Finally, I installed a 1 1/2-inch block of wood between the OEM brake pedal and the aftermarket aluminum cover. When braking hard, this raises the brake pedal to the same level as the throttle for easier heel-and-toeing."

5.0 Tech Specs

Engine And Drivetrain

Block Ford Racing Sportsman 351W
Crankshaft Ford Racing cast, 3.85-in stroke
Rods Ford Racing forged
Pistons Ford Racing forged, 10.25:1 compression
Camshaft Comp Cams hydraulic roller
Cylinder Heads Air Flow Research 185 aluminum
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Victor Jr.
Carburetor Demon 750 double-pumper
Fuel System Fuel Safe 20-gallon fuel cell, Holley black pump, BG regulator
Exhaust BBK 1 3/4-inch, full-length, ceramic-coated headers; Dr. Gas X-pipe; DynoMax super turbo mufflers
Transmission Centerforce Dual Frictionclutch, Ford Racing flywheel, Tremec TKO II transmission
Rearend Currie 9-inch axle, DPI Racing Black Gold differential, 3.00:1 gears

Electronics

Ignition MSD 6AL box, coil, and distributor
Gauges Pegasus dual exhaust gas temp; Auto Meter tach, brake, fuel, and oil pressure, water and oil temp, voltage, fuel level, and 160-mph speedometer

Suspension And Chassis

Front Suspension
K-member AJE chrome-moly tubular
Control Arms HP Motorsport/Bart's Works short-long-arm
Shocks Koni adjustable yellow
Springs Eibach
Swaybar Griggs Racing 1.275-in
Brakes 2000 Cobra R four-piston Brembo calipers, Coleman rotor and aluminum hat
Wheels CCW three-piece, 17x11-in
Tires Kumho V710, 295/40-17

Rear Suspension
Shocks Koni adjustable yellow
Springs Eibach
Control Arms Griggs Racing HD torque-arm, control arms, and Panhard bar
Brakes Wilood four-piston calipers, vented rotor and aluminum hat
Wheels CCW three-piece, 17x12-in
Tires Kumho V710 335/35-17
Chassis Stiffening Full road-race cage with subframe connectors