Don Roy
August 1, 2006
Photos By: Jerry Heasley

A little south of Austin, not far off the I-35, you can find a specialized Mustang shop called Allies Automotive. From there, it's only an hour and a quarter run to Marion, TX and the San Antonio Raceway. That particular journey is one that Michele Kato knows very, very well. She and her husband, Chris, have gone back and forth on many weekends for the past decade, participating in the local IHRA points series. Three years ago, Chris convinced Michele to try her hand at it. Now, she runs this 1995 Mustang and in her own words, she's "hopelessly hooked."

As owners of Allies Automotive, their on-track efforts effectively demonstrate what the shop is capable of doing for their customers. Michelle's 10-second car is an able ambassador that started coming together one weekend after her first-hand experience with bracket racing. "We bought, actually traded it for an old Wagoneer we had back in 1999. It was barely running - missing some body parts - but I fell in love with it the first time I saw it," she told us. Before this Mustang made it into the Kato corral, Michele had others, including a 1986 silver 5-speed GT with a 308 cid engine, an 1985 V6 convertible and a beloved black on black 1984 GT 'vert. "I needed a little change, so I guess that's why I fell in love with my SN95," Michele mused.

Most of the competition parts came from Chris' 1985 Fox racer, but a lot of blood, sweat and cussin' was needed to get it all to fit properly in the SN95 car. An unfortunate engine fire afforded Michele the opportunity to fit a 331 cid stroker into her car. That engine served for a time, running back and forth to the track, but last year she felt the need to more speed. Respecting the old adage, "There's no replacement for displacement," the Katos opened up a 460 cid Ford big block, rolled up their sleeves and got to work.

Performance Crankshaft in Austin, TX helped out with decking the block and boring the cylinders .030-over. Now, a 466 cid, 11.5:1 compression ratio powerhouse began to emerge. Once fitted with Eagle forged connecting rods and pistons on the stock crankshaft, a Wieand Stealth high-rise intake manifold and Holley 850 CFM 'double pumper' 4-barrel carburetor were latched on top of the stock cylinder heads. After installing a Meziere electric water pump, the only remaining belt-driven accessory on the front of the engine is the alternator. A brace of MSD Ignition parts look after keeping things alive, including their billet distributor, Blaster 2 coil and ignition controller. A Ford Racing high torque mini starter motor is tasked with getting the ball rolling on cue.

Now, talk about old school! This 466 cid monster is hooked up to a 2-speed Powerglide automatic transmission that's been kitted out with a billet servo, Kevlar bands, race-grade clutches and a 1.76 ratio planetary gear set. The Hughes 5000 rpm stall torque converter successfully handles all negotiations between the engine and driveline. The SN95's standard 8.8" rear axle is now blessed with a full spool, 33-spline axles and a 4.10 ratio gearset to keep the engine happily inside its power band.

Up front, an Anthony Jones Engineering tubular K-member helps keep the sharp end light and launches straight, in concert with D&D's A-arms and coilover conversion. Lakewood Industries' 90/10 front struts complement the Mustang's stock rear shocks, helping to keep the Mickey Thompson rubber on the ground. Those 29.5 x 10.5-inch ET Drags at the back, coupled with ET Fronts and mounted on 15-inch Weld rims mean that this is no Mickey Mouse setup.Inside the car, things are strictly business. According to Michele, keeping the weight under control was one of the biggest challenges. After adding an 8-point cage, relocating the battery to the trunk where the fuel cell lives, a minimal racing seat was installed, along with an assortment of Auto Meter and Ford Racing gauges. After that work was completed, anything that wasn't absolutely necessary and wasn't welded to the chassis, was removed. The stark interior is a perfect example of the Bauhaus 'form follows function' approach, with not a hint of unneeded 'bling' in sight. Still, that kind of ruthless work has it's own reward. This Pony weighs in at just under 3,000 pounds in full trim.

After that bad boy engine was dropped into Michele's Pony, the hood didn't close the way it should anymore, so a 4-inch fiberglass cowl hood was used to provide the needed clearance. To complete the exterior modifications, an SVT Cobra front bumper fascia was added. At this point, the car was shipped out to the body shop for its custom paint job. Consisting of a Panther Pink base and four coats of Cadillac White Pearl, there is no mistaking this car for a factory finish when it is sitting in the staging lanes at San Antonio. "Most of our friends weren't too sure about my color choice. I wanted it to stand out in a 'sea of Mustangs'," commented Michele on the topic. We'd have to say that her mission was well accomplished.

Now, Michele had already had a good degree of success before the engine change. She was on the IHRA Division 4 bracket finals championship team in 2004 - an accomplishment she repeated again last year. In 2005, she placed 13th out of 45 participants in the San Antonio Raceway points series, as well as 4th in the Summit Racing Superseries at San Antonio. For this season, Michele will concentrate on results and is hoping to get a top ten placement. If there is any prize money to come her way this year, it will be put aside for future mods. Certainly, a nitrous system could be in the plans, if the price is right.

Michele is grateful to the long list of folks that have helped her along the way. When asked, she outlined them for us: "My hubby Chris Kato and my wonderful kids, Amber and Stephen. Others: Performance Crankshaft, Mark G's Heads, Harry's Powerglides, B&B Performance, Alamo Performance, Austin Area Stangs, the owners and staff of San Antonio Raceway, Phil Rossi, Mark Brown, Bob Meyer and Big Block Fox, John Albarado, Randy Jones, and the rest of the gang at SAR... too many?" No way. Not too many at all, Michele. You can never have too many friends that are willing to chip in on a project like this.

Specifications Michele Kato's Ihra Drag Car

  • Engine Ford 460 cid Big Block V8
  • Engine Modifications Eagle forged connecting rods; Probe Industries' forged aluminum pistons; 11.5:1 compression ratio; 466 cid actual displacement; Weiand Stealth high-rise intake manifold; Meziere electric water pump; Ford Racing high torque mini starter motor; MSD Ignition distributor, Blaster-2 ingition coil; Accel ignition wires; Holley 850 4-barrel carburetor; Comp Cams custom camshaft; Hooker long tube headers; Engine work by Performance Crankshaft in Austin, TX
  • Driveline Powerglide 2-speed automatic transmission; Billet servo; Kevlar bands; Race clutches; 1.76 gearset; TCI adapter kit; B&M Pro shifter; Hughes 5000-rpm stall torque converter; Full spool; 4.10 ratio axle gears; 33-spline axles
  • Numbers 525 RWHP (est.) 10.77 @ 125.8 mph
  • Interior / Exterior Michele Kato's IHRA Drag Car
  • Chassis Custom Allies Automotive subframe connectors; welded torque boxes
  • Exterior Cobra front bumper cover; 4" cowl hood; Custom Panther Pink/White Cadillac pearl paint; GTS headlight covers
  • Interior 8-pt roll cage; Racing seat; Auto Meter Sport-Comp series 5" Tachometer with Memory, Manifold Vacuum gauge; Ford Racing Water temperature, Oil pressure gauges
  • Suspension AJE Tubular K-member; D&D A-Arms, coil over conversion; Lakewood 90/10 front struts
  • Wheels And Tires Weld 15-inch wheels; Mickey Thompson ET Fronts and ET Drag 29.5 x 10.5-inch at rear