Wes Duenkel
September 1, 2007

In NASA-Southeast's region, the driver of the #5 American Iron is a fixture of NASA's American Iron (AI) class. Affectionately known as "the M.A.D. man," you can usually find Mark A. Dandurand sharing a laugh with his fellow competitors between sessions. He's a sales professional by trade, and his friendly demeanor, charisma, and 'MAD' obsession for racing earned him an appointment as NASA-Southeast's American Iron Director for 2006.

Like most of his peers, Mark began his motorsports addiction with a Mustang. He purchased a 1996 Mystic Cobra and subsequently outfitted it with various track-rat goodies to improve its left-right manners. Some bigger brakes, suspension add-ons, supportive seats ... you know how it is. You get a little taste, and you come back for more.

Shortly thereafter, Mark spent a weekend in racing's red-light district, Road Atlanta's Panoz Racing school and got totally hooked. Soon, Mark's little track-action vice spiraled into a full-blown addiction. He started running around with the other addicts in NASA's multi-step program for drivers with the racing itch - the High Performance Driving Event (HPDE). Upon graduation, it was time to do some door-to-door racing. But, instead of hacking into his pristine mystic Cobra, Mark began to search for another car to feed the racing monkey ...

About this time Mark's relationship with speed parts dealer HP Motorsport was strengthening. After some searching, resident racer Paul Brown located just the thing to feed Mark's need: it was appropriately named too - 'El Diablo.' Wrapped in a blood-red package, it had components to keep Mark hooked. This nasty little thing was a 1996 Cobra that HP Motorsport had built for a customer in 2001 from a virgin 40,000-mile street car to campaign in SCCA's T2 category. The majority of the modifications performed (and allowed) were in the interest of safety including a full roll cage, which Mark was definitely going to need.

In a dimly lit parking lot in Omaha, El Diablo was loaded onto a transporter and 'smuggled' to Atlanta. Once delivered, Mark immediately began transforming it into an AI-worthy machine. The result of three years of development lies before you on these pages.

Like a Kalashnikov rifle, Mark's track weapon is deadly in its simplicity. You won't find any tricked-out suspension setup or a thumper motor, just off-the-shelf components from Maximum Motorsports and drop-in 2003 Mach 1 crate engine. The HP Motorsport-installed cage still remains, yet just about every other component on the car has been either replaced or upgraded.

The aforementioned Mach 1 mill inhales though a K&N filter located in the fenderwell, a C&L Trueflow inlet pipe, and an Accufab twin 60mm throttle body. A Canton road race oil pan keeps the engine on life support through high-G corners, but should the engine's oil pressure ever flatline from a G-overdose, Canton's Accusump will inject oil into the 4V's veins until it's resuscitated. Bassani 1-5/8-inch mid-length headers puff the exhaust through custom piping featuring an X-pipe, flat tubing, and side exits. El Diablo was then checked into Balanced Performance for computer rehab. Ed Snef prescribed a custom-tuned pill for the Ford EEC-V's brain, yielding 333 horsepower and 339 pounds of torque to their in-house treadmill.

What does it sound like? When Mark lights the ignition, the 4.6-liter responds with a sharp bark before settling into a mesmerizing throb. On track, El Diablo's pipes play Jimi Hendrix on trombone; raw, distorted, and powerful. But alas, like a lot of Jimi's music, it was determined to be too loud for some, so Mark installed two deflectors on the ends of the side-exits ... as if to say, "shhhhh" to the decibel meter.

When Mark is called to grid, a road racing clutch warms an aluminum flywheel, both from S.P.E.C. The combo regulates power to a T-5 gearbox encasing a back-stretch-friendly 0.84:1 overdrive. Mark selects ratios via a Pro 5.0 shifter before a Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft sends twist to a Torsen T2R differential crowned by a 3.90:1 rear gear set.

Besides adding pressure to his backside, Mark wanted to also feel it in his kidneys. Fellow American Iron racer Bo Dunnivant of Blue Oval Classics (Kingsport, Tennessee) outfitted El Diablo with the best that Maximum Motorsports had to offer, including their K-member, Bilstein coilovers, and rear torque arm arrangement. Mark dresses 17x9-inch Konig Villian wheels with shaved 275/40-17 Toyo Proxes RA-1 rubber (the specified tire for American Iron). The result is a no-nonsense handling package that is as predictable as it is quick.

American Iron rules dictate that the vehicle must weigh at least 9.5 pounds for every horsepower and at least 9.0 pounds for every pound-foot of torque. According to his Balanced Performancedynamometer numbers, Mark calculated his car should lose some weight. El Diablo coughed up its front fenders, hood, and glass in favor of lightweight carbon fiber pieces from Tiger Racing. How light? Try five pounds for each front fender and a scant eight-pounds for the hood, the latter incorporating louvers to vent underhood air pressure and heat. Lexan windows were installed all around to further lower the center of gravity and reduce overall heft.

As many racers know, keeping a Mustang attached to the pavement at speed can be quite a challenge. To that end, Mark installed a massive HPM rear wing to plant the rear and a Razzi front bumper cover to deflect air from packing underneath El Diablo's nose.

When it's time to scrub speed, Mark stabs the middle pedal, immediately working hardware from Wilwood. Up front, 6-piston calipers chomp down upon two-piece 13-inch rotors like a pitbull on a postman's tibia. In the rear, Wilwood rear rotors and pads get the squeeze from the factory-supplied calipers. The setup is potent; it slows El Diablo like the big HPM wing snagged a bungee cord strung across the track between the 100-foot markers.

With Mark living just a few miles from Road Atlanta, it's not likely that he'll be kicking his 'M.A.D.' road racing habit any time soon. Though the course's dozen turns may be considered a 12-Step Program for racing addicts, the first "step" is a hard right-hander.

Specifications
Mark Dandurand's 1996 SVT Mustang Cobra

Engine
4.6L 32-Valve Modular V8 Mach 1 crate motor

Engine Modifications
K&N filter relocated to fenderwell, C&L inlet tube, Accufab twin 60mm throttle body, Canton road race oil pan, Accusump; Maximum Motorsports oil filter relocation kit, Bassani mid-length headers

Engine Management
Ford EEC-V processor Ed Snef (via Balanced Performance) custom tune

Driveline
S.P.E.C. Aluminum Flywheel, road racing clutch; road-race spec T-5 gearbox w/0.84:1 overdrive, Ford Racing aluminum driveshaft, 3.90:1 gears, Torsen T2R differential

Brakes
Wilwood 6-piston front calipers, 13" 2-piece front rotors, rear rotors and pads

Wheels/Tires
Konig Villain 17 x 9" wheels Toyo Proxes RA-1 (shaved to racing tread depth)

Chassis
Maximum Motorsports strut tower brace, K-member brace and full-length subframe connectors

Suspension
Maximum Motorsports "Maximum Grip Box," including: K-Member, front control arms w/ urethane bushings, front coil-over conversion Kit, adjustable tie-rod ends, standard torque-arm, solid steering shaft, aluminum rack bushings, Panhard bar with aluminum rod, adjustable rear swaybar, caster/camber plates, rear lower control arms without spring perch or swaybar mount, Hypercoil coil-over springs, rear coil-over conversion Kit, Bilstein HD struts and shocks, urethane swaybar bushings, urethane swaybar endlinks,

Exterior
Tiger Racing carbon fiber front fenders, "Super Louver" carbon fiber hood; Razzi front bumper cover, Lexan replacement windows, HPM rear wing

Interior
HP Motorsport road racing roll cage, Ultrashield aluminum race seat,Autometer and VDO gauges