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1991 Ford Mustang LX - Red, White, and True
Manny Buginga's 1991 Ford Mustang LX gets it done on 10.5-inch slicks in 7.37 seconds at 194 mph.
The announcer in the tower calls it the 10.5-Inch Tire Freak Show, and he couldn't be closer to the truth. "It" refers to the NMRA's Super Street Outlaw category. This type of race car is truly a freak of nature by drag racing standards. On any given weekend during race season, there are a group of Mustang racers who take to the track in search of mid-7-second glory with little more than a set of 28x10.5-inch slicks. You know--slicks that are like what's on the back of your Pony. These maniacs make it look easy when wrestling a car down track with over 1,600 hp under the hood.
Oftentimes, winning and losing are decided in the opening seconds of the race. What separates the men from the boys is not just the horsepower, but the application of that power thanks in large part to the smallish sized tires. The difference is sometimes as little as a few degrees of timing in the customized ignition-timing curve. A chassis can be set up perfectly, but if the tuner gets too aggressive, these cars put on a smoke show instead of a mid-7-second, 180-plus-mph display of speed. The real 10.5-inch slicks are that temperamental and sensitive.
The leader of the 10.5-Inch Tire Freak Show in 2005 was Manny Buginga, an unassuming and dedicated racer from Brockton, Massachusetts. His efforts rewarded him with the coveted NMRA Super Street Outlaw class championship and a title from the prestigious World Ford Challenge extravaganza. Manny's performance rivaled few in the history of the category. A large part of that success is due to former NMRA SSO champion and legendary tuner Job Spetter Jr. of Turbo People, who handled the crew chief duties.
In addition to the two titles, Manny set a world record with a 7.37 at 194.04 mph at WFC 8--the quickest pass ever on real 10.5-inch tires. He has his sites set on capturing the speed record as well in 2006. It is a feat that will require him to top the magical double-century mark.
"I want to go 200 mph next year," Manny says, usually a laid-back and humble guy. But the talk of records and glory gets his competitive juices flowing. If you think his success is a result of coming from the loins of a longtime drag racer or due to family wealth that he used to buy his way to the top, then you would be greatly mistaken. He works at the family's construction company and replaces extravagant vacations abroad with working hard on weekends at the strip. In between digging ditches and pouring cement, he is on the phone with all sorts of manufacturers, tuners, and racers talking racing. For Manny, the main job is racing, although he has a second one to pay for that addiction.
His workplace is a 3,120-pound Mustang LX coupe that has been fitted with only the bare essentials for safety and performance. DMC Racing recently updated the rollcage to the strict SFI 25.2 specifications. A series of rollbar tubing now surrounds the driver on the top, the bottom, and the sides. The 25.2-style cage also stiffens the unibody to withstand the 1,600-plus horsepower under the hood. Stock framerails are in place and have been modified to fit the rear tires. The hood and front bumper have been replaced with carbon-fiber ones from Skinny Kid Race Cars, and all other body components are factory supplied, as is the OEM safety glass.
How does this car perform so well with so many stock components? The answer lies in the details. The front suspension utilizes a lightweight, tubular K-member with tubular A-arms by Skinny Kid.
The front struts came from Strange Engineering, and the rear shocks are coilover units, also from Strange. The factory rear sus-pension has been ditched in favor of chromoly ladder bars. Their length and angle is kept secret, though. The shock and strut adjustments vary based on track conditions. Strange lightweight brakes sit at all four corners and utilize dual calipers. These help Manny hold the car with the footbrake when he brings up the boost before he bumps into the staging beams.
A 9-inch rearend replaced the 8.8-inch piece. An interesting fact is Manny had to turn to a fabricated 9-inch housing after the season. He started the year off with an iron 9-inch from a passenger car, which was braced up, but the hard launches took their toll, and by year-end the housing was bent. One call to Skinny Kid solved that problem. The new rearend is standard equipment in Pro Street cars and should hold up just fine in this application. It has been filled with a lightweight third member and the gear ratio is a highly guarded secret. It all goes back to the part about the details making all the difference between winning, losing, and setting world records.