Stephen Kim
October 3, 2006

Asphyxiating fumes trying to turn your lungs into organic sludge and charred floors disintegrating from beneath your feet can make for a rather stressful day. Surely, extinguishing flames isn't the easiest way to make a buck. On call at the station around the clock, these boys live on the edge, springing from their slumber, suiting up, and heading out to death-cheating conditions in less than 100 seconds. That kind of intensity requires a productive manner through which to be diffused, and Dallas fireman Tom Malouf's solution of building a '91 LX hatch worked so well, it now runs 5.20s at 138 mph in the eighth-mile.

Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the car isn't so much its stellar performance or street-car-like 3,200-pound race weight, but its brief two-year gestation period. A street racer in the '70s, Tom was busy taking care of other priorities in life for the better part of three decades, but returned to an eighth-mile dragstrip one day just to watch. There, a turbo Fox running 4.90s reignited his competitive passion to race. "I went over 20 years without racing anything, and after seeing a turbo car run for the first time, I knew I had to build one," says Tom. "If I couldn't build a turbo car, I wasn't going to race."

Rather than build a bastard relegated to test-and-tune night exhibitions, Tom set out to race in the Texas True 10.5 series (www.texastrueten5.com), a sanctioning body that holds little-tire events throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth region. For guidance in putting his turbo combo together, Tom turned to Bill Duke, a paint and body man who happens to know a few things about turbo motors. "When I got started, I didn't know the difference between a turbo and a wastegate," says Tom. "Bill has been the backbone of putting this setup together, and without him we'd be lost."

Expecting close to 300 passes out of the engine, short cuts weren't part of the game plan. The 347 features a Dart block at its core, fitted with a Scat billet-steel crank, Oliver rods, and CP 9.2:1 pistons. The bottom end is capped with a set of Trick Flow High Port heads worked over by Mike Smith Machine Shop (Fort Worth), and a Reichard Racing plenum feeding a Trick Flow lower manifold. A custom Comp solid-lifter cam and T&D shaft rockers actuate the valves, and a Canton oil pan holds the lube. The big hoss in the talent show, however, is the Precision Turbo & Engine 91mm turbo. It's tamed by a FAST standalone box, which pulses a set of mammoth Ford Racing 160-lb/hr injectors. At this power level, dynos are a crapshoot, but output is estimated at 1,500 hp. With eighth-mile trap speeds approaching 140 mph, that figure seems entirely reasonable.

Backing it all up is an FB Performance Pro Max Powerglide anchored in place by a JW bellhousing. A Competition Engineering 9-inch rearend encasing a Strange third member with 4.10:1 gears and Moser 40-spline axles endures inclement 1.27-second 60-foot times. As is common in 10.5 racing, since the tires can't be wide, they're awfully tall. The Mickey Thompson meats measure 29.5 inches and are housed in mini-tubbed wheelwells.

Preventing the tires from being overburdened is a ladder-bar-style rear suspension and a Wolfe Racecraft sway bar. A D&D Motorsports K-member and front control arms pare some mass, and QA1 coilovers transfer weight when Tom lets off the transbrake.

Putting it all in action, Tom's currently enjoying bringing home some purse money by routinely finishing first or second in the Extreme Street class, and an average of 10 to 15 cars show up at each Texas True 10.5 event. Maybe it has something to do with that whole stress-relief thing, but Tom's far from done. He plans on stepping up to a 101mm turbo with a bigger intercooler, making the jump to Limited Street, and shooting for 4.90s.

The incessant quest for excellence isn't all his handiwork, however, as his two sons Craig and Bryan do the bulk of the behind-the-scenes scheming. "Without them, I wouldn't be racing," says Tom. "They're constantly working on improving the car so all I have to do is drive."

Fortunately for us, Tom didn't take up some testosterone black hole of a hobby like yoga or watching reruns of Will and Grace to channel the stress that comes from his line of work.

"With a job like this, you have to make time to do something that you really love," he says. "Some people play golf, but I'd rather race. It's the most fun you can have with your clothes on."

0606mmfp_01z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Front_view_passengers_side
Burning taxpayer-funded fuel for hours to keep the trucks lit up while waiting for the that perfect 5-minute window of light really makes you feel good at the end of the day.
0606mmfp_02z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Engine_view
Occupying impressive acreage of real estate underhood is a 91mm PTE turbo. A Griffin radiator and SPAL fans keep the 347 running cool, and a Weldon 2345 pump and regulator fuels the monster.
0606mmfp_03z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Hood
A custom PTE air-to-air intercooler measuring 5 inches thick chills the heady doses of compressed air. The 4-inch cowl-induction hood is from Cervini's.
0606mmfp_04z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Engine_view
Dawson Racing built the custom ceramic-coated turbo headers, and fumes exit from the turbo into a custom 5-inch DynoMax single exhaust.
0606mmfp_05z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Parachute
Four-piston Aerospace Components brakes take over stopping duties once the 'chute scrubs off most of the speed. A custom 15-inch wing keeps the back planted at the far end of the track.
0606mmfp_06z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Wheel
The wheels of choice are a set of Weld AlumaStars. The Mickey Thompson ET fronts measure 25x4.5x15.
0606mmfp_07z 1991_ford_LX_hatch Interior_view_steering_wheel
Inside the cabin are Kirkey seats, a Grant steering wheel, Simpson belts, a full slew of Auto Meter gauges, and even a stereo.