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1991 Ford Mustang LX Hatchback - All Fired Up
When a racer finally gets the chance to scratch a 30-year itch, he's going to be packing some serious heat.
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."