July 31, 2007

Jacob Littrell wasn't a famous race-car driver or builder, but the support and sponsorship his Mustang received would make you think twice. Manufacturers, racers, and friends (led by Jeff Stealy) combined their efforts to build Jacob's dream, a nine-second Mustang.

This story began when Jacob brought his broken engine to Stealy Performance in Moline, Illinois, for repairs. Little did he know that this specialty performance shop would eventually become a racing sponsor and one of his greatest supporters. Shop owner Jeff Stealy is a well-versed racer who is a standout in the NHRA Stock and Super Stock ranks, and an excellent engine builder. His kindness and dedication led to the fabulous '85 Mustang LX featured here.

Stealy Performance was given the task of rebuilding Jacob's 347ci engine, which had a burnt piston and toasted thrust bearing. Then, through the owners of Cordova Dragway, Jeff learned of Jacob's bone cancer. He felt compelled to help Jacob complete his dream of building a fast and fun Mustang. "I took it upon myself to start contacting the manufacturers that I dealt with on a regular basis," Jeff says. "I asked if we could get some parts at no charge to help Jacob."

The project began in November 2005. Jacob, unfortunately, left us too soon in March 2006, before the project could be completed. The passing of his friend fueled Jeff to continue his efforts and finish the Stang. Upon completion, the car would be raffled off and the proceeds donated to the Littrell family to help pay medical bills.

As word spread through the tight-knit racing community, the response was overwhelming. Plans were put in place to build an engine capable of running high nines in naturally aspirated trim, and a little sprinkle of juice would push the Mustang into the low nines or even the high-eight-second zone. The combination is a stout 8.2-deck Ford small-block engine that was punched out to 367 cubes.

Dart supplied a Sportsman block with billet main caps that was more than capable of handling over 1,000 hp-a number much greater than the planned output. Jeff dropped in a Scat stroker kit for the rotating assembly. The 4340 steel crank measures 3.400 inches, while the H-beam connecting rods are the common length of 5.400 inches. CP provided the pistons that percolate the air/fuel mixture at a compression ratio of around 11.5:1. The bottom end was fortified and ready for a serious dose of air and fuel. All the moving parts are kept lubricated thanks to a custom oil pan from Charlie's Custom Oil Pans.

The car hit the dragstrip last July at NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Drag Racing in Joliet, Illinois.

On the topside, Jeff chose Brodix ST50 heads that feature a M2 CNC-port job and 220cc runners. He elected to back-cut the 2.08-inch intake and 1.600-inch exhaust valves to help increase midlift airflow. A Comp camshaft bumps open the valves at a rather high lift-the intake valves open 0.700 inch while the exhaust valves drop into the cylinder 0.680 inch. The rest of the valvetrain includes a Jesel beltdrive system, T&D 1.6:1 rocker arms, Comp roller lifters, Manley double springs (heads machined to accept oversized valves), and Manley pushrods. An Edelbrock Super Victor intake manifold was ported by Wilson Manifolds and has a four-hole Wilson spacer. A Barry Grant Race Demon carburetor drops the air and fuel into the intake. Nitrous Express' Hitman plate system adds about a 200hp increase in power at the touch of a button. Aeromotive came through with an SS pump and adjustable regulator. The fuel pressure is set at 8 psi. A separate fuel-pressure regulator is set to the nitrous system, and that checks in with 10 psi of pressure.

The engine was stout, but it wasn't the only piece of the project that was supplemented by donations. Originally the goal was to build Jacob's ride, but its rusty condition made it unusable. An '85 Mustang LX coupe body was donated to the cause, and Jeff built the stripped shell into a dedicated drag car. Along the way, he received a lot of help from friends Craig Baldwin and Andy Burnett. Despite having a new shell to work with and the manpower to complete the job, some pieces to the puzzle were still missing.

The interior is sparse, and the driver is protected by a Jegster eight-point rollcage. Anthony Lane installed the cage and added a few more bars for safety and rigidity. Kirkey seats were chosen for their style and comfort.

Remember we said word was spreading quickly through the industry? NHRA Pro Stock racer and partner of Jegs Mail Order, Jeg Coughlin Jr., became privy to the situation. He popped open the Jegs catalog and started drop-shipping parts to fill the holes in the Stealy Performance wish list. The complete front suspension was donated, and it consists of a QA1 K-member, A-arms, coilover struts, and many other components. Jegs then sent over a Jegster eight-point cage to help get the coupe to nine-second SFI certification. Anthony Lane installed the mild steel cage and added a few more bars to help stiffness and make the car even safer. The rear suspension consists of Granatelli Motor Sport upper and lower control arms, also donated by Jegs. The Mustang was sprayed in Sonic Blue, and the only nonstock body piece is the HO Fibertrends cowl-induction hood.

In the midst of the build, there was more bad news: Jeff was diagnosed with cancer. He began the healing process with chemotherapy, but he tinkered with the car when time permitted. With the coupe close to completion, Jeff stepped up efforts to have it done by summer 2006. The Stang was fired up in July, and it debuted at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Drag Racing in Joliet, Illinois. The summer heat couldn't stop this meticulous race car from grabbing 9-second timeslips, and that was off the nitrous. After about a dozen or so passes, the best time was a 9.70 at 139 mph with a best 60-foot time of 1.38.

This coupe sits just right thanks to a QA1 front K-member kit and front coilover struts. Out back, Granatelli upper and lower control arms, a Quarter Max antiroll bar, and Afco double-adjustable shocks keep the back end sitting pretty. An 8.8-inch rearend features 9-inch ends, a Moser spool, Moser 35 spline axles, and steep 5.13 gears. All suspension parts were donated by Jegs Mail Order.

This tribute to Jacob Littrell will be given away once all the raffle tickets are sold. Contact Stealy Performance (309/792-3333) for information on how to obtain a ticket. There is a PayPal account for online transactions.

Jeff sums up all of his feelings about getting the car completed by saying, "All of the parts and labor were donated by people who have a heart and care."