Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatured Vehicles
1986 Ford Mustang Coupe - The Torch
Passed Down From Father To Son, This Colt Continues To Burn Up The Competition.
If you attend any Mustang/Ford racing events throughout the year, such as the NMRA, Fun Ford, or World Ford Challenge, one of the most interesting things about the racers is that many of them have been involved in the sport for 10, sometimes 15, years. They were definitely pioneers of late-model Mustang racing who ushered in and unlocked the performance of Fox Stangs in the late '80s, starting out like many of us with hopped-up 5.0 Mustangs.
Today, you can find a few of the original guys running in the Pro classes, lapping the quarter-mile in under seven seconds. It must be a sign of us getting older then, that the second generation of Mustang drag racers is coming up into the ranks.
At a mere 17 years of age, Matthew DaSilva is taking the express route to where his father, Joe DaSilva, left off, and he's doing it with Dad's original 5.0 Mustang. Passed down to his son, this little red coupe started off as a new "family vehicle" purchase by dear, old dad.
"We went down to the Ford dealer to buy a new family vehicle and I saw this Mustang," Joe says. "I had no idea you could get a coupe with a V-8, so I was surprised when I opened the hood and saw the 5.0L engine. I figured it was a rare car, and I had to have it." Joe, who had been racing a Dodge product and as he put it, "hated Mustangs," showed up at the local car hangout to the amazement of many who just could not believe the Mustang was actually his.
It wasn't long before the Mustang saw its first modifications. The ring-and-pinion was changed, sticky tires were mounted up, the stock cylinder heads were ported, and the '86 intake manifold was swapped out for a then-new '87 intake.
Back in 1987, you couldn't just pick up your latest copy of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords and pick out some parts from one of the many adver-tisers like you can today. MM&FF was just getting out of the gate, and there was pretty much no aftermarket to speak of in terms of Ford EFI parts. All that was left was old-school hot rodding.
"We were getting frustrated with the EFI," Joe says. "There were no mass air meters and the whole induction system was becoming a big restriction." Looking to spin the motor higher and make more power, Joe decided it was time to switch to a carbureted setup.
Around 1992, the coupe received a 331ci stroker small-block in front of its Tremec five-speed transmission, along with a carburetor and a Compucar 150hp nitrous-oxide plate system. MM&FF Tech Editor Mike Galimi recalls, "I remember seeing that car at Englishtown in 1992 when it had a 331 with juice and a Tremec. It ran its ass off in like mid-to-low-10s. It had gold Moroso valve covers and a big, round air filter on top of the carb that matched the valve covers." Joe went 9.70s with that combination, which was quite quick for the time.
Pretty soon the word got out that this dude from Canada knew how to make Mustangs run fast. Modifying 5.0 Mustangs ultimately turned into a full-time job for the Ontario, Canada, resident when he started JS Performance. He later joined forces with his brother Paul, and the company became know as J&P Performance. Under the J&P banner, Joe and Paul tore up tracks from Ontario to Englishtown.
"We went to the Ford Motorsport Nationals at Maple Grove, Pennsylvania, in 1992 and 1993," Joe says, "and we met a lot of great guys, like Brian Wolf, Stormin' Norman Gray, and Gene Deputy. Wolf was really responsible for getting us more involved with the Mustang racing. We went to Milan Dragway after that and were hooked."
The little red coupe eventually became a major player in the Pro 5.0 class, running in Fun Ford and even MM&FF events. Its manual transmission, big juice hit and Joe's ultra-friendly attitude made him a hit with everyone.
"He was a mainstay of the circuit for a long time," says MM&FF Editorial Director Jim Campisano. "Joe and his brother were big supporters of the magazine, coming to our Rumble races. It was a high-profile car, and people loved it. I think the fact that it was a notchback struck a chord."
The coupe kept getting faster, and Joe's next moves were adding mini-tubs and a ladder-bar rear suspension. A Jerico four-speed transmission and another stage of nitrous oxide propelled the Pony into the mid-8-second range with a best lap of 8.41 at 176 mph.
"It still had the stock seats and looked stock on the outside," Joe says, "but it ran 8.4s consistently. We won a bunch of Stormin' Norman match races, the Showdown in Vegas, and we won against Buicks in Englishtown."
Eventually, the car's suspension was on the verge of being outdated. This was the impetus to retire the car, so Joe and Paul built a full back-halved '87 hatchback Mustang for the Pro class. Before long, the yellow LX that Paul raced became about as famous as the red coupe, and as the notchback kept improving on the track, the brothers often found themselves facing off against each other. "We ran the two-car team and would run identical 8.40s," Joe says.
The DaSilva racing team eventually ran its course, with Paul focusing more on his engine building than racing. The brothers retired both cars, while Joe went ahead with a '98 Mustang project. This ride was a full tube-chassis setup that used a pair of turbochargers for motivating its electronically fuel-injected small-block engine. Motivate it did-to the time of 6.39 seconds at a somewhat controversial 231 mph.
Turbochargers and EFI were a far cry from the carburetor and nitrous that Joe started out with, but the technology and aftermarket had finally caught up, not to mention this wasn't the first time Joe had raced a turbocharged ride. That previously mentioned Dodge product was an '86 2.2 Shelby Charger, and Joe told us he used to whip up on Mustangs all the time with it, including the red '86 coupe.
Having been retired, the Mustang was but a garage ornament-one that Joe didn't have room to keep. But he was able to sell it to a customer with the caveat that if he were to get rid of it, Joe had first crack at it. Three years later, Joe got a call, and he didn't even ask about the price. The once-proud notch had fallen into disrepair over those years, however, and a two-year, off-and-on restoration got it back into fine shape. The now defunct Coventry Lane in Scarborough, Ontario, did the bodywork and laid on the '05 Torch Red clearcoat paint.
"I bought the red car back with the intention of giving it to my son Matt for his 16th birthday," Joe says. "He's always been a good kid, always working with me at the track. He put up with a lot of traveling and never complained."
Matt is obviously no stranger to racing. He first got behind the wheel at the age of seven. "I had a few Jr. Dragsters, and Dad taught me how to drive a stick when I was 10 years old in his '00 Mustang," Matt says. "I learned how to powershift in my Ford Festiva. I always wanted the '86 since I grew up with it."
To see if Matt had the stuff race drivers are made of, Joe assembled a supercharged, 306ci combo with a Vortech S-Trim, Edelbrock cylinder heads, and a Tremec five-speed. In 2005 at just 16 years of age, Matt sidestepped the clutch and went 10.60 at 133 mph at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida. The father/son team hit a few more events throughout the year, getting valuable experience under the young driver's five-point harness.
In the winter of 2006, Joe and Matt decided to step up the powerplant and lower the elapsed times a bit. Since this effort was more centered on driver development than championship-winning performance, Joe sought out a used but proven engine combination for the little red coupe.
"The motor is a 359-inch Windsor that came out of Manny Buginga's Outlaw car," Joe says. Keep in mind this is the same motor that propelled Buginga's Fox body Mustang to 200 mph in the quarter-mile.
The Windsor-based Dart block was gone through by Pande Televski of Pande's Per-formance in Detroit, Michigan, and features JE pistons, Crower connecting rods, and a Scat crankshaft. Combined with the Trick Flow aluminum high-port cylinder heads, the engine provides a boost-friendly 8:1 compression ratio, which is good, since a Turbonetics T-88 turbo-charger is the power adder of choice for this Pony.
An Accel Gen VII DFI system is used to manage the Wilson Manifolds'-modified Edel-brock intake, and a water-to-air intercooler is used to chill the 22 psi of boost that the engine ingests a quarter-mile at the time.
The Tremec five-speed was replaced with a Performance Automatic, two-speed Powerglide transmission and a Neil Chance torque converter with a 4,200-stall speed. Power is transmitted through the venerable ladder-bar rear suspension and Wolfe Race Craft antiroll bar to a Ford 9-inch rear axle that houses a 3.55:1 ring-and-pinion, Strange axle shafts, and spool. Up front, the four-eyed filly has been updated with a UPR tubular K-member and control arms, Koni front shocks and UPR coil springs.
The updates continued to the interior, where Joe had LG Chassis in Mississauga, Ontario, install a Funny Car-style rollcage. Aside from the new AMS-1000 digital boost controller and intercooler that ride shotgun, the interior is mostly as Joe left it back in the day. It even still has the factory dashboard.
"We wanted to build a mild combination to get him into the nines," Joe says. "We wanted to take small steps and started off with low boost to go through the nines and eventually get him into the eights. In 2006 at 17 years of age, Matt got his NHRA competition license in Bradenton during a Pro Stock test session. Brandon Switzer, another old-school 5.0 racer from back in the day was testing with an IHRA Pro Stock team, and he and Joe signed the license.
Joe started Matt out on drag radials because of their more stable nature at the top end. Impressed with the traction of the 325/50/15 Mickey Thompson drag radial tires, they remain on for the time being.
"The car has gone 1.34-second 60-foot times on the drag radials," Joe says. "They work better than slicks and keep the mild-looking appearance." They work so well in fact that the red notchback has run a best elapsed time of 8.72 at 160 mph with Matt behind the wheel.
"I was in my 30s before I went eights and more than 150 mph," Joe says. "At 17, Matt's going 160 mph. He's having fun with it, and that's what's important. He's a really good driver. For a kid who's never staged a turbo car, his best light is a 0.015." Joe was 37 years old when he went 200. We wonder how long it will take Matt.
We'd be remiss if we didn't mention the numerous individuals who helped Matt and Joe bring the historic red coupe to where it is today. Freddy and Shane Ortines, Carl Gibson, and Pande Televski have all been integral components in getting the two back on track, as have been some of the team's sponsors, including MAT Trucking, Reider Racing and UPR Products. "I also wanted to thank Dan Schoneck for his help in Atlanta," Matt says. "He helped out with parts at the Fun Ford event."
Currently, Matt and Joe can be seen at various Fun Ford events running in the Renegade/Drag Radial class. A switch to a 91mm turbo should get Matt into the sevens, with a 101mm turbo to follow for low-seven-second power. With the ladder-bar rear suspension, it's hard to fit the car in some of the classes, but that may change sometime next year, as there are plans afoot to shoehorn Joe's twin-turbo motor from his '98 into a new S197 drag radial machine.
Now truly living up to Joe's claim of this being a family vehicle, this former regular of Mustang racing has not only been returned to its fuel-injection roots, but also to the 1,320 as Matt takes to the track in search of seven-second e.t.'s.