Michael Galimi
November 1, 2007

At 68 years old, Don Bowles has spent his adult life providing and discovering new ways to power our lives. He's a coal miner from Kentucky whose energy production has lit up countless neighborhoods and cities throughout the United States. Don is also a big proponent of the renewable fuel and media darling, E85-a corn-based fuel aimed at reducing the United States' dependency on foreign oil. When not digging for coal or growing crops, Don can be found traveling the NMRA Keystone drag-racing circuit with a Roush Performance-backed Mustang that has doubled as race car and developmental piece for Roush and Ford Motor Company.

Don runs his racing team like he does his life-finding alternative ways to go faster or create power. He's an accomplished drag racer who has been through a variety of organizations and classes over the years, including NHRA. He has also forged a friendship with Jack Roush, the two having raced a variety of cars together, including Thunderbolts, Mustangs, and other fast Fords. Once the golden age of drag racing quieted down, Don spent his time growing his various businesses-until recently, that is, when he got the bug to race again.

Hmmm, what is it? We can tell you with confidence that this version of Ford's experimental V-8 sports 7.0 liters and makes about 800 hp in naturally aspirated trim.

For the past several seasons, Don has competed on the NMRA circuit, running in either the Modular Muscle or Open Comp index categories. Today, he continues participating in the drag racing scene and enjoys event weekends with his family, a variety of Roush employees, and others-including Roush's daughter, Susan, and her husband, Dale.

While Don hits the dragstrip exclusively in Roush Mustangs, they aren't the same ones you can buy off the showroom floor. Instead, he works with Roush engineers and members of Ford to help design, develop, and flog parts. His continuous push forward has brought forth new camshafts (emission-legal ones), crate engines, and other vehicle development. He also played a big part in bringing Jack Roush back into drag racing.

Don's first foray into NMRA drag racing two years ago was with a Stage 3 Mustang that ultimately paved the way for the Roush Drag Pak Mustang. Within a year, the Roush Stage 3's performance was pushed to the low-10-second zone. It left him wanting more, with the desire to start a new project. He handed the car down to his son, Don Jr., who competes with it in the Modular Muscle class. Don's next project would push the boundary of Ford performance and provide a platform for Roush and Ford to test various engine programs. The new car also forced him into a different racing category, NMRA Open Comp.

Don is in the energy business and quite supportive of E85 fuel. He runs it in all of his race cars and has done so for the past few years.

A Stage 3 car was stripped and put on a strict diet of carbon-fiber body panels, which were developed on Don's first Stage 3 race car. Next on the list was to cut away the rear section of the chassis and replace it with a dedicated drag-racing back-half configuration. Roush engineers collaborated with the folks at Mark Williams to design a four-link rear suspension befitting for this long-wheelbase Mustang. The front half is mostly stock save for an Anthony Jones Engineering K-member and A-arms. Strange Engineering was tapped for the adjustable shocks and struts.

The transmission of choice is a G-Force GF-5R five-speed with a McLeod clutch. It was the first time anyone has attempted to install that type of transmission in a S197, and the Roush crew spent considerable effort fitting it in place. As you can tell, custom fabrication and trying something new has been a consistent theme with Don's Roush racers.

Last year, this '06 Roush race car utilized a Ford GT engine that relied on mostly stock internal engine components, low-compression Wiseco pistons, custom Roush camshafts, ported GT heads, and moderate boost. With 650 rwhp, it pushed Don to the mid-nine-second range at 145 mph. The team utilized a FAST fuel-injection system to dial in the dual injectors and keep the engine running cleanly.