Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
December 1, 2007

In our ongoing search for ladies who own fast Mustangs, we offer you Aiken, South Carolina's Grace Howell. Although she looks great pictured next to her muscle Mustang, Grace's favorite place is behind the wheel of her colorful '95 Cobra R Super Stock Stang.

Grace's affection for drag racing started at a young age. Since day one, her father, Bill Howell, has been running Super Stock in his '70 Drag Pack Mustang. Until Grace was born, her mother, Janice, was also behind the wheel in a '71 429-powered Cougar.

It wasn't long before Bill and Janice's daughter slipped behind the wheel of a race car, where, at the age of eight, Grace began her competitive career in Jr. Dragsters, and two years later, in 1996, she took the national championship for 10-year-olds. At the age of 16, she stepped up in a big way, moving into the NHRA Super Stock ranks. Her car of choice was a prototype '93 Cobra R Mustang. Rumor has it the snake was sold to a Goodyear rep who converted the former press/photography vehicle into an NHRA contender. He ditched the fuel-injected 302 powerplant and replaced it with a high-winding, 289ci small-block, which is legal in the Super Stock GT classes. After a few turns behind the wheel, Grace was looking to go faster, so in 2004 the family picked up the '95 Cobra R Mustang pictured here.

This ride was also a factory prototype or preproduction model, and its previous owner had campaigned it in quarter-mile competition. MPR Race Cars in Almont, Michigan, took care of the rollcage and back-halved the car to fit the big 14.5x33 Goodyear rubber inside the Pony's quarter-panels. Between the Weld Aluma Stars is a Ford 9-inch rear end that houses a spool, 40-spline axleshafts, and a steep 5.29 rear gear. The "Nine" is held in place by a four-link suspension with Koni shocks.

Up front, the standard Ford-issue suspension works with a pair of Koni struts. Sure, there's lots of weight that can be removed, but this is Super Stock, and you aren't allowed to do much except install replacement struts, springs, and the Weld Racing pizza cutters.

Putting that large amount of rear rubber to good use is a '74 460ci engine that's been punched out 0.070 inch for a total of 473 cubes. Carolina Machine Engines of Johnston, South Carolina, handled the engine build, which uses ported factory head castings, a Lunati solid roller camshaft, a Hogan sheetmetal intake manifold, and a wee little Holley 600-cfm carburetor. "We have to use the carburetor that came on the engine," Grace says. "We can use an 850 Thermoquad, but the Holley is more consistent."

Behind the big-block is a C4 automatic built by ProTrans Transmissions in Riverside, California, along with a 6,000-stall converter from Munsinger Torque Converters in Chino, California. Grace clicks the gears via a Turbo Action shifter, and when all 675 ponies have been put to the pavement, the Cobra strikes with high-flying launches and consistent high-nine-second quarter-mile times. Her best elapsed time is a 9.69 at 137 mph.

Grace regularly competes in NHRA's Division 2 in the Super Stock GT/EA class, but the Howell Racing team travels quite a bit outside of that division as well. "We usually go out West about three times a year," Grace says. "We go to Sonoma, Vegas, and Pomona, too." The Howells also travel to Englishtown, New Jersey, and they stop at the U.S. Nationals at Indy every year. Luckily, Rusty Hall, an accomplished racer in his '67 Mustang, is a Howell Printing employee, so he stacks the three-car rig with his Pony, along with Grace's and her father's '70 Mustang, and does the majority of the road driving for the team.

While Bill contemplates turning his original '70 Drag Pack Mustang back into a street car and putting his race drivetrain into another chassis, Grace is looking to take a different route. "The coolest thing would be to run Pro Stock, but I may move to Super Stock Modified," she says."I run my dad's car occasionally and have also considered building an EFI Stock Eliminator car."

There's no doubt that whichever path she chooses, we'll be sure to see Grace behind the wheel of one Mustang or another. In addition to her race car, she also owns a '67 Mustang, a '69 428 Drag Pack Mustang, a '94 Cobra, and her most recent acquisition, an '07 Shelby GT500. You never know. There just might be a 5.4-powered Super Stocker somewhere in her future.