Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatured Vehicles
'85 Mustang - Punishing The Competition
Big-Block Power Puts The Little Guys In Their Place.
When Mustang owners became serious about going fast in Fox-body Mustangs, many adopted the old adage "there's no replacement for displacement." The small-block Ford engine was coming on strong, but fuel injection was still in its infancy. Soon, people were swapping in 351 Windsor blocks with carburetors, and a select few even shoehorned in the big-block 385-429-460 series of engines for stump-pulling torque and power.
These days, big-block power is even more popular now that the technology to fuel inject them has become commonplace. No matter how you supply air and fuel, big-blocks make big power, and when Lake City, Florida's Kenny Bingham wanted to buy a fast car, a big-block- powered Fox-body was just what he needed to settle some local grudge races.
The '85 Mustang pictured before you looked very different when Kenny loaded it onto his trailer to take it home. Purchased from HP Performance's Tony and Sherry Gonyon (Orange Park, Florida), the Pony wore its original four-eyed headlight configuration along with the rest of its '85 vintage attire. Most notable, though, was its bright pink paint with black trim-an odd, yet exuberant, choice of color that has covered all three of Gonyon's muscle Mustangs. Known as "Pinky III," the coupe sported a 514ci powerplant and a combination fogger/plate nitrous system that propelled it to a best quarter-mile performance of 8.79 at 158 mph.
Pinky's track cred was earned at numerous Florida strips in various heads-up racing events, including the No Bull Nationals, the No Lip Nationals (both of which are similar to MM&FF's True Street competition), as well as an NHRA Street shootout. Tony placed Second in the No Bull Nats one year, and he received a Wally for winning the NHRA shootout. The brightly colored Fox-body also did well at MM&FF's own Spring Break Shootout events over the years.
The grudge racing at Florida's racetracks was getting thick, and after being challenged by a couple of guys with a hot Camaro, Kenny needed a fast Ford to shut them up.
We've had some Fox-body Mustangs and a '98 SN-95 that snowballed out of control," Kenny says. "I thought about building a big-block car, talked to Tony about it, and he offered to sell me his car." After thinking it over for a while, Kenny called Tony again and the offer still stood.
"I like to mess with Tony," Kenny says, "so I showed up the next day with a manila envelope that had 'Little Kenny's College Fund' written on it." That envelope was chock full of cash (though, thankfully, not little Kenny's college fund), and Kenny's only stipulation was that Tony drive and maintain the Mustang, which was a win-win situation for all parties involved. Shortly thereafter, the grudge race was set, but it didn't go in favor of team Mustang.
"We were in Georgia at South Georgia Motorsports Park," Kenny says. "We didn't realize that the track operator and the Chevy guy were friends, so when he told Tony that the track was loose at the 1,000-foot mark, Tony erred on the side of caution and left the second stage of nitrous off." The Chevy pulled about two car lengths on the coupe at the end of the track.
"I was on the phone with Voss Racing Engines (VRE) ordering a new motor before we even rolled out of the track gate," Kenny says. The 514, which was based on a Super Cobra Jet block, was getting old, and since more horsepower was in the new recipe, Tony showed Kenny a Ford Racing Performance Parts A460 block that he had planned to put into the coupe. VRE in Live Oak, Florida, already had a rotating assembly to slide in the big-block anchor, and it consisted of a Sonny Bryant crankshaft, GRP aluminum connecting rods, and Venolia pistons. Bore size was milled to 4.610 inches, while the stroke swings 4.500 inches for a total of 605 ci.
The VRE-built cylinder heads are A460 aluminum pieces that feature titanium 2.35-inch intake and 1.90-inch exhaust valves. Conducting the valvetrain symphony is a custom-designed, solid-roller camshaft whittled out by Comp Cams. After consulting with the folks at www.bigblockfox.com, Tony was directed to Lem Evans who frequented the www.460ford.com message boards. Lem and Charlie Evans are well known for being big-block gurus, and they picked the cam based on the engine size and goals that the owner and tuner had in mind. The cam specs, however, remain shrouded in mystery, as the spec boxes on our tech sheet were filled in with "Big" and "Big" under the duration and lift categories.
The induction setup for this engine was run in two configurations on the engine dyno. First, a tunnel ram with a pair of four-barrels twisted up the dyno to 1,086 hp. Then, the single Pro Systems 1250 carburetor and Trick Flow intake manifold were bolted up and produced an equally stout 1,040 hp-and we haven't even cracked open the nitrous bottle yet. Kenny decided to stick with the single four to keep things under the composite hood.
The Trick Flow intake necessitated a change in the nitrous-plate system on the car, as the new, taller intake manifold would no longer clear the hood. After consulting with Edelbrock's Director of Motorsports Steve Johnson, a new Edelbrock E3 fogger system was plumbed in to join the E2 fogger that they already had. Currently, both nitrous stages are utilized and jetted for a total of 350 hp, at least until the car is fully sorted out. Edelbrock's 71900 progressive nitrous controller is used to ease in the onslaught of N2O, while an MSD 7531 keeps the engine's endless supply of torque from spinning the wheels.
One of the requirements of the No Bull races was that the car needed to be muffled. Bullet-style mufflers barely do anything with regard to sound attenuation, so Tony started with a set of D and D Automotive headers and fabricated a 3.5-inch x style crossover pipe that feeds a pair of DynoMax welded Ultra Flo mufflers. The car is so quiet that some have mistaken it for a turbocharged Pony. Yes, you can have relative peace and quiet in addition to blistering quarter-mile power.
While the engine was being built, Kenny took the opportunity to give the car a makeover. The hot-pink notchback was easily associated with Tony and HP Performance, so Kenny was eager to make it his own.
"I'm not a big four-eyed headlight kind of guy, so we converted the car to the later-model bodywork," Kenny says. All of the '85 window and body trim were switched to the smoother '87-'93 parts, as were the headlights and taillights. Orange Park, Florida's Visual FX was put in charge of the makeover, which included a complete color change. As it turned out, Kenny had bought a customized golf cart from Visual FX proprietor Paul Holman before buying the coupe. The cart was lathered in a custom DuPont Hot Hues shade of copper/orange pearl that bears a striking resemblance to Saleen's Beryllium hue.
Transferring the tremendous power output to the pavement is an Alan Pope Performance Products (Hilliard, Florida) Powerglide transmission and torque converter. The 4,200 stall speed may sound a bit tight for such a fast machine, but the big-block nitrous-enhanced torque flashes it a bit higher when they put the screws to it. The rearend is a Ford 9-inch unit with Moser 35-spline axles and a spool. Currently, the 3.25:1 ring-and-pinion ratio is too steep, and Tony is searching for a 3.0-something gear to bring down the top-end rpm range.
Connecting the coupe to the ground are Weld Draglite wheels wrapped in Mickey Thompson rubber. With the 514 aboard, Tony had great success running Goodyear's new drag radials, but the 605 requires something a bit gummier, so the M/T drag radials got the nod. Careful adjustments (i.e., hammer time) to the inner and outer fenderwells allow the use of 325/50/15 tires out back. The car is set up to use wheelie bars, but the chassis has worked well without them for the most part.
Inside, the stock '85 interior largely remains, though a 25.5-certified rollcage has been welded in by Amil Rayot of Pompano Beach, Florida. A Dedenbear shift solenoid makes the sole gear change happen in an instant, and at the big end, Tony hits the Stroud chute launcher to bring the beast down from speed. On motor alone, the coupe has charged to a 9.10 at more than 150 mph. The big fun happens when the nitrous comes on. Though they've been sneaking up on the tune-up, a 350hp shot has propelled The Punisher to an 8.35 at 167 mph, with a 1.41 60-foot time. Working on the nitrous delivery through the Edelbrock controller is the present challenge, though finding time to get to the track is probably the bigger obstacle.
When we asked Kenny what was next for the car, it wasn't a performance part that came up first. "I'd like to get Kenny Jr. behind the wheel of our 306ci, supercharged coupe, and then move him up into The Punisher," he says. "My daughter Alex probably loves racing more than anyone else in the family. I'd like to have both of them driving the blower car next year. I've already upgraded the six-point rollbar with a 12-point cage. Heck, I may even put bars on the roof. Certainly they need to get their feet wet in the slower car, which has already gone 10.43."
By the time they've aced that, we imagine Tony will have The Punisher fully sorted out and ready to take down those Chevys when they come calling.
"I've always liked flames and skulls," Kenny says, "so I came up with the graphics to add to the color." After laying on the vibrant DuPont basecoat, Holman laid down the charcoal ghost flames and airbrush work that include numerous skulls patterned after the symbol from the main character of the comic book The Punisher. Despite the HP Performance staff dubbing the newly orange-painted Pony "O.J.," Kenny and his family are sticking with "The Punisher"-something they hope to do to the local Chevy contingent.
The HP Performance crew is certainly entitled to its opinion, as it built the car from the ground up. From its early 514 powerplant to the new 605-inch bullet, Tony and his band of merry mechanics turned all of the wrenches on the car, including the suspension.