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1993 Ford Mustang LX - Tool Time
Tool Time: Willie Johnson scripts his own version of Home Improvement
If you've ever watched the TV show Home Improvement, you know that just about every time Tim Allen came in from the garage, it was after he got done wrenching on his street rod. While those who viewed the show never got a good look at the car, its presence was unmistakable.
Willie Johnson also has a love affair with his car, a '93 Mustang LX. Unlike the hit sitcom, however, everyone around St. Louis, Missouri, sees the blue devil. At 56 years of age, Willie has seen the musclecar era, along with the decline into the gas crunch of the mid-'70s. He has lived through the horsepower debacle that was the early '80s, and now resides in a world where 11- and 10-second street cars are more common. Throughout those years, where he held the pink slips to a number of vehicles, including both vintage iron and new-age Mustangs, it was a fateful day in 1995 that set the tone for his impeding conquest.
"I saw the car in 1995, when it was owned by a young lady," Willie says. "She was tired of her baby rolling off of the front seat, so I was more than happy to take the car off of her hands." With the deal struck, the young girl went her way and Willie went his. While we can surmise that the mother bought something a bit more suitable to drive, we know for sure the path Willie chose. He drummed up a horsepower-induced script that would make even Tim Allen jealous. "A friend of mine talked me into buying the car and building it up," Willie says.
As is the norm, Willie started out under the hood looking for more power. He ditched the 302, and while cleaning the engine bay for the new powerplant, he enlisted Woody's Machine to put together one heck of a stout engine. A Dart Iron Eagle block was procured and promptly punched out 0.030 inch over. After an Eagle 3.75-inch crank was laid down in the main web, the foundation of the 383 stroker small-block was firm with the addition of a set of Eagle rods and Diamond pistons. A Melling oil pump sprays the lubricant throughout the powerplant, while a Canton pan seals the bottom end.
With a blower in the works, a low compression ratio and lots of airflow were needed to take advantage of all that incoming oxygen. To allow for maximum power, a custom hydraulic roller camshaft from Brian Friedentas was slipped into the short-block. Next, a set of Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads were massaged by Mike Dake Cylinder Heads, before the aluminum pieces were laid upon their respective cylinder banks. With the heads sealing up the combustion chambers, a squeeze figure of 8.8:1 was just perfect for the supercharger to come.
The blower was only one part of the induction equation, however. A Trick Flow R intake manifold promptly made its way topside, followed by an Accufab 95mm throttle body and a 92mm mass air meter. Only then did the Vortech YSi make its way into the engine compartment, where it was set up to blow in 26 pounds of boost. Feeding the beast fuel is a Weldon 2025 fuel pump that has its fuel pressure set at 60 psi thanks to an Aeromotive regulator. As for tuning the stock EEC IV for the new combination, Willie enlisted the help of Bob Kurgan of Kurgan Motorsports, who twiddled the keys and made sure that each time the MSD Digital 7 box sent the spark to the NGK plugs by way of an MSD coil, distributor, and Taylor wires, things would be spot on. The muscular tone of the Mustang comes from the Kook's 2-inch primary custom long-tube headers that mate up with DynoMax Bullet mufflers and a sewer-pipe-sized 3 1/2-inch exhaust system.
With all of that power (970 rwhp and 700-plus rear-wheel torque) just a flick of the right foot away, Willie knew that a beefed-up driveline and adequate suspension changes were needed. A Dynamic Mighty Mite II C4 three-speed auto made its way between the back of the engine and the front yoke of the custom aluminum driveshaft. Squashed in the bellhousing is a TCI 9-inch converter rated with a 5,500 stall. The trans itself showcases a reverse manual valvebody and a transbrake. Keeping the fluid cool is a Dynamic cooler, and Willie hits the gears via a Hurst shifter. The driveshaft spins a set of 3.73 gears in the 8.8-inch rear, which is stocked with a set of Strange axles, as well as one of the company's spools.
Knowing that routine trips down the quarter-mile would be in the car's future, a set of PA upper and lower control arms, along with Strange 10-way adjustable shocks, team up with a PA chromoly K-member and a Flaming River manual rack to lighten the frontend and transfer weight to the rear. Upon launch, compression and rebound of the car is held in check with Strange adjustable shocks, stock springs, custom upper and lower control arms by Spence Hart, and a TRZ antisway bar. Subframe connectors tie everything together, while a rearend brace keeps the gears from getting launched out of the housing.
All of the suspension and powertrain work would be for naught if the power never made it to the ground. Solving that dilemma was the replacement of the stock wheel-and-tire combination, with a set of Bogart rims enveloped in Mickey Thompson skinnies up front and 28x10.5 ET Drags out back. Hidden behind the wheels are Aerospace brakes fore and aft.
"The paint was in great shape when I bought the car, so I didn't have a lot to do in that regard," Willie says. While he did make one change-ditching the factory bonnet for a Cervini's lid-he spent most of the time revamping the interior for both safety and legality. Pro Tree Race Cars installed the needed 12-point chromoly rollcage, which was promptly followed up by the installation of a pair of Kirkey racing seats, obligatory five-point harnesses, and a Grant steering wheel. The rear tire space was removed, and a set of Auto Meter gauges made their way into the cabin to clue Willie in to the happenings under the hood, as well as the right time to shift.
"The street manners of the car are acceptable," Willie says. We dig what he said about how he drives the Mustang on the track the best, though. "When it comes to my driving technique, I just let her eat." The Pony has quite an appetite, as it has ripped off a best elapsed time of an 8.90 at 156 mph. Oh yeah, and that comes with a 1.26 short time.
Willie says his wife would kill him if she knew how much time and money he invested in the Mustang. We say tell her it was part of his home-improvement plan. After all, the garage did need a makeover.