Frank H. Cicerale
February 1, 2009
Photos By: Michael Galimi
Life is a blur when Perry takes his finger off of the transbrake button and lets it all hang out at the dragstrip. The reward? How about solid 8.40-second laps at upwards of 164 mph.

In the United States Navy, the Master of Arms is responsible for the police work on a naval vessel. He or she handles the small arms complement, as well as all of the policing and protection of the ship from within. While Perry Santini isn't in the Navy, he is involved in protecting people. As the president of Master Security in Miramar, California, Perry spends his days making sure people are protected. On the weekend, he protects the reputation of the modular engine with his turbocharged '86 Mustang GT.

Perry protects the modular name simply by being the only one brave enough to sling a mod motor into his NMRA Super Street Outlaw car (as of this writing). "I went this route for two reasons," Perry explains. "First, I wanted to be different. As of now, there are no mod motor/turbo combinations in Super Street Outlaw. Second, I did it for the weight break afforded to that combination, though trying to get this car down to the 2,700-pound minimum is almost impossible."

Ironically, the whole project started out with a compromise. "I originally wanted an '87-or-newer car, but I got a great deal on my '86 from a local cop," Perry comments. "Certainly, a coupe would be a heck of a lot lighter, but it is also more difficult to work on. Now that I have the car, I love it. There aren't too many four-eyed cars out there."

After picking up the Fox-body, Santini began to street race it locally before realizing that a safer venue was a much better proposition. "I was still street racing when I bought the car, and since then, things have changed drastically," Perry muses. "If you're caught street racing now, the car is impounded and you don't get it back. I didn't want to take the chance, and I liked what I saw in Super Street Outlaw. The car can run in Drag Radial, but Super Street Outlaw is more of an upscale class, although not when it comes to cost."

Knowing that to be competitive, low 8-second quarter-mile times (at the least) would be needed, Perry embarked on making as much power with a modular engine as he could. He ravaged a '99 Cobra for its 4.6L Four-Valve powerplant, and promptly took it home to his garage and dismantled it. The factory block was taken to Boss 330 Racing, where head honcho Al Papitto punched each cylinder out, bringing displacement up to 283 ci. While the stock Cobra crank remained, a set of JE slugs were pinned to a set of Manley connecting rods. A billet oil pump works in tandem with a stud girdle and a Milodon oil pan complete with a windage tray to control the lubricant and free up a couple of ponies.

Surprisingly enough, the rest of the powerplant is made up of stock components. The stock Four-Valve heads were machined at Boss 330 Racing, and were promptly laid down atop the short-block and finished off with stock '99 Cobra cams and cam followers. The heads feature the stock valve sizes, leaving the added power to come in the form of a turbocharger.

With the powerplant lowered and secured in the engine bay, Perry fabricated a custom upper plenum to work with the 90mm Accufab throttle body and Sullivan lower intake. Blowing in 30-plus psi of boosted air is a Precision 91mm hair dryer that has its intake charge chilled down by a custom Bell intercooler. Supplying the correct amount of go juice is a Weldon 2035 fuel pump and regulator that trims the fuel pressure to 40 psi. The fossil fuel is injected into the engine via 160-pound injectors, where it is met with the spark provided by a Big Stuff 3 ignition system, MSD wires, and NGK plugs. Perry did all of the tuning himself, and the powerplant, which exhales through a top-secret set of headers and a custom 5-inch exhaust system, pounds out 1,000-plus horsepower.

Per Super Street Outlaw rules, an automatic transmission was a must. Perry went the conventional route, as he slung a Performance Automatic-built two-speed slushbox behind the mod motor, but not before laying in a Performance Automatic flywheel and Neil Chance 4,300-rpm stall converter in the bellhousing. A B&M trans cooler keeps the fluid cool under race conditions, and Perry makes the single gear change via a B&M shifter. Linking the trans to the rearend is a custom-built carbon-fiber driveshaft.

While on the topic of the rearend, the venerable Ford 8.8-inch rear still resides, showing that a serious amount of power can be handled by the 9-inch's little brother, although Perry beefed it up with a set of 3.55 gears, C-clip eliminators, a spool, and an aluminum rearend girdle. When it comes to the suspension, strip only was the thought process. A pair of D&D Motorsports upper control arms and a manual steering conversion get the front end to shed some weight off the nose and transfer the heft rearward upon launch.

Since our photo shoot, Perry has revamped the entire front end with help and parts from Skinny Kid Race Cars. A set of upper control arms and SSM lowers suspend the rear and get it to hook along with Strange shocks, Moroso Trick springs, an antiroll bar, and custom subframe connectors. After a bit of trial and error, Perry relocated the rear to aid in traction on the starting line, as well as having thrown on a set of wheelie bars after hiking the wheels at the Columbus NMRA race and coming back to planet Earth hard enough to crack the oil pan. The rolling stock consists of Weld Pro Stars sized 15x3.5 fore and 15x10 rear. The bow rides along on Moroso DS2 skinnies, while the rear hoops are Mickey Thompson 28x10.5 gumballs. Braking duties are handled by Aerospace Competition brakes up front, stock drums out back, and a Simpson parachute.

The Fox-body was originally black and in rough shape, so a new look was obviously needed. A new hood and hatch were lowered on the flanks, followed by the application of numerous coats of Medium Canyon Red Metallic, an '86 SVO Mustang color. Once the paint was dry, an Ed Quay strutless aluminum wing was bolted on, and a hole was cut in the front bumper so the turbo could suck in copious amount of air.

The interior of the Pony is all business. The stock gray and black color scheme remains, though the cabin has been made legal for sub-7-second laps thanks to an NHRA-certified 25.2 chromoly rollcage. A pair of race seats and five-point harnesses keeps Perry and the invisible passenger secured tightly, and a window net is clicked into place right before he fires up the car for a trip down the strip. A bevy of Auto Meter gauges and an Auto Meter tach clue him in to the engine's vitals, and a shift light blinks on at the 7,300-rpm shift point.

Since our photo shoot, a couple of things have changed on Perry's four-eyed flyer. The exhaust is now routed out the side, and the aforementioned suspension changes were made to make the car more competitive and easier to handle. They must have worked as Perry made it to the final round at the '08 Columbus event, despite breaking the motor. All told, the car is good for solid 8.40-second e.t's, with trap speeds approaching 164 mph. This is all accomplished with a 60-foot time of 1.23 seconds.

"I love the fact that the car has a stock appearance, and has the mod motor," Perry comments. "Running a supercharger on a mod motor at this level doesn't work with the stock internals too well, and you just can't make enough power on nitrous with these small cubic-inch engines. I'm happy with the turbo/mod motor combination, and am really striving to be competitive in Super Street Outlaw with the car."

If the Columbus final-round appearance is a glance at things to come, the SSO field better look out. This Master of Arms is about ready to lay down the law.