Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
September 1, 2009
Contributers: Pete Epple

With the green movement in full swing, we think it's pertinent to show you can be done with an alternative-fuel-burning vehicle. Novi, Michigan's John DesOrmeau ditched gasoline a long time ago, choosing to run methanol in his dragsters, as well as his other track-ready cars.

"I race everything with alcohol," says John, who tells us that you can get VP Racing's M1 methanol for about $1.30 per gallon. That's certainly cheaper than gasoline, even when you factor in the cost of the bottle of Manhattan Oil upper lube that he adds to the 55-gallon drum. The M1 is 99.95 percent pure alcohol, so a lubricant is needed to protect the fuel system components.

"Alcohol doesn't have as big of a change due to weather," notes John, "which makes it more consistent than gasoline." Consistency is key when it comes to bracket racing, so with John fielding a dragster for years at the local Milan Dragway bracket races, it was only natural that he sought out consistency.

A steady diet of methanol has fed the majority of John's racing endeavors. When he was starting to plan his next build, an alcohol engine was the only way to go. With dragsters not allowed in the class John was looking to run, an S197 Mustang fit the bill perfectly.

Five hundred and fifty-seven inches of alcohol-fed Ford power sits under the hood of John's S197. A 1,250-cfm Holley Dominator built by Advanced Product Design sits atop the mill and feeds this hungry beast.

John started fresh with an '08 Mustang body-in-white as the base for his soon-to-be bracket brawler. A stock six-cylinder K-member sits up front, with stock struts and control arms keeping the wheels in line. Out back, a 9-inch rearend housing was installed where the 8.8-inch would normally sit. Moser 33-spline axles, 4.10 gears, and a Strange aluminum center section with a spool complete the third-member and help transfer power to the ground. The rearend is held securely in place by a set of custom control arms built by Diamond Race Cars. QA1 shocks cushion the rear and help keep the tires planted under hard acceleration.

Prior to building this Mustang, John's dragster was equipped with 557 inches of methanol-fed Ford power, and it was an easy decision to transplant the big-block Ford from the dragster to the Mustang. Extreme Machine of Whitmore Lake, Michigan, built the mill, starting with a mid-'70s 460 block.

After a thorough cleaning, the block was ready for some prep work. The oil passages were opened up and the block was filled prior to any major machine work. Once the fill was fully cured, the bores were widened to 4.440 inches (0.080-inch over stock) and the Scat stroker crank was laid in place. The combination of a 4.440-inch bore and a 4.500-inch stroke, coupled with 6.700-inch Eagle ESP rods, brings the total displacement to a massive 557 cubes.

John Had a full exhaust system fabricated to keep the eye-burning alcohol fumes out of the car.

When it came time to bolt the cylinder heads on the short-block, Extreme Machine turned to Flow Technologies in Plymouth, Michigan to supply the castings. Its EX-514 aluminum cylinder head comes with 2.350-inch intake and 1.880-inch exhaust valves, as well as a 71cc combustion chamber. A custom Crane solid-roller camshaft was installed to manipulate the valves. Extreme Machine then installed a custom-ported intake manifold and 1,250-cfm Holley Dominator carburetor, thus completing the build.

Once the big-inch bullet was finished, it was bolted onto the engine dyno at Extreme Machine for testing. On 114-octane race gas, the 557-inch mill was able to crank out a stout 902 hp and 763 lb-ft of torque.

It takes a lot to handle this kind of power, and John knows this. When it came time to pick a transmission, he enlisted the help of Masta Performance in Milford, Michigan, and a TH400 was soon mounted behind the new engine. Power is transferred through a 5,500-stall ATI converter, which turns the gearbox.

With the drivetrain done, John switched his focus to the interior. A 7.50-second-certified rollcage fills the driver's compartment, and two lightweight race seats with five-point harnesses keep the occupants safe. The Hurst shifter sits inside a stock center console, and a VFN fiberglass dashboard helps keep the stock appearance in the interior.

After all is said and done, John's S197 blasted down the quarter-mile to a best e.t. of 9.77 at 139 mph, and the 1.38-second 60-foot time is evidence of how well the car works. When John lines up his alcohol S197 at the dragstrip, the Christmas tree isn't the only thing going green.