Geoff Stunkard
January 1, 2013
Photos By: Evan J. Smith

The '08 CJs were not as refined as the current models, so lots of work needed to be done to make them competitive racers. Don dove in and partnered with Bob Hallstrom and got the guys from JDM Engineering in Freehold, New Jersey, involved. The car was prepped in the way that only a modern Stocker can be, with a recurving of the fuel map in the supercharged environment, extensive driveline and car blueprinting (including clutch, transmission and suspension), and an exact attention to the things that will allow it to run fast. Don admitted the learning curve was frustrating.

In the spring in 2009, it ran in the 11s almost immediately, though it also began to eat tranny parts by the fourth pass. Racer and suspension guru John Calvert, who won the 2008 NHRA Winternationals in an '08 CJ, helped Don get the part numbers to replace everything behind the bellhousing. Barry Desalve of Tri County Performance was a huge help also.

Since then, he had been the number one qualifier in two-thirds of the national events he has entered, and there are eight "Wally" trophies on the shelf for class wins. Though a national event crown has eluded him, he went five rounds at Indy last year. Things changed this year as NHRA began making adjustments to keep everyone competitive as both Chevrolet and Dodge began releasing more package cars.

JDM's Jim D'Amore II gave some of the secrets up on a posting he made to the blog after the 8-second run. Rules changes for 2012 allowed the team to go to the aluminum replacement block, which was among several changes that began taking some of the weight out of the '08 package (as of this writing, it is still almost 100 pounds too heavy for AA). The TVS 2300 blower uses the stock upper pulley and a Cobra Jet 10- percent-overdrive balancer. What is underneath that is the real buildup -- things like a custom NHRA-legal JDM cam and spring package, custom Kook's headers, and an Aeromotive fuel system are all installed on a blueprinted JDM engine.

The trans is by G-Force Racing Transmissions with a McLeod clutch, four gears shifted by hand, just as Don has done since his L88 Nova days. Traction has been aided by a well-designed selection of springs and shocks and a set of wheelie bars. With the increase in speed, there was one more touch for the new season-a parachute. The 8.95 may just be the tip of the iceberg, as the car is still not clocking optimal 60-foot times and may get an even steeper diet.

Lots of people have a real passion for their cars; most only get a chance to own one at a time, and still fewer have a heritage that goes back to the formative days of the sport. These days, Don and Mary Lee still display their historic vehicles at nostalgia events, at places like Carlisle and the York US30 Reunion, when time permits. With an 8-second late-model making headlines in NHRA racing for them, these truly are their golden years.

1968 & 2008 Compared
1968 428 Cobra Jet Mustang 2008 5.4L Cobra Jet Mustang
Chassis builder: Ford Chassis builder: Ford
Wheelbase: 108 inches Wheelbase: 106 inches
Engine: CJ 428 FE-block Engine: 5.4L (330-cid) supercharged
Induction: Sidewinder intake, 735-cfm Holley 4BBL Induction: Blower intake, Aeromotive fuel injection
Camshaft: Comp flat-tappet Camshaft: JDM, NHRA-legal for Stock Eliminator
Headers: Jardines Headers: Kook’s
Transmission: Toploader four-speed Transmission: G-Force four-speed
Differential: 9-inch 4.56 Detroit Locker Differential: 9-inch Ford 4.30 Strange Engineering
Weight: 3,460 Weight: 3,370
Original owner: Phil Bonner Original owner: Don Fezell,
Wheels: Cragar front, American Racing rear Wheels: Bogart
Tires: Firestone 7.75x15 front, Goodyear 10.50x15 Blue Streaks rear Tires: M/T, rear slicks are legal, 29.5x9
Paint: Factory Wimbleton White, Mack Truck Blue highlights Paint: Wimbleton White, graphic by C.W. Graphics
Seats: Factory Mustang Seats: Lightweight Mustang, NHRA-approved
Gauges: Stewart Warner Gauges: Ford Racing
Best ET/MPH: 9.19 / 140 (match race trim, SOHC engine) Best ET/MPH: 8.95 / 153 (NHRA Stock Eliminator legal)