"The older we get, the better we were" is an old cliché, but there's no denying the soft focus of time has improved our memories. It's the same with the cars we love: They were the fastest things ever to pound pavement, and it's a wonder they didn't compete just a class below Pro Stock at the 'strip.
The fact of the matter is that most of our beloved muscle cars would have gotten waxed by a new Dodge Dakota. And it's a Dodge! A 12-second street car was virtually unheard of. Between then and now, technology has certainly smiled on cam design, torque converters, and tires, but the cars were also heavy, lumbering beasts with suspensions as sure-footed as a V-hull boat. We weren't joking when we said a new pick-up truck would out perform them-disc brakes, urethane bushings, and heavy sway bars are standard on just about everything, while the basic V-8 engines are making power we spent a lot of time and money to match then.
Sadly, it's all too common to see a restored muscle car click off 14 seconds and just squeak out a 100-mph in the quarter. One group of guys started changing that more than a decade ago with the Pure Stock Muscle Car Drags. These enthusiasts love the cars, they love them stock, and they gladly spend countless hours blueprinting everything to factory specs, and finishing the cars to as-new condition.
But, racers being racers, there were others who love the cars with equal enthusiasm, but wanted to push the envelope. It took about 30 seconds for these trouble makers to form their own class that's true to the way the cars looked when stock, but performance goals were based on the ideal of what the cars did in hazy hindsight. And so the Factory Appearing Stock Tire (F.A.S.T.) class was born.
The rules are relatively simple: look concours-correct, sound stock, and run on bias ply tires. The cars need to be a factory-produced muscle car designed for mass-consumption, not a factory Super Stock contender so Thunderbolts and Hemi Darts are out. They need to have factory block and head castings correct for the car, and they can't run nitrous, delay boxes, or any other trickery. Past that, nearly anything goes.
It was thought that even if the engines made big power, the limiting factors were going to be the induction, full factory exhaust, and especially the bias ply repro tires. After all, a riding lawn mower has nearly enough power to break those tires loose.
"When we went faster than 12.00, we thought that was it," says Dave Dudek, one of the group's original members. "When we broke into the 11s, we thought they couldn't go any faster. When we broke 11.50, we had to put rollbars in and thought that would be the end of it. Nobody ever thought we'd break 10.99, but now that we're running low 10s, no one is saying 'that's it.'"
Over the years, the stiffest competition has been between Mopars, ZL-1 Camaros and Corvettes, and a 455-powered Buick GS. The Ford camp really hasn't been well represented-until now.
Middle Town, Delaware's Lane Carry has bled Ford Blue since the beginning. Intrigued with the F.A.S.T. class, he set out to not only build a car, but to be competitive-no easy accomplished feat: Dudek's Hemi Roadrunner holds the class e.t. and mph records at 10.18 seconds, and a tick more than 137 mph.
There's a pretty basic formula for choosing a car to run in F.A.S.T.-size matters. In this case, a '71 Mach 1 was chosen for the initial 429 displacement, and more importantly, it's ability to go bigger.
Lane bought a decent 302-2v A/C car out of Nevada, and went to work transforming it. There's a ton more to building a F.A.S.T. car than simple displacement, and every piece is scrutinized and considered. We're about to divulge a number of class secrets here, so pay attention.
After disassembling the car, the unibody was tied together with lightweight chrome-moly tubing to stiffen everything. The front sheetmetal was replaced with reproduction stampings, ostensibly because the originals were too rough, but conveniently the repro sheetmetal is a touch thinner. It's no coincidence that every bit of front metal is secured with aluminum bolts, while lightweight but strong titanium fasteners are used for the engine mounts and door hinge hardware. Beginning to get the picture?
The diet doesn't end there-the impact beams in the doors are gone, the factory undercoating was scrapped, and a lot of brackets and other parts were recreated from aluminum. F.A.S.T. racers are a secretive group, so we sort of asked in passing if anything had found its way to an acid dipper, and Lane sort of answered in passing that a couple of pieces, like bumper brackets, might have. Maybe. Obviously, the A/C is gone, as is the heavy power steering, and brake booster. Things like the windshield wiper motor were externally restored and internally gutted.