"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.
The interior of any F.A.S.T. car is ripe for the diet as well. Lane didn't mention the hole saw, but we'd be surprised to find non-Swiss-cheesed metal behind the door panels. Radio and heater delete plates were installed, there's no jute under the carpet, and the seats have aluminum frames custom-made by Rhodes Custom Auto in Townsend, Delaware. Lane didn't mention it, but most F.A.S.T. racers remove as many seat springs as possible from the back and passenger seat, or remove the springs outright and replace them with foam. Nobody rides shotgun in a F.A.S.T. car.
The trunk is the only place "the look" is waived: a fuel cell, the battery, vacuum pump for the engine, and a few hundred pounds of traction-aiding ballast are tucked under the decklid.
Sneaky weight savings doesn't put a boat deep into the 10s, though-fanatic attention to suspension set up is essential. Calvert drag shocks, soft original front coils and reamed bushings allow quick suspension travel. The rear springs are Calvert mono-leaves with rubber strips epoxied to them to simulate individual leaves-remember, "factory appearing." Looking closely, one can see that the main leaf is there, but the other "leaves" are actually rubber strips epoxied in place.
The mono-leaf is lighter and controls the rear axle better than the stock spring pack. It looks stock, so it's legal. Traction bars are not allowed. Solid aluminum replaces the spring bushings, and there are no other traction aides as per the rules. The 9-inch rear is fitted with 4.11 gears, a lightweight spool, Yukon 31-spline axles, and a Strange aluminum carrier with aluminum pinion support that has been doctored to look OE.
A deviation from OE is the Aerospace disc brakes at all corners for safety. Factory 15x7 Magnum 500s are skinned with Goodyear Polyglass G60-15s, and Lane detailed the fronts by shaving the tread block on a vintage tire shaving machine, changing the profile to something closer to a Goodyear Front Runner, removing several pounds from the car and reducing rolling resistance with the smaller contact patch.
But still, there's no replacement for displacement. An original 429 block and SCJ heads are the foundation, but "factory" ends there. Tony Bischoff of BES Racing Engines in Guilford, Indiana, prepped the block with splayed caps before punching it 0.090 over to a 4.45-inch bore, and filling it with a Crower ultra-lightweight 4.75-inch stroke crank for 590 cubes. GRP aluminum pro-stock rods swing custom Ross 14.5:1 pistons, and the cam has "over 0.900-inch lift" according to the tech sheet, but that's the only info he'd give. Of note is the rule dictating the cam can't have a real choppy idle-it doesn't sound absolutely stock, but it's not far off at idle. Jesel lifters, titanium valves, and other super-stock tricks are found inside.
The SCJ heads were ported, welded, and epoxied by BES, and the iron intake was also reworked before being topped with a 735-cfm Holley that has been opened to flow 1,049 cfm. To improve flow, the venturi boosters were removed from the Holley carb-the big-inch engine moves enough atmosphere that the barrels themselves act as the venturi, pulling fuel through the tubes. To save even more weight, a Dove aluminum water pump and housing are used. The fluid was also removed from the fan's clutch to reduce drag-the fan will spin just by blowing hard through the radiator.
The factory exhaust manifolds were media ported by Extrude Hone and then sent to Gessler Head Porting in Blairstown, New Jersey, for porting and welding to make the most of the 2.5-inch factory-style exhaust system fabricated by Rhodes. A hidden MSD Digital 7 box and fiberglass repro air cleaner assembly round out the engine, which is good for a dyno-proven 825 hp and 800 lb-ft of torque. Backing it is a C-4 trans Lane built at his AAamco Transmissions franchise in Bear, Delaware. A 9-inch 4,500-rpm stall converter and aluminum driveshaft finish the package.
At press time, the car was so fresh it only had about 15 passes, but had already gone 10.34 at 135.2 mph. "There's more here," Lane told us. "I'm still tuning the engine and chassis, working the bugs out," he said, adding, "I still have 100 pounds to take out of the car, too. It'll get 'faster.'"
That's hard to imagine just looking at it. For more information on the Factory Appear-ing Stock Tire drags, visit the website at www.fastraces.org.