While turbochargers in an automotive application have been around for decades, their popularity has ebbed and flowed. Over the last 10 years or so, though, they’ve taken a firm grip on the late-model Mustang market, and the amateur drag racing scene. Bonaire, Georgia's Chris Lancaster used his turbocharger experience with late-model Mustangs to propel the classic quarter-mile contender you see here.
Chris had built numerous Fox-body Mustangs and was looking to do something different. As if his modular-powered, turbocharged Fox-bodies weren't different enough, Chris purchased a rusted heap of a '66 coupe from his dad and decided to construct a classic version of the combination he had proven over the years.
The intention, once the car was completed, was to compete in the NMRA's True Street class--something he had done on a number of occasions with his late-model missiles. He also opted to stick with the turbocharged modular engine for propulsion, as it, too, is different when it comes to classic Mustang engines.
Chris' father, Kert Lancaster, builds street rods for a living; so Chris learned all of his fabrication skills right at home, which is where this car was built as well. Starting with a very rusty Mustang, Chris cut everything from the car leaving only the roof and rockers.
"Dad built street rods since before I was born, and I grew up around fabrication my whole life," Chris notes. These days, Chris is self-employed as a recon tech, removing dents paintlessly, as well as spraying the occasional touch up. This endeavor would require those skills and so much more.
With a solid chassis to build off of, Chris' next move was to upgrade the front and rear suspension systems. To make room for the modular DOHC 4.6-liter engine, the shock towers had to go, so Chris installed a Rod & Custom independent front suspension. The rear suspension started with a mini-tub to make room for some larger tires. The factory leaf springs would not be optimal for this application, so Chris called Chris Alston's Chassisworks and ordered one of the company's four-link, bolt-in suspensions based off of the Fox-body Mustang design. The design utilizes a cage that bolts in between the framerails to which the upper control arms bolt into. The lower control arms bolt into the front leaf spring holes and then to an 8-inch, or as in Chris' case, a Fab9 9-inch rear.
"As far as making the car work on the track," Chris says, "I got the weight balance to 51 percent front/49 percent rear, and was able to move the lower control arms down in back a little to get my instant center where I liked it. Then I just played with front spring rate and travel."
With all of the chassis and suspension modifications complete, Chris then took the car to Straightline chassis in Rockmart, Georgia, for the rollcage fabrication.
"A buddy of mine had his [rollcage] done by them, and the TIG welding looked so nice that I wanted them to do mine," Chris recalls. The 25.5-spec rollcage that Chris had installed reroutes many of the bars, so most chassis builders opt to cut out an old 10- or 12-point and start from scratch, which gets expensive with chrome-moly tubing like what was used in Chris' colt. Originally deciding to go with a 12-point 'cage, Chris knew that the power level would put the Pony close to the 8.50 range, and wisely decided to step it up just in case. It turns out he was right, as you'll read later.
Back at the homestead, Chris went to work on the Mustang's body and whipped it into shape just prior to taking it over to his friend, Pete Flanders', paint booth. Over the course of two days, Chris put down the PPG Black and House of Kolors Ultra Orange Pearl tri-coat. With those two contrasting colors bouncing off of one another, Chris then applied the Southern Polyurethanes Inc. clearcoat.
While the paintwork was going down, Mark Biddle at Panhandle Performance in Lynn Haven, Florida, was busy putting together the 4.6-liter powerplant that was fortified for turbocharged duty. With the engine back in his possession, Chris enlisted the help of his good friend, Kyle Vander-Porten, to start assembling the car. The engine went in first, followed by the wiring.
Chris fabricated the stainless steel exhaust manifolds and other hot-side tubing, as well as the aluminum cold-side, all of which he TIG welded. Chris and Kyle lost track of how many hours they actually put into this phase of the project, but everything was fabricated in Chris' garage during countless late nights.
You'll notice in the pictures that there are some large, shiny tubes running through the passenger compartment and into a silver box in the back seat area. Said silver box is an air-to-water heat exchanger (more commonly known as an intercooler), that reduces the air inlet temperatures before the intake charge enters the engine. Higher inlet temperatures are a side effect of the turbo compressing the air, and cooling the charge down allows for increased ignition timing and thus more power.
Other race-oriented modifications include the aluminum Kirkey seats--the factory seats were considered but are illegal according to NHRA specifications because they don't have a locking seat back. With as fast as Chris' car can traverse the quarter-mile, NHRA also requires a parachute to be installed. Chris cleverly hid his mount behind the license plate, which tilts down for access. The car is also equipped with a Racepak UDX Data system, which provides instrument functions and also offers data-logging capabilities to assist in tuning the engine and chassis.
With the car completed, Chris put about 200 miles on it to work the bugs out before putting down some numbers at the track. We met up with him at the 2011 NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida, where he was looking to compete in the True Street and Spring Break Shootout classes. Unfortunately, the engine called it quits during Friday's test session, and Chris entered the coupe into the car show on Saturday. For that, Chris borrowed the BBS wheels that you see in the pictures for more of a street-friendly look. Their European lace design worked so well with the modern paint colors and lowered stance that Chris eventually bought the wheels from his friend.
In 2012, Chris and his coupe returned to Bradenton to once again contest the True Street class. Rumor got around just prior to the event that the NMRA decided to change and/or clarify the exhaust system requirement--the rule change would require the exhaust system to terminate within 12 inches of the rear axle. This posed a problem for Chris, as he had designed the massive 5-inch exhaust pipe to exit out the passenger front fender. The old boy scout in Chris came out, and he showed up in Bradenton with a second exhaust and a large sticker to cover up the fender hole--painted to match, of course. The rumor proved to be true, and Chris had to swap his recently fabricated (just two days before the event) and longer exhaust system during Friday's test session.
For those unfamiliar with the NMRA True Street class, the rules start off with a stock-appearing car with a number of requirements such as working lights, turn signals, current registration with the DMV, and of course, insurance. Said vehicles are put through a 30-mile cruise and given about 45 minutes to cool down afterwards. Then they must make three back-to-back, quarter-mile passes. Once you are on the cruise, you can't open the hood until you've completed your three runs. Those three runs are then averaged, and awards are given for the fastest car, the runner up, and those who run closest to a 9-, 10-, 11-second-flat time and so on. The class aims to collect really fast, yet driveable cars, and the heavy hitters of the bunch are often running 8- and 9-second elapsed times.