Darel Clark's 1985 Mustang GT
When you're a college freshman, chances are that, for the most part you don't have a lot of cash at your disposal, so things like new cars are not often a priority. That was Darel Clark's case back in the mid-1980s. At the time he was driving a VW Rabbit, but one day he went down to nearby Vinton Motors. "They had a bunch of Mustangs on their lot, including six GTs, a couple of SVOs, even a Saleen. That day, Clark got the opportunity to test-drive a brand new 1985 Mustang GT - Medium Canyon Red Metallic with a tan interior. "After driving my Rabbit, it felt like a rocketship. I knew there and then that I had to get myself one of these cars." It would take a while, of course, until 1992 in fact, when Clark had graduated college, but then, with a bit of cash now burning a hole in his pocket, it was time to start searching for the car he'd promised himself.
"I went to look at a few of them, but even by this stage, a lot of these cars were looking rough. I found an ad in the local paper where somebody was advertising 'a clean, stock' '85 GT for sale, but based on previous experiences I didn't have high hopes." That changed when Darel went to view the car. "It was exactly as described, in good shape - so I bought it. The T-top GT served as Darel's daily driver for a number of years, and although quite a few of his buddies had modified Mustangs at the time, Clark resisted the temptation to follow suite. "It was a clean car and I liked the way it was stock. "I put headers and exhaust on it, but other than that I didn't change anything." The car provided faithful service for a long while, taking Clark to and from work and out on trips for his engineering gig. However, one day, while driving back home to Virginia from Ohio, his opinion about keeping the car stock would change forever. "I was about 40 miles from home when the rear end started howling. I pulled into a garage and discovered that the rear pinion seal had blown out, emptying the differential of lubricant. I managed to nurse the car back home, but the 7.5 was fried. When I got home I called up my friends. One of them had a built 8.8-inch rear with an Aurburn posi and 3.73 gears, so I got it from him and installed it in place of the original 7.5 - best mod I ever did." Not long after that, the original 10-inch clutch bit the bullet, so "I called D&D Performance for a replacement clutch. A pressure plate was just a few bucks more and they also had B&M Ripper shifters on sale ..." Needless to say, Darel had started down the slippery slope.
"Before I knew it, I'd pulled the T-5 tranny out for a freshening - new bearings and synchros and with the transmission out I thought, heck, the car's got about 100K on it, so why not pull out the engine and inspect that too?" Clark found that the rear main seal was leaking and discovered a few other problems, so the 302 was torn down and rebuilt. Kowalsky Machine in Lynchburg, VA was given the task of machining the block, honing it; punching out the bores .030-inches and adding new bottom end bearings. The stock crank was polished and it, along with the stock rods and pistons, went back in. Clark chose to retain the car's original H.O. heads, but on his request, Kowalsky Machine, removed the air injection bumps and treated them to a mild porting and valve job. Darel decided to upgrade the valvetrain, with a Wolverine camshaft featuring .493/.510-inch lift and 289/299 degrees duration, along with a set of Motorsport 1.6 roller rockers that were installed atop the heads.