We're standing in a nest of Russian L-39 trainer jets at a private airport in Gadsden, Alabama. From soaring distance, we look like a worm the baby birds are too awkward to slurp up. The temperature on this March day is a record-low 25 degrees but 450mm of Canon autofocus glass creates a weak, heat-like shimmer as we study the object of our fascination.
The wave in the air makes the scene mythic, cause for goosebumps - or is it the cold crawling up our arms? The blue Mustang sits at one end of a long taxiway revving its engine, bragging in short barks that horsepower is about to kick inertia's butt. Clutch dropped, the blue coupe accelerates like a bullet from a gun barrel - no drama, no squealing tires, just a Mustangon a short, urgent mission.
Four gears considered and discarded, two left ignored as dual turbines reach maximum boost in the middle of each shift. We watch this Mustang eat up the length of the runway with unchallenged authority; picture an F-14 scooting across the deck of a carrier on takeoff, and you're there. Mission accomplished!
When it parks door-to-wingtip with one of the Soviet jets there are no dripping fluids, no metallic popping sounds, no embarrassing vapor clouds. No super-car shortcomings at all. This 710-horsepower beast - that's 900 ponies at the crank - is as docile and predictable as Mom's minivan.
Rudy Beaver steps out of the 2006 Platt & Payne Signature Edition Shadrach Mustang, having just taken delivery this morning. After a lifetime of working hard the 78-year-old real estate developer is spending his golden years playing in a big toybox, which includes the heavily modified 2005 Harley-Davidson Ultra Glide motorcycle he drives from his farm to the airstrip, a 1970 Dodge Charger with a 605-horsepower Hemi and a '55 Thunderbird with a 455-horse supercharged small-block.
Rudy used to own this airport and the hangar we are standing in - the perfect location for a hobby business started in the '90s in which he rebuilt, flew and sold military jets from Russia, the Ukraine, Poland, China and Britain. Remember when Chrysler head Bob Lutz was featured in car magazines at the stick of his very own jet? Rudy built that ride for Lutz, and about 150 more like it.
That explains the crazy-expensive winged toys, but what's up with this Shadrach Mustang?
With 2005 and '06 Mustangs styled so closely after their ancestors, great memories were certain to be resurrected. Carroll Shelby has already created 21st century versions of the G.T. 500 and Hertz rent-a-racer models; Mustang 69 wowed the crowd at SEMA with its all-black Boss Sixty Nine show car; and we can hardly wait to see Ford apply Mach 1 and Bullitt treatments to its retro-styled coupes.
That's what the big companies with big names and big budgets are doing to celebrate the flashier milestones from Mustang history, but where's the love for the people and events that are not household names today but should be? What about the racers who won Ford its Total Performance crown one quarter-mile at a time at dragstrips all over the country? We applaud Pure Power Motorsports for returning to the pedestal two stars of the strip with its line of commemorative, high-performance Ponies dedicated to Hubert Platt and Randy Payne.
Now, if you are not old enough to have seen a new 1970 Mustang, or you slept through a semester of FoMoCo History class, we should probably explain that Platt and Payne were a charismatic duo who put on drag racing seminars for Ford dealers at tracks all across America. The two Georgians and their blue race cars were known collectively as "The Going Thing."
Like so many southern racers in the '50s, Platt spent a few years transporting "undocumented" alcohol to the mountain communities of Georgia and South Carolina at high speed before law enforcement influenced a career change. He found he excelled at drag racing and successfully campaigned a series of "Georgia Shaker" cars, starting with a Chevy but eventually moving into Fords. Georgia Shaker, Little Georgia Shaker, The Smallest Georgia Shaker and Georgia Shaker III were just a few of the names Platt applied to his cars before Lee Iacocca chose Platt to head Ford's 1969-70 Eastern drag team. During that time he drove a 428 Cobra Jet Mustang to an NHRA SS/IA record of 12.41 seconds at 112.92 miles an hour and won the '69 Winter Championships and AHRA US Open Top Stock Eliminator class.
Teammate Randy Payne was raised in the auto business, his grandfather and father having built what is now the oldest car dealership in Rome, Georgia, in 1946. Payne piloted his Torino Cobra to victory so many times that no one ever challenged the validity of his nickname, "Mr. Big Stuff." Payne won every event in his class while racing for Ford, including the first sanctioned drag race held in Canada. When he won all three nights at Daytona Beach, by elimination he wound up running the Super Stock finals against himself, a feat that has never re-ocurred. Car Craft nominated him for Driver of the Year honors four years in a row, and Hurst once acknowledged that Payne was the only professional driver to ever tear one of the company's shifters out of the floor during competition. He and Platt have been inducted into many racing halls of fame.
The Shadrach, named for a Biblical character who survived the flames of a furnace, is arguably the ultimate nostalgic take on the new Mustang's retro styling - especially in Platt & Payne colors. To create the P&P edition, Pure Power Motorsports starts with a new Sonic Blue Mustang GT and strips it to the point that only the dash and factory paint remain. Every pull-off part is sold, but a few specific components, such as the engine management computer, will be put back into the car, albeit in a slightly different form.
The stock 4.6-liter block transforms into a fire-breathing monster with the addition of forged aluminum pistons, Manley H-beam connecting rods, Comp camshafts, CNC-ported three-valve heads and a sophisticated 16-injector fuel system that permits steady, emissions-friendly driving at low throttle, but opens up like a hydrant when the revs go up. Consider it the high-tech version of a four-barrel carburetor. Intake is enhanced through water cooled Precision T3 turbochargers with dual-stage boost control, dual water-to-air intercoolers, a Metco billet turbo plenum and a Kinsler 8-Stack injection system. Exhaust is channeled through stainless steel turbo headers and Random echnology high-flow catalytic converters.
A short-throw Hurst shifter and RAM clutch work a G-Force six-speed racing transmission, one-piece driveshaft and Strange Ford 9" rear with 3.55:1 gears and 35-spline competition axles.
To handle the Shadrach's prodigious power output suspension and chassis components were chosen for serious high-speed use. They include an AJE tubular K-member, control arms, shock tower bar, adjustable front sway bar, adjustable track bar and subframe stiffener; hlins coil-over double-adjustable shocks; Metco billet front strut tower bar, lower rear control arms and upper link bracket; and HyperCo coil springs. Brakes are beefy Brembos - 14-inch cross-drilled fronts and 13.5-inch cross-drilled rears - set behind 20-inch forged aluminum Weld Racing wheels and Nitto tires.
Rudy's jet cockpits aren't nearly as comfortable as the Shadrach interior, which features a six-point chromoly rollcage, leather-wrapped Recaro front seats (with air and heat!), matching rears, G-Force five-point harnesses and a carbon-fiber dash. Each front seat bears the embroidered signature of Hubert Platt and Randy Payne. A Delphi heads-up display keeps the driver's eyes aimed down the road, but can pass along all important information such as speed and engine RPM at a glance.
The jaw-dropping, head-turning exterior does not contain a single off-the-shelf part; PPM designed and tweaked everything for maximum functionality. Its unique front bumper cover, which incorporates an aerodynamic carbon-fiber air splitter and billet grille, gives the Shadrach the face of a predator. Its raised hood is an organic sculpture in carbon fiber that sprouts twin air inlet scoops in front, then displays the turbo engine's polished aluminum intake like a pair of Best of Show trophies. Flared fenders beef up the wheel openings, but are so well integrated that they seem like part of the factory design. Side skirts molded in carbon-fiber hide all but the outlets of the side exhaust pipes. A Pro Stock adjustable wing and lower air diffuser maintain clean airflow as the Shadrach carves its way through the atmosphere. And they look really, really cool.
Ford's factory paint gets covered with a layer of pearl and many coats of clear. All Shadrach hoods are adorned with the unique wings/flames logo, and the P&P editions wear special "The Going Thing" white stripes - all applied by paint before the clear goes on. No stickers here.
Mike Langston, the dynamo behind PPM, is confident he can produce and sell 70 of the Platt & Payne cars before switching to "regular" Shadrach production in his Powder Springs, Georgia, shop. At $175,000 a copy, the Platt & Payne Signature Edition Shadrach is easily the most expensive limited-production late-model Mustang we've come across in our travels. That kind of disposable income could just as easily buy a Ford GT supercar and a loaded Mustang GT, or maybe you would like a new Shelby G.T. 500 coupe, G.T. 500 convertible, loaded Mustang GT and a truck/trailer combo to pull them around for the same money.
Mike has set himself a pretty lofty goal, we thought at first, but three days of exposure to the former Automobile Racing Club of America (Southern All-Star series) driver's contagious enthusiasm has weakened our skeptical immune system. We think he's on to something. He has an operation and a motivation unlike any we've ever seen.
"This whole idea started in December 2004 because PPM did some modifications on Randy Payne's NHRA Firebird drag car," Mike said. "Randy and I talked about how we would both like to see a modern version of The Going Thing Super Stock cars based on the new Mustang. From there, it just took on a life of its own."
The Shadrachs were developed and built as part of a youth program Mike runs where teenagers learn auto mechanics and racing, an altruistic angle that convinced Platt to also lend his name to the project. Every Thursday night eager young students turn wrenches, swap parts and change fluids before heading out to the shop's go-kart track for two hours of oval, road course and drag racing. A portion of Platt & Payne Signature Edition sales go toward a building fund so the Thursday fun nights can expand. When we visited the Shadrach shop late one evening after our photo shoot, we saw the line's prototype and four customer cars on lifts ranging from freshly stripped to nearly complete. That quartet alone should buy quite a few bricks for the new youth center.
"With Randy and Hubert on board, getting support from Ford and the industry was a lot easier," Mike said. "We met with Ford Racing at the Performance Racing Industry show to get permission to use 'The Going Thing', and we had many meetings with vendors to discuss specifications. Everything on the car has been made to suit our needs, like the Weld wheels. The design and size are unique to the Shadrach; nobody else can order them. Same thing with the body panels; we created them from scratch and we own the original molds.
"The kids I work with every week will not only benefit from this program, but they have been involved every step of the way. The six-point rollcage, the custom mirror housings with the inset blinkers, the rear shock tower braces, the X-brace under the car, the upholstery ... are just a few of the parts they install. Their fingerprints are literally all over these cars, and the experience teaches them a lot about responsibility and working together as a team." A team like Platt and Payne?
Pure Power Motorsports
Interior / Exterior
Rudy Beaver's Platt & Payne Signature Edition Shadrach Mustang
PPM-designed front bumper cover; aerodynamic carbon-fiber air splitter; billet grille; raised carbon-fiber hood with twin air inlet scoops; flared fenders; carbon-fiber side skirts and side exhausts; Pro Stock adjustable wing; lower air diffuser; factory paint covered with a layer of pearl and clear; unique wings/flames logo; "The Going Thing" white stripes
Six-point chromoly rollcage; leather-wrapped, air-conditioned, heated Recaro front seats; matching rear seats; G-Force five-point harnesses; carbon-fiber dash; Delphi heads-up display
AJE tubular K-member, control arms, shock tower bar, adjustable front sway bar, adjustable track bar and subframe stiffener; Metco billet front strut tower bar, lower rear control arms and upper link bracket; 14-inch cross-drilled Brembo fronts; 13.5-inch cross-drilled Brembo rears
hlins coil-over double-adjustable shocks; HyperCo coil springs
Wheels And Tires
20-inch forged aluminum Weld Racing wheels and 315/35R20 back, 255/35R20 front Nitto tires
Rudy Beaver's Platt & Payne Signature Edition Shadrach Mustang
Ford 4.6-liter SOHC V-8
Forged aluminum pistons; Manley H-beam connecting rods; Comp camshafts; CNC-ported three-valve heads; 16-injector fuel system; twin water-to-air Precision T3 turbochargers with dual-stage boost control; dual water-to-air intercoolers; a Metco billet turbo plenum; Kinsler 8-Stack injection system; stainless steel turbo headers; Random Technology high-flow catalytic converters; Be Cool four-core radiator; Metco billet underdrive pulleys
Factory PCM for basic engine functions; piggyback computer for eight secondary injectors
Short-throw Hurst shifter; RAM clutch; G-Force six-speed racing transmission; one-piece driveshaft; Strange Ford nine-inch rear; 3.55:1 gears; 35-spline competition axles