MaryBeth Kiczenski
October 3, 2018

What comes to mind when you see the color yellow? Bright and cheery? Happiness? Hope? Caution?

Yellow is a powerful color, and it can have conflicting meanings. While it does signify happiness, optimism, and energy, and has shown to increase mental activity and energy, it also acts as a warning color—to be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Quite the unstable personality and quite the fitting color for Dan Hirsch’s bright yellow 1964½ Mustang. Here is a car that screams for attention, blasts down the track at a blistering 8.1 seconds, and yet is perfectly capable and well mannered on the street. This car represents all the meanings of the color yellow in one glorious package!

Dan’s father originally purchased the then-turquoise 289-powered A-code four-speed Mustang in 1971; he drove it for five years in Chicago winters, before getting a company car, so the car has been in the family for a long time. The Mustang would become a restoration project for Dan and his father. They were torn about the decision to paint it yellow, but the car’s personality seemed to fit the yellow mantra. When Dan got his first job at 16, he convinced his dad to upgrade the car’s cam and intake and install headers; there was also a small, hidden shot of nitrous that Dan may have “forgotten” to tell his dad about. Their prized Pony became quite the formidable bracket car, running consistent 12.50s. In fact, Dan’s dad told him if he won the final race at Great Lakes Dragaway’s Ford day, he could have the car. Dan became the Mustang’s new owner after that day!

Caution! This Mustang has been known to cause feelings of intense euphoria. Proceed with care.

Throughout college, Dan continued to read about the latest in Mustang modifications, trying different combinations that led up to where the car is today. This ’64½ beauty is equipped with a John Bennett Racing 351 Windsor, stroked to 427ci. Air is force-fed into the engine through twin 76MM Precision Turbo turbochargers with a custom-built air-to-water intercooler to cool the charge.

The Mustang’s powerplant displaces 427 ci with a Dart block and a billet crank. The heads are TFS High Ports and are fed by twin Precision 76mm turbos and a custom-built air-to-water intercooler to help keep the intake air temperatures down, while the FAST XFI engine management system and MSD Digital 7 ignition take care of keeping the engine running flawlessly. Power is transferred from the engine through a PTC converter to a Rossler TH400 three-speed automatic housed in a Reid case and bellhousing to the Ford 9-inch out back with a 3.33 gear.

The car’s split personality could be seen well before Hot Rod Drag Week, as Dan worked hard to get the car finished. In fact, it fought him pretty hard, and he didn’t get the car finished until two weeks prior to Drag Week. Granted, to some veteran Drag Weekers two weeks would still be plenty of time, but for most typical race cars, two weeks is barely enough time to work the bugs out of a new build. The weather in the Midwest would also not work in Dan’s favor, as persistent rain would not allow him to get any test passes on the new combination. Drag Week would end up being the first pass with the new setup, and although the car clicked off a very respectable 8.9 at 156 mph, the first day wouldn’t end up being completely trouble-free.

Along the route from Atlanta to Darlington, South Carolina, the car started to show its temperamental side. The alternator belt would not stay on. Dan and his brother would find themselves fighting this issue until around midnight. Saddling up for the rest of the route would prove to be short lived, as a brake caliper broke loose and was rubbing on the wheel. By now, it was almost 2 a.m. After looking up various parts stores in the area, Dan and his brother Ken decided to camp out in a church parking lot to catch a few hours of sleep before the parts store opened. As the sun rose, Ken woke up with an indescribable pain in his side that actually warranted an ambulance ride—he later discovered that he had a kidney stone. At this point, the brothers were thinking their Drag Week adventure was over, but Dan was able to fix the car while Ken was being treated.

The interior is one big hint that this Mustang is more than what meets the eye. The custom SFI-spec 25.3B cage built by Hirsch Racing allows this Pony to legally run in NHRA events down to 6.50 in the quarter-mile (with a maximum weight of 3,600 pounds).

The doctor said there really was nothing else he could do, and discharged Ken from the hospital. For the brothers, the race was now on to get to Darlington before the staging lanes closed! The effort would not go unwarranted, as they managed to arrive at the track just as the last pair of cars were about to make the last passes of the day. Dan asked race director Lonnie Grim if they could at least stage the car to break the beams, and he agreed. Although that timeslip would effectively end their chances at being competitive in the Modified Power Adder class, Drag Week is as much about the adventure and finishing as the racing. The yellow horse would gallop on to see another day!

The bright and optimistic side of the yellow would soon shine though, as after the first night of shaking out new-build bugs, the car was clicking off pretty consistent 8-second timeslips. And from here on out, the car would navigate through the mountains and rain of the 2018 Drag Week without any drama.

Dan finished 7th overall in the class with an average of 10.865 at 141.39. This was due to the fact he had to turn in a 20-second slip for the first day after the night of road fixes and hospital visit. His other passes of the week are all in the 8-second range, as follows:

Day 1: 8.95 @ 156.4
Day 2: 20.00 @ 50 (default)
Day 3: 8.554 @ 161.94
Day 4: 8.187 @ 177.09
Day 5: 8.633 @ 161.52

Cool, calm, and collected describes Dan as he pilots this quick Pony both on the track and street. Notice how he was able to keep the dash and most of the interior while having still having a serious rollcage.

Upon arriving home from Drag Week, Dan made another trip with the Mustang to Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, and pushed the Pony past the 8-second barrier to an impressive 7.97 at 167 mph with a 1.29 60-foot—right where he wanted the car to be. Now that is a monster of a street car! Dan is looking forward to bringing his Mustang back out for Hot Rod Drag Week 2019, with a goal of averaging in the 7-second range.

No matter what your stance is on the symbolic meaning of the color yellow, it is safe to say that this Mustang encompasses all of them. A formidable track machine and a street beast, this Pony is sure to bring out those feelings of happiness, all the while keeping you aware of the hidden dangers that such a powerful car can possess.

The calm before the storm. Dan’s formidable machine is ready for anything—even as the swirling clouds from the outermost bands of Hurricane Florence become visible on the horizon. Hot Rod Drag Week raced to keep ahead of this massive storm system all week long. This is the view that most cars would see! This Mustang is equipped with a Heidts Mustang II coilover conversion up front, Chassis Engineering ladder bars out back, and QA1 double adjustable shocks all around.
Mustangs are no strangers to burnouts, and Dan’s car is no exception. He was able to warm the tires in an impressive fashion thanks to the forced induction.
Race cars pulling small trailers are the iconic hallmark of Hot Rod Drag Week—race cars can pull small trailers but under no circumstance can they go ON a trailer. Here Dan is converting the yellow Pony over to “race mode” by changing over to slicks.