Tom Wilson
June 1, 2009
Sleek as they come, John Mihovetz's Mercury Cougar bodywork was originally designed to fit in with the sport-compact crowd in NHRA racing. It's since proved aerodynamic sleek, a real advantage when running a half-size engine in a 200-plus-mph class. Here John heats the hides at Fontana last summer on his way to the '08 PSCA Pro Street championship.

Horse Sense: Will John Mihovetz sell you an engine? It's possible, but highly unlikely. Life is too short to spend locked in the engine-build room, says John, especially for a racing program that isn't totally committed to winning. A mere handful of customer engines have come from the Accufab engine room, a room that is dedicated to furthering John's racing.

This isn't a tale of overnight success. As you read this story, keep in mind that John Mihovetz has been harassing modular Fords since before they were sold in Mustangs. His accomplishments are truly spectacular, and it's best to recognize they've come at the expense of nearly 15 years of constant effort. And for those just checking in, John is the major blade at Accufab (www.accufabracing.com), a longtime performance manufacturer known for its polished billet throttle bodies. Under the same Accufab roof in Ontario, California is John's drag racing operation.

John started racing with pushrod 5.0s during the Fox era, and helped Jim Bell lay down impressive times with some of the first Kenne Bell-supercharged Mustangs. In 1995, a deal from a Ford insider put John in a 4.6-powered Fox Mustang. The car was an old FoMoCo engineering hack, and it set John on what's proving to be a life-long modular development program.

John Mihovetz combines driving talent, the intimate knowledge of machinery he developed himself, and the racer's unswerving determination to succeed. Not one to waste words, John keeps a soft-spoken air and his hand on the wrenches.

One of the modular pioneers, John has arguably gone further than anyone when it comes to extracting power from these somewhat intricate engines. For years now, he's been racing a tube-framed Mercury Cougar in NHRA and mainly PSCA, the Pacific Street Car Association. John was runner-up in the '07 PSCA Pro Street and slugged his way to the '08 class championship with four wins. He's also the three-time AA/AT and three-time BB/AT NHRA Competition Eliminator record-holder with the same car.

The Cougar is a dedicated Lenco-transmissioned drag car (see sidebar); to date, it's run a best of 6.31 seconds at 229 mph, and is a proven, steady laboratory for John's ceaseless modular engine development, which hovers at an astounding 2,300 hp. That makes it the undisputed horsepower-per-cubic-inch champion of the modular world, and one of two contenders for the straight-up most powerful modular engine in history. The accomplishment also puts the modular Ford far ahead of any current domestic engine in its ability to make and survive such power.

The "Stock" Combination
What makes John's power and speed so impressive is the small displacement and stock source for major portions of his engine program. Displacement is 282 ci--call it a stock 4.6 liters--using a stock aluminum Cobra block; stock old-style, "B" dual-port, Four-Valve cylinder heads, as found in a '95 Lincoln; and a stock 4.6 Cobra crankshaft. Twin Garrett turbochargers supply a mind-bending 52 pounds of boost on top of an over 11:1 static compression ratio on gasoline!

Frankly, the combination is so unbelievable that some members of Ford Racing recently came by to inspect the engine firsthand. They went away shaking their heads, with reset expectations of what regular production parts can generate. We'll admit to a similar reclocking, not only of how much power the stock parts can muster, but also by the attention to detail required by 8 hp per cubic inch, plus the amazing in-house capabilities of modern racers to manufacture their own supporting pieces.

Fred Grochulski is the other guy in the Accufab engine shop. Positive as a proton and able to talk an AM radio under the table, Fred brings the Accufab engine program near-fanatical attention to detail and a tireless enthusiasm for all things combustive. His background ranges from nuclear weapons in the Navy to martial arts, a stint at Livernois Motorsports, and a personal bent towards road racing and V-6 performance.

Generally speaking, John's combination is at the extreme edge. Being so highly tuned, it's easy enough to go too far, which at this level means certain detonation and instant engine death. Such was the case twice during the trying--although rewarding--'08 season. State-of-the-art also means further developments are frustratingly difficult to achieve. John invested many thousands of dollars in larger turbos and supporting headers in 2008, only to have them bog and run worse than the current combination. For now, those tubes and turbos sit ignobly in a large cardboard box in John's shop; in time they'll be modified in another attempt to benefit from their superior top-end power, while retaining the current combinations snappy holeshot action.