Rob Kinnan
May 1, 2000

Step By Step

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P90606_large Ford_Mustang Front_ViewP90607_large 1979_Ford_Mustang Front_Driver_SideP90608_large Ford_Mustang Driver_SideP90609_large Ford_Mustang Driver_Side

What does it take to go road racing with a 5.0 Mustang? Not as much as you'd think. Just as building a drag-race-specific 5.0 requires special thought-rear suspension, tires, gears, et cetera-so does building a road-race 5.0. On a road race car, however, most of the stuff you do to the car makes it more livable on the street than the comparable drag setup. Don't believe us? Let's examine the situation.

There is one major drawback to a road race car that is also used as a street driver, and that's the rollcage. When a car is built to turn corners at fairly high speed, wheel-to-wheel with other cars, the rollcage becomes much more important. By comparison, until it gets into the 11s, a drag car doesn't need any tubing in the interior. At 11.99, it needs a five-point roll bar (that means a door bar on the driver side, at minimum). Otherwise, you'll get kicked off the track after the first pass. At 10.99 and quicker, it needs a full cage. A road-race-spec cage is no more intrusive than a drag race full cage, and in some cases is less so, due to the NHRA-required height of the door bars. What about the rest of the car?

Just as with drag racing, a road racer is affected by weight, so the lighter the better (down to the class minimum, anyway), and the same tricks apply. Fiberglass hoods, lightweight seats, removal of sound deadening, and other typical tricks work as well on a road racer as they do on a drag racer, so that difference is a push. Now, let's look at what makes a road racer a better street car than a drag racer.

Namely, the engine can be left damn near stock, improving reliability and driveability. The focal point of most road racers is the suspension. To gain the maximum cornering speed on the typical road course, the springs and shocks need to be stiff, and that makes for a rough-riding car. But if you've ever driven a drag 'Stang with 90/10s, no swaybars, and solid-bushed South Side bars on the street, you know it's neither a pleasant or comfortable experience. While a road race setup will provide a harder ride, it's much safer and more easily controlled than the optimum drag race setup on all but the roughest of roads.

If that's not enough to convince you to appreciate road race cars, what we have assembled here may prove it.

All the Mustangs shown in the sidebars below were photographed on one weekend at Moroso Motorsports Park, in West Palm Beach, Florida, during an SCCA Regional race. Each is in a different class, which shows the variety of the classes, from truly low-buck to more extreme levels of cash and time outlay.

We're not trying to convince any drag racers to convert to corner burners. As you can tell by the editorial content of this magazine over the last year, we are heavily into the Mustang drag racing scene. It's what has driven and still drives the hobby, and nobody disputes that. But there is life beyond the top-end traps of the dragstrip, and we hope this section at least opens some eyes.