Tom Wilson
March 1, 2008
Photos By: Courtesy Of UTI

Horse Sense: UTI's Sacramento campus surprised us with its size and generous volumes of up-to-date equipment. Recalling our own shade-tree automotive schooling, we felt like country rubes wandering the hallways, peering into computer-filled classrooms and service bays filled with power tools.

When our sister publication Hot Rod and trade school Universal Technical Institute got together last year to form the Q Challenge, we thought it was a good idea. The two paired UTI students and faculty with five Factory Five Cobra kits to see which of the selected UTI campuses could build the best all-around Cobra. Once we heard this year's competition would be built around Fox and SN-95 Mustangs, we thought the Q Challenge had gone from good idea to a great one-great enough to get involved and not let Hot Rod have all the fun, anyway.

As a competition, the Q Challenge is simple enough to understand. Five used-up Mustangs are procured, the sheetmetal is given a body and paint makeover, and new powertrains are supplied. A line of credit is established for speed parts and a tally is kept of how much the teams spend to prepare their Mustangs for competition. To test the cars, they're brought together on the same day and tested on a chassis dyno, 60-0 braking, a slalom, and three shots at the quarter-mile. Subjective ratings are figured in, leading to the winner.

The long and the short of it is that the teams had a big job when it came to making our two drivers comfortable and safe. This is especially difficult with racing seats and harnesses because they attach in so many places. Evan Smith (left) drove the quarter-mile and survived the nitrous backfire (right photo); Tom Wilson (right) pedaled the fleet through the braking and slalom tests.

Actually, there are hundreds and hundreds of winners, because the whole exercise is about giving UTI students a chance at creating a competitive car within budget and on deadline. If that doesn't foster learning and team building, we're not sure what does. It's a fabulous event for the participants.

UTI has 10 campuses around the U.S., each with several hundred-if not more than a thousand-students. Corporate headquarters in Phoenix chooses which campuses are involved. This year brought back last year's winner, Houston, Texas, along with Norwich, Massachusetts; Orlando, Florida; Sacramento, California; and Rancho Cucamonga, California. This year, the testing was held at the Sacramento UTI campus and local dragstrip, Sacramento Raceway.

AMP Performance supplied the cars-and they were a motley bunch of tired Fox hatches and convertibles, as well as a single SN-95. Typical of high-mileage fender-bender wrecks, the cars were doled out to the campuses on a cross between "Who wants what?" and "This is what you get." As it turned out, everyone seemed to get what they wanted; notably, Rancho Cucamonga was happy to score the SN-95 coupe with its more rigid body shell and five-lug brakes.

The event sponsors supplied a long list of cool parts. Ford Racing Performance Parts donated an M-6007-Z347 engine, complete with Z-304DA aluminum cylinder heads, while Zoom supplied the clutches and Tremec T-3550 transmissions. Comp Cams followed with a complete valvetrain, lifters to valvesprings, and allowed each team allowed the bumpstick of their choice. Other contributions included Nitto NT 555R tires on Wheel Vintiques rims of the school's choice.

Furthermore, as not all UTI campuses have body and fender facilities, all five body shells were repaired and painted with Planet Color metal-flake hues by a contract body shop, so that part of the build wasn't a worry to the teams. As much help as all this was, it wasn't enough to build an entire car, so Lincoln Electric helped with shop-welding equipment, and Summit Racing Equipment stepped in with a $10,000 line of credit for each team.

Talk about a Christmas list: The Summit parts sponsorship program was one of the more intriguing aspects of the event. Each team could order anything in the Summit catalog until it exhausted the $10,000 limit, and if the team strayed over that, there were penalty points. Furthermore, all parts had to come from Summit, so if it wasn't in that fat catalog, the teams couldn't use it.

It was interesting to see the car-building philosophies followed by each campus. Rancho Cucamonga went for handling, Orlando for all-out power, and the rest tried a mix. We've outlined each car's technical profile, including a spec box that lists parts specific to each car; parts common to all the cars are in the All Together Now sidebar.

Given the type of tests and financial limits, it's no surprise that all teams went for nitrous as a power adder-giggle gas is still the least expensive way to big power and torque. We also thought we'd see torque-arm/Panhard-bar combinations until we breezed through the Summit catalog-the only parts source, if you remember-and realized it doesn't offer a torque arm. That would've helped with all tests save the dyno, but especially braking, where all cars proved nose-draggers in time-honored Mustang tradition.

All teams were given a difficult task in accommodating test drivers Evan Smith and Tom Wilson. Evan is compact and Tom is massive; fitting them both comfortably is much more difficult than it seems. Rancho and Norwood did exceptionally well at driver placement, which helped get the most from those two cars.

Popular would be an understatement when describing the UTI student's interest in the five race cars rumbling around their campus. When a tech inspection and dyno-prep session was held, pupils flooded the main shop floor to check out the cars. Many even came out to the track to watch the driving tests the following day.

Carefully studying the results table tells the tale of who ranked where, but the vibe during the test was more colorful. Dyno testing was first, which is an invitation to overdo it. Rancho drew the first test slot and surprised everyone by making a polite, no-nitrous, 441-rwhp pull on Sacramento UTI's Dynojet and said that was enough. Clearly they were banking on reserving their power for the dragstrip (the final test) and acing everyone in the braking and slalom. Orlando did just the opposite, blasting both nitrous stages and wounding their engine in the process of taking First with 634 hp and 701 lb-ft of torque. Both teams came to regret their extreme dyno behavior. Rancho came in Fifth and might have pipped Houston had the nitrous been toggled; Orlando hurt its engine so badly gaining the dyno win they couldn't compete at the dragstrip. They may have advanced two places overall given even a moderate dragstrip performance.

Braking was a surprise. Houston and Sacramento were right there, with Norwood in Third, probably doing better than they thought given their drum brakes. The Orlando dragsters no doubt expected last place, but the Rancho team was disappointed when their combination couldn't handle the bumpy surface.

Slaloming wasn't quite as mixed up. Rancho expected to win, and their super-preparation paid off handsomely. The Orlando car was a huge surprise in Second Place; its rolling, bull-in-a-china-shop performance provided more traction than imagined. Again, Houston and Sacramento were fender-to-fender, as expected from these two similar cars, but Norwood's last place was due more to high tire pressure and a general lack of grip than anything else.

For drama, the dragstrip was the place. Time was short and the testing back-to-back. Evan Smith, editor of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, did an admiral job of extracting max performance from these hot rods in only three runs-the first time he drove any of them. Because the teams were changing nitrous jets and heating bottles, consistency was difficult to achieve.

Norwood laid down the law with a big 11.8/130-mph pass that saw plenty of tire spin in Second gear. Sacramento just missed dragstrip glory by a hundredth of a second after plenty of jet and bottle drama, while Rancho did their usual Cool Hand Luke impression by opening the drag competition with a 12.14-second pass without any visible effort. Houston had to once again reinvent their fuel system the instant they tried to start the car-and were lucky to rip off their 12.17-second pass while running rich. Poor Orlando, the would-be drag king, could only be whipped to a barely sub-15-second pass while water flowed into the sump after their dyno excess of the day before.

As always, consistency is what wins these events. While Sacramento never topped a single stage of testing, they took the overall win by finishing Second three times and no worse than Fourth in the slalom. Furthermore, the First Place test stages were spread among four competitors, so it really came down to making a good effort in all the tests.

As we said earlier, the students who participated won the biggest prize of learning and pride in their accomplishments. Well done, UTI.

Having won the Q Challenge last year, Houston knew they needed an all-around entry that would finish high in all events. It didn't help that their car fell through the organizing cracks and was painted out of sequence, resulting in a two-month delay. However, it did help that the Houston instructors were experienced and oversaw a strong, reliable engine with exceptional driveability.

Quirks of the Houston car included a tight driving position, with the Kirkey seat sitting proud on the stock seat tracks. A tiny steering wheel partially made up for this. We also noted a tall ride height and stock-diameter brakes, not that these seemed to hurt in testing.

Minor but maddening electrical glitches plagued the Houston team, but they earned huge respect in their ability to dive into the problems and solve them without losing their cool.

Tech Specs: Houston
'92 {{{Mustang}}} {{{GT}}} Hatchback
Team Members: Austin Barrick, {{{Jimmy}}} Jenkins, Victor Sellens
Planet Color: Black Jade
Air FilterMagnaflow
Intake ManifoldDRIVETRAIN
Trick Flow Track HeatClutch
Throttle BodyZoom Stage 3 racing clutch
{{{Summit}}} 75mmShifter
0.622/0.628 lift, 236/242Driveshaft
Rocker ArmsRear Axle
1.65, FRPP8.8-in, stock {{{Ford}}}
Power AdderDifferential
NOS/Trick Flow nitrous, 50-Summit
{{{300}}} hpFinal Drive
Fuel Pump28-spline Alloy USA
1/2-in braided steelRollcage
Fuel Injectors10-point Summit
30-lb/hr, FRPPSubframe Connectors
Fuel Pressure RegulatorSummit
AEICaster/Camber Plates
Stock FordStruts/Shocks
Ignition BoxStock/stock
Crane Fireball HI-65Control Arms
Ignition CoilLakewood/Lakewood
Crane FireballBrakes
Spark plug WiresWilwood Draglite
Spark plugsINTERIOR
 Kirkey drag race, 17-in
H-PipeAuto Meter

Norwood, Massachusetts, is a long haul from Sacramento, California, and its UTI campus was renovated while the team built their car, pinching their build schedule. On the plus side, Norwood boasted the first female Q Challenge team members, Heather Mandeville and Trista Harren.

Norwood went for all-around capability and was astute in their understanding of what parts the car required, as well as what benefits they could achieve through cost-free efforts, such as moving the driver rearward and low as possible for weight distribution. This required lengthening the steering column, but it didn't eat into the parts budget.

Technical highlights included airbag rear springs and drilled rear drum brakes; the convertible area was closed with sheetmetal to reduce drag. The stock dash was also retained, the door handles were shaved, and attention was paid to driver seating and safety.

Tech Specs: Norwood
'{{{90}}} {{{Mustang}}} {{{GT}}} convertible
Team Members: Mark Fowler, Owen Harren, Trisha Harren, Brandon LaCroix, Heather Mandeville
Planet Color: Ballistic Blue
Air FilterClutch
N/AZoom D2
Intake ManifoldShifter
Throttle BodyDriveshaft
{{{Summit}}}Custom, Road Island
Comp custom-rollerRear Axle
Rocker ArmsStock 8.8-in
FRPP aluminum rollersDifferential
Power AdderReworked stock
Nitrous {{{Express}}}, up to {{{300}}} hpFinal Drive
Fuel PumpMosler
Aeromotive A1000 
Summit, AeroquipRollcage
Fuel InjectorsNot listed
SummitSubframe Connectors
Fuel Pressure RegulatorNone
SummitCaster/Camber Plates
Reprogrammed w/ SCTStruts/Shocks
Ignition BoxStock/Air Ride
StockControl Arms
Ignition CoilStock/Granatelli
Spark Plug WiresStock w/ Hawk Blue pads/drums,
Spark Plugs 
Modified BBKRJS
3-in, Summit 

More than halfway through the build period, the Orlando team had to change the lead instructor on their Q Challenge project, which meant their car was mostly built in about a month. In fact, the engine went into the chassis three days before shipping to Sacramento, so it was definitely a rush job.

Orlando also went strictly for dyno and dragstrip glory with two big stages of nitrous and not enough time to do much else. It was one of several Q Challenge cars with a high seating position (tall drivers sat with their heads above the rollcage), and there were issues with the throttle linkage. This meant some long nights for the Orlando team during the test as they worked hard to put everything right, so they got the full race-weekend experience.

Going for power, Orlando chose a hot carburetor intake and four-barrel throttle body for their EFI system. This gave the engine a classic round-air-filter look as well as plenty of top-end breathing capability.

Tech Specs: Orlando
'88 {{{Mustang}}} {{{GT}}} convertible
Team Members: James Hart, Randy Newman, Jeff Pittman, Aaron Wall
Planet Color: Highlighter Yellow
Air FilterTurbo Performance, {{{Summit}}};
K&N round3-in dumps
Intake Manifold 
Edelbrock Super VictorDRIVETRAIN
Throttle BodyClutch
Edelbrock four-barrelZoom
Comp solid-rollerDriveshaft
Rocker ArmsFRPP
Comp CamsRear Axle
Power AdderStock 8.8-in
NOS Pro ShotDifferential
 Richmond Gear
Fuel Pump3.73
Holley BlueAxles
Fuel LinesMosler
3/8-in steel 
30-lb/hr Summit high-flowRollcage
Fuel Pressure RegulatorCompetition Engineering
N/ASubframe Connectors
Stock w/ SCT; Jacobs NitrousCaster/Camber Plates
Master MindHAL QA1
Ignition BoxSprings
Ignition CoilControl Arms
Summit high-outputLakewood/Lakewood
Spark Plug WiresBrakes
N/ACrossdrilled power slot rotors,
Spark Plugssemimetallic pad/stock
BBK full-lengthHarness
X-shape crossver, SummitTachometer
universal4-in-1 Summit gauge

Here's a car that combines old age and experience with youth and enthusiasm, and it showed beautifully. Absolutely gorgeous and dripping with racing tricks, the Rancho Cucamonga car was on a different level of preparation than the others, thanks to pro racing experience by the Rancho instructors. Extensive seam welding and lightening efforts, a small radiator, low rear seating, well-thought-out control placement, and a fairly balanced approach between power that leaned toward handling, this one had pro written all over it.

With no disruptions during the build and a relatively close location to the test venue, Rancho had no excuses-and didn't need any. The car ran right from the start and never hiccupped. The team was eager to trade the 60 pounds or so of extra weight of the SN-95 chassis for increased rigidity, five-lug brakes, and the slight improvements in suspension geometry the later car offered. Their downfall was the inability to source the correct rate springs in time for the test, so despite impressive rigidity and precision, the car was under-sprung and dampened. Even still, it was the Lotus of Mustangs and the car we all wanted to take home.

Tech Specs: Rancho Cucamonga
'95 {{{Mustang}}} {{{GT}}}
Team Members: Chuck Armstrong, John Bender, Jonathan Rea, Dennis Rudolph, Mike Sera
Planet Color: Orange Crush
Air FilterFlowmaster
BBK cold-air intake 
Intake ManifoldDRIVETRAIN
Trick FlowClutch
Throttle BodyZoom dual-disc
75mm {{{Summit}}}Shifter
236/248 duration, 0.377/0.385Driveshaft
lobe liftStock
Rocker ArmsRear Axle
Comp CamsStock 8.8-in
Power AdderDifferential
Trick Flow nitrousRichmond
 Final Drive
Fuel PumpAxles
Summit high-volumeAlloy
Fuel Lines 
Fuel InjectorsRollcage
36-lb/hr ACCELCompetition Engineering
Fuel Pressure RegulatorSubframe Connectors
BBK adjustableBBK
ComputerCaster/Camber Plates
IGNITIONStrange adj./Strange adj.
Ignition BoxSprings
StockGranatelli coilover kit/stock
Ignition CoilControl Arms
Spark Plug WiresBrakes
8mm, TaylorFRPP Brembos/Wilwood
Spark Plugs 
BBK full-lengthG-Force

Home-field advantage went to a car with plenty of help from the instructor force at UTI Sacramento. They sort of needed it, as the contract body shop had their car for nearly four months, definitely cutting into the build time.

Taking a balanced approach to the competition, Sacramento made sure they had plenty of engine and seemed fairly confident in their ability to tune it via the nitrous system. They were also savvy to the racer's tricks, using the generous labor available (thanks to all those students) to seam-weld and perform other labor-intensive, but not expensive, improvements.

This car featured the most constrained seating position for tall drivers, thanks to stock seat rails and the large-diameter stock steering wheel. Still, the machine was strong and precise enough to overcome this handicap for the overall win.

Tech Specs: Sacramento
'93 {{{Mustang}}} LX hatchback
Team Members: Jesse Cameron, Harold Clarke, Beau Schmidt
Planet Color: Black & Gold
Air FilterFabbed on-site from discount
K&Nstore supply
Intake Manifold 
Edelbrock Super Victor Jr.,DRIVETRAIN
ported plenumClutch
Throttle BodyZoom dual disc
80mm, HolleyShifter
Comp rollerDriveshaft
Rocker ArmsCustom
FRPP 1.65Rear Axle
Power AdderStock 8.8-in
Nitrous {{{Express}}} Gemini, upDifferential
to 500 hpSpool
 Final Drive
Fuel PumpAxles
Aeromotive A100031-spline
Fuel Lines 
Fuel InjectorsRollcage
Fuel Pressure RegulatorSubframe Connectors
ComputerCaster/Camber Plates
Stock w/SCTHotchkis Racing
IGNITIONStrange eight-way adj./Strange
Ignition Boxeight-way adj.
MSD 6AL, MSD Pro BilletSprings
Ignition CoilControl Arms
Spark Plug WiresBrakes
Spark Plugs 
13/4-in Hooker SuperN/A
H-PipeAuto Meter

Photo Gallery

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Collegiate Power Challenge Sponsors
Universal Technical InstitutePlanet Color
AMP Performance{{{Summit}}} Racing Equipment
Comp CamsTremec Transmissions
{{{Ford}}} Racing Performance PartsWheel Vintiques
{{{Lincoln}}} ElectricZoom Racing
UTI Q Challenge Results
Test Houston Sacramento Norwood Orlando Rancho
Power 441.{{{62}}} {{{600}}}.14 588.78 633.91 441.62
Torque 539.15 546.89 573.89 701.1 467.02
Ranking 4 2 3 1 5
Points 60 0 70 {{{90}}} 50
Feet 117.02 119.79 129.99 130.26 130.21
Ranking 1 2 3 5 4
Points 90 {{{80}}} 70 50 60
E.T. 6.33 6.37 6.{{{57}}} 6.26 6.23
Ranking 3 4 5 2 1
Points 70 60 50 80 90
E.T. 12.17 11.81 11.80 14.85 12.14
MPH 112.42 127.71 130.25 102.31 122.38
Ranking 4 2 1 5 3
Points 60 80 90 50 70
Points 29.56 30.13 31.63 25.81 33.69
Major -5 -5 0 -5 -5
Minor 0 0 -2 0 0
Total 304.56 325.13 309.63 290.81 298.69
Ranking 3 1 2 5 4

Notes: Horsepower and torque were measured at the rear tires on a Dynojet inertial dyno. Torque is listed in lb-ft. Subjective points were awarded by a panel of judges on several criteria, including "best use of resources," among other things. Penalty points were awarded for technical rules infractions. The dyno results were ranked according to horsepower, with torque as a tie-breaker. (Who would have thought there would be a power tie on the dyno to the second decimal place?) The quarter-mile was ranked by e.t. with mph as tie-breaker (not required).

The following spec box items were donated, and therefore common to all cars in the competition.

FRPP {{{M}}}-6007-Z347 Crate EngineCylinder Heads
BoreZ304, aluminum
4.030-inChamber Volume
3.400-inPort Volume
Displacement204cc x 85cc
347ciValve Sizes
Crankshaft2.02 x 1.60-in
Forged steelCamshaft
Compression RatioComp Cams
Conecting RodsDRIVETRAIN
Forged steel, w/Transmission
capscrews Tremec TKO 600
ForgedNitto NT 555R