5.0 Mustang & Super FordsProject Vehicles
Mach 1 Buildup - Cost-Effective Competition
We Say "Affordable" And "Race Car" In The First Segment Of Our Mach 1 Racer Buildup
With the exception of a properly engineered rollcage, the overwhelming majority of assembling a Mach 1 Racer can be handled at home in the garage, though access to a hoist for some steps would be a back saver. Just think of it as a particularly well-engineered kit car.
We don't need to tell you that racing is an expensive hobby, but thanks to a tag-team effort by CDC Racing and Mustang Racing Technologies, it just became a whole lot easier and more affordable to own a dedicated grass-roots race car. To be more specific, how'd you like to assemble a brand-new, road-race, open-track or drag-race Mustang-complete with factory-fresh '03 Mach1 DOHC drivetrain and all the bells and whistles-for well under 25 grand? We thought so. Read on.
Until now, the common approach to building a Mustang racer was to begin with a used street car, gut it, and cobble some new and used parts together into a sort of track-going Frankenstein. Because price dictated beginning with an older car, the result was often an unreliable compromise between street and race car that didn't particularly excel as either, and likely cost a bundle in labor and miscellaneous parts. Only those with cavernous pockets, or a whole pant-load of sponsorship, could afford to start off with a new car and, even then, it still had to be torn down and rebuilt for its new task, leaving a smoking hole in the bank account and a pile of perfectly good but unneeded parts to clutter the attic or landfill.
Then, a few years ago, Mustang bodies-in-white came along as a potentially great basis from which to build a racer. The problem was, though relatively inexpensive by themselves, the cost and scrounging effort required to gather all the necessary small and large bits of hardware to turn a body-in-white into something that would move under its own power was still extremely prohibitive, thus effectively limiting this route to well-funded teams. Imagine buying from your dealer every individual nut, bolt, clip, fastener, and component necessary to make a Mustang run, and you'll begin to appreciate the enormity of the expense, let alone the size of your shopping list.
The five gearheads who eventually came together to form CDC Racing and MRT were faced with the same dilemma. Bodies-in-white were easy to get, but the rest of the parts were problematic. Thinking there must be a better way to obtain all this ancillary hardware, they pooled their individual talents and their considerable network of corporate connections to make it happen. Their goal was to compile a list of every single part necessary to build a fully functional Mustang race car-from fasteners, glass, and wiring harnesses to complete drivetrains-and, from that list, negotiate volume package purchases directly from Ford. Thanks in part to their industry contacts, they were successful, and those savings are now being passed on to fellow racers.
At the root of the project is the open-track/road-racing enthusiasm of all the principal players, two of whom-George Huisman and Scott Hoag-may be at least vaguely familiar to regular readers. George operates Classic Design Concepts, the firm that crafts some of the best-looking and highest-quality styling add-ons, including the Shaker and the ubiquitous Classic Light Bar, for late-model Mustangs. Scott also knows a thing or two about ponies, having been the man largely responsible for bringing the way-cool Bullitt and Mach 1 specialty models to market in his former job as Ford Motor Company's Mustang Customization Manager (see 5.0 Questions, Aug. '03). These guys and their business partners are hard-core Mustang enthusiasts who like nothing better than to spend a few quality hours pounding around a road course, and a lot of the motivation behind this project came from their seeking an affordable way to do it.
So was born the Mach 1 Racer, a sort of off-road kit car that uses as many factory parts as possible to form a well-engineered, reliable, and cost-effective foundation for grassroots road or drag racing. These small and large parts are assembled into various aggressively priced packages, and the project's name stems from its factory-new Mach 1 engine, TTC 3650 transmission, and 3.55-geared 8.8-inch rear axle assembly that form part of the package. Naturally, since no modern car will run without the explicit permission of billions of electrons, the powertrain is teamed with a Mach 1 EEC V processor and supporting electronic hardware. These, and other factory bits including Cobra front and rear brakes, lay a solid groundwork. But these are race cars, after all, so where necessary, dedicated race parts from selected aftermarket suppliers supplant the production parts. The result is a car that has more than enough power to entertain on the track, and the factory durability to do it for years to come.
The idea is so exciting, and the packaging so affordably comprehensive, that we decided the best way to do the Mach 1 Racer program justice is to follow along, during the next few issues, as one is built from the ground up, and then give it a race-track tryout upon completion. Even if you have no intention of building a race car, it might be interesting to stay tuned, just to get a feeling for how a new Mustang goes together. Believe it or not, once you have all the right bits and pieces and a decent set of instructions, constructing a Mustang from its unibody underwear is not all that complicated an exercise. Hey, if the UAW can build them....
What's a Body-in-White?
A Mustang body-in-white consists of a unibody shell with attached trunk lid, doors, and hood, bolted together into the form that passes through the factory paint booth. Depending on its appended hood and trunk lid, any given body-in-white may have been destined to become a V-6, a GT, a Cobra or a Mach1 had it not been rejected from the production line, usually for some form of paint flaw that was simply uneconomical for the volume-oriented factory to try and fix. Ironically, a common reason for rejection is the paint is too thick, perhaps a result of a line stoppage causing the assembly to sit in the paint booth for too long. Though it may be cosmetically flawed, the shell is structurally perfect.
Once upon a time, rejected bodies-in-white used to be scrapped. When we first heard of them becoming available for sale a few years back, they were priced around the $2,500 range, which seemed a fairly reasonable starting point for a race car, compared to having to tear apart a $25,000 Mustang. Amazingly, this year CDC Racing can put you into one for as little as $1,400. But don't sit on the fence too long, 'cause supplies, as they say, are limited.
But let's be 100 percent clear. Having no VIN tags, these things are explicitly for race use only, and can absolutely, positively never be titled, licensed, or street driven.
Two Companies, One Goal
Some of you may be wondering why it takes two companies to sell enough stuff to build one race car. The answer is that CDC Racing is set up strictly to negotiate and warehouse the large-scale purchases of production Mustang parts directly from Ford Motor Company. These include bodies-in-white; complete Mach 1 drivetrains (some '03 Cobra engines and six-speed transmissions are currently in stock as well); brake, fuel, and electrical systems; glass, dash panels, and clusters; and all the tiny and unique fasteners and miscellaneous hardware that make it possible to put it all together, that would otherwise cost a considerable fortune and weeks of hair-pulling for an individual to acquire.
Meanwhile, MRT handles aftermarket bits such as seats, suspension and exhaust systems, and any other race-oriented hardware that doesn't normally find its way down the Mustang production line. MRT is also developing lines of hardware for street-driven Mustangs.
But don't worry-you only have to call the CDC Racing number to get underway. The components are gathered into and sold as various subassembly kits, and you have the choice of drag-race or road-race variants. We'll tell you more as we go along.
Though we'd love to have one just for occasional open-tracking, the Mach 1 Racer is intended as more than just a weekend toy. The concept was developed with working-class competition in mind, and a trio of the owners' cars are scheduled to compete in NASA's American Iron series this summer. As we'll itemize as we go along with our buildup, a number of component options are available to potential builders, not all of which may be legal for any given sanctioning body. So if a specific competition series is in your plans, be sure to check the relevant rules before you begin building.