Dale Amy
November 1, 2003
A blank palette waiting for artistic attention, our Mach1 Racer's interior is nothing more than a well-caged metal cave with an off-color steering wheel, bolted on to give temporary mobility around the shop. It won't look this way for long.

Horse Sense: At the least, you'll likely want accurate aftermarket oil-temperature and oil-pressure gauges, along with one to keep an eye on fuel pressure. It's also advisable to use a T-fitting for any sensors having a corresponding cluster idiot light, since it's always better to have redundant warning capability to advise of looming disasters such as low oil pressure.

We're getting close now. This is our third installment in the ground-up assembly of a Mach 1 Racer, the track-bred collaboration of CDC Racing and Mustang Racing Technologies. The premise of this exciting concept is quite simple-the construction of a race-ready Mustang out of all-new factory and aftermarket parts, without necessitating a third mortgage on the bungalow or becoming a local distributor of Columbian agricultural products.

Making the Mach 1 Racer unique is the fact that CDC Racing has gathered all the necessary Mustang assembly hardware-from body-in-white right down to the smallest nutclip-and has done so in a fashion that less than $25,000 needs to change hands in order to build yourself a competitive track toy.

In previous issues, beginning with a stoutly caged unibody, we laid the groundwork with factory wiring and plumbing hardware, installed a factory-fresh Mach 1 305hp DOHC and TTC 3650 drivetrain, and bolted on brakes and suspension that should be both agile and durable under the demanding rigors of road-course use. This month we turn our attention inward and transform an empty shell of an interior into a functional, safe, and comfortable cockpit from which to direct our upcoming assault on the pavement.

Until now, factory parts constituted the majority of our component list, with them all being bundled into comprehensive packages by CDC Racing, for quick assembly without frequent trips to the local Pep Boys. For the interior, however, we'll depart greatly from factory Mustang assembly practice, shunning such unnecessary and weighty amenities as side-window glass, HVAC equipment, rear seats, carpeting, interior trim, and entertainment hardware. When it comes to front seats, belts, a steering wheel, and instrumentation, we'll choose from the dedicated race hardware on Mustang Racing Technologies' aftermarket menu.

There are no power-window motors or lock actuators here. We'll install only what we need to make the doors functional, including the exterior handles; the interior door-latch assembly; the striker-plate hardware; and the triangular, outside rearview-mirror molding. The longer of the two linkage rods would normally be used for the door-lock button, but since there's no need to lock a race car, we won't use it. The long part around the perimeter is a roof/window molding, and we won't be installing it until next time, when we finish off the Mach 1 Racer's exterior.

Two studs on the exterior door handles pass through holes in the door-skin and are secured by locking nuts. But before attempting this simple task, a linkage rod is inserted through a holed tab on the handles. These rods will connect the handles to their respective latch mechanisms and are side-specific-the rod with the red paint markings is for the driver door, while the passenger side gets a green-daubed one.

The door latch/ interior-handle assembly comes next. The latch is secured by three bolts to the rear face of the door skin. Notice that much of the driver door's interior skin has been cut away to clear that side's bulging rollcage door tubes (the passenger-side door remains in factory form).

Looking inside the driver-side door skin, the linkage rod previously hooked onto the outside handle is attached to the latch by a plastic clamp arrangement.

Mounting of the interior handle is shown here on the passenger door, along with routing of the cable back to the latch. As do so many Mustang components, the cable uses plastic pushpins for location.

On the body side of the door opening, the latch striker assembly consists of the striker itself and an associated nutplate to which it bolts, sandwiching the unibody in between.

At the front of the doors, the rearview-mirror moldings slip in place around a metal ear on the door skin and are secured by a single self-tapping screw.

The mirrors themselves have a trio of studs that pass through the molding and door. Before the mirrors went on, we positioned the outer window-wipe molding along the top edge of the door frame. No, we're not going to install side glass, but the door would look ratty and unfinished without this molding, which is secured by the mirror at the front and a single rivet at the rear.

With the door hardware done, attention is turned to the rear-seat area with its giant opening right into the trunk. While this area could be left unfinished, we decided to wrap it up with some sheet-aluminum panels. This was done not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to help keep anything in the trunk-such as the battery, for instance-out of the cockpit area in the event of a sudden stop.

CDC's Craig Colden made up cardboard templates and had aluminum sheets cut and bent to shape. CDC Racing plans to make these panels available to racers but has yet to decide whether to craft them out of metal or some form of plastic.

Panel installation can be accomplished via rivets or sheetmetal screws, but not before the appropriate cutouts are made to clear the cage tubing. These cutouts will obviously vary with each cage design. We used six panels in all-two overlapping for the trunk opening/seat-back area, one for each side panel, one for the rear seat floor, and a final one for the package shelf, not yet installed in this photo.

We installed the instrument panel in our first episode; now it's time to fit the gauge cluster. This is as simple as plugging the two harness connectors (arrows) into the back of the cluster and securing it with four screws around the perimeter.

CDC Racing supplies a stock Mach 1/Bullitt cluster having not only the benefit of "plug and play" installation, but also having factory idiot lights to inform us of potential disasters such as low oil pressure and potential nuisances such as low fuel.

A race car is simply not a race car without the obligatory supplementary instruments, so CDC Racing boss, George "Flat Out" Huisman, bent up an aluminum fill panel for the factory HVAC/radio opening and stuffed it with a quintet of Auto Meter Sport-Comp mechanical gauges. Notice that the gauge illumination wiring has all been tied together and will tap into the illumination circuit in the unused factory harness that would normally feed the stereo/HVAC gear.

Believe it or not, there's an EEC V hidden away behind this spaghetti-nest of wiring in the right front footwell. The rollcage downtube obscured the factory EEC mounting points, so Craig mounted its support bracket a bit higher and farther forward with sheetmetal screws. The connections here join the main body harness to the EEC harness.

Craig then threaded the clutch (right) and throttle cables through their respective holes in the firewall and made their interior and underhood connections. These cables could have been fitted earlier, but then would have been dangling in the way of engine insertion.

The dash takes on a more finished appearance with the fitting of the instrument cluster and steering-column trim pieces. The cluster surround uses a combination of spring clips and two screws for retention, while the top and bottom column trim collars screw together with three self-tappers. The ignition switch must be temporarily removed to install these collars.

This trim panel above the glovebox is normally an integral part of the passenger-side airbag assembly. We're not using the bags, so we fitted just the panel from a blown airbag. These aren't easy to find in good shape (the panel splits down the horizontal seam when the bag fires), but CDC Racing is working on securing a supply or making its own. An alternative would be to cut and fit an aluminum panel.

Way back before installing the drivetrain, Craig had installed an MRT short-throw shifter (MRT-502) onto our TR-3650. We finished it off with MRT's palm-filling, billiard ball-size knob. You'll be shifting a lot on a typical road course, so it's important to find a shifter that works well and is within easy reach.

You can't drive with any accuracy if your butt's sliding around, so we opted for Sparco Evo 2 race buckets, available through MRT. It goes without saying that stock seating just won't cut the mustard when it comes to support or safety when driving around a road course under considerable g-loading. MRT also carries other competition buckets, including some from Recaro.

There's just no graceful way to install buckets in a caged race car. Craig was able to use the factory adjustable seat track on the driver's side, but he had to make up a custom fixed mount out of rectangular bar stock on the passenger side in order to clear the rollcage. In both cases, the factory floorpan seat-mounting holes were utilized. Of course, many of you will choose to forego the passenger seat altogether.

Freed of the need for an airbag, the door is opened for a proper race steering wheel, such as this one from Sparco. Oddly, Sparco doesn't make a hub for late-model Mustangs, so we used one from MOMO. Craig also made up the textured-plastic trim plate at left to hide the guts of the steering column, which would normally be visible behind the new wheel's small hub.

We can't overstate the value of a good steering wheel, especially on a road-course car. Notice how the Sparco is flat on the bottom to provide as much leg clearance as possible. It's not cheap, but it's worth every penny in lap times and good looks.

We finished off the Mach 1 Racer's interior with a secure set of Sparco five-point race harnesses. In our next installment, we'll wrap up construction with the glass, trim, and other exterior finishing touches, and get ready for a trip to the road course. We'll also try and put together some detailed accounting, so we can see just how much less than 25 grand our little project cost.