Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
December 8, 2006
Getting the Real Street project to Bowling Green was a bit of a struggle. After we swapped to a new Pro-M 80mm mass air, Rick Anderson lent a hand with his dexterity on the dyno at Holley's tech center and also on the Werx Motorsports mobile dyno at Beech Bend Raceway. He helped tune the PMS and kept a sharp ear out for detonation during the process. We were all set for a Hail Mary exhibition pass on Sunday, but with weather delays and track cleanups, the NMRA race director kept bumping us down the ladder until we didn't have any time to make the run. But Project Real Street will grace the staging lanes at Bradenton in 2004 for sure.

For us 5.0&SF staffers, project cars typically wreak havoc with our professional and personal lives. While readers and show attendees see only the fruits of our many hours of labor, it is just that labor that makes for long nights and heated conversations between loved ones. While you see a custom paint job, what you don't see is the 18-hour day it took to put the car back together after the paint job the day before the race. You see a freshly detailed engine with lots of trick parts that makes 400-plus horsepower, but you don't see the hours putting it together, tuning it, fixing little problems, and then finally getting it to run. It's all this background work that makes a project car come alive within these pages and at the events we bring it to.

What's even more problematic with the Real Street project is that, until earlier last year, it wasn't running. That meant we had to stay after hours or set aside weekends to come up to the shop and work on it. Between my family's schedule and Editor Turner's football season, it was difficult. With no room in Turner's garage (I, at least, have my '66 Mustang project in my home garage for late-night tinkering), it meant trucking up to the office on weekends to get some work done. Some days were productive, others weren't. With a V-8 conversion, massive wiring changes, and so on, we were constantly frustrated by missing clips, brackets, relays, and other doo-dads that were required during the transformation from church transportation for the elderly to a screaming 10-second race car.

So where are we now? We've actually come quite a ways. The car is running, and everything works but the fuel gauge and the A/C. All it really needs to go down the track are some last-minute fixes, updates, and additions, along with an alignment and tuning.

As I said in Horse Sense, project cars are never really done, and as soon as the race season-and football season-is over, I'm sure Editor Turner will be cracking the whip for A/C, a decent stereo, and whatever parts he feels we need to comply with the rule changes. Thanks for your support of the project, and we hope to see you at the races.

Horse Sense: Our Real Street project is far from over. Actually, most magazine project cars never really get done, they just keep getting updated or go in an entirely new direction years down the road. Now that the Real Street car is "fully operational," we'll enjoy future updating to go with the newer NMRA rules, and we'll add some tunes and working A/C to make Editor Turner more comfy when he's posing.

Because the Real Street project sat for most of the season without being started, the clutch disc rusted to the pressure plate. Several people told us this is pos-sible when moisture gets into the bellhousing and the car has a car cover on it outside. We ended up replacing the complete clutch setup with an Anderson Ford Motorsport Hi-Rev kit. The billet aluminum flywheel comes with both 28-ounce and 50-ounce weights to accommodate either standard balance. This baby weighs about 14 pounds less than the stock flywheel and will help 60-foot times.

Due to the added thickness of the aluminum flywheel, our ARP mounting bolts were not long enough. In a pinch, we used Ford OE hardware to put the car back together. Notice the length difference between the Ford bolt on the left and the ARP on the right.

The new flywheel is mounted to the crank and then torqued to specs. To prevent rubbing, make sure there's adequate clearance between the flywheel weight and the block plate.

The new Hi-Rev clutch features a spring hub for nice street manners and a grippy friction surface. These clutches have seen 7,600 rpm in testing without any engagement or release problems.

Another upgrade we planned was to fix our mistake of using a stock clutch fork with a blowproof bellhousing. Due to the added size of these bellhousings, a stock fork becomes too short and puts the clutch cable at an angle between the fork and the bellhousing lip. You want the cable to be pulled straight, requiring a longer fork. To fix the problem, we used a Pro Motion Performance extended clutch fork, available through AFM.

When we put the transmission back in the car, we decided to finally wire up our Line-Loc. Form and function take precedence over beauty when it comes to race cars (at least that's what we keep telling Editor Turner), so off came the billet shift knob and in its place went a new Side-winder knob from Hurst. The Sidewinder has a conveniently placed thumb switch that can be used to control a Line-Loc, a two-step, nitrous, or just about any-thing else. We wired our Line-Loc and two-step through this switch and a rocker switch in the AFM ashtray panel. With the rocker switch off, the Sidewinder button is Line-Loc only, while the switch on the Sidewinder button controls the two-step as well.

Another change we wanted to make was to Aeromotive's latest sumped tank redesign. The new tank was in our possession, but we had to order some fittings to get everything set to go. The new sump puts the return line right into the sump, thus we had to install a fitting and an extra length of braided line to route the new return line farther back.

The old return line design had the line entering this billet fitting at the top of the tank. We had Aeromotive send us an O-ring plug for the billet fitting since the fitting will not be used on the new design tank.

Aeromotive also sent us a sump assembly so we could show you the internal design of the sump that's installed. The return line now feeds the sump directly to keep fuel at the pickup during just about any situation. This new design is set to keep the car running at peak performance with only a couple gallons in the tank-say bye-bye to fuel-starvation problems on the street or during your launch.

The only thing left to do before installing the revised tank was to trim the tank cover for the slightly larger sump. As seen here before trimming, the old sump was much smaller, requiring a smaller opening.

With the tank in the car, we topped off the Real Street with VP Racing Fuels' C10 unleaded race gas. We filled the tank, knowing we'd be running the car on the dyno for tuning.

To fit Weld Racing's new Aluma Star 2.0 wheels on the front, we had to clearance the front brake calipers just a bit. The cooling fins at each end of the caliper needed the most clearancing.

On the rear, the only clearance problems were with the body itself and not the suspension or brakes. Due to the ride height and the size of our Mickey Thompson slicks, the rear wheel lips needed to be trimmed or bent out of the way. While this should have been tackled before the paint job, Editor Turner didn't hash out which wheel and tire combo to use until after the fact.

The answer came in the form of Chicane Sport Tuning's Jimmy tool. This handy item quickly "rolls" the fender lip, offering the maximum amount of clearance possible. There may still be some slight paint cracking or flaking along the lip, but the job is made much easier with this tool.

With the car sitting with the race wheels, tires, and fuel in it, we had to finish setting up the chassis. We called on our friend Ronnie Carver of Sundancer Performance Automotive to come to our shop and help set up the car. Ronnie's first step was to make sure the rear axle was square in the chassis by measuring the axle against fixed chassis points.

The rear axle was centered, so Ronnie moved on to setting the pinion angle. He used a digital angle finder to check the pinion angle.

Then he adjusted the rear control arms until he was happy with the pinion angle setting, which ended up at 3 degrees.

The camber (the side-to-side adjustment at the top of the strut) was set at 2 degree, with the front end jacked up about 2 inches at the K-member to simulate starting-line launch characteristics.

Anyone who has read this magazine for a while knows I never do anything the easy way. One day I'll learn!

When we began constructing our Real Street project car some two years ago, the class cars were solidly in the 10s and most racers were still running street equipment-heck, power steering was required. Even Fred Felt ran competitively with his A/C hooked up in the first year. Since then, the rules have opened up with coilovers and nearly unlimited short-block options, so I knew our stout stock-block setup with full accessories would be down on power compared to those with purpose-built engines. But I was hoping for horsepower numbers in the high 400s (the fast blower racers make 560-plus at the wheels).

With that in mind, we struck a plan. Get the car ready, trailer up to Bowling Green a day early, and convene on Holley Performance's Dynojet with Rick Anderson. As the car had been driven only around our shop, I was anxious to hear it run at full song on the dyno.

At the front of the car, Ronnie used his digital angle finder and a custom-made alignment tool of his own design to set the caster and camber. The caster setting (the fore aft measurement of the strut) was maxed out, yet it was made even from side to side.

When we arrived at Holley, Rick started with a really conservative tune-up. The car made only 380 hp. To top it off, I had selected the wrong MAP sensor for the PMS, so we were getting false boost readings, which had us scratching our heads. We began to make progress past 400 hp.

After breaking for lunch, we returned to the dyno. The car wouldn't start. We spent the rest of the afternoon chasing starters and batteries. Holley even let us try one of its Race Cell batteries (thanks for the hospitality, guys!). No luck. It turned out a finicky cut-off switch wasn't giving us full juice. Of course, the car started right up when we pulled off the dyno.

We had to call it quits for the day. I was bummed, and not excited about having the car make exhibition runs. And, the antisway bar mount had mysteriously broken on the dyno. It really gives you a new appreciation for the dedication of competitive racers. We were just playing around, but we were ready to cash it in because such things become nothing but distractions when you're trying to cover an event the magnitude of the NMRA World Finals.

The final measurement was to set the toe-in (the front of the tires pointing toward each other) on the front suspension. Ronnie set it at 1/8 inch. This measurement was also checked and set with the front of the car slightly raised to simulate a dragstrip launch. The slight toe-in will keep the car straight while going down the track. With the chassis setup complete, it was off to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to meet up with Rick Anderson and do some tuning. But, as alluded to in the lead caption, Project Real Street never saw the track, though Editor Turner did get to profile through the pits in the car several times to prove it does run under its own power instead of "staff pushing" power.

Nonetheless, we managed to get John Urist to weld up our sway bar mount. We scheduled some time on Werx Motorsports portable dyno at the track. With more tuning and a fresh belt, Project Real Street managed a solid 420 horses at the wheels. A nice street car to be sure, but nothing close to what we (or anyone else) believed it should have made. I'm sure we could have tweaked awhile longer on the little things and gotten the car into the mid 400s, but like all car guys, it wasn't enough for us.

We wanted a car that fit the rules but still offered all the creature comforts. So that's what we built. It has A/C, power steering, and a smog pump. I really wanted to see how the car would run in street-type trim. What I hadn't counted on was the rpm required to make power in these cars. The competitive racers are now running their cars all the way past 7,500 rpm to make boost with the legal pulleys. Our Real Street car was good for only about 6,500 with its out-of-the-box Twisted Wedges. No trick valve job, no trick valvesprings-just dust 'em off and bolt 'em on. That resulted in only 12 pounds of boost with the legal pulley, compared with the 17-plus the racers see.

So I think we're ready for phase two. As Mark said, project cars are never done, but I think it's time to take off some of that street equipment and get serious about valve jobs, valve-springs, and rpm. I still want a car I can drive, but I'd like it to make 500 hp. We have a great package; we just need to refine it. Heck, Jason Hoots ran 10.0s with a stock short-block time bomb. Ours needn't be competitive in the class, but it would be fun to see it make good power and run in the 10s. Hopefully, the class won't be running 9.0s when we get there. - Steve Turner