Robin Lawrence
September 1, 2005
Photos By: Courtesy Of Robin Lawrence

Horse Sense:
The '05 Mustang uses a front crossmember to mount the front stabilizer bar. It also has tabs to support the radiator. Racecraft whipped up a new chrome-moly piece to replace the stock mount. We found that the blower pulley on our 5.0L had hit the stock stabilizer crossmember. Looking to save weight, we retained the stock V-6 radiator. For the Power Tour we will use an Evans Cooling radiator and waterless coolant.

If you joined us last month ("Real Crazy," p. 166), you know we began the task of turning a perfectly good '05 V-6 Mustang into a cutting-edge Real Street race car. After tearing her apart, we headed off to Racecraft to make her better, stronger, and faster. No more dismantling our '05 Mustang. From this point forward, everything got us closer to the NMRA season opener in Bradenton in early March. If you remember, we dropped the car off on New Year's day. That left us just about two months to complete it. As it turns out, we needed every day that we could get. The '05 Mustang differs from every Mustang that preceded it, so as it turns out, developing parts takes time.

Last Things First
Since not many people tear apart brand-new cars, Racecraft used the construction of our car to its advantage, as main man Mark Wilkinson decided to create a product line for the new car. We discussed the obstacles we would face. The three-link rear suspension was the first. There are years of data on torque arms and three-link suspensions, but we couldn't find anything relating to a three-link design with an upper link as short at the one utilized in the '05

Mustang. In theory, it would appear to produce a violent reaction in a high-horsepower car.

In discussions with Motive Gear's Greg Brown, we had decided to make the switch to the 9-inch-style rear axle. In the past, we had subscribed to the thought that because of the design, the 8.8-inch design consumed less power, so it was the way to go. However, there are several trade-offs with the 8.8. Minimizing flex is a difficult task. Gear choices are also limited. The only gears available for the 8.8 axle are the less-durable street-type gears. This time around, we decided any advantage that the 8.8 might have would be negated by its inherent flex. We started with a Strange Engineering fabricated housing.

Mark and Tom at Racecraft fabricated the upper and lower control arm brackets for our housing. This included stronger frame support and a Panhard rod. The rear shocks are Afco double-adjustable units provided by Dave at Raceware. I loved the Afcos on my '88 coupe so they were an easy choice. On the '05, the shocks are mounted at a slight angle with the lower attachment being close to the wheel. Since we run 15-inch wheels and the OEM wheels were 17- to 18-inches, we knew that it would be close. We started by measuring the width of the stock 7.5-inch rear axle. From rotor face to rotor face it measured a whopping 65 inches wide. Our plans were to build the Strange/Motive 9-inch rear axle as narrow as possible. This would prove difficult with the width and design of the rear frame area of the '05.

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To aid the fitment cause, we chose Strange Engineering's Drag Race brakes. At the advice of JC at Strange, we used the symmetrical bolt pattern for caliper bracket/bearing-flange mounting point. This would enable us to clock the brake caliper to give us the needed clearance with the framerail. After Mark and Tom completed the control arm brackets, Strange installed the ends and rear brace. Our final rotor-to-rotor width was 5511/44 inches. This allowed us to use Weld Racing Aluma Star Pro 15x10-inch rims with a 3-inch-backspace.

First Things Second
At the other end of the car was the K-member. The rules for the NMRA dictated that the pickup points be in the stock locations. The '05 Mustang resembled a Camaro more than the Mustangs we've known and loved. Racecraft has fabricated both Mustang and Camaro K-members for several years, so that helped. The focus here was on developing a K-member that offers an easy installation with minimal need for additional components. One difference with our application was the use of the pushrod 5.0 engine. We didn't think there would be a huge demand for such a K-member, and it was an eye-opening experience to see what it takes to make the tooling for these parts.

In addition to the new K-member, we decided to utilize a set of Racecraft's dropped spindles. These would allow us to use more strut travel on our lowered car without bottoming out. Since Strange Engineering had not yet developed a drag-race front brake kit, we opted to use an '87-'93 spindle and strut. This would allow us to use off-the-shelf parts from Strange. Later, we learned that the '05 Mustang spindles offset the centerline of the spindle 151/416 inches forward of the ball joint centerline. This required a repositioned lower control arm to correct the difference. As per the NMRA Rules, the attachment points must remain in the stock locations.

The new Mustang also uses a fixed upper strut mount. The caster is fixed from the factory. The camber adjustments are made through a kit sold by Ford that uses cam-type bolts at the strut/spindle attachment point. Mark opted instead to devise a plate that attached under the shock tower to position the top of the strut. We used Pinto rack-and-pinion, but if you want to run a K-member on your '05, you'll want to use an aftermarket rack.

Getting Cable
If you are thinking about installing a cable clutch in your '05 Mustang-don't-or at least know what you are getting into. We chose a '93 Mustang swing pedal assembly so we could use a cable-clutch release. The clutch-equipped '05s use a hydraulic throw-out bearing to actuate the clutch. Because this is a new system, we opted to use something that we know. Because we used the same mounting point as the stock brake booster and master cylinder, the clutch pedal is a little to the left of a Fox-chassis Mustang's. The firewall would prove a major problem, as the area where the cable adjuster should mount would interfere with the stock windshield wiper assembly. So much for wipers on the Hot Rod Power Tour. Can you say Rain-X?

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Easing the Pain
Because of our limited time, we opted to use a Painless Products EFI harness to isolate the factory wiring from the systems that would be required for our race drivetrain. Items such as the electric fan and Aeromotive fuel pump would be on separate circuits, independent of the factory harness. When we removed the engine, the processor and its harness went with it. The power distribution center is located in the right front of the engine compartment. In hindsight, the decision to use the Painless Products components was wise, as doing so simplified troubleshooting down the road. We also used Painless' four-position Switch Panel, Fuel Pump Relay Kit, Fan Relay Kit, and Electric Battery Disconnect.

As in our '88, MSD supplied all the ignition components-but this time we stepped up to the 7531 Digital Programmable 7. The features of our 7530 rocked, so we can't wait to utilize the capabilities of the new MSD Box.

Likewise, we had obtained a set of Auto Meter's full-sweep electric gauges for the '88 coupe but never had the time to install them. The beauty of these gauges is we can use the same sensors for our Auto Meter datalogger, making for an easy switch on test days, as the datalogger isn't legal for competition. Using these gauges also cleans up our cowl and dash area. In the past, we have had to mount the fuel pressure gauge outside the car. Now we have our boost, brake pressure, fuel pressure, oil pressure, and water temperature gauges neatly in the dash. We also installed one of Auto Meter's dual-channel playback tachs. This records driveshaft and engine rpm. With this equipment, we will have more information than ever before.

Making Noise
With all the room in the engine compartment our 1 3/4-inch AFM/Bassani short-tube headers clear easily. Because of the difference in the exhaust routing on the '05 Mustang, we needed to change a few things. First, Mick from Racecraft TIG-welded a Bassani-supplied X-pipe to fit our chassis. He then had to fabricate a new transmission crossmember to prevent interference. The '05 uses a 1-inch-thick, aluminum transmission mount. Mick then fabricated a bracket from some 1/8-inch steel plate and 1/2-inch chrome-moly tubing. Then, he fabricated the extensions to the Bassani race mufflers mounted where the stock gas tank once lived (we are obviously running a cell in the trunk).

So there you have it. Just a brief look at all the hurdles we crossed en route to a successful debut in Bradenton.

The Thrash
Originally, we set a deadline of the end of January to take delivery of the car from Racecraft. After all the time and effort involved, that was pretty crazy. Sure, if these cars and parts had been around for a while, but not when you have to hand-fabricate every part and use a powder-coater, CNC machine shop, water jet, and laser cutter so everything looks like it belongs. As such, the pressure was starting to build like it does on one of those automotive reality shows where Ricky Best makes cameo appearances.

While my working alter ego (yes, I do work) had to fly to Puerto Rico on February 27, the car needed to be at Mark Kirkman's shop before he left. That Saturday (the 26th) was a thrash of epic proportions. We ended up loading the car at 10 p.m., and dropping it of at Kirkman Composites around midnight. Upon my return the following Thursday, I would walk my daughter down the isle to marry Tim Krisher. Mark Kirkman had seven days to make the hood. We had planned to leave on Monday (March 8) to be in Clearwater, Florida, for the photo shoot you see elsewhere in the magazine. It looks great, but getting there was a thrash.

The engine had not been fired and we were a long way from being done. While the driveshaft arrived the previous Friday, we still had no upper mount for the three-link. The day after my daughter's wedding, it was back at Kirkman Composites. Mark and Jimmy had been busy while I was gone. The new windshield had been installed and they had fabricated a mold from the stock hood. In order to build their new design, the duo produced two hoods from the stocker. Then, they cut up one hood and built a raised cowl on the uncut hood. From this mockup, they produced a new mold. On Sunday night, they laid the carbon-fiber hood in the newly completed mold. Time for painting was running short.

While all this was going on, I was busy installing all the pieces-clutch, transmission, rocker arms, and pushrods just to name a few-to the engine. It was only a mock-up. The blower, radiator, and fan were still in place from the chassis shop. It was at that time we knew that we would not have a shifter as we had hoped. Hurst is developing a remote-mounted shifter for the Tremec 600 in the '05 Mustang, but it wasn't ready, so we had to place the shifter beneath the dash.

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After missing our Monday departure deadline, we decided to get a good night's sleep firing the engine for the first time (in the '05) and leave on Tuesday. Andy Burnett had taken pity on me and made the drive so I would not fall asleep along the way. He had also thrashed on the car with me at Racecraft and Kirkman Composites shop. Chris Benningo met us in Tampa where we all set to completing the car for the photo shoot scheduled the following day. We worked till 5 p.m. on Wednesday then were back at it at 8 in the morning-we had the editor breathing down our necks to get the car ready to shoot. By 3 p.m., we pronounced the car presentable for pictures. At this point, the car had still not moved under it's own power.

As you can see elsewhere in the magazine, we made it to the photo shoot. But, let's just say it was a good thing the plan called for night shots.

At the Track
We dropped the trailer at the track in Bradenton about 11:30 p.m. On Friday morning, we returned to make the '05 ready for NMRA tech in. At the urging of Chris Beningo, we opted to tow the car to tech prior to finishing all the little items needed to run the car. The tech inspection went smoothly with Thom Bates taking about a zillion pictures of the car. We missed the first round of qualifying on Friday afternoon because we were installing that upper mount which was never completed. We were lucky that BMR had one of its own at the track waiting in the tower. Thanks guys.

On Friday, we also found a problem with the power windows. It seems that for no reason, the power windows would quit working. Former Master Ford Technician and crew member Shane Reffett had the doors apart as well as the factory harness. Originally, we thought our 16-volt battery might have fried the GEM module that Ford uses in the '05 to control the window functions. After swapping our module into JMS' '05 Mustang, we discovered it was fine. Later that day, we found that the GEM module has an over-voltage cut-off. Once we charged the 16-volt battery, the windows would not work. After running the car, the windows worked. We solved the problem by installing a voltage reducer before the factory distribution box.

We were ready for the second round of qualifying, or so we thought. It seemed like every person in Bradenton was watching to see the first pass in the '05. After a "camera" burnout, the car stalled at the line and would not fire. That was the low point of what was a wonderful weekend. Our problem was a stretched wire on our throttle-position sensor. Reigning Pure Street Champion Rich Groh loaned us one for the final round of qualifying. With only one opportunity to qualify, I felt it prudent to simply take the Tree and get into the field for Sunday's program. Easing off the line, the car ran an 11.34 at 135. The pass felt too smooth for a Mustang.

On Sunday, we learned that our first-round opponent would not make the call. Cool, a free pass. After the burnout, I kept the revs up on the engine to ensure that the car would not stall. When the light came down, I let go of the clutch and ran the gears. When I got the timeslip I was surprised to see a 9.90 at 137 mph. Woohoo! A 9-second pass on the first full pass. In the second round, we had to run the number-one qualifier. We ran a 9.87 to his aborted 13-second time. The Cinderella story ended there, however, as I redlit so badly in the final that I didn't get a time slip. OK, Steve you can call me Uncle Redlight again [Don't mind if I do.-Ed.].