KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
August 1, 2008
Photos By: Courtesy Of Paul Schmitz
Not even the ominous dark clouds of an approaching storm could stop us from going after a long-elusive (for one technical reason or another) 10-second timeslip with our project T-top coupe. Don't let this lazy launch (1.56 60-foot) fool you. By the time this run was finished, our 830hp street/strip terror had run right through the 10s and solidly into the 9-second e.t. range.

Horse Sense: "We aren't going at this from a set-the-world-on-fire position. We'll be shooting for mid-to-low 10s, but more importantly, we want a car that can be driven every day with confidence and won't leave us stranded or breaking out the tools during the trip." -Tech Editor KJ Jones in our project car's introduction story ("Raisin' the Roof," May '06, p. 94).

It has been almost three years now since we first wrote about our acquisition of a rare '86 notchback 'Stang with T-tops and our master plan for restoring it, and ultimately driving and racing a finished product that we hope will be thought of as the baddest street/strip project Pony this magazine has ever built.

The Fox-Rod-style restoration has been a great experience, and our T-top coupe has received many accolades for its appearance and engineering, including several car-show awards and a feature story in the Jan. '08 issue of 5.0&SF ("Top This," p. 102). It has also garnered praise for its performance on the street and chassis dyno (830 rwhp/727 lb-ft of torque).

However, despite all of the good that has come our way with the project car, achieving success at our final goal has been met with frustration at every turn. Driving the coupe to a 10-second e.t. at the dragstrip is a goal we set our sights on more than two years ago. Reaching that goal will bring the project full-circle.

We decided to run with the 'Stangs at the PSCA's Orme Brothers Spring Break Shootout, and we entered the new Mustang Maddness class sponsored by Ford Racing. A whopping 38 Ponies showed up for battle in this Open Comp-style eliminator, won by Dan Marciano in his 10-second Fox GT.

The closest our coupe has come to the 10s is an 11.318 at 119.12 mph, which we detailed in a report on our first trip to the track ("Final Exam," Aug. '07, p. 164). Subsequent attempts resulted in a blown engine ("Full-Throttle Meltdown," Jan. '08, p. 68) and an aborted run due to an unlatched hood ("Lights, Cameras...Action!" Mar. '08, p. 128).

While a constant lack of success might keep some 'Stangbangers from going forward, one thing is certain: There's never any quit in our game. Our eyes stay totally focused on the prize when it comes to project cars. As a case in point, note Associate Editor Johnson's 6-year Roadkill effort, which we understand is finally just a solid day's worth of work away from running under its own power.

There's no question we were excited when we saw "T-top Coupe Drag Test" on a recent assignment rundown. We decided to bring the coupe to the Pacific Street Car Association's '08 Orme Brothers Spring Break Shootout event at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California, one week after the NMRA's season-opening event in Bradenton, Florida.

While finally making a good hit was paramount, we also saw this event as a great opportunity to install and try XFI's new Touch-Screen Dash/Data Logger (PN 301417), a compact data-capturing unit for our project car's XFI engine management system. Our good friend Patrick "The Wiring Wizard" Hall helped us install it a few days before the race.

A G-Force fire jacket and pants with a bulky hooded sweatshirt still wasn't enough to keep the chills away from your tech editor. While SoCal's cool, late-winter temperature was far from the freezing cold that points toward the east were experiencing, a losing battle with the flu had KJ looking for warmth anywhere he could find it.

Based on history, you're probably figuring this is the point where we tell you that "everything was going fine until..." and then give you the lowdown on some sort of mechanical or mental disaster that would once again keep us from improving on our 11.31 best e.t. This time we're not going to say or even imply that type of negative sentiment. The truth is, we finally achieved success on the dragstrip with our T-top coupe. Launching from a 1,000-rpm idle with Mickey Thompson's 28x10.5x15-inch ET Drag slicks mounted on Weld Alumastars, your tech editor jockeyed our A.R.E. Performance (350ci engine)/Paxton (Novi 2000 supercharger)/Performance Automatic (AODE)/Chris Alston's Chassisworks (FAB9 rear)-equipped project car to a string-straight 9.790 e.t., at 141.98 mph in the quarter-mile (6.36/115 to the eighth).

Looking back once again at that May '06 intro story, in another interesting quote your tech editor says (in the "Ask the Editors" sidebar): "I'd try to set this car up to fly, but I wouldn't build it to such an extreme that it would be a mid-9-second street Mustang or anything." Well, our T-top coupe actually made running mid-9s look easy, and it has long proven itself as a Mustang with good street manners. Yes, KJ has to eat his words on this one, but there's no doubt that words have never tasted so delicious.

Here are photos and captions from our whirlwind week of race preparations and finally reaching the all-hallowed plateau of street/strip 'Stang performance-the 9-second zone!