5.0 Mustang & Super FordsProject Vehicles
1991 Ford Mustang LX - Project Cheaper Sleeper
Simple suspension upgrades help our unassuming, underestimated stocker win the big one
On The Dragstrip
As Cheaper Sleeper evolves, our plan is to bring you results of each upgrade’s performance by taking our budget-modded LX “racing” in the NMCA West’s events and at any one of SoCal’s dragstrips, whenever test opportunities are presented to us.
After baseline drag-testing our ’Stang at the first NMCA West race in Bakersfield, the project Pony went into surgery at the Source Interlink Media Tech Center in El Segundo, California, where Grant Peterson gutted the Fox of its stock four-link-style rear suspension, replacing the tired components with Maximum Motorsports’ Torque Arm Package. The three-link setup is highlighted by a solid-steel beam that basically keeps a ’Stang’s axle housing from rotating during hard acceleration and braking. The hard-acceleration aspect is our focus in this test. While the ’Sleeper was still underpowered (178 horses at the feet) when the torque arm was installed, the ’Stang is slated to receive a drivetrain makeover that we believe will pack enough punch to warrant having a stout traction system down below.
Armed with the 60-foot data collected during the ’Stang’s on-track debut, we entered Cheaper Sleeper in the NMCA’s prestigious West Coast Shootout and made time-trial and qualifying hits to see the effectiveness of the upgrade. Per the data, there was no ridiculous record-breaking improvement in 60-foot, eighth-mile, or quarter-mile e.t.’s. However, we did notice the project ’Stang’s overall launch persona definitely changed with the addition of the torque arm, subframe connectors, and tubular rear-lower control arms. With the shocks and struts set for weight transfer and fairly limited squat, the chassis’ new tightness was pronounced; despite not picking up a lot in e.t. (average 2.53 to 2.55 60-foot for 12 passes), the ’Stang consistently reacted quicker at the release of the foot brake (with 1,500 rpm load on the torque converter). Time after time it left the line without any hint of tire spin. And keep in mind, Cheaper Sleeper was tested on standard UHP street tires.
Our project ’Stang’s consistent on-track performance and your tech editor’s killer reaction times (which included a 0.000 perfect light in the quarter-finals) culminated with a win at the West Coast Shootout! That’s right—our $1,000 ’Stang won the big one, and the revered Wally that comes with it!
This is Auto Club Raceway, located in the parking lot of the LA County Fairplex in Pomona, California. As a grassroots/sportsman racer, the privilege to compete on such a revered dragstrip is mindblowing when you consider the fact that until the NMCA West was given permission to run on this quarter-mile, the racing surface technically remains unused except for two times a year (for the NHRA Winternationals and World Finals).
To give you an example of just how special the Pomona event was, this is the commemorative/collectible participant’s credential for the Lucas Oil West Coast Shootout presented by JE Pistons. Nothing like this was issued for any of the other races on the NMCA West schedule.
One of the things we forgot to check at the Bakersfield event was the total weight (with driver) of Project Cheaper Sleeper. Here it is...heavy!
For racing, our LX’s Strange adjustable dampers were set to full loose (zero clicks) up front and at the middle setting (five clicks) in the rear. The valving choices were based on 60-foot and final e.t. data that was recorded during time trials. A three-clicks (front)/four-clicks(rear) combination seems to be the best setup for comfortable street cruising.
Excessive heat conditions and damage to the track’s surface led race officials to shorten the racing distance (to an eighth-mile) for eliminations. The change prompted a call for competitors in the Mustang Madness class to select a fixed index (a non-changeable e.t.) based on eighth-mile data that was gathered during time trials and qualifying sessions. Unlike the class’ usual race procedure, the 0.1 breakout allowance was not used with the fixed-index format. A review of those timeslips showed us that ’Sleeper covered the eighth consistently at 10.364 and 10.372, so the quicker e.t. was selected as our permanent index for the event. Like bracket racing, index-style racing requires drivers to run at or as close to their index number as possible without going quicker than that number (breaking out), while still reaching the finish line first. The difference between the two is that a dial-in number in a bracket race can be changed.