Fox Mustang Drag Cars - Mechanical Romance
Brian And Michelle Cantrell Attack The Dragstrip Together
From the April, 2008 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Michael Johnson
Photography by Michael Johnson
Horse Sense: At a July '06 track outing, Brian blew a front tire right at the finish line. "It was kind of scary," Brian says. "I was lucky I didn't crash." Going through the traps at 136-137 mph, we're not sure we could say the same thing. Surely a new pair of shorts would be in order.
Commonality is critical to a lasting relationship. With nothing in common, you end up sitting quietly at the dinner table with nothing to say, and that gets old in a hurry. We think Brian and Michelle Cantrell will always have something in common, but society wouldn't judge their shared interest to be the norm. Once they've exchanged the trials and tribulations of each other's day, they can always discuss how to make each other's Mustang faster.
Brian and Michelle attended middle school and high school together, graduating in 1990, but they didn't begin dating until March 1991. Could it be coincidental that Brian purchased his black LX hatch shortly after graduation? We think not.
When Brian bought the LX, his only prior automotive experience was a water pump swap. As we all know, it's only a matter of time before it's time to get out the tools and learn how to use them when you own a Mustang. For Brian, that happened when he added headers, an H-pipe, a ported throttle body, roller rockers, and underdrive pulleys. "With each upgrade to the car," Brian says, "I was able to build my mechanical skills."
Brian and Michelle Cantrell...
Brian and Michelle Cantrell are from Maryland, so they call Michelle's car a coupe, but it's a notch above the rest thanks to its 10-second capabilities. The coupe wears Admiral Blue paint, a Harwood 2 1/2-inch cowl hood, and Weld Racing Draglites.
Brian's initial display of skills rewarded him and his hatch with mid-13s at the track. After a few years, the miles started to rack up and he wanted a fresh start. Once he hit 137,000 miles, Brian got out his tools to replace the tired stocker with a Ford dealer- purchased RHO 306 with a Ford Racing Performance Parts B303 camshaft in it. "With the help of some friends, I swapped out the engine with the new one in a weekend," Brian says. The new engine couldn't find sand in the desert (thanks, Charlie), but it provided a solid base for future upgrades.
The amazing thing was that Brian's LX was still running around with 2.73 gears out back and 10-holes at each corner. Finally, the 2.73s gave way to 3.73s, and the 10-holes were pushed aside for a set of Weld Draglites. To give a sense of when Brian was modifying his LX, he says, "When the Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads came out, I jumped on a pair and bought a Cobra intake off of a wrecked car." At the time, Brian says the Cobra intakes weren't readily available through the aftermarket. With the aforementioned performance goodies and Mickey Thompson E/T Drag slicks, Brian lowered his quarter-mile times to 12.0s at 112 mph.
The cabin of Michelle's coupe...
The cabin of Michelle's coupe is more comfortable, thanks to stock LX couches and power steering, but it features the same safety additions, such as an S&W rollcage and five-point harness. Michelle uses a Winters shifter attached to a Transmission Specialties C4 with a manual valvebody and a Pat's Converters 3,500-stall converter.
As with just about every Mustang owner, the power-adder bug bit Brian in the mid '90s, so he purchased a used Vortech A-Trim setup from his friend Will Buckworth. Anticipating 11s and with the mandated 11.99 (now 11.49) rollbar elapsed time, Brian and his friend Tim Ward installed an eight-point bar. Good thing they did, too, because in the cool Cecil County air, Brian ripped off a best of 10.9 at 127 mph. Shortly thereafter, Brian grenaded another T5, so he decided to go the automatic route with an ATI C4. With a click-click in the tunnel, e.t.'s dropped to 10.6s at 124 mph.
More carnage followed when a fuel pump went south, causing large holes in a couple of pistons. This mishap expedited the building of the current 408, but it hasn't stayed the same since he dropped it in. When Brian originally built the 408, he used the 306's Trick Flow heads, 10.5:1 pistons, and a custom hydraulic cam. "I used an Edelbrock Victor Jr. carbureted intake that I modified to accept injectors," he says. Using the mechanical fabrication he's become known for in his circle of friends, he also made a custom elbow to match up with the discharge tube. This time, the discharge tube was attached to a Vortech S-Trim supercharger. These upgrades lowered the e.t. to a best of 10.2 at 132 mph-oh-so-close to the magical 9-second zone.
As with his own LX hatch, Brian also built the engine in Michelle's coupe once Accurate Machine was done with the prep work. Using a stock 302 block, Accurate punched it out to a 306, and Brian used the stock crankshaft and connecting rods, Speed Pro pistons, and a Ford Racing Performance Parts B303 camshaft. Box-stock Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads feature Harland Sharp 1.6-ratio roller rockers and Comp Cams valvesprings to make the most of the B-cam. Unlike the naturally aspirated/carbureted combo in his car, Brian went with a fuel-injected/supercharged combo in Michelle's coupe with a ported Cobra intake, a Vortech SQ S-Trim, and an Anderson Ford Motorsport Power Pipe. The S-Trim pumps in 13 pounds of boost with a 3-inch pulley, helping the coupe run in the mid 10s. Air/fuel adjustments are made via a Vortech 4:1 FMU and a JMS computer chip.
Thanks to a tuning mistake and the winter months, Brian had to wait until the next racing season to go after the 9s. He burnt a piston and had to add a new one. He also ditched the supercharger and added a pair of Edelbrock Victor Jr. heads, as well as a Comp Cams solid-roller cam. With the stock computer, the car ran a 10.65 at 126 mph with the new combo. Then on one trip to Cecil County, his buddy Tim Ward ran into problems with his own carb'd 408. Brian always wanted to try a carburetor, so they swapped the Barry Grant 750-cfm carb to Brian's car in less than an hour. Without tuning the carburetor to his combo, the car responded with a 10.5 at 128 mph.
Since most of the modifications...
Since most of the modifications have been performance-oriented, Brian's black '87 LX hatch features a mostly stock body. To provide more air for the carburetor, the LX boasts a Cervini's Auto Designs 4-inch cowl hood and a Fox GT rear wing replaces the boring LX wing. The LX proudly wears the dragstrip-standard Weld Racing Draglites at each corner with Hoosier Quick Time Pros battling for traction out back.
That's all Brian needed to know about carbs, so he called Summit Racing to order a Holley 950hp carburetor and all the necessary installation components. With a year of tuning and porting the Victor Jr. heads, he conquered the 9-second zone with a 9.98. Currently, the 408 boast AFR heads and high-compression 13:1 pistons. It has run a best of 9.88 at 137 mph.
All this time, Michelle tagged along, playing the role of group photographer/videographer and learning all she could about drag racing. When she finally took her maiden voyage down Cecil Country Dragway, she was hooked-there was no looking back. All that was left to look for was her own Mustang. That happened in 2001 when a friend was ready to sell his '90 coupe that had lost oil pressure. The car already boasted a partially primered exterior, a C4 transmission, 3.73 gears, long-tube headers, an H-pipe, and underdrive pulleys. Brian had done all the work on the car up to that point, so he knew the car well-however, he doesn't take credit for the faulty oil pump.
Now proud owners of the coupe, Michelle and Brian went to work pulling the engine for a rebuild to 306 specs. Aside from the extra cubic inches and new pistons, the engine was essentially stock, featuring only the aforementioned bolt-ons. On the coupe's first trip down Cecil County Dragway, Brian ran the car to a 14.51 at 94 mph. Next, it was Michelle's turn. "I was really nervous," Michelle says. "Knowing the Mustang would be much faster than my previous runs at the track, I ran a 19.16 at 72 mph." She was understandably embarrassed, but after getting used to the car and manually shifting the C4, she was also able to get the coupe into the 14.5s.
Brian's ashtray door is broken,...
Brian's ashtray door is broken, but do we care? The answer is a straight-up no. The LX's interior features budget-minded Summit racing seats, which aren't the prettiest, but they're not meant to be pretty. Just like the Auto Meter gauges Brian utilizes, the seats serve their purpose-to carry Brian for roughly 9 seconds at a time.
Shortly after getting her drag racing groove on, Michelle attended her first NMRA Motorsport Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennylvania. She entered the coupe in the Bracket 3 class and ran in the low 14s. More importantly, she made it to the third round of eliminations and won some money in her first competitive event. How many of us can say that?
Just as on Brian's car, Michelle's coupe has undergone a transformation through the years. Stock heads gave way to ported stock heads, and then more extensively ported stock heads with larger valves. Those gave way to Edelbrock Victor
Jr. heads. The stock intake was ditched in favor of a Cobra intake. A Vortech A-Trim supercharger was swapped out in exchange for an SQ S-Trim huffer. Thanks to those changes, Michelle's coupe went from 14.5s to 10.60s, and Brian is hoping for more.
These days, Brian and Michelle have to get more than two Mustangs ready for racing: They have to prep little Sarah Katelyn to take along. Is a third Mustang far off?
Brian is known in his circle of friends as a good wrench, so it's no surprise to us that he assembled the 408 residing underhood of his '87 LX. Accurate Machine in Newport, Delaware, performed the necessary machining to get the '89 351W truck block ready for an Eagle forged stroker crank and H-beam connecting rods, SRP flat-top pistons, Total Seal piston rings, and a Comp Cams ground bumpstick. The block was bored 0.030-inch over, and with the 4-inch stroke from the Eagle crank, the engine comes in at 408 ci. With the SRP flat-top pistons, the 408's compression ratio comes in at a muscular 13:1. As of right now, the AFR 205 heads are box-stock but feature 2.08/1.60 valves. Unlike the heads, the Edelbrock Victor Jr. intake sitting atop the combo features a port job and relies on the air/fuel mixture from a Holley 950hp carburetor.
|5.0 Tech Specs|
|ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN||ELECTRONICS|
|Stock 5.0, 4.030 bore||Stock computer, JMS computer|
|Rotating Assembly||MSD 6BTM, ACCEL coil, MSD|
|Stock crankshaft and||spark plug wires, Autolite 3923|
|connecting rods, Speed||spark plugs|
|Pro forged pistons||Gauges|
|Cylinder Heads||Auto Meter and Stewart Warner|
|Edelbrock Victor Jr. 2.05/1.60|| |
|valves; Harland Sharp 1.6-ratio||SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS|
|roller rockers; Comp Cams||Front Suspension|
|FRPP B303, stock lifters||Control Arms|
|Mass Air Meter||Stock|
|Pro-M 75mm, K&N filter||Brakes|
|Vortech SQ S-Trim supercharger,||Wheels|
|Anderson Ford Motorsport||Weld Racing Draglite 15x5-in|
|Power Pipe, 13-14 pounds of||Tires|
|Fuel System||Rear Suspension|
|255-lph fuel pump, Stock fuel||Shocks|
|lines and rails, 30-lb/hr injectors,||Stock|
|Crane Cams fuel pressure||Springs|
|regulator, Vortech 4:1 fuel||Stock|
|management unit||Control Arms|
|Exhaust||Southside Machine lowers,|
|BBK long-tube headers, ||modified stock uppers|
|2 1/2-inch H-pipe, Flowmaster||Brakes|
|two-chamber mufflers||Stock drum|
|Transmission Specialties C4,||Weld Racing Draglite 15x8-in|
|manual valvebody, Pat's||Tires|
|Converters 9-in 3,500-stall||Mickey Thompson E/T Street|
|converter, Winters shifter||28x11 1/2|
|8.8, stock differential and axles,||S&W eight-point rollcage, |
|3.55 gears||custom subframe connectors|
|5.0 Tech Specs|
|Brian Cantrell '87 LX|
|ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN||Gauges|
|89 Ford truck 351W, 4.030 bore|| |
|Displacement||SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS|
|Eagle forged crankshaft and ||PA Racing|
|H-beam connecting rods, SRP||Control Arms|
|flat-top pistons, Total Seal||PA Racing|
|Cylinder Heads||Lakewood 70/30|
|Airflow Research 205cc,||Coilovers|
|2.08/1.60 valves; Harland Sharp||PA Racing|
|1.6-ratio roller rockers, Comp||Caster/Camber|
|Cams dual-spring valvesprings||Maximum Motorsports|
|Comp Cams solid-roller||Lincoln calipers, drilled rotors,|
|Intake Manifold||stock pads|
|Edelbrock Victor Jr., ported||Wheels|
|Carburetor||Weld Racing Draglite|
|Holley 950hp, K&N air filter||15x3 1/2-in|
|Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump,||BFGoodrich 165R15|
|lines, regulator||Rear Suspension|
|BBK 1 3/4-in long-tube headers ||Lakewood 50/50|
|w/ modified 3 1/2-in collectors,||Springs|
|Flowmaster Delta Flow mufflers||Stock|
|w/ dumps||Control Arms|
|Transmission||Southside Machine lowers,|
|ATI Performance Products C4 ||Jeg's upper|
|and 8-in 5,000-stall converter,||Brakes|
|Hurst Quarter Stick shifter||Stock drums|
|8.8, Moser Engineering||Custom antiroll bar|
|31-spline axles and spool, 4.10||Wheels|
|gears||Weld Racing Draglite 15x8-in|
|ELECTRONICS||Hoosier Quicktime Pro|
|MSD 6AL, ACCEL coil, MSD||Chassis Stiffening|
|spark plug wires, Autolite 3924||S&W 10-point rollcage,|
|spark plugs||subframe connectors|