1986 T-Top Coupe LX - Plan Beast
Our '86 T-Top Coupe Is Back In Action With Bigger Steam And Lower 9-Second Potential
From the June, 2010 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By KJ Jones
Photography by KJ Jones
After correcting a fuel-delivery...
After correcting a fuel-delivery problem with our '86 T-top coupe, it became clear that the Pony's existing XFI tune wasn't suitable for dyno power or dragstrip performance. Josh Deeds of Deeds Performance came down to the dyno and helped dial-in a new program for the XFI, which proved to be the key to our project car's jaw-dropping gains.
"Sometimes, Kaje, it's all about saving face," said Tech Editor KJ Jones' wife, Crystal Jones, when asked whether our street/strip '86 T-top coupe LX should be called into service as our backup race car for the Street Car Super Nationals V, when it became clear that Boss 340 would not be finished in time for the event. Seriously, guys, there really is a lot to be said about a woman's intuition.
For more than a year now, the bulk of our project-car reports have centered on Project Vapor Trail, Editor Steve Turner's radical '08 Shelby GT500; Project Fox 500, Big Steve's even-more-radical '88 T-top LX hatchback; and Project Boss 340, Tech Editor KJ Jones' mega-radical Cleveland-headed, nitrous-injected 343ci, four-speed drag-racer '90 LX hatchback Mustang.
As timelines go, any new project-car updates we publish should technically focus on one of the three aforementioned Mustangs, as they're all ongoing works in progress-PVT is probably the most "finished" Pony in the group. Things are a bit different with this report, as it highlights details on our recent escapades with Project T-top Coupe, our rare '86 notchback Mustang with T-tops. At this point, it's a blast from the not-so-distant past. The coupe hasn't been featured in a 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords tech report since our Aug. '08 issue.
This is the short list of...
This is the short list of tasks that had to be accomplished on the T-top Mustang in the two weeks leading up to Street Car Super Nationals V. Notice the "Boss 340" next to the belts entry on the list? To save time, our initial plan was to install our new project car's SFI-certified safety harness in the coupe as a replacement for its out-of-date belts. However, for a nominal fee, DJ Safety Equipment exchanged the expired harness for a fresh set of its five-way, cam-locks, which kept us on track for completing the backup 'Stang in time.
Right now, we actually should be reporting on what we had hoped would be the Boss 340's triumphant debut at the PSCA's Street Car Super Nationals V. SCSN is a high-profile, large-payout event that's held in November at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Pro Street class pays $20,000 to the winner.
Our goal was to complete Boss 340 in time for the race and enter it in the Ford Racing Performance Parts Mustang Maddness class. However, one of the guaranteed truisms about projects is that some things simply don't go according to plan despite all good intentions. Unfortunately, such was the case with Boss 340.
As we explained in "Graphic Detail" (Apr. '10, p. 88), delays in the body shop made it clear that Boss 340 would not be ready for SCSN V. Despite the setback and after lots of deliberating over what move to make (with the prophetic wisdom of Mrs. Jones), we decided to keep our commitment to run in SCSN V, calling our street-driven, T-top car into service as a more-than-suitable replacement for the incomplete Boss.
It's important to note that prior to making the decision, the coupe maintained a peaceful existence as a quasi-regularly driven street car. It had not been on a chassis dyno or a dragstrip since 2007, when we cut it loose on Extreme Automotive's Dynapack Evolution 4000 chassis dyno and then took it to the track. At that time, the coupe's Paxton Novi 2000-blown, A.R.E. Performance & Machine 350ci Ford made 830 horses worth of steam and 727 lb-ft of torque, which easily carried the 3,500-pound Pony down the quarter-mile in 9.79 seconds at 141.98 mph.
Low fuel pressure and sluggish...
Low fuel pressure and sluggish driveability on the street prompted us to remove the coupe's Alumastealth fuel tank in an effort to determine what was causing the condition. What we found inside was this 100-Micron fuel filter packed solid with pump-fuel residue. It had gelled at some point and adhered to the Alumastealth's walls. According to engineers we spoke with at VP Racing Fuels, introducing tankfuls of higher-octane race fuel apparently broke down the residue over time. We consider this a prime example of why it's important to use good filters on a big-horsepower fuel system.
Naturally, we didn't believe there was any reason why the project car's past performance would not be duplicated (or improved on) in Las Vegas. Before taking the coupe to the strip, we first had to correct a few issues that had come up since the last time it was dragstrip tested, such as fuel delivery, brake adjustment, recertifying the safety harness and window net, chassis certification and tuning. The sincerely appreciated thrashing and efforts of A.R.E. Performance & Machine, Extreme Automotive, Orme Brothers, and Josh Deeds of Deeds Performance had our 'Stang ready for action with two days to spare before the Street Car Super Nationals.
In this story, we document the preparatory activity that went on during the thrash, including the phenomenal results from the all-important dyno session and dragstrip run. These results make it clear that the coupe's supercharged small-block is a lot more potent than we imagined.
Now we're back on track with Project Boss 340, and the T-top coupe will be going into surgery for another engine rebuild. The new plan is to take our registered, insured rare Mustang beyond the 1,000-rwhp boundary with more cubes and more boost, and possibly run 8s-all with a Mustang that we still can take to the streets whenever we want, and drive 'til the wheels fall off with the stereo cranked way up.
Before replacing the 100-micron...
Before replacing the 100-micron filter (as a precaution, we also installed a new Aeromotive A1000 fuel pump), Art Williams gave our project 'Stang's fuel tank a thorough cleansing with two gallons of paint thinner.
While Boss 340's safety harness...
While Boss 340's safety harness was spared, we had to jack the complete wheels-and-tires package from the race car, as that running gear originally was intended for the T-top coupe's dragstrip tests. With our coupe in street mode, its racing bling-and-rubber was mounted on the new project Pony for a chassis and suspension mockup, and rolling around the shop.
You can't beat a sign guy...
You can't beat a sign guy who makes house calls! Although Boss 340 wasn't ready for action, our Raceskinz-modified (i.e. carbon fiber) pit-support vehicle/golf cart made its debut at SCSN V. Mike Smith put the finishing touches on Pit Boss inside our enclosed trailer on the eve of our departure for Las Vegas.
A dyno test and tuning were...
A dyno test and tuning were the final preparatory efforts in our two-week thrash. To ensure the Paxton Novi 2000 would pump out a steady 20 psi of boost, a new 10-rib serpentine belt (Mack Trucks PN 20821339) was installed and tightened to near crank-snapping tension.
On The Dyno
The crew at Extreme Automotive and Josh Deeds of Deeds Performance were kind enough to make time to give our coupe a checkout on the chassis dyno before going out to race. With a new fuel pump installed, tuning changes were necessary to achieve a safe air/fuel ratio of 11.7 at wide-open throttle. Josh reduced fuel by nearly 11 percent.
No one expected to see major horsepower or torque gains, as we really didn't make any changes to the engine or blower, save for adding a new belt and making sure it was tight. The results, however, surprised everyone in the dyno cell. With 20 psi of boost, the retuned A.R.E. Performance & Machine small-block Ford slammed 866 hp and 734 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels.
"That can't be right!" is...
"That can't be right!" is one of the exclamations we're accustomed to hearing when a contestant's performance in our King of the Street competition isn't up to expectations. We're certain the power and torque figures recorded by Extreme Automotive's dyno are spot on. It goes without saying how pleased we are with the 30hp gain we saw after correcting the T-top coupe's fuel problem and setting up a new tune in the XFI processor. Check out those curves!
It's important to remember...
It's important to remember that there is no intercooler on Project T-top coupe. Snow Performance's Stage 3 water-methanol system is used to subdue inlet-air temperatures, but Josh Deeds recommends using a large air blower between pulls to alleviate some of the heat soak that the intake manifold and supercharger endure during a dyno test.
On the Dragstrip
Take a look at the data on...
Take a look at the data on the left. Unfortunately, a problem brought a premature end to this run, but based on the e.t. at that point (8.840) and the fact that the 'Stang coasted through the finish line at 10.53/130, we're confident our backup ride was headed toward a lower 9-second time than our previous best, with speed in the mid-140-mph zone.
We made it to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Thursday, one day before qualifying for SCSN V began. After spending the day registering to run in the Ford Racing Performance Parts Mustang Maddness class, getting our 'Stang tech'd, setting up the pit area, and mounting new slicks on the T-top coupe's Weld Alumastar rear wheels, we were confident the race weekend would be successful. As the saying goes, "So much for the best-laid plans."
During the first round of qualifying on Friday, a freak engine mishap put an end to our hopes of reaching the winner's circle at SCSN V. However, there are highlights to the ill-fated pass. It was the first time we used the transbrake in the coupe's Performance Automatic Super Comp AODE transmission, and it performed flawlessly, launching the 3,500-pound Mustang like a bullet from a gun. Also important, the timeslip data indicates an improvement on our previous best e.t. and mph had the car made it through the quarter-mile under full power.
Mickey Thompson Tires' support...
Mickey Thompson Tires' support rig was on hand and busy throughout the weekend at SCSN V. We set up the coupe with a fresh pair of 28x10.5-inch ET Drag slicks, which proved to be a great move (1.427 60-foot). We're often asked how we fit true 10.5s inside the stock rear wheelwells of our Fox-body with a 15x10-inch wheel. The process requires a 6.5-inch backspace for the wheels and extensive rolling and beating of the wheelwell on both sides.
Damaged? Maybe. Defeated?...
Damaged? Maybe. Defeated? No way! Our T-top coupe sat on jackstands for the majority of the race weekend. We didn't get into disassembling the engine at the track. However, based on the piston speckle that's evident on this spark plug (No. 7 cylinder), a rebuild is in the offing. We'll probably go bigger when we get around to assembling a new bullet.
Street Car Super Nationals V
Each November, the PSCA's founder and president, Mel Roth, brings big-time, high-dollar, heads-up drag racing to the West-the Street Car Super Nationals.
The race, held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, features the quickest, fastest West Coast doorslammers (of all makes) from California, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Canada. They compete with counterparts from points as far east as Oklahoma, New Jersey, Connecticut, and South Carolina, all vying for a shot at the $20,000 prize.
While there are several other exciting, heads-up categories-such as 10.5 Outlaw and two drag radial classes, which all include badass 'Stangs-we're partial to the Ford Racing Performance Parts' Mustang Maddness eliminator. It's an Open Comp-format class for Ford-powered Ponies only. Kirk Bouchard took top honors this year in Mustang Maddness, but you can bet we'll be back out there next season trying to capture the prestigious win with Boss 340.
Ford Racing Performance Parts...
Ford Racing Performance Parts Mustang Maddness winner Kirk Bouchard capitalized on the bye he received in Round 1 when our Mustang was unable to compete. He stormed his way through the rest of the field en route to a win over Paul Huizenga in the final.
Chip Havemann and NMRA Modular...
Chip Havemann and NMRA Modular Muscle racer Joe Cram made the trip to Las Vegas with Chip's new single-turbo coupe. Despite gremlins that put Chip out in the first round, it was great to see him back behind the wheel of a small-tire Mustang.
SCSN V's Xtreme Drag Radial...
SCSN V's Xtreme Drag Radial rules permit using 315/50-15 drag radials or true 10.5-inch slicks. NMRA multi-time Super Street Outlaw champion John Urist definitely made the most of the opportunity. He won the class in a dramatic and classic Mustang-versus-Camaro final against fellow New Mexico-native Mike Keenan. It was dramatic because the ProCharger-blown engine in John's Fox coupe exploded at the top end.
Two weeks earlier, David Schwarz...
Two weeks earlier, David Schwarz won the PSCA's World Finals. He kept his winning streak alive with his SCSN victory over George Raygoza in Wild Street (275/60-15 drag radials).
As of the Street Car Super...
As of the Street Car Super Nationals, we wholeheartedly believe that Coby Rabon has the baddest Pro Street Mustang on the planet. Coby's S197 uses twin Precision turbochargers, a Proline big-block, a Rossler automatic tranny, and Steve Petty tuning to run 5.985/243.59 in the quarter-mile. The landmark run happened in the cool conditions of Friday night's second qualifying session, besting the 6.001/242.02 that the 'Stang posted during a test shot on Thursday.