Mod-Motor Mayhem: Austin Hickman’s 7-Second 1978 Fairmont Wagon


Making our way through the pits at the 23rd Annual NMRA Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout was certainly a treat when we came across all of the cool hot rods and lead sleds that filled the parking area. More than seventeen separate classes were available to choose from in all of the racing action, and one class in particular led us to this incredibly fast Fairmont wagon we see before us.

This is my first Mod-motor powered car, and it’s fun. – Austin Hickman

Competing in the Renegade class at this year’s NMRA season opener was Austin Hickman and his 1978 Ford Fairmont wagon. Austin is a self-proclaimed wagon aficionado, and for good reason.

His ’78 Fairmont is powered by a Ford GT supercar / 4.6-liter DOHC Four-Valve Mod-motor engine hybrid. The new mil, built by the folks at Triangle Speed Shop (TSS) out of Orange, Texas, is assumably pushing big power with a 7-second e.t. in the quarter mile. That, and of course, a massive turbocharger helps out too. And while we were really diggin’ Austin’s wagon, the best part of it all was, Austin’s first love was LS engines, having owned and ran many LS-powered combinations in the past. Fancy that.

Austin Hickman Renegade Wagon 840GR

If you look a little closer, you can spot that massive, wickedly cool Hogan’s Racing custom intake manifold peaking just past the height of the fenders.

Austin is mostly involved in grudge racing and other local racing out of Texas, with this race being his first in a competitive series with the car.

The new "smaller" power plant consists of a set of Ford GT supercar cylinder heads paired to a 4.6-liter engine block with a built bottom-end.

The new “smaller” power plant consists of a set of Ford GT supercar cylinder heads paired to a 4.6-liter engine block with a built bottom-end, while a large 76mm turbocharger feeds as much boost as possible into those massive four-valve heads.

“The engine setup is a 4.6-liter 4V Mod-motor using Ford GT supercar cylinder heads,” Austin entailed. “It’s a 76mm turbocharged Renegade car, and it currently weighs about 3,225 pounds. I’ve owned the car for about three or four years now. I purchased the car from a friend named Bob. It was originally powered by a big-block Chevy engine, and I decided to use a Mod-motor for this car.”

Austin was hesitant to admit that he’s a LS guy at heart, but said that his lust for wagons of any kind drew him to the dark side of Blue Oval power. “I’m actually a big LS guy,” he laughed. “But, this is my first Mod-motor powered car, and it’s fun. I really love these wagons.”

With a wagon as badass as Austin's, it's hard to argue his love for them.

With a wagon as badass as Austin’s, it’s hard to argue our appreciation for them as well.

Since Austin has driven both engine platforms, we gathered his thoughts on how the LS engine series compares to the Mod-motor in terms of power delivery.

On the inside, it's all business for Austin and his Fairmont wagon. Electronics are handled by none other than Big Stuff 3, while necessities such as a roll-cage and safety equipment now find a home inside the big wagon.

“Well, it’s a little different because this is actually my first turbo-car as well,” he explained. “So, being my absolute first turbo car, it’s already a little different. With that said, it’s a lot of fun – I really like it. It drives good, like a Cadillac – it’s very easy. Going down the track with it is very easy to maneuver, and any adjustments you make are very driver friendly. Being a wagon, it has a little bit longer of a wheelbase than your average car, so it helps to stabilize the car.”

In regards to the engine setup, Austin said that Daniel and Craig at TSS headed up that endeavor. In fact, they built the car for him from the ground-up; completing the entire package with a custom tune.

The big bad Fairmont, ready to run a consecutive 7-second e.t. with ease.

The big bad Fairmont, ready to run a consecutive 7-second e.t. with ease.

“We love the way the car is setup,” Austin said. “This is my first time out with the car in any kind of competition setup. It was out at the NMRA World Finals event last year, and we just ended up doing a small photoshoot on it. I plan on going out to every NMRA race this year – attending every race at a minimum.”

Austin also informed us that last year, the car was able to put down a 7-second e.t. at nearly 180 MPH in the quarter. “That’s flying – especially since it’s still at the stock 281 cubic-inches. It is what it is! We threw a big turbo on it and let it rev to the moon, and that’s the result,” he concluded.

We can’t wait to see what the car runs during the 2017 NMRA season. Stick with us as we bring you future updates on Austin Hickman’s big turbo Mod-motor powered Fairmont. Until then, checkout the gallery we’ve complied below from the 23rd Annual NMRA Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout.

Photo gallery


About the author

Harrison Noble

Living in San Diego for most of his life, Harrison was exposed to a variety of cars at an early age. His passion for anything that is fast, or has a V8, brought him to Power Automedia.
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