we last reported on my daily driver 5.0 it was running 14.3's with an AOD+shift
kit, stock 3.27 gears, underdrive pulleys with a short belt and a set of
1.72 ratio roller rockers. The plan was to improve on the current combo's
best ET with some practice, cooler air and stickier tires than the Pirelli
P4000 radials. Since then quite a bit has happened to our '92 LX Mustang,
so we'll just go through it chronologically in this article.
We installed a used set of McReary American Racer dirt track tires on a
pair of obligatory"ten-hole" wheels. The dirt track crowd quits
using these tires after each race night, but plenty of tread is left for
us cash-strapped drag racers. We also installed a new C&L 76mm Mass
Air Meter kit (see
our testing article) in place of the stock meter and corrugated rubber
inlet. With better grip in hand it was back to the track. Running 14psi
of air pressure, a good burnout was followed by a launch off the brake at
1200rpm. The previous best 60 foot, on radials, had been a 2.15 seconds.
Typical 60 foots were in the 2.2x range. Now the car was launching with
consistent 2.15 to 2.20's even with poor track surface prep. ET's dropped
to as low as 14.21 seconds at 97.9mph - about a tenth improvement with the
The stock stall converter was limiting the launch rpm so we could not full
take advantage of the improved traction. We discussed installing a higher
stall converter. But decided before making any other changes the most important
piece of the racing combo needed to be improved, in other words, the skill
of the driver! With decent tires and a hard shifting automatic the local
bracket races were calling
Sacramento Raceway Park runs Wednesday Night Fun Drags throughout most
of the year. It is a bracket-racing format, which means any car can win
a race regardless of how fast it is. The importance is on driving your
car consistently and reacting to the starting lights at the precise moment.
We've see VW busses with 20 second dial-ins head up against ten second
turbo Grand Nationals... and win! To learn more about bracket racing,
visit the Staging Light.
With our new staff photographer, Geoff Langley, we headed to the track.
The single most important part of winning bracket races is consistency.
If the driver and car can run the same way every race then wins are almost
assured. This would be the first time I raced an automatic in direct competition.
If you are serious about bracket racing, drive an automatic! I really
enjoyed not worrying about missing shifts and being able to just concentrate
on good starts and hitting my shift points.
After bolting on tires, swapping belts and emptying the hatch I ran 1 time
trial with an ET of 14.424 at 97.05mph. I used 14.42 for my dial in. As
I waited for the elimination's to start I worked on how to be consistent
on my launches. I decided to actually count down the yellow lights out loud
every time to insure a good reaction time. It sounds a little hokey but
it worked for me. As long as you stick to a routine you can be more consistent.
I also said a little phrase as I pulled up to the burnout box that has become
my mantra and helps calm the adrenaline driven nerves- "Launch on 3,
shift on 5!"- meaning the third light and 5000 rpm. After a mild burnout
I staged- barely tripping the second yellow staging light. Again- I would
stage this way all night.
by Run Notes
1st run- My competitor had a 14.5 dial in to my 14.45.
I foot braked the car with the stall converter at 1000rpm and launched
as I said "3!" and the third yellow lit. My Reaction time
(RT)- .702 to my competitors 1.088!
Even though he launched first my RT was better than his .05 start
advantage and I was able to get in front of him and stay there the
length of the track. I let off the throttle at the end to insure not
breaking out and won easily with a 15.209 at 72.84mph to his 14.934
run- Same start routine and mantra! His dial-in-12.65 so I launched
first. My RT- .567 to his .440-(.500 is perfect.) He went too soon
and red lit! It gives you the win light immediately so I knew I
had won and just pushed hard without worrying about a breakout.
I ran a 14.498 at 97.08mph to his 12.665 at 113.06mph. He was closer
to his dial-in and would have won if not for the start. Pheww!
run-The temperature was dropping so I dialed in at 14.40 to my opponents
13.70. I left first with a .504 RT, almost perfect! He only pulled
a .908 so I was able to stay ahead easily and let off at the line.
I ran a 14.769 at 85.93mph to his 13.906 at 101.03mph. Win #3!
run-With a shorter cool down I dialed in a 14.42 with a 16.93 in
the next lane. For the first time I would be chasing my opponent.
He launched first and I waited for my lights to drop. He hit a .549
RT, which is good- but I was able to hit a .516 RT, which is even
better! I was able to pass him at the top of the track and let off
as I crossed the line and ran a 14.53 at 92.22mph to his 17.02 at
80.55mph. Win #4!
run- I kept my dial-in and staged next to a '72 Torino GT with a
warmed up 460 and a stick. She (yes, she!) dialed in at 13.45. I
found out later that she was a bracket regular and was very good.
I launched on the third light and she followed almost a second later.
I had a .582 RT but she hit a .544. Uh-oh. She just caught me at
the finish line for a 13.512 at 95.71mph to my 14.489 at 95.46mph.
Damn! At least I made it to the finals first time out (and lost
to a cool Ford.) With a class win so close I could taste it I knew
I would have to try again the following week.
night summary- Bringing home the trophy!
With no changes except for impending bad weather we returned to SRP to try
again. If you are wondering about the ET's not being as quick as our previous
best times, remember, no ice was put on the intake since the time in the
lanes gets shorter as the field gets cut in half each race. This would make
it harder to stay consistent. The incoming weather system would also have
an effect on ET's. Try to minimize any variables. With tires on and the
belt changed we prepared for eliminations with two time trials and recorded
a best ET of 14.45.
by Run Notes
run- My dial-in- 14.45 to his 14.50. I again followed my routine
and said my mantra and counted down the lights out loud. I hit a
.747 RT to his 1.055. Lucky for me I was racing a rookie. I got
out first with the better reaction but he went past me at ½
track and just kept on trucking! He broke out in a big way- running
a 13.76 on his 14.50 dial in. I ran a 14.514 at 97.29mph. He was
more interested running a best ever ET than winning races. Lucky
run- Changed my dial in as the clouds were rolling in and the pressure
was dropping. I saw another racer with a weather station so I began
listening to his conversation with his friends. I dialed in at 14.48
to a 14.00 in the next lane. I left first and cut a good .546 RT
to his .880. I let off right at the line but, once again, an over
eager racer broke out. He ran a 13.882 at 106.2mph(!) to my 14.595
at 94.94mph. Win #2.
run- Kept my dial-in (should have changed it) and the next lane
posted a 13.00. I started first with a .577 RT. My opponent had
to wait almost 1.5 seconds for his light and over reacted with a
.282 RT- red light! I had a lot of spin on that run so I only could
muster a 14.60 at 97.35mph to his 13.326 at 104.15mph. Lady Luck
was in my passenger seat!
run- I upped my dial-in to 14.50 versus a 13.65. Again I launched
first and finally cut a great light- .507! The other car could only
hit a .742 and could not run me down! I let off at the line and
ran a 14.74 at 86.93mph to his 13.78 at 102.43mph. Win #4!
run- A bye run. There were three cars left in my class and one car
had already run by himself once so I flipped a coin with the other
driver and won the toss! The track official asked me if I wanted
to wait for the final round or run alone. I chose to make a run
to insure I had an accurate dial-in for the final. I ran a 14.638
at 95.967. The track was getting worse and the tires were spinning
on the launch and the atmospheric pressure was still dropping with
the incoming front, robbing horsepower. I had my new dial-in.
run- I was up against a new Dodge Ram truck with a 16.50 dial-in.
I changed mine to 14.60. We staged and he launched first and I waited.
It is really hard sitting for almost 2 seconds while your opponent
runs down the track. I counted down the lights and launched on "Three!"
Again the tires spun but I cut a good .534 RT versus a lackluster
.761. I passed the big truck after ½ track and made sure
I was clearly out front and hit the brakes at the finish line. I
won! The win lights went on in my lane and I was shouting and laughing
the length of the return road. I had run a 14.910 at 85.24mph to
his 16.768 at 81.10mph. Geoff and I went up to the tower to collect
the trophy. What an awesome night!
weight we shrunk Jim down to under 5 ft. The results were astonishing
-three tenths and a bracket trophy!
With a nice
trophy and a handful "WIN" imprinted time slips, discussions
began again on the future of GMII. The car was impressively consistent
in the brackets but 14's were not anywhere near fast enough for this driver.
The quest for 13's had us talking about the new heads, converter and gears
again as well as changing to an electric fan and upgrading the stock exhaust
(past the shorty headers.) I liked the idea of the fan and exhaust upgrades
since they could be accomplished in the driveway by a single person (namely
me!) and would nicely compliment the heads when they were installed. So,
that was the plan, and at this point said plans went quietly out the window
first divergence occurred when this author jumped at the chance to document
the installation of a set of 3.73 gears and rebuilding the Traction Loc
in the 100k-mile young, 8.8 inch rear. The work was completed very professionally
at West Coast Differential.
Look for a complete write-up on the process, soon. The car feels much
better on the highway, is far quieter and OD is actually far more useful
as you can accelerate without the need to downshift. At 70mph the engine
is ticking over at only 2200 rpm. These cars should have come stock with
these gears (or at least have been a factory option). Once the initial
break-in period was completed it was back to the track. Following the
same routine for the launches gave similar 60 foots with a rare 2.10 once
or twice. A new best ET of 14.06 seconds was attained. Sooo close to that
elusive 13.9x! Again we discussed the plan. And, again, the universe had
its' own ideas
a dead AOD."
AOD, Hello T5
a return trip from the airport it was a pleasure to push GM II hard on
the long on-ramp to the interstate and feel the positive upshifts coupled
with the authoritative bark from the rear tires. A daily driver that is
actually fun to drive can really make you smile. Ten miles later the smile
quickly disappeared as the rpm's started to climb up the tach on their
own accord. Shifting back to Drive stopped the climb but meant that at
65 mph the engine was turning 3500 rpm. One more try at overdrive yielded
the same results. The OD band was gone. Luckily it was Friday afternoon,
which meant I had the weekend to find a fix. The car had to be running
After considering a junkyard AOD swap and the inherent gamble it represented
I decided to go with the cheapest and most reliable answer. I would take
the new T5Z, Centerforce II clutch, and B&M Ripper shifter out of
my wounded '65 Mustang and install it all in GMII. The clutch pedal and
harness were obtained from a 4 cyl. Mustang at the local wrecking yard.
A spare flywheel from a friend, and use of his shop and rack, would have
the car back in action without excessive cost. (See our AOD
to T5 conversion article)
The first word to come to mind during the test drive is, "Wow!"
The car felt so much stronger and quicker with the manual transmission.
Breaking the tires loose was now very easy. Rain and wet roads are now
cause for caution when accelerating. The T5Z coupled with the 3.73 gears
will easily spin the radial tires if the roads are wet and can lead to
fish tailing and loss of control.
T5 Test and Tune
With a weeks worth of shifting practice it was time to go back to the
track. Launching with a clutch and stick takes more dexterity than with
an automatic. I was not too concerned about lack of skill since I had
raced my '65 many times with the same transmission! The problem I encountered
was that the clutch engagement was quite different due to the fact that
the early Mustang used a solid clutch linkage (a "Z" bar) and
the late model uses a cable linkage. It does not sound like a big difference
but the feel is quite different and I had to unlearn the launch technique
I used with the other car. I would either spin the tires or have a serious
bog off the line. I could not find a happy compromise. Even with the launch
problems I was able to break into the 13's on a tire-spinning launch the
first night out. (SEE MPG) After a good hour of icing the intake, GMII
ran a 13.974 at 99.17mph on a 2.13 60 ft. in the cool evening air! The
usual mods were in place. Changing tire pressure and launch RPM up to
4500 did not help. No combination would give a clean launch. I took GMII
home happy with the new best ET but baffled by the starting line antics.
I had seen a best ever 60 ft of 2.103 but the bog on that run held the
ET back to a 14.09. Something was amiss.
After several internal debates here at F/M and some public ones on the
Internet I took GMII back to the track to try and solve the launch equation.
The first step was to work on only a single variable until the 60 ft.
could not be improved any further and was consistent. This is a cardinal
rule of any type of motor sports and is often overlooked in the heat of
battle or the excitement caused by the potential of new parts. I had definitely
succumbed to the second behavior. This time I picked a single launch rpm-
3500, and only varied the pressure in the American Racer's. I started
at 15psi and bogged hard. I raised pressure until the car would not bog
and had a good 60 ft. of 2.07 and ET of 13.939 at 99.999mph. Tire pressure
was now at 19psi and there was a small amount of spin on the launch. Greedy
for more on the last run I dropped pressure back to 16psi and launched
at 4700. I hit the throttle sooner than I intended, with the clutch pedal
only about 1/3 of the way thru it's travel. The car hooked hard! I was
amazed to see a 1.89 60 ft. flash on the boards and hit the rev limiter
(6200rpm) before I could shift. I was so shocked I managed to miss 4th
gear entirely and ruin my best run, ever. Oh, well, at least I had the
missing part of the launch puzzle. Driver error! I was still launching
the car like it was my '65. I needed to launch the way this car needed-
not the way I was used to doing. Light was beginning to dawn. This little
green 5.0 had a LOT left in it. I just needed to learn how to drive it.
and Tune The last two track days this last Fall were simply outstanding. The
cold, dry air and driver education combined to push GMII much faster and
quicker then I ever hoped for in this nearly stock form. I had read about
other 5.0's dipping deep into the 13's with similar or even less mods on
the impetus of excellent driving combined with excellent traction. I never
thought I could do the same. I thought our F/M readers might like to see
my personal notes following those two days and share my excitement at having
shaved off so much ET by simply driving more skillfully.
"Awesome day at the track! I previously asked if I could get
to 13.5's w/ a couple more mods and now the answer is a resounding
-YES! Knew that some decent driving could lower it, but not this
much! Mid 70's by the end of the day.
Launch 4500rpm, 19psi, shift at 5000rpm.
ET- 13.875 @ 98.67mph
4500rpm launch, 18psi- shift at 5200rpm
60ft- 2.101- bog
ET- 13.984 @ 99.476mph -seems to like more rpm.
last run) got greedy, 17 psi and 5000rpm launch- spun.
60 ft- 2.219
ET- 13.912 @ 100.7mph shifted at 5500rpm- likes it!
run- launch at 4500rpm, 18psi, shifted at 5300rpm.
I3- 8.708 @ 79.873
ET- 13.636 @ 100.486
WOOO HOOOO!!! Cannot friggen believe it! Talk about exceeding my
goal of a 13.7x!!! An electric fan and exhaust and 13.5's, here
Mod's- C&L 76mm MAF w/ tube, 1.72 rockers (both mods netted
nothing when car was an AOD), Flowtech shorty headers- rest of exh.
stock, 3.73's. Ran on the American Racer dirt track tires. Not bad
for a 101k 5.0, eh?
Chirag was there w/ Project 11.99 ('67Stang), and Victor w/ Project
460 (a '69 Mach 1 w/ crate 460) ran 11.08. Chirag almost hit the
wall after spinning thru some water or oil on the track and still
hit a 12.65 w/ a best of 12.53 with the car detuned for street driving.
Enough chatter- need to go get another Coronita..."
That was a lot of fun (note all runs in the 13's!) and I realized
that with the T5Z the car responded to the higher shift points with
more mph. I would use this knowledge to good effect on the last
track day of 2001-
"Excellent day for racing! Not a lot of cars and perfect, cool
(50*) weather. Once again I was surprised by the performance of
my 103kmi. 5.0!
Run 1 (no changes from last week)
All shifts at 5500
14.5 psi, 4.5k launch, iced intake
60ft.- 1.997 some spin
ET- 13.638 @ 100.725
13.5psi, same launch, power shifted 3-4!
60ft.- 1.981 slight bog
ET- 13.599 @ 101.194 Yeah, Baby!
13psi, iced for an hour (sat in lanes), 5mph tail wind, 4.5k Launch
60ft.- 1.938 slight spin
ET- 13.509 @ 102.026!!! Holy
Flyin' Bat Crap, Batman!!!
stepped on brake in first 60 feet, don't ask me why. Power shift
ET- 13.876 @ 100.521
13.5psi, 4.5k launch
60ft.- 1.938 deja vu, slight bog
ET 13.667 @ 100.14
6- Take No Prisoners!
13psi, 4.7k Launch
60ft.- 1.914 some spin ET- 13.500! @ 100.896 YEEESSS!!!
power shifted a little early 3-4 (5.2k) I was so stoked by the 60
ft and clean shifts. Still stock- fan+clutch, exhaust from cat pipe-
you have it! A pair of 13.5's and one 102mph! I am still finding it hard
to believe. I am still trying to improve my clutch and throttle timing
on the launches as you can see that consistency has left the building.
My reaction times are now all over the place as I concentrate on a clean
launch technique. So until I can improve my driving with more practice
winning any bracket races will be just about impossible. You know what?
It's worth it!
where do we go from here?
The parts needed to install a set of Twisted Wedge heads have all finally
arrived. The only task left is to mock up a head on a 5.0 block with a
compressed head gasket and check for pushrod length. Once the pushrod
length is determined and the rods are received the heads can be installed.
So do we slap on the heads and see what a otherwise stock 5.0L will do?
Or do we keep pushing the stock head/cam/intake performance envelope?
There is some ET still hiding in the fan and exhaust. Tell us what you