The number of entries for the NHRA’s new Factory X heads-up class keeps increasing, and Chris Holbrook’s Mustang is the latest (and the first Ford) to break cover.
The longtime drag racer and engine builder started his Factory X build over 20 months ago when the NHRA first announced the class.
“This FX class was something we really wanted to do, but we wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for Varsity Ford Ann Arbor,” Holbrook told us. “They have been a sponsor of ours for quite some time, and they read about the class and asked me about it. We got together and said let’s do it.”
From the start, Holbrook — and the NHRA — wanted to have the newest Mustang in competition, but unfortunately that couldn’t happen.
“Being a new class and chassis builders wanting to do it their way and the rules being what they are, it set us back,” Holbrook explained. “In the middle of that, we wanted to go with a 2024 Mustang, but it was so new that Ford didn’t have body parts ready yet, so we decided to go with the 2016 combo to get it out there.” NHRA originally specified bodies that were 2018 and newer, so Holbrook had to get the older 2016 body approved.
As the rules dictate a stock-shape body over a fabricated chassis, Holbrook commissioned Jerry Bickel Race Cars (JBRC) to begin construction of the chassis, while Larry Jeffers Race Cars (LJRC) created many of the carbon-fiber body components from factory originals.
Holbrook dropped a slew of factory Ford Mustang components off to LJRC where the talented staff created molds for the carbon-fiber versions of the deck lid, doors, and a one-piece front end that meets factory dimensions. About two or three months later, LJRC sent the new carbon parts to JBRC to be fitted to the chassis.
“Jerry’s passing was sad and unfortunate, but I think it motivated the guys there because Jerry was passionate about the class,” Holbrook said. “The workmanship and detail that Bickel did is amazing. I hate to race it because it turned out so nice, but Varsity Ford said we’re racing it.”
Holbrook had his good friend Mike Szalay spend some time at JBRC painting parts and helping the staff assemble the Mustang before the two of them picked it up and hauled it to Szalay’s shop, Mike’s Collision in New Boston, Michigan. There, the chassis and body were prepped and painted, with the Mustang body covered in Wimbledon White before they continue with the new livery.
“We are going retro with one of my Dad’s old Cobra Jet cars with the livery,” Holbrook told us.
Under the hood is a Holbrook Racing Engines 2019 Cobra Jet engine combination featuring a Whipple Superchargers 3-liter blower. It’ll be good for “1,500-plus,” as Holbrook put it, and he recently received some Holley EFI tuning instruction from good friend Robin Lawrence while the bullet was on the Holbrook Racing Engines dynamometer.
“It’s a proven combination,” Holbrook said of his engine program for the Factory X machine. “In the long run, when we take both cars to race, we’ll have a spare for either car.” By both cars, Holbrook is talking of the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown Cobra Jet Mustang that his son Del Holbrook currently drives in the class.
As per the NHRA’s class rules, Holbrook’s Factory X Ford Mustang is equipped with a Liberty five-speed manual transmission and a Ram 8-inch triple disc clutch, the latter of which he expects to slip a little and be more forgiving than the optional twin-disc setup.
“I’m pretty excited about it,” Holbrook said of this car and the class. “Everyone I’ve talked to is trying to push me out of the seat, thinking Del is going to drive it, but I’m not dead yet.” Holbrook last drove a formidable stick-shift racecar while behind the wheel of a Super Stocker that belonged to Watson Racing back around 2012-13.
“The engine is in and I’m having headers custom-made currently,” Holbrook explained. The ZWN team is handling the header fabrication and once that is completed, Holbrook will be dropping the Mustang off to Tom Frayer at High Voltage to have the wiring done.
“We’ll do some testing after that. We’re trying to make Topeka, but I really don’t want to go there untested, so we’ll probably will miss that first race — Brainerd is the following weekend.”
With expected elapsed times in the high 6-second range for the new gear-banging heads-up class, the level of excitement around its debut continues to build.
“I think the fans want to see the three manufacturers going at it at this level,” Holbrook said. He also wanted to thank his sponsors; Varsity Ford, Ann Arbor, Weld Racing Wheels, Whipple Supercharger, Hoosier Racing Tires, Weldon Fuel Systems and Holbrook Racing Engines.