IF YOU’RE a radial fan, you’ll know that Fox-body Mustangs are a favoured platform in the US radial scene. They’re an awesome choice due to having the perfect wheelbase and great suspension geometry, and, importantly, there is a plentiful supply of them, which means parts are cheap.
This article was first published in the October 2020 issue of Street Machine
It’s been awesome to see some of these cars making their way Down Under so that we can see them live on Aussie soil. The twin-turbo, big-block Fox-body of Brisbane’s Scott Hipwell was built in the States and refined here in Oz, and it’s heading for the three-second zone over the eighth-mile.
Scott has had a bunch of tough cars, moving from a twin-turbo 1968 Camaro that ran bottom eights to another Camaro that went 4.30s in the eighth. Now he’s ready to take it to a new level with the Mustang.
The car was owned by US nitrous racer and Street Outlaws star, Bobby Ducote, and a mate of Scott’s let him know it was up for sale.
“It was apparently already running fours on a big slick tyre, and I’m sure Bobby built it thinking he could work out turbos instead of the nitrous deals he was usually running,” says Scott’s main man, Luke Mitchell, owner of Advanced Motorsports in Caboolture, Queensland. “It’s a built radial car; three-quarter chassis with the rollcage tied into the front chassis rails with a factory firewall.”
The Mustang has been here in Australia for around 18 months now, and Luke and the crew have made plenty of changes to the car to suit its revised application.
“The engine was set up on E16, so we had to change fuel, as it got banned,” Luke explains. “The next issue was that the Big Stuff couldn’t run twin 400lb Atomizer injectors in each cylinder, so we had to totally rewire the car and swap to an Aussie Haltech 2500.”
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This meant all-new sensors, including shock, laser levelling, driveshaft, pre-intercooler and post-intercooler temperatures, wheel, EGTs and all the usual engine vitals. Fortunately, the 565-cube big-block engine was fresh, and while a lot of the specs are undisclosed, we know that it has a New Century billet block and runs aluminium conrods and Pro-Filer heads. It currently has a wet sump, which Luke says will need to be swapped for a dry-sump system in the future.
“Because we changed to alcohol, that meant a whole new fuel system: a larger front tank, bigger lines, cam-driven Waterman pump, Aeromotive regulator and 16 400lb Billet Atomizer injectors,” Luke says.
“Scott wanted to run a three with this car on radials, which meant a lot of changes to the shocks and rear end. Andy McConnell from Fireball Kustom Fabrication straightened the custom sheet-metal diff housing and fitted a floater kit, and all the shocks needed to be changed for radial racing. We went for Santhuff fronts and Menscer rear shocks.”
The engine bay is impressive, with a pair of massive 91mm Precision turbos and 60mm wastegates currently pushing 32psi of boost into the engine. This tune-up rattled off an impressive 3100hp at the hubs. Even though the engine is on alcohol, it still runs a massive liquid-to-air intercooler, with a boot-mounted rear ice tank and four-inch tubing.
Like so many modern radial cars, Scott’s Mustang runs a two-speed TH400, and it’s full of good stuff, from a converter dump to a billet, six-bolt, bolt-together converter that’s around the 4500rpm mark, with 27-degree pitch on the stator. James from Full Race Fabrication in Elimbah has been taking care of that side of things since the car arrived.
The Fox-body has a full race weight of around 3250lb, despite carbonfibre wheel tubs and all the panels except the roof and quarters being fibreglass.
Luke has been busy on the tuning, and the boys could not have done it without help from Michael ‘Stix’ Kalaitzakis from Quickbitz in Melbourne. On its first full pass that didn’t involve pedalling or wheelspin, the Mustang ran an impressive 4.24@172mph!
“That was a good pass for 32psi of boost, with a 1.115sec 60-foot, but by the time we are done we want to be at 55-60psi,” Luke says. “Right now we need to be chasing the 60-foot times; we’re currently leaving on just 5psi and the power is coming in over 1.8 seconds, so the car is lazy, and heavy. But Scott is a good driver; he’s done a lot of racing, gives us good feedback and is good on the tree.”
Racing a car like this is a hell of a commitment in terms of time and money, especially when you consider that the handful of Kenda meetings are really the only opportunities to fully develop the ’Stang, as the track prep at these events is specifically set up for radial cars.
The team at the recent Kenda Expression Session at Willowbank (L-R): Doug Pinner, Scott Hipwell, Jone Coelho, Leigh McIntyre, Richard Galea, Sam El-Haouli, Luke Mitchell
“I think the car can run a 3.9-something, and the Kenda events are really it for doing those kinds of numbers,” Luke says. “We still race the other meets, just to get some good A-to-B tune-ups that we know we can get down the track on. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, so we’ll keep at it and we’ll be on the pace eventually.”