Long ago, our Project Mudslinger buildup project took on a life and personality of its own. We took in an orphaned hulk of a street car, gave it a little love and attention, and before we knew it we had raised a moody teenager. If any of you out there are long-time racers you probably aren't surprised to learn that the thing has developed a voracious appetite for new parts, it keeps taking up more and more of our lives, and we still aren't to the point where we can get it out of the house to get any use out of it. We are finally nearing the point where our teenage race car is ready to make the transition to adulthood and compete with the grizzled veterans, but we still have a bit of work to do.
A few months ago we reached the stage where we thought we were ready to hang the body, so we took the Mustang to a friend's race shop for some help. Since then, we've written in installments how the car has been reborn thanks to Chris Hargett and his crew at Hargett Race Cars (formerly H&W Race Car Fabrication). While the car has been living at his shop, we've reworked everything from the radiator location, to the suspension, to even how the pedals are mounted to the car.
Chris races dirt Late Models, and he has shown us several tricks we never would have thought to incorporate into the Mudslinger. The car even has a bit of a Late Model feel to it; we especially like the tubbed driver's section and the flat decking across the car. Decking a car like this can be tricky because we are trying to keep as many of the original body lines as possible. We made pattern after pattern using tape and poster-board before cutting aluminum. Under The Hood After the body was complete, we took everything apart, painted the entire rollcage silver, put it all back together, then carried the car back home for more work. The engine and Fluidyne radiator were in place, but we had yet to get it running. EARL'S Performance Plumbing provided us with all the hardware we needed to connect the ATL fuel cell to the engine, including the fuel filter. We are using No. 8 braided steel line throughout the car, which provides maximum protection with only a minimum weight penalty. We are also using all-aluminum hose ends from EARL'S that do not require crimping, so plumbing the fuel lines was simple. The only tools needed were a set of wrenches and a hose cutter.
The intake manifold has to be a stock piece, and we have to run a restrictor place with two 1-inch holes. We are, however, allowed a carburetor spacer up to 2-inches tall between the two-barrel carburetor and the restrictor plate. Johnson's Machine Shop, our engine builder, sent us a trick phenolic piece with radiused holes that gently slope from the exit of the venturiis in the carburetor down to the exact size of the restrictor-plate holes. This should help the air/fuel charge flow much more efficiently than it would if it were flowing through an open spacer and then slamming into the restrictor plate.
On top of the carb, we are trusting a K&N filter to clean the air without restricting flow. K&N also has a neat filter cover made specifically for Holley two-barrel carburetors. Longacre made the air cleaner stud we are using as well as a complete throttle rod kit, which greatly simplifies connecting the gas pedal to the carburetor.
Up front, we added a Fluidyne electric fan to the radiator, which will conserve horsepower over a mechanical fan. We've also elected not to run an alternator, so the actual time the electric fan is allowed to run will have to be kept to a minimum. We'll also keep an eye on the battery's charge level. Chris helped us build a radiator shroud out of plastic to help make sure all available air makes it to the cooling unit. The flexible plastic is available at most racing supply shops (we got ours from Heintz Performance) and is a lot more durable than sheetmetal if you bang up the nose. And for us, banging up something on the car isn't a question of if, it's when.
The electric radiator fan is connected to a master control switch from QuickCar Racing Products. The panel is actually an ignition switch with a starter button and an accessory switch to which our fan is run. QuickCar Products makes a complete line of controls and gauges aimed at the budget racer, and we used its products on several places on the car. In the cockpit, we are also using a QuickCar master disconnect switch and the company's 4-gauge panel cluster. The panel is compact, and much easier to install than individual gauges. Ours has a large tach with memory recall, and oil pressure, water temperature and oil temperature gauges. Each gauge is also wired to a warning light. We are also using QuickCar's extra-long battery cable kit and remote battery terminal feed-throughs so we can charge the battery between the heat and main without removing any body panels.
A Final Makeover Finally, after many nights of making sure everything was connected properly, we fired up the engine. Oh, what a beautiful sound! It was like our delinquent teen had surprised us by bringing home a report card with straight-As. All the trouble was suddenly worth it. Of course, we fouled a couple of plugs and busted the power valve in the carburetor along the way, but that hardly matters now. After a few victory laps up and down the driveway, we loaded the car up again for a trip to get a makeover. This time, we headed to Eddie's Paint and Body (Eddie is Chris' dad, and his shop shares the same driveway as Chris' shop.) to get the Mudslinger a new suit of clothes.
Roberts Custom Automotive Paint in Mooresville, North Carolina, is not your average paint shop. There are no insurance claims here or little old ladies looking to repair the front bumper of their Buick after running over a shopping cart. No, Keith Roberts and Mike Peeler mix and sell paints specifically to race teams. They deal with Valspar paint, a product seen on several cars racing on Sundays. Peeler helped us with a half-gallon of torch-red paint for Eddie to spray, along with enough silver and black to do a little trim work. We are using a 2-stage paint (color then clearcoat), which should really bring out the shine.
Eddie handled the prep work in a couple of evenings after work and did all the painting on a Saturday. The design is simple and should be easy to touch up in case new sheetmetal must be put on later. As soon as the paint was dry, we put the car back on the trailer and headed to American Sign and Packaging (ASAP) for the final touches. Owners Mark Dyer and Ronnie "Cheeseburger" Bacelo specialize in producing graphics for race cars, and we set them to work designing a scheme that would fit the No. 9 paint job. We've had several companies involved in the buildup, so the car has to represent them well. The same goes for any race team trying to keep a sponsor happy. Now that the Mustang looks like a car again, we think it does just that.
In due time, I'm sure the Mudslinger will collect more dents than a golf ball, but for now it's looking pretty good! CT