Before Project Mudslinger had cross-threaded its first nut on a bolt, we spent a lot of time gathering information from everyone we could find with racing experience. What are we going to need? How much time is it going to take to get a car built? What does it take to be competitive? And then there was the one I’m sure every racer has asked: How in the world can it cost so much?

In our conversations with other racers and car builders I’ve noticed that many of them refer to building a race car as an “art.” This analogy has merit; the Renoirs and Picassos of the chassis building community are people like Smokey Yunick, Junior Johnson, Eddie Dickerson and Banjo Matthews.

Then there are the builders who are kind of like that guy doing caricatures for 10 bucks down by the mall—it looks pretty good, but you’re sure there’s no way your nose is that big or your hairline that thin.

The Project Mudslinger crew one day hopes to be building the racing equivalent of the Mona Lisa, but sometimes it feels a lot more like a paint-by-numbers Elvis on black velvet. Part of the problem stems from the fact that we are trying to build a shop from scratch at the same time we’re building the car. That means that more than once our progress has been stopped cold by something as ridiculous as not having the right fastener. That probably won’t change until we can build up a decent bolt bucket—take a tip from us and don’t go racing without one.

Although progress has been slow, we were able to make some headway on the chassis while our engine was being prepared at Johnson’s Machine Shop (see “Shoehorn, Please!” for more details). First on the to-do list was the front suspension. We are replacing the existing A-arms with new ones from Ford Racing Performance Parts. They have all the same angles but are upgraded with low-friction ball joints. But before installing them in the car, we upgraded the bushings with a set of Polygraphite racing bushings from Performance Suspension Technology. We also ordered a brake rebuild kit from PST that keeps us within the rules for stock brakes but replaces just about everything except the rotors and calipers up front and the drums in back.

We are using Bilstein’s shocks and struts because it is one of the few companies that produces a circle track racing-quality unit for a stock Mustang. Both the struts up front and the shocks in back are a mono-tube design, which helps ensure consistency lap after lap. We ordered ours with the company’s in-house valving specs, but Bilstein can produce shocks with almost any damping and rebound numbers you can dream up. The only problem we encountered is the struts are made to late model specs, and our ’93 spindles were a quarter-inch too large for the mounting bracket. We had to take the spindles to a machinist to get the strut tabs shaved down to the correct thickness. To make sure we didn’t alter any of the steering geometries and wind up crabwalking down the track, we cut an eighth-inch off of each side instead of taking the easy way out and lopping a quarter-inch off either the front or back. The shocks are matched with Blue Coil racing springs. We are starting off with a 750-pound spring in the right front, 650 in the left front and 175 on both sides in the back. Just to make sure, we tested all four on a friend’s spring checker, and each one checked out exactly at the marked spring rate.

One of Project Mudslinger’s design goals with the car is to move the driver’s position nearly into the back seat. That means moving the pedals back as well. To do that we scrapped the existing hardware and ordered up a set of Wilwood floor-mount brake and clutch pedals. The brake pedals feature two master cylinders to separate the front and back brake systems. A secondary advantage is getting rid of the very heavy and badly positioned (for racing) stock power-assisted master cylinder. Wilwood’s units are much lighter, located down low on the floorboard and make it easy to adjust the brake bias front to back.

Because replacing the stock master cylinder with floor units meant re-routing a lot of the brake lines, we decided to go ahead and replace all the lines just in case there was any trash in there from years in the junkyard. As soon as it was too late we began having second thoughts. Trying to get the multiple bends in the steel lines so that they follow the contours of the car—and aren’t hanging out in space—is about as easy as giving a cat a bath. Also, a brake line flange tool is an expensive little gadget; if you know somebody who has one, make friends quick and ask to borrow it.

Finally, we mounted the pedals where they felt comfortable in relation to the seat, but that didn’t leave room to attach the brake lines at the back of the master cylinders. The cylinders were coming into contact with the floorboard where it begins sloping up to meet the firewall. Instead of cutting a hole in the sheetmetal and exposing the brakes to the elements, we raised the pedal assemblies up approximately a half-inch by cutting spacers out of aluminum. Not pretty, but it works.

It was about this time we began noticing all types of odds and ends that we either had forgotten or didn’t know we needed. Mail-order racing warehouses are a great idea and can save regular folks a lot of money, but it’s hard to replace the value of the local race shop. Bradley Auto Parts is our local shop, and we are very fortunate it has taken us under its wing with a lot of good information. It also supplied us with brake line, a coiled-wire cover to protect the lines from punctures, fittings and everything else we needed at the last minute.

Overall, we are happy with how the brake system turned out. Racing is all about getting advantages, and we hope the lightweight Wilwood components will give us better weight distribution when the car is complete. The extra work was a bit of a pain considering many racers in this class use the stock pedals, master cylinder and brake lines, but it’s like the old farmer says, “If you want the field plowed, sometimes you gotta look at a mule’s butt.”

Once the front end was complete, we temporarily mounted a set of wheels and tires to make sure none of the brake lines would interfere with the tires, either through suspension travel or steering (most of our lines are nowhere near where the originals were located). We ordered up six 13x7 inch spun-steel wheels from Diamond Wheel and two sets of American Racer dirt tires from Butler’s Inc. (one set of soft compound and one set of medium), which should give us some flexibility in setups.

Finally, we are also beginning the process of mounting our Butler Built racing seat. Butler Built offers several different types of mounting hardware for its seats. That’s what we are using to secure the back, but our seat hoop is a little too short to match up with Butler Built’s hardware. We are making our own mounting hardware with one-inch tubing and heavy-duty washers. The tubing is actually only a spacer to hold the seat at the right height; it’s notched to fit the seat hoop, the washer is welded on top and then the seat is bolted directly to the seat hoop with the piece of tubing in between. Miller Electric sent us a Millermatic 185 welder, and this was our first chance to try it out.

When it comes to racing, a good welder is almost as important as a gas pedal, and this baby fills the bill. It has enough horsepower to handle all but the most heavy-duty welding jobs but won’t break the racing bank. We’ve also fallen in love with Miller’s auto-darkening welding helmet, an invention the Project Mudslinger team now considers second only to the television remote in terms of usefulness to mankind.

Part I: In the Beginning There Was...Junk

Part II: All Caged In

Part III: Shoehorn, Please!

Part IV: Toil And Trouble

Part V: What Do You Mean, Start Over?

Bilstein Shock Absorbers JR Motorsports
801 SW Ordanance Rd.
IA  50021
Bradley’s Auto Parts
Indian Trail
NC  28079
Lowbuck Tools
CA  92860
Butler Built Motorsports Equipment
70 Pitts School Rd. N.W.
NC  28027
Miller Electric
Butler’s Inc.
NC  27217
Performance Suspension Technology
Diamond Racing Wheels
307 W. Layton Ave.
WI  53207
Race Tires America
1545 Washington St.
PA  15701
Ford Performance Racing Parts
MI  48150-1016
4700 Calle Bolero, Dept. SC
Camarillo, CA 93012