There I was, standing in Editor Rob Fisher's office, attempting to convince him to let me build and drive a Mini Stock Mustang. Now, that may not seem like such a crazy request coming from an Associate Editor of Circle Track magazine but, well, I'm not actually an Associate Editor of Circle Track magazine. In fact, the last time I was at a circle track, which, coincidentally, was also the first time I was at a circle track, I remember hearing only one piece of advice. Make sure you show up early, so you can get a good seat. Good seat, are you kidding me? I got to the track five minutes late and there was absolutely no one sitting directly off of the fence in Turn 4. As I sat down, thinking about how silly it was that everyone was sitting off to my right, the first piece of debris hit me in the face, then the second, then like bats out of hell, the rest of the rubber, rock, and asphalt came toward me and I did my best to grin and bear it, hoping no one would notice the error of my ways. For two hours I sat in that spot, stubbornly pretending that I knew what was going on, embarrassed to look back at my friends in the tenth row, knowing that they had a great laugh at my foolish inexperience.
So, with that being my collective experience in circle track racing, why did Editor Fisher allow me to embark on this project? Who knows! As a person who grew up in a large city, surrounded by nothing but straight roads and highways, my experience has been mainly in building late-model fuel-injected GM street cars and, while I have plenty of experience mashing the gas in a straight line, I certainly bring nothing to the table when it comes to turning left.
Picking up a "free car" may...
Picking up a "free car" may seem like a sweet deal, but everything always comes with a price. For our Mustang, we had to drive seven hours in each direction on a Sunday, so we could have it back at the Circle Track world headquarters in time for Monday's deadline.
Maybe Editor Fisher was tricked by my unwavering charisma or devilish good looks, but it probably didn't hurt that I left out the fact that I have never driven a real race car on track. But honestly, I think he has chosen me, or should we say caved into my pleas, because like many of you, I'm passionate about racing, have a desire to get on track, and have finally decided that the time was right to see what I'm made of.
For those of you who haven't raced yet, our real goal is to show you how easy it can be to get on track, how cost-effective it can be to have a great time, and hopefully, how to win some Mini Stock races.
But enough about me, let me introduce my new crew chief, co-driver, associate, and all-around fantastic wrench, Pete Epple of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords fame, Circle Track's sister publication. Self described as a man, "so awesome, that if you met him, you'd puke," (yeah, we're not sure what that means either...) Epple actually brings something more to the table than reckless optimism and naïve ambition. You see, he cut his teeth setting up asphalt trucks in the Northeast and, unlike your author, actually has countless hours learning how to set up and run a successful race car.
As the midday sun kept Savannah...
As the midday sun kept Savannah warm, crew chief Pete Epple and Cody Ellis, manager of Carter Racing in Savannah, Georgia, looked over our new Mustang for the first time. Under the hood sits a stock 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, which "might run" after we install a new coil and ignition module.
If his name rings a bell, it's because Epple helped crew chief the Roush Yates-powered Project DLM with driver Bobby Clark, and actually took the car to a First Place trophy in only its second race. He's also an avid Mustang enthusiast and has probably forgotten more about the Fox body Mustang than most people will ever learn, so it made perfect sense to team up with him for our first real project in the Mini Stock world. Of course, besides Epple and me, we will also have the guidance of Mr. Fisher, Senior Technical Editor Bob Bolles, and hopefully, readers and supporters of the best magazine in the world, Circle Track.
So, first things first-we needed to find a car. After scouring the internet, searching popular sites like eBay.com and craigslist.org, we actually found a perfect candidate by mistake, in a casual conversation with an old friend.
"I have a four-cylinder Mustang in Savannah, Georgia, I'm looking to unload," he told us. "If you go pick it up, it's all yours." If you're familiar with Mini Stock racing, you probably already understand the allure of a 2.3-liter Mustang, but for those of you new to the class, let's cover some of the groundwork.
For a free Mustang, our '93...
For a free Mustang, our '93 hatchback is in surprisingly good shape. The sheetmetal is straight and all of the important pieces are still in place. If you're looking for a car to go racing with, items like good glass and clean wheels aren't that important, since you will remove them anyway, but they can be sold for good money, which can help fund your project.
The rear of our '93 Mustang...
The rear of our '93 Mustang was just as straight and clean as the front. Under the car, the stock 7.5-inch rearend appeared to be in working order and the floorpan showed no signs of rust. Remember, the chassis is the foundation of the entire build, so starting with a solid car will only make it easier to get on track and up front faster.
Our Mustang, which we have...
Our Mustang, which we have named City Boy in honor of its drivers, had to be pushed onto our JIMGLO tilt-bed trailer, which wasn't a proud moment. Hopefully, we can get it running quickly, although only time will tell.