Eight-second, turbo Barra-powered Fox-body Mustang at Drag Challenge Weekend 2020

Ben Paganoni’s Hot Rod Drag Week-tested Mustang is looking the goods at DCW 2020

Photographers: Ash Wilson, Chez Images, Dave Reid, Chris Thorogood

BEN Paganoni competed at Hot Rod Drag Week 2019 with his awesome turbo Barra-powered Fox-body Mustang, which he and his crew threw together in a week in South Carolina just before the event. The team’s campaign was almost derailed before the week had even begun after a big-end bearing let go, but they managed to get it sorted in time, and after five days of mechanical torture, the Mustang finished the week with the trophy for Quickest Six-Cylinder!

While the plan was to leave the ’Stang in the USA for Drag Week 2020, the coronavirus pandemic threw a big spanner in the works. “I was planning to step things up, including a serious engine combo by Robby Abbott, but then COVID kicked off in February and everyone told me to just hold off,” Ben explains. “When it started getting more serious and Drag Week was cancelled, we decided to bring the car back to Australia. I figured I’d show the wife where all the money went.”

When he heard that Drag Challenge Weekend 2020 was all systems go, Ben jumped at the chance to test his Mustang’s mettle. The four-litre, dual-cam Fox-body only had a few days for a service before it fronted at Willowbank for Day One, running in the Speed Pro Six-Cylinder class. “It spent nearly a month on the docks, so we weren’t sure if it would even make it,” Ben says. “It is still running all the same mechanical package from America, including the cobbled-together engine!”

The Barra combo includes a stock crank, forged rods and pistons, Kelford cams, Hypertune exhaust and intake manifolds, Garrett G42 snail and a Haltech Elite 2500 ECU. With approximately 30psi loaded in and a tank full of pump E85, the Mustang makes around 1100rwhp.

Behind the turbo six is a transbraked TH400 by Hughes Performance in Arizona, with a stout 8.8-inch third member out back. Ben says the rear end set-up was the best part of the original car. “It has been fantastic; it just works so well and we haven’t had to change anything,” he says.

Ben’s Drag Challenge Weekend started slowly with a couple of aborted passes, but after that he ran 8.91@158mph in the heat at Willowbank on Friday, backed up with a 5.83@127mph down the eighth-mile at Warwick.

“The road legs aren’t bad, but it is hot and the vision isn’t great with the car being left-hand drive and that huge scoop,” laughs Ben, adding that he feels Day Three might be that Barra’s last roll of the dice. “There is metal in the oil and it isn’t bearing material, so it could be valvetrain. I am amazed it’s lasted this long, honestly.”

The Mustang is currently running second in Speed Pro Six-Cylinder behind Ben P’s good mate Benny Neal in his Toyota Cresta, so all eyes will be on the Fox-body crew on Day Three back at Willowbank to see what rabbits they can pull out of the hat.