Three-second blown 2004 pro radial Ford Mustang

Chassis guru Craig Burns and his family have one of the toughest radial cars in the country with their three-second Mustang


SYDNEY’S SCF Race Cars has built a reputation as one of the best race fabrication shops in Australia. The number of killer cars they have built or had a hand in setting up would rival the biggest and most famous race shops in the USA.

This article was first published in the June 2020 issue of Street Machine

For owners Craig and Shellie Burns and their boys Cory and Joel, racing is a family affair. “A while back we decided to get the boys into Junior Dragsters, and we all just loved it,” Craig says. “It’s an awesome class with a lot of great people having fun. It restored my faith in the sport by putting the fun back in it. There were times when we were due to race at Sydney but it was pissing down, so we all just hauled down to Heathcote to race and were back home Sunday night for work on Monday. That’s the way racing should be: uncomplicated and fun with family and friends.”

But given the time and energy they devote to fixing and building other people’s cars, it’s amazing that the Burns brood could still muster the enthusiasm to build a world-class radial car that recently ran nine three-second eighth-mile passes in a row at the Kenda 660 Series meet at Sydney Dragway, with a 4.04-second pass on only its fourth hit!

The car is a blown 2004 Mustang Pro Radial machine. It has the capacity to change classes and run a slick at some stage, but it’s staying radial for now.

“We decided to build a car with some pretty simple rules: it had to run a three on a radial, five on a slick, and my boys had to build it with me,” Craig explains. “From the outset we were going to do it right – use the right parts and surround ourselves with the right people. Sure, it’ll cost a lot, but it only costs up front. If you build it with junk it takes five times as long and you end up spending double. Then you get disheartened and sell it off without achieving anything.”

Craig actually bought the motor two years before the family started work on the car. The Mike Janis-built blown Hemi was a real sweet deal with only 20 passes under its belt from new. It’s a 521-cube Brad Anderson combination with a set of Brad 8X heads and a PSI D-rotor screw supercharger that they have been running at 120 per cent overdrive for around 50psi of boost.

The car itself is out of Florida, via well-known racer Kevin Fiscus. “Kevin told us to get on Craigslist and start searching in a growing radius from his address,” Craig says. “While I was up in Darwin racing the Junior, I got a call from Shellie to say we had bought a car. Kevin went and picked it up off the car lot, drove it home, pulled the driveline and seats out and slipped it into a container along with a one-piece front we found, some carbon doors, pit mat and a heap of other stuff.”

Almost 12 months later, Craig, Cory and Joel began work on the car. It was going to have steel roof and quarters, a three-quarter chassis with factory front-rail pick-up points and a removable crossmember. It would be built to Pro Radial specs for the engine combo they had, which at the time meant the car had to weigh 3300lb.

“I built the car from scratch using only the SFI rules to guide me,” Craig says. “The rules for a radial car said the wheelbase needed to stay standard, so the Mustang comes in at a 102-inch wheelbase.”

It took nearly a year to the day to complete the car, with the boys working from 4.30pm to 8pm every night and on weekends. In fact, there were only three days in the whole year they didn’t do something race car-related.

“We were just chipping away at the build, and then in February the first Grudge Kings in Sydney was announced, so we had a finishing goal,” Craig says.

The rollcage and bar-work is all chrome-moly. The rollcage’s main hoop was built to SFI 25.1E specs, but from the hoop rearwards and the dash forwards there is no SFI standard, so Craig built from experience.

The rear end is a stunning piece of work, with over 60 hours of fabrication in just the sheet-metal housing. It’s filled with a Tom’s Differentials 10-inch billet centre with the gear ratio varying between 3.9 and 4.50, depending on the application. It also has a Mark Williams floater kit with 40-spline axles and carbonfibre brakes. If you had to buy this set-up, you’d be talking around $25K!

Transmission is a B&J three-speed quick-drive that Craig has modified. It has good converter control, but runs clutches in the transbrake (unlike the later versions that run a band).

A Waterman Big Bertha pump takes care of fuel supply to the engine, with a Pro Mag 44 lighting the alcohol mix.

While Craig has a bunch of people that help him at the track – too numerous to mention – Sam Fenech at Westend Performance does the engine machining and initial assembly, while Craig’s own team do the teardowns at the track between rounds.

“We are trying to do more and more ourselves so we can learn and be more comfortable with the intricacies of the car,” Craig explains. “Initially it was quite overwhelming; there’s a lot going on under the hood. Jeff Cutajar from Kapiris Brothers Racing not only does the tuning, but has also been integral in getting the team on track – from tuning and maintenance, fuel system and wiring, down to little things like the tools we need.”

Craig had a lot of success with the brand-new Mustang straight off the bat. “The first time the car drove under its own power was firing it up in the tunnel at Sydney Dragway,” he says. “After the burnout I got used to the brakes, and even on the first pass it ran a 1.1 in the 60-foot, sheared the bolts in the top pulley of the blower and still rolled through to a 6.4@170mph.”

In just a very short time, the Mustang has earned its stripes as one of the toughest radial cars in the country, with a best quarter-mile time of 6.03@248mph and a 3.90@191mph over the eighth. Its capacity to lay down endless three-second passes is testament to the quality of the build and the people involved in the car.

“If you put the effort into doing it right, you will get rewarded,” Craig says. “That’s the message I wanted to get through to my boys.”