Craige Lewis’s ProCharged Fox-body Mustang

Craige Lewis's ballistic, ProCharged Fox-body Mustang is nearly ready for battle

Photographers: Ben Hosking

When it comes to building cars, Wollongong racer Craige Lewis is not one to do things by halves. As the owner of a very successful paintless dent removal business, when Craige sees a car he likes, he buys it. And when he wants to build one, this guy cuts no corners.

First published in the June 2022 issue of Street Machine

The list of cars that have passed through his stable is long and distinguished, and his latest build, a 2000+hp Fox-body Mustang, has wow-factor for days.

“I always wanted a Fox-body,” Craige says. “To begin with, I just wanted a roller so I could pull the running gear out of my Cortina, but through some connections in the United States, I came across this car in Virginia.

“I wasn’t a roller; it was a turn-key radial car that had already been into the mid-fours [over the eighth-mile], and came with a fresh Pro Line-built 427ci Windsor with a crank-driven F-3R ProCharger.

“I had wanted to go and play in the 315 class with my own driveline, but I figured I would get the car here, get it tech-inspected and have some fun,” Craige says.

Once the car arrived, however, a few cracks appeared in Craige’s plans. While the Mustang did have a nine-inch rear, it didn’t have floaters, the bracketry seemed thin and untidy, and the rollcage design made the car horrible to get in and out of.

“I took the car to Matt Marsh at Pro Street Industries and we had a good look at what it was,” Craige says. “We decided to start from scratch.”

He isn’t kidding; the only parts left from the original car are the steel roof and quarters, steering wheel and bonnet. Everything else was sold off, cut out, ripped up, trashed and replaced.

Once the Fox-body was an unpainted, unwired roller, it took Matt 18 months to totally rebuild the car, with Craige assisting where he could.

They started by ordering a Race Products 40-spline floater kit with a chrome-moly housing and a set of Menscer two-way shocks, and added a Jerry Bickel rollbar kit with a carbon driveshaft.

The driveline was totally fresh when they bought the car, so it really just needed a health check of the Reid-cased Powerglide and the no-name converter, which shows just two per cent slip on the dyno.

The 427ci Ford powerplant boasts some pretty impressive parts. The SVO engine block is fitted with a Callies crank, GRP alloy conrods and JE pistons, while up top is a Tremainiac NxtGen intake with a titanium bolt upgrade, Bob Glidden ‘Victor’ heads, and Jesel rockers and belt drive. The Holley ignition system has been taken a step further with a coil-over-plug upgrade, while a 28-litre front header tank feeds a belt-driven Waterman Big Bertha pump and 16 220lb injectors via a Weldon fuel pressure regulator.

“The car initially had a big water-to-air intercooler, as the motor was running on C16,” Craige explains. “Since we have changed to alcohol, we don’t need the intercooler and we saved a further 80lb in the car by ditching it.”

The upgrades continued with new front and rear engine plates and the Team Z front crossmember being replaced with a Racecraft item, which had the advantage of coming with arms to suit the new Menscer struts. Other fancy front-end parts include Racecraft suspension-travel limiters and Strange front brakes, with Wilwood stoppers on the rear.

Darren Mood from Mood Motorsports supplied a full carbon front clip, doors, rear bar and bootlid, as well as a sheet of Lexan for a new front windscreen. Carbonfibre tubs were sourced from Jerry Bickel Race Cars, which Matt and Craige then trimmed to shape before sheeting the rest of the car, including the tunnel and dash.

To give you an idea of the extent and detail of this build, Craige was unable to find a quality right-hand-drive carbon dash, so he went to Melbourne and borrowed the dash out of a left-hook Mustang. He had that scanned, reversed the scan, then used that to CNC-machine a mould from which the new carbon dash was formed.

With the fabrication work all but done, Craige stripped the car and Paul Calleja took care of all the alloy polishing. The Mustang was then sandblasted, and the entire inside and underside, including the cagework, was powdercoated at Peter Snell’s Protective Coating.

“I wanted to stay with a factory-ish colour, which was Reef Green, and Danny from Custom Bodyworks just added his own candy flair – I love it,” Craige says.

Ace tuner Kon from Wollongong Automotive Services dialled a tune into the monster small-block, and on 48psi of boost, it cranked out 1720hp at the hubs at 7200rpm, with just 19 degrees of timing.

Unfortunately, things then took a turn. “We were really happy with the power,” Craige says. “But we noticed when it was on the dyno that the motor pushed oil out the front of the Jesel drive and lost a little oil pressure. We then noticed some metal in the Clear View oil filter, which ended up being swarf from the filter manufacturer. So we pulled the motor, and the bearings were mint, but we hit the area behind the Jesel with brake clean and it had split the block.

“I was pretty disappointed, but I knew that block was on the edge with the power we were making. As luck had it, I found a 460ci small-block Windsor with a solid block and billet heads, which a local racer had purchased from Mike Moran and never run. I’ve sent it down to Dandy Engines to be checked over and hope to have it back soon. It should make 3200hp.”

So four years later and 700lb lighter, the car is all but done. Everywhere you look there is something cool and crazy, from the twin Stroud parachutes with Electrimotion system, to the double beadlocks with titanium studs, onboard fire suppression, M&M shifter and rear wing.

And Craige’s goal for the car? “They are talking about creating an OG class for cars above 4.0 seconds, and I’d be stoked if I could run somewhere near that,” he says. “All things going well, we will be racing by May.

“It’s been a great build, and I could not have done it without the help of Matt Marsh, Kon, Joey Testa (for rewiring the car), Danny Makdessi at Custom Bodyworks, Paul Calleja for metal polishing, Darren Mood and Paul Aquilina at Aqua’s Auto Skinz.”