If you don’t mind our saying so, Street Machine Drag Challenge has been a runaway success since its inception in 2014. Everyone who tries it loves it, and that extends to our valued sponsors, most of whom have been supporting the event for a good many years.
First published in the September 2022 issue of Street Machine
One such sponsor is Tuff Mounts – purveyors of fine, Aussie-made engine mounting hardware – and while proprietor Jason Waye has been a keen backer of Drag Challenge since 2016, he has never been content to sit on the sidelines.
“I love Drag Challenge because it’s relatively fresh here in Australia, and it provides a platform to prove that our products really work,” Jason says. “It helps competitors understand what we’re about, and there’s a great sense of camaraderie that only comes from getting away from work to do stuff we all enjoy. It’s a week of awesomeness; driving, fixing and racing cars and helping out others along the way.”
After piecing together a 10-second Barra-powered VS Commodore ute for the event some years back (SM, Sep & Nov ’17), Jason became aware that Barra Fever was sweeping the United States of America, and reasoned that there would be significant demand for a Barra conversion kit to suit what is arguably America’s most popular drag racing platform, the Fox-body Mustang.
With that in mind, he managed to source a grandma-spec, 2.3-litre four-pot-powered ’89 Muzzy from Warrnambool, Victoria, and used it to engineer a comprehensive Barra-into-Fox-body kit. He then figured that a turbo Barra-powered Fox might make for a fairly handy small-tyre tearer in the aptly named Tuff Mounts 235 Blown class at Drag Challenge.
Like most recent projects, FOXSAKE was somewhat delayed due to the impact of the spicy cough, but it was a relatively straightforward build. Step one was mounting the engine and transmission, which was naturally handled in-house at Jason’s workshop, Muscle Garage in Adelaide. The suspension side of the equation was fairly simple, given the vast array of aftermarket options available for the platform.
“We started studying and talking to the Americans about what they were doing to get their cars down the track, but also to get the right aesthetic,” Jason says. “Fox-bodies either look great or they don’t, and it’s all about the stance. We set the car up so it looked right, and then built the suspension around that.”
Jason opted for a UPR moly-tube front end wearing Viking coil-overs and Team Z two-inch drop spindles. The rear end uses standard pick-up points with aftermarket arms, Viking coil-overs and an Enemies Racing Australia anti-roll bar. The diff is a bulletproof 40-spline nine-inch with 3.5:1 gears and a full spool – far heavier duty than the Mustang requires with its current stock-bottom-end Barra, but it was all about future-proofing the car. “We’re hoping to build a motor for it down the track and make 1000-1200rwhp, and we shouldn’t need to do much aside from suspension tuning,” Jason says.
At that point, the Fox was shipped off to Adam and the boys at MPW Performance in Melbourne for the bulk of the fab work, including the rollcage, mounting and plumbing the intercooler, and building the exhaust system and the parachute mount, before returning to Adelaide to have the body coated in the factory Oxford White by 3R Technik.
In went the Haltech Elite ECU, which was wired up using a terminated loom, employing a bunch of sensors and engine protection trickery. “I focused a lot on that stuff because I was conscious of looking after not only the SBE engine but also the built engine that will go in down the track. I didn’t want to have to worry about adding that stuff later on,” Jason says.
Impressively, most of the interior, including the carpet, headlining, door trims and plastics, is all factory-issue stuff in original condition. Jason got super lucky; not only was the car in great condition for its age, but it also came in a particularly cool factory colour combo. All that needed to be retrimmed was the factory rear seat and the Kirkey fronts, which was a hell of a win. Aftermarket additions include the Haltech iC-7 dash, B&M Pro Stick shifter, Velo harnesses, and a marvellously era-appropriate Momo steering wheel.
The car was then shipped back to MPW so Adam could apply the finishing touches, corner-weight it, bolt it to the hub dyno and carry out the tune. Other than the usual supporting mods of valve springs, oil pump gears, head studs and an MLS head gasket, the motor is a bone-stock FG Turbo Barra. The externals are a different story, however, with the main party piece being a BorgWarner SXE369 turbocharger perched atop a Jonny Tig turbo manifold with a Turbosmart wastegate. There’s also a billet Plazmaman inlet manifold and air-to-air intercooler, and twin Bosch 044 fuel pumps supplying E85 to a set of 1250cc squirters. Pretty straightforward stuff, but enough for a properly healthy 690hp at the hubs through a Turbo 400, as it turns out.
Soon thereafter, it was time to debut the car at the Tuff Mounts Holden Nationals at Heathcote Park Raceway. Some issues with the transbrake hampered progress, but the car ran into the 10s multiple times off the footbrake, which was a solid shakedown for the car and for Jason ahead of Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend, where he really got the chance to lean on it.
“Drag Challenge Weekend was surreal!” says Jason. “I didn’t have space to haul much in the way of spares or tools, and I’d never driven the car on the road prior to the event. We started out in the 10s and struggled with traction early on, but the car ran well and averaged 10 litres per hundred kilometres between tracks, which was great. At Heathcote on Day Three we ran into the nines, and then the car just kept getting better. We didn’t go backwards at all across the weekend and ended up with a PB of 9.4@146mph, and finished third in class. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut event for the car!”
Mid-nines are super impressive for a stock-bottom-end street car on 235 radials, but Jason is quietly confident there’s more to be had out of the current combo before he makes the move to a built engine.
“Adam and I want to get the car to Sydney Dragway and see how far we can go as it sits,” he said. “We’d love to get it into the eights if we can get it off the line a bit better; that would be pretty impressive for an SBE car. Hopefully we can do that before Drag Challenge this year, and after that we’ll build a motor for it.”
It’s enough to make a bloke want to build a Barra-powered Mustang, to be honest…
1989 FORD MUSTANG
|Ford Barra FG Turbo 4.0L
|Plazmaman Retro billet, FG throttlebody
|Standard FG Turbo, Dominator Motorsports valve springs, Athena MLS head
|Dominator Motorsports oil pump gears
|Twin Bosch 044 pumps, 1250cc injectors
|VE V6 radiator, Plazmaman Pro Series intercooler
|Custom Jonny Tig turbo manifold, Custom 4in MPW exhaust system
|Hughes Turbo 400, transbrake & converter dump, QuickTime SFI
|9in, 40-spline axles, 3.5:1 gears, full spool
|Viking double-adjustable coil-overs
|Viking double-adjustable coil-overs, Enemies Racing anti-roll bar
|Aerospace Components (f & r)
|Weld Magnum; 15×4 (f), 15×8 with Enemies Racing Australia beadlocks ®
|Vitour Galaxy R1 165/70R15 (f), Mickey Thompson ET Street 235/60R15 (r)
Tuff Mounts; Muscle Garage; MPW Performance; Haltech; Turbosmart; 3R Technik; GCG Turbo; Quality Motor Trimmers; Enemies Racing Australia; Dominator Motorsports; Jonny Tig Industries; Plazmaman; GJ Drivelines; Mackielec Industries.