Nathan Ghosn’s nine-second Ford Capri

Nathan Ghosn's pump-gas, nine-second Capri sets the standard for street-car cred

Photographers: SM Archives

WHEN it comes to real street cars, there are not many that can hold a candle to the screaming small block-powered Capri of Nathan Ghosn. With more than 50,000km under its belt in the past few years, including every Drag Challenge event except for this year’s recent Drag Challenge Weekend (due to COVID border restrictions) and a ton of nine-second passes on a 235 tyre, this pump-gas mauler is as tough as they come.

“I’ve always been a Capri guy,” Nathan says. “This is the fourth one I’ve owned after a couple of four-bangers and later a V6, which I had to sell years ago to buy a house and do the family thing. When I bought this car about 12 years ago, the plan was just to fit a stereo and cruise the wheels off it with its powerhouse 160hp, 289 Windsor motor.”

That plan fell by the wayside when Nathan decided to tidy up the car’s paint. Four-and-a-half years later, it rolled out of his garage with every single nut and bolt replaced – a total restoration from the ground up, including a 550hp, 360-odd-cube Windsor engine by Trick & Mansweto.

“At the time, I was just hopeful of running a 10-something, which it did straight away, and then I started thinking that the car might make it into the nines,” Nathan says. “From the outset, I didn’t want to mini-tub the car or cut the rear end up; for me it was all about keeping the small tyre on the car and learning to develop the suspension and actually drive it, rather than having a big tyre and just aiming the car towards the end of the track.

“I really enjoy racing on the 235s, and it keeps the car looking more like a street car. Small tyres aren’t a red flag to the cops and are practical for the endurance, Drag Challenge-style events that I’ve come to love so much.”

That first engine combination saw five years of hard racing and street miles, with Nathan managing to get the car into the 9.90s. The nine-second pass meant a full ’cage, and Nathan took the car to Big H Racing, where he formed a great friendship with owner Harry Plessas. It wasn’t long before the engine was pulled and basically everything but the block and heads was ditched. The new combination still stayed around 360 cubes, but on the engine dyno it belted out a pretty stout 685hp with a single Dominator carb.

The extra power pushed the car to a very respectable 9.64, still on the 235 tyres, and Nathan ran this combination for a couple of years.

Two years ago, the engine had yet another freshen-up, this time by Damian Baker from BG Engines, with the little Windsor cranking out a hefty 720hp after some extra head porting and a cam change.

It’s proved to be a great street-and-strip combination, using a Boss SVO block with an ASR oil pan, Callies crank and rods and RaceTec pistons. The Trick Flow 220 heads have had a lot of massaging over the years, and run Manley Extreme valve springs, Jesel rockers and a Jesel belt-drive cam-timing system. Induction is via a 1050 Dominator carb with a port-matched Victor single-plane intake, while a set of four-into-one headers send the gases rearwards through dual three-inch pipes.

Nathan has stayed with the C4 trans, to which his builder, Steve Micallef from Shift Right Transmissions, has fitted a reverse-pattern valvebody and a bunch of other upgrades. Backing the trans is a Gear Vendors overdrive that really knocks the revs down on the highway legs of Drag Challenge events. The converter is an eight-inch TCE with a massive 7000rpm stall speed that drives nice down low and does the business when Nathan buzzes the Windsor to 8200rpm.

“I’ve been a little bit stubborn when it comes to my suspension set-up, and I get some great advice that I need to start doing something to develop my 60-foot times,” Nathan says. “I’ve really hit a wall at the moment with my elapsed times. I know the car has a 9.5 in it, which would be pretty cool on a little tyre and a small engine.

“My best 60 was at Portland at Drag Challenge 2019, where I cracked a 1.39, but I’m pretty much stuck in the 1.4s most of the time. I’m going to try a set of 90/10s in the front and want to try and get a little weight out of the rear.”

In full race trim, the car is pretty light at 2900lb – and that’s with all-steel panels, full glass and interior, and driver. Drag Challenge really suits a car like Nathan’s Capri: it’s low-maintenance, aspirated, chugs pump gas and has the legs with the Gear Vendors overdrive to sit on 110km/h anywhere you need to go.

For Nathan, though, the big draw of Drag Challenge events is the camaraderie. “The thing I love the most about Drag Challenge is the awesome bonds you make with other racers,” he says. “Thanks to Big H Racing, BG Engines, Shift Right, Adam Lynch, James Barnes, Darryl Elliott, Alysha Teale, Alon Vella, Andrew Natoli and the rest of the DC mafia.”

Photographers: SM Archives