Magazines are full of ultra high-dollar rides splashed across their pages. These automotive works of art give us ideas of things to do to our own humble rides and in many cases provide aesthetic inspiration. Nevertheless, for most of us the real world is not composed of hundred-thousand-dollar rides, but made up of affordable cars that we can actually drive on a regular basis. Such a car was discovered while putting together a recent Hometown Hot Rodding segment; it was a picture of a Mustang II eating up the apex of a road course. We knew this car needed to be featured. A phone call was made to Alcino Azevedo Jr. of Lakeside, California, and we set up a photo shoot and, more importantly, some track testing.

The little Mustang II Cobra was bought new by Alcino's uncle Alberto and sold the next year to Alcino's father. A few years later Alcino was born and he grew up with the '76 Cobra as the family transporter. Alcino says, "I can still remember being small enough to not see over the dash while riding shotgun." As the years went on, the engine in the tired Cobra finally gave up the ghost and his father Alcino was ready to send the Ford to the scrap yard. Even though Alcino had his eye on a '69 Boss 302 clone as his first car, he just couldn't let the family heirloom go to the trash. After some convincing, his father fixed the car, and when Alcino turned 16, he got the keys. But the years had not been kind to the neglected Cobra. As Alcino stated, "The paint was faded, the body dented, the engine, along with the rest of the car, was painfully stock. Because of the 'uncoolness' factor of the car and my lack of money, I started to learn how to do body work, engine maintenance, performance upgrades, and welding to modify the car into something that could compete and beat that Boss Mustang I used to have my eye on." Alcino gives a lot of credit to his uncle Alzarino for not only teaching him to weld and fabricate, but not to be afraid if something wasn't made for the car. "Just get the torch and welder and make it fit," relates Alcino.

Alcino knew that the Mustang needed some help in the looks department. He also realized that he wanted some wider tires on the car for better handling. With this in mind, he started fabricating some metal rear fender flares to accommodate wider rollers. As a side benefit, this gave the Mustang II a more aggressive stance. He also customized the front and rear bumpers to clean up the body lines a bit. When all was done he shot the car in a cool shade of Bahama Blue that he saw on a '91 Chevy truck. The paintwork wouldn't win any car shows, but then again, going to car shows was not what this car was about. Instead, Alcino was focused on putting the hurt to the competition at the local road course.

The Mustang II was blessed from the factory with a decent front suspension. Also, since this front suspension is very popular in the aftermarket, Alcino was able to find quite a few parts to help stick the 'Stang to the tarmac. The front suspension got some polygraphite bushings and a pair of KYB adjustable gas shocks. To get the nose of the car closer to the ground, the stock V-8 coil springs were cut just a bit. In the rear he went with Flex-a-form fiberglass leafs with a spring rate of 225 lb/in and a weight of only 8 pounds each. Rear shocks are KYB GR2s and the sway bars are the stock Ford units. Factory spindles are turned by a Flaming River manual rack-and-pinion steering system. The original puny brakes were not going to cut it on the track so Wilwood 12-inch rotors on all four corners along with four-piston Dynalite calipers were added to whoa the pony down. With a tight budget, Alcino eyed a set of 15x8 Basset D-Hole steel wheels. They only weighed 16 pounds each and didn't cost an arm and a leg to buy. Wrapped around the steelies are Toyo RA1 DOT legal racing tires in sizes 205/50R15 (front) and 225/50R15 (rear). Simple, cheap and effective would be the best way to sum up the suspension.

Next up was ditching the painfully anemic stock drivetrain. Alcino picked up a 302 roller-cam engine out of a newer '86 Mustang and tore it down. The stock pistons run at a pump-gas friendly 9.0:1 compression and some new Total Seal rings helped freshen things up. Most of the internals were re-used and Alcino added some Comp rockers and pushrods to the Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads. Topping off the engine is an Edelbrock Performer intake and Barry Grant Demon 650 carb combo. For spark, a street/strip DUI distributor from Performance Distributors was added and to control the oil during high-speed turns he bolted on a baffled Canton oil pan. Alcino then whipped out the welder and fabbed up some tri-Y headers to send the spent gasses out to the 2.5-inch dual exhaust replete with Spin-tech mufflers. No dyno numbers on the mill, but it's enough to accomplish a previous best quarter-mile time of 13.98 for the 2,950-pound 'Stang. The old C4 automatic transmission was ditched in favor of a T-5 world-class manual box with stock ratios. The short-throw shifter is from Steeda and the clutch is from Pep Boys. Power travels through a Ford Motorsports aluminum driveshaft and into the Ford 8-inch rear end with Dutchman 28-spline axles, 3.55 gears, and a Posi locker.

The Spartan interior features Corbeau CR1 seats and Crow 6-point harnesses to hold occupants firmly in place at the track. A few Autometer gauges were added to keep track of the engine vitals and a Grant steering wheel keeps the driver in control. There is a radio in the car but it's nothing to write home about and since it doesn't make the car faster it's on the bottom of the list in regards to upgrading.

We were stoked when Alcino agreed to drive his car (he feels that trailers are for broken cars) the 100 miles to our test location at the California Speedway in Fontana, California. The test involved four parts: quarter-mile, slalom, skidpad, and braking. Alcino had driven his car quite a bit in SOLO II and autocross events as well as the occasional drag strip romp, but he was unsure how his Mustang would perform. In our drag test, he managed to destroy his previous best time by knocking down a 13.50 at 105.68 mph. Not bad for a mostly stock motor in a car not designed for the 1320. Afterwards, we meandered over to the 420-ft slalom course for a few quick trips through the cones. The car maneuvered through the cones like a go cart and when our test driver, Nick Licata, pulled up to check his times, he had a huge smile across his face and remarked that the car was a blast to drive. The best time attained through the 420 was 5.95 seconds. That corresponds to an unheard of 48.1 mph. (By comparison, PHR's own g/28 '76 Camaro could only muster 46.48 mph with a high-tech triangulated four-link rear and air suspension.) This low-buck g-Machine officially became the fastest car we've ever tested in the slalom. In fact, Licata commented that it was the fastest time he had ever seen and he tests for quite a few magazines including Super Chevy and Street Rodder.

Next up was the skidpad to check the lateral grip. This test is run clockwise and counterclockwise, and then the two best circuits are averaged together. The Toyo R-compound tires really got it done and the Cobra managed an average score of .99g, just shy of the magical 1g mark. Alcino has never had his car's suspension professionally set-up and we think that with a little tuning we could've hit 1g. Still, .99g is a number to be proud of, and one of the best we have ever seen. For the 60-0 braking test, the Ford managed a stopping distance of 146.66 feet. Not exoticar short, but very respectable. Keep in mind, those ultra-short distances you see published in snooty sportscar books are the result of some high-tech ABS systems, and Alcino's non-ABS car is about as low-tech as there is.

So how much cash did Alcino drop into his crusher-bound Mustang II? How about $6,000, including the cost of the car (which was exactly zero). Count on laying out another two or three grand (for a car) to duplicate Alcino's effort. In today's age of mega-dollar machines, it's refreshing to see someone able to build such a capable car without going into hock. It goes back to what this hobby is all about: using ingenuity and sweat equity to build a fun car that puts a smile on your face!