Rendering by Tavis Highlander
A big thanks goes to Tavis...
A big thanks goes to Tavis Highlander for helping us design Max Effort's simple yet sinister look. He's helped out the likes of Pure Vision, Mopar Performance, Nelson Racing Engines, Pirelli Tires, and Hasbro. Check out his work at www.TavisHighlander.com.
Life is full of compromises, and unfortunately project cars often are as well. Rather than pick a goal and just go for it with abandon, many rodders opt to try and build a performance-oriented muscle car that also has excellent street manners, creature comforts, and overall civility. That's not a bad plan if the intention is simply to build a nice street car that's competent on the track, but there are always trade-offs to be made to walk that line. The suspension can't be too punishing, the interior should be comfortable, it needs to idle smoothly, get decent mileage, have air conditioning of course-the list of unnecessary necessities goes on. That won't be the case with this project car.
For this car, we're switching around our typical ethos of building street cars imbued with a serious performance predilection, to maximum-effort road course runner and autocross conqueror that happens to also be street legal. No excuses and no apologies; we're going all the way with this one. Priority one will be fast lap times and corner carving-fast enough to raise the eyebrows of the best modified Vettes and tuned European-born sports cars, and in most cases leave them struggling to keep up. Actually, there may be some American iron extreme cars in the rearview as well. This thing will be on the bleeding edge of what can be accomplished with a street-legal muscle car.
Cougars are known rusters...
Cougars are known rusters in particular areas, but we got lucky and scored a near rust-free, California black plate '67 XR-7 with mostly original paint. It has a few nice bolt-on parts and Bullitt-style wheels with spacers; it's basically a mild street cruiser.
We fully realize that's a tall order, so to accomplish our stipulated aspirations there's another prevailing philosophy behind project Max Effort: Every part put into the car will have a rationale behind it-no bling, no frills, just function way before form. It certainly won't be a good commuter, but who cares? It'll still be fun for blasts through the canyons when traffic is light and the corners are tight.
What put such a wild hair up our butts? Actually the concept is partially based on ideas we gleaned while talking to some of the country's top builders for the "What's Next?" feature that took a glance into hot rodding's future in the September '10 issue. Every builder we spoke with said the ante was constantly being raised by technology, and the demands of their customers who may be vacillating between purchasing a new Porsche 911 or building a performance muscle car. The cost may be close, so they want the performance to be as well.
The distinctive hideaway headlights...
The distinctive hideaway headlights are a love-'em-or-hate-'em affair. We happen to be big fans, so even though the assemblies are heavy for the nose of a track car, they will be staying. We will have to address the needlessly complex vacuum operation.
One car in particular struck a chord with us: the Trans-Cammer. Built by Philip Koenen at Grand Touring Garage in North Bend, Oregon, the Trans-Cammer is a hard car to describe. It's somewhere between Trans-Am, Pro Touring, and custom show car. At the same time, it was built to function before everything else. We'll actually lay a bit of the blame on the two head gearheads at the shop helping Max Effort come to fruition: Filip Trojanek and Colin Sebern of CorteX Precision Racing Technology. A few laps in one of their in-house development cars around Infineon Raceway confirmed exactly what we wanted.
So why a Cougar? Initially we had a goal in mind, but the platform had still yet to be decided. Both Mustangs and Camaros were scratched off the list since we wanted this car to stand out amongst the horde. But we still wanted it to be relatable and easy to find parts for. The consistently overlooked Cougar fit the bill to a tee. It is mostly a Mustang, after all.
Usually we'd give you a rundown of the particular parts to look for on this build, but we'll have to leave you in suspense this time as the Max Effort Cougar will be using a great deal of never-before-seen and never-before-tested components and parts, many of which are being developed just for this project and are still in the works. That doesn't mean exclusive one-off exotica; through exclusive collaboration among PHR, CorteX, and the various suppliers, nearly everything will have a part number and be available for you to craft your own road-course warrior.
You won't have long to wait though; starting next month we'll have the first installment of the Max Effort Cougar and the first of several world-exclusive components available to you. We're starting at the rear with CorteX Racing's exclusive new rearend, built to spec by Speedway Engineering of Sylmar, California. Trust us; you haven't seen a rearend like this for a muscle car before, and we'll show you exactly why it's the best live axle for our high g-force pursuit.
The Build Team
Our partners in crime for this project will be the team at CorteX Precision Racing Technology. With an R&D shop situated right on Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California, right next door to the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche race team, you know these guys don't play around.
There's a reason CorteX's unofficial motto is "Everything Engineered." Founder Filip Trojanek (left) is a lifelong car nut who holds a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on structural mechanics from Oregon State University. He's done everything from semiconductor manufacturing and Space Systems for Lockheed Martin, to chemical weapons demilitarization, and even nuclear power component design and analysis. To say he's a stickler for details and perfection is an extreme understatement. He's in charge of designing and evaluating everything that CorteX produces, and he won't put their name on it unless it's proven through engineering tools such as Finite Element Analysis (FEA) and real-world racing. CorteX even offers design engineering, 3-D modeling, FEA, and testing services to other companies in search of the "unfair advantage."
Colin Sebern (right) is CorteX's in-house Stig, and brings years of racing experience and stunt driving for blockbuster movies to the table as well as four years at Lotus Racing and three years at the BMW Design Center. You can usually find him lapping pure race cars in his stock drivetrain '08 Mustang prepped by CorteX. He's the one Trojanek turns to when it's time to see how much lap time a design change is worth, and he'll have carte blanche to make sure Max Effort is dialed in to the fullest extent. He'll also be the one making sure we're actually qualified to drive this Cougar.
The original white interior...
The original white interior is mostly stock and fairly nice; ignore the black velour inserts in the seats, if you can... Interestingly, this Cougar never had a lower console, which we always thought was standard for XR-7s.
For those who missed it last...
For those who missed it last month, this is the Trans-Cammer Mustang-one of the inspirations for the Max Effort Cougar. You can see more of it on Grand Touring Garage's website at www.GrandTouringGarage.com.
The other inspiration is this...
The other inspiration is this Bud Moore-prepped No. 98 Cougar that Dan Gurney drove in Trans-Am in '67. The three-car Mercury team placed Second behind the Mustangs that year and never returned to Trans-Am, but DeWayne "Tiny" Lund took the No. 16 Cougar and dominated the NASCAR Grand Touring series in '68, taking the championship.
One of our favorite parts...
One of our favorite parts of the XR-7 interior: the switches and the oil pressure gauge mounted in the dash. It's like it's begging to be a track car.
The menacing red Mustang peeking...
The menacing red Mustang peeking in at the side of the photo is CorteX's rolling testbed, dubbed "The Beast," and the No. 45 white SN-95 Mustang in the rear is an AIX competition car. Check out CorteXRacing.com for extreme testing videos on Infineon of the Beast, No. 45, and Colin's '08 Mustang GT daily driver.
The stock short-block 5.0...
The stock short-block 5.0 roller engine is plenty dirty, but hosts a bevy of good go-fast goodies. We've never heard it run, but we'll definitely tear into it down the line to see what kind of power we can wring out. Note the mismatched and unbolted valve covers-usually not a good sign.