Finally, after more than a year of bolting on parts and fabricating custom doodads, Project Fox is done. The speculation ends now, and it's time to see what it will run at the track. To recap, the goal with our '93 Mustang project car has been to run 9-second e.t.'s on a blue-collar $25,000 budget. Just in case that wasn't enough of a challenge, we decided to chase down single-digits on a stock-style suspension and drag radials in a full weight, pump-gas burning, street-legal machine. Following the old hot rodder's tradition of stuffing the biggest engine possible into the smallest car you can find, a 775hp big-block Ford and a 3,000-pound Fox Mustang seemed like a logical combination. Sure, a 632ci Rat motor in a Chevy II would have been way cooler, but who's got $50,000 to spend on a project car these days? Now more than any time in recent history, cheap speed is something everyone can appreciate. And is there any enthusiast that hasn't dreamed of building a 9-second street car?

Over the course of the buildup phase, Project Fox accumulated an impressive stockpile of parts. The arsenal includes a 532ci big-block Ford built by the School of Automotive Machinists, a Phoenix TH400 trans, a Strange 8.8-inch rearend, an Anthony Jones Engineering front suspension, a Competition Engineering rear suspension, a Russell fuel system, a custom Hooker exhaust, a 10-point rollcage, Summit wheels, and Mickey Thompson tires. The good folks at Bill Buck Race Cars (www.BillBuckRaceCars.com) in Austin, Texas, did all the chassis fabrication and practically built the car. Looking at the stats, Project Fox appears to have the goods to propel it into the 9s at 140 mph. There's a big difference, however, between what a car should do in theory, and what it actually runs. No one wants phony United Nations power that only exists on paper. We want real power. You know, Oprah power.

The key to achieving this sort of genuine power is optimizing a car's chassis, suspension, and tire combination to extract the most e.t. out of every last mile per hour. As any drag racer will attest, while trap speed is an excellent barometer for power-to-weight ratio and quarter-mile performance potential, all that matters at the finish line is the elapsed time. Horsepower is just half of the equation, and our biggest concern was trying to get all 775 horses to hook on 275/60-15 Mickey Thompson ET Street radials. Make no mistake that these are a sweet set of meats, providing enough stick to launch leaf-spring cars into 7s. Nevertheless, our experience with setting up drag radial cars is quite limited, and we were prepared for the steep learning curve ahead. Admittedly, our expectations entering the first round of shakedown testing were low, but after making the first pass, we were pleasantly impressed upon realizing the car would be in the 9s much sooner than anyone expected.

Round One
On a sweltering August evening in Texas, we headed down to San Antonio Raceway to lay down some shakedown runs. With the distributor locked out at 28 degrees of advance and 24 psi in the drag radials, we spun the hides for the first 20 feet, pedaled the throttle a hair, and ran a 10.54 at 138 mph on a 1.84-second 60-foot time. With any freshly assembled drag combination, it's not a bad idea to make some eighth-mile passes just to get a feel for the car. Thanks to our premium suspension components and the spot-on suspension setup by expert chassis tuner Bill Buck, the car drove so straight that we stayed in the throttle for the full pass. It's certainly not the smartest thing to do, but no one's ever accused us magazine guys of being smart. As no surprise, the trap speed was clearly indicative of 9-second potential, especially considering the density altitude hovered around 3,400 all night. But the 60-foot times needed some big time improvement.