Round Three
A September evening in Texas isn't much better than an August evening in Texas. It's still damn hot and humid. Nevertheless, after waiting out several weeks' worth of tropical storms, we headed back to San Antonio Raceway with 9s on the agenda. This time out we left the same ignition curve in the motor as from the prior outing, but aired the tires down to 20 psi. Experienced drag radial experts tell us that they work best at 14-16 psi, but we wanted to hold off on dropping pressure further until we actually experienced traction problems. On the first pass, the car dead-hooked and ran a 10.34 at 136.82 mph. The unexpected increase in traction yielded a lazier launch, reflected in the car's 1.67-second 60-foot time. In the pits, we addressed the situation by dialing in a more aggressive timing curve that cut back ignition advance by 10 degrees at idle, and ramped it back in by 4,000 rpm. The changes proved effective; the 60-foot times improved to 1.57 seconds, dropping e.t. slightly to 10.31 at 135.46 mph. The troubling part of the second pass, however, was that trap speed mysteriously dropped by almost 1.5 mph from the prior run, and nearly 2.5 mph from the 138 mph Project Fox posted its first night out. This was despite the fact that the density altitude was slightly better at 3,100 feet. Had the car pulled the second-half of the track as hard as it did in the past, we figure the e.t. would have been closer to 10.20s.

Unfortunately, the slower trap speed was just a prelude of things to come. On the trip down the return road, we noticed a loud header leak. Worse yet, the indistinguishable clatter of torque converter bolts that had rattled loose signaled a premature end to our test session. On one hand, we were extremely disappointed that we didn't leave the track with a 9-second timeslip. On the other hand, we're optimistic about breaking into the single-digits very soon, as Project Fox is far from being sorted out. With the tires hooking as hard as they did, we know we can get much more aggressive with the timing curve the next time out. Likewise, fall has finally arrived in Texas, and the cooler, drier air will only help our cause. Another issue is that Project Fox's 3.90:1 ring-and-pinion set is a wee bit too short. The 532ci big-block peaks at 6,500 rpm, but the car is turning 7,500 rpm by the time it crosses the finish line. This is compounded by a torque converter that's flashing too high at 5,500 rpm. With all the variables involved in setting up a car like Project Fox, Greg Ducato at Phoenix Transmissions got the stall speed pretty close to ideal right out of the gate. Even so, we figure tightening up the stall to 4,500 to 5,000 rpm will better suit Project Fox's powerband. Trying to foot-brake nearly 700 lb-ft of torque with the stock brakes is a huge challenge as well, so there very well could be a transbrake in our future.

Ultimately, Project Fox isn't running as well as we'd like right now, and there are several issues that need to be addressed. That said, we're hell-bent on getting the car into the 9s as it sits right now before re-gearing it, tightening up the converter, and possibly hitting it with a 'brake. We figure knocking another tenth off the 60-foot and some better air is all it will take to get Project Fox into the single-digits while sticking to our budget of $25,000. That's a lot of coulda woulda shouldas, so we'll spare you the ricer excuses and report back once Project Fox runs a number. Right now, Project Fox has somewhere between United Nations power and Oprah power, and that's just not good enough. After getting the car into the single-digits, we plan on tinkering with some easy weight loss mods to see how deep into the 9s we can run. Then maybe we'll spray it and shoot for 8s.