Gentlemen, we have ourselves a 9-second car. Despite our best efforts to exercise professionalism and composure during what should be a triumphant moment, all we can say is that it’s about freakin’ time. Way back in the Dec. ’10 issue, we boldly proclaimed that our street/strip ’93 Mustang project car would be running 9s much sooner than anyone expected. Considering that it ripped a 10.54-at-138-mph pass on its maiden trip down the track, there was good reason for our optimism. As the incessant and increasingly frustrating track excursions unfolded, however, we quickly realized that our assessment was a bit premature. With time and money always at a premium, finding those last few hundredths of a second in e.t. proved excruciatingly difficult. While it’s somewhat embarrassing that it took so long to hit the single digits, we’re not making any apologies. That’s because we can now load up the converter to 4,000 rpm, pop the transbrake, and bust off a 9-second pass at will on any given test-and-tune night.

The 9-Second Plan

In today’s glorious era of performance, where horsepower oozes out of the Summit catalog like subscription cards exploding out of a magazine, building a 9-second car isn’t all that difficult. What makes the feat a heck of a lot more challenging is doing it in a street legal, naturally aspirated, pump-gas-burning, full-interior package all for under $25,000. We figured even that’s not hard enough, so we decided to get the job done on drag radials and a stock-style suspension. Remove any of those prerequisites from the equation—by gutting the interior, dumping in some race gas, bolting in some ladder bars, or throwing on some slicks—and the task at hand becomes much easier. However, as JFK so eloquently put it, we sought to transcend these challenges “…not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” With prophetic lines like that, maybe Jack should have been a drag racer.

To recap, Project Fox started out as a stock ’93 Mustang notchback with a 302 and a five-speed stick. Since these cars are cheap, weigh next to nothing, and easily swallow up a big-block, we were willing to look past its uninspiring late-model lines for its practical benefits. After selling the stock motor and trans to recoup a few bucks, the car got shipped off to Bill Buck Race Cars in Austin, Texas, for a 10-point chrome-moly rollcage. Buck’s uncanny ability to discretely tuck a ’cage tightly into an interior resonated with our street cruising intentions, and the end product didn’t disappoint. While at the shop, the rear suspension was fortified for severe drag duty with a set of Competition Engineering upper and lower control arms, coilovers, and antiroll bar. Up front, we opted for an Anthony Jones Engineering tubular K-member and control arms matched with Strange shocks.

With the car itself taking shape, it was time to add some horsepower to the equation, so we hooked up with the School of Automotive Machinists (www.SAMRacing.com). When it comes to streetable, naturally aspirated, pump-gas–friendly horsepower, it’s tough to beat the easy cubic inches afforded by a big-block Ford. As such, SAM started with a stock 460 Ford block, opened up the bores to 4.440 inches, and stroked it to 532 ci with a Scat rotating assembly. The ace up the motor’s cylinder sleeves is a set of Jon Kaase Racing P51 cylinder heads that flow an astonishing 400 cfm right out of the box. Matched with an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, a Holley 1,150-cfm Dominator carb, and a COMP 273/280-at-.050 mechanical roller camshaft, the combo cranked out 775 hp on SAM’s SuperFlow engine dyno. To eliminate any potential driveline snafus, the big-block was mated to a Phoenix Transmission Products TH400, and a stock 8.8-inch rearend beefed up with Strange internals.