Thursday, September 27, 2012

All Purpose Beast

A Porsche set the standard

Story by John Machequeiro

Brand loyalty is a bankable commodity. For decades, automakers have relied on it to sell cars. Repeat business is the name of the game and Maryland resident Walt Ziffer has been a good player. A fan of the Blue Oval, he has, over the years, owned four well-massaged Fox-body Mustangs. His latest ride is this black ’88 LX.

Ziffer originally purchased this ’88 LX as a half-finished rolling chassis from his close friend Howard Pasternak. “It was completely disassembled down to the unibody shell, without any glass, wiring, interior, or suspension,” he recalls. “It was just a shell with a fresh coat of black paint and an unpainted cage.” At the time, Ziffer owned an ’83 convertible that had been heavily modified for drag racing. The ’83 ragtop was great in a straight line, but the owner was looking for a more well-rounded package. He wanted a user-friendly, purpose-built show, road and race car.

As the manager of the Potomac Café Racers club, which is affiliated with the Sarasota Café Racers, the idea of bringing the ’83 to shows was logistically impractical. He points out, “the goal was to build a stock-appearing Fox-body coupe that would run 9s on DOT tires, handle like a road racing car, and stop like my Porsche 911 Turbo.” Yeah, you read correctly, a Porsche 911 Turbo. It was also modified. Right from the beginning, the yardstick was long and the humble LX had some mighty big performance shoes to fill.

The ’88 Mustang was the perfect canvas for the plans he was cooking up because it came with that custom racing cage and extensive subframe modifications. The engine bay had also been smoothed out and painted. When Ziffer pulled the trigger on the purchase of the ’88 LX, the ’83 convertible was sold as a rolling chassis, minus its engine, computer, and fuel system. Those components would serve as the foundation for this new project. Ziffer started with some very clear plans. He spent a vast amount of time researching various options available to him and looking at other custom Mustang projects. “I had already built a turbo motor and preferred turbocharging over the supercharged motors I owned previously,” he explains. “The torque curve on a turbo car is intoxicating. Once you have experienced a turbo car, you have to have one.” He also adds that, “my 911 Turbo was an influence on the build of the Mustang, but it was not an objective to replicate it or surpass it.”

Half the battle of the build was accomplished with the purchase of the partially finished car. The biggest challenge was to take the drivetrain from the ’83 and modify it for its new task. That responsibility was handed over to Maryland Performance Center. They started by building a beefy bottom end for the engine. A Cola 4340 forged crank was installed in the Ford Racing R302 block, along with Oliver billet rods, and a set of JE forged 9.2 compression pistons. A pair of Canfield aluminum heads fitted with 2.08 intake valves and 1.60 exhaust valves crowned the top end. The bumpstick of choice was a custom-ground roller camshaft from COMP Cams with a .555-inch intake and .555-inch exhaust and 273 degree duration. This combination needed some serious feeding capabilities.

With that in mind, they added an Edelbrock Victor 8.2 lower manifold, along with a Wilson upper manifold. FAST 85 lbs/hr fuel injectors and a FAST EFI system with a 90mm throttle body dispense the fuel. An Alky Control methanol injection system handles the cooling of the pressurized air when the boost begins to build in lieu of a less efficient inner cooler. Everything is sparked to life with an MSD 6A1 box. Forcing all this hardware is a massive Turbonetics T76 turbo that is fed by custom stainless steel headers and pipes. The spent gases exit via a custom single four-inch exhaust system that is mated to a Borla race muffler.

Power distribution was also carefully planned and various options considered, however, in the end they chose a Lentech AODE four-speed automatic with a 3,600-rpm stall converter and transbrake. A custom-length aluminum driveshaft transmits the power to a rear end stuffed with 3.27:1 gears, 35-spline axles, and a Traction Lok differential. In terms of handling, the Mustang got beefed up at all four corners. Up front, a Maximum Motorsports coilover front kit, tubular A-arms, K-member, and Koni adjustable shocks were installed. Taming the nervousness of the rear axle is critical in raising a Mustang’s performance level, so Maximum Motorsports adjustable upper and lower control arms, with an adjustable sway bar, were dropped in to aid in planting the power to the ground.

All this hardware needed additional stopping power. The stock brakes were tossed out in favor of Wilwood six-piston calipers at the front, and Wilwood four-piston calipers at the rear, which harmoniously clamp down on 13-inch rotors. The last piece of the power delivery equation was the wheel and tire choice. Ziffer went with a set of black chrome Enkei RP03 17-inch wheels wearing 215/45-17 Toyo Proxes R888s up front. Out back, he went with a set of Enkei RP03 18-inch wheels wrapped in 245/40-18 Toyo Proxes R888s. He has two options in fueling the car. It can either run on 93 octane gasoline or high octane racing fuel. George Reggio at Maryland Performance dyno tuned the engine on 93 octane fuel with a safe tune, which resulted in over 700 rear wheel horses and 700 pounds of torque. If it is drinking the good stuff, 110 octane plus, that number jumps up to over 900 rear wheel horses without pushing the motor to its limit.

Reggio knows that Ziffer often likes to drive the ’88 near its performance limit. As a preventive measure, so the car doesn’t leave him stranded, he designed the system to lock out electronically from overriding the boost and ECU settings. Ziffer knew from past unpleasant experiences, like a broken block and blown head gaskets, that Reggio was saving Ziffer from himself by limiting the boost.

The entire project took him three years to complete. Some of that time was spent chasing down all the missing parts needed to complete the car. As for future plans, an updated engine management system that includes traction control and a boost controller is on the list. Many ask him to compare the Mustang and Porsche. He points out that, “Both have that long, flat luxurious torque curve that seems to go on forever. The Mustang has manual steering and manual brakes, which work very well, but the precision of the steering, braking, and handling of the Porsche is unlike anything I have ever driven. I wish the Porsche sounded like the Mustang at full throttle.

“I really enjoy and appreciate my Mustang, but my 911 Turbo is superior in almost every way except two. The Mustang is quicker in the quarter mile, since it is lighter, and has over 200 more horses. The sound the Mustang makes is also far and away what the Porsche severely lacks. An American V-8 wailing at 7,000 plus rpm, combined with the hurricane hissing of the turbo, is a symphony of sounds that the German engineers just can’t match.”


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Staked On Silver

Dave App’s ’65 Belvedere Goes All Out

Story by Geoff Stunkard

The 1960s produced many, if not most, of the Mopars that car enthusiasts still desire and search out.

In terms of rarity and reputation, at the top of that pantheon of power were the limited-edition Super Stock packages.
Between 1963 and 1968, Chrysler created special race-only vehicles that were modified with hotter hardware than anything that could be found on the showroom floor. Many of these cars paid dividends over the course of decades in actual racing action and a handful even ended up on the street. For Union, Ohio, car aficionado Dave App, the solution to having such a vehicle, though, was to build one from scratch.

“I had a ’70 Dart 340, but my wife didn’t like it because it had no power steering or power brakes,” he recalls. “I was looking for a ’63 Plymouth post coupe as a project, but met Clay Kossuth at the Mopar Nationals back in 2001, and that was how this car’s change began.”

At that time, Kossuth, who is a very active nostalgia racer, had over 500 earlier Mopars at his Missouri-based resale and parts business, Clay & Sons LLC. One was a very clean 1965 Plymouth Belvedere. As sold off of the new car lot, the car was built with a 225-cid “leaning tower of power” Slant Six and a three-speed column-shift manual transmission. Dave realized the solid car would be a terrific beginning. He drove 1,200 round-trip miles to the Show-Me State to bring the vintage Belvedere to its new home.

The original six-cylinder headed out into the parts pile. In its place, Dave went big, choosing 528 inches of Mopar Performance Hemi crate motor to go between the fenders. He also selected a Keisler five-speed Perfect FIT TKO600 kit to back it up and a Dana 60 out back with a 3.54 gear. This was turned over to a build shop who, Dave now recalls, was probably not his best choice. Let’s just say it was an expensive learning curve.

“This guy frankly was overwhelmed by what needed to be done, and it took longer than planned,” he says. “So, when he finished up the work I had agreed to have him do and I finally went to get it, he gave me a bill for an additional $3,000 and told me he would hide my car unless I paid up. My brother was with me when all of this happened and witnessed it. In the end, I paid it, but I do not think he deserves credit for this job because the way he handled it.”

After that not-so-cheap trick, the Plymouth went on to find a much brighter future, literally. The bodywork was handled by Ben Wolf, who added a circa-’65 replacement hood scoop and covered the metal with Mercedes 01 Brilliant Silver paint. The appearance is augmented by American Racing “Rev”-type wheels and Indy 500 brand tires. The suspension was upgraded by Richard Doane with new torsion bars from Mancini Racing, a new steering box from Steer & Gear, and slotted rotor disc brakes on all four corners supplied by The Right Stuff. The rear suspension remains basically stock, with air shocks for ride control.

Inside, the car was outfitted with a Super Stock-style interior, plus a LeCarra steering wheel, the Keisler floor shift, and Auto Meter tach and gauges. A dash-mounted switch activates the very cool Quick Time Performance exhaust cutouts that were spliced into the full tti exhaust system. The car has not been down a racetrack, since Dave prefers to leave it as a mechanical bazooka that he carries down to the ice cream store on weekends.

He has had the car for 10 years now, and the money and effort expended during the three-year build clearly shows when he displays the car. For the most part, however, it’s not just about looks. Dave has been able to enjoy driving this tribute to the “roaring ’65s” on both boulevard and highway, thanks to the overdrive package.

In mining, staking a claim requires proof and purity. Dave’s silver gamble resulted in something that would be treasured by whoever owned it.