The Cottage Industry
More guys were running homemade EFI kits than we expected to see, and a few of them were combining EFI with a homemade turbo kit running on E85. Nelson Pineda has made a name for himself as the guy who builds MegaSquirt ECMs. After building one for his personal car and discovering it wasn’t as difficult as he imagined it would be, other people began asking him to assemble ECMs for their cars. He’s nearly done with the tune-up on the car in the background—an ’86 Olds Cutlass with a TPI engine swap, a turbo kit that Nelson made himself, and MegaSquirt’s MS3 controller that allows sequential triggering of the fuel injectors and coil-on plug ignition with individual cylinder spark-timing control.
The racing arm of the car club Mexican Juice is centered literally within the shadow of the Compton Courthouse. The guys seemed proud of this and asked if I would photograph their cars in front of the courthouse. Something told me they were probably as familiar with the building’s interior as they were of the exterior. Among the group here are Jorge Cota, Lalo Mojarro, Jerry Herrera, Antonio Arias, Jose Madrigal, Chuy Mojarro, and some other guys who didn’t want their names published.
Lalo owns the ’72 Ford Courier, which can be found in a plethora of YouTube videos if you type “Mexican Juice Courier” in the search box. Specific details are sketchy, but the engine is a small-block Ford (we’re assuming it’s a 351 W with a stroker crank). We do know the short-block was assembled by Manny Rodriquez, aka Mustang Manny. It’s backed by a Performance Automatic C4 and a 9-inch rear axle. As this is being written, Lalo’s got the top end apart, building a custom turbo kit. His Courier is one of the fastest cars currently on the street, and, as he put it, “I had to step up my game, ’cause everyone’s coming after me. He’s owned the Courier for about five years but has had the engine for 10. Prior to the Courier, this engine powered a Fox-body Mustang Lalo used to race.
Jerry Herrera owns the black ’87 Mustang. He arrived late the day we took these pictures because he got stopped by the cops on the way to Lalo’s. After lifting off the hood, he muttered an incoherent response to our questions about the small-block Chevy where a 5.0L Ford used to be. One of his friends volunteered that the engine was a 283. Yeah right, with those huge fuel lines feeding that Dominator? We didn’t believe it for a second. What we were able to pry out of Jerry is that the engine needs to run on race gas and that the rest of the drivetrain consists of a TH400 trans and a beefed-up 8.8 rear axle.
It’s clear Lalo and his friends are also into vintage Japanese cars. We realize this may be a serious turn-off to some of our traditional audience, but it would behoove us to pay attention. These cars are all built with new technology SR20 engines out of Japanese market Silvias. With MegaSquirt or AEM computers and upgraded turbochargers, these cars would embarrass a lot of domestics that line up next to them. The import guys were the technology drivers of the scene a few years ago, experimenting with engine swaps, turbochargers, and fuel injection. Now, many of them are building turbocharged EFI V8s and terrorizing the traditional carburetor guys.
Lalo and his friends are able to build all these cars because they pool their resources. One guy might have an engine, another may have the transmission to donate to the build. Their friend, Ricky Arias, is a welder and was helping to make a custom set of headers for the twin-turbo system Lalo was assembling for his Courier. “We don’t have as much money as some of the other guys out there, but after taking care of my family and paying my bills, I put the rest into my cars,” he said.