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LA Street Racers

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Matt Sendejas and the IROC King

Here’s another group of guys on the scene. Meet Steve Cohen, Carlos Salazar, Roijau Law, Kevin Clark, Matt Sendejas, and Eric Outland (left to right in the main photo). Matt’s in his forties and was an avid racer until he was involved in an accident a few years ago. Now he prefers to stay on the sidelines and offer guidance to Kevin, who is 27. Kevin began hanging out in Matt’s old shop in Inglewood when he was 17 and really got into working on cars. The guys call Kevin “Smokey” because he smokes his competition. Kevin used to drive a low- 10s/high-9-second IROC-Z on the street, earning the moniker IROC King (thus the tattoos on his hands). He sold the Camaro but kept the 383 engine, dropping it into this lighter Mustang that the guys pooled their money to buy as a roller for $600. The transmission is a TH350, also out of Kevin’s IROC, while the rear axle is a Ford 8.8.

Matt says street racing is much more exciting than racing at the track. Part of the thrill involves not getting caught, and racers will spend hours trying to evade the cops. Rivalries and trash talk just ramp up the thrill factor even more. “Some rivalries go back 20 years,” he says. “There’s nothing better than beating a faster car. And the fastest car doesn’t always win on the street. The driver is as important, if not more, than the car is. There’s no red light on the street.”

Things have changed a lot since he was active, though. “It used to be about who had the faster car. Now, it seems like it’s more about the money,” Matt says. Fabian adds, “You can earn more money in one night of street racing than you will spend in one weekend at the track. Lots of guys can’t afford going to the track, and that’s why they race on the streets. But that is changing, too. Races start at $1,000, gasoline costs a lot now, and if you get caught, the fees and possible jail time pile up really fast. For lots of guys, it’s even too expensive to race on the streets.”

The Entrepreneurs

As with any group of people sharing a common interest, some individuals will rise above the others, depending on their talents. Thus, the street-racing scene has spawned hundreds of small businesses.

Racers’ Edge Tuning

Racers’ Edge Tuning in Downey is a shop we’ve featured several times in the magazine. Owner Greg Monroe started the business tuning Modular-powered Mustangs but has since branched out to include the LS Chevy and new Hemi, and will even work on carbureted stuff. Parked in the back corner of the shop is his personal project: a Fox-body Mustang with an LS2 Chevy. “I’m calling it the Street Sweeper, because it’s gonna clean up,” he said, wryly adding, “At least until someone else builds something faster.” It’s important to note that, just as in all competitive sports, once you take down the top dog, everyone comes gunning for you. The title of Fastest Car gets passed around frequently. Running nitrous is practically a given, “Everyone runs nitrous,” Fabian tells us from the beginning of this project. It’s the cheapest power-adder in terms of initial cost—and it is the easiest to hide if you’re trying to sucker someone. After that, Greg prefers turbocharging. “It’s time consuming to figure out the tune-up. Once you do, you then have to learn how to spool the turbo and launch the car so it doesn’t bog off the line,” he says. Being a good driver is just as important as having an excessive amount of power.

Manny’s Hardcore Performance

Way out in Fontana within earshot of Auto Club Speedway, you will find Mustang Manny’s shop, Manny’s Hardcore Performance. Thirty-year-old Manny Rodriguez is a former Ford dealership mechanic and street racer turned shop owner, opening the doors to MHP about three years ago. He specializes in pushrod and Modular Mustangs and Lightning trucks, but he says he works on just about any American rear-drive car. He built the engine in Lalo Mojarro’s 10-second Lightning and helps work on Jerry Herrara’s SBC Mustang.

The blue Mustang in the accompanying pictures belongs to Manny, and it’s constructed with a good combination of factory parts that guys on a budget could replicate pretty easily. Starting with a junkyard block, Manny adds an Explorer/Mountaineer intake manifold, Lightning fuel injectors, and a mass airflow sensor. With good cylinder heads, a matching cam, and some nitrous, you will have a solid 10.30s car. If you want more and have more cash to spend, he recommends a turbo kit from On 3 Performance. The kit itself is very complete and fits well, but he likes to upgrade to a better turbocharger when he’s building the car for himself. With a turbo application, Manny says to ditch the car’s AOD trans and install a C4 with upgraded clutches and a manual valvebody.

For Mod-motor guys, Manny says you need boost and nitrous. “They don’t work NA, the engine is too small.” Weighing in on your author’s Crown Victoria, for example, Manny suggested I “swap in the engine from a Terminator Cobra (’03–’04 supercharged 32-valve 4.6), port the blower, run 16 pounds of boost, bolt in a 2,600-stall converter, and it would make 460 hp at the wheels.” Any of our readers want to see that happen?

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