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1986 Ford Mustang - Driving Sideways

Building the 12-second street slider

Photography by ,

"Sorry I'm late. There is really no excuse." Except that Christian France had just finished installing a new short-block and test-fired it for the first time at 2 a.m. that morning. No excuse.

Chris stood in the freezing air in nothing more than a T-shirt and jeans after making the 50-mile south Orange County-to-L.A. run in less than 20 minutes to attend the pre-dawn photo shoot. With him was his smirking '86 Fox-body Mustang that had earned him some notoriety and then tried to take it away.

"When I bought this car, I wanted to run 12s with a stock short-block and unported heads. I'd seen a few guys on the Internet who had made it happen with just a few bolt-ons because the air is so cold back East and the tracks like E-town are low altitude." Chris wanted to be the first West Coast Fox owner to get it done with a full interior and A/C, so he began doing research at because he "wouldn't even know where to start finding a book."

The '86 302 is the first injected 5.0L engine for the Fox and uses the E6AE, Ford's masked-valve cylinder head, which has a large combustion chamber that is the least responsive to performance modifications. Chris knew this was a problem, but that the small-block had the '85-'88 roller cam and the correct intake-manifold base for performance use. So he took a trip to the local wrecking yard and did some shopping.

"The 5.0 engine is getting really common in the yards, so I found a '93 Thunderbird and a battery and did a compression test. The engine was good, so I waited for half-price day, pulled the engine, and paid $96 for it."

Chris pulled the cam from the '86 block and installed it in the '93, then took the heads to Freeway Machine in Mission Viejo, California, for a three-angle valve job. While the engine was out, Chris decided the engine bay looked terrible. "I towed the car to a painter to media-blast all of the parts under the hood and paint them." Just because the parts are from the yard doesn't mean they have to look that way.

"I knew I wasn't going to go fast without some bolt-ons, so I looked at the Internet classifieds for more parts. The yards helped too-it's easy to find the standard speed parts on wrecked Mustangs." The search netted him a pair of Flowmasters from a wrecked GT and some BBK long tubes from "I heard that the East Coast guys did this with exhaust, gears, slicks, an underdrive pulley, and an initial timing bump." Chris also swapped the CPU with an '87-'88 five-speed box because he heard it had more aggressive fuel and timing curves.

While he was looking, he found a set of used Cobra calipers, spindles, and A-arms. "I was going to Sacramento Raceway maybe once or twice a month and driving it on the street every day. I knew that adding handling suspension would cost me some time at the track, but drag suspension just doesn't power-slide well."

With the calipers came new 13-inch rotors and Bilstein coilovers. The rear gear is a Ford Motorsport 3.73:1, with a few more clutches in the Traction-Lok to keep both tires turning as Chris power-slides to work-and to the store, and all over town by the looks of his videos on

So is he the famous guy with the stock block, creature comforts, and 12s? Not quite yet. Chris took the Fox to Famoso Raceway in Bakersfield, California, and ran a frustrating 13.08 at 101.98 mph.

"I don't really know the shift point because I wasn't looking at the tach; I shift when I feel it keel over. I guess I'm at about 5,300 rpm. I think the last tenth is in the density altitude; the DA was 1,200 feet that day. Of course a drag suspension would help but that really isn't my thing." This thinking is contrary to the 1.71 60-foot he's getting off the rev limiter, so we think as soon as the weather cools down he's going to get back that 0.08.

So why was he late? The day before the shoot, something failed in the fuel system and the first Pick Your Part engine got washed out. The engine smoked and the compression dropped to zero. At that point he could have re-ringed it, but that would have ruined the spirit of the junkyard engine. He pulled another and replaced it the day before the shoot. Next stop, 12.99?

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