A fight nearly broke out the first time we met Raphael Ordaz, owner of this '89 Mustang. While we were talking about his car at a local cruise night, some guy from the crowd got in his face and challenged him to a street race later that night. He got really angry, too, when Ralph (as he likes to be called) politely declined his generous invitation. As the guy stormed away, cursing loudly, Ralph shrugged and told us he's been getting that kind of treatment a lot lately. "I used to street race a lot the first few years I owned the car, but now I only race it at the track." He's got a family and a good job now and doesn't want to jeopardize any of that.
Ironically, he's an insurance agent.
Anyway, we spotted his car from about a mile away. We had just hatched our sleeper and street racer theme in an editorial meeting a few days prior and figured this was a good candidate. Ralph's car ticked all the right boxes: low hood, subtle paint, completely homebuilt, and packing a big surprise under the hood in the form of a 76mm turbocharger. We approached him with all the directness but none of the belligerence of angry racer guy and thankfully, he didn't turn down our challenge of a photo shoot.
Ralph's car draws a crowd wherever it goes. It sounds different enough from your standard-built Mustang that everyone pauses to scope it out. While we were taking the pictures, a couple of tow truck drivers from a nearby police impound lot parked their truck by us to watch the action. Ralph is an unassuming guy who seems not quite used to the attention, but it is deserved. His car is an excellent example of what the average guy can build on a budget and still afford to pay his bills and raise a family. It's fast, too. With a smaller turbo, he posted a 10.80 e.t. at 133 mph. He hasn't been to the track yet with the current configuration but hopes to see low 10s at about 140 mph. It's undeniable: If you want to go fast for less cash, you have to build a Fox.
Who: Raphael Ordaz
Where: Reseda, California
What: '89 Ford Mustang
Engine: A 347-inch, stroked 302 powers Ralph's Mustang. He built everything, including the turbo system, himself. "I didn't know what parts to buy, so I started going to the races and asking the fast drivers what they used to build their engines," he says. The stroker package consists of a Scat crank and forged H-beam rods. It adds the low-end grunt needed to push the car until the big turbocharger spools up. The cylinder heads are out-of-the-box AFR 185s. Dished pistons add up to a compression ratio of 9.5:1. If that sounds high, don't worry. Ralph limits the boost to 7 psi and the pistons are forged, so they can stand up to some abuse.
Boost: Ralph started with a 72mm turbocharger he bought from Turbo Performance in Van Nuys, California. Somehow it got out of balance, and he opted to have the housing bored out and repaired rather than buy a new one. As it sits now, it measures 76 mm, and Ralph says the increase in lag was noticeable. "It raised the point where the turbo spools by 500 rpm, but it kicks in a lot harder than it did before." Ralph made all the plumbing, too, apologizing for the look of his welds. We say, "Who cares. It's fast." He hung an intercooler off his bumper impact beam with zip ties, and cold air enters an early Accufab throttle body, an EFI Spyder elbow, and a Trick Flow single-plane intake manifold.
Engine management: The stock computer was recalibrated to cope with the extra airflow through the mass air meter. Ralph also installed a piggyback chip he bought from his brother-in-law that improves the idle quality.
Ignition: The stock distributor is hanging in there, but Ralph says he keeps burning through spark plug wires.
Exhaust: Swap a pair of shorty headers side to side and you now have turbo headers. Ralph made the rest of the plumbing with straight and bent tubing, ending in turndowns.
Starter: Ralph needs a new one. It doesn't work after it gets hot. We had to push-start his car a few times during the shoot. Great exercise, though.
Transmission: The car's stock T5 is still in place and hasn't broken under the strain of the added horses. To save the trans, Ralph runs an off-the-shelf Autozone clutch disc. "It has a lifetime warranty. When I burn it up, I take it in and get a new one." He changes it every few months. They're starting to get suspicious.
Rearend: The rear is out of a Lincoln Mark VII and houses 3.55:1 gears on a Traction Lok differential.
Suspension: Ralph rebuilt his suspension with a coilover kit from X2C Motorsports, with Eibach springs and Tokico struts in the front. He added Bilstein shocks in the rear but kept the stock springs so the car would squat under acceleration.
Brakes: The stoppers were upgraded to '95 Mustang Cobra rotors up front.The rear brakes come from Lincoln.
Wheels/Tires: When we first met him, Ralph had stock Mustang GT wheels on the car. He's since upgraded to steamroller 315/35R17 BFGoodrich tires on FR500 replica wheels.
Paint/Body: Ralph even did the bodywork and sprayed the paint himself, though he didn't intend to from the start. He paid a guy to fix some ugliness on the roof, but the guy was a hack. Ralph decided to do the rest of the car himself. "I didn't know what to do, so I watched videos on YouTube and did what they did."