When set on building a 10-second street car, most of us don't even consider messing with a straight-six. Meet Mike Robinson; he's not most of us. One day the Easthampton, Massachusetts, native yanked a healthy (vital signs, that is) 300-inch six-banger from a rusty 110,000-mile '84 Ford F-150 pickup and decided to go drag racing. Mike knows that the Ford 300 (like most straight-sixes, regardless of make) uses a 120-degree crank design. That means the crank rotates a full 120 degrees between cylinder firing impulses. By contrast, most typical V8 engines send a piston down the hole every 90 degrees. On the negative side, that means the six's crank must rotate a full 120 degrees before there is another power stroke. But on the positive side, each power stroke has 30 degrees of extra time to put energy (i.e., torque) into the crankshaft. That's why straight-sixes generally deliver more low-end torque than comparably sized V8s—all other factors being equal.
Frankly, both engine types eventually get down the strip—and Mike's not committed to either configuration. Rather, he just wanted an inexpensive yet strong foundation to prove his main point: Slap a well tuned turbocharger on just about anything, and watch it haul ass for less than you'd imagine. To prep the well-used mill for boost, Mike yanked the oil pan and installed a high-volume oil pump and a fresh gasket. Then he flipped it over, pulled the valve cover, and replaced the stock single valvesprings with a set of Comp small-block Chevy triples. With the valve cover reinstalled, Mike hit it with a fresh coat of Ford Engine Gray and the long-block preparation was complete. No kidding, he was done. At this point, you'd be forgiven for assuming Mike was on a search for 18-second timeslips. But no, Mike's a go-fast kind of guy with a history of quick dragstrip machinery under his belt.
Knowing that every engine is essentially just an air pump (thank you Jeff Smith for planting that seed of wisdom in this writer's mind so many years ago), Mike knew he'd have to force the asthmatic Ford inline to breathe by artificial means. Out from under the workbench came a surplus turbocharger pirated from a 40,000-pound International DT466 diesel dump truck. The end result wasn't 18s, but rather high 10s! To be exact, Mike's 110,000-mile, 300-inch Ford can bang off 10.90s at 120 mph. Just give it a sticky launch pad and watch the magic. Don't believe it? Skip over to YouTube or StreetFire, type in "Turbo 4.9 Maverick," and watch Mike's low-buck disappearing act for yourself. It's real, and we witnessed it in person at New York's Lebanon Valley Dragway. Best of all, the car has been together for three years so this isn't a one-trick pony.
A key element is how Mike tossed the Maverick's stock, weak-kneed, 200-cube straight-six and based his combination on Ford's "big-block" six instead. You see, the smaller Ford sixes (144, 170, 200, 240, and 250) may only weigh 400 pounds, but they're all cursed with an integrally cast intake manifold. You read that right: The intake manifold is a crude log that's formed as part of the head. By contrast, the truck- and van-sourced, 300-cube straight-six may weigh a porky 512 pounds (same as a 302 V8), but it's blessed with superior intake ports and a conventional bolt-on intake manifold, so numerous aftermarket four-barrel replacements are available. Also, unlike some of the smaller Ford sixes, which only have four main bearings, the big 300 has seven mains for excellent support as the extra-long crank thrashes away.
We're not saying the Ford 300 inline-six is an undiscovered secret weapon or a particularly ideal performance candidate, but the thing that really bums us out about Mike's Mean Maverick is how this $5,000 lash-up poses a serious threat to this author's 10.85/125 Hemi Dart. It's true, slapping a turbo on just about anything can deliver surprising results. Just make sure the base motor can handle the strain!